Exercise isn’t just good for your body - it’s a great way to relax your mind. In fact, it’s one of the best (if not the best) ways to manage your stress levels. Alex Jones from Start Fitness shares some of his top tips for practicing mindfulness during your training sessions.
A workout isn’t all about the physical benefits, as anyone who has experienced a ‘runner’s high’ after a long run can attest to. There’s a whole lot more to it than muscle building or stamina maintenance - you can reset your mindset and banish the worries that linger on from the working day.
In this post, we’ll touch on one of the most popular forms of meditation: mindfulness - and see how it intersects with workouts to produce a feeling of contented bliss while working out.
You might tend to distract yourself from a workout, either with some music, a podcast or even a TV at the front of your treadmill. While this might help you go a little further on your run, or aid you to power through a tough set of reps, you’re not really present in the moment, are you?
If you think that being present and mindful will do nothing but remind you of your burning muscles and heavy breathing, then you are mistaken. Being mindful during your workout can help you gain a stronger connection with your body, so you’re more aware of the individual muscles you’re working on.
This can improve the overall effectiveness of your workout, as you’ll be more aware of when you’re going off track. In fact, you burn more calories when you really put your mind into exercising.
Occupy the present
If you have an always-on kind of mind, exacerbated by a long working day and an entrepreneurial side-hustle, you might not be able to fully relax or take stock of your day. If your workout is in the middle of all of this business, you might end up blasting through it without a second thought.
Adding a dash of mindfulness to your workout will help you avoid burnout later on. Taking stock, focusing on your body by finding your breath, and being mindful of what you’re experiencing in that moment (not worrying about work) will help you in more ways than you can count. Try, for example, breathing in time to your workout. Breathe in deeply as you lift your weights then exhale to the count of three as you lower the weights back down.
Rest, recharge, revitalise
An emerging trend amongst exercise classes is to intersperse HIIT (high-intensity interval training) with periods of mindfulness and group meditation. Adherents of this type of class claim that these small, mindful breaks help the workout flow a whole lot better.
Various wellness retreats and classes offer mindfulness infused, intense workouts, as an antidote to the all-action, feel-the-burn style of workout that has dominated the fitness landscape over the last few years. The result is longer classes that’ll feel more beneficial to mind and body.
Set achievable goals
Remember, when you train, that true strength takes consistent effort over a long period of time. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting to go from zero to 100 reps instantly. Start small and make sure your training plan is something that you’ll be able to stick to, not just in the first few weeks of January - but for the entire year ahead!
If you’re a perennial procrastinator when it comes to new year resolutions, a mindful workout plan in January might be the answer. It’s a little different to your average workout, and it could help you achieve the goals you’ve always strived for - instead of petering out by mid February like so many other resolutions.
Looking to get fit in the new year? Don’t forget to ask for season fitness gear such as winter cycling equipment for Christmas (to help motivate you to train), and get your DNAFit test done, so you’ll be able to optimise your mindful new year workout to your specific genetic profile.
Alex Jones is a features writer for Start Fitness - providers of running, cycling, gym, football and outdoor products.