How Mindful Meditation Enhances Your Workout
Think fitness is all about the physical? Think again.
There has been a growing interest in sport psychology to understand how to help athletes mentally optimize their performance. Recently, mindfulness training has risen as a viable approach to prepare athletes for optimal performance.
When we are able to concentrate completely on something, we enter a heightened state of awareness that has clear mind-body benefits.
Here are a few ways that meditation and exercise work together to benefit your workouts.
But First…What is Mindful Meditation?
Mindfulness is defined as “an open-hearted, moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness.” Mindfulness contributes to both high levels of awareness and acceptance of in-the-moment reality.
Most peoples’ minds swirl with thoughts about to-do’s, work, kids, etc. Mindful meditation brings you and your thoughts into the present, focusing your emotions and thoughts “in the now.”
Meditations techniques can vary. Some practices can take as long as 30 minutes, or be as short as 5 minutes a day. But generally, mindful meditation involves a breathing practice, mental imagery, awareness of mind and body, and stillness.
Motivates and Improves Your Exercise
Athletes who practice mindful meditation techniques were found to be more motivated to exercise regularly. They were also more satisfied with their workouts.
In a study, Division 1 collegiate female soccer players participated in 30 minute mindful meditation training session for sports (MMTS) over the course of twelve weeks. Participants were encouraged to practice meditation five to ten minutes each day, in addition to the MMTS program.
The emotional experience of the soccer players, including both negative and positive emotions, remained stable when comparing pre- and post-program data. In contrast, the comparison group experienced significant increases in negative emotions.
The athletes reported feeling an enhanced sense of mindfulness, which has been found to reduce performance anxiety, pressure, and stress. Mindfulness practice has also been associated with the ability to let go of negative thoughts, and to increase flow in one’s sport.
Prepares Your Mind AND Body For Exercise
People tend to associate mediation with yoga poses. But meditation can be beneficial to all forms of exercise–from personal training to group fitness to extreme sports. Meditation focuses your attention and energy. It is an excellent way to prepare both your mind and body for exercise.
Before any workout, just take a few moments to center your thoughts with a couple deep, conscious breaths. Focus on where you are instead of thinking about work or what you’ll be making for dinner. Be fully present for the next 30-60 minutes of your workout.
Meditation can help you get the most out of your workout. It helps you stay motivated, inspires you to be efficient, and prevents you from getting bored.
Keep Your Focused On Your Workout
Do you ever catch yourself mid-routine realizing you’ve been mindlessly following along with the motions? A meditation practice can keep your mind focused on your workout, instead of wandering off to other thoughts and distractions.
The heightened sense of awareness also helps you discern when to push yourself harder and when you need to back off. Better alignment with your body helps you recognize the difference between true exhaustion and lack of willpower.
Meditation allows you to be unbiased and see things more clearly, so you can push yourself to reach your fitness goals without straining past your limits or causing injury to yourself.
Improve Overall Health and Well-Being
An overwhelming amount of research that suggests that meditation has a significant impact on your mental health and overall well-being, especially when paired with exercise. Many people say they feel a greater sense of peace, calm, happiness, and contentment after meditating. And both meditation and exercise have proven beneficial in the treatment of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mood disorders.
Further evidence indicates that meditation has deeper health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, relieve stress, improve heart health, and boost your immune system. It’s even been linked to promoting better sleeping, helping you think more clearly, and cultivate a positive mindset.
How To Incorporate Mindful Meditation
The amount of time you spend meditating is not crucial. The key is to just make time to slow down and acknowledge yourself in the present. Whether your meditation is taking five breaths before starting your workout or taking a longer guided class, the main goal is to create a habit where you set aside enough time to be fully present in the moment.
Being healthy is more than just meeting a fitness goal. It’s about finding peace, balance, and gratitude in your life as well.