15 Aug How to get mindful exercise into your workout
Mindfulness is a way of connecting with the world around us, and you can build it into your workouts in surprisingly helpful ways. By using these techniques, you can exercise better and live a better life.
The first thing to remember is that the idea of the mind and body being separate is just wrong. Embrace the fact that your mental and physical health are intertwined, and you can improve in ways you may never have imagined. Let’s talk about mindful exercise.
Accept that mindfulness and physical exercise boost each other
You do not have to practice mindfulness sitting alone in a quiet room, and physical exercise is as much about overcoming mental barriers as physical ones. By using mindfulness techniques before, during and after exercise you can achieve things you never thought possible.
Just knowing and accepting this can be a massive step forward in how you work out, and in how you appreciate and live your life.
Mindful exercise – be aware of your body
You can benefit tremendously by being aware of your body and how it is acting and reacting. This is a central aspect of mindfulness and meditation, and it can help you to make big gains when you exercise.
Before you begin a workout, a run, a swim, or any other activity, focus your attention on your physical experience. Does your body feel different today than it did yesterday? Are you feeling tension, discomfort or energy surges in any parts of your body? Are you tired? Feel the movement of air through your mouth and nose, try to detect the beating of your heart. All of this gets you in tune with how your different systems will respond while exercising.
Feel the exercises and your environment
As you exercise, maintain this level of awareness of your body and what you are doing. Observe the way your breathing speeds up as you exercise, and the way your heart rate rises and falls with your effort. If you are swimming, revel in the way the water slides over your skin; if you are outside, then observe the way the air feels or how the air carries sound from a distant source.
This approach does two things. Firstly, it heightens your awareness of your body and environment, which reduces the risk of injury and helps you know when you can push harder.
Secondly, it means you are more engaged and motivated and so more likely to achieve or exceed your goals. This also encourages you to exercise again, because it is laying down positive memories. Exercise should be about enjoyment and reward, not just enduring pain and discomfort.
Ditch the music
You might enjoy exercising with music, but if you really want to get the most out of your workout I recommend you try ditching the headphones and tuning into your environment and experience.
By doing this you are becoming more present where you are, whether that’s in the pool or the gym, on a running trail or just using an exercise ball at home. I know this approach isn’t for everyone, but from a mindfulness perspective the more you are able to control your own focus the better.
Whatever approach you take to mindful exercise, there are few better ways than doing yoga for enjoying them together. Yoga is an ancient practice – probably going back at least 2,500 years – and has always been more than a physical discipline in that it has powerful spiritual and meditative elements.
It has evolved a lot over the centuries, but it remains a wonderful way to both meditate and exercise. Its gentle pace lends itself to mindful meditation, and its physical benefits, particularly for core strength, have been proven by dozens of peer-reviewed studies.