Meditating through workout
I am currently reading Arianna Huffington's book Thrive in which she has discussed or rather essayed her journey with the Third Metric to success- wellbeing, wisdom and wonder. While talking about these things she has given scientific data about how our life is a product of the choices we make- be it stress due to overwork, bad decisions due to lack of sleep, not having enough clarity in our decision-making cause we are proud multitaskers etc. I am anyway going to write separately about the book, let this post be about my experience with one aspect that she has discussed at length in the book- meditation. For as long as I can remember, I have never warmed up to the practise of meditation. I have tried it too many times as a teenager or when I was in my early 20s to now when I finally can perhaps embrace it, to not embracing it fully. The thought of sitting still kind of unnerves me. And while reading the book a realisation dawned upon me. I am a yoga practitioner, have been one forever. I workout (combination of yoga and strength training) for atleast 5 days a week. If I don't workout I feel incomplete. That's how much I love working out. So I decided to meditate with my workouts.
I mean what exactly is meditation? Being in the present moment, aware of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Right? Also without any thoughts hindering this process. I was set to do an intense 5 day workout regime this week, which I have never done in my life. When I first read the list of 20 exercises along with the reps we were to clock in, I was like there's no way I am going to finish this. There's no way I am putting my body through this commando training torture. But since I wanted to meditate through my workout, I decided to do an experiment. Without feeling pressured, I decided that when I am working out this week, I am going to be mindful about my breathing. I anyway don't have to try hard to be present in the moment when I am working out cause those 70-90 minutes is my time out from everything else that might be clawing for my attention. It's also a great technique to unwind. I am going to share the exercises below that we were supposed to finish by the end of 5 days.
1. Overhead squats - 400
2. Hamstrings squats / frog Squats - 400
3. Chest press - 500
4. Chest fly - 500
5. Bicep curls- 500
6. Step ups - 100/100
7. Bent over rows - 500
8. Swim lats - 200
9. Deadlift - 500
10. Over head press - 300
11. Kettlebell swings - 500
12. Upright rows - 300
14. Pushups - 200
15. Dands - 200
16. Crab crunch - 100
17. Leg raises- 200
18. Butterfly crunches - 300
19. Normal crunches - 500
20. Jumping Jack's- 2000
21 . Burpees - 150
On day 1 I was really anxious but I had decided that I am not going to be bothered about the number. I am going to do my exercises to the best of my abilities, be fully present in the moment, aware of my breathing and not worry about anything. And after 75 minutes, I was surprised by my performance. All I was worried about were DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) the following day and my enthusiasm. I was scared that it shouldn't wane by the third day, which normally happens when I am regularly working out and I need to take a break. But because I was trying this whole meditating through workout, I realised I am looking forward to the next day. And because I have to be at my best, I was making sure I am sleeping on time, sleeping well, eating good and most importantly keeping my body hydrated.
On day 2, my body surprised me. I clocked in more reps than I did on the first day and my body was with me in complete sync to help me achieve this goal. Obviously my trainer is constantly pushing me while I was doing the reps, I realised that giving my workout the twist of meditation, concentrating on my breath and most importantly being aware of it without any distracting thoughts were key to my performance. Obviously in order to make sure I was inching closer to the final destination everyday, I would plan the next day's exercise the night before. I clubbed every muscle group and decided to complete them one after the other and by day 3 I managed to finish a bunch of them.
Some tips that helped me clock in more reps each day:
I divided this long list in sets of 5 exercises based on the muscle group
After warm up once I began the session, I would focus on my breathing, technique and ensured I do atleast 30 reps in one go. Sometimes it was lesser, but 30 was the benchmark
Hydrate after every 2 sets no matter what
When you focus on your breathing- inhale and exhale, every rep is stronger than the earlier one
Being in the present and enjoying without worrying about the numbers I had to achieve
Eating a good pre workout snack (I used to have a coffee shot with banana and 2-3 dates) and following that up with a healthier post workout protein shake/ fruit and a good relaxing shower
Sleeping for 8-9 hours every day.
I cannot help but stress on the fact that good teachers make all the difference. I don't think without the positive push of my trainer at Mandala Fitness Studio I would have believed in myself to achieve this. And I understand the importance of a good teacher because I have been working out for a very long time and having one definitely makes all the difference :) I managed to finish my workout well within time on the last day. Obviously, the last day is also the most difficult one cause somewhere your mind is already preparing for a relaxing mode so it takes more coaxing physically to reach the finish line. And I truly enjoyed looking at my workout schedule through the lens of meditation since the renewed approach made all the difference!
All images © Kainat27