Most of us exercise on autopilot, without paying full attention to what we're doing. But there is much to be gained from a more mindful approach to exercise, not least a greater enjoyment of the experience and a better workout.
Do you exercise on autopilot? Consider the questions below:
If you're answering “yes” to a lot of these questions, chances are you're exercising on autopilot. Don't beat yourself up about it – must of us do, or have done at some point. It's all too easy to see exercise as a chore that we need to get out of the way as quickly as possible, distracting ourselves as we do so. Exercising like this is merely an extension of the way many of us live much of our lives, seldom truly engaged in the present moment but always aware of our to-do lists.
The opposite of this autopilot is mindfulness, sometimes referred to as living life with full attention. Being mindful involves paying attention to the present moment of experience in a gentle, non-judgmental way. It's all about letting your experience be your experience – even if it isn't exactly what you would have chosen at that particular moment – and owning the present moment. So when you're exercising mindfully, you're just exercising. You're aware of how your body is moving and what that feels like.
Why exercise with full attention?
Perhaps the idea of exercising mindfully sounds a bit odd. Particularly if you're really pushing yourself, or if you're unfit and finding it all a bit of a struggle. Why would you want to engage with your present experience if your present experience involves pain, sweat and breathlessness?! Surely a bit of distraction is exactly what is needed!
Not so. There are two main benefits to exercising mindfully:
There is also a subtler benefit to exercising mindfully, and that benefit is connected to the non-judgmental nature of mindfulness. The bit where you let your experience be your experience without trying to change it in any way. If you can learn to do that, then a racing heart is just a racing heart. Not a sign that you're unfit, that you'll never be able to stick at this regime, or that you're not making the progress you want to make. Aching muscles are just aching muscles. Not testimony to your flabbiness or weakness. In other words, you're not compounding unpleasant experiences by attaching all sorts of unhelpful thoughts to them.
How do I exercise with full attention?
If all of this sounds appealing and you'd like to give it a go, there are various possibilities open to you.
Life is too short and too precious for us to let it whizz past while we're on autopilot.” begin experience!
by Kath Webb
by Laura Briggs
by Kath Webb
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ambrose