The act of staying present, or “mindful”, has been found to help with the regulation of emotion, stress and anxiety. But mindfulness is not only just great for mental health, in fact, it’s also an effective tool for exercise.
A common technique applied in strength training is the mind muscle connection— the idea that by consciously thinking about, and mentally focusing on, the muscles used during an exercise, it’s possible to better engage and grow those particular muscles. Whilst thinking your way to better muscle growth may sound too good to be true, scientific studies have yielded results to support this theory. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has proven that focusing on the muscles while performing a “push—up” increased muscle activity, especially in the triceps. Other studies have also proven that mental focus when performing certain exercise moves have resulted in muscle hypertrophy.
In running, mindfulness applies a different approach. As part of a promotional campaign, Japanese brand Asics created the Blackout Track, dubbed the world’s first running track to train the mind. The campaign involved an experiment by Professors Samuele Marcora and Jo Corbett, who discovered that psychological factors and physical cues such as technology or music for example, affect endurance running performance. The experiment, conducted in total darkness, with fog machines blasting and only a single spotlight, proved that running is as much impacted by the mind as it is by the body.
Further. Faster. More Peacefully.
Applying principles from meditation, mindful running involves being mentally present, and concentrating on the body and how it feels. The “mindful running” school of thought dictates that if you can focus on how you feel while running, unencumbered by the compulsion to set a new personal best every time, you can begin to zero in on your training and over time allow both the body and mind to relax to find a greater sense of running enjoyment.
How to achieve this? To run mindfully, shrug off those external distractions and pressures and really listen to your body. Remove (all) outside distractions such as music or your smart watch and focus on the present. Once you’ve shed those external distractions, stay present by focusing on two important questions: “How am I breathing?” and “Where am I looking?” Try to breathe through your nose as much as you can. Mouth—breathing is a stress response, so focusing on nostril breathing keeps you in a more relaxed state. And keep your gaze soft and wide, toward your periphery, instead of focused, to stay in that chill zone. A stable treadmill, like the Intenza 550 Series will ensure that every step is meaningful.
Mindfulness can be applied to every part of our lives. By applying this concept to exercise you’re more likely to achieve better results whether you’re seeking physical results or stress—relief. Next time you work out, why not exercise your brain too? #howfitnessshouldfeel
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