Don’t worry, Timothy Leary has not taken over this blog. I promise. I hope that’s good news for you…I do realize that there may be some readers itching for a blog post about interacting harmoniously with the world around us. (That was the meaning of “tune in,” right? Maybe? Whatever. It was before my time.) So, I guess I’ll just say, by way of introduction, that this is the workout version of tuning in.

Something happened in my own workout this morning that I wanted to share with you because it made me think of the importance of deliberation and attention as they pertain to exercise.

I was about 10 minutes in, turning from side to side doing a little jab-cross combination into the air. And I’m sure, looking nowhere near as cool in reality as I pictured it in my head.

Then the trainer gave me a quick little reminder to pay attention to my movements. And what I noticed was that, while my body was technically completing the movement required by the exercise, I wasn’t getting much out of it. I was swinging my arms, letting momentum and my joints do the work. My posture wasn’t great and I was tuned out.

So, I told myself to tighten my stomach and to focus on my punches and make them as strong as possible; in-short, to think about the muscles involved in doing the work and be deliberate about my movement. When I did that, it was a completely different experience.

I have a tendency to daydream–to let my mind wander. That tendency is something I fight against in workouts, especially when I’m being really challenged and a movement is uncomfortable. Zoning out seems like it’s making things easier, but in reality it makes my workouts less effective.

Being deliberate and attentive in my workouts also helps me to know when something is off, before it leads to an injury. I notice that weird twinge or tightness in my knee, and adjust my range of motion accordingly. I avoid wrenching my shoulder out of alignment by using my muscles to lift that dumbbell, rather than letting momentum take over and forcing my joint to bear the brunt of that shoulder raise. See what I mean?

We hear about mindfulness in the context of meditation, yoga or Pilates. But mindfulness applies to every kind of workout, from cardio to strength-training, to balance and flexibility training. Every workout offers you the opportunity to improve the connection between your mind and your body. And it offers you the chance to connect with how your body feels.

If you are new to exercise and/or just don’t feel that connected to your physical body yet, the idea of being present in this way might seem overwhelming or impossible. I’ve said this on the blog before, but I repeat it a lot because understanding this is one of the keys to being deliberate in exercise: the way to communicate with a muscle is simply to think about it. Whether you’re doing a biceps curl or stretching out a tight muscle post-workout, think about that muscle and what you want it to do (contract or release) and it will do it.

That’s all I did this morning to bring my attention back to my workout–I thought about my body and what I wanted it to do. It’s kind of a hard thing to describe, so if you’re new to this whole thing, start small and know it takes some practice. A great starting point might be to think about one muscle group as you exercise, rather than trying to bring your attention to your body holistically. Pay special attention to one group at a time and then start to bring your attention to multiple groups or your body as a whole.

Please always post questions if you have any. We’re always happy to answer them or to expand on an idea we’ve presented in post. Thanks for reading!