From the outside, HIIT and mindfulness seem to be diametrically opposed. HIIT is fast and intense whereas mindfulness evokes a sense of calm and peace.
Mindfulness is most often associated with gentle meditation or yoga, but there’s no reason why high-intensity exercise can’t also be a time to connect your body and mind.
What does mindfulness mean when it comes to exercise?
A key aspect of being mindful when we exercise is to be present and to understand the reason behind an exercise or activity. What does this mean in practice? Well, you should make sure that you’re performing the movements correctly both to achieve the results you’re looking for and to prevent injuries.
The lessons to be taken from mindfulness can be key to achieving your HIIT goals. Staying calm and controlling your breath are key aspects of mindfulness. Likewise, during HIIT, controlling your breath, pace and technique is key to maximizing your potential and improving your overall athletic performance. Finally, it’s important to develop body awareness: this is the idea of noticing and observing every part of your body during an exercise.
How can you implement mindfulness into your training?
There are several things you can do to help incorporate mindfulness into your HIIT training. Being mindful will also help to improve your self-awareness which will ultimately improve your overall performance.
Control your breathing
Meditation uses breathing to focus the mind and keep the central nervous system calm. Using breathing techniques can have positive effects both psychologically and physically. Additionally, utilizing your breathing to keep your body calm will enable you to pace yourself much better too.
Develop body awareness
Being aware of your body’s position and recognizing how you’re moving and occupying space is an important part of mindfulness and shouldn’t be forgotten, just because you’re moving quickly. For example, in each repetition of an exercise, concentrate on a different part of your body and how it moves and feels.
Your mobile phone can be a major distraction during a workout, so it might be wise to turn off your notifications while you train. Stopping to respond to messages will mean that intensity levels drop and you won’t reap the same benefits of the exercise. Don’t be afraid to make your friend wait for your reply or to take that cheeky workout selfie after your class or activity has ended.
Set a goal
Setting goals is a perfect way to monitor your progress. Set yourself goals and face them with the mindset that you can achieve them. For example, your goal may be to carry out more squats than the last session. Always make sure you leave a session feeling like you’ve worked as hard as you can.
Understand why you are carrying out a specific exercise
Knowing what you want to achieve from your session is key. If you’re in a class or with an instructor be sure to ask why you are carrying out an exercise, so you have a better understanding behind the rationale. Your instructor should also make you aware of how you should be feeling during the activity. If you don’t think your muscles feel like they should let the instructor know, they may help to improve your position or correct your technique.
Know your limits
Your warmup is usually a good place to ascertain how your body is feeling. The warmup will show you if you can push yourself a little harder or if you should take it easy. If you are working out on your own and you have an injury, gauge your intensity and if it hurts, stop.
Use your rest periods
During HIIT there are lower intensity or rest intervals which you must take advantage of. Rest is important for our bodies to recover and hit the next interval harder.
Although HIIT and mindfulness may seem like opposites, incorporating some elements of mindfulness into your routine can lead to significant performance improvements. But it’s not just exercise. Taking time throughout your day to check in with yourself is a really important aspect of self-care.