The Mindset without the Workout

Some people need to force themselves to the gym.  For some people it's a struggle to go work out for 12 minutes a day, let alone 5 minutes a day. For some it’s a struggle to get up off their couch, and a struggle to put on their workout clothes. But for others it’s a struggle to not work out. For these people, fitness is a lifestyle that gives you balance and a peace of mind; it’s a disappointment to not be able to workout. That'd be the category I fall into.  I depend on those minutes in the gym to keep my head on straight, to maintain what is important in my life, to live to my fullest, to understand my potential and to not only see but also feel my true inner strength. For me, and most of you as well the gym is our sanctuary.

Except what do you when you're forced not to workout?

When you have an injury? An illness? Do you let that turn into an acceptable excuse? A reason for it to be okay for you to let everything you've built up, and worked for? Will you let every routine, every sacrifice that’s turned into a reward, disappear just because you physically can't work out? Do you let the bad news win and forget the powerful state of mind and inner strength you achieved through structure, routine, and healthy living disappear? Or do you find a way to practice that mindset without using physical fitness?

The visualization story of Major Nesmith:

He was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  He was held in solitary confinement for 7 years. In order to keep himself from going crazy, every day Major Nesmith visualized himself not only playing a round of golf but also the preparation that went into it. He visualized packing his golf bag, driving to the course, walking out to take his tee shot… He heard the sound of the wind in the trees and smelled the freshly cut grass.   Soon after he was released, he returned to the golf course. Though he had not played a single physical round of golf in over 7 years, he shot his best score ever.

What's my point? 

The goal of this post is to tell you how important your mindset is, inside the gym or outside of it.  It's been said it takes 21 days to create a habit 3 days to break one. So if you're forced physically out of the gym for more than 3 days, you need to make sure you're not forced out of your mindset for more than 3 days. Don't throw away all that inner strength you've built up. It's easy to slip off the train it's hard to be the conductor. Anything can be achieved if you bring awareness to your own accountability in making it happen.

How my life changed:

In August of 2010, my life changed drastically. I had always been a competitive athlete, especially in ice hockey, and by that time I had made it to Division I. #96 Northeastern After suffering multiple serious concussions, I could no longer play the sport I had dedicated my life to.  My circumstances led me down a dark path. I constantly tried to escape my problems in any way possible because I didn’t know how to find that same mindset and structure hockey used to provide for me. I let my concussions be an excuse for an unhealthy lifestyle. At this point in my life, I didn’t realize that I could obtain the mindset and structure without sports because I had always had that source of structure and discipline. After a few years and hundreds of doctor’s appointments, my post-concussive syndrome had receded but I still found my unhealthy lifestyle only getting worse. Even though I was now able to go to the gym, I just didn’t. I played the pity card because I had lost my passion- hockey. I made excuses and I complained a lot. I even annoyed myself; I can only wonder what others thought of me. I was living a completely unhealthy lifestyle. I wasn’t working out. I was eating out every day. I had horrible sleep patterns. I abused substances. I smoked. I didn’t maintain relationships and I had no priorities in check. I was living a pretty selfish lifestyle. After a long struggle, I finally made a conscious decision to change my life. I began working out again. I set a strict schedule with 6 days a week in the gym, a healthy eating routine and I also started actively journaling my feelings. I made rules for myself (No smoking!) and I followed them holding myself accountable tracking my progress on calendars.  Before I knew it I had found that structure and mindset I had lost and was longing so much for. Although I miss hockey every day, losing my sport and finding my active lifestyle in a different way taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way. It taught me a lesson that I am able to use whenever I lose something important to me or go through a tough time.

The lesson is simple:

Though things may take time to get better, and you may never get back what you lost, other opportunities do come along (such as blogging for thedailyhiit!). Because of what I went through, I have a broader, longer view. It might sound ridiculous – it always does – but you have to tell yourself that things get better, then work to make it so.


Two weeks ago I was told I had the beginning signs of pneumonia and it was best not to work out in order to avoid a full onset. But luckily I was able to fall back on my experience because I now understand the importance of maintaining a routine and mindset are the keys to health and happiness. When you find yourself struggling, feeling weak, feeling like your oxygen wasn’t earned, it is vital to make it a point to find and maintain that mindset in whichever way you can. I made it a point to not let it this structure slip through my fingers just because I couldn’t workout.

 What I did for the two weeks?

  • I’d use whatever energy I had around the house- I prepared homemade soup, tried to keep my apartment clean - anything that would help me to feel productive.


  • In the beginning, when I had absolutely no energy, I'd sink in child's pose on my bed, put a pillow over my head and listen to my workout songs and breathe with them as if I was working out for 15 minutes at a time.
  • Sometimes I'd lie on my couch, close my eyes and just visualize myself working out. I visualized from step one of putting on my gym clothes, to walking out of the gym and placing my gym clothes in the laundry basket. Visualizing the entire process. Preparing what my workout would have been. Loading my bag. Making my meals and shakes. Arriving at the gym. Going to my very same locker. Visualizing my dynamic warm up. Visualizing hitting each rep, finishing each set. This visualization process takes time but it got me in touch with the feeling of accomplishment that I would have achieved from physically working out
  • When energy started to come back after the first 4/5 days of my brutal sickness yet I still wasn’t allowed to work out(Doctors orders! Listen to your Doctors!) I put my pull up bar up to my bedroom I made a rule to do two chin-ups before I went in each time. That way I at least still felt my muscles contracting. I still felt strong without exerting myself and making my illness worse.


  • I still felt connected with my inner strength by setting goals to do certain things each day even if that didn't involve going to the gym for an hour. I remembered my ultimate goals. I acknowledged the importance of routine and structure and made it a point to attempt to maintain it at all costs to the best of my ability with where my health was.
  I hope this helps when you’re not able to workout. Maintain the mindset, remember what’s happening now will not remain forever and do your best under the circumstances keeping your ultimate goals in mind.  

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