Exercise Workout Routines - Why the mind matters

March 04, 2014

Exercise Workout Routines - Why the mind matters

It’s a tricky time of year. We often start out with plans to make this the year to get fit, but, by now, sticking to our workout routines might be getting, well, a little harder than we’d hoped.

When it comes to fitness, training the mind is now considered every bit as important as training the body. It’s continually proven that a strong, trained mind makes it easier to get and stay fit, achieve our goals, and – with no extra effort required – even improve our fitness levels.

A recent study into self-awareness and exercise by Dr Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist, clearly showed the impact of the mind. She found that if participants increased their levels of awareness during workout routines, on average, they:

  • Lost two pounds in weight
  • Reduced body fat content
  • Reduced systolic blood pressure by ten points

Awareness was the only thing that changed to achieve these results. No more exercise was involved, or at a greater intensity. Absolutely no additional hard work was required. Now that’s my kind of workout!

How to get motivated to exercise

These results are incredible. But of course to achieve them, first we need an exercise plan that we’ll keep up. And whatever we choose, to give our plan the very best chance of lasting, we must begin with the mind.

Establishing, and sticking with one of the many intense workout routines available isn’t easy. It takes commitment, focus and motivation, plus patience, and willingness. And when we’re tired, busy or just can’t face another run in the rain, an untrained mind sets to work building these barriers. And guess what? Our exercise plan starts to slide...

But when our mind is strong, fit and healthy, we can stop obstacles like tiredness, or the weather, from blocking our goals. Our mind defines our relationships with our body, our approach to fitness, engagement with exercise, and ultimately, the way we apply this vitality to everyday life. 

And this is why in exercise, mindfulness is so important.

Learn to overlook the barriers

Professor Judson Brewer, Medical Director of Therapeutic Neuroscience at Yale University Medical School, explains: “When we go to put our shoes for a run, the mind may say, “It’s cold, it’s raining, this is going to suck, and I can’t do it.” Mindfulness training helps us to recognise these are just thoughts dancing through our head. So, they become less ‘sticky’ and we’re less likely to flop back down on the sofa or watch TV.

“Learning to take these thoughts with a pinch of salt like this means that we can be less involved in thinking, and instead, get on with what we need to do.”

No wonder mindfulness is one of the hottest topics in neuroscience.

So, instead of an untrained mind’s preference to put up barriers, and put off until tomorrow, with regular mindfulness, we can recognise these are simply thoughts we can choose to overlook.

And by overlooking them, we can stop over-thinking – and instead, make our exercise plan a success, and make this the year.

Have a listen to our Running podcast for guidance on becoming more mindful whilst out exercising.


More information…

Fancy learning how to get motivated to exercise? The Headspace Meditation app teaches a wide range of meditative and mindful practises that are recognised as being fantastic tools for boosting motivation – that makes it ideal for those looking to strengthen focus on their exercises programmes and workout routines.

The Headspace Meditation App trial is completely free and allows you to try our Take 10 series. It’s perfect for those looking for some time out from their hectic schedule to regain focus. Try for yourself today

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