The health benefits of exercise are well-established, but many people forget the importance of making fitness a pleasurable experience. One way to maximize the health and wellness benefits derived from exercise is to incorporate principles of mental and emotional self-care into your regular routine.
While exercise is great for you physically, it can be easy to get obsessed with maximizing results and lose sight of why you are doing it. Ask any personal trainer. He or she will tell you, exercise should also make you feel good.
According to Elite Daily, studies have shown that positive thinking can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your workouts. This is because people tend to compare themselves to others, which makes them feel like they are not doing enough and makes them lose motivation.
Instead of thinking of how you want to look, which involves comparing your body to everyone else’s, think about how you want to feel, which is solely about you. Do you want to feel healthier, more flexible, stronger, and more athletic? By focusing on your own journey and acknowledging your progress through personal milestones, you will be more likely to remain committed to your fitness goals.
Focus on Your Breathing
As it turns out, most of us are breathing incorrectly. While this can seem like a slightly discouraging fact, it is actually an opportunity to improve both the efficiency of your workouts and your general well-being.
Efficient breathing is deep, rhythmic and uses the diaphragm (which is below your lungs). It is admittedly difficult to focus on breathing correctly at all times of the day, which is why your workout routine is the perfect place to practice.
Start when you are stretching to put you in the correct frame of mind, and then focus on taking slow, deep breaths throughout the exercise. This not only reduces the chance of injury, but is also a good way to enter a meditative, clear-headed state during your workouts, which can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
Rest and Recover
Finally, it is extremely important to avoid overdoing it. Fitness is crucial for good health, but not if you push yourself so hard you can’t continue. Rest and recovery are crucial to any fitness routine, not just for your tired muscles, but for your mental health as well.
Self-care can mean just taking the day off from exercise, but it doesn’t have to stop there. For even more profound mental health benefits, spend an hour, a day, or a weekend treating yourself. According to Angie’s List, self-care can take many forms, from simply dimming the lights and unplugging from technology to creating a complete at-home spa experience.
If you don’t take time to relax and pamper yourself at least occasionally, there could be severe consequences. According to The Active Times, not giving your body enough time to recover can lead to overtraining syndrome, a condition that can have devastating effects on your body and mind. Overtraining can make you tired, mess with your hormones and sleeping patterns, and cause mood swings and irritability.
There is no ideal workout and resting pattern for everyone. The amount of recovery time you need depends on your age, fitness level, and the intensity of your workout routine. As a general rule, you should never be doing intense exercise every day, and you should never be afraid to give yourself a day off if you feel your body and mind need it.
This is not the same as slacking, and you should be honest with yourself as to whether you are skipping a workout because you need to or because you want to. If it’s the latter, try to push yourself and think about the rest day you will get to take later in the week.
In the end, incorporating self-care into fitness is simply about ensuring that your exercise routine is good for your mind as well as your body. By adopting mindful practices focused on balance and positive emotions, we are more likely to enjoy our fitness routine and fully reap the benefits of physical activity in every aspect of our health.
Guest article by Sheila Olson