It seems a little odd talking about total body fitness and mindfulness. When it comes to mindfulness an area that we often neglect to talk about is physical exercise. I find this strange because there is a huge connection between your mental and physical health. Mindfulness teaches us that if we connect to our deeper selves and stay present in the moment we can successfully manage a variety of ailments. Whether this is emotional, like stress or physical such as chronic pain.
The mind and body connection is strong, so the reverse must also be true. If we spend more time eating well and exercising, then we can positively impact our mental state as well. Therefore, the fitter you are the more energetic and healthy you become. Our ultimate goal then should be to try and get BOTH mentally and physically fit.
We all know that physical exercise has many benefits for the body, but exercising also stimulates certain chemicals in the brain that can improve your mood, help with your memory and concentration. Regular exercise also reduces symptoms related to depression and anxiety. People who exercise regularly report that they feel more positive and relaxed about their lives, and have improved self-esteem.
Okay, firstly I am not encouraging you to become a fitness fanatic, and I don’t want to add even more to your full plate, but research tells us that even a small amount of exercise can make a big difference to how you feel. A total body workout is a great way to stay fit, energized and healthy.
Total body fitness is an exercise program that concentrates on the body as a whole. You train every major muscle in your body, so it leaves you feeling balanced and satisfied. Seeing that you work out all the same muscle groups, workouts become more efficient and take up less of your time. Total body fitness is also ideal for beginners because it improves your overall strength and lays down a great foundation for future exercise.
Personally, I prefer a holistic approach to fitness and try and practice mindful exercise. When you synchronize the mind and body, you gain a deeper understanding of your body’s needs, then with this knowledge you can build both mental and physical strength. When we practice mindfulness during exercise we also become more in tune with our posture and form, thereby reducing the risk of injury. It’s a win-win situation really!
“Your body hears everything your mind says”
Mindfulness is a state of being where you become acutely aware of the present moment, with all your feelings, thoughts and desires. This non-judgmental approach to life directs your attention away from draining thoughts and stressful experiences. Being mindful of your health during exercise means you don’t allow yourself to get distracted, or zone out while you move, rather you tune into your body and mind and become aware of what you can do.
Like many of you I want to get the most out of life in the easiest way possible. I want everything in my life to work seamlessly, and I want it to work for me and not against me. My workouts should do the same. When you pay attention to what you are doing while you exercise something miraculous happens. You start becoming aware of your own strength and power, and your mind and body harmonize.
This connection between your body and mind improves the quality of your workout and leaves you feeling satisfied and accomplished. Double this up with a total body fitness regime and you have a powerful exercise that works the whole body and mind in a small amount of time. If you practice mindfulness while working out, you are essentially killing two birds with one stone. Not only do you become more mindful but you get a killer body too!
Mindful exercise is simple, all you do is pay attention to your body and mind. Focus on your muscles, breath and pace while you move. Notice what it feels like to stretch, listen to your body’s needs or push yourself instead. What feelings pop up when you exercise? Are you feeling energised or tired? Do you catch yourself feeling insecure at the gym, or does being around other people motivate you? If you feel rushed or tired, when the mind wanders, just bring a gentle awareness back to your workout.
Below are 9 things you can do to bring mindfulness to your total body fitness regime
Mindfulness is about celebrating progress not perfection. When we have a goal for each workout we set ourselves a little challenge. It gives us something to work towards right now, and the goal becomes much more attainable. When we can accomplish something small, each time we exercise, it can also give us a great reason to celebrate and feel good about ourselves. This then motivates us to continue to exercise.
These goals don’t have to be big. It could be that you hope to run 20 minutes on the treadmill or complete 12 lunges. I did this yesterday, I went to the gym and told myself I would do 10 Burpees no matter what. I completed my usual total body fitness training and added the Burpees in afterward, I felt fantastic and really accomplished.
I practice mindfulness because I want to make better choices in my life, I want to be able to control my emotional outbursts and live a calmer existence. I exercise because it makes me feel good, I have more energy and I feel stronger. What is your reason? Do you want to lose weight, or be a healthier person? Your intention will help you when things get difficult, and trust me exercise is difficult sometimes. Use this purpose as a gentle reminder to motivate you to get up and get going, even when you don’t feel like it.
Often I feel the need to rush through my workout routine. The excuse is usually that I am stressed or I don’t feel like going to the gym. I usually think, “I need to get this over with”. This type of thinking is not conducive to a good workout. When you start rushing through your routine, accidents can and do happen. Don’t forget that you have given yourself a certain amount of time, a few days a week to exercise. Take it as an opportunity to really appreciate your workout, and practice mindfulness.
When you exercise mindfully you need to slow down and take your time. Notice how your body feels, intentionally focus on your posture and your form. Is your core stabilized, and are you doing the exercises correctly? Pay attention to your muscles and become aware of how they contract and relax. Become aware of how your feet touch the ground as you run, or how the water glides off your arms while you swim. Try relax and enjoy the moment.
The main aim of mindful exercise is to stay focused on the present moment, but how many of us are constantly bombarded by thoughts when we get busy? We start worrying about everything at once, we start processing our day and going through our to-do lists. All we are doing is adding more stress to our already frazzled minds. Use your breath as an anchor to bring you back to the present moment. Remember your breath is always available to you, and can be accessed whenever you feel your mind wandering.
Don’t forget that breathing is necessary for exercise too, it ensures that the muscles and heart receive enough oxygen to keep you going. Getting comfortable with your breathing rhythm and pace is essential for total body fitness and mindfulness, so you may as well start now.
The other day I saw a woman reading a book on the bicycle at the gym, and it got me thinking. I know many people don’t have the time to read, watch T.V or even relax, so they try and multitask in any situation they are in. What happens though, is that you start doing things in a half-arsed manner. When you don’t give your full attention to one thing at any given time, often you are wasting your time.
If you play on your phone while you are exercising you aren’t giving it your all, and you definitely aren’t exercising properly. The thing is you cant multitask when you practice mindfulness, and you cant multitask when you have a total body fitness regime to get through. So leave the distractions at home and be present with your routine. Look at exercise as a reward you are giving yourself, you deserve it!
There is often a misconception that mindfulness is only about paying attention to what is going on inside of us. Mindfulness is all encompassing, and encourages us to take in our external environment as well.
When exercise gets a little tough I find it helpful to pay attention to my surroundings. By doing this I am not ignoring the pain I feel, or how I tired I am, rather I am acknowledging that I am struggling. When I feel this way I gently bring my awareness back to something happening right in front of me. This really helps to keep me motivated and moving.
Look around you, the next time you are exercising, what do you notice? What does the air smell like, how hot or cold is it? If you are outside how does the wind feel against your skin? Have you noticed the trees, mountains or flowers around you? Can you hear the birds or cars driving past?
One of the foundations of mindfulness is accepting things for what they are. You don’t try and change the present moment and hope for something better or easier, you embrace what is.
How often do you resist exercising? As I previously said, I often used to wish my workout would finish. My trainer can sometimes push me a little hard and my legs will start burning while doing squats, or my shoulders will ache when i’m lifting weights. This is usually when I start moaning out loud.
Mindfulness teaches us to accept discomfort and pain. Stop fighting it and rather ease into it. When we roll with the resistance, our workouts often get easier. Start telling yourself that the pain is a sign of you getting stronger and fitter, it is not a signal for you to give up.
When we practice mindfulness with our total body fitness regime, we also need to listen to our bodies. Sometimes pain can be an indication that something is wrong. You know the difference between the two. If the pain is part of your growth, then continue, but if it is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard, then slow down or change something.
A total body fitness routine should always end with a good stretch. Stretching allows your body to wind down, slowing your heart rate, and making sure your muscles don’t cramp or get injured. Nurture your body when you workout, take this moment as an opportunity to relax and breathe.
Too often we compare ourselves to others in the gym or around us. This type of thinking never serves you, it only makes your life more difficult. Mindfulness teaches us to let go of judgment, especially how we judge ourselves. After each workout session intentionally remind yourself of the progress you have made. Celebrate how good it feels to finish, and be proud that you showed up. Appreciate your current fitness level, pace and capabilities.
I am passionate about total body fitness. A total body workout is so convenient, it doesn’t take up too much of my time, I know I have worked out my whole body and I not only feel stronger, but have become fitter too. By adding mindfulness to my routine I have changed how I workout.
Working out becomes more satisfactory, I achieve my goals easier and I really feel in tune with my body and my mind. By being more mindful, working out has stopped becoming a chore and sometimes it feels like I have given myself a little holiday, some real “me-time”. By just trying out a few of these total body exercises mindfully, I am certain you will feel the difference…Go on and give it a try!