In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.
― Thich Nhat Hanh
We choose to exercise for different reasons; some do it for strength, others for weight loss. Few people do it for glamour and some for body building for various competitions. The forms of workout we choose may vary based on personal choice or reasons like gym, aerobics, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Tai Chi etc. The exercise regime must be chosen after lot of thinking .We must not blindly follow someone who has recently lost weight as following the same regime may not help. Workout type to be chosen as one’s interest, body type and the workout module may not interest you after a week or month. For some people heavy weight training may be exciting and others find peace with Surya Namaskar in Yoga. Don’t make a hasty decision while choosing a type of workout. It is not necessary that we stick to only one type of exercise forever; we can always change after some time to break the monotony.
People say, “I exercised today, I do it every day, I will exercise for life.” Doing only exercise is not important, doing it mindfully is. While exercising if we are thinking of something else like what is to be done tomorrow or something from the past is bothering us, then no matter for how much time we exercised, only 10 percent of it will be fruitful.
The impact of the exercise gets doubled when we are focused and pay attention to the muscles being worked upon. While working on a muscle group pay attention to which one gets stretched and which got a contraction. Lesser number of reps with full concentration and focus on the body, each and every muscle, will give better and visible results than numerous reps performed mindlessly.
Some of us like to work out with a buddy or while enjoying our favourite number with earphones plugged in. These might make the workout a little less boring but they distract the mind from the actual process of exercising and make the workout less impactful. Remember the last time you went for a walk with your friend! After the workout you felt you were not very tired the time just passed. You might be feeling good about it. What happened was the presence of your friend distracted your mind from the actual process of walking and you did your workout mindlessly with little or no effect on your health.
How to be mindful about exercising?
Before you begin to exercise, ask yourself why you want to exercise. Do you need to lose weight or just want to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Whatever the reason be, choose an activity that suits your interest and matches your level of fitness and activity. You cannot head straight for a marathon when you have not run a mile in your life.
Read, watch videos and gather information about the activity you have chosen.
When choosing a workout plan set realistic goal. Your goal could be a target weight or vital stats, increased energy levels, reduction in stress, curing a body part through exercise or flexibility and agility.
Give yourself a deadline to reach your goal. This will make your workout plan more structured and easy to monitor in future.
Then, comes the most important part of ‘being mindful’. It won’t be easy to give up on the distractions, they have been with you for years, but not impossible. Next time your friend calls you to join her for a walk or any other workout, politely make an excuse to be busy. Go for that walk alone. When you are tempted to listen to that favourite song put away your earphones (hide them for a few days). Believe me it is going to be worth it.
Here are some simple steps you can follow to remind yourself to be mindful when you exercise:
- Start with focus on your breath and then shift it to other body parts. Watching the breath is the best exercise to come back to the present moment.
- Focus on the form. Hold every form till it is correct. Be mindful on upward, backward or any other motion. Focus on posture, keep your core solid and pay attention to muscles that are targeted being relaxed or contracted.
- Listen to your body. It will give you the signs when it can be pushed to take more or wants you to stop. Stop immediately when you feel any pain to avoid any kind of injury.
- Keep checking your personal targets list. Keep adding the achieved ones to it and motivate your own self every week to get better.
- Acknowledge every little improvement of your, be your own first instructor. An extra rep, one more push up or able to bend a little more however big or small result, appreciate and associate to the positive sign of mindfulness. Remind yourself every time of the improvements and keep moving forward step by step and enjoy the journey. Don’t get frustrated with failures.
When done with mindfulness, any exercise will make you feel more connected to your body, boost you with energy, leave you more satisfied and bring better results. Your body will thank you for every little effort of yours. And will work for you in a much better way.
All this will not happen in a day. It will take a lot of practice and patience to be mindful. Every now and then you will find excuses to give up. Focus on your goal; focus more on your body.
“We can have results or excuses not both”