Aaaaaaaaand we're back with another instalment of "But Why Wednesday" - this week we're diving into why we go on and on about training mindfully.
Without getting too science-y, (heaven forbid), the primary function of our brain is to control and co-ordinate complex and adaptive movements - ask any neuroscientist and they’ll back me up. So depending on what type of training you’re doing, not only can you can increase your physical fitness but you can be making gains in cognitive function and neuroplasticity at the same time. The way to achieve this is through mindful movement.
The first aspect of mindfulness involves “zoning in” rather than “zoning out” while you’re training and moving. Not only does this help with injury prevention and avoiding burnout, but interestingly, studies have shown physical activity that requires a high level of mental engagement can have the same effect on stress levels as meditation. In layman’s terms, it’s hard to think about how much you want to strangle your boss if you’re doing something that requires your complete concentration and mindfulness to achieve. More importantly though, it means you are building a strong mind-body connection.
Imagine the difference between bicep curls and climbing or calf raises and jumping/landing. Bicep curls and calf raises are extremely simple, isolated movements that require little thought. However climbing and jumping engage your body and brain at the same time for far more overall benefit. True mindful movement goes a little deeper though.
It isn’t just about the how but the why as well. Many people go to a gym and do things without really asking themselves why. Do you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, do you know what it is doing to your body, what it’s meant to be working and what the trade-offs are? Are you aware of the benefits but also the risks? If getting ‘swole’ is on your list of things to do, please proceed, but if your fitness goal is to run a Spartan Race, be able to move painlessly, or maybe even just keep up with the kids/grandkids, it won’t help you. If you aren’t a body builder, why would you train like one?
Long story short, it comes down to whether or not you want to kill a few birds with one stone. The more you are thinking about what you do, and the more you are thinking about it while you’re doing it, the healthier and happier you’ll be.