I’m sure you have heard a thing or two about mindfulness and its benefits. It’s become a pretty hip topic…and for good reason. The benefits of mindfulness are far reaching, and we are really only beginning to understand them as a society. Mindfulness education and trainings are popping up in schools and the workplace. Prisons are even seeing the impact of educating their inmates on how to be more “mindful.” .
Psyhcology Today defines mindfulness as being the state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad.
If this behavior shift can improve students’ focus, employees’ productivity and executives’ stress levels, can this impact you in your workouts? The answer is, as you may have guessed, a resounding YES. Bringing a mindful approach to your workouts has a lengthy list of benefits. You have likely already experienced a taste of mindfulness if you have ever taken a yoga class. Mindfulness isn’t just beneficial on your yoga mat though. You can apply the practice just about anywhere and in any type of workout. Just imagine being able to reap tangible results in less time, lowering overall stress levels, experiencing an elevated state of happiness, clearer thoughts and laser focus and so much more. I mean, hello! Sign. Me. Up! Am I right!!!???
I believe wholeheartedly in mindfulness and its benefits. I have been applying a mindful approach to my own workouts for some time and it has been transformative. More recently, I have incorporated it into the classes I teach and it is an integral part of my Cultivate365 program. If all this talk has peaked your interest, here are five easy strategies you can implement to start reaping the benefits immediately.
1) Step Away From Your Phone
As tempting as it is to keep your phone nearby during your workout it’s best to tuck it away in your gym bag or locker. I know you’re likely waiting on an important email or return call. The problem is when motivation wavers or when sipping your water, it’s super tempting to open up Instagram or Snapchat for a quick peek and boom several minutes later you’re still staring at your phone. Instagram is not gonna help you sculpt those muscles or PR your next half marathon, much less help you feel more connected to your body and feel less stressed. When you interrupt the flow of your workout, you bring in a subtle state of increased mental stress that can counteract the good feel good endorphins and fat burning hormones you had started to unleash only moments before.
2) Set an Intention or Goal
Prior to jumping into your workout, take a moment to consider what you want to achieve during your workout. Taking the time to define a goal or intention will set the tone and serve as a compass during your workout. This is something you can return to if motivation dips or focus is lost. It can be something simple like improved mood or increased energy. Honestly, it can be anything you choose but it has to be realistic…..six pack abs aren’t the result of one workout, and focusing only on a superficial goal or motivation can be really destructive to your psyche.
3) Connect to your breath
Almost every yoga class I have ever taken — and definitely all the ones I teach — begin by creating space to connect to the breath. Applying this to your workouts is beyond beneficial. Your breath is your life force. Harness its power and use it wisely. My favorite breath technique to use before a workout, and pretty much anytime you need to be uplifted or change the channel, is 4-7-8 Breath. So before you hop on the treadmill or hit the weightroom try it.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
4) Do a body Scan
You have put the phone away, you set a goal or intention, you connected to your breath, and now it’s time to check in with your physical body. Close your eyes and do a quick body scan. Begin with your head, move down to the shoulders, and proceed downwards to each section of your body. With each check-in you want to just notice the sensations you have in that region. Are your shoulders tight? Is your back achy? You are simply noticing and acknowledging the feelings. Send love and gratitude to the areas that have been working especially hard. It only takes a minute or two to do this. It’s a great habit to get into both before and after your workout.
5) Don’t Ditch the Stretch
As tempting as it is to run out the door after a sweat sesh, please DON’T!! You don’t need to spend 30 minutes stretching every muscle, although if you have the luxury of time I certainly would. Allowing a few minutes to stretch post workout is so critical, not only to shape sleek pliable muscles, but to let the work invested integrate into your body and mind. So rather than running out the door and off to the frenzied pace we all are trying to keep, take a moment to honor your amazing body and all it just did. Let it sink in and connect to your mind. I promise if you can give yourself these few extra minutes you will absolutely not regret it.
Mindfulness is a practice…..so perfection is not required
Here is to creating more efficient and effective workouts through a mindful approach!!
Love and Lunges