You know those people. They could be your best friend or your neighbour or your work wife. You know them, and you envy them. And you hate them just a little bit. They’re those magical unicorns that seem to adore exercise. To crave it even.
It seems crazy, no? Sure exercise is great for your body, and you often feel pretty d**n accomplished after that long Sunday run. But it’s painful! And it takes away from time you could be cuddling your cat or checking out stimulating museum exhibitions. It’s wonderful for you, but really, it’s a means to an end.
Well, it was a means to an end, but we’re here to help you incorporate mindfulness into your physical exercise in order to stop seeing workouts as a chore and start craving them. We are no longer in it to burn off hated calories or achieve an “ideal” body. We want to exercise to be grateful for what our bodies are capable of, to feel more connected and present in our lives and to feel strong and empowered.
Sound good to you? Let’s get started.
1. Take stock of how you’re feeling before you get moving. It may sound so simple it’s almost dumb, but assessing your state of mind and physical state before you exercise is imperative. Can your mind not stop racing and you feel like you need to relax? Are you feeling bright and full of energy and ready to tackle a real muscle burn? Do you want to be by yourself, or are you craving the energy of others? Doing a quick check-in with yourself before you decide how to exercise will make it infinitely more enjoyable. Honour your truth. This will transform exercise from a chore you need to get done into a treat that will be a true reward, complementing or curing whatever feelings you have right in that moment.
2. Honour what you enjoy. Though it can be good to push yourself to do things every now and again and trying new things is fantastic, there’s absolutely no point in forcing yourself to exercise in a way that makes you miserable. If you hate the gym, head to a dance class or do some yoga. Not into kickboxing? Head out into nature for some horse riding or a bit of tennis with a friend. The world is your oyster!
3. Set an intention. If you’ve ever done a yoga class, you’ve likely heard the teacher goading you to set an intention. This doesn’t need to be a lofty wish for the universe like world peace. It should simply be something that helps you manage your energy and focus on what is most important to you. Exercising without intention is like driving on autopilot. Direct your thoughts, movement and energy toward a purpose that is meaningful for you.
4. Focus on your breath. Once again, yoga has it right! Paying attention to how and when you breathe will encourage mindfulness. Paying attention to your breath will allow you to honour it completely, following its natural rhythm. This can help you to relieve tension and turn your attention to your moving body and away from your thinking mind. This will help you to feel more connected to your movement practice, the earth beneath your feet and yourself.
5. Don’t forget to note. While you could go old school and take out a note pad, jotting things down as you exercise, that’s not really very practical. Instead, we like to engage in a noting practice whilst we move. When we start moving, we like to notice what is happening in your body, physically and mentally. If you’re on a run, it could be as simple as noticing that the cold air is bracing against your face, your ankle is giving you a little bit of trouble, the birds are singing beautifully overhead or your heart is strong and beating. This will aid you in becoming present in the moment and in the world around you.
6. Routine makes habit. It’s natural that at the beginning, you may not feel like exercising at all. But it’s incredibly important to turn it into a habit to ensure it becomes something you crave. The more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it. So, as often as you can, push yourself to go to that class or get some fresh air on a power walk. You’ll be craving in no time.
7. Be kind and be yourself. If you are in a group exercise class, don’t feel pressured or pushed to do just what the others are doing. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. You can’t stay out of the saddle for the entire pyramid at Rocycle? That’s ok! Give yourself a pardon and allow yourself to do your own thing. You will be empowered and will feel more excited about going to work out when you can do things your own way.