Mental warm ups don’t get much thought in our culture. Most people just go in the gym and start training or worse they choose equipment without forethought; just grabbing whatever’s closest without preplanning. I think taking time to mentally get ready to train is critical and that includes setting up the workout area. I’ve watched a number of champions train and I’m always struck by how purposeful every step of their session is. From first rep to last rep; there is very little wasted movement because they do everything on purpose.
Narrowing Your Focus
I’m like everyone else; I’ve got a billion thoughts bouncing off each other in my brain. It’s Tuesday as I write this and I’ve already dealt with three cars in two different repair shops, a sick wife and setting up an event later this month. I couldn’t train at all Monday between carpooling with my wife and taking on her night time duties with our 1 year old, so I didn’t deadlift until 1am. I got done around 2:30am but I still had to be up and out the door to my acupuncture appointment in the morning. My mind was racing all day. Add to that reviewing blog posts and writing an article for the Garage Gym Journal and my plate is full.
Setting the gym up helps me slowly shut out the outside world and focus solely on the bar for an hour and a half. I interviewed Bud Jeffries recently and he said, “There’s nothing like getting under heavy weight to help you focus”, but at the same time, for me that’s not yet an automatic process. IPF Powerlifting Hall of Famer Sioux-Z Hartwig-Gary once told me that she can switch from lifting to talking about whatever, but the rest of us need time to get in the zone. A 2013 article in Scientific American says, ” … sport psychology demonstrates the performance benefits of pre-performance routines, from improving attention and execution to increasing emotional stability and confidence”. So setting up your own pre workout routine can help you especially if your coach has programmed a hard session for you, you want to PR that day or you’re going to try something in the workout that you’ve never done before.
Planning It Out
In tonight’s training session I was scheduled to bench press up to a relatively heavy single; about 90% of my current max. Along with that came some accessory movements for my upper body and for the entire workout I’d be using my body weight, bands, dumbbells, dumbbell power hooks, wooden blocks, the treadmill, my 45lb bar, plates and spring clamp collars. Before I got on the treadmill to warm up, I set up weight room so I could do my first four exercises without stopping to rest any longer than it took to change the weights on the bar.
That means as you can see from the video below, that I set up the bench in the power rack and checked to make sure that the J hooks were low enough so I could unrack the weight without hitting the lip or losing my arch. My bench is higher than competition height so I use wood blocks that I put in place where they’d allow me to put my feet where I will in my next competition. I put the first weight onto the bar and set down the mat that I would use to do my neck bridges. I also put the pvc pipe that I would use to roll my thoracic spine as part of the DeFranco’s Simple 6 in place. I knew I’d want to record the neck bridges so I could measure my progress, so I set up my phone where it would have the best angle to record. Tonight I wanted to use a YouTube show to keep time. Not that I was necessarily watching, but the show is an hour and a half long so I knew that if the show ended and I was still training, then it would be time to wrap it up. So I cued that up and pressed play.
Setting up the gym is part of mentally preparing to train. Read my blog post about mental warm ups available now exclusively on garagegymlife.net! #garagegymlife #garagegym #mentalstrength #writing #writer #writersofinstagram #blogging #tfl✌ #fitnessbloggers #fitnesswriter #mindmuscleconnection #itsalifestyle
Why It Matters
What’s the point of all this? Simply that I set up everything so I could get right off of the treadmill and move seamlessly into the rest of my workout rather than have to look around for things. Once I was done with bridging, I could sit right on the bench and do my first warm up set without resting longer than it took to get into position. That saves time. Saving time is a huge deal if your reason for training at home is that you’re a busy mom or dad, training while the kids are down for their nap or when you first get home before taking Junior to soccer practice or going to Little Suzy’s piano recital. I’ve gone so far as to set the gym up before leaving the house so everything would be ready when I got home. No I don’t worry about leaving my opening weights on the bar. After working in a public gym for five years where people left bars loaded with all sorts of weight, (yes that was annoying because I had to put their weights away); I have no worries so long as the Rogue bar lives up to what they promise on the website. If that thing can’t handle occasionally being left stationary in J Hooks with 135lbs on it; then I doubt it could handle an entire CrossFit box slamming it down repeatedly during a metcon. But I digress.
If you have issues getting your “me time”, setting up the gym may benefit you because
- It signals the rest of the family that Mommy or Daddy is about to train and it’s a great way for the kids to not only see you prioritizing your health but also help them to start learning to respect boundaries and to wait patiently until you’re done. That is a skill that will help them for the rest of their lives.
- It puts you in the right frame of mind to train. With every piece of equipment that you set out, you’re telling your mind that you’re getting ready to perform. Great athletes have pre game rituals for a reason. Gym set up should be your pre-game ritual.
- It saves time once the session actually gets going so you can use your rest periods to stretch or drink water rather than hunting for the next thing to use.
Setting up the gym takes a little thought on the front end but that’s the point. My process is a methodical one where I have to think through what I have to do, select the tool I’m going to use and put it where I can best use it. That’s one reason that I tend to be slightly disoriented whenever I train anywhere but at home. But it is a benefit of living the garage gym lifestyle.