Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

STACK Expert Dr. Rob Bell advocates leaving the headphones at home and embracing the pain of your workouts rather than distracting yourself. Find out why.

On the treadmill with tunes

The other day during a workout, in the middle of a tough Plank set, I mentioned that I was struggling and couldn't distract myself during the set. My partner told me I shouldn't try to distract myself, that instead I should embrace the pain and struggle.

This was the last thing I wanted to hear at that moment. But he was right.

How many of you have had a similar experience? If you're shaking your head no, do you listen to music while you work out? Truth is, we've all done it at some point. It's been instilled in us that a workout should involve some form of distraction—whether it's the TV in front of the treadmills, the MP3 player and headphones we bring or simply meditating on something other than the workout.

When we use a technique or mechanism to distract ourselves, we tend to focus on that, rather than on what we are actively engaging in. Our mind and thoughts go anywhere else but the present moment and experience. Essentially, we take ourselves out of the equation. It may make the experience more bearable, but it doesn't benefit us because we miss understanding where our thoughts and feelings go during the tough or intense moments of exercise, training, or competition. All the distractions ultimately end up doing is shielding us from our fear of that moment.

When we allow ourselves to experience the pain, struggle, and pressure of the experience, we will know how to respond. Instead of taking ourselves mentally out of the moment, we will begin to own the moment and be ready for more of them in the future.

Next time you train or work out, leave the headphones at home. (Gasp!) This may sound like a radical idea, but give it a shot. Allow yourself to embrace fully all the feelings, thoughts, and surroundings that you experience during the toughest parts of your workout. It might be difficult at first, but taking that first step is part of being mentally tough and prepared for competition.

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