tips to push through the burn

Arms shaking on your 10th push up? Final running lap stealing your breath? There’s always a moment in your workout where the challenge feels like a mountain too tall to climb. Kate Kraschnefski, Head of Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness shares her tips to get through the worst of it and smash your goals. 

To get fitter, we need to keep challenging ourselves. By continually challenging, we stimulate our bodies to adapt – leading to increased strength, fitness and many other health benefits.

In the context of strength training, this is called ‘progressive overload’ – the process of consistently increasing a variable of your training over time. This can be the weight, repetitions, sets, frequency, or even the complexity of the exercises.

With cardiovascular training, we can apply the FITT principle. This means we work at increasing the frequency, intensity, time or type of exercise on a regular basis. If you run for 30 minutes twice a week, your fitness won’t change; but if you progress to run for 30 minutes three times a week, it will.

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Regardless of what type of training you do, leveling-up will take motivation, effort & mental discipline to increase the intensity of your workouts. For many, this process can be challenging, uncomfortable and sometimes a little bit painful. But this is also where the magic happens how we get results.

Try these five strategies for powering through the burn of your workout.

1. Understand what is happening in your body

When we train, metabolic processes occur in the body that can have less than pleasant side effects. A classic example is the “burn”. Some intense forms of exercise can produce lactic acid as a by-product, which can cause discomfort in the muscles and even feelings of nausea. By understanding what is happening to your body, you can be reassured that such feelings are actually part of the process of getting fitter and stronger.

2. Re-frame the pain

When the burn or discomfort kicks in, rather than letting your mental talk slip into complaining or quitting mode, try attaching positive commentary to it. Acknowledge that your body is feeling this way for good reason – and once you are through it, you’ll be closer to a healthier, fitter and stronger you.

3. Visualise the struggle

There is no point denying that your more intense workouts will have tough moments. Try a technique called “mental contrasting” during your warm up. Imagine your workout unfolding and include the tough parts. See yourself struggling, but also overcoming your obstacles. Visualise your workout ending and anticipate your feelings of pride and relief.

Another benefit of practicing this technique when you train is that it can become a useful habit for when you are tackling anything in life that has challenging elements to it! It’s like positive thinking, but keeping it real.

4. Have a plan

When we are training, especially when working towards a goal, it is important to be intentional. Before your session, be clear with what you are looking to achieve. Work to a program with pre-determined parameters like reps, sets, or time and intensity. Apply your program and commit to yourself to execute the plan.

5. Know why you are training

Be clear and purposeful about your goals and understand the value-driver behind your actions. Are you training to optimise your energy and be more productive in other areas of your life? Are you looking for physique changes? How does being fit and healthy positively impact you? What will being a healthier version of you help you achieve in your life?

Have all of these things in mind when you head into your training sessions and repeat them like a mantra when the going gets tough. This should give you that motivation kick to get through the challenging parts of your workout.

Kate Kraschnefski is Head of Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness. Kate’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Applied Science, Diploma of Training Design and Development and Certificate III & IV in Fitness. She has over 15 years’ experience in the fitness industry and is passionate about personal training and group exercise.

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