3 Strategies to Occupy the Mind When Completing a Long Physical Task

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Any long mono-structural movement can be tedious.

Physically it’s hard.

We’re talking about something lasting sixty minutes or longer.

Mentally it’s hard because it’s boring. The mind believes that nothing is being accomplished. It acknowledges all the work the body is doing, for no apparent reason. It sees no gain for the energy being expended and wants to see an end to this nonsense. The mind wants nothing more than to quit.

If you’re going to do something long, first you must commit to the goal. Row for an hour. Run for an hour and a half. Hike for two hours. You must first decide on your goal, and then commit to it. Once you make this decision, your mind now has a purpose for the suffering you are about to endure. The urge to quit will now go up against this decision that you have made.


Mentally break it up

Strategy #1 is as simple as finding a way to occupy your mind. Counting works well for this.

When rowing count strokes. Count up to 100, back down to 1 and repeat.

When running, walking, or hiking, count steps.

When swimming, count strokes.

Counting is a good strategy to occupy your mind and mentally break up the event.

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Physically break it up

Another way to occupy the mind is strategy #2, physically break up the exercise. There are a variety of ways you can do this. Some examples:

When running, stop every five minutes for ten burpees.

When swimming, stop every 100 meters for ten push-ups.

When hiking, stop every ten minutes for 20 squats.

Get creative, physically break up the event and the time will fly.



Strategy #3 is making your workout an interval workout. Intervals involve a period, or interval, of work and a period of rest. In reality, this is yet another way of breaking up the physical activity. An example of this is one of my favorite workouts: I row for 2000 meters and then rest for one minute. I repeat this interval anywhere from five to ten times. But I commit to how ever many rounds I am going to do before I even begin. That is the work-to-rest interval.

The next interval is similar to the work-to-rest interval where you choose a period of hard and easy. When running, you can run hard for one minute then run easy for one minute. Any time period can be used: 1:1 hard to easy, 5:1 hard to easy, or whatever you decide. This is the hard/easy interval. It is another way of occupying the mind and breaking up the workout.

Another interval strategy breaks the time into three periods: easy/medium/hard. To use another running example, you could walk for one minute, jog for five minutes, and sprint for one minute. Again, the time period can be changed to anything you choose. If I want to row for one hour, I could break it up by rowing easy for five minutes, medium effort for three minutes, and then a hard effort for two minutes repeating this six times. In this example, the five minutes easy effort becomes a recovery period as it falls after the period of hard effort.

The final interval is the work-to-reward interval. Figure out a way to reward yourself that corresponds to the activity that you are doing. If I’m running, I can “reward” myself by getting a drink of water every mile. Two purposes are served here, breaking up the run by having a reward to look forward to, and keeping a consistent hydration strategy.

Occupy your mind when going for a long, tedious physical task. Mentally break it up. Physically break it up. Use some intervals, or even use a combination of all three. Just make sure you decide beforehand, commit, and do not quit!

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and is not intended for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your physician. Any exercise requires risk, and reader assumes any and all risks involved with the exercises shown and/or described.