A Fitness Spin on The Pomodoro Technique to Keep Your Workouts Fun
The Pomodoro Technique has been well loved in the productivity world as a strategy for staying focused on a task. Traditionally, this technique is implemented by deciding on a task, setting a timer for 25 minutes, and doing nothing but that task for the full 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes is up, 5 minutes is spent doing absolutely anything you want.
The reason why this technique has proven successful over the years is because 25 minutes is the perfect amount of time to produce something of substance, while also not allowing the brain to get fatigued. With the promise of a 5-minute break always on the horizon, even the most distractible of brains can remain focused for the 25-minute chunk of time.
While the Pomodoro Technique is great for the daily work grind, this same concept can also be applied to your daily workout routine. One of the devils of fitness motivation is the dread of completing long workouts. For example, while I love running long distances, there are many days where the thought of running for two hours straight is daunting. Even though I can call on my will power to push me through, by doing this, I minimize my enjoyment and finish my run both mentally and physically exhausted. There’s no need to drain my will power and exhaust my mental resources when all I should really be focusing on is my workout. So, say hello to the Pomodoro Technique.
In the same way that you’ll find yourself distracted and miserable if you give your brain 8 hours of work with no hopes for breaks in between, so too will you be left unmotivated and sluggish if you tell your brain to complete a long and grueling workout with no rewards or game changers in between.
Begin by breaking your workout into chunks. If you’re running, this may mean breaking your run up into smaller sets of miles. If you’re doing a series of exercises, this may mean breaking things down into sets. Alternatively, you can also take a more traditional Pomodoro approach and focus on time chunks. No, this does not necessarily mean you have to abide by the 25-minute rule. Depending on the workout, this could be 10 minutes, 5 minutes, or even 2 minutes.
Once you’ve decided upon your chunks, it’s time to decide what you’re going to do with them. For me, I don’t like to take real breaks while I’m running. Instead, when my decided upon mile marker approaches, I change something. I listen to a new podcast; I switch from an audiobook to music; I run at a different pace; I take a moment to shake everything out; I pretend that I’m starting a new run.
This approach is about triggering the mental shifts that happen to many runners during a race; the first third of the race is about excitement and nerves, the second third is about settling in and finding a comfortable pace, the last third is about entering beast mode and using every last ounce of grit and perseverance to reach the finish line. Although it’s only one race, mentally, it’s as though it’s three. Your brain is never given a chance to get bored with the monotony.
If you’re finding that your motivation is lacking and you’re having a hard time focusing on your workouts, consider that your brain may simply need breaks. Try breaking your workouts into smaller chunks and offer a new reward or stimulus after each chunk. This need not be something big or extravagant; the goal is to regularly give your brain something small to look forward to so that long workouts become more mentally manageable. Whether it be a stretch break, snack break, game break, or dance break, have fun with it. The Pomodoro Technique will not only keep you focused on your workout, it will also keep you excited to work out every daily.
Hey, I’m Diana! I’m an occupational therapist and a long distance runner. I’ve run more races than I can count from 5ks through full marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Right now, my PR for the marathon is 3:09 and 1:26 for the half. I’m a bit obsessed with running and sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Let’s crush some running goals together!