Mind Games: Unleash Your Brain's Potential for Better Workouts
Let's face it: we all know that exercise is good for us. It's like a magic pill for our overall health and well-being. But here's the thing: even though we know all the benefits, finding the motivation to actually get up and get moving can be a real struggle. It's not just you; a whopping 75 percent of Americans don't meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic and strengthening exercises, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
But fear not! The solution to this problem might not lie in our bodies but in our minds. Experts believe that by using a few clever psychological tricks, we can trick our reluctant brains into getting excited about exercise. So, in this article, we're going to dive into these strategies and see how they can transform our exercise routine from a chore to something we actually look forward to. Let's get started!
Game it up:
Let's talk about the power of games. Our brains are wired to love them, especially when they have unpredictable elements or offer rewards at unexpected intervals. So why not bring that gaming excitement into your workouts?
By incorporating gamification elements, you can make your exercise routine more engaging and enjoyable. Try turning your workout into a fitness challenge with a points system, where you earn points for completing exercises or reaching certain milestones. Or maybe use fitness apps or devices that offer virtual rewards or badges for achieving specific fitness goals. You can also incorporate interval training into your routine, alternating between periods of high intensity and recovery, to keep things exciting and unpredictable.
Tailor it to fit:
We all love things that feel personalized, right? Well, our brains are no exception. Research has shown that when athletes believed they were following a workout plan tailored specifically to them, they outperformed those who thought they were using a generic one.
So, here's the trick: work with a personal trainer or use fitness apps like Stronger by the Day. These tools take your unique fitness stats into account and create a program just for you. That sense of personalization can do wonders for your motivation and commitment.
Flip the order:
Now, here's an interesting idea from exercise psychologist Panteleimon Ekkekakis. He suggests flipping the order of your exercise routine to enhance your overall experience. Instead of saving the toughest part for last, tackle it early on after a good warm-up. Then, gradually reduce the intensity as you go. By doing this, you create a positive memory at the end of your workout. Not only does it boost your immediate post-workout enjoyment, but it also improves your long-term perception of exercise. It's a win-win!
Some ideas to flip your workout include starting your workout with the most challenging exercise or activity, such as a difficult set of weightlifting or a high-intensity interval training session. You can also gradually decrease the intensity or difficulty level as you progress through your workout, ending with a more relaxing or enjoyable activity like stretching or yoga. Remember to plan your workouts in a way that allows you to finish on a positive note, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Harness the power of habits:
Habits have a remarkable hold on us. They become ingrained in our brains, making certain behaviors automatic. So why not use this to our advantage when it comes to exercise? Find an existing daily habit, like dropping off your kids at school, and anchor your fitness activities to it. After dropping off the little ones, head straight to the weight room.
By stacking these habits together consistently over several weeks, you'll remove the need for decision-making or relying on willpower. If you're a morning person, make it a habit to wake up and exercise first thing in the morning before starting your day. You can also associate your exercise routine with a specific trigger or cue, such as putting on your workout clothes or playing a particular energizing song. Even choosing a specific location for your workouts, such as a home gym or a nearby park, and consistently going there will create a habit loop. Exercise will eventually become an effortless part of your routine.
We all have guilty pleasures, right? Well, here's a sneaky trick to make exercise more enticing. It's called "temptation bundling." The idea is simple but effective. Pair your workout with something you absolutely love, like binge-watching your favorite TV show or listening to thrilling audiobooks.
But here's the catch: only indulge in these activities while exercising. By creating this exclusive association, you'll start looking forward to your workouts as a time to enjoy your guilty pleasure. It's a clever way to trick your brain into loving exercise.
To incorporate temptation building into your exercise routine, try reserving your favorite TV show or podcast episodes exclusively for your workout time, so you can indulge in them while exercising. Or create a workout playlist filled with your favorite upbeat songs that you only listen to during your workouts. You can also treat yourself to a post-workout reward, like enjoying a delicious smoothie or taking a relaxing bath, as a way to associate positive experiences with exercise.
Make an emotional commitment:
When it comes to building an exercise habit, emotions play a significant role. One of the most powerful tricks is to make an emotional commitment. Sign up for an event or set a goal that holds personal meaning to you. It could be a 5K race, a tennis tournament, or even a special dance. You can also try dedicating your workouts to someone you love or admire, and remind yourself of that person's influence and support during your sessions.
Training for something specific gives purpose to every workout, and it fuels your determination. Along the way, set smaller goals that are challenging but achievable. By doing so, you'll experience continuous progress, keeping the challenge engaging and rewarding.