Exercise and mindfulness may seem counterintuitive, but it’s the key to connecting deeply with your body as you move. Here’s how you can attain it.
When people think of exercise, they often associate weight loss as the key motivator. However, studies show that it isn’t as motivating as you might think. In fact, using weight loss as a motivator often backfires and actually can lead to weight gain. What studies do show is the most effective motivator is learning to enjoy exercise, or movement, for how it makes you feel.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
Science shows the cognitive benefits of incorporating mindfulness as part of your workout routine can actually help improve mental health. However, practicing mindfulness during exercise isn’t just about having a zen-like practice in order to create that elusive mind-body connection. It’s in the intention you set to immerse your focus onto yourself.
Interested in incorporating mindfulness into your exercise routine? Here are a few tips.
1. Anchor with your breath.
To prevent injury, it’s important to stretch before exercise. Use that time to do some deep breathing and prepare yourself mentally for your workout. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you move, continue to feel your breath and make sure you’re not holding it.
2. Feel your body.
As you’re moving, tune in to all the physical sensations in your body, both pleasant and unpleasant. Check in with your posture periodically. Notice your feet striking the floor, aching thighs, lungs stretching to fill up with air, trembling calf muscles, the stretch as your muscles release tension. Soak it all up, and don’t try to forcibly make it go away. Obviously, you want to be aware of your own limits and potential for injury, but outside of that, resist the temptation to suppress or ignore what’s uncomfortable.
3. Pay attention to your surroundings.
Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, notice your environment. This is easier when your outdoors – you’ve got the sky, other runners, buildings, trees, and greenery to look at. But even if you’re indoors, you can pay attention to the room, temperature, lighting, yourself in the mirror (if you can neutrally focus on your posture without judgement), and the collective rhythm of everyone in class without comparing yourself to others.
4. Notice how you feel afterwards.
Notice how you feel after you move your body. Probably pretty great, right? Maybe you feel sore and tired, but you also feel confident, strong, accomplished, and clear-headed. Tapping into how exercise makes you feel, not what it theoretically should make you look like, is by far the most powerful motivator to get you to strap on your workout gear for your next session.
By focusing on how it feels to move your body, mindfulness will help you turn exercise into ‘you time’ versus a chore.
Adapted from the original article.
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Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE is a private practice dietitian, food enthusiast, and nutrition expert based in Columbia, SC. By guiding others to rediscover the joy of nourishment rather than deprivation, Rachael helps men and women alike improve their health and well-being through delicious whole food recipes and practical advice through intuitive eating.