I got some new trainers this weekend. My old ones have done way too many miles. I was starting to feel some aches and pains as a result of their lack of bounce and when I realised that my socks were getting to be visible through holes in the top I knew it was time for a shopping trip!
I have always got on well with New Balance trainers, they seem to suit my foot shape perfectly. I have done 3 runs in them now and they are great, there is certainly a lot more bounce!
The name New Balance got me thinking about sports performance and how our state of mental balance really impacts on our performance. I know that when I have done my meditation before my run I have a great session. My mind is settled and calm and I can focus all of my energy on my training.
When something is bothering me I often experience it going round and round like a stuck record. It could be a worry from my day or it could be a nagging concern about a sore knee or slight back pain that I don’t quite want to admit that I have! Sound familiar?
If you do physical exercise you may well find that your work out is a time where your thoughts become particularly apparent in your mind. Usually there is a repetitive nature to working out and if this is the case the mind can go onto automatic pilot and worry away. You are then left feeling like you have no control over your thoughts.
Before I entered into the world of mindfulness and meditation I used to think that runs cleared my head. I know that good run could certainly snap me out of a work induced daze at the end of the day. I realise now that I was still preoccupied by my worries though. I would usually run with friends and we would take it in turns to vent our frustrations from the day! Quite therapeutic but not the answer if you are looking to improve your performance because talking whilst training also reduces the amount of energy you are putting in to the physical exercise.
So if you want focus rather than having a wandering mind then mindfulness techniques can really help. Doing a daily meditation will get your brain in training so that it recognises the exercise more easily when you do it during a physical work out. You mind will then respond more quickly and pay attention when you ask.
Introducing a mindfulness exercise into your work out can be a great way to double the benefit you get from your session. Doing the exercise during your warm up and cool down is great. For the middle part of your session, where you really want to push yourself, your mind should then be ready to focus and this will allow you to perform without mental niggles holding you back.
So keep the exercise simple so that you can remember what to do even when you are working your body at the same time…
Firstly get into the rhythm of what ever you are doing, allow yourself a couple of minutes just to get used to your form of exercise. Notice the rhythm that builds up.
Then start to count. Your counting should fit in with the rhythm of your exercise rather than with your breath.
Count up to 10 and then go back to 1 and start again.
Each time your mind wanders redirect your attention back to the rhythm of your exercise and start counting again. If you can’t remember what number you were on then just start at one again.
Repeat this whilst you warm up and then take a break for the main part of your work out and then introduce it again as you start to cool down. If you feel that your main work out suffers when you stop the exercise of course feel free to introduce it then too. As you get more used to the exercise your mind will also get used to taking the break in the middle. Your mind will get used to this being a time to focus fully on your performance.
Learning to meditate is a skill and like all skills it requires repetition to become good at it. Don’t give up if your find your mind wandering every 2 seconds, it is completely normal for this to happen until your mind becomes more responsive at listening to what you want. Don’t get frustrated with yourself, treat it as a little more motivation for carrying on with the practice.
On our Revitalise Days session you can learn how to get mindfulness into your everyday life. Everything you do can be done mindfully, it just takes practise. Our retreats are held in Leicestershire and offer an opportunity to really kick start your practise. A day spent eating healthy food and training your brain is a great way to get your body and mind in balance.