Mindful movement: Here’s why choosing your workout based on your mood is key to improving your fitness

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    New online platform The Mindfulsoul Movement Library has launched this week, offering a platform that encourages you to tune in to how your body is really feeling pre-picking your workout. Basically, it’s a site that teaches you the very basics of mindful movement.

    It’s not a novel or new concept, but it’s likely one we’re all-too-quick to forget in amongst hectic schedules and work lives.

    So what if we told you mindful movement is actually key to getting the most from your home workouts and gym sessions?

    We’ve spoken to three qualified experts to break it down further for you and explain how, physically and psychologically, it could be a seriously good move for both your health and fitness. Keep scrolling.

    What is mindful movement? 

    Mindful movement simply refers to doing any exercise – be that strength training, HIIT or even walking – mindfully. By mindfully, we mean while being both present in the workout and actively looking forward to it.

    Olivia Brierley of Mindfulsoul Pilates shares that it’s a way of looking inwards to what your body needs. “It’s listening to those internal cues and using them to determine what practice and movement to engage with that day, instead of following the latest fitness trend,” she explains.

    Think of it this way: mindful movement is a tool that can be used to help guide and navigate you through both workouts and day-to-day life.

    So how does this lead to fitness gains, exactly? It’s a mindset thing. The more you dread a workout, the less likely you are to smash your session, or even get out of bed for it. “Mindful movement is the true essence of self-care and practicing mindfulness generally,” Brierley explains.

    It’s skipping the morning run because actually, you’re tired and you know you’ll feel better for getting more sleep. Or, it’s acknowledging that despite the temptation to snooze your alarm, a quick 20 minute jog will actually energise you for the day.

    Mindful movement is the ability to be mindful when it comes to exercise, and practice both perspective and self-compassion when it comes to working out.

    It’s also just a fancy term that basically means be kind to yourself and you’ll reap the fitness rewards. Less stress and more rest is only ever a good thing. Trust us when we say – it’s game changing.

    Mindful movement: Three friends on a hike laughing

    Why is working out mindfully important?

    You’re far more likely to get results from a workout you actually enjoy doing, right? So, by approaching all movement with an element of mindfulness – am I in the right mood to do this today? Is this the right workout? Would rest serve me better? – you’re respecting your body and will, in turn, get better gains from your harder workouts when you do get round to them.

    PT Lillie Bleasdale of PASSA puts it simply:”If you’re working out with a method you don’t enjoy, then you’re far less likely to adhere to your training,” she shares.

    And, according to Victoria Sky, a registered Senior Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals and the director of Tree Living Yoga, practicing mindfulness in all areas of your life can be incredibly rewarding.

    “Keeping a calm mind can actually retrain your auto responses,” she explains. “Then, when you encounter everyday hiccups, you can quickly recover your state of equilibrium.”

    What are the pros of mindful movement?

    So you wake up and planned to do a HIIT session, but your DOMS are off the chart and you’d really like some extra time in bed. PSA: you’ll feel much better if you listen to your body and go for a walk, instead. Remember, movement is movement.

    Similarly, if you know you’re making excuses not to exercise, give yourself a pep talk and get up and go.

    Brierley shares that mindful movement is great for achieving the best results possible, as if you don’t force yourself through a workout you really don’t fancy doing, you’ll give all your sweat sessions your full attention. 

    Plus, you’ll likely figure out what works best for you and your body. “There’s so much information about which exercise is best for mind and body,” she explains. “Often a high intensity workout is people’s go-to exercise, but actually, opting for a low impact workout style could benefit your body more.”

    Try this: Take the pressure off for a week and see how much you enjoy your workouts. Trust us. “For example, if you feel lethargic, your exercise motivation might be non-existent. A 20-minute low intensity Pilates sequence will give you a short, sharp energy boost,” Brierley explains.

    On the other hand, if you are feeling stressed, a class that helps you to slow down both physically and mentally may be more your bag.

    Mindfulness generally invites freedom from over thinking and allows us to be in a feeling, shares Sky. “It also lowers stress and anxiety and lifts your mood,” she explains. “Not just that, but it gives you an insight into how and when to push your body in tough workouts, or manage those difficult thoughts during long runs.”

    What are the cons of mindful movement?

    Are you someone that’s always on the go and operating at one hundred miles an hour? Then it may take a few goes to change gear and relax into being present, Sky shares. “But I promise it’s worth the effort of persisting,” she explains.

    Still not quite sure you get it? “Mindful movement is more of an active decision into how you wish to perform exercise,” shares Brierley. “It’s a lifestyle change, and after a while, it becomes intuitive.”

    And remember, mindful movement looks different on everyone. You may best release your stress by smashing out a HIIT workout, and prefer to go for a jog when you’re feeling low energy. Every individual – and every body – is different.

    Mindful movement: A woman practices yoga

    ‘Adopting a more mindful approach helped me run a 3 hour 48 minute marathon’

    Marie Claire UK’s health editor Ally Head on why stopping sweating the small stuff massively improved her fitness.

    ‘I used to be one of those people who got up at 6.30am every morning to run or strength train. Sure, I looked like I had my shit together to other people. But to those who knew me best, I was burnout, fatigued and pretty bloody exhausted.’

    ‘Last year, I started training with a run coach and if anything, he’s taught me that less can very often be more. I’ve learnt the hard way that you need rest to be able to better your fitness levels, and working out everyday doesn’t allow for that.’

    ‘I now run three or four times a week, and strength train once or twice. I rarely do more than five workouts – it’s more than enough. But the best bit? My schedule is actually really flexible, and if I skip a workout, I no longer feel guilty.’

    ‘That mindset shift has served me so well – now, when I do workout, I show up for myself and smash my sessions because I’m genuinely looking forward to it. Sadly, I can’t say I felt the same this time two years ago. Perhaps unsurprisingly, chilling out a bit has lead to massive fitness gains –  I’ve taken 19 minutes off my old marathon PB.’

    ‘My top tip: if you don’t fancy a workout, don’t do it. Why not try a stretch or some morning steps instead? Similarly, learn to tune in to the little lazy voice in your head – we all have one – and distinguish when your body really needs rest. Sometimes smashing that workout is the best thing you can do to set up your day to a positive start.’

    Fancy trying Mindful Soul Movement Library for yourself? Get 50% off your first month as a member using the code MINDFULSOULPILATES50 at checkout.

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