Intention: a determination to act a certain way.
Often times, in both training and life, this powerful construct is looked over because it requires a concerted effort and continuous internal feedback. For most, an endeavor to be intentional falls short simply because of the work it requires to follow through. When you are intentional about something, it means that the act or behavior is of high importance or value to you.
What does this have to do with training?
Simply put, showing up and going through the motions of your workout will never yield results that are worth your time. Being intentional about your training will make your time spent so much more valuable because each repetition you complete will count for significantly more than if you were to mindlessly move through a range of motion or workout packet.
Being intentional about your training requires a mindset shift from passive to active, regardless of whether you train with a coach or on your own. The best training program in the world is worthless if you do not follow it with a whole-hearted effort.
What does being Intentional in your training look like?
Show up early. Being intentional requires mental stimulation and the best way to get your mind right for your training session is to get in a few minutes early and prepare by checking in with yourself (how you’re feeling, what your mood is, etc.) and employing positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is a strong psychological skill that has been shown to have a positive effect on performance. Regardless of how you feel, tell yourself that you’re ready and able to crush your session. Finally, never skip your warm-up! Aside from the negative physiological effects that missing a warm-up has on your body, you would also miss out on the opportunity to consider the goals of your workout, leading me to point number two....
Have a purpose. Every workout should have a why. As you prepare for your session, ask yourself these questions: What is the reason you brought yourself to the gym, track, field, etc. today? What goals are you trying to accomplish? How will you benefit from your training session? As you think about your goals, be realistic. Consider goals that as specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. Instead of “I want to lose weight”, say “I want to lose 10 pounds in two months by training four times a week.” Specifics allow you to stay focused on your goal and allow you to progress along the way. Having a purpose for your training session will not only motivate you to push yourself, but also keep you from getting bored or burnt out. You can refresh your goals as often as you need to and with some consistency, you will start seeing results. Nothing is more motivating than that!
Practice mindfulness during your session. Mindfulness is described as “intentional, non-judgmental awareness” (Birrer et al., 2012), or being in the moment and totally attentive without having any bias towards the situation, and can be further broken down into two elements, Self-regulation of attention and an attitude of openness to experience (Bishop et al., 2004). Considering these elements in terms of training, they can simply be explained as focusing your attention on cues and tasks that are relevant to your session and being open to trying new things in your training, regardless of how unattainable they might seem. Please don’t confuse this with attempting something that you know you are unable to do (a 700 pound squat when you know your max is 200), rather being open to pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone in your training. The attention that you give to each set and rep you complete will be the biggest difference maker to the outcome of your session. The more you choose to focus on the finer details that you can control, the more ownership you will be able to have over your session (even when you work with a coach), the more ownership you take over your session, the more likely you are to enjoy it and the more you enjoy your sessions, the more likely you are to keep training.
As with most things in life, having an intentional mindset about your training sessions will be extra effort but completely worth it in the end. Using these simple strategies to carry out your training program will renew your motivation and excitement for training and power your forward towards your goals.
Bishop, S.R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N.D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology-Science and Practice, 11, 230-241.
Birrer, D., Rothlin, P., Morgan, G. (2012). Mindfulness to Enhance Athletic Performance: Theoretical Considerations and Possible Impact Mechanisms. DOI 10.1007s12671-012-0109-2.