With the coronavirus stay-at-home orders for millions, many exercise machines are sold out.
However, there are three essential tools that can never be sold-out because you carry them within you.
These three tools form the foundation of any exercise machine you have ever used.
A few years ago, I was visiting a local gym with my wife and a friend. Waiting for the salesperson to help us, I noticed three young women on and around of all things a biceps curl machine.
The one seated was talking. The other two were listening. About half an hour later, as we were leaving, I noticed the same young women in the same position doing the same thing.
Before you jump to a conclusion as to what I am thinking, let me tell you.
They were not doing anything wrong, assuming that they intended to visit. They may have even chosen a perfectly safe environment for their visit. Even their choice of a biceps curl machine was good since it has in low demand at that time.
However, if their intention was to exercise, they were missing the point.
Intention and your actions should match. A significant part of coaching is to align intentions with actions.
Before you begin your workout session, ask yourself, “What am I here to accomplish?
Your answer may change from one day to the next. However, the answers should be linked to each other and be clear.
When I coached a fitness camp, I always carried a written program designed around a very specific intention.
Before I began, I asked those who attended about how they were feeling. There were days that many of them were going through unusually challenging times.
In those days, I would change the program from let say heavy muscle-building kettlebell workout to a fun kickboxing session.
At the end of the session, my question changed from do you feel a certain muscle group to how are you feeling now?
I had to remain clear with my intention even when both the goal and the process changed.
I saw Highlander II: The Quickening years ago.
Sean Connery playing the role of the supportive mentor, Ramirez, was trapped in a chamber with the main characters. A spinning wheel of destruction was descending on them.
Ramirez summoned a ball of energy in the palm of his hand that stopped and pushed back the wheel.
He said, “Most people have a full measure of life… and most people just watch it slowly drip away. But if you can summon it all up… at one time… in one place… you can accomplish something… glorious.”
It seems that our physical world is designed to keep the glory hidden and imprisoned within our hearts and minds.
The prison system is based on grabbing our attention or keeping us distracted so that we cannot focus.
Both the ability to focus and the ability to be distracted function similar to a muscle. The more you focus the better you become at it and the more you practice being distracted the easier it becomes for you to become distracted.
With a clear intention before you begin your workout, three steps can help you retain focus during an exercise.
1- Focus on the full range of motion of the joint. The full contraction of the muscle at one range of movement signified by a complete stop helps you focus on the full contraction of the muscle. You will feel and see the results.
2- Focus on the tempo of the exercise. The only signal that you can send your muscles is to contract.
Relaxation, in this sense, is your ability not to send the “contract” signal. Speed, endurance, strength, and even size depend on how you modulate the contract signal and how you stop it.
Tai Chi tempo is very different than a burpee tempo. When you change the tempo, you will change the outcome.
Calorie burning plyometrics have a fast concentric contract signal emphasis. Muscle building squats have a slow eccentric emphasis tempo.
3- Focus on matching your breathing to your motion. In many exercises, there is a matching of one breath to one motion.
During breathing, notice that it is both easier and faster to exhale than it is to inhale. You can take advantage of this natural anatomical connecting your ribs to your lungs by matching the slow part of the motion to inhale and fast part to exhale.
As you match your breath with the motion and link to it, you will notice a meditative state enters your workouts that create its own detached, relaxed, and effective state of being.
The signals to your body travel from your brain through your nervous system. They do not travel from your trainer’s brain to your muscles.
The depth of your understanding of how an exercise works determines the power of the signals that your brain sends to your muscles.
It is the strength of these signals that influence the outcome.
The time you spent in deepening your understanding of how an exercise works and using that knowledge in your workouts goes far beyond the customary sets and reps.
Your understanding does not improve by mimicking an exercise.
Your knowledge, when applied, improves the enjoyment of the exercise, quality of the exercise, and your results.
These priceless tools are accessible to many. But the fight to benefit from them is an internal battle. Many choose not to engage in this. They choose to buy tools that may fail them often because of a lack in one of these three areas.