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Day 22: Mindful Exercise

Yesterdays food mindfulness example showed how mindfulness can become part of daily life. Importantly, mindfulness can also be incorporated into very active activities – in fact, it can really enhance both the experience of them as well as the performance. Today, therefore, we briefly touch on how to integrate exercise and mindfulness.

Yoga, walking, running or even machine-based weight exercises are potential partners for mindfulness. As long as the exercise doesn’t necessarily require you to pay too much attention to unexpected movements from others (for example during competitive sports), mindfulness can normally be integrated. Exercises where you are free to pay attention to breathing are especially ideal.

How you integrate mindfulness will, of course, depend somewhat on the exercise. But the basic function is easily explained using the example of running.

For mindful running, start to bring your attention to your breathing during your run. Please don’t use any music devices – and only do this on tracks where you can completely focus on the breathing (don’t do it, for example, while crossing streets or on uneven surfaces!).
Align your running with your breath: for example, three steps during breathing in. Two steps during breathing out (adjust this to whatever feels right for you). Repeat this pattern. Focus on your breath while doing this, acknowledging any other feelings or emotions, including any bodily sensations, such as your feet touching the ground, the wind on your skin etc. Regard them, acknowledge them, but focus on your breathing to keep you in the moment.
Most people find aligning breathing and steps as quite challenging, in fact unnatural in the beginning. This is perfectly normal. We are not trained to do this. If you find it very challenging, try and run on a straight stretch for just a short while – somewhere where you are not disturbed – to train the breathing and step synchronisation. After a few attempts it will be easier to do this. You can then try and practice it for longer runs.

For other exercises, follow the example above: align your activity with your breath. For example, inhale for one step. Exhale for the next while walking slowly.

With some practice, this will start to feel much more natural than in the beginning. You’ll probably notice how your mind quiets down when you use the technique: you can observe yourself doing the exercises, feeling more present.

Have you tried mindful exercising? Do you have some tips for when doing it? Share your experiences below. Tomorrow we will be moving on to more adult themes: starting with body acceptance before moving on to discussing how mindfulness can not just help living a much happier and healthier life… but can also make your sex life much more enjoyable!