While we all understand the benefits which regular exercise can provide our bodies, less emphasis is placed on the benefits of Mindful Exercising. Many people utilise exercise as a form of mindful meditation in itself (e.g. running or walking) in order to distance themselves from stress or daily issues. While this is productive, there are many other facets to practising mindfulness during a regular exercise routine.
Breathing deeply and focusing your thoughts on your intake and release of air immediately anchors your attention to the moment. Physically breathing and choosing to notice how you do so anchor you in the present moment. This is understood as the ultimate goal of mindfulness. As well as this, by focusing on your breathing during exercise you become more in tune with your body’s rhythm and its natural limits.
Try to disengage with your electronic devices. This includes iPods, iPads, mp3 players, pod casts etc. While these are usually employed to distract from the difficulty of exercise, they also cause you to disconnect from your body. Throughout the workout choose to focus intently on the movements of your body and the physical sensations. Listen and feel the limits of your body. If you are tired, choose to take a rest day or incorporate a stretch session into your regime.
Listening to your body both during and outside of an exercise regime is essential. If you are feeling drained, take a few days of rest to allow your body to recover. It is easy to be drawn into the “all or nothing” mindset of extreme training for the perfect body. Too often this kind of mentality leads to overtraining, injury, and mental fatigue. Practising self-compassion is an extra element which is imperative for your mental and physical health.
Prior to each workout decide what your goal for that particular session will be. By doing so, you make it easier for yourself to achieve your goals. Remind yourself of this goal throughout the exercise so that you focus your thoughts. Other thoughts may stray and capture your attention for a short period during the workout, but this is perfectly normal. The more frequently you practice this technique, the easier it will become.
While the above may be somewhat simplistic and obvious in nature, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that, through frequent incorporation into your daily exercise routine, they not only improve your mental wellbeing but also have an overarching benefit to your physical capabilities and limitations. This is achieved as you grow more comfortable and aware of your body as well as its limits.