Five ways your mind can make you fitter

April 25 2016

When we think of fitness, our focus is predominantly on physical activity. To totally smash our exercise goals however, mental activity, or mental strength more specifically, is hugely important too. To help you hit your fitness targets, discover five ways to train your brain as well as your body.

1. Positive images

It goes without saying that positivity is a huge factor in any kind of physical test, whether that’s training for a marathon, approaching a crucial game or upping your efforts in the gym. Visualising positive images can lift your spirits and help create a sense of strength and power to give you that all-important push towards success.

One imagery method is to picture yourself doing whatever is facing you with perfect form and keep picturing it repeatedly until it’s burned into your brain. As sports psychologist Dr JoAnn Dahlkoetter says, “By using imagery or visualization you can create a replay of one of your best performances in the past or a vision of what you want to achieve in the future and you can see yourself doing it right."

2. Your favourite music

Different people need different mindsets to perform well. Some need zen-like calm, whereas others need to pump themselves up – it will vary according to the task at hand and your personality. Music is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to altering our mood and sports psychologists suggest working out or warming up to songs that evoke the emotion you need to feel. Listen to music you find uplifting and inspirational before taking on a new challenge. Discover our perfect playlists for whatever type of workout you've got planned.

3. Focus

Meditating before or during exercise can be very helpful when it comes to focusing the mind. Sure, a certain amount of anxiety and excitement can be performance enhancing but negative or off-topic thoughts will distract you from the task in hand. Always be present in what you’re doing, forget previous mistakes and block out negative thoughts of the past All that matters is the present and what is immediately in front of you.

4. Set realistic goals

We set ourselves targets in almost every area of our lives and it can be pretty demotivating when we fail to meet them. So, when setting your health and fitness goals be sure to be realistic. Factor in your current abilities and feasibility when you set any goals – being too ambitious isn't always a great idea, it's best to set manageable goals initially instead.

5. Use the pain

The pain of effort is very different to the pain of injury and the two are easily distinguishable. Pain from effort isn’t damaging your body and it’s imperative to learn to connect that pain with its benefits. As Dr JoAnn Dahlkoetter says, “When you’re thinking: ‘This hurts too much’; say to yourself: ‘This feeling is connected with getting healthier and doing my absolute best.’”