Take a look around you and you’ll often see people lugging a big bag or two as they rush from point A to point B. Whether it’s after ending a hectic day at work or a mind-numbing day at school, they have one thing in common: hitting the gym.
With so many people lifting weights or being more active in general, how many of us have set some time aside to care about our own mental well-being for a change?
Meditation can be a very effective method of learning how to be mindful of yourself and your surroundings, as evidenced by how long it’s been around for. According to A Clinical Guide to the Treatment of the Human Stress Response by George S. Everly and Jeffrey M. Lating, meditation has been around as early as 1500 BC from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism.
And here’s the thing – it may actually be beneficial for your sports performance. If you think you won’t have time to meditate, it doesn’t actually always need to be a long, drawn-out process of sitting in the lotus position and saying “om”. In fact, there is a way to incorporate it into your daily routine so that you can get both a mental and physical boost.
MindFi is an app created by Bjorn Lee which does just that – help people be more mindful in their lives. The app is simple to use and introduces people to simple and short mindfulness exercises that can be done with your eyes open.
Photo courtesy of MindFi.
Meditating for only a few minutes at a time may seem counter-intuitive at first, but according to Bjorn, it’s not how long you do it for that matters, but how regularly.
“The frequency of practice is more important than the time duration,” Bjorn says. “MindFi’s short sessions are optimised for our attention-poor era, just three minutes, or as long as a song. Our shorter attention spans mean that bite-sized workouts are likelier to be consumed and practiced.”
“Over time, this will achieve the scientific benefits of meditation such as improved attention and concentration power, emotional intelligence and hopefully happiness too,” he adds.
The benefits of meditating, even for just a few minutes a day, sound good, but does it actually have an effect on physical performance? After all, what feels better than stacking plates onto a barbell and really grinding out that last rep?
Apparently it does. According to a New York Times article, meditating for a few minutes a day provides enough of a boost for athletes to last even longer during training and endure the mental stress that comes with breaking past physical limits.
The results of a study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement showed that student athletes who practiced meditation displayed tougher mental fortitude and could last through tougher training sessions. And all it took was only 12 minutes of meditation after they were done with training for them to see results in the subsequent workouts.
So not only is short meditation effective, it does give you a performance boost. Having said that, Bjorn says that physical exercise can already be considered a type of meditation in itself.
“During physical exercise, we pay attention to the sensations of our muscles or body parts,” Bjorn says. “This is similar to mindfulness meditation, which is about ‘paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally’ as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn who is considered to be the godfather of secular, scientific meditation.”
So if you were sceptical of meditation before, you shouldn’t be now. Not only can meditating help you perform better in the gym and hit new PRs, you may just find yourself a little more relaxed in general, and able to handle whatever lemons life throws you along the way.
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer