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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • May 2018
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Self-talk and fitness

As the owner of a fitness studio for adult women that specializes in the aerial arts of pole, hoop, hammock and silks for the past eight years, I’ve noticed an alarming trend: women are so mean to themselves. It starts before a woman walks in the door when she hears about the sports I love and immediately says, “I could never do that. I’m not strong enough” or “I’m too fat to do that.” It then continues when she starts to think about booking a class: “I’m really clumsy, are you sure I can do this?” or “I’ll take a class but I’ll never be good.” And it continues into her journey, no matter if it is her first class or she’s doing crazy tricks in the air four years in. Women are inherently self-critical in an un-motivating and unkind way.

For many years we’ve tried to bring attention to this issue in our classes by lovingly correcting negative comments when we hear them as instructors. Two years ago we started a “gold star” program where before a women leaves our facility she has to recall something she did well today so she focuses on the positive for a second before leaving. We started a book club to read books on topics about self-acceptance and self-compassion. And though all those things are helpful, it still wasn’t getting at the heart of the matter, which is: self-deprecation is so ingrained in our culture that many women don’t even realize they are doing it. So then we tried something different, and instituted “spring cleaning” at the studio where any time a student or instructor hears a student verbalize a negative self-comment, they have to fill out a positive affirmation on a piece of paper to fill its place. We created a station in the middle of the facility between our three studios so women could easily walk over and reframe a negative thought onto a positive one on a piece of paper.

At first it was a bit of a game. When a lady would say something negative, her instructor would say “Go spring clean that thought!” and she’d laugh and walk to the station to write. But what we noticed was that over time, all the students started supporting their classmates to have more positive self-talk. If one student said something negative about themselves another classmate would jump in to help them reframe it and then they’d say it together. This created a snowball effect and the general vibe of the classes shifted more and more positive as the month went on.

What was even more interesting to me was that the level of achievement at the studio directly paralleled the quality of self-talk. Women that had been struggling with a specific move and reinforced their struggles with comments like “I can’t do that” started to instead say “I’m working on that” and by the end of the month they got it! It has been fascinating to watch how what the mind believes the body achieves.

What do you want to achieve? Does your mind and self-talk support that it is possible? For a week, hold yourself accountable to what you are actually saying to yourself. Replace the negative restrictive comments with positive and see how far you can go!


Paula Brusky, PhD

Dr. Paula Brusky is the owner of Aerial Dance Pole Exercise, LLC in Appleton. With a PhD in injury prevention, a group fitness certification from the American Center on Exercise and numerous fitness, aerial and pole instruction certifications she is a leading aerial arts educator. For more information or to sign-up for your first Pole, Hammock, Hoop or Silks class, call 920-750-1441 or visit

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