So maybe you like flipping through Men’s Health while you run laps on the treadmill. Or your fitness hour coincides with White Collar on Tuesday nights, so naturally you combine the two. There’s nothing wrong with reading or watching TV while you exercise, right?
This exercise multi-tasking could be the one thing standing between you and your future hot body.
Researchers say multi-tasking is killing our productivity at work? It’s doing the same thing at the gym. Edward M. Hallowell, an expert on both multi-tasking and ADD (no coincidence, surely), says it’s like “playing tennis with three balls.”
So we tote a magazine to the gym thinking we’re killing two birds with one stone, but we’re doing the opposite: throwing two stones, and missing both times.
If you plan on rocking that swimsuit this summer, put the magazine down and bring some Zen to your workout.
Read ‘Em and Weep
Personally, I don’t understand how people can read and exercise at the same time. I’ve tried it, and my feet seem to find every part of the treadmill except the conveyor belt.
But people do it.
The problem is, when you’re not paying attention to your workout, you lose steam—especially when you’re doing a repetitive activity on a stationary machine. As soon as that People celeb story gets juicy, you might not realize your legs have completely stopped moving.
So, not only are you “spinning your wheels” on the stationary bike, but you’re probably not soaking up much of what you’re reading as the magazine bobs around in front of your face. That means you’ll have to work out again and reread that story.
Not so time-efficient after all.
Hitting a Wall
Even if you don’t misstep and literally hit a wall, you can be sure your weight loss results will. Zoning out is an all-access-pass to comfortable, which means you’ll stop thinking of ways to switch up your routine, which means p-l-a-t-e-a-u.
That’s why interval training is so effective. Not only does it keep the body off balance, but it demands total engagement. Just try to read while pounding out 50 jumping jacks or crab-walking at full speed. (And if you do, please send the video.)
Reading isn’t the only diversion, of course. Watching TV, talking, texting… all can lead straight to an exercise plateau. Music can add pep to your step, as long as you’re listening to something upbeat. But ultimately, ditching all the distractions will give you the body you really want.
Benefits of a Focused Workout
When you focus on your breathing, you have more oxygen and energy for your workout. And by focusing on posture and form, you have maximum strength to perform each movement.
You’ll also remember to engage all your muscles so you can cash in on compounded results.
- Deadlifts while watching TV = stronger arms and improved balance
- Deadlifts while focusing on deadlifts = stronger arms, improved balance, solid core, stronger legs, tighter glutes
The second one seems like a much smarter kind of multi-tasking. And by performing each movement with deliberation, you’re also less likely to over-train or injure yourself.
But Exercise is Boring…
So make it fun! Get creative with your routine. Put together a high-energy playlist. Buy a new pair of shoes, or work out in your “energy” color. Giving your exercise plan a little love is the first step to making it stick.
Got exercise ennui? Try interval training and metabolic circuits. Get claustrophobic at the gym? Take a fitness or dance class (I’m a fan of Zumba) or do martial arts in the park. Can’t stay focused without a performance goal? Train for a bike race or 5K.
If you’re one of those people who really hates to work out, then you’re only hurting yourself by tuning out. You’ll just have to spend twice as long at the gym.
Let’s see: slog through an hour on the elliptical while watching Oprah reruns, or crank out a metabolic circuit in 20 minutes, double my fitness results, and be done.
Sorry, Oprah. I’m going with the latter.
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