Meditation and CrossFit: How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body
CrossFit will get you into the best shape you’ve ever been in, but it’s no easy undertaking.
Hard WODs and high endurance workouts are challenging on all levels. You’re pushing yourself to your limits – and sometimes, even past them.
A surprising solution to this dilemma is being adopted by many Crossfit enthusiasts, and that solution is meditation.
At first, the two don’t seem to go together. Meditation is all about relaxation, stress management, and mindfulness. Working out is about improving your physical health, strengthening your muscles, and burning off the extra calories.
Though the two seem unrelated, they come together in some fascinating ways that may surprise you. The synergy between the brain and the body will put you on the fast track to success.
The Mental Benefits of Meditation
Sometimes, workouts don’t go according to plan. You put on your workout clothes, stand in front of your equipment, and realize you just aren’t “feeling it.”
If you aren’t motivated enough, it could be for several reasons. Maybe mental fatigue, excess stress, a lack of sleep, or general unhappiness is holding you back. Mediation can help you handle all of these issues, helping you find the right mindset to power through.
We all live busy lives. We work, we take care of our homes, we spend time with our friends and family, and we try to squeeze in as many workouts as possible.
There’s a lot to do, and we bounce from task to task. When you jump from one thing right into another, you aren’t giving yourself enough time to calm down and process what’s happening.
Meditation encourages you to take a few minutes out of each day to wipe the slate clean. Instead of letting the list of things you need to do accumulate without end, meditation allows you to step back, process information, and close things off.
This means you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed when you move from task to task if you use meditation as a transitional activity. This includes going from work to the gym.
Part of the meditation process involves becoming aware of the things around you, recognizing them, and letting them pass.
You’re training your brain to react to stimuli in an efficient way. You even become more aware of your body parts, and how much space you occupy. You’re interacting with your body and your environment solely by the power of your mind.
By learning to recognize and process everything that’s going on in your environment, as well as developing a better spatial awareness of your body, you can become a better athlete.
Think about bouncing a medicine ball against a wall. It’s heavy, and it hurts if it hits you. When you have increased awareness, you’ll be able to determine when and how to move in order to catch the ball.
Stress can have some serious negative effects on your health. Stress increases muscle tension, and working out with tense muscles can actually lead to injuries.
It’s important to keep your stress levels low before a workout if you want to safely build muscle and be able to focus on the task at hand.
Meditation can provide you with the tools to do that.
While you’re meditating, you’ll be doing some meaningful soul-searching. You’re identifying the things that bother you, viewing them with a clearer head, and understanding the impact that all of the bad things have on your mental state.
You’ll be able to find simple solutions to complex problems. You may even find that it’s easier to let grudges go, or stop worrying about things that are out of your control.
When you’re free from stress, you’re loose and limber. This means things like running and lifting are easier than ever. Letting the tension go allows your body to function the way it was made to function, increasing your working efficiency.
The combination of all of these benefits will lead to better sleep. When you’re less stressed, in a better mood, and properly nourished, it’s easier to sleep for a full 8 hours.
If you ever find yourself lying awake at night, unable to turn your brain off long enough to fall asleep, you’ll benefit from regularly practicing meditation.
A full night’s sleep will help you prepare for the next day, and provide you with the brain power you need to tackle difficult tasks.
The Physical Benefits of Meditation
If you’re unfamiliar with all of the complexities that meditation entails, it probably seems strange to think that the process of meditating comes with physical benefits.
Most people don’t realize that mental health and physical health are strongly tied together. In order to have a strong body, you need to have a strong mind.
Understanding how the body and mind work together can increase your workout potential. You may have mental roadblocks limiting the efficiency of your workout, and you don’t even know it.
Recognizing and working through these issues can make you a better athlete.
Strengthened Cardiovascular System
A key component of meditation is controlling your breathing. Deep breaths in, holds, and deep breaths out. Think of these breathing exercises as light workouts for your lungs.
You’re filling them to capacity, and exercising greater control by slowly releasing the air. Doing this causes your heartbeat to regulate, eliminating the damaging stress of a heart that never gets to relax.
Your heart and lungs work together to supply your entire body with oxygen. When you work out, proper oxygen flow to your muscles is crucially important.
Lifting strains your muscles, which causes them to tear. These tears heal, and form larger, stronger muscles.
If oxygen isn’t getting your muscles, they’ll just tear. They’ll feel weaker, grow fatigued, and stall in development. This limits your lift capacity, and prevents your progress towards your fitness goals.
Knowing how to take these deep breaths and keep your heartbeat steady is necessary for proper muscular development. Using meditation breathing techniques before you start your workout and while you’re in the cooldown phase will improve the way your body builds strength.
Improved Immune System
When you’re sick, you can’t work out.
You feel bad physically, and you don’t want to spread your germs to everyone else at the CrossFit gym.
Every day you spend laying on the couch sipping hot tea and taking cold medicine is a day you could have spent working out. No matter what you do, you’ll still get sick sometimes, but meditation can help.
When your mind is bogged down with stress, it takes a significant toll on your body. Poor stress management can have physical consequences, and the biggest one is a weakened immune system. When your brain isn’t working properly, it can’t devote its resources to fighting off the germs that are responsible for colds and viruses.
With a better immune system, you’ll get sick less often. When you do get sick, you’ll feel better faster. You need a lot of energy for your workouts.
If your body isn’t wasting all of that energy struggling to keep you healthy, you can channel it all right into your WOD.
CrossFit involves a lot of high-rep workouts. Trying to do 100 chin-ups or 50 kettlebell swings is hard enough as it is.
Doing it with low stamina is even more draining. If you want to get those reps and beat your personal WOD records times, you’ll need to make sure your stamina is high enough to take on the challenge.
The combination of controlled breathing and improved awareness work together to boost your stamina.
Efficient breathing techniques boost your oxygen circulation, allowing you to work out longer without experiencing fatigue. Improved awareness and amplified reaction times mean you’ll be able to complete high-intensity repetitive motion workout without messing up as often.
In the end, this makes 100 reps a lot easier than it would be without the benefits of meditation. Sticking to your meditation and workout routines can have even greater effects over time. Once you’ve mastered 100 reps, you’ll be on the fast track to mastering 200 reps. The possibilities are endless.
It’s completely normal to feel sore after a challenging workout. In fact, it’s expected. You’ve put a lot of strain on your body, and in order to take things to new heights, your body will have to repair some of that wear and tear.
If you aren’t giving your body enough time to do that, you’re more likely to hurt yourself. You need that recovery if you want your workout plan to be safe and sustainable.
Since meditation promotes restful sleep, your body will be able to recover much faster. While you’re sleeping, your body is working on undoing the damage you’ve done during the day.
You’re at rest, so your energy is being channeled into repairing the muscles, ligaments, and tendons you’ve challenged with your workout.
Promotes Health Conscious Choices
Meditation is more than just an activity – it’s also a major lifestyle choice. Many meditation programs involve proper nutrition. Your brain and your body aren’t so different when it comes to nutrition.
You need to feed your mind as well as your stomach. Eliminating fatty foods and opting for nutrient-rich snacks will improve the way your mind and body work together.
People with poor nutrition are more susceptible to brain fog. If you aren’t getting all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to repair tissue, your brain will lack the necessary nutrients to work the way it should.
The healthy lifestyle that comes along with meditation is beneficial to everyone. We all could be a little healthier, and make wiser choices about the things we consume.
Applying Meditation to Your CrossFit Workout
Adding meditation to your lifestyle might require some big changes, but they’re all worth it. Integrating these lifestyle changes with your CrossFit routine will help you achieve results faster, with less stress being placed upon your body.
It’s all a matter of how you structure your day, fusing the two activities together before, during, and after your workout.
Before Your Workout
- Make sure you get a full night’s sleep before your workout. The average adult needs about 8 hours of sleep to be fully rested.
- Before you work out, make sure you eat a nutrient-rich meal that will provide your body with everything it needs to create healthy energy.
- Meditate before your workout to eliminate lingering stress, find a focused frame of mind, and regulate your breathing. This will stimulate the flow of oxygen to your muscles, a reduce muscle tension.
During Your Workout
- Practice efficient breathing techniques so your muscles can work to full capacity.
- Use your increased sense of focus to improve reaction times with rebounding activities, balance, and coordination.
- Your clear state of mind will allow you to fully devote yourself to your goals. You’ll train harder with less mental preoccupation.
After Your Workout
- Eat a meal that will help repair your muscles. This will prevent fatigue and reduce soreness.
- Cool down with proper breathing, and regulate your heartbeat. This will send your body into full recovery mode faster than simply waiting for your functions to regulate by themselves.
- Get a full night’s rest so your body can heal your muscles.
When To Start Meditating
You can start meditating right now.
There are plenty of resources available for free online to help you learn the basics of meditation. There are also classes, groups, and guided programs if you want some help from others.
The sooner you start meditating, the sooner you’ll be able to feel the effects across all areas of your life. Your workouts will be easier and more effective, and your quality of life will improve.
It may be hard to grasp the lifestyle all at once. You may need to start by making slow changes. It’s possible that you’ll mess up a few times while you’re still learning, but don’t let slip ups hold you back.
Over time, it will become easier, and you’ll start to feel the benefits.