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Psychology of Training: Living in the Moment

Psychology of Training: Living in the Moment

Think about your thinking right now.

Are your thoughts scattered? Are they disconnected from the task at hand?

Sure, you’re reading this so you’re probably thinking about your laundry, your nagging wife, your work obligations, or when you’re taking your car for an oil change.

And when you go through a day, are your thoughts based on the past? Or are they so far into the future you’re thinking about the next meteor attack that will end humanity? AH! TOO. MUCH. THINKING.

In training, work, and relationships, our thoughts influence our behavior. When our thoughts aren’t 100% present, we fail to enjoy the simple things. We think ahead to the misery of our OBGYN rotation in medical school. Or we overanalyze a girl we are “dating” because god forbid…she may want to get married. So your default: you distance yourself from her and the beauty of the present moment. BUT *what if* she just wants to ENJOY THE MOMENT? You my friend, are the one thinking about her thinking. Okay, I’ll stop. All. This. Thinking. Is. EXHAUSTING. Right???

The honest truth: thinking too much decreases happiness in relationships, work, school, and life. It rids us of gratitude in the moment.

But what about its effects on training?

Are you dead lifting while thinking about what porno you’re going to watch later on?
Or doing pull ups while worrying about texting a girl back? (<—side note: girls don’t care if it takes you a decade to respond. We really don’t).

Alas, Dale Carnegie said it correctly: half the things we worry about, never even happen.

Say whaaaa?

Chances are, if you put everything you’re worried about on a slip of paper, fold it up in a drawer, and look at it a week later, none of these things happen at least 90% of the time.

So what can we do to become fully present? Enter: the flow state.

One of my favorite psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi (bonus points if you can pronounce that with a sexy Hungarian voice) speaks about being in our zone – a mental place in which we are goal oriented, fully attuned to the task at hand. It could be as simple as cleaning your dishes, running a mile, or sending your boss a two-weeks notice letter. Rather than being worried about his reaction, you focus instead on each sentence you are writing in the note. One at a time. Entering in a flow state allows us to evade overthinking and conjuring up false thoughts about things that haven’t happened yet. And most likely, will never happen. 🙂

If the mind is in one place and the body in another, you can hinder performance in the gym. So how about a better way? Here are a few tips:

1) Focus on small steps of an exercise – Some examples would be “inhale” “exhale” “activate the glutes” or “push your feet into the floor” or “core tight.” I don’t know about you, but as I do heavy dead lifts, the last thing I’m thinking about are the blood blisters on my palms. Instead, I focus on the task-oriented cue of “pushing my feet into the floor” so I’m confident in my initial pull.

2) Positive self-talk – “I will continue to work toward my pull-up” or “I have added 40 pounds to my hip thrust personal record” or “I am capable of a strong physique.” Honing in on positive self-talk rewires neural connections in our brains. Sure, we can never change a situation, but we can change how we speak to ourselves. And how we speak to ourselves shapes our thoughts. And our thoughts encourage our behavior. If you want to be successful in your life pursuits, daily positive self affirmation is GOLD.

3) Feel, rather than think – As corny as it was, Owen Wilson’s line in Wedding Crashers was spot on : “I think we only use 10% of our hearts.” Truthfully, he would’ve had me taking off my lingerie with that pick-up line! Feeling our actions, moving into our body’s senses, and focusing on the breath helps us to set our thinking aside.

Which one of the above will your practice first?

By tapping into the flow state you can improve your training and your life. So breathe. One step at a time. Life doesn’t happen in leaps and bounds. The moment is so finite and precious that we must embrace it. We must feel it. We must become it. So…SLOW THE EFF DOWN AND FLOW.

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