Can You Use Meditation As An Effective Complement to Exercise?
By Stuart Carter, Men’s Health Coach & Head Trainer, The Fit Father Project
The idea is that you can get in touch with your inner self and perform feats that would not otherwise be possible.
But how is this relevant, and how can it complement your exercise routine.
While meditation is likely to improve your health by reducing the level of stress you are under; it may seem implausible that it can actually improve your workout or weight loss goals.
But, it can!
To understand how meditation can complement your exercise regime, you need to understand what meditation is and how you can use it in conjunction with exercise.
When meditation is first mentioned you will probably conjure up images of someone sat in an incredibly uncomfortable looking yoga pose with either their eyes closed or staring blankly into space.
While this is certainly an option, it’s not the only way of meditating. In fact, meditating can be done anywhere and in any position.
However, meditation requires you to clear your mind and remove yourself from any day to day distractions. This means you need to find a relatively quiet place; although complete silence is not essential.
It also rules out trying to meditate when exercising. The stillness you are trying to achieve with meditation is a direct contrast to the energy you need for exercise!
Using Meditation to Recover
Meditation allows your body and muscles to relax which is very important after a workout for two key reasons:
- A good workout pushes your muscles causing tears in their fibers. Relaxation is important to allow them to heal and grow stronger.
- Discipline is essential in order to sit for 5 minutes and calm your mind when you are feeling pumped. Meditating regularly will improve your discipline which can help you to get through a particularly difficult set.
Fortunately, if you choose to do it after your routine you will notice the following benefits:
Lower Levels of Cortisol
Cortisol is your stress hormone. It is released every time you experience a fight or flight scenario. When you exercise, your body produces more cortisol.
This is a good thing as it prepares your muscles for use and helps you lift more or run faster than you usually would.
Unfortunately too much cortisol over long periods is bad for your system. It will go into survival mode, storing fat and reducing your ability to think clearly.
- Meditation calms the mind and body, lowering cortisol levels naturally.
Research has shown that people who meditate are better able to deal with pain than those who do not.
It’s not clear exactly how this process works, but studies show that meditation can provide as much pain relief as opioid blockers and painkillers.
- Meditation can help with pain relief, allowing you to continue with normal activities if you’ve had a particularly hard workout and feel stiff or sore.
- Meditation ensures your body can focus on healing your torn muscles and any other areas of injury; helping you to heal quicker and grow stronger.
Meditation teaches you to clear your mind. During this process your body can balance its hormones in much the same way as when it sleeps. The result is an improved ability to concentrate on any given task; including your next workout.
- Meditating for just 5 minutes after your workout can make a huge difference to your ability to focus.
How to Meditate
You, like me, may have considered meditation in the past but not had the time or the inclination to try it properly. After all; despite the modern world promoting sexual equality, the image of meditation and yoga is female.
But, as research and understanding of the human body emphasizes the possibilities in meditating; you will need to know how to do it:
Step #1 – Time is on your side
Meditation can be completed in as little as 5 minutes. This means it is easy to fit in after your Fit father 24-min workout and still be completed in half an hour!
Step #2 – Stretch
This shouldn’t be necessary if you have just completed a workout.
Step #3 – Get comfortable
You can sit on the floor, a chair or anywhere else you can think of as long as you are comfortable
Step #4 – Set your alarm for five minutes
Use a gentle sound; a jarring one will make you jump and raise your stress levels again!
Step #5 – Stay Awake!
You can meditate with your eyes open but beginners usually find it less difficult with them closed; there are fewer distractions.
Step #6 – Breathe
Pick a spot on your body and focus on how your breathing makes it rise and fall.
Step #7 – Mantra
To clear your mind you will find it easiest to focus on just one thought. This could be your exercise ambition or, more traditionally, a mantra.
Step #8 – Peace
If you managed to focus on just one thought, or one object and block out everything else you will feel at peace.
Step #9 – Advanced Relaxation
Eventually you will be able to focus on each body part and consciously force each part to relax.
Step #10 – Stop
When your alarm sounds. Take a moment before rising and stretching again.
Meditation done properly will leave you feeling calm and centred, but you will probably not achieve this in one go! It takes practice and patience to become a meditation expert; but it is worth the challenge.
There are a few great guided meditation apps available.
Summary – Is Meditation an Effective Exercise Complement?
Meditation is an effective and often overlooked way to calm your body, reducing stress and ensuring that the benefits of your workout are felt in full by your body.
As you can see, this is an activity that should be done after exercise.
You don’t want to feel too calm and relaxed before you start your workout as you will not push yourself as hard as you can.
But, done properly it can help you become fitter, stronger and faster than you may have anticipated.
The one dilemma you may face is where to complete your meditation. If you are not comfortable doing it in the gym after a workout then simply sit in your car; the location is not important.
The fact that you can complete it in five minutes ensures you will not be disturbed.
Try it today and tell us whether it has benefited you or not.
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Until next time, I hope this has given you everything you need to get started with meditating to improve the results of your workout
Your new friend & health coach,
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project
Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide’, Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on meditation and exercise.