Both meditation and exercise have phenomenal benefits in regards to your physical, psychological, and emotional health. But it can be even better if you combine the two activities. Find out why you should start meditating before you train.
If you’re anything like me, exercise is a necessity that I try to squeeze in every day if I can. This usually means that I’m setting a timer on my watch for 30 minutes then sprinting into the gym and doing as much training as I can before the alarm chimes.
The problem is that this shift from my sedentary job to a high intensity training session is jarring, and isn’t necessarily good for my body or my training session. That’s why I started including a brief but effective pre-workout meditation routine to get my body and mind in the right place before I start exercising.
The Benefits of Meditation
Before I get into the specific benefits of meditating prior to training, it’s important to acknowledge the benefits of meditation by itself. Here is a short list of scientifically-backed benefits of meditation (Source):
Stress Reduction: One study including over 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for stress reduction.
Anxiety Control: An 8-week study showed reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks.
Emotional Health Promotion: One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression.
Improved Sleep: A study showed that participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn’t meditate.
Pain Management: A study involving functional MRI techniques showed that meditating patients had increased activity in the brain centers known to control pain. They also reported less sensitivity to pain.
These are just a few of the benefits of meditation, but they give you an idea of how meditation could highly impact your training.
The Meditation and Exercise Connection
If you’ve been training consistently for any amount of time, you’ll notice a few things that impact your session. While most people tend to think of a workout session in purely physiological terms, the results you gain are largely psychologically based.
For example, if you were sad before you train, did you have a good session? How about if you were happy? What if you were mad prior to your strength workout? All of these mental/emotional conditions had a tangible impact on your ability to move your body properly, control your movements, and mentally push through the strain of each set.
Three Core Benefits of Meditating Before Training
Hopefully you’re starting to get sold on meditating before your next workout, but we can go even further into the potential benefits of doing so. Here are three core reasons to try it out now:
#1: The Mind/Body Connection
One of the core reasons that people meditate is to connect their minds with their bodies. In relation to exercise, imagine putting a “why” behind you train. Sure, you train to “sweat” or “pump up,” but why are you really doing it? It’s to enhance your performance, decrease pain or stress, or maybe enhance your self-perception.
If you meditate on the intention of your next workout session, you can add a meaningful component to the session that will enhance your training results.
#2: Warm Up Your Body Before You Warm Up Your Body
One common method of meditation involves a “body scan.” Basically, you start from your toes to your head and focus on each body part with each inhalation of breath. The intention is to connect your mind to each body part and mentally prepare to move each muscle through the routine you have planned.
If you use this method prior to training, the brief connection you made with each muscle/part of your body will be reflected in your workout (just try it).
#3: Relaxation Enhances Training Performance
There’s a temptation to think high stress can somehow improve your training performance. We’ve all seen the strongman competitions where the guys look angry, right? However, studies have shown that there is a tangible connection between relaxation (one of the long-touted effects of meditation) and sport performance. A study featured in The Sports Journal (Source) showed a connection between relaxation techniques and increased performance in women golfers.
If you can relax your body and mind prior to training, you can increase the results of your training while also reducing recover time afterwards.