I’ve been training for 20 years in the gym and have racked up thousands of workouts in that time, when you’ve spent this much time performing any activity it lures you into a false sense of security that you know it and can perform it on auto pilot but just like life, training can teach you some valuable lessons if you just pay attention, I had a workout today that taught me some simple but profound lessons.
“Just Pay Attention”
These days there is pressure on those of us who are freelance trainers and in fact everyone in society, who has livelihoods that require us to be active and engaging on social media because our reach and professional careers depend on it, well that’s what we are led to believe but with that pressure comes the need to capture, quote and film many of the things we do from the food we cook to the workouts we perform, this is where the trouble lies.
When we are on our phones posting pictures and videos, telling the world what exercises we are doing today and offering training advice, we are taking our eyes off the ball and missing the most valuable moment and the only moment that ever really matters, the present moment. It’s in this moment that the magic happens, in life but also in your workouts.
This need to rush through your set to post the next video or picture can lead to a lack of concentration and enjoyment of the next rep we are about to perform, where we should be concentrating on the muscle we are contracting and the way our bodies are moving, maximising the time we are spending in the gym.
Recently I’ve stopped listening to music on my phone whilst training, partly because I don’t have a good enough set of headphones but I’ve been using my phone just to countdown my rest periods, which has been great, I’ve felt so much more connected to what I’m doing, right up until I get a smart idea of something to post or I find myself responding to a whatsapp message and then that moment is lost again, and I have become a slave to my digital device.
Are you a slave to your digital device?
Today when I arrived at the gym, my battery was very low, so I took the decision to leave my phone in the locker for once. I had been working on being present throughout the day before I arrived at the gym and I was feeling awesome because of it, so I decided to extend this into my workout but at the same time wondered how I would countdown my rest periods, so I had a novel idea, I’d quite simply count them in my head in between sets.
Sounds so simple doesn’t it but it was so effective, if I had a 90 second rest period I would count to 90 before performing the next set. I didn’t have my phone on me so I couldn’t record or post anything and there was no chance of being disturbed by a whatsapp message.
What it did was bring an absolute feeling of peace and focus to my workout that I hadn’t felt for a long time. In between sets I was counting my rest period and during sets I was counting my tempo and focussing on muscular contractions, so for that whole hour I was completely present from one moment to the next, it left my body feeling alive, my mind free of thought and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment to the max.
So it got me thinking about what other ways they are, that can bring you back into the present moment during your workouts.
This has to be the foundation for any mindful practise, used by sages and yogis for thousands of years, focussing on each breath brings you into the moment of that breath and quietens the mind.
- Sensory Perception
How do the grips on those dumbbells feel, how do your muscles feel when you contract them, how does it feel when your foot touches the floor or your bum when sitting on a workout bench? Focussing on your senses are a great way to become more present.
- Leave your phone in your locker
To be honest this could be number one. There might be workouts and times when you want to film and record things but my advice to you and myself would be to put the phone back in your locker straight after, don’t let it consume your quality time training.
- Count your tempo
There’s nothing more effective than counting the speed with which you perform a repetition during a set, there’s no escape from the present moment during that set, you’re in it, you embrace it and you feel everything.
- Count your rest periods
Last but not least my epiphany today. Rest periods in training are a crucial part of providing the right stimulus to your body, whether you’re performing a strength or HIIT workout, counting your rest period means that you’re not taking your eyes off the ball, and are fully prepared for when the next set begins. There’s no escape, you just focus on the next rep.
I’d say that most of society, myself definitely included, are always looking to escape the present moment, which is crazy because it is the only moment that ever actually exists, the past is a past story or moment and the future doesn’t actually exist yet but we spend so much of our time in life and in the gym, thinking about the next day, the next exercise, what they said to me, the next step on the career ladder, what I’m going to eat later on and how my body will look and feel when I achieve my goals.
So why not trying the above steps during your next workout, revel in the present moment, enjoy its simplicity, its energy and savour the feeling of peace and accomplishment that you will feel when it’s finished, this will also send your gains through the roof bro.
Just observe and pay attention.