For many of us our workouts are an hour where we can escape the demands of our daily lives. There are no bosses pushing deadlines or kids asking questions; phones are away, and if you're lucky you have some co-members that instantly boost your mood. The music is up and your mind is clear.
But can we completely shut off when we start our workouts?
No! If we shut our brains off when we are in the gym we leave ourselves open to injury. We can't rely on our coaches to be at our side 100% of the time in a group setting, which means at some point we need to know how to arrange our bodies so that they are prepared to move safely.
The Warm Up
We all know by now that the warm up is time dedicated to preparing the body for movement; but, what about our brain? When performing the warm up movements we also need to be thinking about engaging the targeted muscles.
For instance if you are performing some body weight squats during your warm up, here are some things you should be thinking about:
"Is my core braced?"
"Is my rib cage stacked over my hips, or are my shoulders in front of or behind my hips?"
"Are my feet where they need to be for me to perform this movement?"
"Are my shoulders down and back?"
"Is my chin tucked/neck in a neutral position?"
"Are my hips breaking first when I go down into my squat?"
"Am I squeezing my glutes before I come out of the bottom of the squat?"
"Am I pushing my hips all the way open at the top of my squat?"
"Am I breathing?"
Phew! That is A LOT of stuff to think about for one movement...but classes are rarely just one movement. If we turn off our brain, how can we be sure we are doing so many things correctly?
I often hear people say they try to let their mind go blank during a workout so they can just push. If the workout consists of the same movements in your warm up or movement prep, and you had to ensure a list of things were working properly for each movement, how can you possibly do them faster and potentially under more load with not a thought in your mind? That's how injuries occur.
There should absolutely be a level of proficiency of a movement that allows you to perform it with a certain level of ease during a workout. But for those of us in the general population, we are not so skilled at it that we can perform it without a thought. You should constantly be performing self checks during your workout, like the following:
"Is my core braced?"
"Are my glutes engaged when they need to be?"
"Am I moving through my hips or through my back?"
"Are my hips and shoulders stacked?"
"Are my shoulder blades set?"
If your mind is blank during your workout or thinking about something else (like work) you are not getting the most out of your hour and are leaving yourself open to injury.
The Bottom Line
Listen to your coach when he/she gives you specific cues. If you find yourself being told the same couple things in every class and you are not a brand new member then there's a chance you are not totally present in your workouts. If you are present and hearing your coach but simply do not understand the cuing, make sure you let him/her know!
Remember, your coaches are not just teaching you how to workout well; they are teaching you how to move well and live well. Make the most of your hour by listening to the cues you are given, applying them to your workout and remembering to incorporate them into your daily life.