You are more than just your body.
While most people think of working out as a purely physical action, both research and experience show the important connection between the mind and body when it comes to fitness. Holistic fitness recognizes the inter-connectedness of a person and that in order to achieve maximum health, it’s essential to be aware of not only what’s going on in the physical body, but also how the mind and emotions are connected to it.
We’ve long known that endorphins are released during exercise, offering a sense of euphoria that is often called the “runner’s high.” However new research is showing that exercise can actually help the brain to form new connections between brain cells or even stimulate the growth of new cells. There are also serious indications that exercise leads to higher mental function.
With those kinds of benefits, it’s no wonder there’s been a sweeping movement in recent years to turn up the mind-body connection during workouts.
How to improve your mind-body connection during workouts
How can you improve the mind-body connection during your workouts? Here are five tips that will help you drop in and get all of the benefits that will take your workouts to the next level.
1. Embrace workouts for yourself
A workout offers a great chance for you to have “me” time. Getting fit isn’t about your spouse or your children or your parents or your friends or your instructor – it’s about YOU. Embrace this time for yourself, as the perfect time to get to know you a little better than you did before.
2. Check your internal dialogue
What are you thinking about when you’re working out? Are you making grocery lists? Are you contemplating work commitments? Are you counting down the minutes until it’s over?
Getting your internal dialogue aligned with your goals is an important part of this process. Your mind cannot be connected to your body if it’s wandering off places that have little to do with the task at hand. Work to redirect that internal dialogue so that it’s right there with you while you’re working out.
When you find your mind wandering, gently pull it back to the feedback that you’re getting from your body. The more you’re able experience your body while you’re working out, the more you’ll be able to create a strong and fruitful connection between your body and your mind.
3. Listen to music
Calming music that brings you into the moment can be an incredible aid in improving the mind-body connection. Something that doesn’t have words or has words in a language that you don’t understand is best. That’s because when you activate the language centers of your brain, you’re drawing your attention away from connecting to your physical body. Whether it’s classical music or something with a more modern flair, listening music while you workout is something that you can incorporate into your workouts immediately.
4. Practice sensory connections
One of the best ways to improve your mind-body connection during a workout is to begin your regimen with what’s known as a “body scan.” Incredibly simple and wonderfully effective, a quick body scan will help you to check in with yourself, aligning your body and your mind.
The process is easy. Sit, stand or lie down, it absolutely doesn’t matter what position you’re in so just make it convenient. Now begin to experience your body in stages, starting with your toes. No judgement, no worry, just a check in to see how each part is doing. Look out for potential injuries or areas of increased stress and consciously tighten the muscles, then release them. Once you’ve gone over each part of your body, relax and try to experience your body as a whole. Notice any patterns that have emerged. With a bit of practice, the whole process should take less than three minutes and should ideally be done before every workout.
5. Focus on breathing
Breath is the essence of life. It connects us to the world in which we live, calms our mind and helps us to focus.
If you’re just huffing and puffing through your workouts without thinking specifically about how your breath is being formed and how it’s shaping your physical exertion, then you’re missing out on some powerful opportunities to connect your body and mind. Simply adding in controlled breathing to a workout routine will offer you some stunning results.
6. Take care of your body
Eat well. Sleep well. Hydrate well. These three elegantly simple activities support the mind-body connection in a wide variety of ways. If you’re not eating well, then your body doesn’t have the fuel to keep going and your mind begins to slow down. If you aren’t sleeping well, then you’ll quickly find that it’s more difficult to get your muscles to obey the signals that are coming from your brain. Quality sleep that’s at least eight hours per night is essential. Finally, don’t forget about hydration. The brain and the body are both composed mostly of water, and when they are deprived of it they both function at a far lower capacity than they’re able to.