- We are so happy to welcome our newest members of the Breakthrough Family! Let’s welcome Mae Meissner, Lydia Lee-Chin and Jackson Boyles!
- We are now selling Warrior Whey! Don’t forget, after your next training session you can pick up an individual packet of Warrior Whey for just $4! We have some delicious flavors, including Chocolate, Vanilla, Pumpkin Pie and Green Tea Ice Cream!
Why Does Mindfulness Matter to Your Fitness Goals
What if there was a way to improve your fitness results, get smarter and be a happier camper in general?
A few years ago when I was doing my yoga teacher training, I was introduced to the concept of “mindfulness”, and was fortunate to expand my understanding further in completing my level I iRest Yoga Nidra training with Dr. Richard Miller last year. So what is mindfulness? A simple definition could be your ability to focus your attention on the present moment, and welcome it without judgement.
If you attend yoga classes, you have probably been exposed to the concept of mindfulness (even if you didn’t know it) by having your teacher guide you to working with breathing, movement awareness, letting go of outside distractions, as well as some meditation techniques. Now before you think this article is going to be all about me telling you to start doing yoga and meditating (yes, you should), let me assure you that I want to focus on what being more mindful in your fitness training can do for you, and how you can go about practicing that. Sometimes it’s easiest to understand what something is by first understanding what something is not… so here are some examples of not-so-mindful training sessions:
The Multi-Tasker – “I’ll just send a quick text on my rest interval… Hey coach, while I’m doing this set of deadlifts can you refresh my memory on how much water I should drink each day… Let me just mix up my protein shake while I’m finishing my cool-down…”
The Distracted Driver – “Hmm, how much weight is that guy squatting… Oh, I love this song, I wonder who sings it… Hey check out the hottie doing pull ups… I should probably take a selfie of how swole I look right now”
The Nervous Nellie – “Oh no, today’s training program has so many push ups… I hope my coach doesn’t make me use a heavier weight today… My glutes are burning and this is only the first set, how will I make it to the end of my workout…”
Clearly none of these examples demonstrate a focus on the “present moment,” which is an awesome training session that will bring you one step closer to your fitness goals. Don’t worry if you see yourself in one of these, you are not alone (I strongly identify with The Multi-Tasker). So before we talk about how to bring more mindfulness into our training sessions, here are a few reasons why you should care:
* You reduce your risk of injury – This might seem too obvious to even mention, but since I recently suffered an injury myself (yep, I am working on less Multi-Tasking) I figured a reminder might be a good thing. Injuries are painful, annoying and interfere with your training, so best to be avoided if at all possible!
* You get better physical results – When you are focused in your training, you have a greater ability to get the most out of every rep. You can concentrate on things like contracting your muscles harder, which translates to more lean muscle and greater strength.
* Get smarter – The brain and body are connected. In their book Original Strength, Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert talk about how when we move, we create neural pathways in the brain for that movement. The more we practice that movement, the deeper the pathway is engraved. So when we move mindfully, not only do we engrave the most healthy movement possible, we also stimulate the brain to learn something.
* Break free of mental barriers – Working with the concept of “non-judgement” allows you to let go of Nervous Nellie. This practice will help you distinguish between true pain vs. discomfort, and help quiet negative voices that are holding you back. Not only will you find your training sessions more enjoyable, but you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish both in and out of the gym.
So basically, you get better RESULTS!
Here are a few suggestions for making your fitness training sessions more mindful:
*Working with the breath – At our gym, we begin every training session with a “breathing reset” where our members spend a few minutes reconnecting with diaphragmatic breathing. This allows the nervous system to reset, and gives you a chance to let go of any outside distractions that might pull your attention away from your training. Checking in with your breathing throughout your workout is a great way to stay focused. Make sure your movements while exercising are coordinated to proper breathing (like inhaling in the backswing and exhaling at the top of a kettlebell swing) and that you return to diaphragmatic breathing on your rest periods.
*Focus on technique – A good way to get your mind connected to what your body is about to do, is to mentally review the key technical points of whatever exercise is up next in your program. For example, if I take a second to remind myself before I start my squats that I want to pull myself down with tension rather than let gravity drop me down into the bottom of my squat, I will likely perform a better set of squats (which means I’m getting better results). And if you have a question or need a reminder on technique, just ask your coach… “Gosh I hate having to answer questions about proper form” – said no coach ever.
*Practice one rep at a time – Maybe your workout today calls for 50 reps of an exercise you find challenging. Guess what – you don’t have to do 50 all at once. You just have to do one good rep followed by another good rep. Don’t fixate on how much you need to accomplish in order to make it to the end of the training session. Just enjoy the journey one beautiful rep at a time.
*Adjust your attitude – Check in with the idea of “non-judgement”. This may be the hardest of these suggestions because you may not even realize you are doing it. But if you find yourself dreading your training sessions, or saying things like “I can’t” or “It’s too hard” this may be something you need to work on. The idea of non judgement is not just letting go of judging yourself too harshly. It also has to do with how you react to situations you find yourself in. I often tell my students when they complain about a particular exercise, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.” For example, I feel very challenged when it comes to upper body pushing power, which makes me want to avoid things like pressing because I know it will be hard for me. So I work on reminding myself that I actually don’t need to have an opinion one way or another on pressing, I just need to do it. Because let’s face it, that iron isn’t going to lift itself!!! But in all sincerity, when we can become comfortable with a wider range of experiences, we find our “comfort zone” expanded and we are able to do more than we ever thought possible.
*Put your darn phone away – Seriously. Unless you have a job that requires you to be on call, you don’t need to be looking at your phone in between sets. If you are in the middle of a personal emergency and think someone may need to get in touch with you, it might be better to just reschedule your training since you are likely to be distracted even if your phone doesn’t ring.
In addition to the results you notice in the gym, working with mindfulness has been linked to reduced stress and chronic pain, better sleep and digestion, as well as reduced anxiety and depression. So there is pretty much no reason not to start practicing mindfulness in your next training session!