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fitness & mindfulness

The idea for this blog post came up in discussions with our Sports Psychologist - Sidd Sampla and we talked about how fitness training is the perfect scenario to be practicing mindfulness as it provides a perfect opportunity to experience being with discomfort. So let's look at how they can work together.

Some Background:

  • Personally, I feel we sometimes look at fitness in isolation and we are only thinking of what the physical benefits of the training, the physiological adaptations you can gain from specific types of training. But generally, we rarely consider the psychological benefits and how we can become mentally stronger from it which can potentially have an even greater benefit on race-day performance.

  • One of the biggest challenges with training regularly are what we call ‘Barriers’ to training, this is when we come up with all those reasons in our head not to trai. E.g I don’t feel like it, I’m too tired, don’t feel 100%, it’s going to feel horrible, I can’t do that today, I’ll do it tomorrow – next week/month – keep putting it off etc. All of these would also be good examples of not being mindful as we aren’t in the moment of just doing, but thinking of what it will be like and what has happened before as reasons not to do it.

  • So, if we apply mindfulness into these situations and we are able to be aware of our mind drifting off to these ‘barriers or excuses’ and we can bring it back to be focused in the moment of right – I’m just going to get out the door – to the gym, for a run/ride etc and once you are there getting started you’ll be away – once we have started we usually see it through to the end.

Benefits of integrating mindfulness into your fitness training:

  • Being present with our movements, nutrition, and approach to fitness will always bring better results. Being more mindful can help prevent injury, elevate performance, and ultimately better understand one’s self.

  • In addition, being mindful may provide a unique opportunity to enhance enjoyment of exercise and in turn help you stick with your exercise goals, which ultimately would lead to better results. Mindful movement allows us to tune into our bodies and get moving in a way that is intentional, which can lead to higher satisfaction of the workout as we know we just did something beneficial for our health. 

How can we do it?

  1. Set an intention - Before starting a workout, set an intention. Having something to focus on during a difficult part of the workout reminds you of what you’re working for, and therefore is something to feel good about. 

  2. Focus on your breath. Becoming more present with your breath helps bring awareness to your movement. After practicing a basic breath practice you can then bring your mindful approach more intentionally to your training and every exercise in your program. In your next workout, pause before a challenging exercise and take a couple light, slow, and low breaths.

  3. Pay attention to your body during exercise. Practicing mindfulness during an exercise can be tricky as our minds tend to either zone out or for example, start thinking of our to-do list. Although this is normal, try bringing your awareness back to your exercise when you lose focus. A great way of doing this particularly with strength/resistance training is to visualise during the exercise – focus on the muscle(s) you are training – the movement itself, the range of motion etc. Really feel and be aware of what is happening in those muscles and joints producing the movement. Studies have shown visualising during the exercises to be really effective and improve your performance of the exercise.

  4. Find a quiet environment. To help limit distractions, try to find a quiet place to do your workout. No music, podcast, audio book or TV, avoid those distractions which take your mind off of your body and the workout. Whether you find a quiet room, or out in nature. This is a really interesting one as what we see the majority of people doing when they workout is distracting themselves from what they are doing to get through it by using music  watching videos on phone, podcasts etc. However we should consider is this actually  helping us at all in terms of our overall performance? Ok, music has proven to improve physical performance during the exercise – but if we can use mindfulness to bring the mind back to the exercise itself and what the intention of the training is (as above) and condition ourselves to do this whilst experiencing the discomfort during training – we are going to be much stronger mentally and also be more likely to be able to do this when experiencing the pressures during competition.



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