Meditation has become a buzzword as of recent, and it’s not for lack of good reason--this practice has so many benefits for your mind, body, and soul! Meditation can help you to reduce stress and relax, to cultivate focus and attention, and to be more present and aware of your body and your thoughts. Given that exercising requires both physical awareness and mental focus, it’s interesting to consider how meditating before you hit the gym can enhance your workout and help you maximize your results. All you need is a few minutes to slow down, close your eyes, and connect with your breath. While there’s countless perks to pausing and doing a quick meditation before you exercise, here’s my top 4 benefits:
1. Allows you to connect with your intention: You may be a fitness fanatic, but how often do you take a moment to reflect on WHY you workout? As discussed in my previous post, reconnecting to your WHY is important because it can serve as a great motivation to remind you of why you’re hitting the gym in the first place. If you have never spent some time thinking about why you’re exercising or cultivating an intention, that might be worthwhile to explore! A good way to connect with your intention is to call it to mind and take a moment to really think about it. You can also take it one step further and visualize yourself doing it, seeing it through, and living as your ideal self.
2. Warms up your muscles and creates a mind-body connection: Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about how weight-lifting allows you to get in touch with your body and to create a relationship between mind and body. And, you can start that mind-muscle connection before you even step foot in the gym. We do a brief warm up to increase blood flow before lifting weights, so why wouldn’t we do a quick mental warm up in order to get in the proper mind-frame and make the most of our workout? One meditation that is great for strengthening the mind-body connection is a body scan: you start at your feet and focus your breath on each part of your body, slowly working your way up. You can also practice visualization and picture the routine you’re going to be doing: allow yourself to really see and connect with the muscles involved with each movement. Using the breath to bring focus and attention to different parts of the body not only helps the muscles to open up and relax, but it also makes you more aware of the muscles you are using and is a great way to check for proper form.
3. Primes you to be Mindful during your workout session: In our busy lives, it’s easy to mentally check-out and start daydreaming about doing more pleasurable things. With weight-lifting, which isn’t ALWAYS fun (c’mon, admit it!), this can especially hold true. Many people simply pump through their workout as fast as possible as a means to an end--they just want to see results. However, if you are not going to be immersed in the activity that you are currently involved in, why do it in the first place? Bringing a level of mindfulness to your workout can make it more enjoyable, connect you back to your intention, and create more mental resilience so you can feel empowered to keep pushing forward, even when it gets tough!
4. Reduces Depression: Research has shown that the combination of meditation and exercise can enhance mood and combat depression. Specifically, this duo of mental and physical training can reduce ruminative thought processes-- a.k.a when you obsessively think “I really regret not going to the gym last week because I was sick, my muscles would look so much better right now.” This cycle of regrets about the past can be broken with meditation by encouraging you to focus on the present moment, and combining this practice with your exercise introduces additional cognitive and mental health benefits.