Hey Angels and Alphas,
Some workouts, whether they’re intense weight loss workouts or crushing weightlifting bouts, can feel so satisfying that they actually remind us why we exercise in the first place. But then, there are days in which all we want to do is call it quits halfway through our workout. On these days, it’s very useful to have a plethora of mental hacks and tricks you can use to keep yourself going.
Sometimes, you might need a lot of tools just to be able to get through a specific workout. But because mental hacks work better for some workouts and worse for others, it’s always a good idea to have multiple tricks up your sleeve.
Before you start using any of these mental hacks, take stock of the big fundamentals that contribute to your overall health: your nutrition, sleep and hydration. And if you’re dragging in your workout, this issue could be physical rather than mental. Sometimes, we will have an emotional reaction, but this will be our body trying to tell us that we need to eat, drink, or rest more.
So assuming your sleep, nutrition, and hydration are all on point, here are a couple of mental hacks you can use to get yourself through your workouts on those days where willpower is scarce.
1. YOUR PLAYLIST IS YOUR BIGGEST HACK
Research has long proven that music can help us exercise longer and harder. Middle-aged study participants who listened to music while undergoing a cardiac stress test (which is basically a treadmill exercise test that is usually used to diagnose certain heart problems or gauge the safety level of exercise) were basically able to last a full minute longer than patients who didn’t listen to music, according to a 2018 research published inside the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Go into your workouts being armed and ready with a playlist of songs that will give you energy. We all have those songs that, when we hear them, we just feel the positive energy inside our body. The songs don’t even have to be positive and upbeat, as long as they give you energy every time you hear them.
So, in those times when you hit a speed bump during your workout and need a surge of energy that will carry you to the finish line, blast one of those songs from your playlist.
2. LET SOMEONE HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE
If you’re one of those people struggling to get out the door to do your workout in the first place, you can recruit a friend to come with you. You will be less likely to flake on that other person than you are to flake on yourself. And when you’re at the gym (or on your run), you will be more likely to have fun if you bring a friend along.
Or, if you’re someone who prefers not to work out with friends, just put yourself on the hook by paying for a class or a trainer so you have more incentive to go. One of the first things you should ask yourself is, what will make it more likely that I will do that workout to the end? For some people, investing money into their workouts upfront does that for them.
3. DEFINE A FINISH LINE
When you’re in the middle of your sprint or your high-intensity interval, and you notice that voice inside you is screaming at you to stop and relax for a second, that’s just your brain trying to cope with the energy demands of working at that particular pace.
In order to calm down that voice that is begging you to quit, just give yourself an endpoint.
Tell yourself something like: “You’ve only got three more reps to go,” or “You can do anything for 30 more seconds.” When you’re giving yourself a finish line to keep moving toward, you’re also helping your body understand that you’re not going to need to put out that much energy for much longer.
4. FILL IN THAT MENTAL SPACE
Repetitive mantras or sayings can help you grit your way through those long, high-intensity intervals because they fill up the mental space. You should know this hack may be the most helpful if you’re doing repetitive cardio exercises such as cycling or running.
You can basically count your steps or your pedal strokes, count to a specific number and start over, or repeat something positive in your brain like “go, go, go” to the rhythm of your steps (or you know, pedal strokes.) You’re basically distracting your brain, so it doesn’t think about stopping. You’re basically forcing something into that information processing part of your brain, so it doesn’t have time to process any negative thoughts.
Try out these tips next time you’re hitting your HIIT intervals and see how much further you can get than usual.