6 ways to get more out of your life and exercise.
New Year’s has come and gone. Maybe you’re still hanging in there with your diet and fitness resolutions… and maybe you’re not quite as committed as you thought you might be. Maybe you’re making those excuses. “Well, I know I’m committed and I know it’s a lifestyle change and look, I have all year to make this whole fitness thing a regular part of my schedule. I have work, I have the kids,” you tell yourself. Meanwhile, you let that little voice inside your head get the best of you! It gnaws away at your best intentions. It’s like the acid that seeps through floor and ruins the house. Stop it! Stop it now, before it’s too late.
If you’re anything of an exercise person you can consider yourself an athlete for the time being. Hopefully for life, because the simple definition of an athlete is someone proficient is sports and or other forms of exercise. And the definition of proficient is able. So yes, whether you believe it or not, you are an athlete. You don’t have to be a professional, you can be a weekend warrior. You can be a once a week yoga person. You can be a twice a week hiker or Soul Cycle junkie. Maybe you like to move your booty in Zumba class. Maybe you’re a dad with a couple of little ones at home and your gym consists of chasing them around, throwing the little guys up and catching them before they hit the ground. (Please don’t let them hit the ground!) Congratulations you’re a “Dathlete.”
Regardless, I’m talking to you. It’s time we bring more mindfulness into our life and our athletics. Mindfulness is just like it sounds, simply bringing attention to what we’re doing. Whether we’re sitting in meditation or doing a sprint triathlon, we can be more mindful. What happens when we’re more mindful? We begin to slow down a bit, we begin to take in all the experiences with a bit more awareness. We begin to accept things as they are and lessen the internal conflict that happens in our lives, and more importantly, in our minds. We begin to appreciate every moment regardless what our mind tells us about the moment. We become more grateful for what is instead of kicking happiness down the road and constantly saying, “I’ll be happy when…fill in the blank.”
So the next time you head out for a workout, see if you can be more mindful. When you are squatting into that deep lunge, make sure you feel those glutes. Pay attention to how it feels and get the most out of it. Don’t just turn the music up, zone out, or think about your work day. On your run, pay attention to the ground. How does it feel to land with one foot as opposed to the other. What is your breath doing? On your bike, you better be mindful or you might get hit by a car. Accidents can be prevented by being more mindful. So much of our lives are spent thinking, mindfulness draws the attention away from thinking about the outside world and focuses on the present moment awareness. And it may actually foster a little reflection. A little self introspection. A little more understanding of our behavior, our motivation, and our choices.
How do you feel now? Are you hunched over? Are you aware of your breathing? We don’t know how many breaths we have left in this wonderful life and it would be a shame if we didn’t pay attention to as many as we can. Try these 6 mindful techniques the next time you’re working out or driving to work.
1. Focus on your breathing. It’s mostly good to work on controlling the breath, particularly slowing it down. If you can slow down your breath, you will slow your heart rate. And if you’re looking to push yourself in your sport, this will definitely increase your performance.
2. Body Scan. A very common Mindfulness technique, being aware of your body. Are your shoulders relaxed? Is your face tense or your tongue pressing into the roof of your mouth? Do your best to use the muscles you need and relax everything else.
3. Focus on Form. Another technique to increase your performance. If we slow down and bit and avoid rushing through our exercises we’ll be forced to use more muscle. We’ll cheat less and work harder. It’s the job of every personal trainer to inspire his or her clients to have better form.
4. Rest in awareness. And work in awareness. While meditating you can rest in awareness and understand that you are a human being and not a human doing. It’s incredibly powerful. While you’re working out it’s better to work in awareness. Be aware of your movements, your breath, your impact on yourself.
5. Prevent Injuries. Being more mindful of every moment, every action and every breath will only help you avoid injuries because you become so much more aware of what works for your body and more importantly what doesn’t.
6. Enjoy more. As you get more familiar with Mindfulness and exercising in this way, you’ll begin to enjoy it a bit more. Instead of going to a smelly gym to workout, you might take yourself outside and be in nature, on the trails, breathing in the smells of Mother Earth while you run, hike, or bike.
Here are a few great resources to get you started in Mindfulness. One key aspect of Mindfulness meditation is to understand that whatever you’re doing, let it be the most important thing that you’re doing. When you’re showering, shower. Don’t think about your schedule. When you’re doing the dishes, do the dishes. Don’t think about getting back to your dessert or glass of wine. When you’re walking just walk. When you’re eating eat. And begin to experience the profundity of every moment.
Free Guided Meditations at UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
Weekly Podcast Mindful Meditation at the Hammer
Mindfulness peace on 60minutes with Anderson Cooper
Photo Credit: teddymcdonald.com