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Mindfulness & Exercise
Mindful exercise is about performing physical activity while focusing inward. The idea is to let go of distractions and unrelated thoughts, and focus your attention on your sensations, breath, and the movements of your body. The basic premise here is that when you give your full attention to your workout, you’re bound to do it more effectively (and safely!).

What can being mindful during your workout do for you?

Increase the effectiveness of your workout
• Decrease your chances of injury,
• Enhance your enjoyment of exercising
• Support you in developing a healthy and  loving relationship with your body.

With mindful exercise you’re going for quality, not quantity.  Improve the efficacy of yourworkouts by turning off your TV or ipod and bringing your focused attention  
your breath and your movements while you are jogging, biking or lifting weights, for example. A client of mine ran her best ½ marathon recently with considerably less training than in races past.  She attributes this to her practice of mindfulness prior to and during her run. By focusing her attention on the quality of her strides, the rhythm of her breath and the sensations in her body, she was able to make minor adjustments throughout her run, creating a fluid run, a blissful experience and a personal record!

With mindful exercise, you’re also looking for a balance between discipline 
(i.e. sticking to a training schedule) and listening to our body’s needs; stretching your physical capacity without pushing yourself to do something you really don’t want (or are not able) to do safely and effectively.  Being willing to adjust your workouts to suit your body’s needs on any given day is important.
Giving your body a day of rest when you’re tired, for example, can have both short- and long-term benefits. 
Working out when you’re overly tired could increase your chances of injury,so you’re better off skipping 
your workout or choosing a less demanding form of exercise on that day. And by listening to your body’s needs you’re also building trust with yourself and demonstrating self-care, which is vitally important to a healthy body and happy life.

5 mindfulness practices to improve your fitness routine:

1. While lifting weights, put your full attention on the muscle(s) you are strengthening. Really feel your muscles contract and relax with each repetition. Allow your breath to be slow and steady. As unrelated thoughts arise, let them go and return your attention to your muscles and your breathing. 

2. While running, turn off your ipod and bring your attention to the sound of your sneakers, the rhythm of your breath and the movement of your arms. Notice how you feel during and after your run when practicing mindfulness in this way.

3. Before a workout, or after your ‘warm up,’ tune in to your body and notice what level 
of exertion your body is ready for. If you’re particularly tired on a given day, try skipping your run and doing some gentle stretching and mindful walking instead.

4. While stretching, bring your attention right into the area you’re stretching. Close your eyes and take 10 slow breaths, as if you are breathing directly into the muscles you’re stretching. Notice how your focus and breath support your body to open up and expand more easily.

5. During spin class, or when riding your bike, focus your mind on the movements of your leg muscles. Feel your muscles working in unison to peddle the bike. Smile and take a moment to appreciate the miraculous coordination of your body to perform such a task!

Practicing mindfulness while exercising is good for both your body and your mind. The repetitive nature of most exercises provides a perfect training ground for the art of mindfulness. Practice the skills listed above and see the benefits extend beyond the gym to every area of your life! How do you practice mindfulness throughout your day? Please answer in the comment box below. Your answer might be what someone else needs.
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