Weight-Lifting as a Mindful PracticeAugust 18, 2017
Mindfulness and Weight-Lifting?! This may sound like an odd – or impossible- combination, but fear not, my fitness friends, I’ll teach you how to make weight lifting a mindful, and enjoyable, experience!
First, if you currently lift weights, I want you to take a moment and reflect on what your normal routine looks like. Do you pump through each set as fast as you can, just trying to “get it over with?” Or, do you try to be fully engaged in the movements and motions, paying attention to the actual muscle you are exercising? Do you have the tendency to hold your breath, only to let out one big “UGH” when you throw your weights to the floor? Or, do you use your breath as a tool and synchronize it with your movements in a controlled and rhythmic way? Now that we’ve done a short self assessment, which of the above options sounds better (be honest!)– the former, or the latter?
For me, the latter options create an optimal weight-lifting experience because they allow for you to be fully present. First off, with anything in life, you should do it with purpose and meaning…otherwise what’s the point? Secondly, there are actual benefits for both your body and mind when you are aware and engaged. With weight-lifting, this is true in the form of both reaping the physical benefits, and achieving mental resiliency.
When lifting weights, people tend to be totally in their heads and do not even think about the muscle connection. However, if you take a moment to be really mindful and aware of what you are doing, you will actually feel the muscle that you are working on. This helps to avoid injury by assuring you that you are moving correctly and not recruiting incorrect muscles to support the weight. Additionally, when you are really focused on the muscle you are trying to exercise, you will see greater results.
As far as the mental connection goes, being present can give you the resilience to keep going and push through (obviously don’t push through injuries– this is for breaking mental barriers, not bones!) The words Mindfulness or meditation may conjure up images of sitting on a floor cushion and chanting ‘Om,’ but you can create your own type of meditation or Mindfulness practice by bringing a level of conscious awareness to anything you do– and lifting weights is no exception. Many athletes describe being “in the zone” when they are fully immersed in their sport, which is just another term for the Flow state of intense present-moment awareness. Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about how weight-lifting allows you to get in touch with your body and to create a relationship between mind and body. So, if you don’t believe me, take it from The Terminator!
How Can You Make Weight-Lifting a Mindful Practice?
- Create a deep focus on your breath during and in between sets: How do you spend your time in between sets? Do you check Instagram or take mirror selfies of your progress? (I’ve totally fallen into this category more than my fair share of times, but try not to!) Instead, try to really connect with your breath and tune into how your body feels.
- Feel every single body part from the moment you come in contact with the weight: Feel your grip, and pay attention to how the weight feels in your hands. Does it feel right? Is there any tension in your body?
- Match your breath to your movement: Inhale during the eccentric phase of a movement, which is the part where you’re not exerting the most effort (i.e. when you lower your arms during a bicep curl). Exhale during the concentric phase of a movement, which is where you’re muscles are contracting and under the most amount of tension (i.e. when you’re curling during a bicep curl). Really be aware of your breathing and use it to help guide you through the set–don’t hold your breath until it’s over!
- ENJOY IT: you’re already there, so have fun! Put on some great music and jam out–allow yourself to really get in “the zone.”