Meditative workout–what does that even mean? This kind focus is often created when we’re able to ignore the outside chatter and turn our attention entirely to the conversation between body and brain. To dive into this even further, we talked with Peloton instructors Jess King and Denis Morton to learn how they make their workouts a meditative experience.
One of Denis’ go-to moves to set himself up for a mentally strong workout is simply setting an intention. “That may sound a bit airy, but it doesn’t have to be,” explains Denis. “I simply mean to remind myself that all those outside thoughts will be waiting for me at the other end of the workout, and that they’re usually easier to organize afterward.” Make your intention brief but strong and most importantly, make it purposeful. And if you ever feel silly saying it to yourself during class, know that sometimes that’s natural. “If I catch myself thinking instead of feeling or focusing on the movement, I try to laugh at the intrusion and recenter.” If you still can’t focus? Denis suggests adding a few extra points of resistance to do the trick.
Jess King turns to a couple of resources to remind her of where she wants her workout to go that day. “When I am getting in to a workout flow I am focusing on two things: the music to take me on a journey and my breath to take me deeper into the conversation with my body,” notes Jess. “I put on some music, start to take some concentrated, deep breaths, similar to diaphragmatic breathing or PRI breathing, where breathing is done with contracting your diaphragm. From there, I let my workout just start to happen organically.” These simple beginnings truly help to set yourself up for mental success for a meditative workout.
Why Try It?
While our bodies benefit physically from workouts, there’s so much to gain mentally as well. “When we can disconnect from the mental chatter during a workout and pay close attention to the connection with our body, we are essentially meditating and tapping into physical intelligence,” explains Jess. “It provides another perspective for which you can look at your whole life with, that suspends judgement and is rooted in something real, like your power.” Denis says that finding that flow is something that keeps him calm even after the workout is over. “Anything done mindfully, whether riding a bike or buying holiday gifts, brings benefits of mindfulness,” says Denis. ”Decreased stress, enhanced calm and an improved capacity to respond as opposed to react.” He adds that while gaining strength physically is important, working on clipping in mentally does just as much. “The physical release of a good workout is great, but adding a mental element is more than a simple addition,” explains Denis. “It tends to multiply the benefits and adds dimension to the way that we experience them.”
Finding the Feeling
But how do you know if you’ve reached a meditative workout state? Jess King says it’s a very distinct feeling for her. “There’s so much clarity for me. I feel strong, I feel connected and I feel worthy.” For Denis, the feeling is something he says you just have to experience for yourself: “I can use words like transformative or powerful, but those concepts are better experienced than detailed.” All of these feelings, or your own variation of them, can occur at an emotional peak in a class, like climbing your way up a tough hill, or in your post-workout state, so if you’re working on building a habit of mindfulness, take the time to note your emotional state as well as your metrics–you may find you’re getting even more out of your workout than you thought.
Feeling stressed? Here are five mental gifts you can give yourself this holiday season.