It may not always seem like it, but pushing yourself to get through a tough workout is often more mental than physical.
We know that consistency when working out is important, but sometimes we’re just not feeling up to task. When your head is not in the game, it pays to have some mental tips and tricks on hand to help you push through your limitations and take your workout to the next level.
That said, it’s important to not push yourself too far; you need to stay in tune with your body. Before trying these mental tips and tricks, check to see how you’re going in the foundation pillars of your overall health:
Your nutrition: what you eat does have an impact on your ability to recover from exercise, plus studies show that it affects both your physical and mental health. Aim for mostly whole food choices as the norm, but don’t feel guilty about small amounts of ‘treat’ foods.
Your sleep: set up a good routine so that you have proper sleep hygiene, as this will also massively impact all areas of your health. Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime, and don’t exercise too late at night because your body needs time to cool down.
Your hydration levels: make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. You can set a new habit of having a glass of water before every meal and a glass of water afterwards, it will soon become second nature!
You should also consider other factors, such as any injuries, cramps, excessive muscle soreness, illness or a raised heart rate. You shouldn’t be using mental tips to push through when your body actually needs to rest. Check out my recent blog When to Take a Rest Day (and When to Push Through) to read up more on this!
If everything checks out on the foundation level, but your believe your mental fitness still needs some work, try these 5 tips :
A lot of the time I look forward to my workouts, but not always. Whenever I’m physically well but my brain is throwing a tantrum about working out for no good reason, these are 5 mental tips I regularly use. I hope they help for you!
Break it down
Make a monster workout more digestible by mentally breaking it down into smaller chunks. For example, if you’re doing one of my online workouts and it includes 3 circuits, it’s really helpful to set your sights on getting through the current circuit, rather than focusing on the entire workout.
Eyes off the clock!
Keep your eyes off the clock when you can. Fixating on how much further you have to go will make time pass more slowly and stop you from getting in the zone. Shift your focus to something else, like what muscle you’re using (which also happens to help you maintain good form!). I personally like to count every repetition; it keeps me focused and helps me get through the toughest stretches of a workout.
Find a mantra or short rhythmic phrase
Finding a mantra or a short rhythmic phrase to repeat to yourself can be really useful, because it gets your brain on board! I’ve also been known to remind myself of how good I’m going to feel after a workout in order to get myself through. Phrases like “I can do hard things” and “On the tough days I grow!” are a couple that you might like to keep in your toolkit – whatever resonates for you! (I would love to hear what you use, by the way).
Make a killer playlist
It’s amazing how quickly music you like can improve your mood, but sometimes we tend to forget. It’s also been proven that music can help you exercise for longer and harder. Go into your workout with a killer playlist that’s going to give you energy and a positive mindset to crush your session.
Act like your idol
When your workout gets intense, think about someone you admire – the type of person you aspire to be. This could be a friend, a family member, a sporting hero or someone from the movies. Ask yourself how they would get through this workout. What would they be saying to themselves, how would they act and move? Then act as if you’re them! Sounds slightly wacky, but no one needs to know what’s going on in your head but you. I used to pretend I was a top-level crossfit athlete to help me get through some hellish workouts back in the day and no one but me was the wiser.
I’d love to hear how you go with these tips, let me know! Make sure you follow me on YouTube so you never miss one of my follow-along workouts. You can also sign up to my newsletter to say up-to-date and receive free monthly workout calendars. Enjoy your training!