Experts believe that you can get more out of your workout when you take the time to think about sensations, breathing techniques and the way your body is moving. Here are some tips to try out the next time you hit the gym after work.
In our three-part wellbeing series, we've picked the brains of two wellbeing experts based at Workspace – Nick Owen, the Founder of What-Food London based at Club Workspace China Works, and Michael Adu, Founder of Stress-Less Fitness based at Club Workspace Kennington Park– to find out how to kick-start a healthy lifestyle. Following on from Wellbeing: Where do you stand? and Wellbeing: Work nutrition tips from the experts, Michael explains the benefits of applying mindfulness to your workout.
Michael Adu getting mindful at Workspace's Pill Box in Bethnal Green
Put your mind into it
If you can control your mind and focus on your workout objectives while you're in the midst of a gym session, it will guide your performance. "The mind is the centre point of your entire universe. Wherever your mind goes, the body will follow," says Michael. "Working on your body and not your mind is like mowing half your garden and letting the other half grow wild."
Of course, it can be tempting to plug into music, a podcast or watch TV to distract yourself from the actual act of exercising, however, by focusing inward and connecting mind and body, you'll be able to drive yourself to do more. Thus, you're more likely to come away with heightened feelings of alertness and energy that could also improve other aspects of your life, such as work performance.
"Everybody needs a period of time every day to stop and balance out. It's human nature to push, strive and break barriers but constantly trying to break through things can take its toll. In theory, the more you work out, the fitter you get but the opposite happens," says Michael.
"We actually get stronger when our body has time to rest, restore and rejuvenate. Only then, our body becomes adaptable to the pressure we put ourselves under. When your body says I need some rest, rest. When you are okay, it’s go time!"
Follow this five-step plan to bring mindfulness into your next workout routine:
1. Tune into your body and goals
During your warm up, notice how your body feels and what level of exertion it is ready for. Did you have a bad night's sleep the night before that's left you feeling lethargic? Listen to the way you feel and adapt your workout accordingly. Perhaps this means skipping cardio and opting for a gentle stretching routine instead.
Think about what you want to get out of your workout before you begin and set achievable goals, such as to finish your planned workout, strengthen specific muscles (e.g. your upper body and abs) or simply to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This will give your mind direction throughout your workout.
2. Think about your breathing
This is the easiest way to draw your mind away from your surroundings and turn inward. If you find your thoughts wandering or you love to clock check, close your eyes and visualise each breath you take to bring the mind back to a centre point.
3. Connect to your muscles
While lifting weights, put your full attention into the muscles you are strengthening. Try to envisage your muscles contracting and relaxing during each repetition. As distracting thoughts arise, acknowledge them calmly then let them go and return your attention to your muscles and your breathing.
4. Be a workout minimalist
While running, turn off your music, stop texting, and bring your attention to the sound of your trainers hitting the ground, the rhythm of your breath and the feeling of your arms swinging passed your body. Notice how you feel during and after your run when practicing mindfulness in this way.
5. Enjoy yourself
Remember to focus on the reasons why you're exercising and all
the positives it brings. This should give you more energy. If you hit a challenge, sometimes the simple act of smiling can lift your mindset and drive you to accomplish more.
For more information on how to measure your heart rate variability and for further exercise advice, head to Stress-Less Fitness. To measure your body composition with Nick Owen's InBody 270 machine, visit What Food London or contact Nick Owen at email@example.com.
Read more from the Workspace wellbeing series in Wellbeing: Where do you stand? and Wellbeing: Work nutrition tips from the experts, for more tips on how to kick-start a healthy lifestyle.
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