[Week 7 of 12 Weeks to a Healthy New Year]
What is mental about exercise?
There are two main categories of mental choices related to your workout.
- How you prepare for your workout
- How you engage your mind during your workout
Being in the right frame of mind before your workout is largely a motivational issue. It helps you get going. A lot of it depends on habits, as well as good evaluation of your options. It will include elements of how you feel about yourself and whether or not you think the workout will accomplish anything.
This is where your prep-mental and your during-mental begin to overlap. You will be more mentally prepared if you have an idea what will be going on in your head while you workout. You need to overcome any concerns about either boredom or anguish.
Letting the mind do its job
Some kinds of exercise provide their own intellectual stimulation. When I am gardening, I often have plenty to think about. If playing racquetball, I need all my senses free of outside distraction!
Other kinds of exercise are repetitive and invite meditation. I think that activities like running, hiking, swimming tend to fall in this category. However, it still depends on the terrain and level of intensity.
There may also be an in-between level, where you can’t give your full attention to learning something new, but you would like a little diversion or mental interaction. Music is one of the go-to options for this, but stories and conversation are another. There is one more important option.
Creating your own mental action
There is nothing like a bit of active solitude for problem solving and creative brainstorming. This is one of my favorite things to do while I exercise.
A repetitive motion can be relaxing because it makes you step away from trying to do or figure out the next thing. It is different from trying to “sit and think” because there is much less pressure. There is just some time available and no particular rush.
Many times while I am running, I find that issues of scheduling or creative options will start to work themselves out. I just have to sort say, “I wonder …” to myself and thoughts begin to sift and present themselves.
There may be an art to letting it happen. I find a similarity between that and performing. If I am getting ready to be on stage (which I have done for speaking, singing, and flute playing), it is counterproductive to concentrate hard on relaxing and not making mistakes. Instead, I need to relax into what I already know.
If you are afraid of forgetting…
Which leads to the question of possibly forgetting things. I haven’t actually found this to be a problem. There is something about the process, in my experience so far, that seems to give so much life to the ideas that I am just bursting with things to write down when I get home.
If you don’t think you can wait until you get home, you might be prepared to make notes when you are done. If you need to record the ideas while running, there are some pretty good recording options on phones these days.
I am always carrying my phone when I run or bike anyway, to track myself. I have also been known to take out my camera and start recording a video of something on my mind. 🙂
The advantage of a post-workout mental glow
Having an idea of what your mind will be doing during your workout will make your activity more enjoyable. Instead of getting caught in wishing it were done or how hard it is, it can be a time that is useful. Maybe you can outline a letter to a potential client. Possibly you can plan the menus for the week to make shopping easier.
Making time for a workout – or exercise or physical activity or whatever you want to call it – is not just a matter of physical health or free time. It is a time to let your mind do things it might not be able to do as well any other time! It is a good way to go mental.