The one that I have learned from cycling and exercise:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
When was the last time you slowed down and really took in your surroundings? When was the last time you really paid attention to what you were doing?
When you think of mindfulness, you may think of yoga but mindfulness can be developed in many ways. Road biking has taught me to appreciate and be aware of my surroundings and to truly live in the moment. It has taught me to simply notice things that I may not have been aware of, if my mind was filled with unrelated thoughts of my present situation. It is really a fascinating experience!
When you run, walk or drive a car, your mind can easily wander in all directions. Some days, I’ll drive to work and arrive at my destination, forgetting how I even got there. Yikes! When you cycle on the road with vehicles that can easily crush you or when you descend steep mountain switchbacks at freakishly high speeds, you cannot lose focus, simply because it’s a matter of life and death. Oops, did I make cycling sound even more scary than it already is? I swear, it’s not! I never really think of those things when I’m cycling anyway and the benefits outweigh ALL the negatives. The more you cycle, the more you will become aware and learn how to use meditation techniques to benefit you.
Exercising is essentially a great form or meditation, and a great way to practice mindfulness and stay present. As you lift weights or do burpees, you can learn to engage your full attention towards your muscles working, which is also an excellent way to ensure proper form and making the most out of your workout. You can say mindfulness is also a safety net to prevent you from injuries amongst its many benefits.
Benefits of Mindfulness
- Live in the moment. You will appreciate the beautiful scenery, sights and sounds you will not otherwise be aware of if your thoughts are elsewhere. Beautiful things give us joy and joy helps us find peace.
- Reduces pain. When I exercise, I try to embrace every ounce of pain instead of repelling it because I know that’s a part of the journey to getting better, faster and stronger. You don’t grow by staying in your comfort zone.
- Helps you handle stress. We all know physical exertion produces cortisol and disrupts your bodily functions, but mindfulness will relax your mind, reduce stress and thus, bring balance back to your body.
- Body-awareness. You will notice pain and discomfort but you’ll be able to experience it as a sensation that you can attempt to resolve, instead of labeling it as pain. Saddle sores? You’ll be more mindful to shift into new positions to find the one most comfortable to you. Getting tired? You’ll start to think of more ways to cycle more efficiently such as correcting your pedal strokes and regulating your breathing.
- Environment-awareness. When you commit to noticing your surroundings, you will heighten the clarity of your thinking and be quicker to come up with solutions. Did the car in front of you suddenly slammed their brakes? You may have noticed an empty drive way you can quickly pull into, to prevent a crash. Hate tan lines as much as I do? You’ll remember to move the hem of your shorts around to minimize the damage!
- Happiness. Instead of harboring negative thoughts such as, “when is this going to end?” or “I’m not going to make it!”, truly absorb yourself into every moment of your workout and welcome all the sensations. You will only then find joy in the activity you are doing.
To be mindful, you must first release yourself from all distractions and that means getting away from your cellphone, the internet, social media… which is especially hard for us in the world we live in today. Meditation and mindfulness are ancient art forms that’s been lost in our present culture but isn’t that more reason to practice it? Seriously, really try to get absorbed into what is going on presently in the moment. You will not regret it!