For all of you who have been to PUSH for a workout over the years, you will have noticed the word “FOCUS” painted up on the wall over the mirror in the middle of the studio. This is pretty simple, and why we put it up, people have a general problem paying attention while exercising. We had this painted on the wall to remind people to stay “Focused”. You often see people at big gyms watching TV, reading a book, all while on a treadmill or bike. How can you stay focused on the task at hand, trying to exercise while simultaneously reading or watching a show. Or vice versa, how can you pay attention to your show while trying to exercise. My answer is you can’t successfully. The purpose of exercising is to expend energy with movement. Yes walking or riding even just slowly is better then not, exercise efficiency is lost if multitasking. I know many people out there are short on time, and this way they can get two things done (however in my view poorly). There are several good reasons to stay “focused” on the task at hand during an exercise session, here are my main two reasons to “focus” while exercising: 1, and primarily in my mind as a physical therapist, is injury prevention. The possibility of injury due to not paying attention is significant, whether falling off a treadmill, lifting a weight poorly and straining your back, the list is endless, but the possibility is real. 2, A lack of efficiency when exercising. You are way more efficient and your workout is much more meaningful if you are paying attention to your movements. One of the main reasons that HIIT and circuit training are so good is that in a short period of time, you accomplish so much. It is difficult to get in a good circuit or HIIT training session while reading or watching a show. You cannot possibly stay focused on the movements and still watch or read something. HIIT or circuit training keeps you on task with either reps or timing, and doesn’t allow you to be “somewhere” else.
The benefits of staying on task are the actual whole reason for exercising. You are performing an exercise or a group of exercises meant to stimulate your body so that your heart rate is elevated, blood flow is increased bringing fresh nutrients to the whole body while eliminating waste products that often build up during the day. Our muscles and joints are stressed (good stress) so that all of the above can handle our normal physical day to day activities. By putting down your phone, or turning off the screen, putting your book down, and giving yourself full attention you may find that your workout sessions are better, shorter and more meaningful. I challenge all of you to this if you fall into this category. Try a few workouts without distractions, even if it is running on the treadmill (do intervals, this breaks up the monotony) and then let me know how you do after a few sessions. You may find initially that you are bored, but my guess is that you will find your focusing on your body and movements becomes addicting, and you become more in tune with your body and your workouts.