Focus! Stay on it! Don’t stop! Not long now! 20 seconds left! You’re doing amazing!
These are the words I use with my clients to get them to give everything they have.
To myself I say: you’re so unfit! You can’t do this! You’re going to be sick! What are you trying to prove anyway? You should weigh less!
So, I just say the things I say to my clients and problem solved eh? Er, sadly it doesn’t work like that! Yes it’s nice to have a cheerleader but if you know that lifting to failure or introducing high intensity is going to turbo charge your fitness, how do you REALLY get comfortable with being uncomfortable?
Let’s be honest, if you’ve ever been to a spin session you KNOW how uncomfortable it can be – sweating buckets, hair in your eyes, sore bum, gasping for air, thirsty, tired, lactic acid build up…. it doesn’t always sound like the best way to spend an hour (it is, mind). Have you noticed that when you’re pushing hard there are moments you want to give up more than anything – maybe you do give up? Maybe when you’re by yourself you just plod through because it’s easier? I know I do.
So here are a few tips to help you get comfortable being uncomfortable. Some are physical, some are psychological. Feel free to add any more that work for you in the comments
Sounds simple right?! But if you’re going to a boxing class do you REALLY want to wear cotton trackies and a t-shirt when you know you’re going to sweat loads? Why not wear some nice moisture-wicking exercise gear? I remember running past a girl in winter and I was wearing a crop top and shorts, and she said to her mum “THAT GIRL MUST BE FREEZING”. And I know I looked like some kind of idiot but honestly, I overheat and it puts me off training hard. If I know I need I push myself I unashamedly wear as little as possible and you should too! Even if you feel self conscious in shorts, try it. You’ll love the freedom. I PROMISE.
When I was training for long-distance triathlon, many a run with Chris ended in an argument – he was breathing wrong, running too close to me, talking. All of which made me irrationally angry. I kid you not, the root cause of my psychotic and inexcusable behaviour was my long, thick hair bashing me in the face every second step. It drove me absolutely insane.
So one day I went to the hairdressers and had 10 inches cut off. We never argued again (at least when running.). So my message is, make sure your hair is tied back, maybe use a buff or hair band with grips to cover your ears if you’re out in the cold, or a swim cap if swimming. Hair in your face can be dangerous if you’re running down hill so deal with the hazard before you even leave the house.
These silly little annoyances can become major irritants when you’re trying to get in the zone, so try to predict and deal with them in advance.
Another annoyance that can severely limit performance is chaffing. Especially annoying for those of you that run, or box, or anything else where thighs and arms may rub against you. I type this as I look sadly at my own chaffing from earlier today that hurts so badly. Ladies, I KNOW you know where I’m talking about – that bit of skin above your bra and under your arm that rubs no matter how low your body fat is. And guys, we’ve seen the state of your nipples at marathon finish lines across the country. No-one has time for that.
There are two solutions to this: 1. Glide. Order it online and use it anywhere that you know chafes. Or 2: kineseo tape / plasters in the areas you know cause you problems.
The three above may sound silly, but I include them because honestly they CAN and WILL hamper how you train and if you know your heart rate or speed or lifting weight is going to make you feel crap temporality, why not limit all the other little niggles as much as possible and give yourself a sporting chance to push as hard as you can.
No brainer. Music helps. Select a playlist in advance that you know is motivating. Charge your device, bring your headphones and get on it. Music is scientifically proven to motivate you to work harder.
I hate technology usually but I’m a bit of a gear geek when it comes to exercise. Choose the right equipment to log your weights, track your heart rate or speed or power output, and you can motivate yourself along the way to beat your previous pbs. Things like watches that can show you how hard you’re working in real time are often the kick up the bum you need to push yourself out your comfort zone. Even better, use apps like Strava to compete with other people! Or even go back to basics and get a workout diary to chart your progress. Again, these techniques are proven time and time again to work.
Coach / online group / friend
Nothing is as motivational as being held accountable to someone else. Generally as a species we like to please other people and we all enjoy praise. So if you have a coach to set your workouts and hold you accountable, or a group of friends to work out with (and compete against), you’re more able to push yourself further out of your comfort zone and make some serious gains.
Meditation (sort of).
If you take some of the ideas behind both meditation and deep relaxation techniques, use though when the going gets tough, it can help to really focus you and bring you back into the zone when you’re about to fail. This is not so helpful for short sharp bursts less than 30 seconds, or lifting low reps, but it’s great for a spin session or anything else that makes you contort your face and feel like your lungs are burning.
There are 2 main techniques I think about for this.
- Relax your face. Meditation and deep relaxation exercises often start with relaxing your facial muscles and it’s a good place to start. If you feel everything getting really tense and you’re pulling funny faces, try and focus on relaxing as much as possible. Often starting with your face leads you to relax muscles elsewhere that need it.
- Focus on your breathing – deep breaths into your belly, as slow as your workout allows you. Focus on the breath coming in your nose and going out your mouth.
This sounds a bit weird. It looks a bit weird too but I’ve included a video to illustrate the point – working at the same level the whole time, heart rate at 90% for 20 minutes so I’m knackered, but you can see the switch to relaxation mode.
The midwife kept trying to get me to relax and push quietly to save energy when I was giving birth. Part of me wanted to push her out my house and do it myself, but she was right and I used these techniques (hypnobirthing) as much as I could. And these can be applied to exercising hard. And bonus, it won’t be as painful!
So, my message is relax and go for it as hard as you can . You’ll be great and you’ll reap the rewards!