Mental Training: Get in the Zone!

I recently completed a continuing training for my Spinning certification on mental training. I found the content to be really interesting – and fitting not only for indoor cyclists, but for athletes (or wannabe athletes) of any sport or activity. Essentially a means of finding your “zone” or “zen,” focusing on mental training can help you to work harder with less effort, accomplish feats which you may not have believed you were capable, and experience the elusive “runners high” (which is, despite its name, not exclusive to runners).

So, what can you do to take your training to another level? Here are a few tips and tricks to maximize the mental element of your workout:

  • Focus on form and flow. Relaxation and even, controlled motions are key to proper form – and by focusing on these elements, you will also reduce your risk of injury. Visualize your muscles working and the motion of your body staying consistent. Once you have mastered your form, it is easier to get lost in the flow of the motion – bringing you closer to that “zone” in which you can allow your mind to take over, and your body to follow.
  • Pay attention to your breath. Fun fact: we typically only use 20% of our lung capacity when we “chest breathe” – taking short, shallow breaths from the chest, rather than deep diaphragmatic breaths. As both a Pilates instructor and a former singer, I am a huge proponent of diaphragmatic breathing. Not only does it allow you greater breath control, but it also makes your exercise feel easier. Think about expanding your lungs, and feel your ribs push out as you take a deep inhale. To exhale, think about slowly releasing the breath, feeling the ribs pull back and the abdominals engage as you completely empty the lungs.
  • Be in the now. We live in a busy, go-go-go world. It can be difficult to focus on what we are doing at the present moment, versus what we need to do later, or the challenges we face in our lives. Let go. Be present. Allow your mind to wander, and it will eventually lead you to a clear mind, which helps you to enjoy the now, rather than worrying about the past or future.
  • Set a goal. Pay attention to the intricacies of your workouts, and how they contribute to your overall, larger goals. Celebrate the small successes along the way, and in time, you will find yourself achieving more than you ever thought possible.

The biggest key to mental training is really just finding the right mindset, allowing your body to relax, and letting your breath fuel your motions. By focusing on the mental aspect of your workout, you will find that your accomplishments will add up – and your workouts will become more fulfilling. I’ve said it more times than I can count: the mind is stronger than the body. And the stronger the mind becomes, the stronger the will to achieve becomes, leading to increased physical strength, endurance, and power, all of which play a huge part in our overall conditioning process.

10 thoughts on “Mental Training: Get in the Zone!

    • It was just an online course! It was pretty interesting – and definitely shows that the whole mental piece is incredibly important. Check it out if you’re due some continuing ed!

    • Glad to hear it! These are fundamentals that absolutely apply to anything athletic, and as a dancer, I’m sure the mental element will definitely contribute to the whole emotional part of your performance, as well.

  1. Amen! I find all four of these strategies to enhance my workouts and further my mind, body, spirit fitness. Attention to breath is huge and I was surprised at the impact it had on my running performance once I focused on the link between form and breath. I picture myself standing taller and making my diaphragm grow so that I can expand my capacity to breathe. The focus and the form make a big difference in my speed and endurance.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I really think breath is the most important part (next to form). Once you learn to control your breath, it’s easy to get lost in the rhythm of your inhale and exhale – and once you’ve mastered that part, a lot of times your form takes care of itself. I was a singer once upon a time, so I’m really particular about the mechanics of breath, how it should feel, being aware of you biology involved in it – it’s amazing how much it has translated to my workouts.

  2. Another one i’ve recently learned of is the ‘exhale’. When I’m climbing an ass-buster of a hill, or when I’m pushing a harder gear, when my legs start to burn a bit, three sharp exhalations, allowing the lungs to fill naturally in between, and my legs come back within 20 seconds or so. It’s quite awesome.

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