Exercise can be fun, but unless you’re mountain climbing or white-water rafting, it isn’t always the most thrilling activity in your day. Minutes can feel like hours when you’re on the treadmill, and doing the same weight-training sets over and over can set anyone into snooze-mode at the gym. Although you may be there physically, your mind may be far away. So what do you do to maintain focus?
First, it’s helpful to understand that being present during a workout offers big benefits. Paying attention to form and the motions helps to keep injury free and make the exercise more effective. Plus, you’ll feel like you’ve really accomplished something when the session is over, not wondering what it was you spent the last hour doing.
If you find yourself losing focus during workouts, try these tips to keep your eyes on the prize – a stronger, healthier body!
1. Feel the mind-to-muscle connection
For every repetition, for every set, whether you’re lifting weights, using machines or relying on your own body weight, think about the muscle you’re using. Concentrate on contracting and relaxing muscles as you breathe. Concentrating on the muscles being worked keeps your brain and body engaged, and you target that area rather than just going through the motions. Don’t be surprised if you feel sore the next day!
2. Plug in and put your hat on
Creating a fun music playlist can be a great way to maintain focus during a workout. Music not only helps increase your energy, but it can keep you in the perfect groove to power through. Save your favorite songs for workout-time only. This will help you stay in the zone, keep you on-pace and make you more self-aware—and your mind won’t wander! Trainer tip: Pull on a hat and keep those earbuds in. This is my go-to trick when I feel my mind drifting. The hat helps keep both my eyes and mind from wandering!
3. Try something new
When you’re trying a new activity, your mind will be there, learning mode turned on. Sometimes all you need is to make a few adjustments to your workout routine, and you’ll find renewed focus. Look for new exercise classes you can take, or do something as simple as switching up the order of your workout. Group training lessons are another great way to ensure your mind tunes in, especially if the lesson involves stations.
Focusing during cardio exercise can be especially challenging. You’ve been there—the clock seems to slow down and you start thinking about anything other than the workout. But like strength training, cardio exercise requires concentration to get the greatest benefits. Incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will help with focus. During HIIT training, you have to pay attention the entire time, because you need to know when to increase speed and when to bring it back down.
While there are many HIIT training options, the simplest involves a 5-minute warm up, then working at 1-minute moderate speed, then 30 seconds at high speed (sprint-like), and then repeating for 10-15 minutes, with a 5-minute cool down at the end. I try to do HIIT cardio twice or three times a week, as it speeds metabolism and encourages focus.
5. Prepare for workouts
Before even stepping foot in the gym or heading out for a run, mentally prepare yourself. What do you want to accomplish during your workout? What are your goals for the day? Motivate yourself to stay focused by looking at fitness inspirational images or reading articles about the exercise you plan to do. Just reminding yourself of what you’re trying accomplish can keep you focused and ready to go. During during your workout, make a point of remembering why you’re doing it and how you want to feel when it’s over.
Trainer tip: Try using a pre-workout supplement to help with focus.* One of my favorites is ALLMAX Nutrition Muscle Prime Core-Factor. It gives me a boost in concentration without jitters and has BCAAs my body needs before exercise. Another great option is Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer, which contains natural caffeine from green tea and yerba maté and is also free from gluten, dairy and soy.