Using your workout time as a way to disconnect from the electronic world and reconnect with your body can improve your workout — and perhaps improve your safety. Exercising with music can help you get through a tough workout, and it might help you perform better. But skipping the tunes and other distractions during your workout might enable you to train your mind (and muscles) to be present during exercise.
For some, exercise is only tolerable with an upbeat playlist; and without it, exercise seems dull, tedious and even more difficult to get through. However, think about your normal day: How often are you completely unplugged and focused on exactly what you’re doing?
It’s true: Listening to a good song can distract you from the mental and physical strain that a hard workout can cause. But instead of trying to avoid those sensations, try to fully experience them. These are things that people tend to ignore and distract themselves from, rather than paying attention to them. But learning to be more in tune with how your body and mind react to physical exertion might help you cultivate the self-awareness you need to manage those responses more effectively, especially in combat and training situations.
In addition, aerobic exercises (such as biking, running, swimming and rowing) and activities such as yoga involve continuous and repetitive movements that can create their own meditative patterns and an opportunity to engage in mindful exercise. When stress and distractions are ever-present in your day, moving meditations can provide a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of life.
Here are some things you can “tune in” to and consider when you’re exercising without music:
Listen to your breathing. Can you match your breath to the rhythm of your exercise? When your breathing becomes strained, practice breathing exercises to help get things back on track.
Focus on your body. Are your movements coordinated and efficient? How is your form? Take note of what you’re doing to correct your posture and help manage any pain or discomfort.
Appreciate your environment. Perhaps there’s a garden or landmark you never noticed before. How might practicing situational awareness and focusing on the present moment help in other environments?
Think things over. Use your exercise time to solve some problems you might be experiencing at home or work. Come up with creative solutions and ideas.
It might feel tough if you focus inwards — towards your body and your experience — during your workout. The good news is you can boost your self-awareness and train your brain and body for optimal performance in situations where music and other distractions aren’t available. Try disconnecting — you might be surprised to discover internal resources you already have to keep you running up that hill.