What are your fitness goals for 2016 – and how will you stick to your training plans in the coming months? Find out how bringing mindfulness into your exercise or training sessions could help...
Sticking to your training plan
One of the most reliable indicators of whether you’ll stick to an exercise plan or training schedule is whether or not you find your exercise enjoyable. It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? If you enjoy the exercise you’re taking, you’ll probably keep it up. But what if you’re not enjoying your exercise?
How practising mindfulness during exercise can help
Even if your chosen form of exercise or sport is something you really enjoy, there will still be times when you have a tough or disappointing run, swim, cycle, gym session or class, making it difficult to stay motivated. So, what’s the answer to making sure you enjoy your training?
A study published in The Journal of Health Psychology in early 2015 suggested that practising mindfulness during exercise could help you enjoy your sessions more – and that could be the difference between giving up and going on. The study, led by Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, looked at how much a team of volunteers exercised, how satisfying they found their exercise, how mindful they were during exercise, and how these variables affected each other.
The researchers found that the people who reported being most satisfied with their exercise were also the people who exercised the most – and vice versa. Not much of a surprise there, perhaps, but the research team also found that mindfulness played an important part in making exercise feel satisfying. Paying more attention to the experience of exercise itself – focusing your attention on your breathing, the sound and rhythm of your footfalls as you run, or feeling your muscles contract and relax as you work out in the gym – could help you enjoy your exercise more. And, if you enjoy it more, you’re much more likely to stick with it, even through the tough winter months ahead.
You can read more about the study here.
Of course, mindful exercising is also about adjusting your exercise sessions to suit your body’s needs at any given time. Be mindful of these needs, giving yourself a day of rest or choosing a less challenging session when you’re tired, for instance. Be aware of and listen to your body.
Finally, as you exercise, you may find your mind wandering – perhaps getting swept away by thoughts about how well or badly you think your session or training plan is going. When your mind wanders like this (which is entirely natural), gently and kindly bring it back to the sensations of movement in your body, the feel of your feet on the ground or the air moving in and out of your lungs as you breathe. Stay present and enjoy your exercise!
Jill Kerr says...
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