Earlier this week, I was taken aback by some startling information about a former schoolmate. It stirred within me the need to speak out about mental wellbeing. Let's begin with the obvious - I don't claim to be an expert in this field. I'm approaching this topic from the perspective of a student or apprentice who is actively engaged in cultivating their mental health, rather than from the standpoint of a coach (which I do not pretend to be in this context).

There is a huge psychiatric ward in the north of Prague, Czech Republic. On the outskirts of this vast area there are houses for ordinary people, one of them being this house where one of my friends was born and raised.
Photo by Ján Jakub Naništa / Unsplash

In our younger years, our understanding of mental health was shaped by cinematic depictions. The image of mentally ill individuals confined to creepy asylums or psychiatric hospitals, portrayed as nothing short of insane. This is akin to viewing physical fitness through the lens of extreme weight loss shows like 'The Biggest Loser'. It's a view that only takes into account the most severe end of the spectrum.

Physical health is about maintaining the functioning of our organs to ensure we lead long and healthy lives. Physical fitness is about preserving our capacity to carry out various physical activities - climbing stairs, lifting objects, bearing weights and leading an active life.

Here are some parallels to be drawn:

  • You can embark on improving these aspects (mental health, physical health, physical fitness) early on.
  • You can work on these even in the absence of any conspicuous "issue."
  • There are invariably areas that can be enhanced.
  • Starting sooner rather than later is always beneficial.
  • In physical fitness, it is never too late to start.
    I don't know enough about the other two to make the same statement.

Strong Women

The misconception surrounding weightlifting persists amongst a significant part of society, particularly among the non-male demographic. I inhabit an unusual microcosm where women who partake in weightlifting are a common sight, yet on a broader scale, this remains an anomaly.

A recent conversation with a former pupil of mine highlighted how far we still have to travel. She trained under my guidance for several years and has maintained an active lifestyle for an extended period. Capable of squatting half her body weight and running over 20 kilometres without prior conditioning, she shared with me how her local gym's trainer manages her training regimen - by assigning her weights under 5 kilograms. When she opts for heavier weights (which aren't heavy for her), several spotters are deployed to ensure the weights don't pose a threat to her safety.

The prejudice against strength training is gradually eroding.

However, the bias against mental health remains ingrained and lags behind in progress compared to the other two areas.

In observing the correlations between the reluctance to seek assistance, taking responsibility, and preventive measures in physical health, fitness, and mental health, certain patterns emerge:

So, what can one do to initiate change? A simple activity like walking could serve as an easy beginning point. Whether it is adequate, whether it solves the problem etc are unknown. What's definite though is it makes forward progress. The rate of progress and how far one is - unknown.

The certainty of whether it suffices or resolves issues remains veiled. What's clear, though, is that it fosters progression. The speed of advancement or the extent to which one has reached - remains a mystery.

However, it seems there's no similar approach available when it comes to mental health. This perception is misleading. From the practice of maintaining a diary, to allocating some 'self-care' hours, to indulging in your cherished pastime, an abundance of opportunities exist for one to embark on steady, incremental steps.

The common belief is that assistance is only required when a problem arises. We usually seek medical help only when we encounter an issue. If the physician diagnoses it as a severe problem, we then initiate countermeasures.

However, it isn't necessary to wait for a significant issue to unfold before we recognise that there are minor problems that can be addressed before they escalate. As an accessible fitness expert, you can encourage empowerment and personal growth through diverse and adaptable fitness methodology, promoting a sense of passionate and supportive community commitment to wellness.

The glitch

Nothing needs repairing. There is NOTHING TO FIX.

A recurring theme in my therapeutic discussions is the comprehension, acceptance, and reconciliation with that statement. The subject of self-enhancement often takes on an undertone of "I'm here, but I need to be there because something is not as it should be..."

This concept proves somewhat tricky for me to fully grasp. However, I've come to realise that a great deal of my internal dialogue has been curbing my reactions towards life and my interaction with it. This realisation dawned upon me only when my wife highlighted it. Following an enlightening chat with a good friend who recently embarked on therapy, I was keen to give it a try. One plain truth I hadn't previously grasped was - just as I visit the gym to maintain physical fitness, pay attention to sleep and recovery for physical health, what proactive steps can I take, possibly with a coach, for my mental health?

Naturally, this coach goes by the term 'therapist'.

My journey, so far

I am blessed with three clear advantages: firstly, I possess an innate curiosity and love for exploration. Secondly, I trust my instincts. And thirdly, I remain largely indifferent to the opinions others may hold about me.

Thus, venturing into therapy felt like a logical progression of these thoughts.

It was only after embarking on a journey of self-exploration with my therapist, and through introspective practices like journaling and meditation, that my perspective broadened. I began to comprehend the reasons underlying my actions. Self-awareness has enabled me to view and tackle situations from a fresh angle. I am now occasionally able to resist succumbing to my habitual behaviours and repetitive patterns, finding more effective solutions or routes to proceed.

Having coffee with a friend is truly the best.
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani / Unsplash

I'm also starting to understand how my self-critical attitude is detrimental, posing limitations to my potential. Although my primary goal and mindset may be in the right place, the "fix it" mentality isn't necessarily the most suitable approach.

Furthermore, I've discovered the potent effect of granting myself the liberty to act on my desires. It may seem trivial, but allowing myself the indulgence of ice cream for breakfast is an empowering and freeing experience. Instead of burdening myself with preconceived notions like "As a fitness coach, I shouldn't have ice cream for breakfast", I am learning to trust and respond to my body's needs and wants.


Engaging in coaching is a powerful strategy and one of the most effective routes to personal evolution.

The notion of seeking guidance on mental well-being carries an undeserved and reckless reputation, which it shouldn't.

Even without any significant issues, there are immense benefits in collaborating with a psychotherapist.

Every individual has areas for improvement - within the spheres of physical health, fitness, and psychological wellness.

It's essential to explore these areas with an open and inquisitive mindset, rather than focusing on finding faults.

For those who can manage it financially, I wholeheartedly advocate for and support the engagement with a skilled and fitting therapist.

If it's beyond your means or you're still sceptical, seek out inconsistencies or obstacles. If there's an unexplained discomfort bothering you, don't hesitate to delve into alternative approaches as well. The world is abundant with exceptional resources. In my view, this was a critical aspect where mentorship played a significant role. There's always a considerable amount of independent work involved, a lot of unraveling to do, and it’s an ongoing, captivating journey.