How to identify and overcome common mental habits that keep you from reaching your goals.
Have you ever been to the gym in January? It’s a madhouse. Not a single treadmill goes unused, not a single weight unlifted. The gym floor is covered with enthusiastic, motivated newbies and those looking to rehabilitate their physiques. But by around mid-February, the herd has thinned. The once-crowded row of cardio machines breathes a little easier and you don’t have to wait to work in on any piece of equipment. What happens? Well, some people have gone too hard, too fast and their bodies can’t keep up. But for many others, the battle is lost in the mind.
People get bored and/or frustrated easily with their fitness and diet and end up quitting. So what can you do to avoid the same mental pitfalls and keep training long past February? Read on and find out.
1. CHANGE THINGS UP
So many experts are quick to say “Pick a program and stick to it.” Well, that’s good advice…for a while. But after a few weeks, physical and mental exhaustion begin to set in. In addition, the same sets, reps and exercises, the same boring chicken breasts over and over again can become downright counterproductive to your progress and drive. Because of that, it’s important to change up your fitness and recipes enough that you don’t get bored. Getting healthy shouldn’t feel too much like a job.
Do This: Don’t stick to a single routine without changing anything for more than 4-6 weeks. If you are following a program, along the way, be sure to increase the resistance used, decrease the time you rest. This will ensure progress and reduce your chances of lighting-fast mental burnout.
2. BE EFFICIENT
There was a time when it was pretty standard to hit the gym for 90 minutes. When I was younger, I was known to spend over two hours training! But I’m older now and times have changed. Like everyone else, I got busier and those marathon gym sessions became a thing of the past. Happily, science caught up and proved that most of that time was being wasted. In 20 minutes, you can get the kind of results you used to train hours for. Being busy, as it turns out, is the best thing for us in that it forces us to be more efficient in the gym. And efficiency is encouraging. Shorter, more efficient workouts allow us to focus more on what we’re doing, further keeping boredom and burnout at bay. But this also applies to your nutrition. If you haven’t prepared for today’s meals, chances are you’ll end up Googling your nearest pizza delivery joint.
Do This: Time is a huge factor. People think they don’t have enough time to train or cook for themselves. That’s why I try to stick with 20-minute increments which can even be broken to smaller, five-minute increments for people starting out. And try prepping your meals in bulk ahead of time so you don’t have to go scrounging for bad food when cravings hit. One missed workout or a cheat meal could severely affect your mental resolve.
Sleep is important for muscle and joint recovery, sure. But it’s also about keeping you mentally sharp and focused as you chase your goals. It’s not just about getting eight hours of sleep total, it’s about getting a quality night’s rest, without constant waking so that you get the deep sleep that rejuvenates your body. (Sorry, new parents!) You may be familiar with feeling groggy after sleeping in but if you woke up multiple times during the night, your body still isn’t as rested as it needs to be.
Do This: To get a better night’s sleep, try to stick to a certain bedtime, and cut out screen time an hour or more before you plan to go to sleep — this means a total blackout on TV, laptops, tablets and phones. Create a pre-sleep routine that helps you transition just as parents do when training a newborn baby. This may include taking a bath, reading a book, or doing a guided meditation just before hopping in the sack. Also, make sure windows block out light sources and, if you’re a light sleeper, consider using ear plugs. And some might not think of this but you may also want to cut out fluids 1-2 hours before bedtime so that you don’t end up having to get up for the restroom multiple times per night.
No, it’s not just for kung fu masters or yogis. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of meditation on reducing stress and improving energy. Calming practices like meditation help to stimulate the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system, or the “rest-and-digest” system. This helps bring the body into balance and restore energy.
Do This: A good 20-minute meditation has been shown to be as effective on energy levels as a good night’s sleep. If you’re not familiar with meditation as a healthy-living practice, it’s a good idea to start with five minutes and work your way up. Try this meditative drill to build good habits as you work toward that 20-minute mark.
>> Find a quiet place of peace and calm, whether that’s in your bedroom, your office, on a park bench or a warm bath.
>> Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
>> On the inhale, feel the belly expand and on the exhale, make an effort to feel everything move toward the midline.
>> Inhale for a full five seconds and hold it for five seconds.
>> Exhale slowly, taking a full five seconds to release your breath.
>> A good cue is to “inhale courage and faith and exhale worry and doubt.”
BRETT’S SECRET WEAPON
My favorite mental health pick-me-up? Pure green juice without being sweetened by sugary fruits or veggies. I actually like it tasting like grass or algae! Weird? Maybe. But this drinkable glass of health gets me refocused on what it is that I want to do. It’s the one drink that has gotten me off of coffee and I’ve been able to drink it before an early morning training session without the bloat from a shake and still have plenty of energy to kick ass on the training floor.
Athletic Greens is my go to “green juice”, and can’t recommend it enough, you may want to check this out. This superfood powder keeps me energized for my busy schedule, and the strengthens my immune system. Each 12 gram super serving is packed-full of RAW greens, antioxidants, herbs, enzymes, co-factors, mushrooms, vitamins, scarce nutrients, adaptogens, trace elements, minerals, prebiotics and probiotics and best of all, it only takes seconds to make.
What’s your secret weapon for crushing it in 2016? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.