Workout Mental Tricks: How To Transform Your Training

Key Points

  • Effective workout mental tricks improve your exercise experience.

  • Participating in activities you genuinely love is essential to making exercise a permanent habit.

  • Workout mental tricks help you conquer challenges that you never thought possible. 

Are you struggling to enjoy exercise? Are you frustrated from not seeing results? If so, don’t give up just yet. Learning effective workout mental tricks might just be the missing puzzle piece that can make working out more fun and effective. 

Endurance is about so much more than talent or physical strength. Without useful workout mental tricks, your mind gives up way before your body. 

Keep reading for motivational tips on how to get mentally stronger and completely transform your training! 

Doing exercise with concentration

What Is Mental Strength?

You likely respect Olympians, elite athletes, and fitness gurus for their impressive mental strength. However, you don't need to be an Olympian or bodybuilder to reap the benefits of mental strength.

While physical strength enables you to do more because of how you’re built, mental strength lets you do more because of how you think. Further, mental toughness is “the ability to not be distracted or derailed from your goal or task.” Whether you’re committed to a healthy diet plan, workout routine, or lifestyle change, mental strength plays a huge role in how successful you are. 

Imagine: Your doctor recommends a temporary low-sugar diet. Sweets are your guilty pleasure — but obviously, your health is important to you — so you reluctantly agree. 

The following Monday, you walk into work and discover a gloriously tempting box of donuts from your favorite shop. The cinnamon powdered donut has your name written all over it. As your mouth starts to water, you lick your lips, inhale a shaky breath, and pout. 

Day ruined. Or is it?

What you choose to do next is a reflection of your mental strength. Do you justify to yourself that it’s just one harmless little donut and make a desperate beeline for the box? Or do you respectfully decline the sugary treat and continue to your office? 

Just like physical endurance, you need to practice and train your mental abilities to strengthen them. The more you exercise this pseudo-muscle, the stronger it gets! 

What Are the Key Signs of Mental Strength?

Hot take: Males and females have an equal shot at becoming mentally strong. Although cultural bias typically awards favor to males, females are way more capable than they’re given credit for. 

Is the typical male biologically engineered to be physically stronger? Absolutely. However, most females have the ability to create, carry, and deliver babies! Females possess an incredibly high pain tolerance, which stems from — you guessed it — mental toughness. 

Serious girl in gym

To get a read on your own fortitude, examine the following key signs of mental strength: 

  • You know what you want and what it takes to achieve it.

  • You tolerate temporary discomfort when necessary and constantly push yourself.

  • You recognize the difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough.

  • You take smart, calculated risks.

  • You face your fears and humbly learn from your failures.

  • You strive to constantly improve for yourself, not for others.

  • You view challenges as an opportunity to grow.

  • Your self-worth is based on your inherent value as a human being, not rooted in what you achieve.

  • You avoid toxic people, unhealthy temptations, and destructive environments by exclusively surrounding yourself with positive energy.

  • You don’t beat yourself up on the hard days. 

  • You acknowledge that your best looks different every day, and that’s okay.

  • You understand that progress takes time and approach your goals with patience. 

Don’t fret if you don’t currently embody all of these signs of mental strength! Even one or two is a great start. Humans are works in progress and the ability to improve is a gift.

How Do You Improve Mental Strength During Exercise?

Crushing challenges like a boss requires preparation and commitment. Exercise is a great opportunity to flex your mental muscles.

Follow the advice below to bolster your mental strength during a workout.

Train With Purpose and Direction

Perhaps you’re training to lose weight, gain lean muscle, or maintain your current physique. Maybe you’re addicted to the dopamine hit that follows an intense workout. Whatever the case, constantly reminding yourself of your purpose allows you to push through the hard moments.

That said, create reasonable goals for your training. This sets you up for success and boosts your confidence. Attainable goals also prevent disappointment and discouragement, both of which hinder your desire to stay committed to your fitness journey.

Small, gradual improvements are key. Try holding a plank 15 seconds longer than last time, whipping out five extra push-ups, running half a mile more, or transitioning from a 30-minute workout to a 45-minute class. 

Minimizing your rest periods between sets is another great way to improve mental strength. How so? Your muscles are exhausted, yet you develop the discipline to temporarily ignore that sensation and push through one more set.

The internal voice telling you to give up is the exact same voice also urging you to keep going. Teach your voice to believe in your potential.

Woman training with weights

Get Comfortable With Getting Uncomfortable

Discomfort during workouts is a guarantee — at least if it's a good workout! The movements you perform don’t always feel good in the moment. Sometimes, they’re downright miserable. However, the endorphin rush, physical and mental growth, and unparalleled gratification that come after make the struggle so worth it. 

Growth is often unpleasant. Persevere by having faith in yourself, staying focused on the finish line, and pushing through what feels comfortable. 

Prove Yourself Wrong

Have you ever accomplished something you once thought you couldn’t do? Waking up at 5 a.m. to run, saying no even though you’re an avid people-pleaser, or successfully restricting your sugar intake for a month are all tough. They’re also incredibly rewarding.

Define the necessary steps and sacrifices needed to accomplish a difficult task, and work until you get there.

Over time, your brain quits underestimating your capability. You no longer hesitate when confronted with a new challenge — you simply go for it!

Practice Positive Self-Talk

How do you talk to yourself during a workout? Is your mind programmed for success or failure? Ponder this carefully and honestly. 

Enduring, and ultimately overcoming, unpleasant sensations for prolonged periods happens when your thoughts align with your goals. If you believe you can do something, you’re right. If you believe you can’t do something, you’re also right.

Your body only goes as far as your mind pushes it. Let your brain and body work together by saying things like, “Yes I can,” and “Yes I will,” instead of “I don’t know if I can,” or “That’s too hard for me.”

Ph.D. and registered sports and exercise psychologist Alister McCormick says that motivational self-talk “allows you to do more work without it feeling more strenuous because it provides you a way to keep persevering despite high levels of exertion.” 

Woman working out

Exercise to a Fire Playlist

When you sense your mental strength wavering, rely on music that fills your soul. Since you’re distracted by the pleasure of a good song, you forget the painful aspects of the workout.

Music is one of the best ways to trick your mind into enjoying exercise. It activates neurotransmitters associated with the reward center of your brain, giving you a natural high and reducing your perception of discomfort.

Curating a fire workout playlist is also an excellent example of temptation bundling which is pairing a “want” behavior with a “should'' behavior. In this case, your “want” behavior is amazing music, and your “should” behavior is intense exercise.

By connecting a satisfying indulgence with a less enjoyable activity, the task instantly feels more gratifying. Over time, your brain learns to correlate immediate pleasure with healthier behavior. 

Honor the Sacrifices You Make To Show Up

Showing up to work on yourself always comes with a price. You likely sacrifice sleep, free time, social events, eating out, or hanging with loved ones to fit in a workout.

If you’re training before the sun, make the early wake-up call worth your time. Devote 100 percent to every moment. Giving anything less than your best means that you’re not just cheating yourself, you’re also cheating the people who you’re giving up time with to exercise. Make it worth it. 

Be Grateful for Movement

It’s a privilege to be sore, to move, and to work on yourself. Working on your mental strength through exercise means you have healthy lungs, a beating heart, and muscle mobility. Getting caught up in daily life makes it easy to take these blessings for granted. 

Sometimes a perspective shift is all you need!

Compete Alongside a Community

You’re down to the final minute of a spin class. Sweat pours from your temples, your lungs are on fire, and your heart feels like it’s about to explode. The instructor cues a 60-second movement that makes you widen your eyes in disbelief. They cannot be serious!

You draw in a deep breath, exhale, and hesitantly ride along with your teacher. 30 seconds pass, then 40. By second 45, the temptation to quit is louder than the music blasting from the studio speakers.

Cardio training

You consider giving in, but something compels you to turn your head. Looking to the left, you spot your best friend cheering you on. They smile and yell, “You’ve got this! No, we’ve got this!” 

Miraculously, you survive the full 60 seconds. 

There’s an incredible amount of comfort and reassurance in knowing that you’re not alone in your struggle. Group fitness is deeply motivating because it lets you feed off the energy of the instructor, participants, and upbeat music. Plus, exercising with others is just plain fun! 

You push yourself harder than you do while training alone. Even better? You gain a welcoming, supportive community of like-minded people who hold you accountable. 

How Do You Make Exercise a Habit?

Balancing the stressful demands of life with daily exercise is challenging – especially when you’re limited in free time. Motivation arrives more naturally at the start of your fitness journey but usually dwindles after a few weeks. Habit is ultimately what keeps you going.

How do you develop and maintain consistency in your workout routine? 

Above all else, select an activity you genuinely enjoy. For some, Zumba classes, indoor cycling, and group-style boot camps are wonderfully addicting and inspiring. For others, solo outdoor runs, virtual fitness classes, and bike rides are the way to go. Experiment to figure out what works best for you.

Always, always, always take it slow in the beginning. Progressively increase your intensity, duration, number of reps, and amount of workouts in response to what your body can handle.

Focus on forming a habit first, and worry about the results later. Establishing a new normal takes time, patience, and dedication. Designate a set time for your training and stick to it. 

How to do this? Treat your workouts like a mandatory appointment with yourself. Bailing on a work meeting has negative consequences — so does skipping a workout. Construct a ritual around your exercise activity that becomes absolutely essential to your routine. 

Write down your goals and revisit them often. This keeps your mind in check when your body desperately wants to sleep in. Need more accountability? Publicize your intentions to family and friends or invite them to tag along!

Keep a fully stocked gym bag in your car so that you’re less tempted to ditch a workout last minute. Plan post-sweat sesh rewards for yourself. Grab a coffee after a morning workout, go to dinner with a gym friend, promise yourself a much-deserved glass of wine, or schedule a recovery massage.

Have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Sign up for prepaid fitness classes. If you don’t use them, you lose them! Money is a powerful motivator. 

Cross-train to prevent boredom, burnout, and injury from overusing your muscles. Make sure you’re properly fueled, hydrated, and rested to get the most out of your workouts — mentally and physically.

Woman doing push up

Confidence Is Key

Mental strength demands confidence in yourself and confidence is hard to come by. 

Perhaps that little voice in your head keeps telling you to wait until you’re perfect, until you’re the best, until you’re successful, or until you’re strong enough to be confident.

How do you achieve your dreams if you don’t believe that you deserve them? It’s not possible. Instead, celebrate yourself along the way. Be confident along the way! 

To mentally grow, you need to train with purpose, get wildly uncomfortable, prove your weaknesses wrong, be kind to yourself, exercise to some fire jams, find a solid community, and be grateful that you get to move your body. 

The transformation you’re seeking is just around the corner!

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