We all know it too well. That boredom that creeps in 5 minutes into your workout. When your mind quits, it is hard to say in the zone. You may think it is a bad idea to focus on anything other than your pacing but research seems to suggest otherwise.
Researchers at the University of Florida placed older male and female participants in a quiet room and had them cycle while performing 12 different cognitive tasks which included things like naming different colors, repeating long lists of numbers backward, and solving math problems. The hardest task aside (the math problem), participants improved their thinking and cycled 25% faster once they completed the easier tasks.
"Some people actually doubled their speed, but they weren't aware of it," says Lori Altmann, PhD, the study's author and associate professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She says the key is finding activities that are fun, fast paced and engaging for your brain. But there is a middle ground. Activities like watching TV that don't require much brain engagement or ones that require too much engagement, like answering emails, may actually slow you down.
"If you give anyone a cognitive task while walking, they're going to slow their pace. You have to maintain a full-body posture, and you transfer all of your weight to one side when you step," Altmann says. "When you're cycling, you don't have to think about when or how much to move one foot or the other because the pedal is going to do it. Cycling doesn't demand as much of the cognitive resources in your brain."
So, you need to find the right type of physical activity and the right type of distraction and you could up your workout without even knowing! Next time you cycle or hop on the elliptical, try one of these tasks:
Play Your Favourite Mobile Game
According to Altmann, this move may be your best bet. Research has shown that video games can improve learning but if you are really into your game, it can boost your pace and make time just fly by.
Grab An Easy Novel To Read
"Our hypothesis is that you really have to concentrate on what you're doing, and it has to be going pretty fast," Altmann says. "A novel that takes you away to another world would probably work, but it would have to be really captivating." It needs to be something you can devour easily and Altmann suggests trying a romance novel. If that doesn't get your blood moving, nothing will!
Listen To An Interesting Podcast
Look for something suspenseful that moves quickly and isn't too hard to follow. Try the True Murder
podcasts, Altmann suggests. The stories move at a rapid pace and before you know it, you will be too!