You start your day with the best intentions: productive morning, healthy lunch, leave work on time, swing by the market then pop into the gym before dinner. Sounds great, except you wind up leaving work a little late. And there’s a long line at the market. And suddenly you realize that you’re really, really tired. Definitely too tired for the gym. Which is fine, except that you also skipped it on Monday. Come to think of it, you missed a couple days last week, too.

This is a perfect example of how an untrained mind can stand between us and the things we’d like to do. Even if we really want to do them. Even if we know they are good for us.

One of the first things a consistent meditation practice makes clear is that the mind is always changing. Some days it feels calm and tranquil. Other days, it’s completely stirred up. Take a look at our expectation animation. When we sit to meditate, the thoughts and feelings that pass are there to be observed – but you don’t have to chase after every single one. That feeling that you simply can’t possibly go to the gym? It’s just another thought passing in the mind. What would happen if you didn’t pursue it? If you were to wait and watch it pass by?

This provides a completely different view on the concept of willpower. Instead of it being about forcing yourself to do something, it has more to do with letting go. Some thoughts may be particularly persuasive (your workout will be too short, you’ll be home late) but even they are just thoughts. And they don’t affect the reality of the situation – which is that unless you train, you won’t reach your goals.

So going to the gym is beneficial not only for the workout itself, but also for the opportunity to observe thought without needing to act on it. Your physical workout becomes a kind of mental workout. And similarly, it gets easier the more you repeat it.

We’re not looking to change the mind or bend it to our will. We’re looking for ways of acknowledging the ever-changing nature of the mind, while still maintaining our intention. Reconciling the two is the work of a lifetime, but your next gym session is a great place to start.

Have you used meditation to help with your fitness routine? With training? Sport competition? How has it impacted your results? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or send an email tosocial@headspace.com.