Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment. But what exactly does it mean? The Oxford dictionary sums it up nicely – “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment.” OK, so think about your fitness routine. When you work out, are you totally present while you complete those sets, run that mile on the treadmill, or whatever exercise it is you’re performing? Or, like many of us, do you find you zone out and disconnect from what you’re actually doing? If it’s a yes to the latter, you may just be missing out on two crucial things needed for effective workouts – enjoyment and being present… We totally get that sometimes we do want to zone out when we exercise. Some people say they couldn’t get by without their daily run, which allows their minds to wander while their bodies do the physical work. It’s meditative in some ways. And walk into any public gym and you’ll no doubt see people watching TV as they perform bicep curls, or attempt to read a magazine as they glide back and forth on the cross trainer. Anything to pass the time and stop from clock-watching, right? But in order to achieve the most effective workouts and to feel good, less stressed and happy, we need to enjoy what we’re doing. And mindfulness is key. When you aren’t focused, how are you going to feel any sort of satisfaction from what you’re doing? Zoning out also often results in a habit of “going through the motions”. You’re exercising, but if your mind isn’t present, you can’t be performing to your best. Surely, if you’re going to spend time exercising, it’s better to use that time wisely. So with that said, how exactly do you become more mindful? Here are some of our tricks…
Slow yourself down
In order to avoid the dreaded training “plateau”, it’s important to not race through a workout. Take your time with your exercises, particularly resistance and bodyweight training. When you race through those squats and lunges, it’s very easy to compromise on form. Where appropriate, focus on the upward and downward motion of an exercise. Are you really performing those press ups correctly? Are you being a little lazy with the dumbbells on the downward push of those bicep curls? Slow things down, take time to breathe, and focus on the muscles you’re targeting, your core and your posture, and you’ll perform better and feel more satisfaction from what you’re doing.
Set aside dedicated time
With life being hectic for most of us, it’s inevitable that sometimes we do need to grab a quick workout whenever we can. However, generally, it’s important to set aside time for your workouts. If you’re always clock-watching, or thinking about that conference call you’ve got to make in 45 minutes, you won’t be present in your workout.
Try HIIT and other high energy training
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), boot camps and other high energy, focused workouts are brilliant because they include strategically-timed, reflective moments. For example, the rest or slow down periods you get in HIIT and Tabata workouts. The result of these introspective moments is a boost in mood and a greater enjoyment of the workout. With the constant change of exercise and timed periods of high energy, it’s so much easier to have fun, and definitely beats the relentless nature of running at the same pace for twenty minutes. This type of training is also proven to scorch calories, tone muscles and provide the Afterburn Effect. Basically, it means you continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished exercising. How delightfully satisfying.
Give each workout a motive
To focus and feel satisfaction, it’s a good idea to have a purpose when you train. A goal might be to strengthen a particular muscle group, to burn a set number of calories in that one session, train for a certain period of time, or simply to complete the workout you have planned for yourself.
Remember why you’re doing it
In order to stay focused, some people give themselves a mantra that they repeat to themselves whenever they feel they might be rushing, or getting distracted from, their workout. Think about why you’re exercising and how it’ll help you TODAY and tell yourself this. It could be something like, “If I focus, I know I’ll be in a great mood tonight”, or “I’ll be far more productive and happy at work today if I complete this workout”. Focus on being more mindful when you exercise and you’ll feel a stronger connection to your body and what you’re achieving. With awareness of what you’re doing, the quality of your exercise will improve so you can feel proud and satisfied that you’re getting the most out of it. You should also find you enjoy exercise more and don’t feel daunted or bored by the notion of another workout.