How do you keep going hard when your energy and motivation are slipping away? A little mental maneuvering and mental toughness can help you get through a tough workout.
If exercise were easy, everyone would do it. But in fact, only 60 percent of Americans exercise regularly— and that includes walks and other leisure activities. But there are ways to push through the invisible wall and squeeze every last drop of effort out you, and get the most out of every workout. Below are some mental tricks and tips you can recruit to help you push through your next workout.
Tune In to Zone Out. Use music to zone out during the tough spots. Fast, heart-pumping tunes have been proven to bring cardio to the next level.
Here’s a specific way you can utilize music: Play one of your favorite songs and promise yourself you’ll keep exercising until the end. When that song ends, pick another song and keep going, repeating until you’ve finished your workout.
Picture This… To bang out one more set or repetition, visualize cheering fans around you. This can give you a slight boost of added adrenaliine to get you over the hump. Don’t limit yourself: Imagine this workout is the equivalent of the Olympic trials!
Repeat After Me… From the Little Engine’s “I think I can, I think I can,” motivational mantras and self-talk can be the necessary motivation to keep on truckin’.
Hone in. When strength training, focus on the specific muscle targeted by each exercise. This can help maintain proper form, and remember, each lift will bring you one rep closer to that goal. Visualize your body operating in perfect sync, and focus on how badly you want to “see” progress in that particular targeted muscle.
Technique is a great thing to focus on, because it’s concrete. Pick something you’ve been wanting to improve (perhaps, posture?) or something that usually goes to the wayside under stress (maybe, breathing?) Return to this concept every time you get negative or start to feel your mind slip.
Where Will You Be in 5 Minutes? Oh yes, the end. You’ve almost made it to the post-workout high! The struggle of that final set won’t last— and when the workout’s over, it’ll be replaced by a much better feeling: pride.
Change pace. Adding variety to your workout routine can be an exciting and encouraging way to push yourself. Maybe you’re sick of the gym? Try exercising outside for a change. You can also mix up the speed you do exercises or run.
Circuit training, a killer combination of cardio and strength training, can also help break the monotony of a long run. Run five minutes, then drop and do some push-ups. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Break it down. Set mini-goals when the going gets tough. This isn’t a half marathon— just three measly 4-mile runs (with a 1-mile sprint at the end!)
Reap Rewards. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite smoothie, or taking in March Madness, dangling a metaphorical carrot on a stick when the pain starts to strike can bump up your motivation.
Obtain Feedback. Monitor your heart rate, pace, and exercise intensity to both distract yourself and serve as a reminder of just how far you’ve come.
Grab a Sidekick. Work out with someone who will hold you to a higher standard. Stuck going solo today? Imagine they’re still there. After all, who wants to cut corners or quit in front of an audience?
Remember Your Purpose. Running in circles with no goal in sight? There’s nothing motivating about that. Having something to run for (think, fitting into those skinny jeans or lowering blood pressure) can be a necessary kick in the butt.
Perform. The guy across the weight room that is your age is definitely jealous. Put on a pretend show, focusing on excellent form and making those lifts look easy and smooth. Mentally, you may feel stronger as a result.
Embrace the Suck. “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” the saying goes. Pain is also proof that this workout is tough. Clearly you’re doing something right, so why stop now? If it were easy everyone would be doing it — but you’re not everyone! (Please, just recognize when pain is signaling something more serious.)
Distract Yourself. It’s ideal to be mentally present in whatever you’re doing – but, there are certain types of exercises, and certain days, where it just doesn’t happen. View these times as an opportunity to let your mind wander, but still push your body through some productive movements. This can be especially helpful when you’re having a difficult workout, or going for a particularly long run. You can use your workout time to tackle problems in your life, plan meals for the week, list and solve your worries, or organize your time.
Put it in the bank. Think of time in the gym as deposits into the fitness bank. After saving up, cash out on a special treat (like new shoes, apparel or workout gadgets).
Life Application. Is the promise of a better butt not enough? How about knowing those plyometrics will help kill it on the court? Instead of thinking of this as a workout, consider it a training session— gathering the skills to become a better athlete, parent, husband, you name it.
Count it Down. When counting reps up from one, it’s more natural to push out one or two extra. On the other hand, some people push harder when it feels like a real countdown— try both to see what works best.
Compete. Whether comparing against your workout partner, or the superfit guy on the next treadmill over, or your own time on your last run, competition ups the ante and helps us forget about wanting to quit.