What accounts for the difference is commonly referred to as the mind-body connection. It’s the proven fact that what goes on in our minds (i.e. beliefs, thoughts, attitudes, emotions) can positively or negatively influence what happens to our bodies. In relation to fitness, the mind-body connection begins coming together even before you get into the gym.
Now, we recognize that life nowadays is hectic and you’re pulled in a million different directions with obligations to work and family. And, these make it difficult to find the mental energy to focus on yourself. But mastering the connection can mean the difference between feeling stale and stagnant versus rejuvenated and invigorated by your fitness efforts. Here are some ideas for how to establish a mind-body connection and maximize the impact from each workout.
- Begin before you get to the gym – Think about your upcoming workout and the exercises you’ll be performing. Picture yourself powering through the moves with strength and purpose. Think about the sense of accomplishment you will feel when it’s done. Also, visualize the changes your workouts will make to your body.
- Be present for your workout – Try to carve out one hour where your focus is exclusively on your body and your fitness. For that time, eliminate all thoughts of work, bills, your kids and stress from your mind and let yourself focus on your body and its movements. Most importantly, embrace your workout as time for yourself.
- Think positively – In fitness as in many other areas of life, it’s all about attitude. Negative thoughts about yourself and your ability will significantly hinder your progress. Go into each workout with a positive attitude and knowing that you will give the workout your all. Tell yourself that you CAN perform each exercise – even those that are hard or that you hate – and it’s more likely your body will cooperate. Look at each exercise as a challenge you can meet versus an obstacle.
- Put in the effort – Don’t just go through the motions. A weak approach will give you weak results. Think about the muscles needed for each move and work to fully engage them. For example, picture your quads and glutes firing up with each squat. Activate your full core to keep yourself steady in a plank. Think about what you need to do to perform each exercise correctly instead of how to just get through the set.
- Listen to your body – Your body will “speak” to you as you’re working out and it’s important to listen. With practice and focus you’ll learn the difference between your body saying, “this is really challenging” versus, “ow! that hurts.” Focus on your breathing and your muscles working through the exercises and be aware of the physical cues your body gives to avoid injury.