Mindful is one of those trendy words used a lot in yoga studios and self-help books, and while I hate to be that trendy, all natural, yoga pants wearing, hippy chick, I just sort of am these days. I’m even wearing yoga pants right now. So… I’m going to go ahead and just bite the bullet and use the word “mindful” even if I sound lame. I’m not really even sure how other people use the word mindful but I use to mean “in the moment,” like, you’re thinking about the task at hand and not the seventy other things on your to do list. Here’s what I’ve learned. If you’re not mindful about your workouts, you’re probably wasting your time at the gym.
Have you ever gone to the gym with no real plan and you can’t decide exactly what you want to do? You start out jogging on the treadmill but you get sick of that, because it’s a treadmill, and then you decide to lift some weights. So, you do a few squats but you haven’t lifted in a while so it doesn’t feel that great, and then you decide to do some push-ups. You do about three push-ups and three sit-ups and then you realize you’ve been wandering around the gym like a moron for half an hour doing nothing whatsoever for your fitness, so you give up and sit in the steam room for another half hour. Sound familiar? No? Maybe it’s just me. But here’s the deal. Unless you’re way ahead of me and well on the path to a slower and simpler life, you’re probably pretty busy, and it’s probably tough to find time to make it to the gym. So don’t waste the time you have. Otherwise you feel really lame afterward. Trust me.
If you haven’t already made a workout plan, make one as soon as you arrive at the gym. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be “jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes.” But commit to it. Don’t quit after 28 minutes and call it good because 28 will turn into 26 will turn into 10. If you’re going to lift, you need a slightly more in depth plan but it doesn’t have to be rocket science.
Here’s an example of a workout I might do at the YMCA.
Warm-up/cardio – On the treadmill (because I’m not allowed to leave the building while my son is at Kid’s Club) – Jog one mile easy, one mile at a fairly hard pace, and one mile at a moderate pace.
Dynamic stretching if needed – Generally, I’m not a huge fan of stretching before a workout but as I’ve gotten older, my body seems to need a little more loosening up. I still don’t believe in doing long, static stretches before a workout. It makes me feel slow and sluggish and if you’re too loose, you may actually increase your chances of getting injured. Here’s an example of a short, simple dynamic stretching routine…
10 inchworms w/ 2 push-ups at the bottom
10 air squats, stay at the bottom of your last squat for one minute
20 lunges (10 each side) w/ upper body rotation
arm swings forward and backward until it feels good
That’s pretty quick and simple but if I get too complicated, I just won’t do it. If I’m going to run hard, I do the dynamic stretching after the first mile of the run, but if it’s an easy run, I like to do it afterward because my muscles feel all warm and bendy.
Simple Strength Training – I generally have an hour to workout including getting dressed and undressed so I make this part quick. Unless I’m going to commit to doing at least a month or two of lifting, I stick to mostly body weight training, with maybe some light kettlebells or dumbbells thrown in there. Something like this…
10 rounds, no resting, of…
10 tricep push-ups (elbows against your rib cage)
10 reverse crunches on the bench (Lay on the bench with your butt hanging off the end and your feet lat on the ground. Hold on next to your ears. Bring your knees up to touch your nose. Slowly bring your feet back to the floor but don’t touch it. Repeat.)
2 slow pullups
No, this does not come close to working out all muscle groups but I workout several times a week so I will get to them eventually. Plus, if I’m running a lot, I don’t need to do a ton of lower body work because running makes your legs pretty strong, especially if you include some sprints.
So, that’s a typical YMCA workout for me. It’s not perfect but it’s quick and it’s simple. When you take care of an energetic two year old all day, the super high-intensity, leave you puking in the corner, workouts are just not appealing. James does not feel sorry for me if I’m sore and tired. I throw in some higher intensity workouts on the weekend when my husband is around to share the load but during the week, I keep it simple. My main goal right is now is just being healthy and feeling good so there’s no reason to kill it every workout. The most important things are: (1) having a plan so you don’t look like an idiot wandering around the gym; and (2) being mindful of what you’re doing so that you stay focused and actually finish the workout you planned.
That’s my advice, for what it’s worth. I’m not in the best shape of my life, and I haven’t won any races lately but I do manage to workout regularly and stay healthy and active.