…by Mary Pearsall
There has been a lot of “buzz” in the exercise world in the last few years about the mind body connection in workout routines. It can seem a bit mysterious, complex or even downright quacky to some. Not to worry, it is really very straightforward. “Mind – body” very simply means that your mind and body are working together, thinking about and doing the same thing at the same time. Yes, it\’s true – in the world of the multi-tasking superwoman it may seem foreign to focus on one thing at a time. However, whether you are strength training, taking a brisk walk in your neighborhood, or doing laps in the pool, it is much more beneficial to concentrate on the activity at hand. Here are a few techniques that will get your mind linked to your body and working more effectively and efficiently.
The first thing to concentrate on when you begin your walk is your breathing. Of course, breathing is so automatic that this may seem strange at first. The more you do it the more natural it will be and you will come to really appreciate the exchange of oxygen in a whole new way. Breathe deeply and deliberately from your diaphragm. Feel your rib cage expand and contract with each breath. After you have taken a few deep breaths, start to count how many steps you take with each inhalation and exhalation.
When you start to think about what you are going to cook for dinner, or the argument you had with your husband or best friend, get your mind back to how your body is feeling as it is moving through space. Deal with things back at home or the office after your exercise.
Feel your feet every time they strike the ground – heel, ball, toe – keeping this rhythm as you stride along with confidence and strength.
Now move up your awareness up to your legs, knees and hip joints and feel their movement as you walk. Continue up to your arms as they swing freely in counterpoint to your legs. Enjoy the movement and imagine how confidently you will move through life as you increase your health and fitness.
Focus on your center, just below your navel, the point where all your movement originates, and imagine all parts of your body in concert with this strong and solid framework.
Verbally affirm yourself by repeated silently something positive such as “I feel strong today,” “I am an awesome athlete.”
You can adapt these strategies while swimming or jogging and to pieces of cardio equipment such as a treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationery bike etc.
Mindful Strength Training
Walking into a gym can be intimidating. So, from the moment you walk in; maintain an air of confidence – even if you don\’t feel that way. Exhibit your confidence with good posture. Focus on these things and not on your physical flaws.
Use your warm up to prepare for the physical workout and to prepare your mind. Release any distracting thoughts that will surely come your way. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale imagine your are breathing out all the day\’s worries and tensions.
As you inhale, imagine that you are bringing energy into your body. Always exhale on the exertion part of the movement and imagine yourself breathing out any fatigue you feel.
Regularly check your form in the mirrors. Good form is necessary for safety and for good training. Do fewer reps or lighter reps to maintain form and to avoid injury.
To enhance strength and to complete the mind body experience when strength training, always stretch thoroughly after each workout. Feel and see the muscle elongating as you hold each stretch and then allow your entire being to relax. Congratulate yourself on your good work.
Exercising with mindfulness is certainly something that will enhance your fitness activities and yield better results and a more enjoyable experience. Taking these practices into everyday life will help you renew your spirit and recharge you with energy and joy. Rest is one of the body\’s most important needs, but we often ignore it completely. So, find sometime every day to take time out to be still and quiet. Use this time to meditate, pray or practice visualization. Your body, mind and spirit will benefit and you will be better able to face the challenges life brings your way.