Hello mind, meet your body. I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Mindful meditation and physical fitness may seem like separate practices, but you can take a common thread from each system that when woven together make up a magnificent thing called Mind-Muscle Connection. The research and studies show evidence of MMC’s positive results; and although theories are not proven they are indeed convincing. An awareness of one’s body can catapult your fitness program to another level.
It’s pretty straightforward. When performing a specific exercise, you direct your attention to the principal muscle group with deliberate physical contraction through visualization. Like playing darts, you are aiming for a bullseye, but to make the target it takes hand-eye coordination, concentration and lots of practice. MMC is simple to achieve; our body comes prepared with capabilities because our brains neuro function can control the flexion of our muscles. The only possible hurdle, as with any new venture, is that it takes time and patience to develop.
You may think your workout begins when you walk through the doors of your gym or fitness class, but the magic starts way before with an inceptive thought—that moment when you schedule that pivotal date for your sweat session. Be sure to have a clear vision of your workout goals. Write down the plan, such as what muscle groups you will focus on each day of the week. The more specific, the better. This will allow you to consciously create a new visual habit.
Slow and steady wins the race and finishes the strongest. Practice working out with slow actions plus a theme based on quality, not quantity. Executing correct form while working out is an essential component, not only to prevent injury, but to successfully perform an exercise. Slow down the tempo of a single move, so your mind is given the proper time to make connections. Do this with an emphasis on the “eccentric phase” of your exercise, which is the lengthening period of muscle contractions and usually the most neglected. Resist the temptation to be lazy; give every movement, beat, and breath a purpose executed with control.
If you’re having trouble focusing during your workout, it might be time for a change of scenery. It’s easy to get lost in a classroom full of bodies, and to get distracted by life outside of your exercise class. Being inspired by a fave instructor or workout buddy is a good start. Surround yourself with people or an environment that supports your cause to be more focused. If you find you are easily distracted working out by a window, for example, move to a different section. Don’t hide in the back of a class— get to the front of the room!
We often rely on visual proof and seldom acknowledge our inner wins. Since MMC is internal, try to redirect your energy inward and turn away from external distractions, such as mirrors. Focus on feeling your body vs. looking at your body. Sometimes mirrors are unavoidable, so close your eyes and try to feel (not look!) while doing your reps, riding a bike (stationary of course) or even other daily tasks.
Throw more workouts into your repertoire that incorporate Compound Exercises. These are moves that recruit many muscles at one time, forcing you to stay aware and keep you in a constant thought process. The primary muscles that contract during a movement create an apparent feeling of heaviness—maybe it’s from a free weight, your own body or gravity. When weight and force are combined, it’s natural for your concentration to wander to the strongest muscle group. Switch your focus to weaker muscles first to distribute the balance thus making the move compound, a.k.a. giving equal attention to all areas in action.