It Helps You Focus on Your Breathing
You’d think breathing would come naturally, especially during a workout when your muscles are being deprived of oxygen. But it’s surprising how many people breathe incorrectly–or forget to breathe, period—as a routine progresses, says Cruikshank. Becoming aware of your breath (noticing when you’re inhaling and when you’re exhaling, and how deep or shallow you’re breathing) can get you through a tough set. Take overhead presses, for example. Holding your breath as the reps start to feel tougher is a typical default maneuver for someone who isn’t, well, meditating, and many don’t even realize they’re doing it until the instructor points it out, she explains. But focusing on a steady, rhythmic inhale and exhale as you perform the exercise helps keep your pace up because you’re continuously providing oxygen to the muscles, she explains.
It Can Get You Through the Tough Stuff
When you’re struggling to push through the last painful miles of a marathon, it can be tough to keep your head in the game. But that’s exactly where it needs to be to achieve your goal, and both Rilinger and Cruikshank say common meditation techniques can get you there. Rilinger suggests turning to mantras—”What I want overall is more important than what I want right now” and “Trade comfort in for change” are two of her faves. Cruikshank, on the other hand, suggests a counting exercise. “Try to sink into a steady rhythm by simply counting your breath until you get to 10, and then start over,” she suggests. “Keep repeating it as much as you need to—it’s an exercise often used in meditation as a way to keep the mind present.” And if counting your breath isn’t working, try counting something else—light posts, mailboxes, number of signs that reference Ryan Gosling—it all works as long as it helps keep your brain game on point, instead of letting it go to a dark place that wants to give up.
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