As a trainer, I've taught hundreds of classes. And I've attended several times that amount. After all those hours logged in studios, gyms, and rooms of all shapes and sizes, I've seen a lot of good working out. And a lot of mistakes. Many times, these mistakes aren't conscious ones. And many are form-based and are easily corrected with attention to detail. The biggest mistakes I see, though, are the ones that start in our heads. You may have a textbook squat, but you may fall victim to the following three mental mistakes.
1. You're Giving Up Too Soon
Our bodies are designed for efficient movement and energy use. Anytime we ask for more than our usual effort, our bodies will try to compensate by lessening the burden. While that may get us through our busy days, it's not the recipe for success in our workouts. Achieving the next level of fitness is all about breaking out of your comfort zone.
In order for our bodies to change, they need to learn new pathways and they need to be pushed beyond their normal task levels. We have to learn to embrace being uncomfortable — or as a fellow trainer used to say — comfortably uncomfortable. Try holding a plank until you start shaking. And then keep holding it. When you're lifting weights, pick up heavy enough options that your reps fatigue your muscles.
And don't give up when you start struggling. When faced with an interval, try doing some kind of movement the entire time — even if you have to modify. Always work to the buzzer. Letting yourself shave off a few pounds, a few reps, a few seconds may not seem like a big deal in one workout. But compound those little cheats and you've suddenly missed many opportunities to improve your fitness. Too often I see people letting themselves off the hook. Don't be that person. Make every second count.
2. You Aren't Listening to Your Body
The mind-body connection isn't just for yoga. It is vitally important that you check in with yourself as you progress through your exercises. Just because there's a trainer in the room doesn't mean you can turn off your brain and just do what they say. The trainer doesn't know what your day or week has been like. They don't know your energy level or if you're nursing an injury. They can't provide minute adjustments to help you achieve maximum benefit. But you can.
When you engage in an ongoing assessment of your physical state, your body will tell you when your weights are too heavy (or more likely, too light). It will tell you when you have enough energy to work harder the next interval (or if you've gone too hard and need to back off). Once you start looking and listening to how your body is reacting to different stimuli, you'll be able hyper-personalize your experience, and get way better results.
3. You're Letting Your Ego Control You
There is a difference between your ego and your pride. Pride makes you stick with something when it's hard. Pride allows you to see the benefits of the work you are doing and the importance of doing it correctly. Pride keeps you coming back, workout after workout because your dedication to health is a priority. Pride creates an environment of self-awareness and self-motivation that make your workouts a success.
Ego tells you that it's more important how you look than how you're executing a move. Ego talks you out of taking a smart modification because it tells you that you will look weak if you do. Ego forces you to keep working when something feels wrong or becomes painful because it wants that extra rep or extra calorie burned. Ego leads to improper form and injuries. Ego won't allow you the time to build up to peak poses, heavier weights, longer intervals. Ego can knock you out of your workout game because it will tell you your results aren't coming fast enough. Ego will try to take shortcuts that will end up derailing your fitness journey. In short, ego gets you in trouble. Don't let ego control you. Be smart, have pride in yourself and your active lifestyle, but don't let your vanity undercut all that hard work.
All this being said, you deserve major credit every time you show up to work out. That's one more time you've decided to invest in yourself instead of making excuses. But let's not be satisfied with just showing up. Let's elevate our workouts by committing to working the entire time, being present in all things that we do, and choosing the smart and safe path first before attempting beast mode. This fitness road is a long one friends, let's live to fight another day, every day.