One of the fewer discussed benefits of regular exercise involves freeing your mind from the daily noise and clutter that sometimes overrun it. The gym is the perfect place to forget about your worries and release some stress, which is why practicing mindfulness in the process is a good idea. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of this method, as well as tips on how to achieve them.
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Zoning Out versus Working Out
When we work out, we tend to go with the flow: emerge in the music and let our bodies do all the work, while we think about nothing. Our minds roam free while our bodies repeat the exercises. It is a form of body-mind relaxation, and many enjoy it.
However, zoning out too much means that we lose the connection between what we do and the purpose of what we do. To put it more straightforward, if we do not practice mindfulness while we work out, we can easily overlook the power, the strengths, and the uplifted mood that we are building, besides muscles.
Why Practicing Mindfulness at the Gym Is Beneficial
What is mindfulness if not a bond between your body, thoughts, and feelings? Being aware of your body at the gym and following the trainer’s instructions is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some of the benefits of mindfulness that you will enjoy while working out.
1. It Allows You to Internalize the Workouts’ Purpose Better
Why do you work out? To lose weight, improve your health or gain some flexibility? When you start your exercises, think of their purpose. Each workout triggers a specific set of muscles and bones, which, in turn, help you achieve one or more of your gym goals.
When you connect yourself to your purposes, and you understand how the workout helps you achieve those goals, you will also gain more motivation and willingness to perform them.
2. It Improves your Workouts
Mindfulness at the gym functions in the same manner as mindfulness in the workplace: it helps you focus better on what you do, improving your productivity, with your body and mind becoming more efficient.
All exercises are effective when you do them the right way. Keeping an internal eye on your movements and noticing what and how your muscles react can lead to better muscle control and better workout results.
We all know that if we perform our squats poorly we will activate the wrong type of muscles. Instead, if you are mindful when you complete a deadlift, for instance, you will be more aware of your position and form, increasing the effectiveness of the movement.
Moreover, being mindful of your breathing improves some exercises and, consequently, the results you want to achieve in strength and flexibility.
3. It Keeps You Safe from Injuries
Acknowledging muscle soreness after a gym session is not quite the same thing as being mindful of how your body and mind feel. When you are practicing mindfulness at the gym, and you are paying attention to your body’s reactions and your feelings, you can avoid some exercises or, on the contrary, engage in others more intensely.
Instead of just pushing through an exercise blindly, because this is what you have to do, you can internalize the fact that the activity negatively affects your body (lower back pain or knee pain for instance). So, you can stop before you work your way out to a disaster or you can modify the exercise to have positive results instead of negative ones.
The best part is, however, that mindfulness sessions (at the gym or home) can help you alleviate physical pain. If you take a look at some of the newest mindfulness apps, you will find some help to overcome even some debilitating physical conditions.
4. It Increases Your Workout Satisfaction
It is a human rule to engage more openly in activities that bring you satisfaction and happiness. But is mindfulness at the gym compelling you to work out even more?
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, the more mindful you are at the gym, the more satisfied you will feel with your workout – and the more you will want to follow your fitness schedule.
In other words, mindfulness helps you stick to your workout routine and show up for more practice. Experts say it makes perfect sense: the second you understand the real goals of your workout, and you feel the changes in your body and mind, you will enjoy the results even more.
Now that we have seen the main benefits of mindfulness at the gym let’s look at how we can implement mindfulness in our fitness and workout routines!
How to Practice Mindfulness at the Gym
It will take you some training, but we are sure you will get the hang of it in no time. It all begins with setting the goals.
1. Set a Goal for Each Workout Session
We either want to lose weight or we want to boost our health through fitness training, but such goals are too general and too vague to work on in a mindfulness session. Instead, break down some purposes for each workout. You should pick attainable and satisfactory short-term goals, to keep you motivated and happy. Let’s see some examples:
- I will focus on my core muscles and perform the exercises right;
- I will burn X number of calories today;
- I am going to focus on muscle strength training for the rest of the session.
Some fitness specialists say you should set such smaller goals before you even reach the gym. If you are paying attention to them and playing with them in your mind, by the time you start working out, you will know exactly why you are there and what you have to do.
2. Return to the Reasons why You Exercise
Stress and worries govern every aspect of our lives. Oftentimes people feel they waste their time at the gym when they could be solving other more pressing problems instead. Some even allow their minds to wander to current work or life problems, which in turn stresses them even more.
When you notice yourself rushing through exercises, wondering when the session is over, or glimpsing at your watch, then stop and remember why you are there.
- The exercise is a priority for me because I want to improve my health;
- I work out because I want to start the work day with more energy and a better mood;
- I work out to stay in shape and lose weight;
- I exercise because I want to feel good about myself.
Your reasons are your own. Just remember to go back to them every time you feel you strayed.
3. Connect to Your Body
While you exercise, pay attention to each muscle in tension, each breath you take, and to each position, form, or ache your body experiences. Take your time to observe all the changes you go through while you work out, including your feelings. It is not a secret that physical exercise boosts our mood, but be mindful of how you experience such changes.
Before you begin any exercise, take note of your mood and energy levels and watch them with your inner eye as they transform and evolve. Be mindful of your heart rate, of your perspiration levels, of any pain you might feel. As we said above, besides avoiding injuries, you will be better at understanding what your body can do and what it tells you.
4. Cool Down at the End
Take note of your energy level and mood now that you have finished the workout session. How do you feel?
Allow yourself some time to cool down, stretch your body, breathe, and think about the changes that you have been through. Allow your muscles to relax while you check if you have reached your goals for the day. Take note of how you feel the workout’s effects on your body and soul.
Practice some gratefulness that you have managed to travel one step closer to your goals and even celebrate the changes by offering yourself a symbolic reward for the hard work you have done.
Just like meditation, mindfulness takes practice. Nevertheless, once you manage it, there is no stopping you to turn it into a lifestyle and implement it in all aspects of your life. Good luck!
This post was written by Barry Clarke. He is a fitness instructor with a degree in Human Nutrition. After work is done, he finds happiness and relaxation in writing. He is an editor at ProtectYourHealth, a blog that aims to be an important resource on topics like diets and workouts.