Mind Over Exercise
These six mental tricks can give you the energy you need to get moving and make your workout feel like less work.
When it comes to the Sunday crossword puzzle or balancing your checkbook, there’s no doubt that your mind is in charge. But when you’re crunching out sit-ups or clocking time on the treadmill—surprise—your brain is still boss. Researchers have found that the brain’s perception of discomfort will cause you to quit exercising before your body runs out of fuel. So, to give your mind (and ultimately your body) a boost, here are six tricks to pull out along with your exercise equipment.
Imagine assistance. When you’re walking or running and start to feel as if you can’t go any farther, picture springs on your feet. You can also pretend an elastic band is attached to a mailbox or tree up ahead and that it’s pulling you forward. It may sound silly, but it can work.
Sip some java. Along with providing that wake-up jolt, caffeine before a workout can reduce pain during and after exercise. Researchers have found that a cup of coffee about 30 minutes before exercise can block pain receptors to the brain and muscles.
Set long and short goals. When you have something to work toward, such as a charity run or bike tour, you’re more motivated to exercise. You’ll also have direction in your training. To help set those goals, keep a journal, starting with your overall, larger goal, such as running a marathon. Then, each day, record what you will do to reach that objective—these are your short-term goals.
Pep up with peppermint. The scent can increase brain activity and heighten alertness. Another feel-good fragrance: jasmine. Inhaling the sweet aroma after exercise helps your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal more quickly as you cool down, allowing your body to recuperate faster from a tough workout.
Rock out. As anyone who exercises with an MP3 player knows, music is powerful. The same music that makes you tap your toes or boldly venture onto the dance floor can motivate you to put one foot in front of the other while exercising. When tunes play in your ears, the analytical side of your brain shuts off. That means you can get in the flow and go and go and go. Studies have even found that those who exercise to music they like will lose twice as much weight as those who listen to no music.
Visualize victory. Imagining a successful workout can make the physical effort seem easier. Stay focused on your strength, endurance, and appearance gains rather than anything that stresses you out. Another related trick: Picture your goal weight on a scale or yourself slipping into those skinny jeans.
Now who’s ready for a workout?
Join the Conversation
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!