Does meditation Improve exercise?
Does Meditation Improve Exercise?
Or read the post below in 5 minutes
We’ve all been there. You’re mid workout, you’re working hard, the sweats dripping, the muscles are aching, and then…
the anxious thoughts start pouring in.
You’re not good enough.
You’re going to fail.
You’re just going to injure yourself.
Anxiety in the gym is very common, especially for those just starting out. What if there was a way to keep the anxious thoughts from showing up?
Meditation has become a hot topic lately as the World’s high performers have all come out of the woodwork to let us know meditation is one of the secrets they employ to achieve their success.
The mental and physical health benefits of meditation are becoming more pronounced and better understood as time goes on and more studies are conducted. Meditation can help cure anxiety, depression, ADHD, and improve a person's overall quality of life.
Recently, I read an article in the April edition of the ACE Fitness Journal that had me rethink the way I approach my own meditation practice as well as recommend it to others.
Traditional meditation would have you sitting quietly, possibly with some soft music in the background, focusing on being in the moment. Using breath, chanting mantras, or exploring how different parts of your body feel are all great ways of guiding a person into present state awareness.
When a person manages to cultivate this ability into a regular meditation practice, the benefits are immediate and cascade into the rest of their life. Work becomes easier, difficult conversations are less likely to escalate, your mood becomes more stable, and the understanding of oneself is deepened.
However, in the ACE Fitness Journal article, the idea of meditation and present state awareness was taken out of the yoga studios and applied into exercise routines.
When I first started reading, the thought of sitting peacefully and focusing on the breath clashed pretty hard with sweating and breathing hard in a gym. But as the article went on, the more I realized a regular exercise routine could have incredible benefits by incorporating concepts of meditation into it.
One of the personal trainers, Juan Carlos Santana, said something that struck me as very profound. Juan, the owner of the Institute of Human Performance in Florida, said he has his clients focus on the exercise at hand.
He says that people tend to quit a physical challenge because of what they fear might happen. The fear of what might happen is a projection into the future as opposed to what is actually happening in the present.
It’s been said that depression lives in the past and anxiety lives in the future. Traditional meditation can help reduce the symptoms of both by teaching a person to focus on the present moment, the moment in time when anxiety and depression are unable to exist.
Likewise, by focusing on how your body feels during exercise, by allowing yourself to experience the burning in your lungs, the blood rushing to your muscles, the sweat as it rolls down your face, you’re offered a chance to experience what it feels like to really live. You’re experiencing a moment you’ve given over to the accomplishment of your goal.
When the attempt of achieving any goal comes projections into the future that you won’t be able to accomplish it, causing anxiety, and memories that maybe you’ve tried before and failed in the past, bringing about depression.
Often, I’ve seen those anxious and depressed thoughts close in on my clients when they are midway through a workout. Emotions can escalate in alignment with heartbeat and breath, so it’s only natural the racing thoughts tied to those emotions will want to make themselves heard as well.
By focusing on the task at hand and by drawing your attention to your present state, you can shut out those anxious and depressed thoughts and begin to enjoy the moment for what it is. You’re exercising both your strength of body and of mind.
I’m very grateful to the author of the ACE article, Pete McCall, and the contributing interviewees, as I didn’t realize until reading it just how much present state awareness helps me get through my own workouts.
I can see now that the workouts I was able to perform at my best were all times when I was able to focus my attention on the exercises and rests between them with total focus. The moments I feel at my strongest are the moments I focus my attention into feeling the bar in my hands, my muscles as they work, my lungs as I push past the burning sensation.
The feeling of accomplishment afterward is incredibly rewarding, knowing that you had the strength of mind to be present during times of extreme discomfort and still push forward. Ironically, it’s when I don’t focus on the present moment and instead get caught up in the anxieties of life or the thoughts of past failures that my workouts suffer.
It’s more difficult to ruminate on those thoughts that exist in the past or the future than it is to push past challenges of a difficult exercises in the present moment. My form, strength, and stamina all suffer as a result.
We’ve spoken about the concept of meditation before on this channel, but always in reference to the traditional sense. The idea of meditative exercise, or present state awareness during your exercise routine, is a new one for me as well.
I’m looking forward to practicing this in my own workout and mobility routines, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you if you decide to try it out for yourself. Please let me know in the comments if you do try it out. What was your experience?
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And remember that with everything in life the secret to success is getting started. So get started!