Overcoming Mental Blocks

Recently I’ve been pondering how our mind’s expectations often block us from experiencing more richness and possibility. Even when we set goals and invite new desires, we can easily stop ourselves from taking accessible actions to advance. This month I ran into my own personal example of this phenomenon.

One aspirational goal that I set months ago was to eventually do an hour-long group training session at my gym called UltraFit. That class looked intimidating from the online videos I’d seen of it. You can see the description on the UltraFit web page if you’re curious, with lines like “Our most intense workout yet. Get ready to challenge your mental and physical limits.”

Here’s a 2-minute video preview of UltraFit:

The video includes such inviting phrases as:

  • “We created UltraFit to serve our high-intensity fitness fanatics.”
  • “UltraFit is advanced. It is no joke.”
  • “helps our competitive athletes stay in peak physical condition”
  • “We help them get through the hard work, the type of training that people don’t want to do on their own.”

Am I competitive athlete? No. But I loved the idea of building up enough fitness to handle this class – eventually. 😅

I’ve been doing GTX group training sessions with a few different trainers at this gym since Summer 2022, with some breaks for injury, illness, and travel. GTX stands for Group Training eXperience. Doing a 6am workout with other early risers who are into fitness is such a beautiful way to get my day started. I love the social aspect of working out with trainers and trainees in small groups.

GTX can be challenging, especially the Zone 4 sessions (higher heart rate exercises). UltraFit seemed pretty next-level relative to the GTX sessions though.

After some remodeling that our gym did in December, the UltraFit class which used to be on the third floor was moved down to the second floor – the floor where I normally do GTX sessions and also train on my own. Now the GTX and UltraFit sessions both use the same training area in the center of the second floor, so it’s much easier to observe.

Last Thursday morning when I was starting a cardio session on my own, I noticed that an UltraFit session was going to begin soon. I hopped on a treadmill close enough to observe. It seemed like a great opportunity to at least watch part of it, so I could form a clearer vision of what I might eventually build towards.

I was captivated from the start and ended up staying on that treadmill for 92 minutes, so I could watch the whole hour-long session. There were around seven people doing the training together.

I was using my Beats Fit Pro headphones to listen to an audiobook, but instead of only using noise cancelling mode, I sometimes switched to transparency mode. Transparency mode acts like a hearing aid, so it amplifies nearby sounds. This let me hear the trainer’s words more clearly, which gave me more insights into the training session.

By the end of it, I was thinking, that actually looks doable. I could surely do the first 45 minutes at least. The last 15 minutes looked tough, but I felt I could handle that too, although it was sure to get my heart rate pretty high. It wasn’t as intimidating in-person as it looked from the video, and the people actually doing the training didn’t look like the super fit athletes in the video either. They were generally fit, but not THAT fit.

I recognized a few of my fellow GTX trainees in UltraFit too, and I thought that if they could do it, so could I.

So I boldly signed up for the following week’s class. After I described what I saw and encouraged her to join me, Rachelle opted to try it with me too. We normally do the GTX sessions together – often enough that if we don’t show up together, the trainer will invariably ask us where the other one is.

We went to our first UltraFit session this morning at 6am.

The format was similar to the session I observed in its overall structure but with different exercises. It was challenging but doable, just as I thought. I couldn’t do all the moves perfectly – far from it – but I did my best. My heart rate peaked at 185 bpm, which is about as high as I’m physically capable of, so it really did push me to my limit in that regard.

In terms of intensity, it’s probably comparable to a Zone 4 GTX workout, which we just did yesterday. But whereas GTX has a more even, wave-like distribution of intensity, UltraFit starts fairly out mild and gradually builds to a peak of intensity over the course of the hour.

Each time we’d get on the treadmill, we’d sprint faster than before but for shorter durations, with sprinting rounds being 2 minutes, then 1 minute, then 45 seconds, 30 seconds, and the last couple of rounds being 15 seconds all out.

The hardest part was returning to the floor to do more high intensity exercises while still trying to catch my breath after sprinting fast at the end. The class had this flow of building up fatigue with round after round of sprinting and core exercises, and then you have to do more physical challenges while you’re already tired, and near the end, also breathless.

I liked the experience, which gave me a delightful sense of accomplishment afterwards, and Rachelle and I chatted with the instructor for a while afterwards. I’m sure I’ll do it again, maybe even next week. I like how it challenges me in different ways than the GTX sessions.

I wasn’t thinking that I’d accomplish my stretch goal of successfully completing an UltraFit class this soon. I figured it was still many months away. I’m glad I got the chance to visually audit the class first, which helped me picture myself just going for it.

This was a good reminder that our limits tend to be more mental than physical or financial. It’s amazing how our expectations can block us from opportunities and experiences that are more accessible than we realize.

What got me around that block in this case was exercising my curiosity to watch a class without having to commit to it. I leaned in to probe the goal a bit more, and that helped to crack my self-limiting thoughts about it.

That said, I might be pretty sore tomorrow unless my mind can find a way around that expectation too. 😉

The invitation for you is to consider how you might be blocking a seemingly distant stretch goal or desire due to your expectations regarding how you think it’s likely to show up. Are you piling on unnecessary prerequisites? How could you lean in with some noncommittal curiosity?

These expectation traps can be hard to spot within ourselves. One way to spot them is to ask where you wouldn’t feel that you belong. What experiences are other people having that you don’t feel ready for yet?

I had previously felt that I had to do a lot more training to earn the right to claim a spot in an UltraFit session. If I showed up before then, I’d surely be an impostor, right? I imagined a group of people like the ones in the video taking one look at me and saying, “Are you lost?” And that turned out to be pure fiction.

This morning I replaced the old frame with a new frame based on actual truth, including a fabulous UltraFit trainer named Gina encouraging Rachelle and me to come back for more. That feels like a lovely little graduation to have gone through – not physically as I had assumed would be necessary, but mentally and emotionally in terms of giving myself permission to access new experiences that were genuinely accessible.

I really think that LifeTime Athletic ought to consider replacing that video though. 🤣