THE MARRIAGE OF MINDFULNESS AND WORKING-OUT
We tend to do anything that will distract ourselves doing a workout. Maybe, you watch television on the treadmill, hike with your headphones on, or rehash your to-do list as you are cycling, or checking out Facebook. It’s okay boys and girls, no shame in the game, you deserve a round of applause for just breaking a sweat. But, according to the experts, dropping the diversions and adapting a more mindful approach to fitness can pay off big-time for your body and yes your brain. No, no, we’re not talking about sitting cross-legged and om-ing in the middle of the weight room, (but, if you are so inclined, go for it). That’s more of a straight up meditation practice.
Mindfulness, while we are working out, is about cultivating present moment awareness. And when we become fully engaged in the act of exercising, we not only improve our physical results. New research has found, we can also boost our appreciation and enjoyment of the experience, which could my friends, ultimately help us stay committed to a fitness routine for long-term.
Focusing on the here and now it’s definitely challenging, especially when you are working hard and wish you could fast-forward to a much-needed shower. Luckily for all of us, our Wellness coaches and mental health Pros have plenty of tips and tricks to make it all a little easier. Yoga teachers often talk about centering yourself at the beginning of a class. Try that before your other workout, by pausing to take a few deep belly breaths. As you inhale, imagine that your breath is carrying particles of concentration into your body. As you exhale, notice that all the distractions and stress are drifting away from you.
The incoming breath is like sedative that supplies you the peace that you need to focus on the present. Bringing your attention to the activity, whether it is boxing or being engaged on the treadmill, can make it easier to reach a “flow” state, which is when you are completely immersed in the workout. Once that happens my friends, the workout’s perceived level of difficulty suddenly decreases, and you actually perform better. You also might try sitting an intention pre-workout. It actually could be something simple like I am grateful for my body’s ability to move, or just show self-kindness.
Specifically, process-oriented goals, let us say you are running a race, or trying to hit a certain mileage-those are outcome goals; process goals are the steps you take that will help you get there. These might include perfecting your techniques, setting your pace, or honing your mental attitude. process goals direct your focus to what you are doing in the moment. Just make sure you aren’t so fixated on any one goal that you can’t adapt as conditions change. Let me give you an example, at the starting line of a race, you need to widen your focus to manage all that’s happening around you. By the middle of the race, you can be really attuned to your form and your breathing. In the final stretch, you may need to narrow your focus: All your energy should probably be centered on putting one foot in front of the other, till you make it to the finish line. Knowing which goals you should focus on will serve you very well.
Try not to zone out my dear friends, that doesn’t mean you should never crack up your power song mid workout. In fact, the research shows that dissociation or putting your mind elsewhere can actually sometimes be helpful. “However,” there are also benefits to going totally distraction free. When people are truly engaged, they are physically and measurably able to do so much more than when they are checked out.
Think about this, it makes sense, when your mind is wandering, your performance can suffer. If you are mentally singing along with Beyonce, or you are ruminating about last night argument or rehearsing tomorrow pitch, you won’t be focusing on keeping form. Which means you are probably not moving as efficiently as you can, and you are more than likely to get hurt. Catch yourself spacing out? Bring your attention back to what you are doing. My friends, the more you practice this mental shift, the easier it will become. Think of it like flexing your mental muscle. Then go ahead, check in with your body. Ask yourself, “what am I feeling, seeing, hearing right now?”
Visualizations is a powerful tool, let us consider a 2014 study involving folks whose forearms were immobilized in an elbow to wrist cast for 4 weeks. Study participants who visualize themselves flexing their wrist during this time frame lost 50% less strength than those non visualizing counterparts. Now let us imagine what visualization can do for you when it comes to your fitness challenges. Before your next workout, you might envision yourself running Up that monster Hill on your route without ever stopping, or you might fantasize about pushing extremely heavy weight on chest day.
Athlete use this mind trick to build the brain-body connection before any big events. The more you mentally rehearse your plan, the more automatic it will become and the less thought will be required in the moments that counts. Be Always careful in what you think, whatever your brain is saying, your body will believe. As a result, self-talk is a major key ingredient for success or failure, so instead of thinking about how much you workout is going to suck. And how you will never be able to finish it, replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. Tell yourself that you love a challenge, that its no problem at all, I’m going to crush this workout. If you do that you probably will.
You can use this technique in every part of your life, and become the true champion that you are. To become successful in all that you do, kick the fear out the door, lock the door on negativity, and let no energy vampire be a part of your circle. And always remember, you alone are the captain of your ship, it all starts in your mind.
May good health and prosperity be always with you.
Humbly yours Paul Earl.