Workouts can become moving mediation.
Movement and mind are one and the same. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing in order to grow mindfulness in your life and exercise routine – building a mindfulness practice into your workout is one of the best ways to get more out of both your physical body and your mind.
Here are five ways to incorporate mindfulness into your workouts.
Focus on breath
Taking control of the breath is a key to taking control of the mind. Pilates offers very specific instruction on breathing during movements, helping to pull the body and mind together, but not all workout systems do. At first, it’s not important to try to control the breath, only to observe your patterns of breathing and to be aware of the breath as it comes in and out of your body. No matter what exercise you’re doing, focusing on the breath is a great way stay in the moment.
There are other benefits as well. Focusing on breath helps you to get more out of your workout by sending more oxygen to the muscles and to the brain. During a workout you need that boost even more than when you’re just going about your everyday life. There’s a reason that breath control is a central point for so many exercise systems – it works!
Try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, and exhale during the work of the exercise. You’ll find that the more that you’re able to align your breath with your movement, the more you’ll be able to take control of your workouts and the easier it will be to let go of distractions so that your movements and your thinking can become one and the same.
A mantra is just a word or phrase that you repeat over and over again during meditation. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary or spiritual, but the effect of using a mantra is powerful. Mantras can help you to feel stronger and less like you want to give up. They can be incredibly empowering, propelling you forward when you don’t want to keep going. They focus the mind on the moment, pulling attention away from wandering thoughts and back to the reality of the here and now.
Here are some examples of mantras that you can say to yourself, either out loud or internally. And of course it’s great to come up with your own – use what works, because there are no rules!
- One movement at a time.
- My body is getting stronger.
- I am strong. I am powerful.
- My mind believes it, my body can achieve it.
- Just do it.
- I’m doing this for me.
Whatever kind of repeated word or phrase you find to be useful is what you should be using. It could be something as simple as repeating the word “focus” again and again, or something as complex as a quote from a favorite fitness hero. Whatever it is, incorporating a repeated word or phrase into your exercise is powerful.
Using the mind to the fullest extent often means thinking in new and innovative ways. While it’s true that our stated goal here is to use mindfulness to pull the body and mind together, sometimes the best way to do that is to disengage from the world around us. For instance you might visualize yourself speeding down a wooded path during a workout on a stationary bike, or running on the beach as you power down the treadmill.
Pulling your mind out of your current surroundings is a great way to help your body and mind to become in tune with one another. People who visualize during workouts often find that they can actually sense their bodies more effectively and that their form actually improves as they let go of distraction.
Be aware of your self-talk
You’re saying things to yourself, whether you realize it not. There is constantly a voice in the back of your mind that is offering a commentary on what’s going on inside you and around you. What is it saying? Is it encouraging you to move forward or is it holding you back? These are some significant questions to think about because negative self-talk can have a tremendously stifling effect on your ability to move forward and can even be the catalyst that pushes you back.
Once you’re aware of your self-talk, you’ll then be able to mold it into positive self-talk that will take you to the next level. Changing your inner dialogue can really help you to reach your goals. This is one area where tapping into the power of a mantra can help you to change the way you talk to yourself during a workout.
Focus on one thing
In order to bring mindfulness to your workout, focus on just one thing at a time. It truly doesn’t matter what you concentrate on – that part is entirely up to you and your coaches or mentors.
This might start with something as simple and straightforward as counting your steps or counting your breaths. You might focus on one spot straight in front of you or think hard about releasing tense muscles. You can even focus on the burn that you’re feeling, which can surprisingly actually make the sensation feel better! That’s because as you pull your attention to it, you learn to feel stronger and less afraid of the discomfort.
By pulling your attention directly to one specific thing, you’ll let go of distractions and keep yourself in the moment.
Whether you add in one or all of these mindfulness techniques into your workout, you’ll notice the results. Working out shouldn’t be a chore – it’s something that should make our bodies and minds feel invigorated, even as exercise challenges us. When you bring your body and mind together, movement can push them both to improve.