It can be tempting to treat your workout as an opportunity for some personal multitasking -- working your body while your mind wanders off to think about upcoming deadlines, family obligations, and dinner plans. But don’t let your mind wander too far! Exercise isn’t just a physical activity: It’s a mental one. And the more attention you devote to your workout, the bigger the payoffs can be. The next time you visit the club, keep some of these in mind:
Form: Maintaining proper form during each exercise can help you wring the most benefit out of each repetition while hard-wiring proper movements for daily life. For example, learning to hinge properly at the hips will not only keep your knees and back secure during a squat, but will decrease the likelihood of hurting yourself if you pick up a toddler or a bag of groceries. When you’re doing an exercise, check your form constantly. Look in the mirror. Ask a trainer to check your form.
Goals: Stay cognizant of what you want from your training, and make sure the exercises you choose, the amount of resistance you use, and the number of repetitions you perform are consistent with attaining those goals. For example, if one of your goals is improved balance, make sure your workout includes some instability. If it’s increased strength you’re after, then make sure you’re using heavy-enough weights to overload your muscles. (Keep in mind, too, that as you grow and adapt, weights that once seemed heavy may now be easy for you. Be aware of your changing abilities and keep yourself challenged.)
Temporary difficulties: If you are having trouble performing a new movement, don’t despair. This isn’t failure; it’s just a reality check of your current capabilities. Also, it’s an opportunity for you to expand those capabilities. For example, if I see a client repeatedly losing his or her balance during a move such as a front lunge, I’ll suggest that they go through the move again but more slowly, this time focusing on the precise moment when they lose their balance. We’ll then try to figure out what’s happening at that moment. Perhaps one hip is dropping. Or a knee is collapsing inward. Or their weight is shifting too much to one side. This process can uncover a movement fault or even a muscle imbalance that we hadn’t noticed before. And in the process, by slowing it down, they often will learn to correct their form and execute the lunge correctly.
Self-Talk: Many people take up an exercise program because they are dissatisfied with their bodies or their physical abilities. If that describes you, then congratulate yourself for being proactive and seeking change. But now that you have made that commitment (you did commit, right?), don’t hold onto self-criticism. That will only rob you of energy and enthusiasm over time. Instead, stay focused on the improvements you’re pursuing. Keep your eye on the prize. And if you find it difficult to think positively about your body, just reflect on all the wonderful experiences and accomplishments that your body has allowed you to realize in your lifetime. Savor those, and commit to having and doing more.
Fitness is not an end in itself, but a means to living a fuller, richer life. And pursuing greater fitness takes more than just physical effort. It requires thought, focus and self-acceptance. When you train, put your mind behind your effort.
This blog was written by Tom Borromeo, Personal Trainer at Body Kinetics Mill Valley