When talking about achieving goals, especially with regard to getting fit and healthy, much of the focus is on motivating yourself to get started and then how to stay on track once you get some momentum. For many people, making healthy changes in their eating and getting to the gym 3-4 days per week is more than enough to start seeing some significant changes in how they look and feel.
I’m a little over 16 weeks out from my competition in July. Although my motivation did wax and wane a bit during my last competition prep, I think my biggest problem wasn’t consistency. It was intensity.
When you are a pretty consistent exerciser and overall healthy person, there is this temptation to fall into complacency. You do the same exercises with the same rep ranges and the same weights. You do your favorite program on your favorite machine. And then you stop getting results. Why? You’ve become complacent.
It’s important to continue challenging yourself. When you work out consistently, you should see gains in strength and endurance over time. You should be moving up in weight when you lift. You should be increasing the speed or duration of your cardio as your endurance improves. What once used to be a challenge is no longer much of one. Instead of kicking back in your comfort zone, it’s time to kick it up a notch. When your fitness is at an intermediate to advanced level , it’s no longer enough just to show up and go through the motions if you want to continue to improve.
If you are looking for ways to change up your workouts, check out this article. Bodybuilding.com is a great resource for training plans and nutrition information. Since my trainer dictates my workouts, what I want to share instead are some my mental techniques for increasing my intensity:
Don’t start counting your reps until they become difficult.
I actually got this from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Six Secrets to Success” speech. The reps that really count are the ones where your muscles are being taxed to the max. If you quit just because you get to your set number (12, 15, 20, whatever), but you didn’t have to work that hard to get there, you aren’t doing much for yourself in terms of making gains. When you lift, start counting once you begin to struggle and focus on getting as many reps as you possibly can after that point.
Try to get 2 more reps than you think you can.
I realized that I quit way too soon. I’m on rep 12 let’s say of a barbell curl and it’s burning and it’s hard and I’m uncomfortable. I figure, “Hey, that’s good enough.” The fact is, I usually have more reps left in me. Don’t let your mind quit before your body does. I’ve found that when I force myself to try another rep and focus 100% effort and concentration on it, I actually have 2-3 reps left in me. If you forego those extra 2-3 reps, you are missing out on the most important part of your workout (see above)!
Pump the jams.
Music can have a profound effect on your energy level and mood when you’re working out. I find that when I’ve been listening to the same music over and over for a while, I start to get sluggish. It’s amazing what a new playlist can do for your workout.
I’m incorporating a specific song into my competition prep. Every time I listen to it, I picture myself on stage. I’ve done it so many times, it’s an automatic thought response at this point. It begins with a classical music intro, which is good for me because it settles my mind and allows me to focus. Then, there are sounds of an elevator moving and the doors opening. This is what I guess I could call my “transformation moment” where I’m flipping the switch into hardcore competition mode. Then the music starts, and I can picture myself strutting on stage and feeling confident and amazing. It NEVER fails to pick me up and carry me through whatever I’m training. In fact, there was one night I had finished lifting, but was exhausted and really didn’t want to do any cardio. I took a 2 minute break to hit the locker room, put on my jam, and practiced my posing in the mirror. BAM! Motivation came back and I went and killed it on the stairmill. If you want to know what my “bikini bombshell” jam is, check it out here.
Get inspired by other bad asses.
If I’m really not motivated at all, I’ll hit YouTube. There are TONS of motivational videos and training videos out there. Watching Dana Linn Bailey do a hardcore workout is one of my favorites. That woman is a freaking beast and trains with animal intensity every rep, every set. Sometimes I will watch videos from past competitions to put me into the competition mindset. Other times, I just need to be inspired by other athletes. If you’re coming up with a bunch of excuses, here is one of my favorite videos.
Tap in to your ego.
Sometimes, I just want to show off. Today was a cardio only day for me, so I did speed intervals on the stairmill. Aside from the fact I’m pretty much the only person at my gym who even uses the stairmill, I decided to really push myself…and it didn’t hurt that this cute guy who talks to me whenever we see each other at the gym happened to be there. Yeah, I cranked my speed intervals up about 3 levels higher than usual just to show off how har core I am to try to impress him. Maybe it’s shallow and superficial, but it got the job done. I had a great cardio session.
*My disclaimer with this is that you should never try to lift a weight you can’t handle or put yourself or others in physical danger just to satisfy your ego or impress someone else – safety first!*
So, there are my mental strategies for upping the intensity. How will you kick it up a notch this week?