Ever feel a little distracted at the gym?
When we don’t activate the prefrontal cortex part of our brains — the part that deals with new situations, surprises and threats — then we operate on autopilot. That’s why following a regular workout routine becomes a snooze so fast.
Synapses in your brain send and receive two signals. One (excitatory) creates energy and interest, while the other (inhibitory) causes fatigue and boredom. Can you guess which one is responsible for your drive to keep pound out five more deadlift repetitions?
But you don’t need a shot of caffeine mid-workout to wake up. All you have to do to become more awake and engaged in your workout is trigger the excitatory signal in your brain. Best part: it doesn’t even matter how you do it.
Causing the brain some stress — just a healthy little bit — is how athletes reach peak mental performance.
Now you can use their secrets:
- Fear. Imagine, for half a second, that your workout could kill you. Seriously. By imaging a dangerous situation — even, say, dropping a weight on your foot — the brain becomes instantly more alert. Don’t startle yourself into inefficiency, of course: Too much stress can hurt your mental performance, so drop the fear-inspiring thought as soon as you’ve given your mind a little spark.
- Challenge. Imagining a new or challenging situation will light your frontal cortex right up. Just like a looming deadline can boost your productivity at work, scheduling (or even just visualizing) a high stakes competition can trick your brain into doling out a rush of mental and physical energy.
- Reward. It’s no surprise that anticipation of a reward will stimulate an excitatory response. Improve your mental focus by thinking of something pleasant you get to do post-workout, or visualize the physical and mental gains you’ll soon reap from your hard work at the gym. This is one reason weight loss hypnotherapy programs like Brain Food are so successful: they help you visualize positive rewards, which send your mind and body into action to accomplish extraordinary goals.
If squats and lunges don’t naturally get you going (which would mean you are completely normal), then do what the pros do: trick your mind into focus and ride the burst of adrenalin through a killer workout.
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