Are you mental enough? The importance of a positive mental attitude in fitness

August 26, 2014

Are you mental enough? The importance of a positive mental attitude in fitness


As in many aspects of life, your mental attitude towards a subject or task directs affects your performance and therefore often the outcome. In sport particularly, you are seeing an increasing use of sports specific psychologists and mental performance coaches. When very fine margins are at a stake the continuing belief you can achieve a goal or win can make the difference between finishing 1st and 2nd or scoring that penalty or holing that putt. Additionally, learning coping mechanisms to handle pressure situations often help the sportsman successfully complete their task under the utmost pressure.

So how can a positive mental attitude help the “normal” exerciser in Brighton and Hove?  In short, it can help in lots of ways. If you have decided to dedicate an hour of your time going to the gym or running then you may as well get the most out of it. I will give the example of a gym workout to demonstrate the benefits of a clear plan and a positive mental attitude has on exercise.

Gym workouts – two of the biggest complaints about gyms (Active4less Hove is where I train my clients) and their effectiveness for the exerciser is lack of results and boredom. This in itself is a little unfair as often it’s the exerciser should hold some of the responsibility. However the way to crack your results and motivation is to head to the gym with a positive mental attitude and an exact plan on what you will undertake. Here are some tips to get the maximum out of your workout:

  • Take a notepad with your workout written down. With weights workout - Write down the set, reps and weight completed whilst timing your rest between sets. With cardio workouts (running, rowing, cycling, cross training)
  • Leave your phone in the changing room to avoid distractions. Take a generic music player with upbeat music that helps you focus on the workout. If you are running, the difference a good track soundtrack can make is up to 10%
  • Know what you did last time on the exercise or cv. If you completed the sets (with good technique), reps without struggling then you might look to put the weight up by a small amount and try to complete the rep range. If you are rowing for 1000m try to beat the time you recorded previously. Have mini goals during the workout helps you focus and feel like you are progressing. You may not beat your previous time every time but attempting to do so will provide you with a good focus.
  • When the going gets tough either when you are struggling on a weights exercise focus on pushing through that painful barrier and getting one more rep out. Often when you think there’s nothing left there is but it’s your mental determination to recruit those last few muscle fibres. This is where a personal trainer will help you consistently achieve more than you would by yourself. Equally if, for example, you are running and really want to stop, set yourself a mini goal of running another 100 yards to the next lamp post. By that time often the feeling in your body has changed and you can continue. Distracting yourself from the fact that exercise hurts helps you do more. Try it and see! As a  personal trainer and runner I have to get into this mindset and use these techniques so that I get the most out of my workouts.

The benefit of approaching exercise with a can do, determined attitude cannot be underestimated. If you go to the gym or park with the thought that it’s just another workout your likely to get limited benefit. But if you go with thought that I will do better than last time (cos you know what you did)  then you are likely to succeed. Equally learning ways to cope with the difficult part of exercise which is to manage the painful part, then your route to good results and satisfaction in exercising is set.

Rob Callow

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