How to Use Your Mind to Burn Calories

Body Positivity, Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Mindset

By: // March 26, 2015

Did you know that two people can do the same workout and have entirely different experiences? Not only because of personal preferences, but because of the effort and technique each participant puts forth. I am always talking about the importance of having the right form, but there’s another critical component to having an effective workout, and it’s your mind. You can use your mind to burn calories. When your head is in the game, you can fire up your metabolism and make your workouts really count.

Form trumps everything, but it begins in your mind.

Form is important to prevent injury, but form is also important to make the most of each movement and really work your muscles. If you want to get the most out of your exercise, following the right technique is essential. You can’t do that if your body shows up to do the workout, DVD or group fitness class, but your mind is elsewhere. With your mind focused on exactly what you are doing in the moment, you can engage your muscles, put forth your best effort and maximize each movement. Form is the difference between protecting your knees or stressing your knees in squats and lunges. Form is key to protecting your back when performing certain exercises. Don’t cheat yourself out of a workout by phoning it in or barely paying attention to form. Pay attention to the detail of technique. Perhaps working with a trainer for a few sessions could help, or check out our Exercise Library where you can view over 300 exercises and learn how to master the moves.

Remind yourself that: This. Is. It.

This is your workout for the day. Are you going to really show up? Be present? Make it count? Give yourself permission to push away distractions for the duration of your workouts. Anything that is worrying you, weighing you down or stressing you out should not come to your workout with you. I know this is easier said than done, but if you want exercise to really enhance your overall well-being–physically and mentally–make exercise your healthy escape. Don’t let anything else interfere with your time. I see people checking their emails while on the elliptical or checking their phones during a spin class.  I realize that special circumstances may require you to have your phone near by.  When possible, free yourself from devices, emails and stress.  Enjoy the moment. Keep this great Walt Whitman quote in your mind:

Happiness, not in another place, but this place, not for another hour, but this hour. - W. Whitman Click to Tweet

Ask yourself this important question.

Is your lack of effort because you can’t or you won’t? I ask my classes this from time to time. If I feel like they are slightly disengaged, I tell them – it’s not that you can’t work a little harder (because I know they can for instance in spinning class). It’s that they won’t. They are letting their minds get in the way of taking it up a notch. Don’t let your mind stop you with “can’t.” Try “Yes I Can” and see what happens. Maybe you have to work up to a full plank, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give a modified plank your full effort.  If you “won’t” give your max effort because you loath exercise and just go through the motions, stop and find an exercise you love. If you won’t give your best effort because it’s hard, can you push yourself past that block with some encouraging words? Try:

This is my only workout for the day.

This is temporary.

I want to feel good about this workout after it’s over.

I want to make this count.

 Let’s do this!

I am strong.

I’ve got this.

I am going to give my max effort.

Woman Rope Climbing

The power is in your mind!

Know where your mind and metabolism meet.

A vigorous workout revs your metabolism and keeps it fired up after your workout ends. It’s called EPOC: Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption. EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (called homeostasis). It also explains how your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout. Bonus right! According to the American Council of Exercise adding more muscle helps you burn more calories even while at rest. With your mind in the zone, you can work harder, build muscle and effectively increase your metabolism.

Look for the signs.

Here are just some of the signs that you are really giving it your all and your mind is engaged in your workouts.

  • You add tension to your bike and it challenges you.
  • Your breathing increases and it isn’t easy to carry on a conversation.
  • You are sweating.
  • You add hills to your walk or run.
  • You are adding speed to your walk or run.
  • You are slightly uncomfortable because you have pushed past your comfort zone.
  • Your legs burn.
  • The weights you choose challenge you.
  • Your free weight reps begin to hurt after a few reps.
  • You add a mile.
  • Your workout isn’t easy.
  • You have to concentrate.
  • You push yourself even if you feel tired.
  • Go a little deeper with your squats.
  • Jump a little higher.
  • You do all the reps.
  • You keep going even when it’s hard.
  • There is no doubt that you just worked out.
  • You finish.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think pain means a good workout. It doesn’t. I am all for a rest and recovery day and preventing injury. What I am talking about is giving your workouts all of your effort and increased mental focus. You know if your mind is into your workouts and if you are putting it all on the table. Now tell me: Are you?

Don’t let your mind stop you from getting the best workout that you can. This is the one time of your day that you are really dedicating to the health of your body. Make it count. When you win the mental game, you will fire up your metabolism and really experience the results of your workouts.

READ THIS NEXT: The Not-So-Secret Link Between Blood Sugar and Willpower


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on April 2, 2015 at 3:40 PM Reply

I needed this today. I find that I start to slack off sometimes, maybe because of soreness or being tired, or maybe just because I don't feel like putting forth the effort, as if I want an easy route or "magic bullet," but there are no "magic bullets" in life and the easy route often leads down the wrong path. ;) Thank you!! I'm going in to lace up my sneakers and get a quick workout in since I didn't do it earlier!

on March 30, 2015 at 5:35 PM Reply

Loved this post today. Thank you.

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