Mindfulness and exercise
I’ve always been quick to recommend the benefits of mindfulness practices. Not just for the effect it can have on your day to day life, but also in improving your mindset when it comes to training and your daily nutrition choices.
I encourage most of my clients to engage in meditation having discovered the multiple benefits to its practice myself. I don’t think there’s anybody that WOULDN’T benefit from meditating daily, even the people that seem most at peace with themselves!
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us (easier said than done right?)
It comes more naturally to some of us than others … but like training our bodies, our minds can also be trained – it is a skill which can be developed over time. There is growing research suggesting that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodelling the physical structure of your brain. Imagine that!
Meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment.
Throughout meditation you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds. Wherever your mind goes (and it will frequently go) just come back and return to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay. It doesn’t get easier … you become more efficient at the practice with time.
Simplifying The Process…
Personally, I use an app to help me meditate. Headspace is a free to download app, the first 10 sessions of ‘guided meditation’ on there are completely free to use. The ‘guided’ element helps with that little focus and reminds me each time exactly why I am engaging in the practice. The paid subscription opens up multiple ‘packs’ which specialise in different areas, ranging from depression to pain management, there are evening sport/training specific meditation sessions for you to engage in.
There are plenty of other apps which you can download, just search ‘Mindfulness’. Alternatively, if you’re not in the world of the smart phone (and God bless you if you aren’t!) … jump on YouTube on your laptop, search for ‘Guided Meditation’ …There are quite literally thousands which can help you out.
Mindfulness And Training
Being mindful during your workout can significantly:
- Increase the effectiveness of your workout,
- Decrease your chances of injury,
- Enhance your enjoyment of exercising, and
- Support you in developing a healthy and loving relationship with your body.
With mindful exercise, you’re going for quality, not quantity.
To improve the quality of your sessions, try turning off your phone (as difficult as it may seem) and bringing your focused attention to your breath and your movements while you are lifting weights, running, or cycling.
Here are 4 mindfulness practices to improve your training routine:
- While lifting weights, put your full attention on the muscle you are training. Try to feel your muscles contract and relax with each rep. Allow your breath to be slow and steady. As any thoughts not related to that rep arise, let them go and return your attention to your muscles and your breathing.
- While running, turn off your iPod or phone and bring your attention to the sound of your trainers hitting the floor, the rhythm of your breath and the movement of your arms. Think about how you feel during and after your run when practicing mindfulness in this way. Was it better than with the iPod?
- Before a workout, or after your ‘warm up,’ listen to your body and have a good think about what level of training your body is ready for. If you’re particularly tired on a given day, try skipping your hard-core weight session and doing some gentle stretching and mindful walking instead. Your body and mind will thank you in the long run.
- When you begin to stretch, bring your attention to the area you’re stretching. Close your eyes and take 10 slow breaths, as if you are breathing directly into the muscles you’re stretching. Notice how your focus and breath supports your body to open up and expand more easily.
Try it this week and give me a shout in the Studio to let me know how you got on!