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How to Push Yourself - 7 Tips to Top Intensity

Posted on Thu, 04 Jun 2009 01:00:00 -07:00

How to Push Yourself - 7 Tips to Top Intensity

How to Push Yourself - 7 Tips to Top Intensity

There is a famous quote that says "Nothing worth having is easy." If reaching our maximum physical potential and having our ideal body were easy, everyone would. The truth is - they don't. Too often people search for the easy way to get these things and unfortunately, fall prey to those promising the magic pill, miracle diets or peak results in 8 minutes.

The reality is simple - hard work is required... period.

A personal trainer can guide you, help to motivate you, can ensure that you are training as efficiently as possible but at the end of the day, you need to BRING IT to get results. So what is "it"?
Bring your energy, your passion, your enthusiasm, your commitment and your intensity to every workout and nothing will keep you from your results.

So how can you set up your program to support you. How can you push yourself harder? Here are 7 tips I've used to push myself in my own workouts and that have worked with countless clients and athletes.

1) Timed Workouts

"I'll race ya!" Say that to any human and one of two things will happen - they will either concede OR they'll get a twinkle in their eye that says it's on! There is nothing like turning on a clock to help bring intensity up a notch... or 10. I have often joked with my distance runners that clock + pace chart = crazy person. The advantage here is that the race is with yourself so a concession is much less likely. Lay out your workout and commit to keeping good technique as a priority. Then complete it against the clock. Once you've set your benchmark in any given workout you will always have a target that will keep you pushing hard. This leads us directly into point #2.

2) Track your Results

Without benchmarks you have nothing to weigh your performance against. Tracking your results in every workout keeps you focused on getting beyond that last mark. Author and poet, Washington Allston said that "The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself". Never have truer words been uttered. There is very little that is more motivational than exceeding your previous high mark. It breeds a powerful upward spiral of energy that is increasingly rewarding with every success. So if you haven't yet, start your log book now and see how every success helps you push yourself to new levels.

3) Performance Targets

Last year I had the opportunity to work a little with the Ohio State Buckeye Football team and their strength coach Eric Lichter. In their training facility amidst the national championship banners, they have huge plackards on the walls - one for each position. On these plackards are lists of the fundamental lifts that the OSU program uses and the historical records for each one by position. Why? Because before every lift you can see the players looking up at those plackards and setting their sights, gritting their teeth and trying with all their might to catapult their own name up onto that board. It's the same reason top swim programs post world records on the walls of their pools. It promotes that little bit of extra effort required to reach them.
So what does that mean in your world? Let's use this month's 40/40 challenge as an example. Set your sights on a number and then go chase it! This sort of laser focus is bound to pull up your intensity!

4) Self Messaging

What's your mantra? What's important to you? What strikes your chord? A sentence, a quote, a written message. We all have something that inspires us. That's what the "Live Strong" wrist bands are all about. At Fitness Anywere we have one with our slogan "Make Your Body Your Machine" on it. I used to have one that was inscribed with "Harden the F#%k Up" Crass maybe, but in the midst of a hard circuit with my energy fading and will wavering - the message was clear - and effective!
Whatever it is that will work for you - find it, read it before each workout, write it on your training card, chant it - whatever it takes to help you get through things when the going gets hard. Here's a great example of top trainer and TRX fanatic Todd Durkin training in his
facility with one of his mantras painted on the wall behind him.

5) Music

Much like #4, this one's personal. Maybe it's a lyric, a guitar riff, a drum beat or the "just something about it that pumps me up". Whatever it is, there is no question that music affects emotions and can easily be harnessed to help you bring intensity to your workouts. Spend some time to put together a few selections of songs that quite simply - do it for you. These should be full of energy - Basically, they should be the kind of songs that make you want to drive FAST!
Later this month I'll share a few of my favourite playlists to train to but until then - make some of your own and we can compare musical tastes later. [:)]

6) Metronome

When I was racing Ironmans, my swimming was enough of a liability without falling off my pace. To help combat this, I used a small water-proof
metronome tucked under my swim cap to make sure that my tempo wouldn't fade as I fatigued in long open water swims.  As it turns out, this same device clips perfecly to the TRX and is a very cool trick to measure and elevate intensity while keeping you from taking too much time resting between reps. The incentive of keeping up to the programmed tempo is remarkable and the results are easily measurable and progressed.

7) Submission

"WHAT?! This whole post is about pushing myself and you want me to submit?" In a word... YES! I want you to submit yourself to the idea of working hard. To sacrificing  for the cause and to the discomfort that comes with intense physical effort. You need to approach your workouts not only knowing that there is a good chance you might suffer a bit but so that you are looking forward to the sensation. Because you know that for every rep, every set and every workout you do at this level, you are that much closer to your goals! For many people this is an evolution and certainly we can't start out at the extreme end of it...
But it is an evolution that must happen if they are to reach new levels of intensity and push themselves to the next level. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and self talk at the beginning before you are willing to embark on this kind of a journey but as you get better at it, you will find yourself increasingly willing to challenge yourself at higher and higher levels!

Now it is your turn! What are ways that you push yourself to top intensity?

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