If you're someone who can hit the gym, turn on your "Sweaty Sunday" playlist and get "in the zone" before the end of the first song, consider yourself lucky. For many, the looming to-do list waiting for them outside the gym walls or a constant feeling of exhaustion from busy days and nights leaves them feeling distracted and disinterested, as they constantly check the clock and aimlessly wander through their exercise routine.|
While not every workout will go the way you hoped, and some days you just won't be able to get in the zone, there is a little trick you can use to get more out of your time in the gym: mindfulness. By exercising more mindfully, you can find greater satisfaction with each workout, not just those rare days when everything seems to be clicking. Research shows that mindfulness and acceptance lead to greater consistency with an exercise routine. Why? Exercisers who use mindfulness are less reactive. That is to say that one bad workout doesn't make them give up and a lack of expected progress doesn't lead to discouragement.
Mindful exercisers pay close attention to their bodies—breathing, pace, muscles—and whether they need to slow down or push themselves. They also tune in to how they are feeling emotionally. Is this workout depleting energy levels or giving them a needed boost? By exercising mindfully, you're paying attention to what's happening around you, as well as what's happening physically and mentally within your body.
Although there has been a greater focus on mental fitness in recent years, Julie Frischkorn, director of behavioral health and mindfulness at Spark360, says there is still progress to be made when it comes to mindfulness. "No one today would look at you sideways if you started working out to get healthier," she explains. "But if someone caught you practicing breathwork on a public park bench with your eyes closed, they might do a double-take." With all the current research on the benefits of meditation, Frischkorn feels certain that a few decades from now, we'll be able to say we're "headed to meditate" without skipping a beat. "To be on the cutting edge of health and wellness, why not combine physical and mental fitness into our daily exercise routine?" she asks.
Use Your Brain to Train
"A great way to get started is to choose one part of your workout [in which] to incorporate mindfulness," says Frischkorn. "Don't try and be mindful for the entire time [because] there are actually scientific benefits to mind-wandering, as well." She suggests choosing one section of your workout for mindful attention and use the rest of the time to check out from your busy day and life.