And to Make Sure We Keep Exercise in Our Lives

I have to remember to answer that important email at work. What will I make for dinner tonight? Are there any vegetables that are about to expire? I haven’t seen that friend in a long time; how is she doing? Maybe I need to start getting to work earlier so I get closer to that promotion. Oh I need to fit in a workout.

A running to-do script is continuously going on inside our heads. Worries, questions, stressors are a constant presence in our mind. It is often difficult to shut off our brains from everyday stressors and disconnect. We keep over-analyzing every situation until our eyes shut at night. And even then, it can be difficult to go to sleep since our minds keep racing.

Our brains are overflowing with all the things we need to do from work-related issues, family issues, personal issues, and more. These everyday stressors can affect our workout! Our cluttered minds cause us to shift away from what we are doing. During fitness, this means we work out on autopilot; just going through the motions. We allow every thought that has nothing to do with our present workout to wander in.

Not being present during fitness causes us to enjoy that time less. We are just going through the motions and we don’t even allow ourselves to enjoy it.

This is a problem since it affects whether or not we will keep our workout goals. Multiple studies relating to exercise behavior show that one of the most reliable indicators of whether people will continue to exercise is that they find exercise satisfying. Whether they enjoy being active.

So being present will allow us to enjoy our fitness time. And this, in turn, will lead us to keep exercise in our lives.

A recent study published in The Journal of Health Psychology, published findings that support the fact that people who reported being most satisfied with exercise were also the people who exercised the most, and vice versa. Additionally, people who reported being mindful during exercise also generally reported satisfaction with exercise.

Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Utrecht University who led the study, explains that the message is “that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences with physical activity become prominent. For those experiences to be noticed one must become aware of them. We would argue that this can be achieved by being mindful.”

Let’s talk about what being present means.

Being present simply means being engaged physically, mentally, and emotionally in what you are doing in this moment. Being fully involved and attentive to what is happening with your body, mind, and heart at that precise instant.

The opposite is focusing on the past or the future. Thoughts of the past most often dwell on what could’ve been or what would’ve happened and thoughts of the future dwell on what’s going to happen or what might happen if…

How can we be present?

Stop trying to multi task and focus only on one thing. Let go of everything that happened before that instant and everything that will happen after. Being in complete awareness of what is happening in the present moment.

“There is only one time that is important — NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.” — Leo Tolstoy

Choosing to dial in and be more present in our workout has many more benefits.

  1. We turn a workout from just something we need to get in and get done into working with a purpose. Working with a purpose will give us something to focus on. We can focus on certain muscle groups, finishing an entire workout, or pushing ourselves harder in a certain section that is usually difficult for us. Focus will challenge us more than just doing mindless repetitions as if we were checking items off a list.
  2. We prevent injury, while enhancing the workout. Being present makes us focus on what we are doing and ultimately ensures that what we are working on is the target. For example, if we are working on biceps, focusing on that action will help make sure the effort is coming from the bicep and not the neck. If working on squats, focusing on the action will ensure that we are engaging the glutes every time we come up, instead of letting all the effort come from the thighs. This prevents injury by working the correct muscles and not overworking other muscles that should be in relaxation mode.
  3. We give our workout our full attention, and start asking questions. We feel the workout harder in our body and ask why we are enduring all this effort and/or pain. This is the moment we remind ourselves of the positive benefits of a healthy lifestyle. We remember why we decided to start exercising to begin with and how it makes us feel afterwards. This keeps our goal reinforced as we recognizing all the positive benefits.
  4. We are mindful of the quality of our workout instead of the quantity, which will lead to better changes and will benefit other areas of our lives. Drawing attention to the way our muscles feel after strenuous strength training can lead to a confidence boost. Noticing our breath in yoga will make us feel more connected to our center. Going to the rhythm of the music in spin class will make it a quality workout since it will boost our mood and feel uplifted. Making connection between our workouts and how we are feeling or what we are thinking will make the workout work more for us. A quality workout will guarantee that the benefits of that time extend to other areas of our lives. This is more effective than just burning calories or building muscle.
  5. We focus more on our form which leads to better posture. We will make sure we are in correct alignment. During exercise, this not only prevents injuries but leads to a better workout. A better posture will influences the way we walk or stand after the workout extending the better form to our everyday lives. Good posture is critical for our health and reduces neck and back pain. Poor form adds strain to muscles and puts stress on our spine. Not only is a good posture better for our health, but it works wonders on our appearance and our self-confidence.

Being mindful of every moment in our lives is incredibly important. So we can practice being present during our workouts and take advantage of that time. We are all busy, so doing both things at once sounds ideal! We get a workout in and we practice being present so that it ultimately transcends to other areas of our life.

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