One of the directors, Andy, pokes fun of the different catch-phrases I say to people to help them correct their form: “Focus your mind”, “Push with your hips and through your heels”, “Train your muscles not the machine”.
It’s funny the kinds of phrases I’ve come up with to teach people things in my years of teaching people how to use their bodies in strange and new ways. When I was a 16-year old Martial arts instructor, I was always presented with the conundrum of how best I can tell someone to move one part of the body over another part while twisting another body part in the opposite direction. Often I would be stuck in front of 30 people and everyone would be doing a completely different part of the technique incorrectly, so very quickly I’d have to figure out what best general thing to say.
“Focus your mind” was a regular as many people would expect to learn a technique through rote and not actually try to deepen their understanding of what they were doing. I noticed the people who progressed more quickly simply thought about what they were doing differently and often more appropriately and had a greater belief in their capability. People who were less confident would, as a result, be less determined and less focused, which was often most of the class, so the slogan “Focus your mind!” was formed.
In my years in the fitness industry, instructing people on how to do strength training I’ve found that the same error occurs. Many people jump on to their exercise in a mind-less state, moving in a rote and habitual pattern, often exacerbating the bad habits that strength training is supposed to remove as they move to the music and think about their day and the various things that sit at the forefront of their mind. It was rare to see a person who would walk in with a focused mind, completely present in their workout, planning their approach to their training and objectively observing themselves so they can break new ground in their training and their progress.
From my experience as a martial artist and an elite athlete I have discovered that this kind of approach, not matter what level a person is at, is the only approach one can take if they want real results. If one does not take on a mindset that is prepared to be focused and set on an objective in their strength training, then one cannot expect to see results in any form.
It’s fine to go to a gym session with a mindset just to get the numbers out, but really all we are trying to achieve if we do this, is to relieve the guilt from our own self judgement, right? I’ve found that if I can convince a person to take on a focused mindset when they begin training, their session is far more enjoyable, albeit more painful. They have forgotten about the day’s work, they have forgotten about the stress and the arguments they are having with others and often with themselves. They are giving themselves the attention that they need and deserve and they have a satisfying feeling of accomplishment at the end of a session.