T Nation

Focus in the Gym


#1

Hi all. Bit of an odd question so wasnt really sure where to post it. But basically I find I have a really "wandering" mind; as if i dont control my thoughts very well. I train intensely, keeping rest periods low as possible and im very good at really pushing myself. But i often leave the gym thinking that for some of the reps/sets my mind wasnt "all there" if that makes sense.
I guess im looking to develop a monk-like mentality in the gym where the only thing that exists in the world in that moment is that rep im about to do and 100% of my mind is completely tuned in.

So my question is: has anyone else had this kind of issue and what have you tried to try and solve it?


#2

im quite the opposite. my focus throughout the day equals that of a squirrel. im constantly day dreaming and losing my train of thought.

but once i step in the gym, from that first rep of my warmup set to my last rep of my last triple drop set 90 minutes later, its 110% pure focus on the task at hand. every rep is focused on stretching and contracting the muscle with a monk like focus.

/yea…i didnt add much to this thread.


#3

My focus wanders if I don’t have free time in general. Like, if my days are so intensely stimulating without any leisure time to throw thoughts around, my brain begins throwing them around at every chance it gets. I just realized this recently and made an effort to have more time where I don’t have much stimulation going on. Time without earphones blaring podcasts into my head, talking on the phone, reading kindle books or watching something. I used to use every opportunity to read or listen to some stuff. Now I’m learning to back off and be more selective in what I choose to put my time towards.


#4

OP, you should read the article “The Perfect Rep” by Christian Thibaudeau. It’s one of the best training articles I’ve ever read. Try the search engine and I’m sure you’ll find it.


#5

OP, if you are having focus issues here’s what you need to do:

  1. Take a lot of pre workout. I mean a lot. If you think you have enough, take another scoop.
  2. Make sure you have a bad ass gym playlist.
  3. Wear a hat or hoodie. Keep the hood up or bill down to stay focused.
  4. I don’t care how hot the cardio bunny across the room is who’s dominating the butt blaster. Don’t look.
  5. Headphones… Get some, wear some.
  6. Stop texting, no gym snap chats, GTFO candy crush. You phone is in your pocket unless you’re putting your favorite song on to crush a heavy set or you’re taking gym bathroom selfies of your sick pump.

#6

[quote]gregron wrote:

  1. Wear a hat or hoodie. Keep the hood up or bill down to stay focused.

[/quote]

Avatar checks out.


#7

May sound dumb, but don’t eat carbs pre-WO. Just during/after. Look up some vids by Ben Pakulski is you’re curious.


#8

You said you can still push yourself, so do you feel like not having a ‘monk-like mentality’ is holding you back?

To be honest, I don’t think you need to be one of those people who shuns out everything while they’re at the gym. Back when I trained at a commercial gym, I would make small talk with strangers and smile at girls. Now that I train at a PL gym, about 85% of the time spent at the gym is dicking around with my training partners. The other 15% of the time when we’re lifting, we’re getting shit done, but like I said, I don’t think you need to be Mr. Antisocial hardcore meanmug at the gym to make serious progress.

Have you tried meditation?


#9

Thank you for all the replies guys!

@Majin - thats a good idea. Im a student on a laptop or reading a book all day and have music playing constantly so i need to take an hour or so in the day with no electronics/gadgets in my life

@Mytch - ill have a read of it in a bit. thank you

@greg - i usually take a caffeine pill before my workout (200mg) as i find that helps but i train almost everyday so i think superloading a preWO every day may not be a great idea. unless theres some kind of non stimulant preWO you know of that would aid with this? Good call on everything else, the amount i sweat in the gym a hoodie may be a bad choice, need to find some kind of vest with a hood lol. But i do have a pair of over-ear skull candy headphones so its time to make a playlist and break those out again!

@Spidey - ive read all about it and actually implement it in the most part. i have an intraWO drink of about 40-50g carbs but other than that even though i train in the evenings (8/9pm) i usually have around 50-80g carbs before the gym

@rrjc - i understand what youre saying completely. i do often have a chat with some of the people there. i think the problem is then when i want my mind 100% focussed on the set im now about to do, its just wandering all over the place thinking about uni work and all other stuff. I tried meditation before but found it really frustrating as i really struggle to focus/centre my mind so threw in the towel… so time to try that again i think.

Does anyone here meditate and have any good practices they use?

Thanks again for the help and info everyone


#10

Know your mental cues and have a routine for setting up your lift. If there are multiple racks always use the same one when you can.

Try to keep a fast pace, but don’t force yourself to lift if you don’t feel it that moment. I mean, if you have two minutes and it’s one minute but you feel that calm of mind and ready to attack – DO IT. Likewise, if it’s time for your set but you feel unfocused take 30 seconds to refocus yourself and don’t get anal about the time.

Have your workouts COMPLETELY written out beforehand. I’ve often used excel files that I can see on my iPod. When you finish one set look at the next and focus on it. Visualize yourself doing it.


#11

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:
May sound dumb, but don’t eat carbs pre-WO. Just during/after. Look up some vids by Ben Pakulski is you’re curious. [/quote]

This is going to be an individual thing. I remember Yates saying somewhere many moons ago that he found that if he ate certain things (carbs?) too close to training, he felt his blood sugar would drop.

Personally, I used to subscribe to this, because it sounded reasonable, but quickly I found that not only could I tolerate certain carb sources close to training, but that I could handle a lot and actually have a better focused workout.

Lots of good suggestions given so far. I know that while I was never really the monk-like guy with the hoodie or hat, I always had my headphones on from the moment I entered the gymm until I was walking out. The eye-contact thing helps, but remember to not be a dick. Serious trainers will understand, but other people may mistake you for being rude. Learning how to be focused, yet mindful in a public facility is key.

Getting back to the music/headphones thing, an obvious product of the 1980’s, and the “mix tapes” for every event, I’ve really taken to the Ipod playlist feature. I put together a playlist back in early 2011 that included every damn song (no matter how old or silly) that somehow got me amped, or even just spoke to that part deep down inside of me that makes me go the extra mile. When I ran track in school, I was similarly influenced by music, and could run for hours if I had a good tape (a f-cking cassette tape!! -lol)

Other things you’ll hear people suggest (mostly women on Opera though), is new workout stuff. Now I’m not the type who walks into a gym hoping everyone notices my new tank top, but there is something about catching your reflection mid training, seeing the muscles all pumped up, face still reddened from the last set, and sporting a sleeveless and shorts that accentuate your physique just right. In moments like that you think to yourself “yeah, there’s a reason I’ve made this progress while others ar floundering”, and you dig in for another gruelling set.

S


#12

It’s funny, I have my best workouts when I’m alone (home gym makes that easy now) and there is no sounds except the clang of the iron. I spend a lot of the rest periods thinking, but am dialed in on every set and rep.

Just a thought, maybe instead of increasing distractions (music for example) try an unplugged workout from time to time. It helps me anyway.


#13

Do you time your rest periods? Say I’m supersetting db rows with db incline, knowing that the second I put the db down I’ve got to pick it up, lay back on the inc bench and press them jokers in 60 seconds keeps me honest. There’s no time to fuck around.


#14

I have developed mental cues for all of my lifts. I know that most people do this for the squat, bench, and deadlift since they are very technical lifts but I have expanded this to every single lift I do. Now when I do a set my mind automatically snaps into extreme focus on what I am doing.

I also barely talk to anyone (except my girl friend who is my training partner) during my workout except maybe just to say a quick hello to people I know so I do not look like a dick.


#15

So many good tips coming through. So thank you all for chiming in.

@Stu - Im going to be making a kick ass playlist for my first workout of my new cycle tonight and breaking out my skullcandys to see what that does. But also going to take usmc’s point and try mixing it up without and see how i get on with each. the whole clothing thing however isnt for me i dont think. As i person who has very low body confidence (suffer from bulemia) i do tend to avoid mirrors while in the gym. luckily the room i train is literally 5 racks, dumbbells, a bench and a cable machine. thats it

@ Whiteflash - no i dont strictly time rest periods but i follow CTs advice of keeping them as short as possible while maintaining performance. so workout tempo is usually very high except for maybe the 2-3 heaviest sets of the day. i do however track my whole workout time and today ive been shooting for 45minutes in and out each time. managed it for most of my last weeks workouts.

@Grizzly - i like that idea. im looking to focus more on treating EVERY lift as a whole body lift because i find for example with bench i all too often let me arch/legs relax etc. So need to focus right in on my whole body and feel every muscle working each set.


#16

Grizzly’s idea is a good one, something that I do as well. Go through a list of mental cues, however long or short, before/during every single set, so each exercise is as effective as possible. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I also second the motion to write down everything if you don’t already. Plan the WHOLE session out before you set foot in the gym, so all you need to focus on is what you’ve got planned next, and accomplishing that.

As long as you’re making consistent progress, I wouldn’t worry about how focused you “feel” though man.