How to mentally prepare for HIT training.

As a strength trainer, I encounter people young and old, and from all different backgrounds. The one thing they all have in common is they don’t like to exercise. Let me clarify. At Crescent City Strength, we do high intensity exercise, so there’s not a lot to ‘”like” about the exercise other than the results. It’s hot, it’s claustrophobic, it’s an isolated experience and it’s hugely uncomfortable. But we do it because in only 20 minutes once a week, we can achieve and maintain a high fitness level.

So as you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to get in the mindset to do something like that.

Below are things I tell my trainees to try to get their heads in the game. Hope these are helpful.

  • You got in your car, you drove through traffic, fought to find a place to park and are about to write me a check for my services. Now you have about 20 minutes to make it all worthwhile.  I’ll give you a minute to get it together.
  • Find your curiosity. It’s not about how many reps you do or how much weight you stack on. Ask yourself can you move whatever this weight is through a range of motion with PERFECT form? Yes, yes, it’s uncomfortable, but can you DO it? And when you physically cannot any longer, can you push as if you could for just 3 more seconds? Because that’s about all it takes to stimulate a change. A few moments of discomfort and then you’re off for a week.
  • Focus your eyes on something in front of you. Or close them altogether. Close off outside distractions. Feel your bones and muscles. Use your inner x-ray vision to “see” your alignment. Make only the targeted muscles move the bones that move the weight.
  • That weight belongs to you. It’s your responsibility. Don’t drop it; don’t break it; don’t stop; don’t stall. Control it like a micro-manager.
  • Don’t sqinch your face and act like you’re trying to get rid of the weight. You can put it down if you can’t wrap your head around it, you just can’t throw it away. When you have resigned yourself to the workout, your expression will be one of calm serenity. When you are calm, you are open and non-plussed by lifting something that gets too heavy to keep lifting.  That’s so much easier than fighting the experience of lifting a weight.
  • If you picked it up, then put it down. Don’t drop it. Don’t expect me to take it from you. Expect that if you lifted it, you will lower it. (I always stand ready to unload a client’s weight, but I try to instill a sense of responsibility for the weight as much as possible.)
  • The order of importance in lifting is 1) Breath control, 2) Hold form, 3) Pick the weight up slowly, 4) Move through a full range, in that order. Without controlling your breath there is no exercise. Your focus goes to shit and the whole house of cards crumbles. Without form, your exercise has no target. It becomes senseless and long. Without moving slowly, muscles can’t get thoroughly impacted. Quicker movements rely on joint strength and torque but build neither.   And without a full range of motion muscle gets unevenly stimulated. So don’t swing the weight around just because “if it’s moving, it’s exercise.” Because that defies logic.
  • Again, let NOTHING get in the way of your breath being a rhythmic bellow in the background. It’s function is to support making fuel on the fly, not helping you express your level of misery. The same goes for moaning, yelling, or other antics that are a dead giveaway to your highly astute trainer that you have given up, have chosen the appearance of intensity over actual intensity.
  • And again, let NOTHING move you away from your form. Constantly moving body parts that should be on lockdown muddies the water, and allows you to “on/off” muscles. That’s a great demonstration of your ability to endure. You’re essentially playing whack-a-mole with your muscles. But that restless nonsense keeps you from stimulating an increase of muscular strength that will be measurable by next week.
  • DO NOT EVER use the word “can’t” in my gym. Try. Fail. Grow. “Can’t” means you are refusing to try. And that’s bullshit.
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