Mindful Strength Training....Yeah, It's a Thing.
"Dude...mindful strength?....Is this one of those guru articles?"
"Or another call to action to 'get in touch with ourselves'?"
"Or a plea for athletes to explore mindfulness exercises, breathing, and meditation in order to take your training to the next level?"
Well, no, no...and....maybe? I'll let you be the judge and the jury on that one.
But, yes! Mindful strength training is a thing and I wanted to share a short story about how I arrived at this concept after a lot of wasted gym time.
A couple of years ago I started to explore meditation and I would notice a calm, yet energetic force throughout the body. Prior to learning about this, I would go into the gym with idea of leaving with the ever enticing 'pump'. That also included looking at only the superficial side of the training, which to me was the aesthetics aspect.
Nothing against this guy...but I needed something more.....
I remember going through a pretty difficult time around 2012 when I got so busy at work that I began skipping the gym. I would come up with excuses not to go because of something that couldn't wait or something that needed my immediate attention. Along with those excuses began a series of days when I woke up feeling very depressed. I shrugged them off as just part of the daily bleak morning routine I had grown accustomed to. Ya know....hearing the loud noise thinking they are wind chimes in your dream but turn out to be nothing more than your default iPhone chirp?
That kind of morning.
I realized after several months of this dark period that I was using the gym merely for external rewards. When I had grown so "deflated" (experiencing atrophy as we call it in the fitness circles) I wallowed in that damaged ego space for a good part of a year. I had always had a borderline obsession of looking my best but never had tangible goals to set. My reality was what I saw in the mirror and that would feed my false sense of self.
When I returned after the hiatus, I met a old school bodybuilder who I related to strongly because he seemed like me (outgoing introvert in his 40's who would brazenly sneer at gym bros as they walked by swollen-headed with their one gallon water jug). He always struck me as a guy who had been through a lot of adversity in his life and I could tell by his temperament. Needless to say, he would help me greatly through the most pivotal times in my life. He always paid special attention to the deep interpersonal observations I would make about my own experience and relate them back to something he learned from all the hardship. He'll probably never see this article because he detested technology and probably didn't even have an email. He was also the only guy I had never seen pull off Gazella spandex shorts on squat day.
At the time I was recovering, I found Powerlifting as the sport that I would allow me to achieve tangible goals and explore an entirely new training approach. I appreciated the history of it (like I do most things) and its fraternity-like nature. But one of the most important components of the sport was how much the training itself relied on the power of the mind. If you were not focused before a lift, you would most assuredly get stapled to the floor or risk some other health catastrophe. I mean let's face it, these are heavy weights and if were not in your right mind, you could be on your way the hospital. I have even had some close calls that could have punched my ticket to an weekend stay at Shady Grove Medical.
The great thing that makes the sport of Powerlifting different in that it does not nourish the ego in the way that bodybuilding does. And if you are a spiritual type, such as myself, you are well aware of the importance of detaching from the ego and what that does for your balance and growth. Powerlifting and Strength Training is a moving meditation. The deep focus that is involved in the sport is essential to the process of getting stronger. Practices like meditation, does in fact get you closer to your goals, they also get you closer to higher consciousness. Win-Win!
This “higher consciousness” is real !!!
Mindful strength training is about mind-body connection in the gym. This type of strength training guides our attention toward the energetic dimensions of our physical existence via mindfulness. This is what sets this method apart from other strength training practices, the deep connection that transpires. Engaging in meditation prior to the training session is a great method to arriving at a focused state.
Our focus shifts from external to internal.
There is an important caveat to all this....
Contrary to most people think, Yoga is not the best practice for Powerlifters to engage in. Why do you ask? Well, the stiffness and rigidity of the core is vital to the body positioning in exercises like the squat and deadlift. Yoga incorporates great range of motion for the spine. But this mobility implies a very different intention than stability, which is the hallmark of positioning in the sport of Powerlifting. So the intent of one practice is counter-productive to the other. However, Pilates can have an incredible impact on the core stability and "restoring the hips" for all those tight-hipped squatters. I'm planning on starting Pilates in the spring.......I can't wait to cry in discomfort while a 5 foot 2 lady Pilates instructor laughs at me.
What we can learn with this type of program and practice?
Mindful Strength Objectives
>Choosing meditation music as a possible avenue to initiate deep focus.
>Understanding that your body is an energetic force, rather than just a physical form of mass.
>Learning how to tap into your bioenergy and promote faster recovery and healing.
>Build a deeper connection with your authentic Self. Not your lower self.
>Cultivate a calmer mind, and build a stronger body.
These are some objectives to think about as we explore the concept of mindful strength training, I will be putting together programs and offering online instruction, core stability work, strength coaching and mindful exercises.