Why is Mindfulness Important for Your Workout?
Working out is great and all. The fitness gains. The boosted levels of feel-good hormones like serotonin.
But, did you know adding mindfulness to your workout can take your physical and mental health to the next level?
Before we dig into the many positive effects of mindfulness on your workout, let's explain what makes a workout “mindful.”
What does Mindful Workout mean?
A mindful workout is part of the holistic approach to physical activities. It can be a very effective way to help you understand what is happening in your body. You can then use the acquired knowledge to improve your physical and mental strength.
The closer you are to nature during a mindful workout, the better. That means, leaving your headphones at home so you’re better able to tune into all of your senses. The idea is to become aware of every breath and sensation in your body while executing different movements.
Mindfulness during a workout also includes mentally being present in the moment – that is, becoming aware of your thoughts, any potential limitations or discomfort, and the sensation of your body connecting with the ground. This helps you more deeply experience every minute of your workout to get the most out of it.
How Does Mindfulness Affect Your Workout?
By actively concentrating on your mind and body – without thinking about your speed, distance, personal records, and the like – you reduce external distractions which allows you to be more relaxed during your workout.
By maintaining internal focus, you enable yourself to manage potential limitations better because you are focused on the various sensations in your body. Thus, injuries are less likely to happen as you'll notice the signs of discomfort and more readily be able to identify your limitations (i.e. what to work on expanding).
The first thing to remember when practicing mindful workouts is to breathe in through your nose (vs. breathing in through your mouth). Nose breathing helps your body relax and get into right mode for maximum benefit (including enhanced endurance).
Mindfulness is all about the mind-body connection, so try to keep the inner conversation with your body.
Let go of the social expectations and social distractions, timing, tracking devices, points (or anything similar) which can shift your focus from internal feelings to external activities and objects. Avoid measuring time; instead, think about technique.
To start (before you start your workout), do some quick prep for the mindful experience. Do a quick meditation to get out of the state of stress so you’re in the right mindset for quality physical activity. You don’t need to do this for long, five or ten minutes of deep breathing and mindfulness exercises is enough to get you in the right state of mind for your workout.
In practice: Mindful Running
Let's take mindful running as a practical example of the benefits of mindful workouts.
Once you've done the prep work, it is time to engage your focus on your sensations and mind. Start slowly and listen to your body to adjust your pace Monitor your physical sensations as you speed up or slow down.
Common sensations you might experience include an increase in heart and breath rate, a warming sensation in your body, muscles activating. Simply placing your focus on these sensations (vs. how long you’ve been exercising, or how many calories you’ve burnt according to your smartwatch) will go a long way in making your workouts more enjoyable, and give you better after-effects.
The idea is to maintain that state of mind and internal focus while running, without thinking about the sensations. You want to mindfully feel them.
What about your thoughts during a mindful workout?
Once you maintain the awareness of bodily sensations, focus on your mind. Stop replaying situations and scenarios in your head, and use running (or any other workout) as a time to express gratitude for your physical health.
If you feel like your thoughts are getting out of control, focus on breathing. It will quickly help you get back into a calmer state and re-gain control over your mindful workout.
Again, avoid thinking about the end line; try to stay focused on feeling every step and movement. Slowly, you'll increase your abilities and enjoy your workouts more!
Will you be mixing mindful workouts into your regime? Let us know how your health & fitness journey is going in the comments!
And if this article helped you, it may help someone else, too. Please consider sharing it with friends or family who might benefit.