Former UCLA basketball coach, winner of ten NCAA national championships, John Wooden coached his players to be mindful when putting on their socks: “If you don’t put on your socks properly you get a wrinkle, and when you have a wrinkle, it causes a blister, and when you have a blister, you can’t run and jump properly.”
Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword lately, but despite its overuse, I still find myself advocating for it every day. In the age of multitasking, telling someone to single-task puts me in a pretty unpopular position. But just the other day I read an article about the “myth of multitasking” and it made me feel better about my position. Neuroscience tells us that most of us cannot multitask, and our brains can only “switch-task”. (Turns out that only 2% of the population has the cognitive flexibility to multitask). So although it feels like we’re doing several things at once, we are instead caught in a constant state of switch-tasking, never paying full attention to any one thing, and therefore, not doing any one thing well. Studies show, performance suffers when multitasking, up to 40%!
I thought about this in terms of swinging kettlebells. When we really focus on our workout, and we pay full attention to our swings, we will get the greatest gains. Call it mindfulness, call it awareness, or call it Zen… but anytime we can go from feeling frazzled to feeling focused, we will perform better.
I’ve talked about this before, but it’s important to commit your mind to your workout. Don’t try and multitask in the gym. I saw a guy on a leg press machine once, trying to finish his novel. Really?? Guaranteed he was not making any gains, he was just going through the motions. If your mind and your body are not connected to the same goal, your body will not respond. Your performance in the gym will absolutely suffer.
Here are 3 ways you can bring mindfulness to your fitness:
- Honor the Time you Dedicate to Fitness
- Set Goals
- Keep a Training Log
1. First, honor the time you have dedicated to strength by putting away all distractions and fully committing your mind to how you want to perform over the next hour or so. Ask yourself if you are truly paying attention to what is important to you.
2. Next, what strength goals have you set for yourself? Set a series of goals: I like to set goals for strength gains, as well as use various races and competitions as goals. For example, my secret goal for my deadlift is 200 lbs by the end of 2015. (whoops, not a secret anymore!) But every weekly gain gets me closer to my end-of-year goal. Also, back in 2014 I committed to swim the English Channel in 2016. Planning such a large goal so far ahead gave me the luxury of time to place smaller monthly goals on the calendar to move me closer and closer to my big goal.
3. Finally, keep a training log. A fitness diary will keep you mindful of what you’re doing every day, and see where you’ve been and where you’ve made gains. I like this one: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ultimate-Workout-Log-Exercise/dp/0547592124. Each page is broken down into strength and cardio sections, as well as an area for flexibility and nutrition notes too. I particularly like that this one has a “Weekly Wrap-Up” section at the end of each week, and you rate yourself based on whether you met or exceeded or goals. (or not!) This is key to planning out what you need to be doing and when. (This log is good for 6 months, so buy several at a time and log your long-term goals.)
Now, put on some music, grab a few kettlebells and get to work!
Here’s your Workout:
10 sets of 20: figure 8’s to a hold. (that’s 10 on each side, with minimal rest between sets) 200 total in about 12 minutes, depending on what weight you choose.
You shouldn’t need too many songs… maybe just 3 good ones that will keep you in a good rhythm:
The Doors, Backdoor Man
Nickelback, She Keeps Me Up
Those three songs will be just short of 12 minutes, which is about all you need for this workout.