Have you ever driven somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realize you haven’t noticed anything along the way? Or eaten a chocolate bar, taken a bite, then noticed that all you had left in your hand is a wrapper? Of course, we all have! These are common examples of mindlessness, or being on “automatic pilot.” We all fall into habits of mind and body, attention and inattention, which result in our not being present for our own lives. This can result in our missing some really good things, and also in our ignoring really important information and messages about our life, our relationships, and even our own health.
We all hear about being more mindful of what you eat, right? Mindless eating leads to poor food choices and consumption of too many calories. What about mindfulness when you exercise? Do you go to the gym and just go through the motions? Do you read or watch TV while riding the bike or walking the treadmill, or do you really focus on your workout, the muscles that are being worked, and pushing your body to reach its potential?
Many people do not get as much as they should from their workouts, simply because they do it mindlessly. It doesn’t matter what form of exercise you do, whether you have an instructor or trainer, or just yourself, your focus should be on your workout the entire time. If you’re too busy thinking of all the errands you need to run later, or talking to your girlfriend about the latest vampire movie, I can guarantee you are not working your muscles to their fullest.
It is extremely important when doing exercises such as weight training or pilates to be very mindful of your form and what muscles you should be focused on. If you don’t know what muscles you are using in a particular exercise, find out! Ask your trainer or instructor, or look at the diagram on the machine you are using. If you still can’t find it, ask any trainer at your health club. When performing exercises (even ones you’ve performed 100 times before) really feel the muscles that are being worked, go through the entire range of motion, and be mindful of your form. Being mindful of your body during a workout allows you to change something that doesn’t feel right before an injury occurs. It also teaches you how to use those muscles properly in certain situations so that, later, when you aren’t in the gym and you pick your child off the floor, you will consciously do so with proper form and using the correct muscles.
It is quite easy to become distracted and lose mindfulness, especially in a crowded gym. When this happens, just give yourself a gentle reminder (don’t beat yourself up) and refocus. After all, it may be the only time of the day you get to focus on yourself 100%!