“Wash your hands.”
“Before you train, go in the bathroom, wash your hands.” “Why?”
“Because before I begin every workout, I wash my hands of all the day’s stress, worry, and obligations I have on my mind. When I’m here, I need to be here. Not at the office, not with my kids. Not with the hundred things on my plate. I’m here. Present.”
I don’t remember where I heard that little interaction, but I never forgot it. If I can impart to you one anecdote to poor results in the gym, it’s this: Be fully present in your workouts. Be there inside every mile, set, and rep. Most people want to be gone the second they walk in gym. They check their phone, take selfies, read throw-away magazines, go to the locker room, and repeat.
We’ve all seen the person in the gym who seems to be doing everything but working out. Anything they can do to avoid the “pain cave” the workout forces us into. So we avoid it like the plague.
For many people, there is the mistaken belief that simply being at the gym is victory enough. That just because you showed up, the fitness gods will bestow a dream body because of your great attendance. A participation trophy. You should be applauded for showing up, especially if it’s scary for you. But understand, it’s only the first step. As you gain your bearings and courage, showing up is necessary, but not sufficient. You’ll have to show up in every second of every rep. Once you’re there, don’t hide from what you came for.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’ve let the worries of the day totally ruin my workout. I’ve let the laziness take hold and screwed off into oblivion. It’s for this reason you need to begin every workout with intention. Have a seat, look in the mirror, settle into a meditative stretch, and get your mind right. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Leave the outside world outside and remember why you’re here.
- Ask yourself, what exactly are you trying to accomplish and how will today’s workout get you closer to that?
- Have structure to your time in the gym. Have a plan. Don’t wander aimlessly. Write it down if you need to.
- Make a silent commitment to keep the workout in front of your sole focus and vow to milk every ounce of your best effort into it.
- Eliminate all possible distraction and keep to the task at hand. The workout requires your full attention so give it nothing less.
- Understand that all of the things weighing on you (lack of sleep, stress, worry) might affect your strength and motivation, but it will not affect your effort. You will do everything you can with what you have in you today. You might have been better yesterday or tomorrow, but none of that matters here today.
- Track your weights, your pace, your reps. Every workout is a brick and you build your body and fitness, brick by brick. Each subsequent work-out builds from the ones you did before it. If you begin each workout without ever paying attention to what was accomplished before it, you will never get better. Notebooks are great for this.
- And lastly, pay attention to the “dark passenger.” In the popular show Dexter, the main character talked about his “dark passenger” that made him kill. We all have a dark passenger. It wants to hold us back; to sabotage us. You need to be aware of that. It wants nothing more than for you to quit. So be patient, but don’t cut yourself too much slack. Push yourself, but don’t berate yourself, complain, or sulk because someone is stronger/fitter/skinnier. In the midst of the workout, you need to be your own cheerleader. “I got this. I can do it. No one can stop me.”
A workout is the active molding of your lesser self into a better version; and that is hard and scary thing to do. It’ll take practice but I know you can do it. Now, go wash your hands.
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