Eating a raisin slowly is all the rage, and while it is proven that eating mindfully helps you be aware of your portions and digest better, we do forget another health activity where mindfulness may be required: during exercise.
Exercise often puts us in a space of physical discomfort, and people naturally turn to escaping via music or thinking, and are not really present in the room where they are exercising. However, there are a few problems in this approach.
Firstly, breathing is important to most exercise, be it cardiovascular work, strength training or any of the newer workout combinations. However, when working out mindlessly, we often do not breathe properly, often holding the breath or not breathing deeply. This affects not only how much the exercise would benefit us, but also muscle restoration post workout.
Secondly, posture is super important for most workouts. However, when mindlessly working out, it may slip our mind as to which muscle group is supposed to be working in a particular exercise and which actually is getting used up. Apart from the exercise not achieving what it should, mindlessness for posture could also lead to injuries.
Exercising out of self-hate
The bigger, or meta thing here is that, most people get mindless during exercise because they are often forced into exercising because of body-shaming. And if you’re doing anything out of hate, obviously its a noxious environment to be mentally present in.
However, just like we need our loved ones in tough times the most, your body needs you the most when working out. It needs you to be kind, loving and to pay attention.
Studies show that mindful exercising not only has physical and cognitive benefits, but also, people are most likely to be less harsh on themselves when they are unable to workout or achieve their targets.
This is because mindful exercising helps you to see the slow but steady growth you’re making in strength and stamina, and also you get to see the effects of being positive and kind to you body, which helps you stay motivated.
So, these are some questions for you to think about next time you’re working out:
1. Why do I exercise? Is it a self-development and self-loving goal or more of a hateful place?
2. For today’s workout specifically, what are my goals – building strength, focusing on a specific muscle group, building stamina, etc?
3. What are the benefits I’m going to feel after the workout today?
4. How can I be present during the workout today? Why is that good for me?
5. How can I be loving towards myself while I work out?
Unraveling these patterns is slow, but worth it. Exercise should be fun, not a torture.