Our Recent Posts


No tags yet.

New year for some, or new day for others: Attention management and the deep work of working out

Everyone works out in January except trainers…

Yes, you heard me right. New Years is that great time of year when everyone comes back to the gym and wants to workout, needs help, support, and guidance, which means there is less time for my workouts, and I’m not complaining. Instead, I think it is helpful to point out and use as an example of how even coaches are not perfect. We too have ebbs and flows to our workout schedule just like the average Joe.

But there is always a new day, always a Monday to start and try again to make this week better than last week, today better than yesterday.

I know it’s our job as coaches to stay positive, make it look easy, not accept a no, but there are times when for us it is hard too. We are human. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. We have families, schedules, life. And I know that you think, “she is already there, of course she works out every day,” but it’s just not true. I have to really focus and schedule my workouts just like you. I try to come in early and stay late to get them in, and it is more convenient because I’m here already but there are days when it doesn’t happen. I run out of time and have to rush out the door to be home for the school bus or get to a meeting on time.

But the fact of the matter is if it is important to you, you will MAKE THE TIME for it. Whatever we value, we somehow find the time to make it work right?!? Today on IG and FB, I talked about "attention management," which was something that I learned about from The New York Times "Smarter Living" series. It is a great email that gets sent out every Monday has helpful suggestions on how to be more mindful and healthy in all facets of our life. Tim Herrara, the author writes, "Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments. Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes." When we value and prioritize our health and our workouts, they will get done. But it isn't easy and it takes practice to build our stamina. How often have we found ourselves distracted at the gym and not focused on ourselves, our breathing, our form and finish a workout more stressed and unsatisfied than when we started.

Instead, leave the phone in the car or if you just have to have your music, make a point of not interrupting your workout to check your email, social media, or take that call. Herrara explains, "‘Deep work’ is a term for focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It describes, in other words, when you’re really locked into doing something hard with your mind. In order for a session to count as deep work there must be zero distractions. Even a quick glance at your phone or email inbox can significantly reduce your performance due to the cost of context switching." With each glance at our phone, our stress rises and our attention is diverted, our intended outcome for our workout - to relax, de-stress, and feel better - weakens. It isn't even that working out is a cognitively demanding task, but it does demand focus and attention, which in today's day and age is tough. It is only too easy to grab one's phone to shoot off a quick text or a check for that expected email, only to be sucked in to glancing at social media too. It's a slippery slope for sure!

When workouts are new to us, or when we have taken some time off, it is especially hard to get back on track and concentrate on our workout, but still we must go back to the beginning to retrain our brain too to make the workout a priority and a sacred time. While Herrara is discussing how to be more successful in one's professional life, the same habits and suggestions apply to your workout life. He tells us, "The idea here is that if you want to successfully integrate more deep work into your professional life, you cannot just wait until you find yourself with lots of free time and in the mood to concentrate. You have to actively fight to incorporate this into your schedule." I like the idea of "actively fight" -ing for the time and energy to workout. The benefits are worth fighting for, no doubt. There is nothing like the feeling after you workout/walk/run/hike/do yoga/pilates/whatever. Our body craves that movement, freedom, release. But our brains are weak and trick us back to that immediate gratification of the distractions.

Find the time, make the time for your workouts. And when you slip up for a week or a month or even a year, get back on track the next day. It all starts with one workout. It takes one workout to get back on schedule and back to feeling good and ready for your next workout! And while you're there, put the phone away, and make the most of the time for you. Do the "deep work" for your workout and for your health and well being. I'll be actively fighting right there with you.

~ Leslie

P.S. Want to subscribe to The New York Times Smarter Living Email referenced above? Click here!