Years ago, I trained to teach a wonderful class called Body Flow, offered by the company, Les Mills, through which I am certified. It’s a class that combines Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. It’s a wonderful workout that allows you to stretch, do some standing strength work, flexibility training, serious core (back/abs) work and finishes off with a wonderful relaxation piece. Body Flow is the first place I was introduced to the “Mind/Body Connection”. The class requires you to focus your movements to be in time with your breathing and for you to put your mind into your muscle as you work. This focus is wonderful for your workout, making it all it can be.
Over the years, I have been accused of being very focused at the gym, often times tuning out my surroundings. I turn my headphones up, get lost in the music and focus on the task at hand, usually with everything in me. Some people believe this makes me unfriendly or unapproachable, I’m sure. That’s a tough one for me to deal with, but I do take my workouts rather seriously. The time I am able to put in at the gym can be limited, so I want to get all that I can out of it. Plus, I’ve learned what happens when I lose that focus. If I’m doing a set of chest presses and trying to carry on a conversation that involves more than just telling my spotter that I’m shooting for two more in that set, I’m taking the focus off the muscle I’m trying to work. By doing this, I’m not getting the most out of my work.
Connecting your mind to your body is something that can give you the best of the best, when it comes to a workout. It should exist in all forms of exercise, not just the ones like Yoga or Tai Chi. When lifting weight, running, cycling or even walking, you should put constant thought into your movements and make them the best they can be, warranting the greatest result. Let’s use a cycling class as an example. If you purchase a pair of cycling shoes, you’ve already gone one step further than cycling in a regular gym shoe. Take it a few steps further by focusing on your push down, the drive through your heel and the pull up as you work. Think about your movements and feel them. In addition, lock in your core and think about keeping it nice and tight throughout your workout. You’ve kicked it up yet another notch!
Whenever the weather permits and I find myself with a child-free hour or so, I love to head to the NCR Trail or to the hills nearby for a run. One day, I decided to not only enjoy the peace of a six-mile run, but to really think about how I was running. For the first time ever, I spent almost an entire hour bracing my abs (drawing them in and locking them on), just because I didn’t let my mind wander from them. I can’t even explain how very sore I was the next day in my abdominal area. Now I make sure I check myself regularly while I run to make sure my core is tight. More bang for my buck!
If you’re walking or power walking, focus on the abs to improve core strength and digging the heels in as you go for a better bootie. When you lift weights, know not just what muscle group you’re working, but where exactly in that muscle you should be squeezing and then really focus on that squeeze. I’m certain you’ll see a different result over time than you would if you were just going through the motions while chatting with a friend.
You may become someone who’s accused of being in “the zone” while you exercise, but my perspective is that you can play when the work is finished. If you’re going to put the time in, you might as well give it your all while you’re there, right? Go ahead, put your mind into your muscle… Feel the mind/body connection and have a GREAT workout.
Carri Nelsen of Gold’s Gym in Shrewsbury.
Got questions for Carri? E-mail them to blogs@TheZoneMag.com.