Typically, when we teach mindful movement to athletes, the first thing we teach is to help them get back in their bodies. Whether an athlete is a newbie or pro, it’s rare that he or she is truly in touch with what’s going on inside of them.
Getting in touch with your body can help you prevent injuries, recover faster, choose better workouts and maximize your gains. It also helps you quiet the mind and work on getting in the zone, something that comes quite readily as a mindful athlete.
The simplest, most effective way to listen to your body is a simple Mindful Check-In. This can be done before you workout, at the start of each day, or even while you’re still in bed.
It’s very simple and requires only about 5 to 10 minutes. But it can help you improve each aspect of your training and help alleviate stress at the same time. For the more you’re in touch with your body, the more you let go of anxiety, tension, and worries your body has been holding onto. It also helps lower your cortisol or stress hormone levels, a key component in producing inflammation, and thereby fatigue and injury in the body.
- Begin by laying down on your bed, yoga mat or the ground outside.
- Breathe deeply, in through the nose and out through the nose.
- Then starting with your feet, point your toes down on an inhale, then relax your feet on the exhale. Ask yourself, how do your feet feel? Then sense if your feet are tight, relaxed or sore. If they’re sore, take a few extra breaths with your feet and see if you can feel them relax.
- Next, bring your toes up on an inhale, then relax your feet on the exhale. This helps you feel how your shins are doing.
- Repeat this simple process with your calves by pulling back your toes and lifting your heels slightly (appx 1 inch), then release.
- Next, for your quads, tighten your thighs and see how things feel.
- For your hamstrings, pull your heels down into the bed or mat, almost lifting your buttocks off the ground.
- Next press your heels down and move your feet to the outside (they shouldn’t actually go anywhere, since you’re digging in), seeing how your hips feel.
- Then dig the heels in again and draw your feet inward (again they shouldn’t move) and see how your inner thighs and groin feels as well.
- Next tighten your glutes and see how they’re feeling.
- Next press your arms into the ground and see how they are feeling.
- Follow with a shoulder shrug, seeing how your shoulders are feeling as well.
- Follow this up with turning your head to one side, then to the other, and then pressing your head back into the ground, mat or mattress.
Obviously, this can be done with as many or as few body areas as you desire.
There are 3 main goals:
- To listen and here what you’re body’s telling you. Do you have any sore spots or tightness? Do you need to do any extra recovery work such as stretching today? Or do you need to post-pone today’s long or intense workout in favor of something else, or even take the day off?
- The second goal is to take action based on what it’s telling you. Checking in now, before you do the workout is the best way to keep you safe, AND maximize your benefits during your workout.
- And the third goal is to relax your body while you’re quieting the mind. Doing this mindful activity there’s little time for your mind to wander or stray. Instead you’re firmly in the present moment. This helps you relax, get into more of a creative zone, and helps you feel better throughout the entire day. On a biological level, the more you do this, the more you literally rewire your mind for greater focus, concentration, and relaxation. It’s a powerful rewiring to help your mind let go of thoughts, fears, and anxiety, to allow you to focus on the task at hand. And this one was quite simple, you just had to think of a body part, and all the other thoughts went away.
I recommend doing this daily, first thing when you get up, or before each of your workouts. It’ll help you move at your best, thrive throughout the rest of the day, and feel calmer, stronger, and more relaxed.
Have fun with this, and say “hello to your body” for me. Get to know it well, and it’ll serve you well for a lifetime of great workouts, movement, and health.