Meditation for Fitness

Do you ever find yourself at night wrestling with your thoughts?  Does your mind wander into deep rabbit holes of hypothetical scenarios ranging from what-ifs to I-should-have-done-that-differently?  Do you struggle to sleep uninterrupted throughout the whole night?  Do you feel envious, insecure or incomplete?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.  With the permeation of screens everywhere we’re constantly connected, yet, paradoxically, many of us feel more isolated.  According to the CDC, both rates of depression and anxiety have risen dramatically over the past 50 years, affecting a total of 40-45 percent of the population.  Look to your left, now look to your right, one of the people you just saw has either anxiety, depression or both.

But, what do anxiety and depression have to do with helping you achieve your fitness goals?

Put simply, the mind and body are connected.  Our body has a consistent manner in which it handles stress.  It’s called the stress-response cycle and it was discovered by endocrinologist Hans Selye in 1936.  The key takeaway is that the body responds to both psychological and physiological stress in the same manner.  Whether you’re stressing over a deadline at work or attempting to deadlift 500 pounds the body copes the same way.

The body’s stress response is perfect for handling acute stress but it was not built to handle chronic stress.  Anxiety and depression are rooted in overstimulation.  Every day we are bombarded by companies marketing their products and services, telling us how much better we will be with them.  The implication is what we have now is not good enough.  Similarly, social media creates an unrealistic standard of happiness as what is presented is highly filtered, enhanced and staged.  Keeping up with the Jones has become a 24 hour hamster wheel.

So, what’s the cure to this gloomy situation?  One tool is mediation.  We love it because it’s free, can be done anywhere and works really well.  The downside?  It’s hard as heck to start because the very idea sitting with your thoughts is new and challenging.  Ultimately, the goal is to disassociate yourself from your thoughts.  That’s right.  You are not your thoughts and emotions.

While mediating, the goal is not to think of nothing - that would be impossible, unless you were dead, as your brain is built to think.  The best analogy I’ve heard for meditating goes like this.  Imagine you’re in a rocking chair looking out over a busy street.  The traffic is endless with cars passing by you every second.  You’ve got nowhere to be and can sit by idly, just watching the cars travel by.  The cars are your thoughts.  Where they come from and where they are going is no concern to you.  You’re just an observer, noticing them.

Take a look at the below video:

So, if you’re ready to take the plunge into meditation, it’s important to start small and progress slowly.  Just like fitness!  Your first day out of the CrossFit Academy, we’d never have you do 30 muscle ups for time and the same goes for meditation.

Getting Started with Meditation

  • Start with 5 minutes a day
  • Do it during a time when you won’t get interrupted
  • Try to do it at the same time every day
  • Try to sit upright, vs lying down.  Lying down tends to make us fall asleep.  The goal is not to turn the mind off, but to be aware of our thoughts and emotions.
  • As your mind wanders, and it will, come back to your breathing.  Focusing on your breath helps to bring you back to the present as you have to breath about every second.  If focusing on your breathing doesn’t seem to work, try repeating a word or phrase repeatedly.  This is called a mantra.  A common mantra is “Om”.  

Start with 3x per week.  If you’re successfully for two weeks in a row, add a minute.  Once you get to 10 minutes, add a day.

Still not convinced to get started?  What if I told you meditating would give you superpowers?

We talk a lot about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.  This is the pinnacle of that philosophy.

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