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Tips for keeping fitness New Year’s resolutions

By Your Headspace Mindfulness & Meditation Experts

There are many reasons why improving our fitness is the most popular New Year’s resolution. Some people want to become stronger, others want to lose weight, and some simply want to get moving and feel healthier. These are all perfectly reasonable goals, and setting an intention is a great place to start when trying to make positive change. Yet 80% of resolutions have been dropped by the second week of February. So what might help us fully embrace our fitness goals for New Year?

Meditation can help put us in the best mental shape to make a physical change. When our mindset shifts, we approach exercise with a sharper, more focused mind, clear in our motivation. It’s the reason why more athletes, coaches, and trainers are turning to meditation: mental strength is a core component of performance and fitness.

What’s more, we can take that same mind into a walk around the block or a hike along a local trail, even if our goal is to get out and about to enjoy nature. When we combine physical workouts with a regular meditation practice, we’re synching body and mind to be in tip-top condition simultaneously.

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How to mindfully approach fitness goals

Most of us know the benefits, but if we still need help getting motivated to work out, then let’s hear it from the experts: according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise is an effective way to manage weight, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and improve mental health. So, for our overall wellness, it’s worth trying to stick to those fitness New Year’s resolutions.

But as with many things in life, just because we know something’s good for us doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll try it. We need purpose, because the power of purpose keeps us motivated. It’s why, in meditation, intention and motivation go hand in hand — we make the commitment to ourselves, we understand why we are doing it, and we follow through.

Once we’re clear about what’s motivating us to make the change, we can approach our journey with a more open and accepting mind. It’s like setting a positive intention: “I want to move more so I feel better” instead of a negative one: “I want to move more so I don’t feel bad.” The phrasing of the resolution may not seem that important, but if we’re able to show ourselves self-compassion and purposefully shift away from negative self-talk, we can create the right conditions in the mind to manage stress and boost our self-esteem more effectively. And it so happens that research shows how 10 days of Headspace results in increased positivity, so adding meditation to our regimen can also help us with how to find motivation to work out, too.

Not only does positivity help us to build a more unshakable resolve to stay on track, but it also encourages us to treat ourselves with kindness. If we skip a workout, or even a few, that doesn’t mean our fitness New Year’s resolutions have failed. It means we’re human. Meditation can teach us to simply accept, let go of any kind of inner judgment or critical inner commentary. As Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe puts it, “Forget the idea of progress, let go of the need to judge. The important thing is to show up, and as long as you do that, you’re on the right path.”

Again, looking at working out through a meditation lens, there’s no destination point or end goal; we simply take each session or each workout day by day, without getting in our head about results and outcomes. Otherwise we stop being present as we exercise, which is key to engaging our body and mind and enjoying the process. While it can be good to have big dreams in life, aiming for a specific, ambitious goal can cause us to grow disheartened if we feel like we aren’t progressing fast enough. Expectations in the mind can lead to resistance in the mind.

Andy applies the step-by-step theory to working out on the rower, as well as his meditation practice. He says, “I actually count the strokes in the same way that I would count my breath if I was meditating, and I'm just with one stroke at a time. It doesn't feel like an hour on the rower. It feels like lots of one-strokes.”

Meditation can help us to be present in the moment, by first learning to be present in our practice, and then in applying that to our lives. We train the mind to be in the here and now, anchored to the moment and, over time, we tend to find the mind is not so easily distracted. Research found four weeks of Headspace improved focus by 14%, so we can increase our ability to stick to other tasks, like training our body. And by concentrating on each movement, our workout will be more effective. Andy adds, “If you talk to elite athletes, it's actually about the little things that they do every single training session. You see someone winning gold at the Olympics—in a way, that's just an outcome. It's a great achievement, but it's all the little things that have created that effect.”

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Connecting the body and mind

Mindfulness can help us with how to get motivated to workout, as well offering other proven benefits like increased resilience to help us towards our health goals. But if we can harmonize the body and mind, then we can really get the most from our workout. Headspace’s Move mode is a great resource for combining physical and mental exercise. To make sure our minds and bodies are in tune, and to help us stick to our health and fitness resolutions, try these 5 components of mindful exercise.

  1. Intention.

Even before we lift a weight or take a step, our workout routine has begun. That’s because our mental intention, and the awareness we bring to it, really impacts how effective our exercise will be. Intention is all about mental preparation. It’s our motivation to do the exercise, understanding of its function, preparation of the body to engage, confidence in the required breathing, timing and form, and finally, our commitment to go for it. Sounds like a lot to think about? With practice, we can bring awareness to it all in just a few seconds and get every workout off to a really strong start.

  1. Breathing.

Our muscles need oxygen to move. Deprive them, and we feel tired, tense and nauseated. So we won’t hit our New Year’s fitness goals without being intentional about our breath. Focus on breathing steadily — in for the less strenuous part, out during the most effort — for a balanced and energizing workout. Also check that you’re not hunching your shoulders, as this limits your capacity to take oxygen on board.

  1. Timing.

Rhythm is vital. Whether it’s a nice, long stretch or an explosive jump, every exercise has its own inherent tempo to recognize. By using this rhythm to give exercise a natural, flowing, easy style, we can forget robotic, stiff, or tense movements and instead apply the right timing to perform the exercise most effectively.

  1. Form.

Good form takes exercise across the entire range of movement, targeting every part of the muscle. It can make any exercise a thing of beauty, but is often hard to achieve and maintain, especially when we’re sweating our way through an intense workout. But with focus, it’s possible. Posture and alignment really matter, so we must be aware of them. Think less about reaching the end of the workout, and more about every single muscle movement. This way, the best results from exercise come naturally.

  1. Recovery.

Whether it’s recovery between workouts or between exercises, an awareness of our physical, emotional, and mental well-being during this ‘downtime’ is essential. So don’t switch off. Instead, stay alert and focus on the breath and other physical sensations. Is our breath indicating we could work harder, or that we should ease off? Recovery periods are essential for a healthy, well-rested, and injury free body.

Mindfulness - Tips for keeping fitness New Year’s resolutions

Try 6 meditations for keeping fitness New Year’s resolutions

Looking for more meditations on keeping fitness resolutions? The Headspace app offers members several courses and single meditations to help us get moving and stay on track, including:

Climb the mountain. Your mind is at the top.

Practice setting clear intentions while training.

Progress happens in the present.

Get familiar with a relaxed, precise kind of focus.

Practice treating yourself with unconditional kindness.

Ground yourself in your reason for moving.

Meditation can help us unlock the intention, awareness, and focus to help motivate us to work out and stick to our training, even if we face setbacks on the way. The best way to keep our New Year’s fitness goals on track is to resolve to be present in each exercise and each moment, as we harmonize the body and mind.

Key takeaways

  • Once we’re clear about what’s motivating us, we can approach our fitness resolutions with a more open and accepting mind

  • Connecting the body and mind can help us get the most out of a workout

  • Try 6 meditations for keeping fitness New Year’s resolutions

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