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Put your mind into your training by unleashing the mind-body connection during your workouts.

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How To Unleash The Mind Body Connection At The Gym

Are you familiar with the mind-body fitness philosophy? You may have heard this phrase thrown around in relation to fitness training but you may still be wondering how you can best implement this into your current regimen. 

Whether you're taking a yoga class or hitting the weight room, any movement you make to increase your physical well-being is an opportunity to channel your mind-body connection. In fact, your brain is directly connected to your muscles through your body’s nervous system, and plays a big role in physical performance. If you're not drinking enough water or getting enough sleep at night, your body will respond accordingly, resulting in lackluster workouts and decreased energy.  

If you're anything like the rest of us, your time is often limited and getting the most out of your workouts is key. Learn how to unleash your mind-body connection at the gym through group fitness or during a solo strength training session to achieve peak performance.

Group fitness classes for mind-body connection

Group fitness classes such as yoga or Pilates may be the easiest way to begin channeling your mind-body connection as they naturally harness mindful movements and meditation-like properties to help calm the mind.  

Pilates:

Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, after whom it was named. Pilates called his method "Contrology". It is practiced worldwide and emphasizes use of the stabilizer muscles found in your spine, pelvis and core. The focus is on strengthening the abdominal muscles and increasing flexibility. Floor work is designed for different skill levels, and anyone without prior Pilates experience is encouraged to take a beginners class. Participants of all levels will benefit from core and stability training with enhanced breathing techniques.

Pilates not only works both the mind and body as it consists of mindful movements that calms anxiety and requires both physical and mental presence.

Yoga:

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines and it's place on this list is probably of no surprise to you. The focus is controlled breathing, balance and movements to lengthen, stretch and strengthen the muscles. Additional benefits include flexibility, relaxation and mindfulness, as well as making it a great option to add to your workout routine. All fitness levels are encouraged to participate and can benefit from yoga.

Tai Chi:

Tai chi, short for T'ai chi ch'üan or Tàijí quán, is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training, its health benefits and meditation. 

Anyone can practice the slow and peaceful quality movements that calms emotions, strengthens the body, improves balance and posture, and helps improve overall health. Tai Chi is based on the ancient belief that health is a true balance of physical, emotional and social well-being.

Strength training and the mind-body connection

Group fitness is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness while also getting a good workout in but many of us prefer the weight room over the class room. If strength training makes up the majority of your fitness routine, embracing mindfulness may seem impossible. After all, aren't we just lifting heavy things and putting them down? It may not seem like something that requires mind power when you're huffing and puffing and crushing those PR's, but the truth is increased awareness can actually take your strength training to the next level.

Like I said, many of us are working on very limited time. Some of us are just happy to make it to the gym some days. Knowing this, it's easy to go into autopilot. Increasing awareness and mindfulness during your workout will ensure you're getting the most out of your time spent at the gym.

Limit distractions

Remember when all we brought to the gym was a water bottle and a good pair of headphones?

Fitness has grown in popularity in recent years and so has the use of technology. Now we're taking gym selfies, recording our workouts for our followers or holding in depth texting conversations between sets. I challenge you to put your phone on airplane mode and channel all your energy to your lifting. Being present mentally helps set the tone for your entire workout. If you show up ready to leave, did you ever even show up at all?

Learn to breathe

Breathe with intention. Livestrong advises to inhale as you lower the weight and exhale as you lift the weight. This helps to control your blood pressure while lifting heavy weights. Not only will this ease your mind, but it will help control your blood pressure and prevent the Valsalva Maneuver, or the act of holding your breath while lifting heavy weights. Holding your breath during weight training causes a rapid and dramatic increase in blood pressure which can lead to injuries like hernias.

Focus on the muscles at work

Take barbell curls for bicep training, for example. Our brains tend to think of the movement in terms of weight: "Move the weight up and down." Instead, retrain your mind to think of the muscle at work. Can you feel it? Many of us guilty of going on autopilot may not consider the way the muscle feels during these movements but we focus on simply making the movements themselves. Rewiring your brain to focus on feeling the muscle at work will help enhance the mind-body connection and increase the effectiveness of your strength training.