Get inside a trainers mind and level up: 6 tips to keep you motivated and push harder in workouts


We all have those moments in workouts where we feel like our legs can’t possibly take one more step, where our lungs feel like they are about to explode and even those very small niggles become the biggest issue and we just have to stop. Pins and needles in my foot, my ponytail isn’t the right height, I have to readjust my top, the list goes on.

Then there are those workouts, which you walk away from thinking, I killed that! You know it was hard but you were just ‘in the zone.’ It’s a great feeling – the excitement, stoked you did so well that you surprise even yourself!

So why cant every workout be like that. Why can’t you surprise yourself and work that hard every time? Well, you can.

There is a lot to say about mind over matter. That is your mind being in such a place of determination that it overcomes any physical pain you are experiencing to push through and smash your workout!

My rowing coach always said exercise is 1% physical 99% mental.

You can train your mind to push through the hardships of a regular WOD (workout of the day) and become a training fiend every time you train!

This makes the workout much easier. You always feel good after a workout why not enjoy it while you’re training too! Remember the meaner you train the better your results.

1. Change your mindset

There are lots of negative thoughts that go through your mind while doing a hard workout. From the smallest things like why is the ball this stupid red colour to life epiphanies like I should be nicer to my parents. Or just simply I hate CrossFit, I’m dying, kill me now etc.

The point is most of the time, the running commentary in your mind while you workout is predominately negative. Why? Because we are in pain and we overwhelming perceive pain as negative.

Yes workouts hurt, they are meant to test your physical and mental capacity. But it is also our decision just how painful we make them.

Firstly, how we view the overall workout, before we even start can make a huge difference.

I usually get a little nervous before the WOD. Why? Because yes I know its gonna hurt. Why does this help? I have an expectation that its gonna hurt so when it does I’ve expected that pain and am able to change my mindset to combat it. I am usually thinking, ok starting to hurt now that’s fine, keep going.

Secondly, your mindset in the workout. If we are overwhelmingly negative in a workout i.e. continuously thinking ‘OMG THIS F$%^*ING HURTS, I HATE THIS, KILL ME NOW’ etc. you are obviously going to have an awful time in the workout.

If you keep calm, acknowledge the pain and think positive the workout can be a much better experience. Thinking ‘ok this hurts but I can do it, just keep going, keep breathing’ is a great way to start.

2. Learn discipline

Discipline is a very useful quality in training and although not everyone possesses it, it can be learnt. When changing your mindset it takes discipline to keep negative thoughts at bay and bring out the positive ones.

By consciously being aware of and removing the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts or strategies you can create discipline for yourself that will benefit your workout.

For example turning up to classes everyday takes much discipline. Sometimes you almost have to force yourself to get to the class. However, if you make the effort to consistently get to each WOD it will soon become a habit and just normal.

Persistence in ridding yourself of bad habits or thoughts and replacing them with positive ones can take time but is well worth it. All you have to do is just keep at it.

3. Have a strategy

Having a strategy either self devised or given to you by a coach can help a great deal as it gives you something to think about during the workout other than the immense pain being brought on you by yourself.

Strategies can vary from mental strategies that make the workout easier in your mind or physical strategies that give you ways to attack the workout better and are both very useful.

The way a coach will break down a workout and strategies will depend on the workout and your capacity as an athlete.

Some longer workouts will require you to use your endurance and therefore it will probably be advise not to go out into the workout as hard as possible but rather pick a consistent pace that you can stick to.

On the other hand a 5 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) workout may take the approach of going out as hard as you can and trying to hold on until the end.

Some workouts will be grip intensive so there are certain tips and tricks you can use to make sure your grip doesn’t fail you.

It really depends on the workout and the coach but when you have a plan you are more likely to firstly enjoy the workout more because you are preoccupied with the plan and secondly get a better time as you will be able to cater the strategy to your capacity.

4. Breaking up the workout in manageable chunks

There is an incredible story of a rock climber, climbing a cliff in the wilderness alone. He falls and breaks both legs and is severely injured. The camp is 4 hours walk away. He has no means of communication and must get back to camp or will surely die.

What does he do?

Lying on the ground unable to walk he sees a rock which is in the direction of the base camp. He directs all his attention on this rock and begins to crawl. This is understandably incredibly painful with two broken legs and time consuming.

However, after 20 minutes he reaches the rock. He rests for a minute then directs his attention on a tree. He drags himself to the tree. He repeats this method until 2 days later he arrives at base camp and is rushed to hospital.

Although this is an extreme example, the idea behind it is breaking up the task, which is painful and hard into smaller manageable portions and focusing on them individually.

Let say we have this workout:

30 wall balls

30 burpee box jumps

30 TTB

Breaking down the workout into smaller chunks so it doesn’t look as scary is a great way to attack your workout and keep a good pace.

Depending on your capacity for example you could break up the wall balls in your head into sets of 5. Keep moving through them but you are always trying to get to the next set of 5. When you take breaks make sure its once you’ve completed a set of 5.

Do the same for the BBJs and TTB. Because you are so engrossed in completing the set, those 6 sets, which make up the 30 will be done quickly! Breaking up workouts into small chunks is very mentally rewarding and motivating.

5. Playing games with yourself

Now you’ve broken the workout into manageable sets its time to play games. Thinking about getting just to half way of the exercise you’re on and then getting to the end of that exercise is a great way to ‘play’. Reward yourself when you get there! ‘Yes made it’ now next one!

-A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step- - Lao Tzu (7)

6. Use a workout buddy

Knowing someone is experiencing the same horrendous pain as you can be really comforting and motivating. You both understand how each other is feeling and whether you’re doing a partner workout or competing against each other, you can motivate and inspire each other to do better.

Keep an eye out for where your buddy is relative to you in the workout and try to beat them! Keep in mind, if they do still beat you, don’t get yourself down! At the end of the day the person you are trying to beat is yourself!

As long as you are continually improving and becoming better, it doesn’t matter whether you are coming 1st or dead last. Use a workout buddy as motivation in your workout not to define you.

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About the Author

Elle has a passion for women's fitness and helping girls improve their self-image through fitness. Her vision is to create a CrossFit gym, which allows women to learn how to move, build their strength, learn to be healthy and gain respect for their bodies showing them how amazing they really are! Find out more