Rosie Scott Head of Third Space Sports Medical, reveals that the key to a better body may be all in your head
The term is everywhere. Mindfulness. It’s a tool for the stressed out worker to find some peace in all the noise of their day-to-day. But beyond plugging into the Headspace app and simply hoping for the best, an understanding of what it is mindfulness can do for you will help to maximise the benefits.
In the same way as exercising our bodies, creating headspace is a way to exercise the brain. It clears out clutter and processes the events that have happened to us (both big and small) to create time for the positive influences in our life to come to the fore. It’s far easier to make time for catching up with family when your mind isn’t creaking under the weight of a full inbox.
Clearing brain clutter regularly allows the mind to focus on tasks, complete them faster and with greater accuracy. But can that crossover to your next workout? Would you lift more and with better technique if your mind was able to truly focus on the task? Does that logic take us beyond the mental benefits and into the physical, where gains can be measured and compared?
Studies have shown that this is exactly what happens, although there is no consensus as to whether it is one or more things that are the cause, likely it is multifactorial. Such benefits may include, but are not limited to:
Better sleep – Muscle tissue repairs faster and you wake up more rested, which means less sluggish movements, plus improved technique.
Mindful breathing – With less effort spent breathing, plus deeper, higher-quality breaths, you increase oxygen intake to improve aerobic capacity in the short term.
Clearer mind – Improving focus on technique, which allows for better form to increase power and endurance.
Improved mood and positivity – Confidence plays a huge role in sporting performance. More belief allows you to take a better swing at new challenges, often with surprise success, which further improves your mood.
But how do you achieve this? Well, it doesn’t actually matter <what> you do, as long as you are doing something that forces you to switch off the noise. The more you do it, the better you will be at doing it ‘on demand’.
What we recommend:
Sit – With nothing to do. Literally nothing; no screen, no book, no music. It feels utterly unnerving the first time you do it but that is OK. Start with 2 minutes and build to 10.
Have a massage – Concentrate on keeping your mind clear of your to-do list when you’re on the table. You won’t gain anything by running through it 20 times in your head. By not thinking about it, when you do come to check things off it, you will be much more productive about it. It’s OK if your mind wanders, but bring it back to the present and concentrate on the feeling of having a massage and getting the blood flow to your limbs.
Exercise – Any type, but preferably one that is continuous for the full duration. What do I mean? Running, cycling, swimming, skiing, yoga, Pilates, walking. If you do stop, concentrate on your breathing and the way your body feels. You might realise you feel better than you thought.
So is it time you found a bit of headspace? It may well be the boost your body and mind is missing. Give yourself a head start.