Mindful Fitness 2

(Part 2 of a series. See 1, 3, 4, & 5)

Last time we explored reconnecting with our breath. This time we’re going to look at keeping our head in the game.

So you’re about to start your workout. Nothing serious, you’re not trying to be a hero today. But already you’re feeling a sense of dread or trying to wiggle your way out of it or compiling a grocery list while you slog away. How can you better show up for yourself? If all of this sounds too hippie-dippy for you, then you can get a head start on these exercises by telling your brain that no silly, arbitrary mental obstacles are going to keep you from digging deeper into what exercise has to offer.

  • Be here now. Now keeps happening. If you’re connecting movement with breath, this attention happens almost on its own. If you find your mind wandering, don’t beat yourself up about it, just gently return it to your activity. I got in trouble recently while doing a cardio and bodyweight exercise circuit. I was a little over-caffeinated (I swear, that was NOT a decaf latte they gave me!) and kept losing count of my exercises. When this happens, guess what? You start counting again from the last number you actually remember. It won’t hurt you to have done a few extra, and besides, if you don’t remember doing it, did it really happen?
  • Focus on form. Chances are that as you’re working out, you’re not as efficient or as functional as you’d like. We’ve all learned bad habits, and without extensive coaching or video footage of ourselves, it’s hard to know what we’re doing with our bodies. When my attention gets slack in the pool, I remind myself of a few things: kick from the hips, stretch for each stroke, and PULL! When I’m running, I think about my footstrike. I try to make sure I’m not leaning too much to one side or another, and to feel for all four corners of my foot for maximum stability. If you lift weights, do yoga, or dance, try watching yourself in a mirror.
  • Stop waiting for Perfect. Why? Because, honey, Perfect will never come. Don’t let the rain or snow stop you from running. Too windy for your bike ride? Eff-ing do it anyway! Besides, you’ll earn hardcore cred. If the gym’s too crowded, take it as an opportunity to try something different or make new friends. Just keep moving. This goes double for when you’re injured. An injury can be disruptive to your routine, and if you let it get you down, it will do more damage than it should. Find something you can do—ANYTHING! Swim, sit-ups, walk—whatever it takes.
  • Reminder: You love this. We sit in a dark office under fluorescent lighting all day dreaming of our escape when we can finally stretch and move. Then we get there, our yoga teacher puts us in something like this and starts talking about the changing seasons. We’re holding…then she reminds us to breathe. We’re holding…”I know you’re working”…Holding…then she wants us to give it our fullest expression for 1…2…”It’s not like you’re going to die here”…3!!! I keep waiting for someone to test her theory. But the thing is, I do love it. Even though it’s hard. Maybe we love what we do BECAUSE it’s hard. When you find yourself getting grumpy, expand your chest and breathe deeply, consciously into it. Remind yourself that you love it and that we’re all so fortunate to be doing it instead of, oh I dunno, sleeping in a high school gym with thousands of other tsunami victims in unsanitary conditions while they wait for nuclear meltdown?
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