Focusing during cardio exercise can be challenging, especially if it’s a HITT workout. It’s hard to get lost in your thoughts when you’re working at a high intensity as you need to be aware of when to start, stop, slow down, speed up, and change the intensity of an exercise. It’s important to be focused and be in the moment when you’re performing this type of workout so as your cardiovascular system can benefit to the fullest, but also to prevent injuries.
When you have those days where your thoughts are elsewhere and you don’t have the energy or conditioned mindset to get you through another HITT workout, try one of these methods.
1. Feel the mind-to-muscle connection
Regardless if you are using your own body weight, using machines or dumbbells, or working at increasing your cardiovascular capacity, think about the muscles you are using. Focus your attention on contracting and relaxing the muscles as you breathe and go through the movement. This technique allows you to concentrate on the muscles being worked, therefore keeping your brain engaged instead of allowing your thoughts to wander.
When I’m doing a HITT running workout, I focus on each muscle in my body working together as a unit and how strong it feels. When I’m lifting heavy weights, I focus on the major muscle being used and how the smooth the movement feels throughout the entire motion.
2. Prepare ahead of time for your workouts
Before you even enter the gym or start a workout, get a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve. Think about the big picture while you are accomplishing small or short-term goals. Whether you are preparing for a competition, a race, to lift heavier weights, or to reduce your weight, you must set your mind to conquer what you set out to do. Always keep the end goal in the back of your mind but focus on the short-term goal at hand while you’re living in the present. Before you begin, think about what you want to accomplish during your training or workout? What goals have you set for yourself during your training on this day? Just remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish.
I like to use a technique called visualization. If I’m going out for a long run, I envision the run ahead of time, the course, and how I’m going to feel during the run. If I’m lifting weights, I think about the weight, my technique during the lifting phase, and how strong my body feels as I’m completing the action. The great thing about visualization is that you are in control ahead of time of how you want the final product to look like. Just envision it!
3. Plug in
Create a playlist to match the intensity of the workout. There’s nothing better than turning on your favourite tunes to help you power through a high intensity workout. If you want to get into that zone and stay there, let music help maintain your focus and energize you. The great thing about music is, if you don’t like the song, you just skip forward to a tune that you like. I create different playlists depending on the type of workout I’m doing. The songs that I use for my HITT runs are much different from the songs that I use to lift weights. There are no rules, just positive vibrations.
4. Silence your inner critic
It’s natural to think about the tasks that happened earlier in the day and the long list of items yet to accomplish. Think of your workout as your time; time to re-energize, time to stop thinking about negative ‘chit-chat’, and time to focus on yourself. Most times we are not aware of how much we think about negative thoughts. We can sometimes be our own worst enemies by self-criticizing without even be aware of what we’re doing to ourselves. Just because you don’t complain or talk about negativity aloud, it doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting your workout. Be aware of your thoughts and be present in the moment.
I like to use this technique when I feel a surge of self-negativity coming on. When I’m about to go for a run or begin a workout, I write down all my problems or negative thoughts that I’m currently thinking about on a piece of paper. I call it, ‘Leave My Crap At the Door’. I literally leave the piece of paper at the door while I begin my workout. I tell myself I can deal with the problems when I’m finished. I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to know that I have a ½ hour or hour where I can just let go of all the negative thoughts knowing that I can deal with it later.
5. Find a mantra or give yourself a pep talk
How many times do we think about negative ideas all day long? Learn to create what you want instead of what is. Along those lines, it’s important to start monitoring your thoughts daily. Recognize any negative self-talk that will cause you to follow short of your goal. Don’t focus on hard the workout or how long it is, but instead how great it will feel once you accomplish it Create a positive word phrase that you can use to replace out a negative one. For instance, instead of saying “my legs are so tired I can no longer run”, replace it with “my body feels great and I have lots of energy.” The more you start saying the positive phrase, the more likely you are going to believe it. If you don’t believe what you are saying, it’s not going to work.
Mantra’s do work and it’s important to choose a word or phrase that reflects the style of workout you are doing. There is nothing more motivating than giving yourself a pep talk when feel physically challenged and can’t go on. However, the body achieves what the mind believes.
We all have days when it’s hard to get through another workout as we all live busy lives. Don’t feel like you have to be on your ‘A’ game every time you workout but if you want to reach your fitness goals, you need to dig deep and find some motivation to get you through. Going through a HITT workout is more about the mind than the physical ability. It’s our thoughts at the end of the day that hold us back from moving forward and challenging ourselves physically.
If getting through a HITT workout is your priority to reach your ultimate goal, then you must find time to deal with the negative chatter going on inside your head. If you’re not accustomed to working with mindset techniques than try working out first thing in the morning before the day’s events have a chance to interfere.
Think about how you accomplished a fitness goal prior to the one you are focusing on now. How did you get through it? What techniques did you try? Remember the feeling of how great it felt to conquer it and hold on to that. The feeling of accomplishment outweighs the training of aches and pains.
Have a great day!
Maureen & Art