When it comes to training and workouts, there is so much advice out there about how to do workouts and how to get the most out of a workout. One of the best pieces of advice that I can give about how to do workouts is simple (though the fact that it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy):
Get into a different headspace.
No, really. Get your head into a different space.
Consider doing at least some of your workouts in an environment that is different from the one you exist in on the regular. This advice is especially important now in the post-COVID-19 Pandemic era after everyone literally existed (or has been existing) in the same space for a very prolonged period of time.
At face value, doing everything from home (or in the same space) can appear convenient and easy. And to be fair, in many ways, it is easy and it is convenient. You can hop off of a work call, onto your treadmill or bike trainer or into your home gym, get a workout done, and then hop right back into work and/or family responsibilities. But that ease and convenience comes at a cost:
Doing all of life’s activities (living, working, working out, etc.) all in the same space is limiting both from a mental health perspective and from a performance perspective.
When doing workouts right at home, it is easier to get distracted, cut workouts short, or skip workouts entirely because of things that pop up in that environment (this is especially true for athletes who are raising families and/or who work from home). I’ve seen it happen plenty of times over the years; an athlete has to interrupt or stop a workout on their treadmill, bike trainer, or in their home gym because they had a work call come in, their kid needed something from them, etc. This level of distraction, interruption, or ending of a workout is less likely to happen if you are out on a bike or run route 15 minutes from home or if you are at the gym. I’ve also seen it be easier for athletes to skip workouts; since they will be doing it at home, it feels easier to push off the workout in favor of other things that come up at home or seem more appealing at the time…and keep pushing the workout off until there isn’t any time left in the day to get it done.
Gives one heightened coping abilities for stress and less stress in general
Reduces blood pressure
Increase’s one’s ability to focus
Reduces depression symptoms (by 61%!) for those experiencing depression
Reduces the overall risk of depression for those not currently experiencing it
Despite all of these benefits that being outside generates, Americans are currently spending 87% of their time indoors and 6% of their time in their cars, which means that only 7% of our time is spent outside. Honestly, it’s no wonder that more people than ever are reporting feeling higher levels of anxiety and/or depression than ever before. We need to get our heads in different spaces.
A study conducted by Katherine Boere, a neuroscience doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria, found that exercising outdoors had measurably higher cognitive benefits than exercising indoors. Specifically, she found that the mere act of changing environments facilitated attention restoration and improved cognitive function. Simply put: Getting one’s head into a different space - aka changing environments - helps the brain function better.
Improved cognitive function snowballs into improved performance. If our brain is functioning better and/or we are in a better place mentally, we are able to focus differently on the workout, give more effort (mentally and/or physically) to the workout itself, and thus yield greater performance results over time.
Don’t feel like you have enough time to get into a different space for a workout? The benefits of doing this are so great that I would encourage you to cut duration from your workout if the choice is between doing a longer workout at home or a shorter workout in a different environment. Start small, perhaps with just one of your workouts per week. Give it a try, and see if you don’t feel the benefits of that small change. As we start to see something working, we are often more motivated to keep it going. Then, aim to do more than one workout per week in a different environment than your home and/or normal environment and perhaps consider switching your training routes up.
Get your head into a different space. Yes, it may seem hard at first, but as Tom Hanks says, the hard is what makes it great. Literally getting into a different space might be just the change you need to get yourself motivated, more consistent in your exercise routine, or achieving the performance you’ve been dreaming of.
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.