When you train or work-out, are you mindful of your activity? That is, are you focused on what you’re doing? Or do you blast some music, stare off into space, chat with your friend, check out mentally or try and distract yourself from the pain and effort? If so, you may be missing out on one of the potential benefits of training – the development of prolonged and total mental focus during any physical activity.
Whatever your type of training, try and focus your full awareness in your body and whatever movement or pose that you are performing. You can direct your awareness to your form, to the parts of your body expending effort, to your balance, to the physical pain. Take a plain old squat for example: while performing a squat, with or without weight, be aware of your form, the alignment of your spine, the thrusting of the hips on the up, the feel of the ground under your feet, the pain in your glutes and quads, the inhalation on the negative. The primary point is that you are in each moment of the rep, the stride, the pose, the breath. The focus of your bodily awareness can change but maintain a consistent feeling of engagement with your body and activity, not your mind.
When you are mindful and aware, you aren’t thinking about your next repetition or set, the end of your work-out, your next meal or the cute gal on the stair-master. You might say that this is the most common sense advice on the planet. But when was the last time you maintained total, in-the-moment focus throughout an entire training session or for an entire set or round or run? Try it some time. In doing so, you’ll notice how often your mind strays away. You’ll catch your mind using distraction to escape from the effort and the physical pain. You will witness the various tactics that your mind employs during tough work-outs to psyche you out. Then you’ll be aware of the “top ten tunes” that your mind plays to either distract you or convince you to quit or decrease your effort. It’s an interesting experience. Try it in your next training session – particularly a tough one.
Another question may be: who cares what your mind is doing if you’re doing the same physical work-out anyways? Your body will expend the same amount of calories and all of the physical results theoretically will be the same. This may be true and realistically, many people just try and get through the work-out in any way possible. But if you’re reading this blog, I’m hoping you train because it’s a part of your life, a part of who you are. Training is a way to strengthen the body, to test the will AND develop your mind. If physical training is just an uncomfortable means to an end – an aesthetically pleasing body, then I wish you luck. But mindful physical training is holistic training of the self – in particular the application of wholeheartedness in your activity, whatever it may be.
This level of training will reap more benefits than a strong body. You will derives benefits in your overall life by learning to bring your mindful awareness to every activity – whether walking down the street or eating a meal. Recognizing your lack of awareness and the distracted nature of the mind can be a first step in really enjoying and embracing your training.