7 Ways to Push Yourself Harder (and Torch Calories) During a Workout

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “showing up is half the battle.” To a degree, it’s true, but when you’re working to achieve physical results, there is more to it than just showing up and going through the motions. With every exercise you do, you can choose to give it mild effort or everything you’ve got. The former, arguably, is a waste of time. You may be getting in a workout, but if you’re not pushing yourself, you’ll never see the results you want.

Fitness is a mental game of getting over ruts and reaching your goals. These seven tips will help you run the extra mile, beat your previous record, or squeeze in that last pull-up.

1. Trick your mind

man working out

It really is mind over matter. | iStock.com

If you thought all it took to get in a good workout was participation from your physical body, you’re wrong. Your mind has more power than most people think. It tells the body what to do and what not to do. Often, your brain pulls you back when your body can do and take on more. However, by incrementally pushing past your perceived maximal level in training, you can teach your brain to give the body the chance to go harder.

2. Stop counting

Man running and checking watch

Focus on pushing yourself past your set number of reps. | Thinkstock

Far too often, people determine that they’re only able to complete a certain number of reps, so they meet that goal, then stop. This habit of counting out your reps limits you from pushing past that predetermined number to reach your maximum. Push yourself until you’re so fatigued you want to stop and then squeeze in a couple more.

3. Set an overall goal

a tired man after a workout

Set and stick to your goal. | iStock.com

Determine a specific goal you’re trying to accomplish in your fitness journey. It may be reaching a certain body fat percentage, running a marathon, or losing a set amount of weight. Visualize yourself attaining this goal and think about how you’ll feel when you finally achieve it. Whenever you want to quit or cheat in a workout, bring yourself back to this goal and keep going.

4. Find a mantra

Woman turning on music before running

Pick a mantra that really works for you. | iStock.com

Find your own mantra that keeps you moving when all you want to do is stop. Keep it short and sweet, but make sure it’s natural and resonates with you. From “one more, one more” to the Little Engine’s “I think I can, I think I can.” Find something that will keep you moving and motivated. Repeat it in your head when all you want to do is give up.

5. Limit rest time

Man stretching after running

Keep track of your breaks. | iStock.com

It’s easy to bust out a hard set and then spend the next five minutes getting water and checking your phone. Beat this time waster by setting a stopwatch or timer to ensure you keep your breaks short. For muscular endurance, Men’s Fitness recommends a 30 to 45 second rest between sets. If you’re doing high-intensity interval training, keeping your rest periods short will give you better results.

6. Turn up the tunes

man working out

Put together a killer playlist. | iStock.com

Keep your gym playlist upbeat and don’t be afraid to turn up the volume. One study found that playing fast, loud music enhanced exercise performance. Keep your favorite song on standby for that moment when you need a little something to keep you going.

7. Plan the workout

fit young woman doing the butterfly stretch

Plan what you’ll be doing during your workout. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

In addition to establishing an overall fitness goal, you’ll need to create a plan for every time you exercise. Fitness shouldn’t be random. Pull workouts off the internet, talk to a trainer, or ask your friends for ideas. When you walk into the gym or hop on your bike, you should already have a goal for the workout and a plan for how you’re going to achieve it.

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