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Mindfulness: How Being Present Can Help You Make The Most Of Every Moment

Adding mindfulness to your training is a simple and effective way to support your fitness goals by improving the quality of your workouts and helping you make the most of every moment, whether you’re sweating it out or spending time with friends, family, and work.

Here are the highlights on mindfulness:

  • Mindfulness is the act of tuning out distractions and being mentally present
  • Incorporating mindfulness into your routines doesn’t have to be complicated – start with small, 5–10-minute time intervals and build from there
  • You can practice mindfulness by setting intentions, focusing on your form or breath, and remembering why you’ve set aside time for your physical health and fitness
  • Practicing mindfulness is shown to decrease stress and improve your ability to reach long-term goals

Pro triathlete and mother of two Jackie Hering practices mindfulness in her training and throughout her life. Currently ranked 14th I the world, Jackie knows a thing or two about performing under pressure. That’s why she uses mindfulness to make the most of every moment and give each part of her life her full attention.

“I started to very seriously focus on being in the present moment when I became a mom,” said Jackie. “It's hard to put into words the mental transition this caused for me, but it was huge. As a new mom, there are many lonely times and so many lifestyle changes it can feel overwhelming. Focusing on the positives in every little moment helps me to feel like what I'm doing matters. For me, mindfulness is more like a way of living.  It’s more than just a practice or something that I do because of training or triathlon. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress.”

What Is Mindfulness And How Does It Work?

At its core, mindfulness is the act of being mentally present during certain tasks, like your workout or training, meditation, or small moments in your everyday life. Being mentally present means not letting yourself zone out with music or becoming distracted by intrusive thoughts. During your long run, for example, it’s easy to start thinking about your grocery list or the appointment you need to get to later that day. All those thoughts prevent you from noticing and celebrating how you’re using your body.

“In training, I think mindfulness looks like appreciating your body, your surroundings, and accepting all that is going on,” Jackie said. “It looks like not worrying, overthinking, feeling behind, or that what you’re doing doesn't matter.”  

When you first start incorporating mindfulness into your routines, it can seem really daunting. But it’s enough to start by setting small chunks of time to try and be 100% in the present moment. Even increments of three, five, or ten minutes will help train your brain to stay in the now. Start registering your thoughts and feelings and where they’re coming from. Experience them, recognize them, and then let them go to make room for the moment you’re currently in.

“Mindfulness doesn't have to be a big ordeal,” Jackie explained. “We are all naturally mindful. Just start to notice things throughout your day. I started with a gratitude journal, which helped me bring attention to the things I am thankful for in my daily life. Then it's adding little 'appreciation moments' throughout your day and bringing yourself back to the present when something causes you to detach.” 

Adding Mindfulness To Your Fitness Routine

Not sure how to start using mindfulness? Try one of these simple techniques during your next workout:

Set an intention

Pick one thing you want to accomplish in your workout, whether that’s hitting a certain pace, successfully upping your weight, or settling into the yoga pose you’ve been practicing. Whenever your mind begins to wander, or if you experience any discomfort, bring yourself back to that goal. Remember why you’ve carved out this precious time to spend on yourself.

Focus

If you want to be more granular with your approach to mindfulness, choose something specific and repetitive, like your form or breathing. Thinking about your posture and form does more than just prevent injury. It keeps you grounded in your body throughout the duration of your workout, eliminating the distractions of other people in the gym or your own wayward thoughts. Stay focused on the alignment of your body through each lift, the way your feet hit the ground as you run, or each stroke through the water.

And if you find yourself losing focus, you can always come back to your breath. There’s a reason breathing is so important in practicing yoga and meditation. It’s a way to return to center and calm your mind and body. Concentrate on taking deep, rhythmic breaths.

Find your ‘why’

Your training is time you’ve set aside to focus on your own wellbeing, whether that’s physical, mental, or spiritual. So, it can be really frustrating when you find yourself thinking about the rest of your to-do list during your workout or feeling guilty for choosing this instead of other chores or time with friends and family. When that happens, it’s important to remember why you started this journey to begin with.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

The benefits of practicing mindfulness extend well beyond your chosen sport. When you’re able to be mentally present, it becomes easier to overcome adversity in training and in life. You’ll be able to see potential distractions, excuses, or problems more clearly, and quickly adapt to your ever-changing circumstances.

This means you’re more likely to stick to and achieve your fitness goals – especially in the long term. It also means that you’re better able to manage stress, because being mindful cuts down on worry and keeps you in the present moment.

“Mindfulness has taken away a lot of stress and worry in my life,” said Jackie. “It has freed my mind to allow daily experiences to happen however they will happen and to accept it all as learnings.  As a mom-athlete, it has helped remove the guilt that can come with taking time away from my family. I am present in the training and not worrying about other things. 

As a mom, business owner and professional athlete I wear many hats. I continually remind myself to stay present and focus on the important job right in front of me, rather than worrying or thinking ahead to other tasks. Staying present makes me a better mom, athlete, and more functional worker as I use the time I have wisely.” 

If you’re ready to make the most of every moment this year, it’s time to try practicing mindfulness. Staying mentally present through your workouts and in your time spent with friends and family can help you better appreciate your mind and body, reducing stress and allowing you to focus on what really matters.

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