When it comes to exercise, we all have our own way of doing it. Maybe we like to run, take a yoga class or—my favorite—hit the surf. Some of us care about having the latest workout clothes; for others, that’s not important.
But how much thought do you give to the role of your mind in the exercises you do? We might spend months researching the latest bike or pair of sneakers, but if we don’t train and engage the mind correctly, our exercise can never reach its full potential.
Put simply, if we want our bodies to be fit, our minds must be, too.
How to Train Your Mind
For exercise to be most effective, achieving mental balance is essential. Get this right, and workouts naturally become more fun, effective and sustainable.
All we need to do is step back from that constant stream of thought that tends to clutter the mind. By stepping back, we create more space in the mind, which makes it easier to become aware of the moment and focus on the exercise we’re doing. And this is mindfulness—the route to mental balance that’s prescribed to everyone from Olympic athletes to the likes of you and me.
Mindfulness gives us a clarity and lack of distraction that’s essential for mental balance. In exercise, it gives us confidence to perform every stroke and move every muscle naturally and to the very best of our ability.
Imagine swimming mindfully, focused on perfecting every stroke with the best sense of timing, effort and ease. The results from completing 50 lengths like this will be far superior to swimming up and down while worrying about work and what to make for dinner.
Working out mindfully means we’re giving the exercise we work so hard on the attention it deserves, giving us the best results yet.
Try these 10 tips for improving mental balance:
1. Learn how to meditate to sharpen your focus and relax your mind.
2. Understand your motivation. What do you really want to get out of your workout? Once this is clear, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals.
3. Set realistic, achievable goals. Identify the small steps and you’ll be on your way to a steady and successful journey.
4. Create a new habit. Same place, same time is crucial to forming a habit, so find a time in the day when you know you can make your workouts happen.
5. Use your imagination. Mentally rehearsing your exercise is proven to give quicker results and boost your confidence. Professional athletes have done this for decades—join them!
6. Think less, do more. Use mindfulness to retain your focus on the present moment. Let go of your passing thoughts and enjoy a more focused, productive workout.
7. Be flexible. Things don’t always go to plan, so when you miss a session or two, just accept it and get going again the very next day.
8. Have fun. Exercise is inherently fun; don’t push so hard you lose sight of this. Instead of your workout feeling like a chore, appreciate it as a time-out from a busy day.
9. Congratulate yourself. Feel good about completing your workout; it’ll make the mind calmer and more content—and you’ll be more likely to keep it up.
10. Integrate fitness in your life. Whether that’s cycling to work or playing more energetically with your children, look for opportunities to use your newfound fitness within your everyday life.
Bringing mental balance to your exercise through mindfulness makes all of that effort worth it. And directed by a mind that’s trained, focused and aware, your body will become more capable, strong and fit. And your workouts? Well, they’ll just become more fun.