We all know mindfulness is important. But all too often, we forget that it’s not just limited to meditation. We don’t just practice mindfulness when we are sitting in a chair—with our eyes closed, our back straight (but relaxed!), and our feet on the floor.
Every moment offers opportunity for mindfulness—which is really just about paying attention and being in the moment. We can practice mindfulness when we are cooking dinner, spending time with our friends, attending a meeting; any and every part of your day offers an invitation to be mindful. And at aSweatLife, there’s a certain daily practice that we absolutely *love* integrating mindfulness into.
If you guessed it’s fitness—you’re right.
I often say that working out is my preferred form of meditation. What I mean by that is when I’m at the gym, I’m truly, fully present in the moment. I connect with my body and breath, and more often than not I leave the gym feeling more grounded and calm then when I got there.
Even more incredible is that when mindfulness is prioritized during fitness, I’ve noticed it’s not only my mind that benefits, but my whole body, too. Here are a few reasons why.
A mindful workout helps you focus on form.
If you’re fully present in your workout, you’re more likely to notice that your back is sending you a warning sign when you lift that way, or you really feel the burn of your squats when you shift your stance ever so slightly. Better form = better workouts.
Enjoy your workout more.
We all have days when the gym, or pool, or spin or yoga studio, etc. is the last place you want to be. When we still get ourselves there on those days, sometimes we continue torturing ourselves by thinking about how long the workout will be, or how you’re tired, or how you’d rather be at home on the couch. If you’re paying attention to how your body is responding to your efforts however, you’re opting out of that negative cycle and can better enjoy the good that you’re doing for your body. More present = more fun.
Set yourself on the right track for the rest of the day.
If you work out in the morning, starting your day with a mindful workout session can help calm your mind and get you in a better mindset about that upcoming meeting, or whatever else is up ahead. If you work out in the evening, it can ground you in a better headspace—stopping the stewing about what didn’t go right during the day and help you hit re-start. Mindful people = happy people!
Try these strategies for a mindful workout.
Warm up before, stretch after.
Both warming up and stretching are so important for your body. Not only do they help to maximize your workout and results, they also boost your mindfulness. How? Warming up first thing eases your mind and body into paying attention, and stretching seals in your practice by helping you notice how your body feels after a workout.
Cut out distractions.
Every now and then I discover a new podcast I love and just binge on it all hours of the day—including during my workouts. I quickly realized that the times I listened at the gym were not great workouts. You just can’t pay the same attention to your body if your mind is occupied with something else. Same goes with texting or taking phone calls (or really, any looking at your phone at all). Make a workout playlist ahead of time, put your phone on airplane mode, and let whatever is in your earbuds fuel you, not distract you.
Focus on core.
Focusing on your core (your abs) has a way of really zeroing in on how everything below and/or above it is working. To do so, focus on the feeling of your core as you squat, as you do bicep curls, downward dogs, etc. Keep it tight, and notice how subtle tweaks in how you hold your body activate it. That good burn will keep you focused on what your body is experiencing.
Mix it up.
Nothing gets your mind wandering faster than operating on autopilot. Keep your workout routine evolving, and aim to try something completely new every so often. If you usually strength train, try a yoga or barre class every now and then. A swimmer? See how a dance class works your body and keeps your brain ultra-focused. A great workout will keep your mind as engaged with the task at hand as your body is. Keep it fresh, and make your mindful workout fun!