It can be so easy to really get lost in a workout and lose focus on movement patterns. I mean, how often do you work out while listening to music, thinking about your to-do lists, or even, dare I say it, browsing social media? You may even have yourself convinced that you’re a powerful multi-tasker, or that you need a distraction to get through your workout. However, really being mindful on focusing your movements can actually help you get the most out of your workouts and help speed up your results.
Sounds great in theory, but many people don’t quite understand what mindfulness even is. If you’re out of the loop, here’s a little breakdown. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be present. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. So what does it mean to combine mindfulness with exercise, and how does a less strenuous workout create better results?
What is a Mindful Based Workout?
Mindful workouts aren’t just for lower intensity workouts. Yes, mindful movements may require you to slow down, but not for lack of effort! In fact, this fundamental approach to exercise may utilize even more effort by exercising both the mental and physical body. Slowing down your movements and becoming intentional with your workouts allows you to gain better body awareness and really hone in on the signals your body sends you – this can increase your mind-muscle connection and even build strength while decreasing your risk of injury.
Like any form of movement, it’s important to find the type of mindful workouts that fit into your goals, lifestyle, and preferences. Here are some ways to help you focus on practicing mind-muscle connection:
Low-Intensity Interval Training
If you’ve heard of HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training, then you can probably deduct what Low-Intensity Interval Training, or LIIT, is. Much like its high-impact counterpart, Low-Intensity Interval Training workouts build off the principle of intervals or going all out for a short burst of time, followed by a short rest and recovery period. However, LIIT workouts are usually composed of more low-impact exercises to give you more opportunities to become present and connect your mind with your body.
You may not think of body scanning as a workout, but it is one of the secrets to optimizing your other sweat sessions. Body scanning is a form of meditation that helps bring awareness to each part of your body. It’s your opportunity to see where you may be holding additional tension that could disrupt your workouts and recovery. The goal is to bring enough awareness during your body scans so that you can activate the correct muscles during your workouts, increasing the effectiveness of your workouts and decreasing the chance of injury.
Remember all of those warm-up stretches we skipped or rushed in PE back in school? Turns out out those warm-up stretches were something we should have paid a little more attention to. Who knew? Dynamic stretching includes light exercises that take your body through its full range of movement and is a great way to warm up the body before a more strenuous workout session. The key to mindful movement is to get curious about how your body moves in space, what your limitations are, and where imbalances may be. For example, if you’re doing leg swings, you may notice your left hamstring is tighter than your right. This is your opportunity to breathe into the exercise, bring awareness to the tightness, and focus on relaxing.
Whether it’s a gentle yoga class, a mobility session, or guided meditation, recovery classes can help you progress in your mindful workouts. As you’re learning how to be present and aware of your body, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable at first. It can even be just as challenging as your other workouts. If your mind wanders, that’s okay! And know, these feelings come and go and could show up even after years of practicing mindfulness with exercise. The beauty is understanding there’s no perfect way to approach this mind-body practice. So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable and see where a more mindful, more gentle exercise session can benefit your overall fitness routine.
Benefits of Mindfulness During Exercise
Becoming mindfully focused on your workouts may be easier said than done. But in reality, it can be challenging to hone in on those skills while you’re listening to music, or getting easily distracted by social media. Do you have to be mindful for every workout? That may not be possible, especially if you learning this new skill. However, including a few mindful workouts in your weekly routine can help you start seeing some major benefits over time.
Mental Health Benefits
Becoming more present in your body and connecting to your breath can help you create more feelings of peace and calmness in your day. As a mom, for example, I know it’s easy to get caught up in the business of our schedules and the excitement of achieving. However, when we bring ourselves back to the present moment and give thanks for what we already have (and what’s coming), it helps us cultivate greater peace of mind. And greater peace of mind creates a better chance of prioritizing your health and fitting in your workouts.
Prioritizing being mindful in your workouts helps you become more reliable. By bringing awareness to your body, you’ll also start to cultivate better self-awareness and you’ll begin to understand your body better in movement. When you start to understand what throws you off your fitness goals, you can more easily navigate those moments and stay on track.
Better Physical Health
High-intensity workouts are effective, but getting injured because you aren’t aware of your form will only put you behind in your fitness goals. Being mindful in your fitness workouts helps you become more aware of your form in specific exercises to avoid injury or pain. Paying special attention to your form in each movement during strength training will help you maintain proper form and help you better master your movement patterns.
Better Exercise Satisfaction
When you aren’t present, you don’t savor the satisfaction of feeling your muscles ignite, sweat dripping down your back, or catching your breath after a hard circuit. Being present fully puts you in the zone and allows you to give the self-time you need to better yourself.
Focusing on mindful movement is just as important as moving in itself. When you are fully focused on the muscles you are working on and really put yourself in a mental space to understand how your body moves, you will grow a greater appreciation for your fitness and wellness practice as well as your body.