Sometimes the repetitive motion of swimming allows my thoughts to flow more freely. The rhythm of my arm and leg movements combined with my breathing pattern is freeing to my mind. My body goes on automatic pilot. My mind may suggest what’s next or remind me of all the things I have to do that day, but the buoyancy created by my body being in the water allows me to let those thoughts flow without attaching to them. I am in a state of open awareness. During this activity, I am meditating while moving.
During a rain storm, I was riding a stationary bike. There was low light in the room because of the grayness outdoors and I decided not to add more light. As I began peddling, I wondered if I could achieve the same type of active meditation on the bike that I do in the pool.
My brain took a little while to catch on to what I was trying to achieve during this activity. I had to bring my mind back to my breathing and pedaling several times. After a few minutes of pedaling, I began to sweat and my breathing was in cadence with my feet. That cadence of leg movement and breathing was familiar and slowly I became totally immersed in the moment.
I stayed there for five minutes and then went on to do my typical HIIT cycling workout with music. That was my warmup and it was, in equal parts, restful for my mind and awakening to my body. As I took my focus inward, my mind became quieter and my body began to warm with energy.
Have you ever considered trying to create this type of experience for your clients? Thinking of safety first, this type of workout is not without potential hazards. But, as a personal trainer or instructor, you have the opportunity to create a safe environment for guiding your clients through five or 10 minutes of a mindfulness practice. Consider incorporating it into workout sessions or a class format as part of the warm up or cool down.
Following is a suggestion for how to guide clients through a mindfulness exercise. Adapt it to suit your training or teaching style, individual client needs or various class formats. Not all clients will be interested in trying it, but most of us have clients or participants who are stressed or suffer from insomnia and are looking for ways to quiet the mind. The best way to start is to try it for yourself during your workouts or pre-class prep.
Mindfulness Warm up/Cool down protocol for 2 to 10 minutes:
Determine what equipment or position would be best for our class or client. Using a stationary bike or elliptical, standing or seated on a mat may work best. Begin by drawing their attention to what is happening with the body. You can invite them to close their eyes, if it may be done safely and comfortably, because it helps to turn the focus inward. Leaving the eyes open is fine too, but it may help to encourage them to focus their gaze on one spot on the floor or ceiling or a fixed point out a window. Bring their attention to the breath and encourage them to expand the ribs on inhale and flatten the belly on exhale causing deeper breathing. Help them to focus on the breath by reminding them to feel the ribs expand upon inhale and relax upon exhale.
Tell your client or class participants to allow thoughts to float through the mind. Not attaching to them but not pushing them out either. You can cue them with a visual or a mantra, like a leaf floating down from a tree landing on a babbling brook then slowly floating away or silently repeating, “This is my time to prepare my mind and body to exercise." Remind them that it’s normal for thoughts to come into the mind, but to just let them go effortlessly and then cue them back to their breathing.
Teaching clients how to spend a few mindful moments resting and quieting the brain and turning their focus inward is priceless. This small, added component may be the element that sets you apart and keeps them coming back to you for more. Give it a try for yourself first and let me know what you experience. If you share it with your clients or class, I would enjoy hearing about that experience as well.