By Justin Wright
Many of you out there are putting in tremendous levels of effort in the gym. Many still are matching that effort equally with the little things that happen outside of the gym: nutrition, mobility, hydration and sleep. You are squeezing all the possible juice out of your training sessions and lifestyle; your mindset is positive and you are focused on the big picture and the little steps along the way; you understand the balance between training hard enough and listening to your body. All of this, and you still aren’t getting any better. Your goals still elude you. You feel stuck.
What does one do when faced with this conundrum? There is one critical factor that often goes ignored when people begin taking their fitness seriously, when they begin pushing and reaching for their potential: how we move, and not just how often, determines everything. This concept is multi-faceted, and it is important to understand both the physical and mental components of movement.
From a physical standpoint, being mindful of how we are performing certain actions determines, very unsurprisingly, how well we perform those actions. We can discuss this topic in perpetuity: if you waste energy with poor movement then you will be unable to perform more work, be unable to lift more weight, and therefore leave tremendous amounts of potential progress on the table when you leave the gym. In addition, rate of injury increases dramatically when exercises are performed poorly or without conscious thought regarding positions. Coach Chase here at Invictus Boston already wrote an incredible article on this topic here.
Many of you reading already understand this concept. You think that this article is not about you, that I couldn’t possibly be addressing those of you who already move well, train hard and focus on your recovery. Take a moment to think about the following question: regardless of how you move, how focused are you when you step into the gym?
How often do you spend looking at screens? Many watches now display notifications from your mobile device; do you put your phone in airplane mode when training or do you let those buzzes on your wrist distract you? How often do you rest longer than you should between sets and exercises? How often do you let your mind wander to the problems of the day instead of focusing on what you are doing in the present moment? How many of you think about the intent of a given exercise, or how it should feel when performed? How many of you, despite how well your movement looks, are actually focusing on each individual rep to the best of your ability?
In order to continue progressing when you are doing all of the other things right, you must focus on the why and the how. You must understand why you are doing what you are doing and, in turn, must focus on how to do those things in line with their intent. You must tune out the distractions and focus, truly focus, on exactly what you are doing in the present moment. Learn to use fitness as your escape, as the anchor that holds the other pieces of your day together. Don’t allow those pieces to distract you and reduce the quality of your time spent bettering yourself.
Gain enjoyment from the process, but make sure that this process is performed well. Make sure you put as much effort into your training environment as you do into your actual training. Take responsibility for yourself, and realize that your actions affect others as well. Stay focused, stay positive and support those who train with you. A high tide, raises all ships. Be that high tide in your gym community. Spending more effort thinking about how you exercise, in all aspects, will allow you to realize your true potential and make incredible strides. You might just find that you also gain greater enjoyment from your time spent in the gym.