I don't work out to burn calories. Nor do I workout to have shredded muscles, increase my bench press PR, or develop ab lines I can see in the mirror.
All of the above are simply perks — a side effect from frequenting the inside of a weight room. But the real reason I work out has nothing to do with physical or aesthetic benefits. Instead, I workout because it makes everything in my day better and significantly increases my happiness.
Physical fitness is my escape from emails, deadlines, and conference calls. It clears the lingering brain fog associated with staring at my laptop too long, and puts the most frustrating aspects of my week back into focus. It reminds me that I am alive. Exercise has single-handedly improved my mood, concentration, and even my relationship with loved ones, and I know plenty of people who experience the same physical, mental, and emotional phenomenon.
Below, I dive into the mind, body, and soul aspect of exercise. I explain how the mentality behind committing to a regular fitness routine improves your physical and emotional well-being, and vice versa.
Mental Benefits: How Your Mind Fuels Your Body and Soul
Your mind plays a crucial role in every workout. Your mind allows you to give one more rep, power through a grueling workout, and bounce back after a humbling experience at the squat rack. Here is how your mind fuels your brain and soul throughout a workout.
1. Clear Mental Focus Builds Physical Habits
If you want to make a change — particularly a change related to your physical health — start with the smallest step forward. Rather than committing to working out six times a week or training for a marathon, commit to walking 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) per day or doing a strength workout twice per week.
These goals seem small on the surface, but make a big impact over time. Admiral William H. McRaven, a retired Navy Seals officer, described this phenomenon in his 2014 commencement address for the University of Texas at Austin. The admiral famously told the audience, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." He went on to describe his experience at Navy Seals training, where they were required to perfectly make their beds each morning. This one, small task — the very first task of the day — gave the soldiers a sense of pride, encouraging them to do another task … and then another.
The same can be said for your workouts. You can take a small, achievable goal — doing 10 pushups, walking five times per week, or taking the stairs at work every day — and suddenly, it encourages you to set (then accomplish) other larger goals. Suddenly, you're running a 5k (not walking), eating your veggies, giving yourself a bedtime, developing a skincare routine, and buying your first foam roller, thereby building a healthier, more active life.
2. Mental Toughness Builds Drive Throughout Your Life
Your brain — not your body — will get you through the hardest workout of your life. Read that sentence again.
Your mental toughness is the difference between giving one more rep and giving up. Fortunately, your brain is (literally) a muscle. And like any other muscle in the human body, you can train your brain to get in shape. By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in every workout, you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This mental stamina you build in workouts becomes useful throughout your entire life. Don't believe me? Here's a statistic you should know: 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are former athletes. While it's heavily debated how and why former athletes rise so prominently in their careers, my theory is this:
When you work out, you train your brain to tell your body, "Keep going!" long after you want to quit. When you apply this mentality into the real world, you push yourself to hit deadlines, solve puzzles, and find creative solutions — long after your colleagues throw in the towel.
Over time, you learn to always pursue the path you want, rather than pursuing the path that's easy. This, in turn, leads to accomplishing goals you never dreamed you might hit, which creates a fulfilling soul and life.
Physical Benefits: How Your Physical Body Powers Your Mind and Soul
When many people start a wellness program, they're often looking for physical benefits. Studies show regular exercise can lower blood pressure, decrease your risk of obesity, prevent heart disease, and boost your immune system. However, people rarely explore how these physical benefits benefit their conscious mind and soul.
1. Physical Exercise Improves Your Mental Health
Have you ever noticed that people who workout just seem … happier? They don't work out because they're happy — they're happy because they work out.
Even those who struggled with mental health issues their entire life can find a release in exercise. In Denver, Colorado in the United States, the Phoenix gym is a workout space created exclusively for former drug addicts and alcoholics. The founder, Scott Strode, created the gym in 2006 after seeing how exercise played a significant role in his own recovery journey.
While substance abuse floods the human brain with dopamine, regular exercise can help restore dopamine to normal, healthy levels — thereby aiding in recovery. Today, people recovering from addictions find a safe space in Phoenix to get uncomfortable, find team camaraderie, experience new things, and get a solid endorphin hit.
Science shows regular exercise provides stress relief, boosts your mood, reduces anxiety, and brings mindfulness into your daily life. So if you want to lead a happier life, don't start by writing in a gratitude journal or signing off all social media. Instead, start by picking up a dumbbell.
2. Physical Activity Fuels Your Soul Through Self-Esteem
Many times at a new client check-in, I'll hear someone say, "I'll be so much more confident when I lose weight," or "I would feel so much happier if I had a six-pack." To anyone reading this who ever thought the same thing, know this: Aesthetic changes don't bring confidence. Confidence stems from putting in the work.
Science shows that regular physical activity causes a boost to self-esteem. Note: The study says nothing about feeling confident because participants lost weight or suddenly developed chiseled abs. Instead, simply committing to a regular fitness routine made each individual feel better about themselves.
Sticking to a fitness regimen requires dedication, patience, and a little bit of grit. If you carry each of those three attributes with you, you will develop confidence in yourself — no matter what you see in the mirror.
Emotional Benefits: How a Fulfilled Soul Leads to Better Habits
Depending on where you fall on the spirituality spectrum, the definition of a soul is highly debated. To me, a soul combines my character, consciousness, and perception of myself — all of which are tied heavily to my workout routine.
1. A Fulfilled Soul Brings About Mental Focus
The number one reason people don't work out isn't due to a lack of motivation — it's due to a lack of time. Obligations to families, careers, or social lives take precedence over physical fitness, which prevents people from making exercise a daily habit.
If you ever told yourself you can't work out due to a lack of time, consider this: Perhaps it's not due to a lack of time — it's due to a lack of priorities. And if your rebuttal is, "But I have a family!" "I have a demanding job!" I want you to envision the last time you took a seat on an airplane.
On an airplane, a flight attendant will warn you that when turbulence happens, you should always put your own oxygen mask on first before helping another. This is because you physically cannot help another person unless you help yourself. Therefore, when it comes to setting priorities in your day, week, or year, you should always prioritize yourself. It's not selfish — it's just a basic fact that when you take care of yourself, everything else falls into place.
This is where the mind, body & soul phenomenon becomes so convoluted, because difficult things happen cyclically. By completing a workout, you will feel better about yourself (fueling your soul). When you feel better about yourself, you are more likely to set the right priorities (building mental focus). When you set the right priorities, you are therefore more likely not to skip your workout (thereby building physical strength).
2. A Fulfilled Soul Creates Positive Physical Habits
As described above, a fueled soul and mind help build physical strength. By setting the right priorities, carving out time to exercise, and putting yourself first, you create the necessary space to commit to a regular fitness routine.
Exercise causes a domino effect — by completing one workout, then another, you slowly transition to a healthier lifestyle. While it's a natural process, it happens differently for each person.
For example, if you work out daily, you'll be more thirsty, therefore you'll drink more water. If you drink more water, you're less likely to drink alcohol or soda, as these beverages won't prepare you for your next workout. If you cut out soda and alcohol, suddenly you'll find yourself cutting out fried foods, candy, or other foods that make you feel tired or lethargic. And if you aren't feeling tired or lethargic, you'll sleep more soundly, which allows you to wake up and tackle your workout the next day — and the whole process begins again.
I truly believe exercise has the potential to change your life, but only if you let it. You have to allow it to become a healthy routine, and to influence other decisions in your life.
Mind, Body, and Soul: Tying It All Together
Physical fitness fuels your mind, body, and soul connection to lead to a fulfilling life. If I've sold you on the idea, you might be wondering, "Well … what comes first?"
Answer: The work.
Your first step is to actually do the workout. In other words, you must go through the physical demands of exercise before you reap the mental and emotional benefits. Once you commit to a regular fitness routine, these benefits will encourage you to tackle your next workout, and the cycle will continue.
If you're a beginner, the best tip I can give you is to find a coach or personal trainer, then commit to a program. As a beginner, your only job is to complete the workout. You shouldn't waste mental or emotional energy deciding which workout to complete or which dumbbells to choose from the rack.
Instead, simply follow a balanced program — your only job is simply to complete it. Once you complete the workouts, you'll see changes in your mood, mental focus, and self-esteem, which will encourage you to continue your training regimen.
Choosing the Right Program for the Mind, Body, and Soul Approach
A regular fitness routine is associated with physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Science (like the studies mentioned above) shows that exercise improves your mood, heart health, blood sugar, self-esteem, and stress levels, thereby fueling your mind, body, and soul.
The mind, body, and soul connection creates a cyclical effect in your life, helping to develop healthier habits. With that being said, you must start with the physical aspect, completing the workouts first. If you're looking to begin a well-rounded fitness routine, I highly encourage you to join my program, Build Bullet-Proof Health.
The Build Bullet-Proof Health program encompasses all four pillars of fitness, including strength training, cardio, nutrition, and recovery. In addition to integrated workout, nutrition, and recovery plans, you'll get a goal assessment, calorie and macro analysis, cooking guide, and our mobile app.
You never have to waste time guessing how to work out, how to eat, or how to recover — you simply follow the program. Plus, with our premium membership, you get monthly virtual meetings with me to discuss your progress.
Ready to get started? Join our program to help transform your life.