How Mindfulness Can Improve Your Workouts
Ever think about what your mind is doing during your workout? Mindfulness during exercise allows you to focus your attention inward so you can tune into your body as it moves, feel a stronger connection to your muscles, and achieve better results in less time.
Thought is a powerful thing. If your thoughts are elsewhere during your workout-- say thinking about your to-do list, the project deadline, or if you put the clothes in the dryer-- then your muscles and cardiovascular system aren’t getting the full attention they deserve
Conversely, if you focus too much on whether you are doing enough, doing everything right, or working at the right capacity you lose touch with that mind-body connection. The more you turn your mind off from everything else going on in life, then greater satisfaction you will have with your workouts.
Becoming mindful during exercise means you shift focus from your external world so that you can focus on your breath, how your muscles feels and contract, how your feet hit the pavement when you run, and what your stride feels like.
When a client or workout member tells me she doesn’t feel an exercise, I often attribute it to lack of mindfulness and body awareness rather than something being too easy or muscles not firing properly.
In fact, my strongest clients put less energy and effort into an exercise and pay greater attention to how their body feels, what muscles are working, and the timing and cadence of their breath during movement.
How To Practice Mindfulness During Exercise:
- When lifting weights, focus your attention on the muscles at work. Don’t let your mind wander and don’t think too much about whether you are using enough weight, counted your reps correctly, or are following technique to the letter. Let your mind connect with the muscle so you feel the contraction from start to finish.
- If unrelated thoughts come up, let them pass and don’t give them too much attention. Divert your attention from others in the room and let the noise fade into the background.
- Time your breath to the cadence of your workout. Breathing is important to muscle growth, cardiovascular health, and hormone regulation during exercise. Learning to breathe properly with a 360-degree expansion of the ribs, chest, abdomen, and back will help you return to resting heart rate between bouts of exercise, and return to the parasympathetic state when you are finished.
- During endurance exercise, pay attention to how your body moves in unison. Time your breath with your stride, feel your feet hit the pavement or push the pedals, and allow your body to feel weightless as your breath expands through your ribs.
- Avoid distractions like your phone, long conversations, watching television, reading magazines, or listening to podcasts and books that require a great deal of attention.
Ways To Increase Mindfulness Motivation
Like anything else, when you try mindfulness during exercise for the first time you will likely be all in. However, that motivation may disappear when life gets busy and stressful.
To stay motivated, here are some mindfulness techniques:
- Set your intention when you show up to exercise: Having an intention for your workout is a great way to keep your head in the game. If you aren’t really feeling it, tell yourself WHY you want to exercise.
How will it make you feel? What benefits is it bringing to your body? How will it improve your life?
- Have a clear purpose for each workout. Whether it’s to get in a good mile run, work your upper body, improve your squat technique, learn inversions in yoga, or any other number of goals-- heading into a workout with a purpose will help you stay motivated.
- Don’t forget to breath. Focusing on your breath during exercise is key to improving muscle growth and endurance, reduce pain, and improve your hormone profile. Breathing helps relax our body and release all those lovely feel good hormones we get from exercise.
Next time you head to the gym or hit the road, get in tune with your body and the work required to perform the exercise. The more focused you are, the greater your body will respond.