A good workout is most often defined as a sweaty, intense rush that will leave you feeling drained and gasping for air. What do you actually think about during these workouts though? Are you thinking about how much longer it’s going to take, what you’re going to be doing after or where you’d rather be? Instead of distracting yourself to push through your workouts, consider being more mindful in your routine for a more fulfilling and enjoyable time. This will help you keep a healthier and more regular schedule while improving both your physical and mental strength.
The mindfulness movement
The last decade has seen a rapid increase in the implementation of yoga and meditation practices as people become more aware of the importance of mental health and general wellbeing. What started as a niche has turned into a global movement. Meditation is becoming increasingly accessible as more people embrace mindfulness as a healthy habit in their daily routine. Apps like Headspace and Breathe help anyone take a brief moment to meditate even during their busiest days. With modern living only moving faster, the struggle to keep up with constant change can be a great source of stress and anxiety. More and more people are turning to meditation to step back from the craziness, recenter themselves and restore their energy.
The science behind mindfulness
Studies have shown meditation brings many benefits against both physical and mental conditions, from chronic pain to anxiety and depression. A 2010 study saw a direct correlation between mindfulness and healthy living. Participants who maintained mindful practices showed a more balanced relationship with exercise and a higher likelihood of maintaining a regular workout routine. Another study by Rutgers University showed that participants who combined meditation with their regular workouts saw a 40% decrease in their depressive symptoms.
“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression. But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.” - Robin Lally, Rutgers Today
While traditional workouts are centered around pushing through the pain, mindfulness helps you develop your mental strength for a more productive and enjoyable workout. By building a better connection to your body, you become more aware of the power and strength you are putting into your exercises, resulting in a better and more focused performance.
A mindful approach
Anyone can be a little more mindful. Here are only a few of the many ways you can integrate mindfulness into your workout routine:
Setting a purpose
Instead of distracting yourself through your workout to ease the pain, focus on a goal you want to achieve and the reason you are putting in this effort. Setting specific goals will help you focus your mental energy and accomplish a more productive workout. Reflect on why you choose to exercise, why it’s important to you and how it will help you. The best kind of motivation is one that comes from within.
Taking a moment to slow down and breathe can make all the difference in how you approach your workout. Taking your time to properly complete your exercises and keeping proper form will result in a much more effective workout. You can use your breath as an anchor throughout your workout to stay focused in the same way you would when meditating. You can also finish on a couple minutes of silent meditation to refocus your mind and energy and end your workout on a good note, making it more likely for you to keep up the routine.
Check your surroundings
Be aware of your surroundings as you workout. Note the sounds, air, feelings you experience from your environment as you exercise. Cut out distractions and focus your sole attention on the present moment. Put your phone on airplane mode and stay off the grid while you ground yourself and let your own mental strength power you through your workout.
Being more aware of yourself as you work out isn’t just about pacing yourself and slowing down, it’s changing the entire way you approach exercise. Stop feeling drained, exhausted and thinking of working out as a necessity or a chore. After a mindful workout, you will feel fulfilled, replenished and grateful for the experience. Instead of trying to keep up, take a moment to appreciate where you are. Your mind and body will thank you for it.