If you’re reading this blog, most likely you are a fan of working out. Our FFC clubs are bursting with enthusiastic members who LOVE a great workout, amiright?! Most of the time we think about exercise as an output and it’s done on autopilot; running on the treadmill for miles, pushing pedals for RPMs, completing numerous sets and reps, following cues from our favorite group fitness instructors… and the endorphin highs and feelings of accomplishment are awesome rewards for our efforts!
What if we took our efforts to another level every once in a while? What if we tuned IN to how we are exercising so that our workouts could be more effective? Here are a few ways I encourage my students and clients to work IN while they are working out to increase the benefits they receive while moving through their favorite activities:
Using your breath is a quick and effective way to flip the switch and move a workout to a work IN. Rushed to the club to make it to class? Have a million things on your to-do list spinning in your head while you’re cranking the bike? When our minds are wandering during our workouts we can’t get “in the zone.” Focused breathing draws the curtains on a busy mind and cultivates presence. Simply experiencing a few rounds of conscious breathing before a workout can anchor your mind-body connection so you can make the most of your sweat time.
Dropping back into thoughtful breathing a few times during your workout keeps you in the zone, too. Pre and post workout, try a couple rounds of slow diaphragmatic breathing; inhale 4-6 counts and exhale 6-8 counts. Box breathing is another great way to press the mind-body reset button; inhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts, exhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts.
One of the ways I really enjoy working IN is to slow things waaaay down. I know, this is asking a lot from cardio aficionados, but to feel what’s actually happening in your body while you’re moving takes effort – and time. Mindful movement can be achieved by finding ways to listen to what feels good in your body. Instead of contorting yourself into a picture-perfect exercise position or yoga asana that you think needs to be done a certain way, give yourself the time and the freedom to discover how your body wants to do it – your way. No need to pose the Instagram way or move exactly how the instructor is demonstrating or use a set program on a machine. Instead, slow things down and think it through to explore exercises suited to your individual structure and fitness levels.
Additionally, having an extra set of eyes on you can assist you with deepening your mind-body connection. Working with a trainer to have someone watch your form, ask you questions about how things feel while you’re moving, and to show you exercise variations, can be a crucial step in gaining mindful movement skills as well.
Related: Why I Work With A Personal Trainer
Raise your hand if rest is hard for you. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got two hands up in the air right now. Rest is a crucial part of working out. Without rest, your body cannot adequately benefit from all the time you spend training it. Dedicating time to rest INto your exercise routine will supplement your last workout and nourish your next. And yes, I just said rest is part of your workout – your dedication exercise. Reframing rest as a component of fitness might make it easier to find room for it in your schedule.
If you know rest is challenging for you, book an appointment to do it for accountability; a massage or facial at the spa or a casual walk through nature with a friend (emphasis on the casual and no fast-paced here!). You can also schedule meditation and restorative yoga classes at FFC clubs and through FFC On Demand into your fitness regime which offer variety and supplementation to your commitment to rest.
The next time you’re focused on getting in your work-OUT, give yourself the opportunity to really get IN-tune with your mind and body. Take the time to move to feel good, to get mind-body connected, to recharge, to feel as many feels as you can. It might not be your fastest run, your longest ride, or your sweatiest vinyasa practice, but it’ll be conscious movement done in ways that work for your unique body, giving you benefits that can take you to greater fitness gains.
Post written by FFC Group Fitness Manager Laurie Streff.