Let’s get one thing straight: there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting in your AirPods and listening to some tunes when you’re going for a run. There is also nothing wrong with zoning out while you’re sweating your ass off on the elliptical. And be honest, mindlessly hitting a punching bag is great for releasing negative emotions. However, if you’re always on autopilot, you’re missing out. Constantly being distracted during workouts means disconnecting with your body. This results in your exercises being less effective, which will inevitably lead to hitting a plateau, slowed progress or no progress at all. Therefore, I’d like to challenge you to switch up your mindless workouts with mindful exercise.
The benefits of mindful exercise
Mindful exercise can help to increase your performance, improve your form and technique and prevent injuries. Being present during your workout means moving with intention. This really enables you to tune into your body and get a better understanding about what’s going on during the exercises that you do. Not just physically, but also mentally. This will increase the release of endorphins, those chemicals that make you feel so good during and after training. Regularly working up a good sweat in a mindful way will also help you to stick to your workout plan and ultimately reach your fitness goals.
How to bring more mindfulness into your workouts
Below, we’ve listed five tips to help you bring more mindfulness into your workouts:
#1. Start every workout by setting an intention
Mindful exercise starts before your workout. Take a minute or so before you start to set an intention for this specific training. It can be something like “I will stay present and aware during this workout”, “I will find joy in every exercise I perform today” or “I will make the barbell my **** today”.
It can be easy to forget your intention once you get going, especially if you have a habit of ‘going through the motions’. If you’re doing a home workout, you can write your intention on a piece of paper and stick it to your mat. If you’re going to the gym, you can write a reminder on your wrist.
#2. Focus on your breath
You may have seen this one coming, but it’s one of the best ways to practise mindful exercise. If you’re doing cardio, you have to focus on your breath. If you don’t, you’re not going to get far – or you’ll be forced to terminate your workout because of side pains and cramps. When you finish a session, how long does it take you to get your breath back to normal? But even when you’re doing (body)weight training, it is good to pay attention to your breath. How ARE you breathing now? Are you breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth? In and out at the right moments? When you’re doing push ups, are you breathing out at the top of your push up or when you lower down? How about with deadlifts?
#3. Pay more attention to your body during your workout
Mindful exercise can be challenging at first, especially when you’re so used to zoning out and going through the motions. But being mindful is something you can train, just like your muscles. Once you notice your mind starts to wander to last night’s date or tomorrow’s to-do list, gently bring your awareness back to your exercise.
#4. Create room for workouts without distractions
Like we mentioned before, it’s totally okay to alternate with workouts where you just zone out and go without thinking. But make sure to also create space for mindful exercise. It’s up to you how you want to shape those. It might be a quiet home workout in solitude. Or going for a run without your headphones, and listening to the sounds of your own footsteps, your own breathing, the birds, the wind, the rustling leaves. It’s a completely different experience.
#5. Check in with yourself afterwards
Many of us have a tendency of diving right back into their daily routine after they’re done working out. But a more mindful approach to fitness works best if you take some time after your workout to check in with yourself. This doesn’t have to take long. You can, for example, reflect on your workout when you’re in the shower, or while you’re doing a cooldown with some stretches, or when you’re walking home from the gym. For those who are really dedicated: buy yourself a pretty notebook and write down a few lines about what you did during your workout, how you feel now, and what you want to work on next time.