The Final Rep, Issue 11: Trying ~Not~ To Let My Mind Wander as My Feet Do
Playing the game of actually paying attention.
I once wrote an article for Daily Burn about the benefits of single-tasking—aka avoiding doing 100 things at one time and actually focusing on one (and only one) task. I think about that idea of single-tasking often. It sounds so simple: turn off the phone, cancel computer notifications, and just do this one thing right in front of you. But it’s so difficult, especially for a major procrastinator and lover of background music or TV shows like me.
Lately, I feel like doing double-duty is not only killing my productivity level overall but also my ability to stay present in any situation, and I’ve especially noticed it in my workouts. Whether I’m taking a yoga class or going out for a run or walk, I feel that pull toward my to-do list, the news, just getting the workout over with, etc. My mind so easily swerves from the joy of my steps to the current worries of the day. This could be why I end most days thinking, ‘how is it midnight and what did I even do today?’ (The answer: not much, folks.)
Of course, it’s not unusual to focus on other things while you’re working out. It’s why cycling instructors create those amazing, upbeat playlists that take you out of the tough intervals and into dance party mode. And why I love listening to audiobooks on long runs or walks. It can make the experience even more enjoyable.
But there’s also something powerful in staying fully present during a workout—actually feeling your muscles working and getting tired, your breath starting to shorten, and your heart pounding in your chest. Listening to and really noticing those sensations gives us the opportunity to better control them.
When a lift gets super heavy or a run gets super hard, it’s easy to disassociate your mind from the work, to focus on your favorite power jam and push through. But tuning into that work, thinking about deepening each inhale and exhale, engaging the muscles needed to perform a particular move, and mentally talking yourself down from wanting to stop—well, that’s a pretty strong exercise in mindfulness, optimism, and even learning to better your form, work the right muscles, and maybe get stronger or faster. Putting your body to a single task, and your mind on the same one, seems like a surefire way to stay more present and appreciate that presence. And I’m down for the single-task challenge.
While I am 100% sure I’ll struggle with keeping my mind focused solely on my movement these next few weeks, I’m committed to making it a priority. I’m aiming to drop the mentality that I need to do multiple things at once, to fill my downtime with more mundane task time or mindless scrolling time. I might still get to midnight wondering where the heck the day went, but at least I’ll be able to recall those moments I felt truly grounded and connected to the present in body and mind.
A few other people’s words about wellness I’ve read (and loved) recently:
1. To read all about the amazing women changing the face of running, check out Women’s Running, “Meet the 2021 Power Women of the Year Honorees.” From professional runners to Black activists to apparel company executives, the mini-profiles discuss how the running industry continues to move toward a more inclusive community and how female runners continue to shine, both on the elite stage and on the streets.
2. Jessie Diggins, a 29-year-old Nordic skier, won the Tour de Ski last Sunday—a seriously impressive physical feat that no American has won since it started 15 years ago. The multi-day race includes a series of sprints and 10K distances. It also ends with a 10K hill climb, in which skiers basically run up the downhill of a ski resort, conquering a 12% grade, with some parts even shooting up at a 44% grade… all on skinny skis. Read about Diggins’ impressive feat and how American women have been crushing this winter sport in the New York Times’ “The Olympics Were No Fluke. American Women Are Excelling in Cross-Country Skiing.”
3. In “You Can’t Deplete Your Willpower,” Markham Heid at Elemental writes about how we might have a plethora of willpower to help us achieve our goals, but it’s probably not the most reliable way to get things done. The researcher Heid quotes throughout the article says avoiding temptation, rather than trying to resist it, is likely a stronger approach—say if you’re trying to cut back on social media time, you put your phone away in a drawer, rather than trying to control how often you pick it up when it’s right in front of you. Forming strong daily habits and practicing mindfulness also work better to achieve your goals than testing self-control.
The latest updates on the fitness industry:
· A topic of convo at a friend’s birthday brunch this weekend: Peloton just can’t quite meet the demand of their bike sales. Stories continue to break about the brand falling behind on fulfilling deliveries in a reasonable timeframe.
· Meanwhile, Equinox just signed a content-licensing deal for its fitness app, Variis (which includes SoulCycle bike workouts), with Universal Music Group, so users get free access to top songs and artists during their workouts.
Here’s one form cue that always resonates with clients…
These words tend to work for individuals I train as an ah-ha moment for feeling stronger in a move or activating the right muscles. In the spirit of the writing above, I encourage you to simply put your mind to your muscle this week when you’re working out. That means actually thinking about engaging the muscles that should activate during each exercise or focusing on your breathing during a ride. For example, think about actually squeezing your biceps in a curl or your triceps in a kickback. Or when you’re out for a run, pay attention to the glute firing up when you push off your back leg.
One move to add to your exercise routine…
Negative pull-ups! Because for the first time in a looong time (maybe ever!), I can actually do pull-ups on my own, so I’m pushing you all to work on them too. I focused on negative pull-ups for quite some time—which just means slowly lowering down from the top of the pull-up. You can jump to the top of the bar, then count to at least five (longer if possible) as you lower down, engaging your lats and abs as you straighten your arms. Or try an inverted row at your desk or dining table: Hold onto the edge of the desk or table, walk your feet under it, so you’re in a reverse plank, and pull your chest up to the edge. Slowly lower back down on a count of five to 10. (Before you do this, make sure your desk/table can hold you.) This eccentric movement will help you build strength to eventually get that full pull-up.
For a full workout, try…
I have major trouble winding down at night, so I’ve been trying mini yoga routines right before putting my head to the pillow in hopes it’ll help me relax. Last night, I did Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga for Bedtime sequence, which was lovely. It’s a quick 20 minutes and I ended with savasana in my bed—the perfect place for a deeply restful pose.
The gear I’m loving to get me out the door…
If you want to stay warm on the slopes or just when you’re out for a walk, I suggest the Sweaty Betty Betty Ski Base Layer Top and Leggings. The material is super stretchy, soft, and warm—and the entire outfit is just CUTE! You can wear it out and about (if you ever do that sort of thing anymore) and look après-ski cool too. One thing to note: reviewers say it snags easily and while I haven’t had that happen yet, the tag in the top and bottom does warn of it, so be careful when washing or stuffing in a drawer.
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