Consistent, great workouts are needed to gain muscle, lose fat, and build your fitness… and guess what? FOCUS is needed for great workouts! Kill distractions and FOCUS with these tactics.
The Tale of two lifters…
Lifter A takes working out seriously.
He likes to get in and maximize his time. When he’s at the gym, he doesn’t carry a phone or a pager. If someone talks to him (if he indeed works out at a commercial gym) the convo is kept short. He focuses on how he feels and keeps tabs on the mind-muscle connection for every rep, you could say he’s very mindful. It’s really just him and the weights, two lovers dancing fully in step. When it’s time to do cardio, the lifter knows it’ll be tough, but he grits his teeth and bears it. He may even go outside for a run to take in some nature (but he never takes his mind fully off the work being done). Fully spent after an intense workout, he finally packs it up, having the satisfaction of knowing he gave 100%.
Lifter B goes to the gym with a laissez faire attitude.
He really doesn’t have a plan, he just kind of shows up and half-assedly warms up. He goes over to the water fountain and gets into a ten minute conversation. After his convo, he starts to get into his workout, yet between sets he fiddles with his portable telephone, trying to find the “perfect” song. He also takes some time to check his Email. An hour later he’s done a couple sets, and now it’s time for cardio. He sets his phone up on the machine so he can catch up on some funny cat videos. After his half-assed workout, he packs up and wonders if going to the gym is even worth it. He just doesn’t seem to be making progress.
Which lifter will you be?
Answer: Lifter A!
Focus is imperative during workouts.
Without totally focusing on the task at hand, no progress can or will be made.
Tell me: how many things can you half-ass outside of the gym and get done right?
0… maybe 1 thing? Exactly. Why do people treat their training differently?
Let’s Get Serious!
The thing is, it’s actually more effective get there, be present, and lift distraction-free because it gets you in and out fast!
In this post I’ll show you some great ways to FOCUS on getting there and being there, so you can wring progress out of every minute of training time.
Let’s do this, shall we?
→ Any Way You Slice It, Just Getting There is Half the Battle!
Once you show up, honing in and focusing usually isn’t a problem. By the end of your workout, you may not even want to stop!
This particular reason is why I preach convenience from my soap box.
Make it easy to workout. Make it easy to get there.
The world is run by those who show up!
→ The Early Bird Gets The Worm: Schedule Your Workouts Earlier in the Day
Willpower, which you have much more of in the morning, will help you get to the gym.
Willpower will also help you focus while you’re there.
Remember: willpower is a limited resource, and much like a battery it drains as the day wears on.
If you wait until 8 o’clock at night to get in a workout, you’re much more likely to skip it, or be distracted if you do make it. This has happened to me plenty of times, and I’m sure it’s happened to you. Most of my workouts after 6 PM get skipped, or just plain suck. I’m just not there mentally or physically. On the flip side, my morning and afternoon workouts are insane!
Now, this isn’t an excuse to skip a late workout, but just some planning advice that can help maximize how you schedule your day. Prioritizing important things straight-away is the recipe for success.
→ From A to ZZZ’s… Sleep Better
Sticking with the willpower theme, great sleep builds massive willpower, and it can help you get your a*s to the gym and absolutely tear the place down while you’re there.
When I have a bad night’s sleep, I notice working out is much more of a chore. On the contrary, when I get a solid 8-9 hours, I’m usually rarin’ to go.
Make sleep a priority and become the beast!
→ Set a Time, Be There, and Resolve to Give Everything You Have During That Time
Blocking out a DEDICATED time is an amazing way to help with consistency and focus.
Why does this work?
Because it leaves no doubt that you should be there and it’s your time to train. Some people feel guilty working out if they have lots to do.
This is your time. It’s not time to answer Emails, take phone calls, or to worry about a big project. These can wait until after you’re done.
For the time you’re there, be there!
→ Become a Supergiant: Use Supersets, Giant Sets, and Circuit Training
Yes, sometimes my workouts are only about 20 minutes.
“What? Don’t you have to workout for hours to see results!?”
No! This is a myth borne from professional bodybuilders, weightlifters, and powerlifters. Key word in that sentence: professional.
Yes, these guys are going to need to train for hours at a time, and even train a couple sessions a day, because their livelihoods are based on their performance.
The natural lifter, training to get stronger, more muscular, leaner, and/or more fit would do well to keep their workouts as short as possible.
Now, this isn’t saying you can just go in and do one light set. Workouts can be shortened only if you’re WORKING the entire time.
This is where supersets, giant sets and circuit training come in handy. These can be effectively used to maximize your time by keeping you constantly doing something, not just sitting around.
Now, I’m not going to lie… these methods are tough! They require complete focus. Your muscles will be burnin’ and your heart pumpin’ for the entire length of the workout, but that’s just the way we want it!
I often superset opposing body parts (i.e. biceps/triceps, chest/back), or circuit through 3-4 different movements, or giant set 4 movements. I almost never do straight sets (i.e. do one set of one exercise, rest. Do one set of one exercise, rest… and so on).
- Weighted parallel bar dip – 10 lbs * 10 reps
- Weighted pull-up – 10 lbs * 8 reps
Rest 1-2 minutes
- Weighted parallel bar dip – 10 lbs * 10 reps
- Weighted pull-up – 10 lbs * 8 reps
- Weighted vest push-up – 10 lbs weight vest * 15 reps
- BO Barbell Row – 115 * 10 reps
1-2 minutes rest
Repeat 3 times
The Grueling Giant Set
Four consecutive movements for one bodypart.
Bench press – 135 lbs * 8
Weighted Parallel bar dip – 10 lbs * 10
DB Chest Flye – 30 lbs * 10
Push-up – bodyweight * 10
Rest 2-4 minutes
Repeat 3 times
You can even add in your cardio to your weight movements and really maximize your time.
- Bicep curl – 25 lbs * 12 reps
- Laying tricep extension – 25 * 12 reps
- 30 second hammer and tire rounds
30 seconds-1 minute rest.
Repeat 5 times.
Another tactic? throw in quick cardio bursts between sets.
This could be something like banging out some jumping jacks or burpees, or even going for timed boxing rounds or intense battle rope sessions after you’ve completed your lifting movement.
The possibilities are really endless! Do you see how creative you could get with this?
Give some of these a try and tell me how you like them.
→ Stay Away From Phones, Mp3 Players, and Other Miscellaneous Electronics
This one is obvious, but it still doesn’t stop people from fiddling around with gadgets between sets.
I used to see this a lot when I trained at a commercial gym (I train exclusively in my garage gym now).
Texting, finding a song, checking Email, and (the worst offender) taking phone calls is just uncalled for during a workout.
Texts can wait, Email can wait, and phone calls can definitely wait. Choose a playlist beforehand if you need music.
All of these things steal your attention away from the task at hand.
Do you think Eugen Sandow checked his texts during his workouts?
Do you think Steve Reeves needed the perfect song?
Leave the phone in the locker.
→ Limit Talking
Lifting weights can be quite a solitary activity. It’s not really a team sport.
This draws a lot people to it, but it also pushes a lot of people away.
For me, I like the solitary nature of it.
If you like or need a more social gym experience, talking is fine, to an extent.
Talking should be kept short, short enough so that it doesn’t break focus and cause your muscles to go cold.
Also: talking shouldn’t be too loud!
There’s nothing worse than lifting next to a couple knuckleheads having a loud at length conversation about fantasy foosball (or if their hockey team is going to win the match and make it to the world series this year).
Maybe gyms should start instituting library rules? (save for grunting, of course)
→ Get Outdoors!
Outdoor cardio practically eliminates distraction.
I love to run outdoors, and I feel it’s equal parts exercise and meditation.
If cardio gets boring for you indoors, mix it up and get outside!
Tip: stay away from crowds and busy streets. Navigating these can stressful and kill focus. A quiet trail or path is usually the best place for walking/running/cycling.
Another fun option: If you have a home/garage gym, you could also take some weights outside and get some sun while pumping iron.
→ Use The Good Stuff: Caffeine
We all know that caffeine can help us focus, so why not use the good stuff to help us focus during workouts?
Note: I wrote about using caffeine to focus here, check it out!
The key thing with caffeine is using it smartly! Caffeine is a double-edged sword. Sure, it can give you an extra edge, but too much can cause anxiety and jitters. Caffeine can also mess with your sleep if you use too much too close to bedtime.
The timing and the dose is everything. Around 200 mg in the morning, or less than 3-4 hours before your workout will do just fine.
Tip: It might help to take some L-Theanine with your caffeine. This can take some of the edge off.
Now, how should you get your caffeine?
You could do coffee. Coffee is great, and I actually prefer it myself.
You can also get caffeine from tea, pills, and pre-workouts.
The choice is yours, amigo.
Reminder: use it smartly as an extra little edge, and don’t rely on it too much. If it’s cutting into your sleep, cut back. Sleep is much more important.
Disclaimer: Consult your doctor before trying a supplement, or modifying the dose of the ones you’re already taking, including caffeine.
→ Practice Mindfulness and Use Self-talk
Now this may seem kinda “woo-woo”… but it can work!
Before a workout, I’ll “check in” and tell myself why I’m there, what I’m going to accomplish, and why I want it. We often forget why we’re even there in the first place, and this helps us get back to the basics.
I’ll also practice mindfulness. Ill actively “feel” the muscle working, feel the bar in my hand, feel how I’m breathing, and actively catch my mind drifting and bring it back to the workout. This helps me build a deep connection, and brings me into the present moment.
Try these sometime! Actively be present and feel your workouts, and you’ll start to relish your time under the bar.
→ Rock On: Set a Badass Playlist
Since we shouldn’t be fiddling around with our gadgets during workouts, we need to set a playlist!
This playlist should be anything that gets you pumped up and ready to go.
I like heavy metal. You may like smooth jazz. The guy down the street may prefer bluegrass. whatever works.
Tip: music really does make workouts better. I really recommend cranking on some tunes! Invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones if you go to a commercial gym, or a stereo system if you have a home/garage gym. Trust me, it’ll be well worth it!
→ Remember: Nothing Else Matters!
Working out is your time! Nothing else matters but making some GAINZ and becoming more badass!
Get your head in the game and go for it.
Life’s just too short not to go balls to the wall!
Aaaaaannndddd that’ll do it, folks.
Hope you enjoyed!
Stay focused and stay IRON,