Mindfulness and Physical Fitness
The practice of mindfulness has gained increased media attention lately for good reason. In our busy lives we tend to neglect things happening in our environment and ignore many cues our own body is giving us throughout the day. Practicing mindfulness is reported to empower us with the ability to focus our attention on the present moment and relieve our judgement on the past or the future. A recent NPR article highlighting the effects of mindfulness meditation on subjects with a variety of illnesses reported positive effects on their management of anxiety, depression, and pain.
Mindfulness has piqued my interest and I am now practicing on a daily basis with the help of a tremendous website founded by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. Noticeable effects are immediate calmness after each practice session. Colleagues and clientele have recently commented on the calming aura that I project since I’ve committed myself to 10 minutes a day of guided meditation through the Headspace iPhone app.
The evidence is anecdotal but I do think my practice is paying off. Additionally, I’ve noticed how my personal interactions have changed. I feel I have a greater presence and am more in tune with the person I’m interacting with, observing their body language, facial expression, and tone of voice, whilst simultaneously being aware of my own tendencies to a level I haven’t before experienced. An article on helpguide.org in collaboration with Harvard Medical School states, “By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.” I can certainly attest to experiencing these positive effects after only practicing the meditation over the past 2 months.
What does this have to do with physical exercise and fitness? Being more aware of your body during a certain exercise can cue you on how to alter a movement for maximum benefit. The ability to scan your body from head to toe and identify which specific areas are tense, which are relaxed and which are feeling discomfort will go a long way in injury prevention and exercise efficiency. Engaging your physical senses and being aware of your present environment will allow you to enjoy the exercise and the moment to their fullest extent.
I’d like to suggest some techniques to help you become more aware of your body during exercise and thus strengthen your mind-body connection. Running will be the example I use, but the suggestions could be applied to any exercise. My hope is by asking yourself the following questions an acute clarity will manifest as to what your body is feeling in any particular moment. The questions are posed without any judgement to assess what you are experiencing, and it isn’t necessary to modify your running style if you feel that yours is getting the job done. However, if you do wish to make adjustments here is an article on what I recommend to help develop proper running form.
Start by scanning your body from toe to head. What part of your foot is hitting the ground? Are your toes curled and tense or are they relaxed? Focus on the area around your achilles tendon and lower calf muscle. Is the area tight or are you getting full range of motion? Do you feel your calves aren’t being used enough or could you possibly be relying too much on them? What about your hamstrings and glutes? Are they helping to propel you forward or do you feel your quads doing most of the work? How much time are your feet off the ground and could this time be longer or could it be shorter?
My next post will contain an entire checklist of areas to focus on while exercising. For now, the next time you go for a run or perform any exercise where your legs are involved ask yourself the questions I mentioned earlier. Doing this will be great practice for future techniques.
This post is orginally found on my website at www.taylorfitcoach.com
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