How Mindfulness Can Make Exercise Enjoyable!
I need to be honest with you. I am overweight and exercise does not come naturally to me. Exercise has always been something I had to do (yet mainly avoided), and not something I enjoyed.
I dreaded exercise. When I did it, I would distract myself with music or the T.V to make it pass as quickly as possible. I made exercise a chore – something that had to be done, but wasn’t enjoyable.
This was until I experienced nerve damage in my back. It was very painful, and the doctor told me I needed to start moving daily to repair the damage to my back.
I realised I needed to find a way to make exercise enjoyable. I had been practicing mindfulness for a while and decided that was the key. To incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into my daily mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. By making exercise my enemy I was doing the opposite to this: mentally removing myself from the present moment and taking my attention away from my body. I was making the present moment an obstacle to overcome.
By exercising with mindfulness techniques, it has become an enjoyable part of my day. It helps me connect to my body, stay calm and relaxed and has greatly improved the damage to my back. I have also lost a couple of kilograms which is an added bonus!
Below are the mindfulness techniques I incorporate into my daily exercise:
Turn Into The Experience Rather Than Wishing It Away
By turning into the experience, I notice what is happening within me and around me. I allow distractions (such as incessant thoughts) to filter in and out of my mind without fixating or judging them. By not fixating on thoughts, I can move my attention from inside my head, to in my body.
Exercise Outside Rather Than Inside
Previously I would exercise on the treadmill while watching TV. Now (weather permitting) I exercise outdoors. I engage my senses with the changing scenery. This keeps me anchored in the moment.
Focus On the Next Movement Only
I keep my focus on the next step or the next breath. By doing this I have stopped obsessing over how much exercise I have done, or how long until it is over. It keeps me present in the now and actually makes exercising feel quicker!
Notice The Discomfort
I acknowledge the discomfort I experience without focussing on it. By doing this I don’t make the discomfort of exercise an enemy. By staying present I can distinguish the difference between normal discomfort and when my body is under unnecessary strain.
Focus On The Core, Posture and Breath
I have terrible posture. So while mindfully exercising I tighten my core muscles and keep my posture straight. Most importantly I focus on my breath moving in and out of my body. I don’t hold my breath or gulp for air when doing cardio work.
I Relax For A Few Minutes At The End
As part of my warm down, I take a few moments to relax. I focus on my breath and notice my heart rate slowing down. I close my eyes and give thanks to my amazing body and what it can do.
By exercising mindfully, It is no longer a chore. Exercise is now an enjoyable part of my mindfulness routine.