How do you prepare your mindset for training?
While this might seem like a trivial question to ponder, there’s actually a lot in it. Before we dive into that, let’s create context around what I mean by “training” and “preparing.”
Training: a routinely performed activity aimed at a distant goal
Preparing: self-organization to maximize the utility of a given task
*My definitions for the context of this post
With those definitions in mind, we can now identify what preparing for your training means -
self-organized consistent work with a distant goal in mind.
Knowing this, let’s unravel how we can better prepare for training and maximize our time in the gym. Below are the four points I will be discussing:
- Understand your purpose/intent behind training
- Have a clear objective within your training session (highlight a specific “win” for the day)
- Consistent presence throughout your entire training session
- Review and reflect on your work
1st - Understand your purpose/intent behind training
This is the first, for a reason. We need to have a clear understanding behind why we are doing what we are doing. If we aren’t clear on this, we will be aimlessly working. There always needs to be a clear objective behind our training. Why do you need to back squat? Why do you need to do muscle ups? Why do you need to run? The goal always dictates the training. And this is where a coach comes in. Being able to have someone in your corner to dialogue with you on your goals, discussing what that timeline looks like, what areas will need more attention than others, and how that plan will unfold over the next 1 to 5-years. By having a clear purpose behind your training, you create clear goals behind each training session. When our purpose is clear we are able to maximize presence and execution.
2nd – Have a clear objective within your training session (Highlight a specific “win” for the day)
Feeding off of the first point, a clear purpose behind our training allows us to a create clear objective for each training session. If we look at any Olympic athlete’s training program building up to the Olympic Trials, and pull out one specific session on a Tuesday afternoon, there will be a clear objective for that specific session. And from that clear objective, we can identify a specific “win” for the session. With a clear objective comes the ability to specify a clear “win.” Human beings are driven by progress. We need to know we are moving forward. It is an innate drive. By identifying a “win” for the session, we create an aim, which allows us to tap into our dopaminergic pathways which are rooted in reward-motivation. Having a clear objective within each training session allows us to specify a win, which creates an aim, cultivating greater presence and execution.
3rd – Consistent presence throughout your entire training session
If there’s one thing we can all improve upon within our training it’s consistent presence. This has become more challenging over the last decade due to social media, technology, and too much “noise.” However, we can combat that with the 4 points discussed in this post. Now that we have a clear goal and a clear objective for each session, it’s time to create consistent presence. A #majorkey to this is turning your phone off. Take a moment. I know, that’s hard. A step before that could be putting your phone in airplane mode. This will prevent any incoming messages from popping up taking your mind off the task at hand. This will allow you to narrow your focus onto the key objective for the session. Clear intent and focus fosters maximal presence allowing the athlete to fully immerse themselves in the task at hand. In psychology, this is called “flow,” complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time (1). Greater flow = greater execution.
4th – Review and Reflect
One of the most forgotten pieces of training is reflection. Our systems are wired for unconscious actions, also known as recurring behaviors. We will do things without thinking about them every day. Simple examples: brushing your teeth, putting your seatbelt on, locking your car, etc. This idea of being unconscious can extend into our training where we start to “go through the motions.” While the points above will help prevent that from happening, the cementing step is to review and reflect upon our results once we finish. In addition to bringing the training out of the unconscious and into the conscious mind, it allows us to compare and contrast our results to past sessions, or pieces of work, that resembled what we just completed. Taking it one step further, filming pieces of our training will allow us to review positions, technique, body language, etc. with the intent of refinement for future sessions. I personally have logged all my training sessions since 2018, in handwritten notebooks, over 10 years (I know people who have 20+ years’ worth of logs so don’t think I’m high and mighty, just giving a personal example). When I began training, I needed to keep track of my weights, reps, sets, etc. so I could review for future sessions. This became part of my routine. Daily recording of my training sessions with review of what I did to see growth along with areas that will need improvement for the future. Take time after each session to sit down, review, and reflect on your training. This will help keep you honest and aligned with the goal.
Training preparation extends far beyond just getting your wrist wraps, belt, knee sleeves, and favorite pre-workout ready. It begins with your goal, the why behind your training. The more deliberate we can be with all of our actions, the greater the quality and presence we will cultivate in our work. In review,
1st - Understand your purpose/intent behind training
2nd - Have a clear objective within your training session (highlight a specific “win” for the day)
3rd - Consistent presence throughout your entire training session
4th - Review and reflect on your work