Training tip: exercise your full attention

My philosophy is to use the time during Covid-19 to rethink how & where you exercise your body.

If walking on a treadmill for 30-45 minutes sounds dreadful to you, don’t do it! You’re not using your exercise minutes in their best & most valuable form if you’re doing something you anticipate with dread – you’re settling for less, and how does that make sense? Think about it: if is it unimportant to focus on making positive transformations in your physical & mental health, why do you still feel obliged to do them right now? You’re worth the time you give to yourself for exercise, for meditation, for eating in a way that makes you feel better – but you have to really see that & believe that, first.

Here’s an idea: if you’re sick of the treadmill & up for a tiny adventure, try a walk in nature. Listen to the wind and other sounds around you, and engage your senses – notice the air, the ground, as far as you can see in any direction. Your body’s ability to manage your stress, sense of balance, and movement will be enhanced by that simple change of getting away from that treadmill mindset. Your posture will also benefit in the challenge of a real-world walk, where you need to manage your speed and balance, and not just hang on to handrails. There’s also a real reason that hiking has become so popular in 2020 – you can pretty much do it anywhere, the world is beautiful, and it’s waiting for you. Also, if you also have a bike waiting for you, hop on it – there’s no better time than now.

In my many years as a gym-goer and as a gym employee/personal trainer, I’ve seen the following too many times to count. I’ve even been that person, once or twice (or more times, if I’m honest).

A person hops onto one of these:
-stationary bike
-elliptical trainer
and then:
-opens a magazine
-starts watching an overhead TV
-engages with their mobile phone
-(sometimes all of the above)
and then, stays pretty much in one position for the entire time they are exercising.

Is this you? Have you seen anyone else doing this? Well…maybe that’s not the best way to look at moving your body

Multitasking during exercise is…kinda garbage.
As a culture, we like to think that multitasking is productive & good, and allows us to squish a lot into our overcommitted days. However, from a biological/neurological standpoint, we have learned a lot about our abilities in recent years, especially as the smartphone has come to accompany us everywhere we go. I’m not here to preach to you about any other areas of your life, but if you want my philosophy about multitasking while exercising, it’s this: don’t.
Why? Your ability to respond ideally to physical exercise at a neuromuscular level is negatively affected by allowing your attention to go elsewhere, because you are teaching your brain that this is not important. When you are physically “learning”, you need that focus. Your brain needs that focused time.
(If it sounds boring, your workouts are the reason & they need changing up. If you don’t like working out, maybe it’s not because you don’t like exercise – maybe you just don’t like what you’re doing right now.) Here’s something you might not know about your brain & exercise: if you happened to injure one arm, for example, and you couldn’t exercise it for a month or two, you would still get benefits by exercising THE OTHER ARM. Yes, this is true. Your body is both positively and negatively affected by changes to one side’s arm and/or leg. That’s because your brain wiring is mirrored for each side of your body. So imagine you’re totally absorbed in a video while your brain is trying to work on that – it’s not going to go nearly as well as it could.

If liking or caring about exercise feels impossible to you right now, you might be the ideal candidate for personal training, finding a workout buddy, or for group classes, even if it’s over Zoom.
(Note: this is not just about me declaring the benefits of personal training over everything else, you see. I don’t imagine that every single person who sees this article will go on to engaging me or anyone else as a personal trainer. But give serious thought to treating your exercise time as your break-away time from other things and let your brain know it’s important to you.)

If you’re still reading, I truly appreciate you! But more than that, I think you might just be that kind of person who would benefit from additional fitness tips, so please consider subscribing to my email newsletter. It’s free, it’s got something actionable in each email, and there’s often a discount code for training if you decide you’d like to get in touch with me 🙂

One final thought from me: if you can start to see exercise & nutrition as not necessary for survival, but as pleasure-giving acts of showing yourself that you care about yourself, any journey you might be on in the fitness continuum becomes a journey of personal growth. And once you’re past the fitness goals that might have inspired you to start a training regimen, that growth stays with you. You earned it, you won it, because you put yourself first. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not worth the effort – you are.