In the never-ending debate regarding what type of squats are best for athletes and regular gym-goers there is one crucial thing that needs to be addressed from the outset: The type of squat you favor or do in the gym should reflect your goals.
So, for example, if your goal is to open up your hips, teach yourself better squatting technique, and limit the shear and compressive force of heavy weight on your back, using a front squat would be more then ideal. If your goal was to increase vertical jump and your 40-yard dash time, the quarter squat has been shown to help you do these most effectively.
Jump squats, back squats, goblet squats—they all have a place in your training regimen, how much emphasis you decide to place on them simply depends on what you hope to accomplish in the gym.
Here are five benefits of front squats for athletic performance.
1. Easier on your back (plus all the benefits of regular barbell back squats).
I have never met an athlete who could front squat as much as they could back squat. It’s not a strength issue so much as a mechanical issue.
This decrease in strength actually plays into the favor of athletes who are already training 20+ hours a week on the field or during their swim practices in the pool—front squats actually end up doing the same amount of muscle recruitment as traditional back squats with less weight. In other words, you can still get strength and power gains without having to load up the barbell and add shear to your back.
2. More closely imitates athletic movements.
When lifting in the gym the big goal should be to reflect the movement patterns you are trying to strengthen and build upon on the field of play. As an example, a basketball player, who largely jumps with a shoulder width stance, as well as unilaterally, would want to perform movements that power up those particular actions in the gym (step ups, and shoulder-width squats).
Front squats, because they require you to be more forward and on your toes, more closely align common athletic movements. The resistance in sport almost always happens in front of you, not behind you. Front squats help mirror this.
3. Better overall body positioning.
Front squats are awesome for postural reasons as well. Because the bar is in front of you it forces you to puff your chest out and assume a straighter back. All too often you will see athletes put a barbell on their back and end up collapsing their torso forward at the bottom of the lift.
What happens then is that they need to do a “good morning”—placing great strain on their low back—in order to get out of the movement. Additionally, athletes with tight hips will find that they can get lower with front squats as the elevated chest helps them to sink into position better.
The Next Step:
If you are wanting to incorporate the front squats into your workout routine, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some quick pointers.
Assume a natural squat width stance. Thighs and toes should point in the same direction. This will help your knee from twisting during the movement.
Start with goblet and air squat (arms extended in front of you), to get used to squatting with load in front of you.
Your core will get a heckuva workout—so remember to keep your core nice and tight through the whole movement.
Mental toughness is one of the defining aspects of what makes great athletes, well, great. It’s the resilience and poise under pressure, it’s the ability to will themselves through trying stretches of training, and it’s being willing to continually doubt what others believe is possible.
Here are some powerful and proven ways that athlete can become mentally tough. Here we go:
1. Be present in your workouts and competition. When we get fixated on the outcome or the results our thoughts tend to get away from us. Anxiety comes as a result of uncertainty of the eventual outcome, and this anxiety can end up limiting our performance, generate negative self-talk, and cause us doubt. Mental toughness is a natural byproduct of focusing on the things that we control, and staying focused in the present helps to stay dialed in on the things we can control. During your next workout routine stay in place mentally, choosing to focus on this set, and this rep and nothing else.
2. Be awesome at starting. Those who are mentally tough are able to start. They look at those super intimidating workouts and training sessions and take it piece meal. They know that once they get started, momentum and our brain’s natural tendency towards task completion will see us through the rest. When you master the habit of starting mental toughness swiftly follows.
3. Challenge yourself regularly. Mentally tough athletes aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone. They know that in order to improve they need to regularly and repeatedly test their own self-imposed limits. There are a few benefits to doing this. First off, you will improve a whole lot faster. In itself this is an awesome benefit. The second is that you will challenge what you think is possible. And thirdly, the confidence from doing big, tough things is the best kind, the deep, white-hot variety that will keep you hurtling towards your goals. If it’s piping hot workout motivation that you want, consistently jabbing your limits is the way to go.
4. Conquer your self-talk. The dialogue and and narrative that we carry with ourselves has a very real effect on we end up performing in the gym, on the field, and in the weight room. If you are constantly griping and telling yourself that you cannot do something, what do you suppose are the odds that you are actually going to end up doing that thing? At the end of the day, the thing athletes need to remember most when it comes to trying to be mentally tougher is that our thoughts direct our actions. Read that again if you have to—our actions begin and are caused by our thoughts. Choose to be positive and open to challenge, and you will be well on your way to higher achievement and becoming more mentally tough.
5. Mental toughness is a decision. When I work with young athletes and coaches I frequently get asked, “What can I do to be more mentally tough?” And the answer always starts with—“Make the decision to be tough.” If you want the simplest, yet most powerful piece of advice for mental toughness its to make the decision. Decide to be tough. Make that decision in the middle of that hard workout. Or in the middle of a brutal match. While mental toughness is a skill that you can develop and hone, it all begins with a decision. Be that mentally tough athlete, and reap the benefits that come along with it.
We’ve all been there—we start out with a badass goal for the gym, but after a couple days, a couple weeks, a couple months, we fall flat on our face. Eventually, after we have licked our wounds for long enough and summoned up the courage to give it another we go we reformulate a plan, and give it another go.
Only, as we have learned from previous experience, history tends to repeat itself.
Around and around we go, unable to make any meaningful progress towards the big things we want to accomplish in the gym, all the while reinforcing the misplaced illusion that we kinda suck at following through on our workout goals.
These struggles are exceptionally common, but can also be conquered. Here’s some free range tips for helping you crush your workout goals.
Forget motivation. It’s overrated.
One of the common fallacies of accomplishing anything, and this goes beyond making gains in the gym, is that we need to feel fully motivated and fired up to get to work. Which, if we applied this logic to anything else, we would laugh. Of course you aren’t always going to feel like, you’d say. So why is it any different with your goals in the gym?
One of the fastest ways to ditch motivation altogether is by focusing on making working out a habit. This means scheduling your workouts, focusing on instigation habits, and making your workouts part of your routine, and not something that you need to psych yourself up for on a daily basis.
The kiss of death of consistency is when I hear someone say that they will work out when they “feel like it.”
Track your progress.
One of the secrets of high performing gym-goers and athletes alike is that they have accountability. Yup, even the people who train on their own (perhaps, especially them).
One of the ways that you can lock down some ownership of your goals in the gym is to track your day to day workouts in a training journal.
Writing out your activities in the gym (and also in the kitchen if nutrition is your main goal) helps to give you a clearer idea of what you are actually doing at the gym, gives you a platform to celebrate your successes, and gives you a place to set the shorter term, training goals that serve as the stepping stones to that big, greasy goal at the end of the line.
Don’t freak out over setbacks.
Research into habit formation found that those who were successful in making something stick over the long term were not perfect. They had setbacks and failures just like everyone else. The only difference was that they got back on track right away. No sulking. No blowing it up. Just taking a big breath and getting back into the swing of things immediately.
Setbacks, roadblocks, disappointments, whatever you wanna call them, are going to happen. It’s basically a fact. When we first make those big goals for our workouts we do so with a huge dose of optimism bias, meaning that we expect things to go perfectly all the way through. This is not a realistic way to go about things, and your past experience and common sense dictate that this isn’t how progress and improvement happen in the real world. And yet we fall for it anyway.
Keep an open mind when pursuing your goals in the gym. Accept that it won’t go perfectly. Take pride in being the person that stumbles…and is going to dust themselves off and get right back to work.
Crushing it in the gym isn’t all that hard when we look at it from the outside looking in. Of course, the day to day grind, the mental haggling on days where you are tired, and completing those tough workouts when you’re exhausted, is far from easy.
Follow these tips to slugging it out with your workout goals and not only will you get in better shape, but you’ll also develop the confidence and self-esteem that comes with being able to conquer difficult goals.
We have always been told that eating breakfast is important. In fact, we’ve been told that it is the most important meal for the day. And while there will always be a debate about whether fasting in the morning is good for weight management, there is scant evidence that not eating breakfast is beneficial for athletes.
Here are just some of the reasons that athletes shouldn’t skip breakfast.
You will feel lethargic over the course of the day. When it comes to nutrition tips for college athletes, there are fewer things that unite sports nutritionists faster than the importance of breakfast. Among the reasons they cite for fueling early (and often!) is increased energy levels over the course of the day. Seems like a total no-brainer, but breakfast literally fuels you, both in the gym and in the classroom and workplace. Without that glucose your brain and muscles are stuck in first gear, with your body’s metabolism stuck at a crawl.
Your workouts will feel harder. There are fewer things more frustrating for an athlete than having a regular workout routine feel harder than it should. But this is exactly what happens when we skimp on eating breakfast in the morning. Rate of perceived exertion and increased heart rate are consistent outcomes for athletes whom skip on eating breakfast in the morning.
Even your PM workout will suffer. A study done at the University of Loughborough found that even after eating a big lunch, athletes who skipped breakfast still performed 4.5% on a stationary bike time trial compared to those who ate in the morning. This goes to show that performance in the gym goes beyond just what we ate at our last meal, but how we have been treating our bodies from the time we woke up. The researchers hypothesized this was because the body hadn’t yet recovered from being in “idle” over the first half of the day.
You will over-eat like crazy at night time. When we start the day off with a big workout and not eating we put ourselves into a massive calorie deficit right off the bat. As the day goes on, and we struggle to catch up to refuel ourselves, we are able to avoid over-eating due to work and school. It’s at night-time, when we are idle, that the calorie deficit we created earlier in the day comes home to roost. Athletes who skimp on breakfast tend to turbo-load on carbs late in the evening.
Cognitive function is harder too. One of the sneaky reasons that students have a hard time focusing and concentrating in the classroom is because they have skipped breakfast. Study after study, from elementary to university-aged students has found a significant correlation between eating breakfast and academic performance. Which makes sense, if you think about it—if your energy levels are running on fumes, and your brain is not exempt from requiring glucose to run effectively, performance is going to suffer.
Source: Why Athletes Should Not Skip Eating Breakfast, YourWorkoutBook.com
The influence that our nutrition and diet play on athletic performance aren’t always as apparent as they should be, but it’s there, either pushing you along with more energy, faster recovery, and a stronger immune system, or it’s dragging you down, leaving you feeling haggard, tired, and sluggish.
In our battle to conquer our nutrition the easy way out is supplements. With pre-workouts, post-workouts, intra-workouts, and every sort of pill and powder imaginable designed to help cure all of our nutritional woes we hit them hard.
But in reality, eating clean will do more for you than all of the nutritional supplements in the world. And the first step in cleaning up your nutrition is starting a food journal.
1. You’ll connect nutrition to performance. We all know that we should be eating well. That we can be eating better. But how many of us actually stick to these lofty ambitions consistently? Part of the reason we are undisciplined in our approach is that we don’t truly connect our nutrition and performance. Writing out your meals in a food diary, as well as your subsequent workout routines, will leave you with a clear A-B connection between what you eat, and how well (or not) your workouts go.
2. You’ll get a healthy dose of accountability with your nutrition. For far too many of us we eat what we feel like, and not according to what we need in order to perform like champions in the gym, in the weight room, or in the pool. Instead, we eat according to our cravings, which you know, and I know, are not to be trusted. Having to write out your meals in a food journal means you get honest about what you are shoveling into your mouth on the regular. You might be surprised to see that you are not eating nearly as well as you thought, or that you aren’t drinking enough water (as athletes are rarely properly hydrated), or that you aren’t even hitting your daily allotment of supplements. Writing out your nutrition will force you to come to terms with what you are actually eating, which is essential if you want to maximize nutrition for performance.
3. You’ll stick to the plan for longer. Whether your goal is to lose some weight, gain some weight, or maintain, regularly using a food journal will help keep you on track. Research performed by Kaiser Permanente found that those who kept track of their nutrition lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t use a log. Self-monitoring has been shown over and over again to boost adherence, so spend a few extra minutes a day writing out your meals, and you’ll find yourself more consistent with your nutrition, and your performance on the field.
The Food Journal: Your Secret Weapon for Athletic Success
It’s funny how often I hear from athletes, young and old, who feel like they are doing all that they can in order to be successful in the water. They stretch religiously. Hit the foam roller after all their hard workouts. Even write out their workouts in a training journal. But when asked to show how well they truly eat, I tend to get sheepish smiles.
The food journal is cheap, takes a minimal amount of effort, and will produce a disproportionate amount of benefit on your performance for the time required to keep one.
Start by sitting down with a pen and paper after your next meal and food journal your way to better workouts, a healthier lifestyle (heard that’s always good to have!), and more energy.
When it comes to swimming, the breaststroke looks easy. After all, the arm recovery is underwater, unlike the butterfly stroke, you get to breathe every stroke, and there are recovery periods for both the upper and lower body limbs during the course of the stroke cycle.
And yet, it’s profoundly difficult to truly master. The timing is where most beginner and intermediate swimmers struggle—how to sequence the breaststroke kicking and pulling motion to limit loss of propulsion is something that comes with practice and patience in the water.
But once you do start to get a hang of it, there are fewer feelings that you will enjoy more than the undulating, free-flowing movement that comes with good breaststroke technique.
Here are some tips for helping you master the breaststroke.
1. Choose your pulling motion.
There are two different kinds of breaststroke pulling motions: a palms-straight down pull, and a Y-pull, where your hands and arms form a Y at the outset of the pull motion (also called the turn-press pull). The palms down pull is useful for very short sprints and short course swimming as it is more taxing. The Y-pull works best for long course swimming and the longer breaststroke sets and races.
2. Breathe at the right time.
One of the perks of breaststroke is that you can breathe much more regularly than in freestyle or even butterfly. When swimming breaststroke wait until just before you are about to break the surface of the water with your head to exhale. Holding the air in your lungs for this extra moment will help you maintain buoyancy in the water and keep a straighter body line, which will reduce drag and keep your hips up.
3. Squeeze your head with your shoulders.
A helpful cue for breaststrokers is to have them squeeze their head with their shoulders when at the apex of the breathing/pulling motion. Boost this by imagining yourself throwing your shoulders and arms forwards into a hole in the water about two feet in front of you. This will help keep you focused on swimming forwards, and not simply up and down. (This cue is helpful for butterflyers as well!)
4. Kicking properly.
The breaststroke kick is an interesting movement, and one that is unnatural, which is why so many swimmers, regardless of ability, have such a hard time with it. It’s requirements, lateral ankle flexibility, internal hip flexibility, and the ability to time it perfectly all make it challenging to master.
Here are some key points to remember when learning and improving your kick:
Make sure that your feet finish together at the end of the kick. Your natural stance is shoulder width, and your feet and ankle will default to this position. Kick all the way through and have your feet touch at the end of the kick.
Accelerate your heels to your backside. Once the kick has been completed, recover the heels to your backside quickly. The faster your heel recovery, the faster you can pull your way through the stroke motion. Remember: your stroke is interconnected, what your arms do affect your leg timing, and vice versa. Snap your heels back quickly.
Knees should be around shoulder-width apart. For maximum power and range of motion your knees should be around shoulder width apart through the kicking motion. The hips don’t internally rotate very well, so the added space between your knees will allow you to kick more water backwards.
The breaststroke is a tough nut to crack. Follow these tips the next time you hit the pool deck for one of your swimming workouts and grind your way to a smoother, faster, and more enjoyable breaststroke!
For competitive swimmers there are fewer better moments than putting on a brand new racing suit for the first time. Slipping into a $300 piece of fabric that has literally been designed by space scientists and that you know will help you swim faster is a glowing moment.
Here are three things that the fellas should be remembering when picking out a tech suit for men.
1. Comfort and fit.
This one seems obvious, but too often competitive swimmers get caught up in what the suit looks like, and how much it costs versus how it actually fits. Hit up your local swim shop and try on a couple of the new suits (provided they have display models for you to try on).
You should have a full range of motion with the suits. Make sure that you can swing your hips and legs, and that you can touch your toes without the suit giving you a serious case of plumber’s butt.
While you won’t be wearing the tech suit for all that long, you do need to be able to be comfortable and ready to swim at full power and velocity with it on, and this means being able to move freely.
A couple other notes on form and function:
· The suit shouldn’t touch your knees.
· Use the rubber grip strips to pull the suit on and off.
2. High waist vs. Low waist.
There’s one particular aspect to picking out a men’s tech suit that is unique to the fellas—you get to decide on how much butt crack you are going to show or not show.
Ultimately, what kind of suit that you end up choosing depends on how your hips and butt are built. A high waisted jammer is good for swimmers who tend to show a lot of butt crack with their swim suits.
Suit manufacturers will claim that the higher waist also promotes better core stability as well, but I am not sure that I buy this. The only thing that really promotes better core stability with men’s swim suits is stronger core stability.
High waisted jammers will sit around 1 to 1.5 inches above your hips.
3. Don’t forget to take care of it.
The shelf life of a men’s tech suit is not long. That’s the sad reality of these water-repelling fabrics that were quite literally designed by space scientists in a lab. For most suits the typical life is around 12-15 wears. That’s not much, when you think about it.
To get the most from your awesome new tech suit, make sure you are doing the following:
Rinsing it with cold water after wearing it. You might think that applying soap, shampoo, or throwing it in the washing machine is doing your suit a favor—it’s not. The chemicals will degrade your suit quickly. Take the suit off after your races and gently rinse out the chlorine with cold water.
Don’t ever put it in the dryer. The temptation to do so will be strong. Throwing it in the dryer for 15 minutes will be appealing, particularly when you have to be back at the pool for finals in a couple hours. The water-wicking fabric will wear out faster when you do this, and the suit will also become misshaped. Let it air dry on a towel—the suits dry rapidly on their own, and you’ll help to preserve it’s form longer.
The log book is one of the most powerful allies in your battle to becoming a faster swimmer. Here are 5 less-talked-about benefits to writing out your swim practices.
When it comes to achieving that one thing we all want in the water—becoming insanely fast—writing out your swim workouts is as simple, and as powerful as it gets.
The reasons for doing so are well known among those who practice this simple and powerful way to max out performance: you have more consistent workouts, you stay motivated, and it gives you valuable self-awareness.
Here are five more things that happen when you start writing out your swim workouts in a log book.
1. Learn to value the process.
At some point you’ve probably heard a coach tell you to “trust the process.”
This is because process-oriented goal-setters are way more likely to achieve big things in the long run.
By focusing energy, both physical and mental, on being great each day, instead of fixating on results that aren’t always in your control, you actually relieve yourself of a lot of performance-related anxiety that debilitates and stalls swimmers.
Writing out your swim practices teaches you to be a great practice swimmer. To value and appreciate the daily process of improvement.
Each day you have a couple moments with which you reflect on the workout, assess how you did, and learn the lessons of the day. Over the course of doing this over the weeks and months of training you better appreciate and value how progress is made in the pool.
2. It shows you how powerful the “I know, I know” stuff is.
I get emails every day from swimmers asking me how to get faster. How to improve so that they can improve their goals.
The answer always starts with the basics: swimming with proper technique, eating well, and getting lots of sleep.
Or as I like to call them, the “I know, I know” stuff.
They are the things that every swimmer knows is super critical to performance. There is no “secret”—it’s absolutely crushing the fundamentals of high performance.
Let’s take sleep, for instance.
Sleep, in the words of super-spy Jason Bourne, is a weapon.
And a well-rested swimmer is an athlete who is ready to unleash the full capacity of their focus and abilities on a regular basis.
And if you are serious about kicking chlorinated butt in your swim workouts, then get serious about your sleep patterns. Step one in doing this is actually measuring how much sleep you are getting (you can’t change what you can’t measure), writing it down in your log book.
3. It’s a helpful tool for your swim coach.
Every swimmer on the planet has heard of Katie Ledecky. Her accomplishments in the pool and her tenacity in training have reached legendary status.
One of my favorite stories about her is from when she was a relative unknown age grouper swimming with NCAP in 2011, long before any of the world records or Olympic gold medals.
Her coach at the time, Yuri Suguiyama, encouraged her to start using a workout journal to track her training, her goals, even start a gratitude list. Perhaps most critically, she also started writing out more of her thoughts on her swimming, how she felt about particular sets, or how she was feeling.
For Suguiyama this became a vital communication tool between coach and athlete, and better helped inform his coaching as Ledecky swam her way onto the 2012 US Olympic Team.
Your log book is more than just a set of results---it should also reflect your full journey and experience as a high performance athlete.
We don’t always feel tremendously forthcoming when our coaches ask us how we are feeling or about a particular set during practice in front of the squad, so having a place where we can comfortably provide feedback to our coach provides a powerful way of helping your coach coach you better.
4. It gives you ownership of your swimming.
One of the more frustrating reactions from athletes is when they begin to look outwards to explain poor performances.
Elite swimmers are accountable to themselves for their swimming.
This kind of ownership means that they accept full responsibility for their performance. For how they warm-up. For how much focus they place on their technique during long recovery sets. For how they fuel themselves before and after practice.
Here are just two of the things you can do to develop more accountability to yourself and your swimming:
Writing out training goals. Set mini-goals for the week. These will help you stay focused on the things that matter, particularly during those heavy weeks of training when you aren’t feeling as fast as usual.
Rank your effort. If there is one thing you should pick up from this article, whether you start writing out your workouts or not, it’s that you should grade your workouts every day. It takes 3 seconds to write out a letter grade or number ranking. I can’t count how many workouts I’ve saved from knowing I’d be grading my effort afterwards. It’ll keep ya honest.
5. It teaches you what it takes to improve.
Unrealistic expectations are a motivation slayer. While they may start under the naïve guise of big, hopeful dreams they inevitably implode on themselves, leaving swimmers feeling unmotivated and demoralised.
I’ve seen it more times than I care to count (and experienced it myself on more than a few occasions)…
We make a big workout goal. White-knuckle it for a couple weeks. And then find ourselves super bummed when we haven’t improved at the rate we expected or hoped to. And so we give up.
A training history, and writing out your workouts, help you create more realistic expectation by showing you what it takes to improve.
You might not like how much work is going to be involved to see what it will take to achieve those monster goals of yours—but knowing is critical if you are serious about wanting to pummel those goals.
How Caeleb Dressel Used a Logbook to Become the Fastest Man Ever Over 50 Yards. Florida phenom Caeleb Dressel continues on his quest to becoming the fastest freestyler on the planet. Here’s how he used a logbook to help him along the way.
Olympic Champion Janet Evans on the Importance of Using a Log Book. Before Katie Ledecky, Janet Evans was the greatest female distance swimmer the US ever produced.
Michael Phelps Uses a Pen and Paper Logbook (Maybe You Should Too). The GOAT, Michael Phelps, is legendary for his gold medals and his epic training. Turns out he likes to write that out too.
How Katie Ledecky Took Her Training to the Next Level. The greatest freestyler in the world, Maryland’s Katie Ledecky, used a log book to help better inform her training.
The swim season is a long, long haul. For many fast age group swimmers there is no season—it’s non-stop from September to August, with a week or two to recover, catch up on socializing, and prepare for another monster season.
With the length of the season it’s natural that there are going to be some serious dips in motivation. Sustaining that kind of focus and discipline for the seemingly endless swim practices is hard. I get it. Been there, done that.
But there are some things you can do in order to mitigate the inevitable dips in motivation.
Here are 3 tips for competitive swimmers to keep the fire burning bright all season long.
Sleep more. Yup—you read that right. In terms of boosting performance in the water and even improving psychomotor function (i.e. less grumpy and stressed), there is no tip out there more enjoyable than getting more sleep. When researchers at Stanford had their varsity swimmers sleep an extra couple hours per night they got faster across every meaningful metric in the water, from reaction time, turn speed, and time to 15m (which decreased by over half a second!). Added sleep means you are less fatigued mentally as well, and more likely to make good life decisions in terms of your goals in the pool.
Surround yourself with greatness. While swimming can feel like a very lonely sport at times, with swimmers spending a couple hours at a time staring at a black, tiled line, there is lots of opportunity to build a powerful support system. Ever notice that when you hang out with other swimmers who are doing big things that their ambition rubs of on you? Choose positive people to be around. If you swim quite literally on your own, make the things you surround yourself with on a daily basis be motivating. Swimming posters with motivational sayings, or watching races of your idols daily on YouTube, for instance.
Pivot your setbacks. There is a goofy myth out there that if we have big goals in the pool that we should never encounter resistance or friction in their pursuit. As a result, when crap does eventually happen—and it always does—whether in the form of injury, illness, or another swimmer coming out of nowhere and dusting you, we succumb to that overwhelming sense of being demoralized and defeated. Obviously we weren’t cut out for this, we softly tell ourselves. Here’s the deal—setbacks are part of the process. Michael Phelps broke his wrist 8 months out from the craziest performance in Olympic history (8 golds in Beijing, in case you were wondering). And people also forget that he actually failed his first attempt at that record in 2004 in Athens. You can use setbacks to send you reeling on your backside, or you can double down and get aggressive with overcoming them.
Bonus Tip: Write out your workouts. One of the secrets to high performance, uh, performers, is that they know that motivation isn’t their muse. They don’t wait to feel motivated to go to the pool and unleash a devastating workout. It’s simply routine, habitual. And one of the ways to facilitate this kind of routine and process is to write out and track your workouts in a swim log. Logging your workouts will help you see big picture with your swimming, connect lifestyle to your training, instill accountability, and yes, even help you stay motivated on those days where you’d rather stay curled up in the sheets than head out the door to morning workout.
Getting the motivation to workout can be tough for most people. (Who am I kidding—everyone struggles with it in some measure.) We are programmed for the path of least resistance, and that path generally includes comfortable pants, a cold beer, and a pizza that is just above room temperature.
Here are five powerful ways that you can unleash some heavy-duty workout motivation on yourself in order to get to the gym and beat on it like it owes you money:
Surround yourself with fit-minded people. Like it or not, the people that we choose to surround ourselves with each moment, each day, each weekend, have a profound influence on us. I know, I know, we all tend to think that we are the exception to this, but social contagion is a thing. Find people who are doing what you are already doing, and you will find yourself getting pulled along by their wake.
Challenge yourself regularly. Motivation doesn’t come from taking things easy. In fact, easy workouts tend to be boring, tedious, and fill us with an empty sense of accomplishment. Beyond the long-term goals and dreams you have for yourself in the gym set weekly targets and things you would like to achieve. This will help keep you focused on the short term, and help you stay engaged from day to day during your workouts.
1MR. This is my favorite trick for slugging through those tough workouts—the 1MR rule. When you feel like you are ready to call it quits on your workout routine, whether it’s because you don’t feel like doing another ten laps around the track, or another 1,000m in the pool, just commit to doing one more lap, one more rep, one more exercise. This little piece of mental trickery helps avoid the avalanche of doubt and mental fatigue that comes from thinking about the full extent of the rest of the workout. You don’t marathon all at once, you run it by continually running to the end of the block.
Plan things out. One of the major pitfalls people have with exercise and nutrition is an unwillingness to plan and prepare ahead of time. There is a common misbelief that when push comes to shove, we will always do what we should do. (And let’s be honest—that’s almost never the case. Path of least resistance, remember?) Planning stuff ahead of time is one of those super simple, and usually overlooked, ways of staying on top of your workout motivation. This can mean performing meal prep to stay on top of your nutrition for the week. Or writing out the workouts you want to do ahead of time in the pages of your workout log. Research has shown that when we schedule stuff we are far more likely to adhere to it than if we go along by the seat of our pants.
Focus on developing a routine. We’ve talked a bit about planning. Most gym-goers and athletes are awesome at detailing what kind of results they want. I want to lose 15 pounds. I want to run a personal best in my 10K. But where they aren’t always so awesome is in putting together a routine that will help get them there. When you focus on the routine, the goals, the results, what happens at the end of the line, almost becomes fait accompli. Amateurs focus on the result, pros result on the process.