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Paige Waehner

Are Your Workouts Too Miserable?

By January 24, 2013

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Last week, I posted a blog with a different kind of challenge...a challenge to break your rules by doing things like ditching your iPod or closing your magazines/books/whatnot and focusing on your workouts. I wasn't surprised by some of the comments that post inspired:

"Not having my iPod makes running on cardio machines a nearly unbearable slog."

"I catch up on my podcasts while exercising...i know beats and rhythms are supposed to push your speed up, but these programs keep me walking and interested and learning. i think it is a decent trade off."

"I am completely in disagreement with this article. I have been doing a 60min step machine 5-6 times a week for the past year and a bit and you know what I do? I read text books. Reading is the only thing that keeps me motivated everyday. Without books I can barely survive 30mins checking time every minute...if you found something that works for you, keep on doing it. There absolutely no need to change anything."

"I think the home circuit is a great idea but I could never work out without music"

Is it wrong to have things that distract us from our workouts? Things we enjoy doing and that keep us exercising, even as we zone out? I don't think so. Certainly, the idea of getting on a treadmill without my iPod makes me break out into hives. In fact, we may sometimes need those kinds of workouts to keep us going.

However, I can't help but wonder if we aren't missing out on something if all of our workouts involve that kind of distraction.

I'm thinking of two things here. One, there's something a little magical about those times when you genuinely focus on what you're doing...feel your body, feel your strength, feel yourself going through the movements and doing them right. That connection with our bodies is something we often only feel when we exercise...if all we do is distract ourselves, are we missing out on that flow? That 'runner's high' feeling?

Two, if our workouts are boring and miserable, shouldn't we look at that, find a way to change what we're doing so we don't have to have that distraction all the time? Reader number 3 above does an hour on the step machine 5-6 times a week. If I did that, I would absolutely need a distraction. So, is there an opportunity there? If you take away the distraction, could you then look, really look at your workouts and wonder if there's a better way? Something less miserable, more fulfilling?

If this person were my client, the first thing I would do would be to shake things up and introduce something totally different, something refreshing...something exciting. Circuit training, or a medley on different machines. Maybe setting a challenge like the pushups test, just to inspire some interest, some attention and, therefore, the unique satisfaction that comes from working hard and paying attention at the same time.

Maybe those dutiful workouts are necessary sometimes. We do our time, we burn our calories, we've checked off another workout. But, can't there be more? What happens when we turn everything off and focus on what's happening? If it's miserable, is that an opportunity for change?

What do you think? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts.

January 24, 2013 at 7:47 am
(1) kitchenwench says:

I think there is a place for both sides of the disagreement. I do agree with Paige concerning the person logging an hour on the step machine! If it is THAT boring, then you need to be exploring some other options and you are in a rut! No one needs to be doing a step machine for that long that many days a week. They need to break up that routine and get something new and exciting in there. That bring said, I don’t think I could survive 15 minutes of cardio without my ipod. When something is repetitive and doesn’t engage your brain then some outside stimulus is definitely in order!

January 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm
(2) Dirk says:

I workout daily; never with an mp3 player. Music, tv, reading, etc is way too distracting for me. These distractions take my focus away from my workout. I’d like to find a gym that has no tvs or music and the focus is on the workout.

January 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm
(3) Fitness fan says:

I donít use my mp3 player as an ďall or nothingĒ proposition, because I donít walk or run long distances or do the same activity at the same pace for a long period of time.

I do have my player on for the whole time Iím at my fitness center for two hours. During my resistance training, I tune the music out without knowing it just happened, during an exercise, because Iím focused on my execution and breathing. Itís during the pauses between sets that Iíll notice the music; it helps the rest periods (30 Ė 60 seconds) from dragging on.

Iíve broken up my 20 Ė 30 minutes on the elliptical into one-minute segments where I cycle four slight variations on the machine; the transitions keep me on my toes. The times I that I do notice the music, is when I am at a steady state for a short interval, and is a welcome momentary distraction. There are songs that pump me up and I will keep up the pace to the music; INXS ďThe Devil InsideĒ is one of them.

January 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm
(4) DC says:

It’s important to understand the distinction between using these tools as distractions vs. motivators to your workout. No, I don’t have to have music, but when I do and am completely in the zone of my workout, the music enhances what I’m doing – providing audio motivation if you will. I completely agree that if something is miserable then you should look at changing the workout. However, it’s also a question of why you’re there in the first place. Do you really *want* to do the workout and reap the benefits or are you simply going through the motions? The latter would definitely require distractions to make it through. For the former, the only motivation you need is the desire to do it.

January 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm
(5) gp says:

I wonder if there is a correlation between intentional, deliberate focus of attention as we exercise & the ultimate effect of exercise on one’s body? Thinking of times when I engage (with another person, animal, or activity) without giving my full attention – or receiving full attention from the other – the quality of the encounter seems notably less than ideal.
Is there a similar effect in exercising – where it’s just me with me, I wonder?

January 28, 2013 at 8:11 pm
(6) Hotyoga says:

Try HIIT – you won’t be doing anything but your workout! It is anything but boring and gets you great results in a fraction of the time. I’ve never understood the people who slog away on a machine. It’s one thing if that is what you enjoy, a complete waste of time if you don’t since there are much more effective ways to get your workout on.

January 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm
(7) lvplts says:

I listen to books on the treadmill which helps with the boredom. However, I do a manual setting so that I can control the speed and the elevation.
Everytime that I get on the treadmill, I give myself a challenge: a higher elevation, or longer distance.
By doing everything manually, I have to keep aware of everything.

January 29, 2013 at 7:35 am
(8) Leslie says:

Hmmm, interesting argument! I like music for things like machines and dancing, but I like to walk outside and take in nature without music. I like to workout with weights without as much music because I find I need the focus to improve. Running is great with music, it motivates and gets you moving faster or regulating pace. I personally believe a balance is required. Music sometimes and for some workouts and focus for others. Could you imagine doing Zumba without music?? (Well, to the beat in my head I guess… haha)

January 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm
(9) RE says:

I like to focus on the exercise session. I recently had to spend a month in Tucson and joined a Health Club for the time there. They had all the machines, etc. none of which I use, and plenty of free weights.

My problem arose from just having other people around. Not from shyness, I just like to totally focus on my workout. I was able to maintain my schedule and did gain what I expected, but it was not a pleasant experience.

When I exercise at home, I do not have the TV or music on, I am there to concentrate on staying in shape.

I am 70 years old, lift free weights on a regular basis, ride bike and use the treadmill (it is -30 outside) and have been able to stay in the same shape I was at 40.

Concentration is the key. If you are aware of your body during the workout, you will have much better results and you may actually realize that it is fun.

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