6 Ways to Fight Back Against Workout Distractions

Even if going to the gym isn't anything new to you, chatty friends, your phone constantly buzzing, thinking about work and worrying about all the other errands and chores you have to get done can rob you of a quality workout. Inevitably, at a certain point with these distractions, you can no longer concentrate on the task at hand, frustration sets in and you end up either having a bad workout or leaving the gym all together.

Living a healthy life and feeling great is something everyone wants, whether they've admitted it to themselves or not. Taking the necessary steps and preparation is to do so is pivotal, not only having a great workout, but also to being able to consistently do it long-term. Every single day we step into the gym won't be perfect, but we can do our best to get as close as possible by following a foundational structure to keep us on track.

Being mindful about not only your purpose for the gym, but also during the time you are there will determine your level of success. Being able to resist distraction, stay focused and keep your motivation level high will streamline your training session, keeping your workout efficient and of good quality. Plus, your workout should be all about you. It's your time to unwind, let you mind relax and be a little selfish for a moment in time before your attention is pulled in a million different directions after you leave the gym. You shouldn't feel bad about missing a few emails or skipping a gossip session in the weight room—ultimately, this is your time to work on improving your health and your life.

Put an end to distractions and day dreaming and you'll find that the quality of your workouts will improve, allowing you to more effectively reach the goals you deeply desire. Use these six foundational principals to build a solid framework to help keep you on track, minimize distractions and deliver quality results during your sweat sessions.

1. Have a Plan

Before you even step foot into the gym, having a concrete plan in place for what you are going to do and how will set you up for success. Too many gym-goers enter the gym and have no structure, plan or idea of how to get from where they are now to where they want to be. This leads to aimlessly walking around trying to figure out what to do, wondering if you're doing the right thing and, ultimately, wasting valuable time.

Building an exercise program doesn't have to be overly complicated, but it should be designed to keep you safe and deliver quality results. Take the time to do some research to either find an exercise routine you will enjoy or create one yourself based on your goals and current physical capabilities. If you're someone whose mind drifts easily, setting up a very specific plan outlining your specific time working on cardio or the exact exercises you'll perform, weights used, repetitions and sets will keep you on track and on a mission so you don't have time to slow down to consider that post-gym grocery run.

Keep in mind that your plan doesn't have to be worthy of an elite athlete—it just has to challenge you and keep your mind focused on the task at hand. If you feel lost, consider setting up a consultation with a personal trainer who will be able to help you identify ways to maximize your exercising time.

2. Know Your "Why"

This one is big! Understanding the "why" behind what you are doing is huge when it comes to sticking with working out. Things you should be asking yourself are things like, "Why am I here?" "Why is exercising important to me?" "Is this bringing me closer to my goals?" and "How can I make myself even better today?" Write them down, put them on a Post-It in your gym bag, commit them to memory, repeat your responses in front of the mirror in the locker room—whatever you have to do to stay focused on your end goal, do it.

This principle alone should be important enough to motivate you and keep you on track every time you step foot in the gym. With these goals and a sense of purpose in the forefront of your mind, you'll have no trouble pushing forward, knowing that every exercise, every step, every set and every rep is bringing you closer to your purpose!

And if you're feeling a little off or not in the mood to work out? Simply ask yourself why you started in the first place.

3. Design Your Workout to Help Keep You on Task

As stated above, when structuring an exercise program, you want to be training on a program that you enjoy, but also one that challenges your body. Often people get sidetracked by chatting with friends and others because they are not working hard enough, resting too long, don't have a plan or are trying to figure out what exercise to do next. To help get eliminate this common issue, designing your program in a way to help keep you engaged is going to be key.<pagebreak>
When designing or seeking out a new exercise plan, use these strategies to stay focused and get a great workout:
  • Choose challenging exercises that require complete focus. This will help keep you engaged as you think through how to perfect your posture and form every repetition. All exercises require complete focus to train safely, but choosing moves that challenge different facets of movement can make for an amazing workout. Compound exercises or moves that require some degree of balance can keep your mind attentive through the duration. The Turkish Get-Up, for example, is a great slow and deliberate move for challenging various muscles with just your bodyweight.
  • Shorten your rest times. Reducing your rest time between sets and exercises will keep your heart rate up, burn more calories and remove the possibility of getting sidetracked. Work on mobility, flexibility or core exercises during your rest periods. This is also a great way to use circuit training to make your workout more time efficient. In circuit training, you can alternate between various body parts through the circuit, which allows your arms to rest after biceps curls, for example, while you work on squats next.
  • Incorporate more low-intensity moves into your workout. Another way to get more bang for your buck and stay focused is to incorporate low-intensity exercises that focus on your weaknesses. Not only will you be fitting in more exercises into a shorter amount of time, but you'll also keep your heart rate elevated. Upper-back mobility and hip mobility are both good areas to focus on during your rest periods. Both are commonly limited in range of motion due to frequent seated positions and spending large amounts of time on tablets, computers and phones. Use your predetermined rest periods—whether that's one minute or five minutes—to complete any mobility drills, flexibility exercises and/or core work for that length of time until your next set.

4. Find an Accountability Partner

Having a good workout partner is great, but not when they are talking your ear off and you can't get to the workout portion of your workout. Gossip and venting is great and all, but there's a time and place for it and the gym is neither the time or the place. Instead of exercising with your normal buddy who has been keeping you from making real progress in the gym, maybe it's time to get an accountability partner, instead.

This person should be someone who similarly enjoys working out while also following the same principals listed above. Most importantly, they need to willing to hold you accountable when you need it (as you should be holding them accountable as well). On days when you don't feel like going the extra (literal or otherwise) mile or want to skip out on a class, your accountability buddy should be there to motivate you to stick to your commitments. Pushing each other when needed and keeping each other focused will keep you both on the path to success.

5. Stay Off the Phone

Probably one of the hardest things to do! We are all guilty of this one. While it's tempting to bring your phone along to the treadmill for music, try not to get lost in social media feeds, texting and checking emails when you should be training.  Keep the phone use to a minimum and only use it for your music or tracking your workouts. You would be very surprised how much time is wasted playing on your phone, which not only distracts from your goals but also affects your momentum and heart rate. A good practice to implement is putting your phone in "Do Not Disturb" mode when you are about to start your workout. The outside world can wait until after you've gotten your gains for the day.

6. Work Hard

Nothing beats hard work, period. All great things come from working hard and putting in the time to achieve them. Consistently getting to the gym is a great habit to start, but when you get there, you must work hard to make those goals of yours a reality. Working up a sweat and focusing in on the intricacies of your workout—from your form and your breathing to your heart beat and the callouses forming on your hands—is the best way to take your mind off all the other stresses and thoughts threatening to creep in and derail your productivity.

As powerlifting coach and elitefts founder Dave Tate once said: "Just showing up isn't enough. You have to show up and work to get anything in return. If you just show up and expect great things to happen—they won't."

Keeping distractions and thoughts of daily life struggles at bay can be difficult. Remember that nobody is perfect and every day isn't going to be perfect either. With the right mindset and daily practices, though, we can try our best every single day and every single workout. Whenever you feel that familiar tug of getting off course with your routine, losing focus or feeling your motivation dwindle, refer back to these six foundational principals to keep you going!