Mixing mindful meditation with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) may sound juxtaposing, but the combination could be a very powerful mix for your next workout. As we have upped our knowledge on our nutrition and advanced in the way we train our bodies, we’ve also become more aware of the role our psyche plays in them. Our definition of health has expanded into not just the physical and mental, but also the spiritual. With around 1,263,000 people in the UK
who had practiced yoga in 2015, the trend to seek a more meaningful workout continues.
Why apply your mind to your workout?
A mindful approach to exercising involves an attentive awareness of momentary changes to your body and thoughts. This could be noticing your breath, your form and even the sensation of the sweat on your forehead. The idea is to become more "in the moment" by observing these changes, especially any self-sabotaging thoughts. Observing and separating them without judgement leaves you more able to enjoy the ‘here and now’ experience. Using this approach could increase your satisfaction when exercising too. A recent study from Utrecht University
in the Netherlands found that in nearly 400 participants, the more they were fully absorbed in their physical activity, the greater satisfaction they felt. And if you feel pretty satisfied while you train, wouldn’t you be more likely to keep at it a little longer?
Get into your zone
Most of us are familiar with the idea of getting into our zone or in our flow, when we are completely engaged in whatever we are doing. The mindful side of training isn’t too dissimilar. This technique of applying your mind to training is something world class athletes do, with even Olympian Tom Daley meditating before dives. In an interview, he revealed that he used meditation app Headspace
to focus on breathing and to get “…completely in the moment…”. Dr Laura M Miele, an Ohio University professor in sports psychology, explains that negative external or internal psychological factors can lead to mental blocks
, which can affect the focus of an athlete, their performance and even sometimes increases their risk of injury. So if it can work for athletes, surely it can work for us too.
What to expect from a Mindful HIIT class
Classes vary and you may even be practising elements of mindfulness in your current workout routine. Usually at the start of the session a form of meditation is used to first centre and get everyone's energy in the class on the same wavelength.
Breath work is extremely important in the session. Even under intense work, being able to maintain a steady breath helps your body to receive the oxygen it needs to go on. In addition it helps you to maintain calm under pressure, which will help to keep you focused.
Form is fundamental. When you are absorbed in what you are doing and more body aware, you’ll pay more attention to your form and technique, which can positively affect your workout performance.
Like with the meditation at the start, sometimes you may use a personal mantra a short phrase or word. Whether it’s “Don’t quit”, “I’m stronger than this”, or maybe even the names of family members and friends who motivate you. Whatever resonates with you and helps maintain your focus through those extra challenging parts of the workout.
Closing the session with meditation is great. Especially after a HIIT class, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s response to stressful ‘fight or flight’ situations, allows you to get into a state of calm.
This mindful way of training completely embraces the act of doing the exercise without placing all of the emphasis on the outcomes. Purely accepting where you are on your fitness journey and working with what you’ve got, free from self-critique and judgement is truly freeing. It may change your perception of exercising, where the enjoyment of the process is greater than the result.