We have all (mostly) wanted to be in better shape. We’ve joined gyms, bought the creatine and fat burners, and sprung for new workout gear. And time and time again, we are wondering how come our attempts at fitness do not end in fruitful bounties and ripped abdominals. I think I have a reason why.
Focus. Ever heard of it? It is the opposite of Going Through The Motions. The latter is exactly what the majority of people who work out, do. You are thinking “that’s not me, though. I train hard every day”. Stay with me here. I’m about to tell you a story that might not make sense at first.
There’s a guy I know who plays basketball, and he tries really hard. He runs really fast, he plays aggressive on the defensive end, and does all the dirty stuff. Problem is, he is a liability. He can’t shoot. He doesn’t know how much about screen and rolls, and can’t really play defense without fouling. But by the end of it, he’s sweating his ass off and wiped. No one would consider him a great basketball player though, because he lacks the fundamentals, and doesn’t do the basics correctly.
Let’s take this back to working out. Just because you are in pain, or it is making you tired doing what you are doing, doesn’t mean you are putting forth a good effort. I mean, in a physical sense, I guess you could say you are, but in a movement sense, not really. Are you focused on moving the way the exercise is intended, or are you just doing it aggressively and really fast?
Good basketball players are in control of what they are doing, because they have practiced dribbling, shooting, playing defense, and other skills. To be good at fitness, your effort can’t just come in the “go hard” category. You have to focus on movement quality as WELL as intensity. If I run around like a crazy person, I could say that was really hard work, but when it comes to basketball or working out, that doesn’t make for a good workout or progress.
It’s amazing to me that every time I do a group workout, when I am demoing an exercise, or when I explain to people the scheme of the workout, I inevitably have to explain it again, and again, to multiple people. Want to know why? Their brain isn’t in it. Half the time when I’m explaining something, people are straight up TALKING TO EACH OTHER. When this happens, I immediately know they aren’t getting the most out of the workout.
Focus has to come from your muscles AND your brain. Focus is what takes a workout from just “hard work” to something that has quantifiable results that make you better over time. Just running on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day is “working out”, but training to increase the distance you run, progressively over a 4 week span within that 45 minutes by tracking your heart rate, and increasing the speed over intervals through each workout planned out… that’s focus.
There’s no reason you don’t focus except you don’t want to get more results from what you do. If you read a book and don’t focus, you don’t remember what you read. If you go to a piano lesson and don’t pay attention, you don’t progress with the piano. If I’m not focused on what I’m writing right now, I’ll lose my train of thought and have to redo this blog post. Why is it different when we work out? Why are we trying to zone out and NOT focus on what we are doing? Reading magazines on the treadmill, just going through the motions in a group workout, these are the things that are wasting your time and blunting your results.
Next time you work out, give yourself to the workout, not just physically, but mentally as well.