For a Better Workout, Trick Your Brain

It can be hard to motivate yourself to go for a run or ride when you'd rather just stay in bed, but sometimes you just have to give yourself a push.

For a Better Workout, Trick Your Brain

Exercise is important, but it doesn't always inspire us to get up and run. According to the National Center for Health Statistics 75 percent of Americans do not meet the guidelines for aerobic exercise and strength training.

Experts say that the key to a better, more consistent workout is not in the body but the mind. Anyone who has ever had to choose between watching Netflix or going for a run in the evening can appreciate that the body is willing but the spirit sometimes needs a boost.

There are some tools that we can use to trick our brains to find the motivation to go back to the gym, or to ride that bike trail.

Play it now!

Daya Grant is a Los Angeles-based neuroscientist who specializes in mental performance coaching. She said that the brain enjoys games, especially those that are hard to predict and offer intermittent rewards. Take advantage of that

Milo Bryant is a performance trainer in San Diego who uses a grab bag of exercises for his group classes. He said that they would draw a specific exercise from one bag, and then a number of reps from the second. Whatever comes up is what they'll do.

This is taken to another level with a hybrid of a fitness tracker, and an episode of "The Last of Us". It allows you to track both your pace and route, just like most running apps. It's unique feature is that it sends'missions,' which are audio instructions through your headphones while you run. For example, you might be told to sprint in order to avoid a zombie.

Rouvy is an app that connects with a smart trainer. This converts your bike into a stationary bicycle, allowing you to ride virtual streets in different cities around the world. The app can adjust your bike's resistance when you hit hills and dips. Pam Moore, who is a Boulder, Colo. cycling instructor, once cycled through Beverly Hills in Portland, Ore. with a friend without ever leaving her home.

Ms. Moore stated that despite the fact that she was in front of her, they could still ride together.

Customize it to your needs

The brain is also drawn to things that are tailored to us. A recent study found that athletes who believed that they had a personalized workout plan performed better than those who believed they were following one generic.

This perception can be used by personal trainers. You can also use an app such as Stronger by the Day where trainers will take your fitness stats, (for example, the heaviest weight you can lift) and create a strength training program tailored to you.

Moore stated that she was obsessed with the game. By simply showing up and following the instructions, I have become stronger.

Panteleimon. Ekkekakis is an exercise psychologist from Michigan State University. He says that we remember our experiences based on how we felt at the end. He suggests that you reverse the order of the exercises, doing the most difficult part first after a warm-up. Then gradually reduce the intensity so that you can leave the session with a positive memory. This reverse-slope method not only improves enjoyment immediately after a workout but also how we view exercise a week later.

Work like (Pavlovian dog).

Habits can be hardwired in the brain. Ben Reale is a personal trainer from Atlanta who suggests that you should attach your fitness routine to an "anchor habit" - something you do every day. Drop your kids off at school by 8 am, and be in the gym at 8:15.

"Like Pavlovian responses, when we stack up these habits consistently over a period of several weeks, we remove the decision point and the willpower from the equation," said Mr. Reale.

Some people are reluctant to exercise and may need something more. You can combine your workout with something you enjoy, such as watching the latest episode of The Bachelor. Katy Milkman is a behavioral psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She said that this 'temptation bundle' can be amplified by only doing the activity you want to do when you are exercising.

Dr. Milkman stated, 'You're just watching your lowbrow television or listening to vampire novels in the gym.

Commit yourself emotionally.

The easiest way to build an exercise habit is by signing up for something. It could be a 5K run in three months, or a tennis match in a year. Or it could be a dance between a father and daughter next spring.

Bryant stated that if you are training for a specific goal, every workout has a purpose. Establish smaller goals on the way. Make sure they are challenging, but still achievable.

Before anything else, determine what you enjoy doing. Keep in mind that this may change. Exercise will be more effective if you have an emotional attachment to it.

'It is why people run marathons to raise money for a cause or dedicate every mile to someone specific,' said Dr. Grant.