We talk alot about the objective and quantitative aspects of optimizing training:
- the most effective number of sets and reps;
- the most effective amount of volume;
- the most effective exercises;
- the most effective frequency or intensity.....
However, it is equally important to optimize flow:
- balance the challenge of the task and the level of your ability, to
- reinforce your intrinsic reward system.
It is not unreasonable to assume that lack of motivation to engage in an activity could be directly or indirectly influenced by your perception or expectation of flow. If you tend to think that every session is, or needs to be, so difficult as to cause anxiety, that anxiety or frustration is a good indicator that the challenge is too high.
Similarly, if you are avoiding activity because you think that your session will be boring, then you want to find a way to introduce more or diverse challenge.
Ways to increase challenge:
- try a new exercise
- introduce more balance or agility aspects (e.g. single-leg stance variations, bosu or ball variations, etc.)
- change your training format (e.g. set a time cap, try some countdowns, do some strength ladders instead of repeating sets with the same weight, etc.)
At the end of the day, people are motivated to fulfill their needs.
The two most important needs of athletes are to:
- have fun, and
- feel worthy.
Having fun includes the right amount of stimulation and excitement. Feeling worthy includes the need to feel confident and successful.
To the first point, this is why I stress the importance of choosing your own path by making your own decisions as to your goals and preferred exercises or activities.
Some people feel pressured to do the things they think they are supposed to do, rather than what they want to do. Do the things you want to do, and just make sure they coincide with your goals. If going to the gym isn't something you want to do, how can you make it so?
Examples might include:
- recruit a workout buddy
- join some classes
- participate in sport
Feeling worthy, confident, and successful is all part of the training (and learning) process.
- Beginners often suffer from "paralysis by analysis". In an effort to optimize training, beginners hold off on enacting change behaviour until they've found the best way to train, or the best diet to start. They mentally survey all the possible diets they could do, and all the possible known methods of training, that they get sucked into the fallacy of the one-size-fits-all approach - Spoiler Alert! - there is no one best diet or training approach! IRONY: The time wasted trying to find the Fast Track to results is time not spent on actually achieving results with ANY METHOD available.
- People tend to set unrealistic short term expectations from what should be long term developments. People want to burn all their calories, lose all their weight, gain all their strength or muscle in the span of a single workout, week of workouts, or month of workouts. Unfortunately, because you can't see immediate results, the feedback loop almost needs to be taken on faith within the context of a workout. This may result in a perception of failure and frustration associated with the activity, and the learning model short circuits. You start feeling like what you do doesn't make a positive difference and you start to lose your sense of control and autonomy.
However, when you value and achieve flow - you feel in complete control, and this feeling is enough to keep you coming back, which corresponds with a greater likelihood of reaching your goals.
Having trouble pulling the trigger on a program or diet?
Maybe I can help. DM me for coaching!