3 Ways to Maximise your Training through Thinking


The Thinking Athlete is someone who adopts a more well thought out approach to training. It takes a degree of intent, curiosity and self-awareness to become a thinking athlete, not just relying on heading into workouts without a plan and relying on max effort. The style of training with more intent and afterthought is a sure fire way to maximise the return on investment from your training. This article will break down three ways you can take a more ‘thinking’ athlete approach to workouts.

What is the Thinking Athlete? 

The thinking athlete trains with purpose. Instead of just going through the motions, they engage with their sessions, reflecting on performance: what went well, what could go better, and ultimately how they can improve. This focus based approach is key to making consistent and long term progress. We’ll now present three of the best strategies that you can employ to take a more measured approach to training. 

Document Your Training

Simply by writing things down during and after your workout, you can change the game with your training. It gives you something to reflect on, look back at, and measure your progress. This strategy is ideal for any training, not just recording your sets and weights. You can observe and reflect on your technique and also take into account how you felt whilst you trained. Here are some things we suggest you may want to note down next time you train:

  • Training Cues: Take a note of your verbal and mental cues which actually help you perform. What did you specifically think about? For example, on the deadlift, you may want to write down your mental cues for hips positioning and head positioning. Over time you can add cues which you’ve found to help you perform better with more reps and more weight.
  • Repetition Breakdowns: Record how you organise and break your reps. You may find that over time you can execute a greater number of reps before you break, which would signify progress. 
  • Pacing Details: Tracking your pace, either whilst lifting weights, running, cycling, or throughout a CrossFit workout can give you insights on where you might need to pull back, or equally where you need to push in the future. Tracking your pace alongside how you feel can be extremely beneficial.
  • Observing Technique: Take details of your technique for each movement. What went well? What do you need to work on? This’ll give you focal points for future workouts to help improve your efficiency and performance.
  • Emotions: You should reflect on how you feel during workouts. This is particularly useful as it may inform you of how you’re recovering as well as how you’re performing. It can give you insights on when you may need to pull back on your intensity.

Check in with Yourself

Before and after sessions, take a moment to check in with yourself. How do you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally? It’s not just about how sore or fatigued your muscles feel, but also these aspects:

  • Physical Sensations: Are certain workouts or movements causing you any discomfort or pain? How is your body responding to your volume and intensity of training? Do you need to take a rest day?Thinking about these things may open up opportunities to consider your form, efficiency and effort of your training. 
  • Mental State: Are you feeling focused and driven, or disengaged and distracted? You may figure out that certain times of the day lend themselves to better workouts based on how you feel mentally. For example, you may conclude that training before work is more conducive to a better workout than training after work.
  • Emotional Reactions: How do you feel emotionally after a workout? Do you feel frustrated by a challenge or particularly happy about accomplishing a goal. Do you feel excited for the next training session? Taking note of these things may help you self regulate, leading you to making conclusions of whether you need to take a break from a certain movement and come back to it at a later date, or equally if you should press on consistently working at the same thing.

Reflect On & Adjust your Training

Taking some time to reflect after you train is the key step to becoming a Thinking Athlete. You should ask yourself if you were to do the same thing again, what would you change? Asking yourself this is essential for avoiding repeated mistakes, consistently improving and maximising your training efforts. Here are three things you should ask yourself after a workout:

  • Successful Elements: Identify what was effective. What went particularly well that you would do again?
  • Improvement Areas: Be honest with yourself about what went well and why.
  • Adjustments for the Future: Based on these observations, what changes would you make for your next session? Looking back at our previous points, what training cues would you keep? How would you pace yourself? What exercises do you need to give more time to?

Taking this approach to training sessions gives you chances to learn and improve the outcomes of your future training sessions. This ultimately leads to faster, more consistent progress.


Becoming a Thinking Athlete does not require an enormous amount of skill or intelligence. It just takes a bit more time and a shift in approach which involves more mental engagement and reflection. By documenting your training, conducting self assessments, and reflecting on your own performance, you’ll become smart and more efficient in how you train. If you’re on the path to learning more about training philosophy or looking to potentially become a personal trainer then be sure to take a look at our level 3 pt course.