Being present is not only important, it allows you to respond calmly, quickly and efficiently to the task at hand. Also, in a world that seemingly demands multitasking from the moment your eyelids flutter open it’s a healthy break for your over stimulated brain to allow it to connect with your body and operate as a complete system rather than a fractious one.
Now before you go thinking I’m a preachy sort of saint, I too have to work to be present but honestly, when I do it feels like an all around better way to move through my day. But how does this relate to working out you ask? Well, let’s say I’m working with you and you have mastered doing a chest press with 15 pound free weights. And we’ve done this every workout for the last few weeks. Today, I ask you to do 20 pounds and suddenly, your body stiffens with worry. “What, no! I’m content doing the weight I’ve been doing. I’m good at it now and it feels easy. I won’t be able to do that weight. It’s seems scary. What if I drop it. What if I can’t do it?” And your mind is racing away from the task at hand. That’s where I come in, Yoda-like, (albeit with better biceps and less ear-hair) to remind you: 1) Your technique stays the same. You might not do as many reps, but there is no magic number and it’s time to progress. 2) In a few weeks you will feel just as confident about this move as you did a month ago about the last one. And if you stay calm you might discover that in this moment you are stronger and more graceful than you know even if you’re not as confident.
Let’s look at another example. I’m training you; the workout’s going great and then you check yourself out in the mirror and your mind takes you back into judgment and condemnation, “Man, look at my belly. Yeah, I just had a baby, but remember when five years ago it was flat? I was in such good shape then.” Once again, you’re living in the past. Take it from someone who knows, if you’re trying to walk forward while staring behind you, it’s likely you will smack into a wall and it’ll probably hurt…a lot! So let’s be in this present moment and realize 1) I am taking steps to improve my wellbeing mentally and physically, just by showing up to this session and 2) I’m doing it with more demands on me now than I did then…and I am succeeding. Maybe, I’m even curvier now!
Sports psychologists get paid a lot of money to work on aiding athletes to be able to find a nirvana like state to be able to repeat high performance under stressful circumstances. But you don’t have to be an athlete or wealthy to bring yourself back to the present moment, take your time, be confident in your abilities and reward yourself by mentally giving yourself a high five just for showing up!
When you find yourself panicking, breathe, come back to this blessed moment and “clear your mind young Jedi.” I use this quote because it’s funny and will break all levity and also because a Jedi is a warrior with poise and when you’re working out so are you! So the next time you work out use that time to reconnect yourself to yourself, don’t try remember everything your supposed to get at the grocery while you’re doing pull-ups…also because if you can…I am certain you’re not doing it right!