By Jane Sandwood
Achieving your fitness goals requires mental as well as physical training.
Men who were instructed to internally focus on squeezing their muscles while doing barbell curls saw a 12% increase in bicep growth, whereas men who performed the same exercise without intentionally focusing on the muscle at work saw only a 7% increase in size.
In other words, strengthening the connection between mind and body can improve all aspects of athletic performance, and one way to establish this connection is by practicing meditation. Integrating mindfulness and meditation into your workout can also reduce the risk of injury, decrease performance anxiety and help you get the most out of every workout.
Meditation Can Reduce The Risk of Injury
Stress increases muscle tension, which puts you at greater risk for developing a sports-related injury. Meditation decreases stress levels and relaxes your muscles, improving flexibility and preventing muscles from becoming stiff and sore.
Athletes who practice mindfulness can also experience higher levels of pain tolerance, which aids in recovery from sports injuries.
You can incorporate mindfulness, breathwork and stretching into your pre-workout or pre-game meditation by practicing yoga, to prevent sprains and muscle tears. Reducing stress through meditation can also improve your immune system and help you sleep better, to ensure your body performs optimally.
Meditating Before a Workout Can Help You Overcome Inertia
Sometimes, the stress of daily life can hinder your workout. You may feel like you don’t have time to get to the gym, or you’re simply not in the mood.
Beginning a workout with a meditation session can help you break away from your busy day and get you in the mindset to care for yourself. You can also include a few moments of mindfulness at the end of your workout to reflect on your achievements, which can help you apply what you’ve learned to your next session.
Also, group meditations - like family meditations - can be very effective as meditating with your family improves your bond, boosts your mood, and motivates all members to work out harder and achieve better results.
Meditation Helps You Get in the Zone
Athletes in the peak of their performance can experience something called “flow.” Flow consists of 9 dimensions, which include clear goals, a sense of control and complete concentration on the task at hand. If you’ve ever lost yourself in rhythmic sound of your sneakers pounding the pavement, or summoned all your strength to get in five more reps, you’ve experienced flow.
Through practicing mindfulness, breathwork and meditation, you can set intentions for your workout or game, visualize your steps for each play and overcome any performance anxiety you’re experiencing.
Meditation helps you stay fully present in the moment, allowing you to tune out distractions and realize your goals.
Meditation Helps You Better Understand Your Opponent
If you practice any form of martial arts, then you know the importance of harnessing mental energy to achieve a physical goal.
Eastern forms of martial arts, like kung fu, karate and tai-chi are all founded in Buddhist and Taoist principles, which emphasize the importance of training your mind in order to win in combat. In karate, for example, you are guided to know yourself before you can know others.
Kung fu training involves rigorous meditation to connect with the inner source of your strength and gain greater command over physical skills. The philosophies inherent in martial arts practice can be applied to any competitive sports; letting go of ego can help you see your opponent more clearly and anticipate their movements.
Meditation Can Help You Lose Weight
If you’re working towards shedding a few pounds, mindful eating can improve your relationship with food and make it easier to reach your target weight. Mindful eating means eating without distraction, taking time to use your senses and notice the scent, texture and appearance of your food.
While practicing mindful eating, you turn off the TV, put away your phone and avoid anything that may take your attention away from your meal. You chew slowly and acknowledge any feelings that may come up while eating.
Eating mindfully gives your brain time to process signals from your body indicating when you are full. You’ll also be able to address underlying emotional issues that contribute to overeating.
Apart from mindful eating, reducing stress through any form of meditation can prevent you from reaching for high calorie comfort foods. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite and causes the body to hold on to fat stores. Meditating helps lower cortisol levels to make weight loss possible.
Reaching your fitness goals requires a presence of mind that meditation can help you achieve.
Looking at your mind and body in its totality, rather than as isolated components, benefits you both physically and mentally. Integrating meditation into your workouts increases your enjoyment and performance, resulting in a happier, healthier you.
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