Check In or Check Out during Tough Workouts

What is Checking Out during workouts?

Reading a Magazine on the Treadmill.

Talking with a Friend During a Walk.

Losing Track of Laps While Swimming.

Checking out is creating a distraction, ignoring the pain, or other mental tricks to move our thoughts away from the fitness activity at hand.

What is Checking In during workouts?

Counting repetitions during weight lifting.

Noticing that ache in an ankle during a bike ride and adjusting position.

Listening carefully to the coach’s instructions and then being totally focused, attempting to follow them.

Careful attention in yoga class as every muscle movement is noticed.

Checking in is paying specific attention to our bodies, noticing the movements, alignment, and sensations as we move through a fitness activity.

Should We Check In or Check Out During Tough Workouts?

What is the right answer? Whether we are distance athletes or attempting a slow walk around the neighborhood for weight loss, we all wonder how to tackle our mental fitness barriers. Our minds tell us to stop long before our bodies need to quit.

The correct answer is both. Imagine we have a “Mental Exercise Strategies Toolbox.” Each time we read about a motivational saying or idea, we are adding a helpful idea to our toolboxes.The more ideas we have, the more we will have to pull from when the going gets tough.

Let’s plan to check in with our bodies at regular intervals, then it’s okay to check out again. 

Check in at regular intervals. As tempting as it is to check out mentally, we need to check in during workouts. How is my alignment? Is my form correct? Am I hydrated? (If I’m outdoors, am I lost? Am I safe?) For workout over 90 minutes, how is my nutrition?

We can make a plan in advance for how we will do this. I set a timer to beep on my watch, or plan to check in at the beginning of each song on my ipod or during a fitness class.

Check out sometimes during workouts. In an ideal world, the correct answer to the question of “Check in or check out?” would probably be to stay checked in forever. For those perfect athletes out there, please be my guest. For the rest of us, it’s okay to go into the zone and think about other stuff. I’m a distance athlete and sometimes my workouts are 6 or 7 hours long. I just can’t stay tuned in that long. Part of the benefit of exercise is the zone of thought I go into where I can process all that’s going on in my life.

We must know our different types of pain. There’s pain (painful but normal for a workout), and then there’s pain (provoking injuring and must stop immediately). A mature athlete knows the difference. It can be a fine line, and it’s a learning process for all of us. I wasn’t athletic growing up, and I was clueless about this when I first started working out as an adult. I injured myself constantly until I learned to read my body’s signals.

Next time we work out, let’s try a combination of checking in and checking out, and see how it works!

Do you check in or check out during your workouts? What mental tricks do you use?


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