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Mind Matters

Why Coloradans’ super-fit self-perceptions might actually make us fitter.

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Good news: thinking of yourself as strong actually makes you stronger, according to a study from Texas Woman’s University (TWU) published in 2015. Researchers looked at 19 healthy women ages 18 to 30 with similar BMIs and exercise habits. Their findings: Women who perceived themselves as fit scored higher on fitness tests than women who had lower self-esteem.

“If you perceive yourself to have high levels of endurance or muscular strength, you may partake in those activities more,” says physical therapist Wayne Brewer, assistant professor at TWU and the study’s co-author. “These perceptions themselves work to improve compliance in the participation of those activities.” In other words: You’re more likely to take on the steep hike to Chautauqua Park’s Royal Arch if you think you’re up to the challenge.

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Coloradans may have an advantage, thanks to our reputation as some of the healthiest people in the nation. But don’t fret if your fitness ego is a little lackluster. Here, a few simple ways to pump up your psyche:

Look for activities that offer a challenge and a reward. Whether it’s training for the 5K Yeti Chase race in Lakewood on January 24, climbing great-for-beginners fourteener Mt. Elbert, or attending a new workout class (we love CorePower’s hot yoga sessions on frigid winter days), your sense of accomplishment will trigger feel-good hormones, which motivate you to keep going.

Discover your fitness personality. “Group fitness classes may not be ideal if you’re an introvert,” Brewer says, so instead, check out one-on-one personal training programs, such as those offered by Bodies By Perseverance in Uptown. Likewise, “if you’re highly competitive and extroverted, activities like CrossFit or team sports may be more suitable.”

Beware of fads. Fitness crazes come and go, Brewer warns. Look for activities that fit your lifestyle and seem sustainable over time. Live near Wash Park? Start jogging the 2.6-mile exterior loop. Love to swim? For just $46 a month, you can take your laps in the University of Denver’s Olympic-size pool.

Revise the script in your head. Instead of looking at an exercise or activity and thinking, I can’t do that, tell yourself you are strong and capable of working toward any goal. And since it can’t hurt to hear it from someone else, too, check out a few of It Burns Joe Fitness’ free classes at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where you’ll be cheered on by Joe “Trainer” Hendricks himself.

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