As if the audio workouts I queue up to guide my indoor runs aren't stimulating enough to my senses all on their own, I turn on Guy's Grocery Games—captions and all. Should Cake Wars grace the airwaves, I take mental bets on whose third tier will tumble before I even make it to my muscle burnout. Really, it's not the food that I'm attracted to, but the mindless marshmallow fluff that keeps me from thinking about the miles as they inch upwards on my screen. I'm sure that House Hunters would do just as well. I'm sure I could keep pace while watching Keeping up with the Kardashians, but I have an endorphin-fueled relationship with New York's channel 50, and I'm not afraid to admit it.
Since it seemed low-key concerning to me, I decided to ask a psychologist whether or not I needed to hit the power button and shut down my reliance on high-stakes grocery cart races to get me through a sweat sesh. "When we’re physically training, we really don’t have the mental resources to be dedicating to really in-depth thinking," says Matt Johnson, PhD, a psychologist and neuromarketing expert in San Francisco.
"When we’re physically training, we really don’t have the mental resources to be dedicating to really in-depth thinking." Matt Johnson, PhD, a psychologist and neuromarketing expert in San Francisco
Think about it like this: After a long day of plugging away at your computer at work, your mind probably won't have the bandwidth to watch a noir French film riddled with metaphor and nuance. Instead, you'll comb through Netflix and settle on something under the "Because you watched The Great British Baking Show..." category. Same, same when you're working out.
"Obviously, you’re exerting a lot of physical energy and thus don’t have the physical energy from a neurological standpoint to dedicate toward advanced processing," he explains. Maybe for you, that means watching the people on the news talk in circles, keeping up with Kim K., or—you know—taking bets on which plucky burgeoning chef will serve up the best dessert out of pickled eggs. Whatever your vice, you can have your Cake Wars and watch them at the gym, too.
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