“If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh
When most of us think of meditation we think of sitting cross-legged, silently with our eyes closed while we try to clear our minds of all thoughts. We bat the nagging thoughts away like tennis balls as they pop into our heads…what should I make for dinner? *whack* I wonder why yawns are contagious but sneezes aren’t? *whack*
Daily meditation has numerous benefits including enhancing mental clarity and focus, increasing feelings of peace and well-being and decreasing stress and depression. It also helps lower blood pressure and lessens your chances of developing heart disease. But what if I told you that you could also benefit from incorporating meditation techniques into other daily activities, including exercise?
Meditation is all about mindfulness which is a state of active, open attention on the present. To be mindful means that rather than coasting on autopilot, you slow down and pay attention to each moment as it comes and each detail within that moment.
Bringing mindfulness to your workouts can improve your concentration and technique. It can help you shift your experience from resistance and struggle to calm and endurance. It can also help you harness all the mental strength you need to perform like the badass that you are.
Here are 5 ways you can incorporate mindfulness and meditation tactics to any workout.
Moderate your breathing
How often do you catch yourself holding your breath during a challenging move? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Just try to make it a goal to pay more attention to your breathing patterns.
Focusing on your breath can help you find the rhythm that will carry you through difficult moments. Whether you’re running, cycling or lifting weights, paying attention to your breathing patterns can not only ease your mind when things get tough, it can help your body deliver oxygen-rich blood to your hard-working muscles. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth (exhaling during exertion). Breathe in strength and breathe out power.
Mantras are repeated words or phrases often used in meditation. The word mantra is said to come from a root meaning “that which protects the mind.” Mantras can be encouraging when you feel like giving up. Make your mantra something unique that will motivate you.
Your mantra can be empowering:
I am strong! I am powerful! I’m a badass! I’ve got this!
Your mantra can be encouraging:
I’m getting stronger! My body was built for this! Keep pushing!
Your mantra can even use some humor:
Sweat like a pig to look like a fox! I am a golden god! Adriaaaan!
There are no rules. Find the mantra (or mantras) that speak to you and repeat them over and over until you believe them.
Visualization is a powerful tool that can help take your mind off the burn your muscles are feeling. For example, you can visualize yourself zipping down a beautiful path to the coast while you’re on your stationary bike. Try to feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, leave no detail out.
Visualization doesn’t have to have a “mellowing-out” affect, it can also speed you up or add intensity. If you need to add some adrenaline to your workout you can visualize that you’re being chased by brain-craving zombies! You’re much less likely to stop if you think you’re about to be eaten. You can also imagine you are a secret agent on a mission who needs to pull up on TRX cables or lunge and squat through laser fields. Use your imagination and have some fun!
Regulate your self-talk
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all have a voice in the back of our minds narrating our lives. If you’re lucky, yours is a positive and uplifting narrator like Morgan Freeman or Wilford Brimley, encouraging you to go get em kiddo!
Unfortunately many of us have a nagging voice that shouts things like you aren’t strong enough or it’s too hard! The mind is a very powerful tool and can be the determining factor in whether you sink or swim. Replace those negative thoughts with mantras. Remember how powerful your thoughts are and make sure they’re working for you, not against you.
Focus on one thing
Incorporating mindfulness is all about focusing on one thing at a time. What you choose to concentrate on is entirely up to you. You could start by counting your reps during each set or counting your breath as you inhale and exhale. You could stare at one spot on the floor if you’re trying to hold a long plank position or balance on one leg. You could concentrate on your form and the sensations of the muscles you are targeting as they contract with your efforts. Let your mind find it’s zone and you will be less focused on the burn. And remember, don’t hate the burn. The burn is your friend, it means you’re getting stronger!
Try incorporating some, or all, of these mindful techniques into your future workouts and notice if you experience any improvements. You can endure so much more than you realize and just a sprinkle of zen can give you the boost you need. Keep up the great work!