Even if you have the best intentions with fitness, they can fly out the window on a cold and frosty morning. The thought of travelling to the gym to lift barbells heavier than your own bodyweight in the dark hours of winter? Not happening!! Especially when you are warm and wrapped up in your duvet in the foetal position.
Maybe you’ve finished a long day, after a nightmarish commute and the last thing you want is dragging yourself out in the rain to pound the pavement for 10km. Procrastination is easy. You can swear ’tomorrow is the day!! I promise” for an entire lifetime. However, as Apollo Creed from the Rocky films has oft retorted sadly ‘there is no tomorrow’!
So how do you break the vicious circle of wanting to progress, but lacking the mental resolve when fatigued to push through? Sometimes you need that little something to spur you forward, the correct frame of mind, mental toughness or mindset. It might not be something that you have, but it is something that can be developed over time.
7 Tips to break the deadlock
1. Mental dedication – Develop your own mental ethos and commit. Get a journal and record every aspect of your journey. Find inspiration, every positive message or quote you find that hits the mark and drives you forward. Write them all down and read over them all when things get tough.
Write down all your training goals so you have a visual prompt of where you are and where you want to be. Use SMART goals to measure your progress (See Goal Setting Section), record daily, weekly and monthly progress. Use selfies, and compare before and after pictures a month apart. Always forward. You know this is the only way!
2. Focus on the task at hand – Do not let negative thoughts of procrastination intrude. Concentrate solely on the task you are doing at the present moment (For instance – getting that barbell above your head!!). Total concentration and attention only on the technique. Make a count of the reps in your head, but focus solely on the correct movement.
3. Find a mantra or word of power – this is a word or phrase you can use for an adrenaline injection and a mental edge to shrug off negative thoughts. For example: If you are running and you begin to fatigue and think ‘I can’t do this….” Then replace the thought with your mantra “you got this!!”, “eye of the tiger!’, “finish strong!!”, “all the way man!!” Or my own drill instructor type abuse I direct at myself “FINISH THIS YOU F*&KING FAIRY!!”... I apologise for my foul mouth.
It can be as aggressive, inspirational or corny as you like. All that matter is that it gets the job done and gives you the psychological boost you require for the task. Keep it short, keep it positive and energetic. Make it a verbal command or directive, and condition yourself to react to it and let it drive you.
4. Practice visualisation – Visualisation is a skill that athletes often use prior to competition to mentally rehearse their event. They mentally visualise every part of their performance so when the time comes the mindset is there, everything is automatic. With yourself picture the upcoming exercises in your head and how you will challenge yourself. Concentrate on the technique of each exercise and nothing else as you do it. Preparing your mind is half the battle.
While imagining these scenarios try to imagine the detail and the way it feels. Make it as real as you can utilising your sensory cues; the visual (images and pictures), kinesthetic (how the resistance feels during weights or circuits), or auditory (the cheer of the crowd on marathon day).
5. Research and develop a mentally tough attitude – Perspective is everything. Check out the mindsets of your heroes, past and present, read their stories, and look for inspiration. Research what they do to prepare themselves mentally. You may be surprised at what they tell themselves or how difficult they find it at times. Yet that is why they succeed, they find mental workarounds and push themselves hard.
6. Know thy enemy and thou shall be victorious in one thousand battles – Know your strengths and weaknesses. Bit of Sun Tzu wisdom for you there. Identify your weaknesses: times you will be fatigued; demotivated; obstacles to your exercise; commitments; time; resources; obstructive friends. Find ways to counter and overcome them.
7. Develop self-discipline – Once you are hooked and you start making progress, this won’t be a problem. However, the first few weeks can be the toughest, especially once the first few aches and pains start setting in post workout. Develop a mental rule. If you plan to do a workout, just do it!! Or if you don’t feel like going to the gym, commit to doing one exercise, just one exercise. Evaluate how you feel after that, more often than not you will just get on with it. Even if you do that and go home, doesn’t matter, you have done that one exercise, its progress no matter how slow.
One of my compromises, when I am tired post workout, is opting for one of my Saviour Workouts. This will be a basic workout such as a steady state 10min run with a Tabata weight session thrown in for good measure. I plan this so I can easily scale up the routine if I feel up to it (I usually do once I am in the gym!) or call it quits after the basic workout and retire for the day. Win-Win. It’s all psychology, tricking your own mind. Even when you are fatigued your body can do a lot more than you give it credit for.