Have you considered the effect that focus has on exercise performance? Of course, it’s a fact that aerobic exercise is good for your physical health and is often accompanied by perks to emotional health by increasing the production of endorphins, while meditation is known to be beneficial to psychological health because it allows practitioners to relax, but is there a benefit to practicing meditation in relation to exercise?
For many people, being distracted while exercising has just become the norm. Your focus is bouncing back and forth between the kids, your “To do” list, and home and work obligations, all while trying to maintain form and skill in a workout.
In 2015, the Mayo Clinic published an article about practicing a form of meditation known as mindfulness during daily activities. If exercise is a regular element of your routine, there could be benefits to introducing mindfulness as part of your exercise regimen.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation where the participant practices intense awareness, sensation, and feeling of the environment at every moment.
The theory behind mindfulness is that planning and problem-solving can cause exhaustion and lead to negative reactions like depression and anxiety but mindfulness allows you to refocus attention away from negative, draining thoughts and engage in the activity, conversations, and people around you.
According to these principles, being mindful during exercise would allow you to disregard the distractions and have increased focus, and presumably increased energy and performance, during exercise.
What Does Mindfulness In Exercise Look Like?
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can train yourself in mindfulness using everyday tasks like eating a raisin or focusing on a conversation with a friend, but let’s talk about practicing mindfulness to improve your workout. What does it look like?
- Be punctual. If you are the person that lives in a constant state of over scheduled and running behind, you are being robbed of the chance to practice mindfulness. Arrive a few minutes prior to the start of a workout to create a game plan, plan a running route, or set up the equipment needed.
- Stretch/Warm-Up. This is an easy one to skip, especially if punctuality is a struggle! However, skipping a warm up and working out “cold” is detrimental to the success of an athlete. Not only is avoiding stretching damaging to your muscles and ligaments, it is a perfect opportunity to engage with your body and focus your mind for the workout ahead. It’s natural for your mind to wander during meditation, but with practice, being fully engaged in mindfulness becomes easier. Begin by closing your eyes and taking deep breaths. Activate each muscle that will be used in your workout while picturing the your muscles stretch and loosen.
- Envision the Movement. Whether you are lifting weights, running, or cycling, envision your body performing the desired movements with perfect fluidity and form. Think about the muscles that should be activated and the way your body will look as you move.
- Get in the Moment. As you exercise, focus only on what you are doing. This can be difficult in a group setting but begin by taking a deep breath, tightening your core abdominal muscles, and activating movement. Evaluate how your body feels. Are you comfortable? Does your body feel stable? Are you in pain?
- Correct and continue. Consider your evaluations and make modifications as needed.
Why Is Meditation Combined With Exercise Successful?
While it’s established that exercise and meditation are both beneficial to physical and emotional well-being, the difference is that aerobic exercise is energizing while meditation is relaxing.
Practicing mindfulness while stretching target muscles and engaging in breathing exercises can provide athletes with the focused energy needed to make successful gains in athletic performance.
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