Local People: Addi Zerrenner
If health is wealth, why isn’t everyone rushing to work out? Or making time every day to meditate? Addi Zerrenner, Personal Trainer at Physical Focus and Olympic qualifier, addresses common barriers to getting healthy and talks through techniques you can use to boost your physical and mental wealth.
Q. When it comes to getting fit, many people struggle with motivation. In your opinion, how can people stay motivated to reach their physical and mental health goals?
A. I recommend you come up with your “why.” Why are you trying to live a healthy lifestyle? Why are you trying to make positive changes? Knowing your “why” can help you when your motivation is low. Try to have your “why” be something of deep significance such as, “I want to be a happy and healthy mother for my kids,” rather than just, “I want to lose weight.” Having a deep and significant “why” behind your goals will help you stay on track longer when things get tough.
What’s a good strategy people can use to reach their health goals?
Start small. Far too often, I see people ready to make lifestyle changes but change way too many things too quickly. For example, start out by trying to get thirty minutes of movement in a day. You can divide those minutes up in any way that makes them doable for you. If you’re a busy mom, ask your children to go on a ten-minute walk around the block with you before school. Go for another ten-minute walk during your lunch break. Finally, get in one more ten-minute walk after dinner.
In what ways does physical activity lead to better mental health?
There have been many days where my mental health can feel debilitating and can cause me to feel like I don’t want to do anything. Mental health isn’t linear or rational, and I don’t want to pretend to have all the answers, nor do I want to convey the message of “exercise will cure your mental health challenges.” Rather, I want to spread awareness of mental health struggles and the message that, “it is okay not to be okay.” Having navigated these struggles for a while now, I know that the first thing I need to do in the morning is get some type of movement in, and, for me, that is usually in the form of running. After my run (and a good cup of coffee) my mind feels a bit more clear and like I can more easily deal with any daily struggles that come up. Having physical activity in my life also helps me stick to a routine and provides structure to my day, which really helps my personal mental health.
What’s a tool people can use when they feel anxious or overwhelmed about their health and fitness goals?
Self-talk is one of the most powerful tools that humans possess. That self-talk can be utilized in either a negative or positive way and if negative, can be very self-destructive. The best advice I have for people that are engaging in negative self-talk and telling themselves things like “I’m too out of shape to make a positive change,” would be to pause each time you have a negative thought like that and ask yourself, “How is this thought benefitting me?” When I’m feeling some anxiety about a race or a workout, I ask myself, “What is the worst-case scenario?” Also, “What is true if I don’t succeed at this?” Even if I have a bad workout, it’s true that I’m still a good friend. Answering these questions takes away the power of the thing I’m afraid of.
What can people who are stuck do to get unstuck? Is there anything you think they should know?
Try and find a network of people you can lean on for support. It’s very easy to feel alone when you are struggling with your mental health and/or trying to make big lifestyle changes, so finding people that can help you stay on track is key. I would also encourage people to give themselves grace. I see so many people start making healthy changes and then get discouraged when they aren’t seeing immediate results. I encourage people to celebrate their small victories because, although they feel small, they are the daily habits that will lead to your big changes.
Many people feel too embarrassed, anxious, tired, or time-limited to exercise. Some believe that mindfulness just isn’t their thing. But everyone has the ability to make gains (even small wins count!) in their physical and mental wellbeing. Really, this is the most important kind of wealth. Without it, people can’t fully show up for themselves, their families, or their communities.