Let’s talk meditation. Okay, okay…we get it. A fat Buddha, soothing music, the lotus position…pretty much the opposite of what you might think of when you’re talking about maximizing your fitness. The whole POINT of meditating is the absence of movement…stillness. Not something you would normally associate with the gym, right?
WRONG! Studies are showing that on top of settling your mind, meditation (also referred to as “Mindfulness”) actually helps your WORKOUT. According to Men’s Fitness, “…meditation and mindfulness practices can boost your mental well-being, ward off illnesses minor and major, and even help you sleep better. And that’s not even the half of it…meditation—in all its forms and iterations…can actually make you better at your athletic endeavors.”
IN GOOD COMPANY
In recent years countless professional athletes and olympians have turned to meditation to help them maximize their athletic potential. Famous meditators include sports giants Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Misty May-Trainor, Sean Green and entire teams like the NY Knicks, the Golden State Warriors and the the Boston Red Sox. So why do all of these powerhouse athletes take time to “sit”? The Huffington Post explains, “It’s no surprise that some of the best professional athletes in the sports world are turning to meditation — which has been shown to reduce stress and improve focus — to boost their game and ease the anxiety of high-pressure performances.”
WHY IT WORKS
According to Fitness Magazine: “Whenever you hear athletes talk about being ‘in the zone,’ that’s meditation, says Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight. ‘[It’s] the place you reach where you’re focused and present,’ she says. ‘And it’s an important component of any workout, because it makes you aware of when you’re able to push harder and when you need to back off.’ It’s that latter part that’s especially intriguing, says Cruikshank, because exhaustion can often be misinterpreted as laziness or a lack of willpower. But being in tune with your body—or feeling in the zone, with various outside factors blocked out—helps you recognize the difference.”
LiveStrong explains, “While exercise tends to promote energy through the release of endorphins, regular meditation is typically practiced to promote relaxation. According to Project-Meditation, the area of the brain that feels the greatest effects of meditation is associated with happiness. In addition, other research shows that meditation helps relax your mind and body, release built-up stress and promote feelings of peace and well-being. Rather than exhaust the body through aerobic activity, meditation utilizes focused breathing and mind exercises that are aimed at reducing heart rate, respiration and other signs of stress. Rigorous physical activity will trigger the release of endorphins, whereas meditation will reduce cortisol, a chemical related to stress and overeating.” The two together are like the dream-team of overall wellness.
Meditation not only helps reduce stress and bring clarity of mind. When combined with exercise it can be life changing. An article in Men’s Journal titled “The Insane Power of Combining Exercise and Meditation” quotes Tracey Shors, a psychology professor at Rutgers’s Center for Collaborative Neuroscience: “[Meditation] activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which lessens the stress response. But meditation also has a large learning component. The person who practices meditation consistently learns to understand his own mind and the way thoughts come and go.” In essence, meditating changes your brain’s pathways so that you are able to feel more relaxed and in tune with your body.
So long story short: meditation works inside and outside of the gym. It not only improves your mental state, it provides some mental clarity so that you can tune into your body and maximize your workout potential. Win-win!
A great way to start learning more about meditation is to check out these resources:
- 10% HAPPIER by Dan Harris and Joseph Goldstein. This humorous memoir and website spell out the effectiveness on Meditation in a very common sense way. Click HERE for more info.
- Men’s Fitness provides some great tips on how to meditate HERE.
- HEADSPACE is another great tool that offers 10 days of free guided meditations.
- Click HERE for local CHARLESTON and MOUNT PLEASANT meditation resources.