Why We Need More Compassion in Fitness

A conversation with athlete, coach, and influencer Asheton Brown

By: Brian King

“So, how do you feel?”

It’s a question we ask others, but how often do we ask ourselves?

In a recent survey, nearly half of those questioned responded that the global pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.

So what happens when we don’t check in with ourselves and our most profound feelings? Stress and trauma can (and will) take its toll on us and others around us.

But luckily, there’s compassion — and we all have it.

When we’re able to learn to disarm our internal critic by accepting what’s happening right now with patience and forgiveness, compassion enables us to treat ourselves with kindness – like how you would treat your closest friend or your elder relative with the endless supply of cookies and wisdom –but mostly cookies.

And if you’re like everyone else on the planet who’s struggling amid a global pandemic, you may want to enlist the help of a personal coach or a mental health counselor or develop a new skill like yoga or meditation.

But developing self-compassion is key to emotional and physical health. Yet developing compassion for yourself and others takes self-care, which isn’t always easy to do while balancing our often self-imposed, ultra-busy lifestyles.

So, to get some tips on growing self-compassion, we checked in with Asheton Brown, an athlete and trainer who’s had struggles with self-doubt and with childhood family trauma.

Asheton, what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned about yourself in the past six months?

AB: “It’s OK to chill out and rest. I’ve had more downtime than ever before, and I’ve been able to address trauma that I knew was there, but I hadn’t made time to address. I’ve had ‘down’ moments when I would cry, but having the chance to reflect when there are fewer expectations helped me practice what I preach to my training clients who have leaned on me as someone to talk to. And hearing them has helped me to see the importance of talking to others who also need help or an outside perspective.

How do you use physical activity to take care of yourself?

AB: “If I’m having a weird day, I’ll run or swim to stay present while letting thoughts pass through my mind. Some people need stillness or time to sit with their feelings, but for me, movement is meditation. It helps me stay present and gives me time to mentally work through those feelings – especially if I’m trying to avoid them. So I try and let myself feel those feelings whenever possible.”

It’s been said that compassion cannot exist without courage. Because while we might think compassionately, it’s not genuine unless we act compassionately. How do you practice courage in your self-care or in helping others?

AB: “When I was young, I went through a period where I stopped talking. But now, some things just need to be said. And if I’m true to myself and what I feel, using my voice instead of hiding it is what matters most. We’re not always made to feel good. We’re made to feel. And that’s work we get to do within ourselves.”

Athletes especially experience constant pressure and unrealistic expectations within themselves or through others. How do you deal with challenging expectations?

AB: “For athletes, there’s a lot of pressure to keep going. But often, it’s helpful to slow down to take time and feel your feelings and reflect on why you’re doing things.”

As a coach and personal trainer, how have you helped your clients stay motivated while practicing self-care?

AB: “My coaching approach is about being physically strong as well as mentally. I’ve noticed that those who have already dealt with past traumas have been more resilient than others. And it helps to understand that there are always lessons in disguise.”

On your most difficult days, how do you push through negative thoughts like fear and doubt?

AB: “If I wake up in a bad mood, I try and fall back asleep and permit myself to feel without running away from my feelings. I have a history of running away from negativity, but lately, I’ve allowed myself to recognize those negative feelings, which helps let them go over time. But also, letting go of others’ expectations has helped me ask myself, ‘What do I need from me?’”


Asheton Brown (@smasheton) is an athlete, coach, and unicorn ninja. Click here to read her blog, “It’s OK Not to Feel OK.”

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