Mindful exercise helps you remove your focus from negative thoughts and distractions, and apply it to your body and breathing for improved exercise performance. Practice more mindful exercise with these tips.
Target your training
When strength training, focus all of your attention on the muscle group you are working. Keep your eyes on the muscle when possible. When performing a single bicep curl or a leg extension exercise, place your free hand on the muscle being worked and feel it contract and relax. This increase in focus can help you push harder during your workout.
Your body’s demand for oxygen increases during exercise. Research shows that a greater supply of oxygen leads to improvements in exercise performance. The more oxygen, the longer and harder you can exercise. Focus on taking slower, deeper breaths to improve your respiratory fitness and to supply the body with more oxygen.
Mind over matter
During challenging exercise, your attitude and mental focus are just as important as physical strength and endurance. Sometimes increasing your running distance from 1.5 miles to 2, or staying in the plank position for 30 more seconds takes all you have. Cue the positive self talk, focus on the working muscles, and visualize yourself reaching your goal. All of these steps will carry you through the physical challenge of a tough workout.
Listening to music or watching a movie can help you through a workout, but their true role is to provide distraction. Break out of your distracted state, get outside, and pay attention to your environment. Outdoor exercise lifts the spirits and helps clear the mind. Concentrate on your movement, breathing, and the sights around you for a more rewarding workout and refreshing break from the daily grind.
Safe strength training
Distractions during exercise cause you to lose focus on the most important part of a workout: safety. Proper form, selecting a weight that is right for your fitness level, and mental focus ensure you execute each move correctly reducing your risk for injury.
Whether it’s groceries or a goal weight, putting it down on paper helps you stay focused. Lists serve as guides and reminders, and they can be effective tools to help you reach your fitness goals.
Menus to map out your week
A weekly menu is one type of list that will help you stick to healthy eating. Planning your meals for the week keeps you on track and helps you identify gaps in nutrition. This gives you a chance to revise your plan so you don’t end your week with too few vegetables or too much added sugar.
Shop for healthy foods
If you go to the supermarket without a well thought out list, you may leave with a cart full of unhealthy foods meant to satisfy a short-term craving. Create a list of the foods you need to make healthy meals throughout the week. Take the list with you and stick to it at the store. With a kitchen full of nutritious foods, you will be prepared to eat better and resist tempting, high-calorie treats.
Make exercise a priority
When you put your to-do list in writing, those tasks become a priority. Whether you jot down a 5-minute break to walk the stairs or block out 30 minutes to go for a run, write down your workouts on the same list you use to record errands and tasks.
Work with your schedule
A to-do list is a revealing indicator of your eating and exercise patterns for the week. As you make a list of tasks for the week, complement it with a list of where and what you plan to eat and when you will workout. You will be prepared to pack a healthy lunch on the day with back-to-back meetings, and you can plan to wake up early for exercise when you have a nighttime obligation.
Visualize your goals
What would you like to accomplish in one month? What about in six? Goals like losing inches or running more miles are accomplishments you build up to. You go down one pant size and then two, and you run two miles before you can run six. Writing down your short term goals helps you visualize your long term goals. Making a list of what you want to accomplish is the first step in creating a plan to get there.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting more exercise. Daily schedules and specific goals influence exercise time and intensity. These three scenarios will help you determine what types of workouts are best for you whether you have only a few minutes or several hours a week to commit to your plan.
You exercise three to four days per week.
A recent survey conducted at a UK-based fitness center found that only 39 minutes of every hour at the gym is spent exercising. The rest is taken up by chatting, adjusting gear and clothing, and searching for the right workout song. If you only have three to four days to exercise, you can’t afford to waste this valuable time. Fewer days to workout means you need a more focused commitment.
If going to the gym distracts you, consider doing your workouts at home or go during slower times when you won’t be tempted to chat away half of your workout.
Make your session 45 to 60 minutes and increase the intensity. Vigorous exercise for 20 to 60 minutes, three times per week meets recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). But if weight loss is your goal, more significant loss is seen with more minutes of exercise per week.
While vigorous exercise is ideal for this schedule, check with your doctor for clearance before jumping into intense exercise.
You exercise five or more days per week.
When you have more days to commit to your workouts, you have more flexibility in the time and intensity of your exercise. Use this time to experiment with new activities and to gradually increase your fitness level. If you are new to exercise, it may be safer to squeeze in extra days of shorter, moderate-intensity workouts versus exercising fewer days at a higher intensity.
To improve health, the ACSM recommends five 30 to 60 minute, moderate-intensity exercise sessions each week.
Combining strength and cardio in circuit training can blast calories, but with five or more days to exercise, you can also take a more traditional approach to strength training. Work in a full body strength session three days a week, or train upper and lower body on alternating days.
More days spent exercising can help you reach your goals faster, but it can also lead to a higher risk of burnout. Try different cardio activities such as cycling, walking and dance classes. Vary your strength training with muscle conditioning classes, plyometrics, free weights, or machines.
Change your exercise environment by taking your workout outside. Longer, lower intensity sessions allow you to work in hikes in the woods, water sports, and games in the park with your family. Get creative with your activity to reduce boredom.
You only have a few minutes to exercise most days.
Research continues to support that 10-minute exercise sessions spread throughout the day can improve health. This is a great way to get in exercise if your schedule is swamped or during especially busy times of the year.
Try to scrape together three 10-minute breaks so that your exercise time totals 30 minutes at least five days per week. This allows you to reach the goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity for health.
Choose activities that elevate your heart rate such as walking with slow and fast intervals, climbing the stairs, or alternating between strength moves and cardio exercises.
The sessions don’t have to all be 10 minutes, they just need to be at least 10 minutes. You can squeeze in 20 minutes and then 10, or 15 and 15.
A certified personal trainer may be just what you need to kickstart your exercise program. Not only can he or she offer guidance on proper form and safe exercise, personal trainers can motivate you to reach your fitness goals. Your first visit with a trainer may feel intimidating. Knowing what to expect and making the right preparations will ease your nerves and help you get the most out of your sessions.
Know your history.
Health and exercise history are important for determining what type of exercise is safe for you and what barriers you may encounter. Make notes about any history of disease, medications, past injuries, and your activity level throughout the years. Your trainer may ask you these questions or you may be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Having your notes on hand will ensure you provide accurate information.
Set your goals.
A trainer can help you develop your goals, but go into your first meeting with some focus. Weight loss, muscle gain, and improved health are all possible with exercise, but knowing which is most important to you will help your trainer tailor your program for success.
Determine your exercise tastes.
Be open to trying new activities, but also be honest about the types of exercise that you dislike. If you are more comfortable with machines than free weights, or you can’t stand the stair climber, let your trainer know. There are multiple exercise options and part of your trainer’s job is to help you find those exercises that will get you results, but that you also enjoy.
Hydrate and dress comfortably.
Your first session will likely involve fitness testing (weight, body mass index, body fat, endurance, and strength) so wear your workout gear. For more accurate test results, focus on hydration the day before. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages. Avoid putting on any body lotions or oils prior to your session. If your trainer uses calipers to test your body fat percentage, lotions and oils prevent a good grip and accurate reading.
Your trainer will ask you a lot of questions, but be sure to prepare some of your own. You are hiring this person to help you reach your goals. This individual needs to have the experience, training style, and schedule availability that works for you. Ask about education and certifications, how he or she would describe their training style, and some recent accomplishments they’ve had in their work. If you plan to meet with the trainer on a regular basis, ask what times and session types they have available.
This quick workout combines strength moves with bursts of cardio to target the lower body. Perform each exercise in the circuit for the specified time, and repeat the circuit twice for a 20-minute workout. Warm up and cool down three to five minutes to complete your exercise session.
Around the World Lunges 60 seconds
Stand with feet hip-width apart and step forward with your right foot into a lunge*. Return to standing. Step the same foot to the right as you lower into a side lunge with your right knee bent, bottom pushed back, and left leg fully extended. Return to standing and move into a reverse lunge by stepping your right foot behind you and lowering the knee to the ground. Repeat on the left and continue to alternate sides for the length of the exercise.
Jump Squats 90 seconds
With the feet hip-width apart, sit back into a squat*. Push yourself up as you jump and propel into the air. Land in the starting position and repeat.
Step Ups 60 seconds
With a 5 to 10 pound dumbbell in each hand, stand in front of a stair or small step stool. Step up onto the stair with your right foot. Tap your left foot on the stair, return it back to the ground, and then return the right foot back to the ground. Continue to step with your right foot for 30 seconds and then repeat with the left foot.
High Knee Jog 90 seconds
Jog in place as you lean back slightly and lift your knees high in the air towards your chest.
Squats with a Side Leg Lift 60 seconds
Standing with the feet hip-width apart, sit back into a squat. As you return to standing, extend your right leg out to the side and lift your foot off the ground. Lift only to the point where you feel your hip muscles engage. Hold for one count and return to the starting position. Squat and repeat on the left side.
Front Kicks 90 seconds
Stand facing forward. Lift your right knee to waist level, extend your leg and kick your foot out in front of you. Lower the leg and repeat with the left side. Kick more quickly to increase the intensity.
Weighted Calf Raises 60 seconds
Stand on the floor with a 5 to 15 pound dumbbell in each hand. Raise up on your toes as you contract your calf muscles. Lower and repeat.
Side Jumps 90 seconds
Place a jump rope along the floor or choose a point on the ground to serve as line (such as a groove in the side walk). Jump quickly from side to side over the line, jumping high and moving as quickly as you can.
*When doing squats and lunges its important to practice safe form to protect your knees. Sit your bottom back as you squat and lower your body straight down when lunging to ensure that your knees do not push forward past your toes.