Fitness

How Meditating Can Transform Your Workout, According To Experts

Double the self-care impact.

A person sits with her eyes closed in a meditative yoga pose. Meditation before or after a workout c...
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By Jay Polish and Bustle Editors
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Contrary to what lots of people think about meditating, you don't have to be sitting still with your eyes closed to slip into a meditative state. Many forms of movement can be meditative, and that can include your daily dose of exercise. Meditating as part of your workout can not just help you check off two self-care boxes at once, but also improve the way you exercise.

“While we traditionally think of someone meditating as sitting crossed-legged in a quiet room, there are so many ways people meditate,” says Jonelle Lewis, an Apple Fitness+ trainer. “Some enjoy a sitting practice with someone guiding them through the experience; others like to move while they meditate, whether that’s walking, hiking, or doing some light stretching.” She adds that she considers her yoga practice a “moving meditation.”

In order to help people make meditation a bigger part of their workout routines, Apple Fitness+ just launched guided Meditation, a new class type that expands on the Mindful Cooldowns already on the app. “Meditation is the perfect complement to a fitness routine because it rounds out the effort of working out with the renewal and recharging needed to balance you physically and mentally,” Julz Arney, director of fitness for health technologies at Apple, tells Bustle, adding that this was something the team considered while developing Fitness+. “Just as many users start a Mindful Cooldown after a HIIT or Cycling workout, we anticipate many will do the same with Meditation.” You can also listen to a guided Meditation on your Apple Watch while doing light movement, like a treadmill or elliptical session, says Lewis.

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You probably don't need someone to tell you that meditating is pretty good for you on its own. It's shown to boost your mood and increase your energy levels. Meditation also heightens your ability to focus, and all of these benefits can combine to make your workout much more effective.

"Being fully present during your workout allows you to focus specifically on proper form, reducing risk of injury," William Fowler, head of content programming at meditation app Headspace, tells Bustle. “By calling full attention to your workout instead of the stress of everyday life, you're giving yourself more of a chance to engage with your body's movement and boost your mood while giving your brain a well-deserved break.

So how do you integrate your meditative practice with your exercise routine? "You can turn just about any activity into a meditation," master yoga instructor Ross Rayburn tells Bustle. By drawing your focus to your breath and bodily sensations during your workout, you can increase your ability to remain fully present. Centering yourself by taking a few deep, meditative breaths before lifting heavy sets, or before setting off for a long run, can help block out distractions and bring focus to just you and what you're trying to accomplish. If you don't typically enjoy working out, meditation's ability to boost your mood and mental toughness can help bring more joy to that grueling hour on the stair climber.

Right before and even during your workout, you can use other meditation techniques like visualization to focus on bodily sensations. How will the kettlebell feel in my fingers? What will my feet feel like hitting the pavement up that last hill toward the end of my run? What will the weights clanking all around the gym sound like? What will the air smell like as I'm finally reaching my finish line? Imagining all of that isn't quite the "clear your mind of all thoughts and emotions" type of meditating, but it is a powerful type of mindfulness that can get you in the zone. A 2012 study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal found that visualization can improve exercise by helping you get through the tough spots of your workout.

Remember that there's no one way to integrate meditation and exercise. If you're comfortable with meditation but not working out, you might start out by engaging in guided meditations before a workout to get yourself in the right frame of mind to try something new. “Meditations are perfect when you want to focus on training your mind, going inward, and connecting with yourself in order to better connect with others,” says Jessica Skye, an Apple Fitness+ trainer. If you're more accustomed to physical exercise but not meditating, visualization might make your workout more mindful.

However you integrate meditation and physical exercise, do what works best for your own body and mind. So many people work out or meditate to seek that sense of calm — combining both exercise and mindfulness is a great way to practice both forms of self-soothing at once.

Studies Referenced:

Richter, J. (2012) Maximizing strength training performance using mental imagery. Strength and Conditioning Journal, https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2012/10000/Maximizing_Strength_Training_Performance_Using.10.aspx.

Experts:

Jonelle Lewis, Apple Fitness+ trainer

Julz Arney, Director of Fitness for Health Technologies, Apple

Ross Rayburn, master yoga instructor

William Fowler, head of content programming at Headspace

Jessica Skye, Apple Fitness+ trainer

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