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Do You Space Out When You Work Out?

by Joan Kent

posted in Health and Fitness

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Which activities count as mind/body training? Yoga and t'ai chi immediately come to mind.
Some would submit that almost any activity could be a mind/body training, depending on how it's approached.
A few years ago, my coach and I co-wrote an article that outlined the differences between exercise and training. We suggested that the primary distinguishing element of training is consciousness. Bringing consciousness to any workout would most likely make it a mind/body activity.
It's almost impossible to discuss adding consciousness to workouts without including focus.
When some - maybe most - people exercise, their focus is not on what they're doing. They may be thinking about work, calls they need to make, plans for the weekend - anything but the workout. That type of focus is called "dissociated." It takes no practice because it's our default whenever we're not disciplined.
Dissociated focus, I was taught, has no place in training.
Recently, it came to my attention that dissociated focus is being taught to indoor cycling instructors in their certification trainings. Apparently, it's a method of getting cycling participants to work harder by taking their minds off the discomfort of hard cycling.
Because my first cycling certification was quite some time ago, that surprised me. I never learned that. But I digress.
Certifications aside, most of my cycling instruction came from my excellent athletic coach. He always told us to focus on exactly what we were doing. That type of focus is called "associated."
Associated focus may be external or internal.
External focus includes anything going on in the room: the instructor's voice, the sound of pedals turning, whatever's in your visual field.
Internal focus pertains to what's happening in your body: sweating, body temp, the feel of clothing against skin, heart rate, breathing.
Associated focus may be wide - taking in as much information as possible regarding what we see, hear, feel and so on - or it might be narrow - zeroing in on one thing, such as the pedal stroke or even one segment of the pedal stroke, such as the upstroke.
Wide or narrow, external or internal, the key is not to attach a thought process to it, but to "go sensory" and experience it through our senses.
My coach taught us to approach hard training by being aware of all that's happening - in the muscles, with heart rate, with breathing, and more - but not to think about any of it.
He loved to say that we defeat ourselves mentally long before we're defeated physically. The coach taught us to feel everything, and then transcend it.
"It's not that it doesn't hurt, it's just that it doesn't matter," he said one day during tough, big-gear climbs. I immortalized the saying on a boxful of t-shirts.
Achieving a transcendent state during tough athletic training wasn't always easy for me, but I did find a superb solution. In a future article, I'll share that solution.
About the Author: What you eat can either help you focus or make it more difficult. I work with food to change brain chemistry - and have seen impressive changes in clients with a variety of issues. Improvements such as better health, better moods, and better focus are just a few. Sugar is a significant focus (and health) interrupter, and quitting may be life changing. For information, please visit and grab your free gift.
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