If you are continually being pushed by a personal trainer through a proper workout, that workout should be challenging. Safe, but challenging. This is because sometimes we require the precise kind of encouragement that pushes us to new heights. Whether your goal is to get lean or to increase your strength, your workout should be geared towards reaching new benchmarks, and they should never feel status quo.
A side effect of pushing towards new goals is that, of course, you may feel that you do not give a stellar performance in absolutely every workout. I believe a large part of this is due to discipline and focus. Mind over matter.
We’ve all been there— the kids are sick, the job is stressful, and on that day your workout suffers. One day you find that you are accomplishing your goals in the gym, extremely proud of yourself, and yet on another day you may just falter.
The truth is that we are all human, and none of us are perfect. There are many things we cannot control. However, I believe that focus in the gym is actually one of the few things that we CAN control. This takes practice. It does not come easily.
If you are being carefully monitored and encouraged during your workout, and your regiment is being set at an attainable yet tough level, and yet you feel that you are stumbling take a moment to look at the context of your life. Tough week at work or home? You aren’t out of luck, but acknowledging that context is the first step.
The next step is harnessing the power of your will and mind to forget about those troubles for that workout. Your troubles are not in front of you. The weight is. The treadmill is. The medicine ball is. Whatever you are working on right there at the present is what you have to deal with, not the rest of your life. Now, if only it were that easy to trick your mind into realizing it.
One thing that helps is breathing exercises. To get in the habit of focusing on the present instead of the past or future, take a moment before your set to focus on your breathing. Breathing in and out in a structured manner (in through the nose, out through the mouth) isn’t just good for your heart rate. It’s also something to anchor your mind to exactly what you are doing right now— the task at hand.
Another good exercise is to focus on the specific muscles you are working out. If you are doing flys, for example, focus on your chest muscles stretching and contracting. If you are doing rows, focus on your back. If you are doing arm workouts, focus on your biceps or triceps— imagine the muscle wringing itself out like a wet towel.
Focus on the details. It’ll help anchor your mind to the goal set in front of you at this moment— the thing you can control— instead of the status of your life— something out of your control when you are in the gym.
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