Mental rehearsal is the one thing professional athletes do almost universally to boost their physical performance. Far from mere visualization, these athletes envision and rehearse a scenario where they are actually competing, envisioning how each minute will unfold in detail.
How does a mental rehearsal affect your real world performance? According to Lynne McTaggart, author of The Intention Experiment, “The brain cannot distinguish between the thought of an action and the action itself. Both produce identical results in the body.”
While you might not be going for the gold at the next Olympic games, you probably wouldn’t mind a fitter physique and improved health. Of course, you’re welcome to practice rehearsing for the gym before heading out the door, but, to reap the rewards without such a lengthy time investment, simply be mindful during your workout.
Why Mindfulness is Important
Though it certainly isn’t the best way to interact with the world around us, we all know that buzzing from task to task on autopilot will get us from Point A to Point B. But, did you realize that completing any task with attention the task itself (aka. being mindful) increases the neuroplasticity of the brain? In other words, you can make permanent, positive changes in your wiring simply by increasing self-awareness during your daily activities.
Mindfulness exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing outlined by the Cleveland Clinic or mindful awareness exercises have several mind-body benefits such as increasing oxygen efficiency, improving self-awareness, and boosting positivity and optimism.
Not only can mindfulness actually reprogram the way you think, feel, and act, you’ll also reap the more obvious benefits of exercise such as increased energy levels, a boost in your metabolism, and an improvement in your sleep.
How We Can Bring Mindfulness to Fitness
Mindfulness can be practiced in any activity, but to supercharge your workout, incorporate mindfulness into any fitness routine. Your mind and body are deeply intertwined, so, if you’re mindlessly going through your workout, you’re not reaping the full benefits.
What does it look like to incorporate mindfulness into a workout? Exist in the present moment, and maintain your focus at all times. No matter the workout, there are plenty of opportunities to practice mindfulness while feeling the burn.
- Already a mindful practice, yoga melds breathing and meditation with flexibility, strength, and toning. It is an ideal way to train your body to master physical challenges through mental awareness. Whether you’re holding a pose or reclining in savasana, be there fully and completely.
- The Martial Arts teach good judgment, self-control, and emotional/physical awareness. Their principles promote courage and wisdom along with amazing physical abilities….to get the most out of your workout, remain mindful in all that you do.
- Strength training builds muscle while isometrics promote increased focus. When you lift a heavy weight, focus on your body, the motion, and encourage positive self-talk when the going gets tough.
- There is a reason ballet is used to condition football players! Dance combines sharp mental precision in order to achieve desired movements and routines. Let go of life’s worries and dance your cares away. Just do it with a mindful focus.
- Running or walking is the perfect way to train your mind on breathing, pace, stride, and posture. To further improve endurance and energy, be mindful during your workout, and, as an added bonus, train outdoors whenever possible.
Results of Being Mindful During Exercise
Clinical studies consistently show that putting your mind into your workout yields amazing results; mindful exercise produces increased levels of cortisol and melatonin production (think: better sleep, more calories burned, and a noticeable happiness boost).
What will you lose by being mindful during your workout? Potentially, you’ll let go of some serious health risks; you’ll lose (or, at least, decrease) your stress, lower your blood pressure, and reduce any inflammation in the body. That’s not all, people who exercise also have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease! While all of these benefits exist for exercise alone, research shows that mindfulness in movement exponentially increases these results.