Forget mind over matter, we’re talking mind over heavy metal.
If you like to lift, learning to meditate won’t make that barbell levitate, but it can help you go heavier, sleep better and recover quicker.
1. Get Focused
Meditation is how hippies pass the time between mung bean salads, right? Wrong. It’s an ancient technique for slowing and clearing the mind of clutter, and it works by focusing all your attention on a single point. This could be a sound, your breath, or a mantra. It’s a form of mental training that reaps physical as well as mental rewards. And focus is one of them.
Lifting heavy is all about lifting smarter. A well thought out training plan, good nutrition and the appropriate supplements will get you so far, but meditation will bring extra focus to your lift, helping you lift more, with better form.
2. Mindful lifting
You’ll have heard athletes talk about being in ‘the zone’, a trance like state during which their minds are clear of thought and emotion, their energies pouring into their running, throwing or jumping. That’s physical meditation. Next time you’re at the gym, try to block out the blaring music, and the banging and clanging of other users. Bring your full attention to bear on each exercise.
Forget aggression, give mindfulness a try. Don’t lift angry, lift calm. Notice how relaxed it makes you feel? The less tense you are, the more likely you are to perform well, and the less likely you are to pick up an injury.
3. Quality sleep
Rest is a vital ingredient in any successful training program. To sleep better is to train better, and if you meditate regularly, you’ll sleep like a baby. Researchers from the Japanese Society of Sleep Research measured the sleep patterns of practitioners of Vipassana meditation. They found that slow wave sleep cycles, and rapid eye movement were enhanced across all age ranges. Those who practised meditation also had more sleep cycles than those who didn’t. Simply put,if you meditate regularly, you’re likely to awake from your slumbers refreshed and invigorated, ready to hit the gym.
The positive benefits of meditation on sleep were most pronounced in older people. Researchers found that age related sleep deterioration, was much reduced in people who meditate. Think that doesn’t apply to you? Don’t worry – it will!
4. Recover quicker
Pulled a muscle? Strained a tendon? There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest focusing your attention on healing while you meditate can help you feel less pain and heal faster. But there’s also increasing scientific evidence to show that new age claims are more than hokum.
Meditating has been shown to subdue the body’s physiological stress responses to trauma, illness and injury by limiting the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Quoted in the Guardian newspaper, a study by psychologist Elissa Epel, from the University of California, San Francisco even found that meditation boosted the production of growth hormones in a group of healthy lay people who attended a meditation retreat.
5. Lift into old age
OK, so how can sitting cross-legged on the floor help you keep pumping iron into a healthy old age? It’s a fair question. But when researchers studied a group of healthy individuals attending an intensive meditation retreat in California, they observed an amazing and enduring physical effect. It made them younger – kind of.
That’s because of the effect of meditation on an enzyme called telomerase which helps regulate the ageing process. Naturally produced by the body, telomerase protects against cellular ageing. Those who meditated, showed elevated levels of the enzyme, compared to the control group. Scientists say the change in the amount of telomerase in the blood is related to the sense of psychological well being brought about by meditating.