The Obstacle: I’m Excruciatingly Bored
How to Overcome It
It’s tempting to try to make a workout go faster by zoning out and flipping through a magazine or just letting your mind wander. But the real way to break through a wall of boredom is to give your workout a purpose and some variety.
Plan of Attack
Pay more attention to what you’re doing, not less.
Turn your workout into a challenge. Determine what you want to push your body to do. This approach puts you on a mission, which gives your workout focus. (Think of the difference between the endless “I don’t know—what do you want to eat?” conversation and “Let’s perfect that salmon recipe tonight.” The first can leave you drained; the second, energized.) Then put your session on a path that helps you get there. Can you build leg strength by changing your bike route to include a few hills? Or can you push your aerobic potential on the elliptical by moving your legs very fast for 30 seconds every two minutes or so?
Stay in the game. Instead of tuning out, try tuning in. The more you stay with your mission, the more interesting it gets, because you’ll eventually open the door to that magic state that psychologists call “flow,” in which you’re completely engaged in what you’re doing, not ruminating on the events of the day or constantly checking the time (“I’m 20 percent done. I’m 37.5 percent done…”). You’ve probably experienced this state of meditative absorption at some point when you were doing an activity that required undivided attention (painting, knitting, playing an instrument), and it’s possible to attain it in a workout.
Do frequent check-ins in which you think about your form, breathing, posture, and anything else that keeps you in the moment. Notice the bracing wind on your face, whether your core is engaged, what your mind is doing. “Are you thinking about your grocery list or focusing on your breathing?” asks Lucy Smith, a coach to amateur and professional athletes at LifeSport Coaching, in Victoria, British Columbia. If you’ve strayed, count your steps or pedal strokes, hit a new song on your iPod, and move to the rhythm—anything to get you back in the moment.