The Topic of our blog this month is Mindfulness. And how you can apply this to your fitness training, nutrition, work and all aspects of your life
What is Mindfulness?
- Mindfulness is simply about engaging with the present moment
- So, whatever you are doing, focus on what you are doing
- Engage all the senses on the current situation;
- So, if for example you are simply going for a walk, you should focus on what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell
- You can apply this to everything, even brushing your teeth or washing the dishes!
- It’s very mentally calming and helps you to focus and reduce stress. It’s very healthy mentally
Why are more and more people talking about and practicing mindfulness? It is I believe because more and more people find the practice of mindfulness helps them to live their lives more effectively, more peacefully, more happily and with greater ease.
When we are mindful, we know that we are thinking when we are thinking, we know what we are feeling when we are feeling and what is going on in our bodies when something is going on. Most of us don’t live with this kind of awareness, we tend to live in a kind of “automatic pilot”. We are sitting at our desk doing one thing and thinking another; we are checking something on our laptop or smart phone and suddenly we move to open a new email we see coming in; each time our phone rings it throws up something new; we have a plan for the day but then somebody knocks at the door and our attention moves us somewhere else.
And all the time we are automatically opening up new awareness and very quickly we have a whole range of activities, thoughts, plans, routines running around our mind at the same time. It is estimated that over 60,000 thoughts flow through our mind every day and most of them are repeats. We cannot stop our thoughts but we can stop engaging with our thoughts and our attachment to the thoughts – that is what mindfulness training helps us to do.
We can learn to control our thinking. We can use thought as a tool. However, in most cases, thought in controlling us. We can learn to take control of our thoughts.
Today, when our attention is drawn in so many different ways, mindfulness is becoming more important. Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention to ourselves, others and the world around us. It is often said that mindfulness is a shift from a doing mode to a being mode.
As human beings we are more like human doers, all the time keeping ourselves busy with endless activities to distract us from being in the present, from being with ourselves, as we are, in any one moment. The doing mode involves a lot of thinking about the future and the past and what this means is we are not fully living in the present. Next time you are in a shower or brushing your teeth or driving a car, just see how much of the time you are actually present with the activity and how much you are not!
One very simple technique that helps us be in the present is an exercise of mindful breathing, focusing on our breathing as a way to enhance our capacity to clear the mind. When we are focusing on our breathing, which always takes place in the present, what we are doing is learning a skill that helps to align body and mind.
Taking a walk in nature is an excellent way to practice also. Say you are walking in a park, forest or on the beach. Focus on what you experience with each of your five senses. Spend a while simply focusing on what you see. Then switch to focusing on any sounds that you hear. Then focus on what you feel; this could be a breeze that you feel on your face, your feet on the ground etc. Then bring in any tastes and smells that you experience. This is excellent for grounding you to the present and is very healthy mentally. It is great for reducing stress.
The skill of disengaging the mind from where we don’t want it to be, because the stuff that calls our attention can be so obsessive and compulsive, is central to mindfulness. Research has shown that repeating a mindful exercise over and over again improves concentration as it redirects the wandering mind. Repetition of this exercise will produce great long-term results. It is simple but not easy to do because the mind has a natural inclination to wander and because there is a discipline involved in doing exercises or practices over and over again.
Practicing mindfulness is a long-term commitment, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a wonderful practice with huge positive effects. It can help with our capacity to stop and pause. It helps us to understand the nature of conditioning and being on “automatic pilot”. It increases our ability to step back and listen, to be present to ourselves and be present to others.
It helps us to recognise warning signs of accumulating stress and also helps us to manage stress more effectively. The practice of mindfulness is one of the best methods for developing resilience in our busy lives.
Studies have shown that if you can learn to use more of your mind then you will obtain superior results.Mind-Muscle Connection
Staying focused in the gym isn’t always easy, especially if you’re pulling a late-night workout or you’ve had a stressful day. Ever feel like you’re just going through the motions? Maybe your mind starts to wander and your thoughts drift to your work or something in the news. You probably don’t realize it, but you’re missing out on one of the most important secrets to success, the mind-muscle connection.
Do you have stubborn muscle groups that refuse to grow no matter how hard you train them? Do you find it impossible to get a good pump in one of your muscles? Well the answer is here, and it’s been inside you all along!
Although weight lifting is perceived by many people to be strictly physical training, there are many important psychological aspects to it. Here we’re going to break down arguably the most important psychological aspect of bodybuilding.
What Is The Mind-Muscle Connection?
As you know, movement is controlled by the brain. The first step towards muscular contraction is a signal sent by the brain to your muscles telling them to contract.
The more you can improve this communication, the more muscle fibers you will recruit. A single muscle head is made up of many individual muscle fibers. By improving your MMC you are actually increasing the number of muscle fibers being recruited when you perform a lift. This results in a better quality muscle contraction and better workout.
In order to understand why the MMC is so important, you have to understand the difference between primary and secondary movers. The primary mover is the muscle that is intended to do the most work in moving a weight. Secondary movers are the muscles that support the primary mover.
So for example, the pectoralis major is the primary mover in the bench press and the triceps and deltoids are secondary movers. You will also hear the primary mover referred to as the “target” muscle. The primary mover, or target muscle is the muscle you’re trying to isolate and pump up during a given exercise.There are many muscles in the body that are inherently difficult to work. Usually the smaller ones that aren’t responsible for much heavy lifting (like your posterior deltoids). Someone who doesn’t lift weights probably doesn’t even know they have a rear head on their deltoids, because it’s so small and inconspicuous. But muscles like this one are extremely important for building a quality physique. In order to develop muscles like your posterior deltoids you must be able to isolate them and this requires a strong MMC.
When you’re in the middle of a set, what’s going through your mind? Are you simply trying to force out as many reps as you can? If this is you, I’ve got some tips below to help you develop your MMC and maximize your gains.
You should be seriously committed to feeling each and every rep in your target muscles. A lot of people feel like they have something to prove in the gym and are compelled to lift with their egos. Conquering your ego is something that you must do if you want to get serious about bodybuilding. You might be benching 275 lbs, but if you’re not maximizing the work done by your chest, you’re wasting a whole lot of potential. You might even be setting yourself up for failure.
Too many people get obsessed with how much weight they’re pushing rather than how much work their muscles are actually doing. Your muscles don’t grow because of the weight moving up and down. They grow because they’re forced to contract by acting on that weight. If you maximize the force placed on your target muscles you will maximize your gains, and that’s what it’s all about: maximizing the work done by your target muscles. Not maximizing the weight moving up and down, this is secondary.
If you have to lower the weight in order to get a good quality muscle contraction, then do it. Sometimes less is actually more.
Simply moving more weight doesn’t mean that your target muscles are doing more work. If you’re only concerned with lifting the weight at all costs (sometimes by twisting and wrenching your body in order to force out that last rep), not only are your target muscles getting the short end of the stick, but this increases your risk of injury. If you consistently train like this your brain will never learn how to properly communicate with your muscles and your MMC can actually begin to get worse. You should therefore be focusing your mental energy on contracting your target muscles rather than on moving the weight.
If you want to start making serious gains you’ve got to learn to make every single rep count. There is a world of difference between simply getting 10 reps and actually doing 10 reps. Every repetition that you don’t feel is a repetition wasted.
Check Your Ego At The Door
One of the most common reasons why people fail to develop a proper Mind-Muscle Connection is because they are obsessed with pushing more and more weight. Forget about how much weight you’re pushing, concentrate instead on the quality of each repetition.
Perform The Exercise Very Slowly
Most people lift weights too fast. If you do this, you are exercising the weight, not your muscles. Take a full 6 seconds per rep. Take 4 seconds to lift the weigh and 2 seconds to lower it. You may have to reduce the weight to about 60% of what you would normally lift but the results will be worth it!
Simply put, you can train as hard as you want but if your mind-muscle connection is not fully developed you will never reach your full potential. Getting into the “zone” in sports is one of the toughest things to do. We often hear athletes in sports from golf to football talking about the “zone”, and for good reason.
Athletic performance is enhanced when you are able to mentally block out external pressures and distractions. Try not to let your mind wander in the gym. You’re not there to socialize (at least you shouldn’t be), you’re there to workout.
Training hard is important, and of course everybody wants to lift big weights. Letting go of your ego can be a difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, if you want to make serious gains it’s something that you absolutely have to do. There’s no point in working your butt off if you’re not working your muscles effectively.
This way, you can get the most out of your time in the gym. Maximum results in minimum time. You are training more efficiently and will get more results from spending less time working out. Make every minute in the gym count.
Think of all that wasted energy. We all want to be able to brag about how much we lift; it’s a part of the game. But if you never master the mind-muscle connection you’re never going to make the big gains you dream about. It’s time to start training smarter not harder.
If we are stressed, we don’t digest our food as well as we should. So, when you’re eating your food, be mindful of what you are doing. Eat slowly and focus with all your senses; what do you see, hear, how does the food feel in your mouth, savour the taste and smell of the food. Too many of us eat in a hurry in order to get back to work, or whatever we were doing. This causes poor digestion. Or you may have a habit of watching TV while eating. This can also be an unhealthy distraction.
Researchers from Harvard University in the US believe that mindfulness can help to reduce the negative thoughts that cause binge-eating and emotional eating, and improve resilience to deal with hunger pangs.
Meditation for Everyone
With a wide variety of options to suit all levels and types of meditators, The Mindfulness App is the perfect tool for anyone looking to improve mental health and overall wellbeing.
Included you will find:
– Five-day guided introduction to Mindfulness
– Guided and silent timed sessions from 3 to 30 minutes
– Reminders and statistics to stay focused on your practice
– Library filled with premium meditations and courses