Struggling with slumps during workouts and a lack of progress with your fitness? A mindset day could be just the thing to help you turn that around.
Whether you’re on a run and convince yourself to stop even though, realistically, your body is able to continue or you opt for a lower weight in fear that you won’t be able to lift the heavier one (despite having done so the week earlier), our brain often tells us that our body isn’t capable of things that, in reality, it can do.
This is why, along with days focussing on specific parts of the body or elements of fitness, a day dedicated to your mindset to fitness can be hugely beneficial. A mindset day encourages you to train your brain by pushing yourself further than what you perceive to be your limits while focusing on keeping a positive attitude.
Research from the American Psychology Association shows that specific and challenging goals lead to higher performance than easy goals because challenging yourself is more likely to motivate you. In line with this, the idea of a mindset day is not to make you dread a particularly difficult workout, but to prove to yourself on a weekly basis that you can overcome challenges.
Tess Glynne-Jones, a trainer at Marchon, has been incorporating mindset days into her workout routine for a few months now and she has found that they have transformed her attitude to fitness and to life. “I’m a big believer that what you do inside the gym affects how you feel in other parts of life, so making a mindset day part of my routine has been really impactful for me,” she says.
What should a mindset day workout look like?
Mindset day workouts are usually made up of multiple sets and rounds of one exercise, known as monostructural movements. They tend to only involve one or two exercises, movements or machines.
The simplicity of the workout is actually what makes it mentally difficult, as your mind has little to focus on other than getting through the workout – the idea is that you can only focus on yourself, making this a mental and physical challenge.
That means that the movements are often cardio based. Unlike in strength training, when you have to move weights or consider form, cardio exercises such as sprinting or cycling can be more straightforward physically and therefore pretty mentally challenging.
It’s important to set yourself time limits to complete the exercises in or time yourself to see how fast you can do them to make sure you push yourself as hard as you can go. Glynne-Jones recommends that your total workout time on a mindset day should be somewhere between 30-50 minutes. Any longer than this and you may not be able to push yourself enough.
Make sure to increase the difficulty of the workouts each week to ensure that the workout remains a challenge and focus on exercises you find challenging.
Here is an example of a mindset day workout Glynne-Jones has shared, using exercises she personally finds challenging:
For 30 minutes, every five minutes:
800m ski erg
(The time remaining is rest).
Five rounds for time:
400m row erg
20 kcals assault bike
If you don’t have access to a ski erg or don’t feel comfortable working towards a calorie burn, try a running interval session by running 800m every 5 minutes for 30 minutes. Or, you can incorporate challenging bodyweight cardio exercises like burpees and mountain climbers.
How can a mindset day change your attitude?
Because of the difficulty and monotony of a mindset day, you may be particularly prone to negative thoughts during the workout. “The whole point of a mindset day is giving yourself two options: the first is to allow that negative narrative and hate every single session and the second is to fight through the discomfort,” says Glynne-Jones.
Choosing the latter option will not only improve your fitness and strength in the long-run, as it will allow you to push yourself further in other workouts, but it will also help you develop a positive mindset in other parts of life.
What day of the week should you make mindset day?
You can choose any day of the week as your mindset day but keep in mind that it’s going to be heavily cardio-based so try to make sure this doesn’t clash with any of your other workouts and potential DOMS. “I chose Wednesday as my mindset day as it’s traditionally known as hump day i.e. the hardest day of the week,” Glynne-Jones says. “A challenge like mindset day can push you to overcome that mid-week slump, helping you deal with challenges outside of the gym too.”
How can you push through particularly difficult mindset days?
Mindset days are designed to be challenging so it’s important that you’ve built up a toolkit of methods to help you manage them. “I always like to remember that I’m in control – I can stop any time I’d like but I choose not to,” says Glynne-Jones. Thinking in this way will help you develop a much more positive attitude to working out as it becomes something you choose to do rather than something you feel like you have to do.
“You should always remember your ‘why’ too,” Glynne-Jones says, explaining that keeping in mind the reason why you’re working out, whether that’s to get stronger, fitter or training for something specific like a competition, can be really motivating. Plus, it will help you feel even better about yourself when you’ve completed such a challenging workout.