Eyes on the exercise prize
January 19, 2015 10:08 AM   Subscribe

What do I literally focus my eyes on to get me through a set of core workouts or freeweight reps (two things I really struggle to stay motivated through)?

I'm apparently having a really hard time extending this literal metaphor.
posted by muddgirl at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

People that we trained in this strategy, we told them to focus their attention on the finish line, to avoid looking around, to imagine a spotlight was shining on that goal, and that everything around it was blurry and perhaps difficult to see. ... We compared this group to a baseline group. To this group we said, just look around the environment as you naturally would. You will notice the finish line, but you might also notice the garbage can off to the right, or the people and the lamp post off to the left. ... So the big question, then: Did keeping your eyes on the prize and narrowly focusing on the finish line change their experience of the exercise? It did.
So it's about the destination, not the journey?

Dammit, now I need to update all my motivational posters. :-\
posted by clawsoon at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

The potential problem with this strategy is that while it is effective for fooling yourself into succeeding at exercise or exercising more efficiently there is a lot recent literature on how with running in particular it is largely about training your mind to endure the run as much as your body. If you fool your mind are you skipping that part of the workout and losing that benifit?
posted by srboisvert at 10:24 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

My personal experience doesn't line up with this. When I used to regularly run half-marathon lengths, thinking about the end of the run was the last thing that would help me. It was all about looking around and at the trees or the river and letting my mind wander.

But I'm just one datum. Anything that might help someone is good.
posted by cmoj at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2015 [14 favorites]

But what about exercising AIs?
posted by symbioid at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2015

"From the bottom it looks like a steepened climb,
from the top another downhill slope of mine..."
posted by symbioid at 10:54 AM on January 19, 2015

In my experience there does seem to be a perception factor that informs the effectiveness of a workout. I doubt it's entirely vision-based; it would be interesting to perform similar tests on a group of people with low or no vision. Again, speaking only from my own experience, I found that some workouts felt really easy if I was able to invoke a sense of adventure or badassitude into my routine.* I'm glad there are researchers trying to nail down the mechanics of how that kind of motivation works. It's an interesting field of study.

*For me, this was playing The Sword's song The Veil of Isis [NSFW] while climbing the stairmaster.

I would imagine myself as a bloodied barbarian
scimitar in hand
climbing the steps of some evil sorceror's lair in order to vanquish his ass

I'm sure the other gym-goers probably thought I looked very odd with my fists clutching an imaginary sword, eyes narrowed in my best viking-scowl but I totally gave zero fucks about it

posted by Doleful Creature at 10:54 AM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Howabout doubling your weight, not 15%, and see how it feels. Instead of 150, go to 300 or 400 and tell me how much your "eyes on the prize" works...
posted by symbioid at 11:00 AM on January 19, 2015

Yeah. If an apprentice at work showed me the line of best fit on the first scatter graph (6:10), they'd get a talking to.

There may be a statistically valid correlation there, but she hasn't proven it to my satisfaction. The other graphs, with just the line of best fit and the actual data points missing look interesting, but I'd really want to see the error bars.

Interesting talk, but the maths looks dodgy to me.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:01 AM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

MetaFilter: Interesting talk, but the maths look dodgy to me
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

Howabout doubling your weight, not 15%, and see how it feels.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:13 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Did this remind anyone else of Revenge of the Nerds?
posted by aturoff at 11:13 AM on January 19, 2015

'cause doubling the weight to try and drastically change goals wasn't the point of the study.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:29 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

well, I get that I'm *used* to carrying around 400 lbs of shit erryday. But it's still a huge difference, and yeah, I guess adding 40 pounds would suck to me, but is me, carrying 60 lbs really the same thing as bob carrying 22.5? Proportionally, sure, but physically exerting so? I dunno. That's something that should be looked into in terms of extra burden. Now add on that I'm carrying, every day, another 200+ lbs that a 150 lb person isn't, and to some degree, I'm used to it, but the fact is it's still a lot more carrying around. Now let's see the psychology of long term effects of carrying that weight around and how someone who has a good "hip-to-waist ratio" compares... Maybe it's good for short term motivation, and simple thought experiments, but in the real world, well... Does she do this for morbidly obese people? What are the ranges of weights? What about a pulse-ox before this? What other measures were used?

I guess I'm more like YAMWAK. This is really really easy, and maybe it's a good pointer for more research, but this seems pretty simplistic, frankly. I think this is fairly weak, even by most psychological tests. It seems to me to provide a pat, seemingly explanatory power that doesn't necessarily derive from the result.

Then again, what do I expect from Ted/TedX...

Or a metafilter comment from myself, for that matter.
posted by symbioid at 11:32 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well WTF am I supposed to do with this? I run laps so I cross the finish line repeatedly.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:34 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

One problem I see:
So, as a first step to testing these questions, we gathered objective measurements of individuals' physical fitness. We measured the circumference of their waist, compared to the circumference of their hips. A higher waist-to-hip ratio is an indicator of being less physically fit than a lower waist-to-hip ratio.
That's not fitness, that's curviness! I have a much lower waist-to-hip ratio than Ragen Chastain, to name just one example, but she's way fitter than I am.

Jennifer Portnick would like a word with them.
posted by Lexica at 11:48 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Well WTF am I supposed to do with this?

Shouldn't you be working on a PDF?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Having big hips means you're fit? For me, the only thing it's ever meant is I can't fit (in off-the-rack jeans and trousers, even plus sizes). That's about where I stopped watching.
posted by drlith at 12:34 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like "Eyes on the prize" is also the research method. I'm no statistician nor social psychologist, but there's a niggling sense of making the data fit the hypothesis.
posted by rhizome at 12:46 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have ridden around 40 100-mile+ bike rides in my life, and thinking about the finish line is absolutely the worst thing to do when faced with multi-hour exertion, at least for me. I tend to break the ride up into smaller, more achievable bundles, so a 100-miler is really 4 25-milers, since that's a pretty familiar chunk from training.

The longest one-day ride I ever did was Cross Florida, 170 miles, and one of the things I found difficult about it was breaking it into chunks that didn't sound imposing (six 25-mile rides and a 20-mile cool-down? A century plus a 70-miler? Three 50s and a 20?). I suppose the presenter might say this is applying her idea to the situation, just multiple times in succession, but psychologically, I think it's not, since the point is NOT to think about the actual finish line.
posted by SubterraneanRedStateBlues at 1:21 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, toss my anecdata into the "apparently not for me" pile.

When I was jogging 1-5 miles along a nature trail, anything I could do to take my mind off of the end of the trip was a boost.

When I do HIIT sprints up steps, I've discovered that looking at the final step kills my resolve. If I stare down at the steps underneath me, so the end might be 5 or it might be 15 away, I can reach the goal.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:59 PM on January 19, 2015

It makes sense to me.

My friends and I get together to play Ingress, a sort of GPS Capture the Flag game. There's 'portals' around that you have to physically get to, to interact with them. So, if there's a portal 100 feet away, you're going to have to traverse that 100 feet to get there.

I find that taking a walk for an hour because walking is good for you and healthy is kind of dull, and I tend not to do it. However, walking around for a park for an hour because there's portals to hack and enemies to destroy makes the time go by much quicker, and often I don't want to stop. Eyes on the prize indeed, Enlightened!
posted by spinifex23 at 7:05 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Actually, now that I think of it, "eyes on the finish line," doesn't help me run 13 miles, but it most certainly does help me get to the top of a steep hill. I'm not sure how literal this is supposed to be.
posted by cmoj at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2015

I just finished working crew for a marathon in Northern California.

The pre-crew went around the entire course and painted bright fluorescent mile and kilometer notations right on the asphalt for the entire course. Hmmmm.

If I was using this "focus on the goal" mantra attempting to finish this marathon, I don't think I'd want to see constant reminders of how far I had to go....

Then again, most distance runners I know are really into schedules and training and split times and various chrono stuff and constant mental calculations....
posted by CrowGoat at 9:47 AM on January 20, 2015

Focusing on the end goal for me is great but I am more concerned on the actual movement I am doing and knowing the reps I am doing are only getting me closer to that goal. Just know that you are better off now than you were before you did you last rep and so on. Focus on staying motivated and being in the moment!
posted by ccd1289 at 8:42 PM on February 16, 2015

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