Mindfulness and strength training. How could they possibly be related? Despite common perceptions about mindfulness, its usefulness isn't just for a yoga studio or meditation retreat. Here are seven ways I help my mind stay engaged during a workout.
1.) Count your repetitions. Instead of just doing your standard three sets of 10-12 repetitions, mix up your routine and keep your mind engaged by completing higher repetitions with lower weight, for example, two sets of 25 repetitions, or 100-150 repetitions for simple body-weight exercises. Of course, the higher amount of repetitions you choose, the less amount of load you'll be lifting. Still, having to count your repetitions to higher and different numbers helps keep you mindful of your movements.
2.) Practice eccentric movements. Eccentric means lengthening the muscle under load. For example, if you were to perform a bicep curl and then let your arms slowly unwind downward, you would be creating an eccentric movement by elongating the muscle. This movement helps keep your routine fresh and your brain focused on working your muscles in a different way.
3.) Slow it down. A trainer once told me, "you control the weight; don't let the weight control you." Purposefully slowing down your movements helps you to keep your mind on the muscle you're working and really feel the burn. To feel the impact on your muscles of slowing down your exercises, mix up your routine by completing seven regular repetitions, seven slow ones, and seven quick ones.
4.) Spot a friend. Helping a friend lift weights requires your careful attention to assist him or her to make it through the set despite muscle fatigue toward the end. Quite simply, you don't want to drop the weight on your friend (or yourself!), so you need to pay attention!
5.) Concentrate on breathing. Pay attention to your breath while lifting. Breathe out when contracting the muscle (the hardest part of the exercise).
6.) Practice drop sets. Increasing your weight and performing even one or two additional repetitions will not only help you build muscle but will also help you pay more attention to your weight selection and your body's ability to lift that particular weight. When you fatigue after a few reps, drop down to the next weight to finish the set. Drop down again during the set if you need to. Pay attention to the amount of weight you subtract each time to help you remember where to start your set next time. This constant re-evaluation of your weight selection will help you stay aware.
7.) Increase your weight selection. Lunges, for example, are a great way to really feel the impact of various weight selections and your body's capability related to those selections. Practice various sets of weighted lunges by gradually increasing your weight. Hold a weight plate on the same side as the leg you are working, or hold weight plates of equal weight in each hand. The goal is to feel the differences among the various weights as you go up in weight after each set. Depending on your fitness level, you'd be surprised that 35 pounds, for example, might not feel too heavy as you hold it in your hand when your legs are helping you do the work! For weighted lunges, practice this technique by going up 10 pounds each set you complete.
Being in the gym or engaging in a workout routine doesn't mean turning your mind off. To help you get the most out of your workouts, use these techniques to stay self-aware. Then, perhaps the next time you're in the gym, you'll be more likely to recall how your body reacted to a particular exercise or how much weight to start or end with.
© 2017 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.
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