Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. It is currently experiencing a huge wave of popularity and interest, and some large organisations are urging their employees to practise it. Personal trainers and fitness instructors are cottoning on to this trend too.
Some studies have shown mindfulness can improve productivity. Google even has a Head of Mindfulness, whose job it is to ‘enlighten minds, open hearts and create world peace.’ And it’s not just businesses that have come to the conclusion that mindfulness can improve performance, but athletes too.
For example, American football team the Seattle Seahawks, snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan and Team GB’s cycling team have all been known to use mindfulness techniques as part of their preparation. Mindfulness is believed to lower anxiety and depression and also improve overall physical health, so it’s no wonder it has been picked up by many PTs, coaches and fitness instructors.
Dal Dhaliwal, a personal trainer and broadcast presenter from the West Midlands, uses mindfulness techniques with her clients. Dhaliwal offers separate workshops on mindfulness to help her clients get ‘unstuck.’
“I find exercising the body alone is not enough. It’s essential to address the mind first. I believe in a healthy body and mind,” she said. “When a client books my services, she will get gym-based training as well as mindfulness training. Mindfulness is part and parcel of what I deliver now. I’ve been a trainer for over 18 years and it’s only in the past two years I’ve been offering this. It really helps my female clients to get results, keep results and cope better with life.”
Mindfulness can also be used to help clients stick to their fitness goals and understand their behaviour. Karen Austin, women’s health and well-being coach at Topaz Fitness Academy uses mindfulness with her clients every day.
“[Mindfulness] makes people more aware of their behaviour and why they do certain things,” said Austin. “I can tell them to exercise and eat a certain way until I am blue in the face, but if they can’t stick to it and don’t know why they keep sabotaging themselves, then they are not going to get results and will just remain in a vicious circle of behaviour.”
Austin finds that incorporating mindfulness into your session does get results, however, she stresses that it’s not a quick fix. Unlike Dhaliwal, mindfulness isn’t always part of Austin’s sessions. She also gives clients homework to do, like meditation, reading, affirmations and visualisation. When Austin takes on a new client she also spends time discovering the ‘whys’.
“They always come to me saying they want to lose weight but when I keep asking the whys behind everything and I delve deep, it’s never just about losing weight,” she said.
If you want to incorporate some mindfulness techniques into your classes and sessions, here are some suggestions:
Focusing on the breath is a good way to start incorporating mindfulness. You could begin your classes with some abdominal breathing exercises. Abdominal breathing helps draw the breath into the lower lungs, extend the diaphragm and fully inflate the lungs. As you exhale, the belly draws in and the diaphragm moves upward. This helps the body and mind relax.
Another way to focus your client’s mind is to set an intention or goal at the start of every class. There are two ways to do this: setting the intention for the whole class, or asking your clients to set their own. This keeps clients mindful of their intended goal throughout the session, eliminating distractions.
Focus on form
Mindfulness is about focusing on the moment and not paying attention to thoughts about the past or future. To help keep your client’s mind in the present, you can get them to focus on form or if they’re a runner, their gait. This could also take the form of focusing on their posture, getting deeper into a stretch or focusing on their swimming stroke.
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