Let us go through a few ways you can focus in the gym, using your head to try and get the best out of your workouts. If you are a serious trainer failing to use psychology is a sin, psychology is key in breaking through plateaus and training on a whole new level.
So what are the best way to focus for a workout, let us start with the external factors:
Music is a key influence on the way we feel.. Now picking music that is right for you is highly important, but we would not recommend anything terribly slow. Music can pick our moods up and it also makes us work harder especially if the music evokes emotions that are strong, such as anger, passion and lust and can all be turned into training motivation. Music is an integral part to working out, try and find music that really brings out some motivational emotions to really push yourself.
Having a training partner is one of the best ways to keep yourself motivated and focused when training, especially when you have someone who is on a similar level to you fitness wise. Not only does a training partner drag you in when you may feel less motivated, they also instill competition between you and them. This friendly rivalry is a great way to push yourself to the next level. It is great when you try your hardest to keep yourself ahead of your partner in results, not to mention it is great having a partner especially when you are training for an event such as a marathon or strongman.
We all have busy lives but the time in which we workout is also important in keeping our focus. We recommend to try and get a workout in the morning soon after waking, this helps set you up for the whole day on a high. Many people workout at night which we would advise against due to it usually being close to sleep. We understand that this may be troublesome especially for those who are on shift work etc.
This may seem like an odd inclusion and it relates mainly to those in bodybuilding. As you know as you train, blood fills the muscles giving you the “pump”. If you are wearing clothing that shows this pump there will be a feeling of instant achievement and gratification from the workout. This feeling will allow you to push harder to maintain and achieve more, to see instant change is a great way to feel positive about yourself and training and a great motivational weapon so don’t hide it away in a baggy hoodie (unless its freezing).
Now we are not going to say what pre-workouts to take or anything like that, but if you have a ritual of a pre-workout before a training session make sure you don’t skip one. The product may not make a difference if you skip one but the thought in your head that you failed to take your pre-workout supplement or meal will psychological effect your training. Most people are creatures of habit and failing to follow a normal routine will have detrimental effects on our training, simply because psychologically if we feel a product has been giving us a benefit in our training we will feel like we are not getting the boost for our next workout without it.
The biggest mistake that a lot of beginners make is not having a routine. A routine or training programme is not only hugely beneficial in a physiological and exercise progressive sense but is of great importance to us psychologically. By having a routine and progressive programme you can see the progression you are making week by week which is great for motivation. A routine allows us to have our rituals and other normal actions which means we are not rushed and forget things, which causes us to think of other things instead of focusing on the gym. When we have set times for training we have set times where we know we can just focus on the training. Obviously this is not always the case as we have lives outside of training, however, if we have set times week in week out our brains get used to the idea of training at the specific times making it easier for us to focus.
These are aspects that we can do externally to help us focus on training. All these are a great way to keep motivated, especially when we may be losing motivation due to external stressors. A good partner, some hard music and a good pump will hopefully get you back to an intensive training schedule.
Let us now have a look at some internal things we can do to help us hit new personal bests in our exercise and training.
This applies to most sports and exercise. A good way to hit a personal best is to first imagine that mark being hit. This probably won’t be applicable to every session we have but can be used in competitions etc. A good method to use imagery is to imagine yourself doing the feat the night before, try and go to sleep with yourself completing the goal you want, use that image just before you attempt the feat you are trying. The key is to first make your image realistic and physically achievable and second to completely concentrate on the image you have in your head. Want to lift a bigger one rep max? Imagine yourself doing so the night before and then again just before you decide to go for the lift. Imagery is a good way to calm our nerves. It is a way to make us feel comfortable in that we have managed to achieve this before and therefore can do it again.
Breathing whilst doing an exercise is very important and will help improve performance when done right. However, we will look at the role of breathing before we attempt a session. Try and take 5-8 breaths as deep as possible – in through your nose and then slowly out through your mouth before trying the next exercise. As you do this breathing focus your mind on what it is you are about to attempt and think about only the training in front of you and nothing else. This is a good way to get your body and mind on the same page and helps to prevent external stressors getting in the way of your training.
Another method of getting both your mind and body working in synergy is to tense each muscle up from one side to another for about a second for each muscle, starting with the left side of your neck and working down the body to the calf muscles before swapping sides and following the same protocol. This is a really good way to get your mind on the job especially in weightlifters. Give tensing ago right before you begin exercising.
This is a great way to improve training. This works for both cardio work and weights. The idea is that every month you work out without counting reps or distance etc. This works well with a partner so make sure you drag them along. If you are doing reps of a weight try and prepare yourself to not count them in your head, just do the weight you would usually for 12, 10, 8, 6 etc. reps but don’t count the reps, just go for each set to the point you can go anymore, if you have got a partner ask them to count in their head and tell you after how many reps you managed. If you are running, cycling etc. instead of trying to hit a distance, take your best time for hitting that distance on a previous session and put that on a stopwatch, cover over any distance readers and go for as long as the timer allows, then look at your time. In many circumstances you will find that you achieve better results because psychologically you are not aiming for a target you can see.
So in conclusion we can see that there are many methods to keep us focused and motivated in the gym, many are simple changes that will make all the difference. We recommend giving some of these a try and see if they make a difference to your training. Remember that our mind controls our body, without that we would not be able to achieve anything, so treat it well and get your body and mind working in tangent.
By Chris Collins