Remember mind over matter to achieve a great fitness session

February 21, 2014

You know that feeling you get after a really great, intense workout? You have a true sense of accomplishment and feel like you’re heading in the right direction toward your goals, whether it’s to lose weight, tone muscles or build endurance.

While we all wish we could have that sensation every time we finish a session on the home treadmill, it’s not always the case. Some days working out is the last thing you want to do. Maybe it was a stressful day at work, you’re getting over a cold or you just feel like being lazy – whatever it is, strenuous exercise seems like more of a challenge than normal.

According to a recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, if you continue to tell yourself that you’re not as tired as you think, the statement could become true.

This might remind you of the old saying, “fake it ’til you make it.” The same ideals hold true here.

Self-motivation works for fitness
A group of 24 healthy, active participants were asked to ride a bike to the point of exhaustion. Beforehand, the investigators took baseline measurements of the men and women, then at a later time the individuals were told to pedal a computerized stationary bike at 80 percent of their maximum force until they felt they couldn’t do it anymore. Throughout the experiment, the participants heart rates were monitored as well as their facial muscular contractions, which indicate increased excursion. The men and women were also asked to rate how hard the exercise felt on a scale of perceived exertion from 0 to 10.

Once the initial measurements were taken, the riders were split into two groups: One continued with the normal exercise and the other was coached on “self-talk,” or verbal banter that keeps athletes engaged during a fitness session. Two weeks later, it was clear that the self motivation used by the latter faction worked to improve their performance, and they lasted longer during the computerized ride than the first group.

Physical fatigue is something that everyone challenging themselves on a home elliptical machine or fitness treadmill experiences from time to time, but as this study shows, employing mind over matter can work to exert yourself a little farther.

Keep in mind that it’s always important to recognize when your body could become injured and never push your body to do more than it can handle.