Exercise Physiologist Knut Thomas Schneiker discusses the importance of being present in the moment when exercising, the objective is safely maximise the health and fitness outcomes of the activity.
As an Exercise Physiologist part of my job is to provide clients with an appropriate exercise regime. Just as important, is teaching those clients how to do their exercises (and stretches) correctly. Seems like a no-brainer but, more often than not, people are only provided with the outline of the program. For example; run this far at this Heart Rate, do these stretches, 20 crunches and 10 push-ups, 10 squats at 70% 1RM, etc. Alternatively, once I have developed a program for my clients, I then teach them how to effectively perform those activities, and one of the things I hear myself repeating frequently is to “stay mindful …”.
I’m not sure how I came upon the term? I think it was while listening to some guided meditation, however it seemed to me to be a very pertinent concept in performance of deliberate physical activity.
What I mean by “deliberate” is the performance of physical activity for the purpose of health and fitness, as opposed to just walking, because you need to get from here to there. So when I was asked to write a brief comment on “mindfulness during exercise”, I first questioned whether I was using the term in a way that was accurate and commonly accepted. So, of course, I consulted the fount of all knowledge (Google), which provided me with the following definition:
1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
I was pleased to note that the definition provided by Dr Google was in line with what I was attempting to convey to my clients. The main points being, that when you are performing a “deliberate” physical activity for the sake of health and fitness;
- Focus your awareness on the present moment.
- Be aware of your bodily sensations.
- Understand what it is you are trying to achieve and use feedback, both and internal (proprioception/sensation) and external (visual and 3rd party), to make changes to your overall technique (biomechanics, muscle activation, posture, breathing, etc.) to most effectively and efficiently achieve the desired outcome.
This may seem obvious to some of you, but I often see a lack of mindfulness in action during exercise, particularly when using motor skills that we learned early in life and use as part of our normal daily function, such as walking and running.
For example, when people use stairs for exercise, I often see what I consider to be very poor, inefficient and potentially harmful technique in action. When used for exercise, the stairs become a piece of apparatus which should be used correctly. The objective is not to go up and down the stairs, the objective is to safely maximise the health and fitness outcomes of the activity.
So Be Mindful. Be deliberate about your posture, how you place your foot, which muscles to contract for movement, which muscles to use for stability and balance, which muscles to keep relaxed, control your breathing, control your pace, …. This may seem and sometimes feel like a tedious process, however, if you make this your standard practice when performing physical activity, it will become a habit that you will apply automatically to help safely and efficiently maximise the desired outcome of the activity.
Article written by Exercise Physiologist Knut Thomas Schneiker
Copyright Zuberant Life 2017