Have you ever heard anyone say they had achieved a ‘state of zen’; describing the harmonious balance of body, mind and soul? Are you familiar with meditation and its multifarious properties, clearing the mind of its daily surplus of debris and focusing on a single pursuit to expedite its fruition? If nothing else, you surely agree that staying fit and active helps maintain a healthier, longer-lasting future? Just one more question… what would happen if you combined zen and meditation in your regular workouts?
Mind = Blown
I know, right?!
Think about it. The absolute goal of meditation is to be able to focus on something, even if that something is nothing at all. Some try to clear their mind completely, while others concentrate on a single point of interest. The whole idea is to bring your goals into focus and block out all negative thoughts and energies.
Bruce Lee was an avid proponent of zen and meditation in his life, his career and his martial arts training. Although he was one of the most legendary martial arts practitioners of all time, did you know that four years into his gung fu training under Sifu Yip Man, despite Lee’s incredible talent, he was in inefficient fighter? Sifu Yip Man taught Bruce the art of meditation; to relax, clear the mind and instead of tensing up during a fight, to completely forget himself and simply follow his opponent’s movements. It took time for Lee to understand what his master meant, but once he did, Bruce Lee began his true journey to becoming the legend that we all know and respect to this day.
What’s this whole meditation thing about, you ask? Could sitting quietly and calmly be nothing but a boring waste of time? Have you ever heard the term, “What you focus on will grow”? It’s one of my absolute favorite intonations, meaning simply that what you spend your time discerning will become reality. I’m not saying you can spend your life thinking about winning the lottery and it will happen. I’m talking about inner concepts. If you spend the majority of your time thinking about how your love life stinks, you can’t lose weight and you have a dead end job, guess what? Your love life will always stink, you’ll never lose weight and you’ll be stuck in that job forever. “What you focus on will grow!”
If, instead, you spend more time thinking about your positive aspects, make the effort to find a better job doing something you enjoy and actually believed that you had the ability to lose weight, you’ll be a much happier person with a much brighter future ahead. Happy people exude positive energy, and it shows in all aspects of their life – from relationships, to personal health, and even employment opportunities. Say it with me this time… “What you focus on will grow!”
Back to the main point of the story – if you were to meditate during a workout, focusing on the physical effects of that workout can have amplified results, such as increasing your metabolism during and after exercise. Mike Chang’s signature ‘afterburn effect’ is a medically proven anomaly, stating that with the right type of exercise and consistency, a person’s heightened metabolic rate could remain high for many hours after the fitness session is completed. Combined with zen and meditation, the metabolism could rise even higher, and stay there even longer. Imagine spending an hour at the gym and eating take-out pizza six hours later? It would totally defeat the purpose, right? Not if your metabolism is still kicking at the same rate it was six hours ago while you were working out.
Meditating while exercising isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially if you’re totally new to the concept of zen and meditation. You should definitely practice meditating before incorporating it into a workout. It’s all about relaxing, breathing slowly, in through the nose, out through the mouth, and omitting all outside thoughts as they enter your mind (as they always seem to do). One of my personal tricks was the “DEL” (delete) button on the keyboard. If something tried to take over my thoughts, I would mentally click the DEL button in my brain and send it away. Calming music helps, giving your mind a secondary reflection to hone in on without interrupting the primary process of focusing on a single, positive element.
After a short period of practice, meditation will not only become easy, but an extremely enjoyable experience. After all, how often do we get ‘quiet time’ in this day and age? From there, incorporate it into your workouts. Start with slow rhythmic breathing at the onset of exercise, because it’s not easy to get that methodic flow going once your heart rate is accelerated. Focus on the effects of your fitness program, burning calories and eliminating fat from the desired areas, strengthening specific muscle groups and raising your metabolism. Picture these things happening throughout your body with lucid visualization. When properly applied, you will be surprised just how much zen and meditation impact your workouts.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” –Bruce Lee