Mindfulness is a buzz word that could apply to many aspects of our life. In my practice as a dietitian, we talk about mindfulness around food and eating, and often for stress management and goal setting. I often use mindfulness to help myself and my clients make informed choices that are in line with their goals. Being mindful could apply to setting goals in many of your daily activities. Just the other day, after talking to a client about why they find exercise so challenging, it got me thinking about how we can apply mindfulness to exercise or training?
I love to exercise. My reasons for exercising have morphed over the years and I'm happy to say that I exercise for myself and for reasons unrelated to weight. I'm not sure it's always been this way. But over the years, and experimenting with different kinds of exercise and workout environments, I have come to understand that my body craves it both physically and emotionally. I feel better, I have more energy, I sleep better and drink more water, it provides a sense of balance in my day, improves my mood, and of course impacts my body and my body image in positive ways. But let's face it. Some of us live for our daily sweat, while some of us dread it, and maybe this fluctuates depending on your mindset, or energy level that day. I say, why not honour that? Maybe if we did, we would be less likely to avoid it altogether - cue that all or nothing mentality that is always derailing.
Whether you love to exercise or hate it, we all know the mental and physical benefits of moving our bodies. And for those wanting to change their body comp, like many of my clients do, exercise is a key component to success.
In-spite of that there are real barriers or perceived barriers to exercising. Examples may be pain or injury, time, access to equipment or space, knowledge of how to exercise safely and efficiently. Or maybe you would rather spend that 30-60 mins doing something else! Totally fair. Ideally I get my clients to a place where exercise is something they do for themselves, for the right reasons, and something they look forward to in their day, while reaping the physical benefits of staying fit, but getting here may be a process.
If you love to exercise OR you hate it, try adding #mindfulness to your exercise practice this week.. just as an experiment. Start by setting some basic and specific goals. If you aren’t exercising now pick something that encourages moving more. Is there something active you enjoy? Start there! If you’re already keen but losing motivation, plan to move differently. Find a new challenge. Mindfulness includes asking yourself what’s gonna help make this happen or maybe, what’s standing in your way?
For me, mindfulness includes planning a specific time and place so I can visualize the how and when. I might have a general idea of the types of workouts I want to do that week, but sometimes I just do what I feel like, or what fits in! For some, it helps to sign up for a class that sounds fun and keeps them accountable. Maybe it’s as simple as taking the time to prep. Do you need to set up space in your home, vet some online workouts, or purchase some weights? Would you prefer to meet up with a friend to make it social? These are just examples of how you can support success by planning and being specific about what YOU NEED.
Before during and after exercise apply some mindfulness principles. This means asking yourself. How am I feeling today? What do I feel up for? Being aware of your body and your mind. Did the exercise make you feel more tired? Maybe you felt more energized? Did the movement feel good or too hard? Did your exercise session encourage you to practice other healthy behaviours that day like drink more water, prepare a nutritious meal, get better sleep, have a better daily routine, make your body feel looser? Were you fuelled and hydrated? Did it increase hunger later that day? Maybe it made you feel stiff. Did you like that feeling or was it too much? Maybe next time go a little easier so you wanna do it again vs feeling overwhelmed. If you hated it why and what might make you enjoy it more? Were you discouraged or did you feel proud? Was it too hard? Did it take too much time? Was it not challenging enough? Were you satisfied with your setup and equipment?
These are just examples of directive thoughts and questions you might start asking yourself around exercise to identify YOUR OWN personal barriers and facilitators and get in touch with your feelings around exercise. Since mindfulness helps us learn more about our emotions and challenges, we can better problem solve and specifically strategize for success. Start the non-judgemental process of mindfulness and see if it changes your motivation to move more OR continue moving and maybe even look forward to it!
Are you an exercise lover or hater? Spill the beans. What keeps you motivated? Have you tried mindfulness around exercise? I’d love to hear your thoughts.