A Penny For Your Thoughts
“After I’m done with my workout, I have to make it to the grocery store before my 11’o clock client. What am I going to make for dinner tonight? Man, I hate squats! How many more of these jumping jacks is she going to make me do? I have to be sure to call Jane at some point today to ask her how many cups I’ll need to bring to Saturday brunch. Dale had better help with the dishes today. Whew! Made it to the stretch. I can’t forget to buy some more toilet paper at the store.”
This is a sample conversation I’ll find myself in during a workout. Sound familiar? The days I feel defeated after a workout are the ones when I allow my outside stressors to control my thought process during that session. I’m worrying about what I’m going to do with the 4:30 class, how I should be working on updating my QuickBooks, or when my taxes are due. If my phone is within arms reach, forget about it. My subconscious is zoned in on who’s texted me, or what’s happening in Facebook world. I finish the workout feeling as though it was a waste of time.
On the reverse side, the days when I take control and force myself to stay focused on each exercise during the workout are the ones that put me in "super hero" mode. I'm sweaty, out of breath, and a little shaky as well as feeling accomplished, exhilarated from the rush of endorphins, and proud of all the hard work I just put forth. I'm ready to conquer the day! Maybe it’s because I’m training my brain to take a vacation from life’s issues so that I can come back at them with a clearer mindset?
Did you know that’s called meditation? To mindfully meditate is to think deeply, or to focus one’s mind for a period of time as a method of relaxation. Often we relate meditation with yoga, but you can adapt the practice into any method of exercise. By connecting the mind to the body, you’re able to improve your posture, prevent injury, find balance in the muscles throughout the body, lower your cortisol (stress) levels faster, and improve your overall mental and physical health!
I came across a surprising fact found in a survey done by Microsoft based on media consumption. Did you know that in today’s society, we have an attention span of 8 seconds?! Which means that we can only stay focused on one particular thing without distraction as long as a goldfish can. That’s horrible! It went down from 12 seconds in 2000! So how can we prevent outside distractions for better mindful meditation during exercise?
Put away anything that is going to subconsciously distract you. Silence your phone and keep it out of eye sight. Leave everything in your car and just bring your keys if that's what it takes. Life can wait for 45 minutes while you take care of yourself.
Save your conversations with your buddy for the end of class. All the way to the end...not just until it's stretching time. Talking is only another tactic you’re abusing to distract yourself from the discomfort of what you’re currently doing. Meanwhile, you've hurt your lower back because your belly was sagging to the ground in your plank. Pay attention to what you're doing, embrace the pain, and breath through it!
Train your brain to focus on the positive. I know many of my clients get sick of my “happy go lucky” attitude, but there’s a reason for it. When you’re thinking negatively during exercise, it only sets off more stress within the body which elevates the “stress hormone”, cortisol. Little bursts of cortisol during exercise is healthy, but we want it to fall back down after our body has adapted to the situation. Staying in a state of “RED ALERT” for long periods of time is bad for your long-term health (weight gain, poor immune system, dimentia, etc.).