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5 Ways Weight Lifting Can Make You Mindful

5 Ways Weight Lifting Can Make You Mindful

Weight lifting is one of the most mindful things you can do for your yourself.

Stay with me here.

It’s hard to think of weight lifting in this way. You usually think of grunts, Mr. Universe competitions, and scented baby oil, not the lotus pose.

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The discipline of weight lifting has a bad rap. Unfortunately, it kind of deserves it. Most people do it to look good in a bathing suit or to stretch out their t-shirts. The rest of us, though, do it for more thoughtful reasons.

Here’s my story. I was a fat kid for a long time. After I “successfully” lost over 50 lbs thanks to a yo-yo diet (hence the quotes), I went looking for a healthy exit plan. Part of that meant finding a physical regimen I could stick to. One day, my roommate took me with him to the gym, where I stumbled upon weight lifting and fell in love.

Around that same time I started mindfulness meditation to calm my restless mind. I wasn’t sure if the two could co-exist. One is explosive and intense, while the other is calming and peaceful. To my surprise, I found both to be rewarding mindful endeavors.

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I’ve been doing both for many years now, and the truth has only gotten more clear. Lifting has granted me a healthier body and a more mindful noggin’. Who would’ve thought that throwing around some iron would become such an enlightening journey.

I recommend weight lifting to everyone, regardless of their personal goals. And now I am recommending it to you. If you want a more mindful state of living, it is for you.

Here are five ways I’ve seen lifting bring me closer to zen-master level.

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1. Here, now.

When I am lifting I am only focused on what I am doing. It’s just me and that stubborn barbell. Part of it is about survival: you need to focus; otherwise, you can lose your motivation or even hurt yourself. In an age where everything is equally “important,” and your attention is so divided, practicing this level of focus is refreshing and restorative.

2. Beginner’s mind.

During one my first days at the gym, my roommate came over and stopped me mid-workout. “No no. You’re back is all wrong. We have to practice basic form.” It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it, when you lift, you always have to be mindful of the basics (i.e. form, movement, and being body-aware). That beginner’s mind must never go away, or else you risk getting cocky and building bad habits. You know that guy who swing dumbbells around like a he’s playing bocce ball? Don’t be that guy.

3. Tiny steps.

Above all else, you need patience. It’s a long, but satisfying, process. You can’t jump from one weight bracket to another, or go from a simple exercise to a complex one overnight. There are a lot of steps in between. The mantra of “trust the process” fits well here. You will be amazed at the results you get if you do the work, and follow the many tiny steps with mindful attention. You will be, in essence, chiseling yourself a little bit every day.

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4. Pain is temporary; strength is not.

One day, I had a crisis of faith. I stopped half-way through a workout and thought, “Why am I doing this? To show off a six pack?” I found my true motivation, and it’s one shared by many lifetime lifters: getting stronger. Lifting tests you, physically and mentally. These tests can be painful. They are short periods of discomfort. But when you push past this, always chasing a stronger you, you will come out at the other end rejuvenated with pride in your natural fortitude. You just willed a heavy weight to do your bidding. You just sweated out two more reps than last week. “Yeah, I did that.” It’s invigorating to accept the pain and become stronger because of it.

5. There is no (challenging) spoon.

No pain, no gain. It’s a silly slogan, but it’s true. To grow you need to keep challenging yourself. When you lift, you have to mentally prepare for the challenge in front of you. Part of being mindful is accepting the hard stuff. Over time you will build an attitude that frames challenges in the positive. Challenging situations are just opportunities to learn and grow on your path to becoming a better version of yourself. Those 10 squats that just set your thighs on fire will make your legs stronger than ever.

Namaste, meathead.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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