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6 ways to practice mindful training while mentally stressed and fatigued

Head of training at the Australian Institute of Fitness, Kate Kraschnefski shares her tips to get your body and mind back on track.

We are living in seriously unusual times. COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our lives, impacting our routines and creating enormous uncertainty. It is really hard to not want to crawl under the doona with our favourite snacks and zone out to a Netflix binge at the end of each stressful day!

For all of these reasons, it is even more important that we maintain or even invest in a healthy routine. As hard as it can be to find motivation when we are stressed and tired, it is when we are experiencing such feelings that training can help us the most.

Here are 6 ways to incorporate mindfulness into your training to reap the benefits: mind, body AND soul.

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1. Set an intention before you start

Now is the time to reset your personal goals and ask yourself what you are looking to get out of your session? Take a moment to centre yourself and decide the purpose and intent behind your time investment. Repeat it like a mantra a few times before you get going.

It can be something as simple as wanting “me time”. This simple act can bring you to the present moment, positively influence your form and technique and help you focus your mind for a quality session.

2. Visualise parts of your body moving as you train

By utilising mind muscle connection and consciously and deliberately focusing your attention on the muscles as they move, you will not only enjoy moments of deeply connecting with your body, you will also improve the overall quality of your movements.

If you are working with weights, see the muscle in your mind’s eye, emphasise your movement and really sink into the feeling of your body working its magic.

3. Try super-slow reps

During your weights session, try a slower tempo by counting to three on both phases of your movement. For example, if you were doing a squat, count to three as you lower your hips and then count to three as you stand.

This type of training increases the time of your muscles under tension so can help you get better results from resistance exercises, and the counting motion helps bring mindfulness to your lifts. Over time, you can experiment with different tempos for your lifting as a way to challenge your body. Always focus on your breathing during these moves too.

4. Do a guided meditation at the end of your session

After you stretch, pop in your headphones and look up a guided meditation online, if you don’t have access to any already. Apps like Calm or Headspace are a great start and there are plenty freely available on Youtube.

Lie down, drift away and let the benefits of your session integrate within your mind and body.

5. Tell your body “thank you”

As you train, take moments to thank your body for its ability to move, for being healthy and for keeping you alive. Acknowledge your ability and power. For example, if you are running, thank your legs for moving you, thank your lungs for filling your body with oxygen.

At the end of your session, after you cool down, thank your body for successfully completing your workout. These moments of connection with the body bring presence and fill us with gratitude – two things essential to positive feelings and emotions.

6. Get outside

Even just the notion of a “lockdown” can cause anxiety. During most lockdowns, exercising outside is an acceptable way to escape the confines of your home. So make the most of it. Soak in every second, seek nature, breathe the fresh air and honour your body through movement. Keep your mask on hand, just in case, and where possible, steer clear of the crowds.

Most of all, remember that the benefits of exercise are far beyond weight loss or how we look. Now more than ever, we need to be setting ourselves up for the healthiest and strongest versions of ourselves, and training with mindfulness can play a key role in this process.

Kate Kraschnefski is the Head of Training at theAustralian Institute of Fitness.

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