Health

5 Benefits of Meditation That Boost Your Workout Game

Everywhere you look these days, it seems like health pros are telling you to meditate because of its mind-body benefits (it helps you deal with stress better and can prevent overeating, for starters). But there’s one problem: Who’s got the time? Most of us are only able to carve out an hour—sometimes less—to work out, much less sit in a room quietly doing nothing. So we usually take a pass. That’s about to change, now that the pros have figured out new ways to incorporate the practice into your daily fitness routine. Read on for five reasons to get started, and say hello to a better sweat session.

It Can Keep You Focused on Your Workout

Ever find yourself halfway through a routine, only to realize you have no idea what moves you’ve been pulling for the last five minutes? Incorporating meditation into your actual workout—like Holly Rilinger, master trainer for Nike and Flywheel, does in her HIIT-style class, LIFTED—can keep you in the moment, instead of thinking about that big work presentation. “When you go into any workout, you have a lot of work and family things going on, and it’s tough to leave that at the door,” she says.

But rather than taking the time to meditate before your routine, Rilinger blends it between tough exercise segments, and bookends the class with dedicated, five-minute guided meditations. The class is set to music that’s curated to keep you in tune with how your mind and body are feeling (rather than the traditional “go, go, go” vibe you find in most HIIT classes with pumped-up club music). Rilinger alternates between tough strength training moves—think Russian twists, pulsing lunges, and planks—and more yoga-centric exercises, like a wild thing, to bring you back to your center. “It’s OK if your mind starts to wander, that’s normal no matter when or how you meditate, but bringing you back to the present, to the room you’re in and how you’re feeling with each movement, helps you move with an intention for every part of the high-intensity training. It makes the most of your time and gives you a great workout.”

It Teaches You When to Push Harder…and When to Back Off

Whenever you hear athletes talk about being “in the zone,” that’s meditation, says Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight. “[It’s] the place you reach where you’re focused and present,” she says. “And it’s an important component of any workout, because it makes you aware of when you’re able to push harder and when you need to back off.” It’s that latter part that’s especially intriguing, says Cruikshank, because exhaustion can often be misinterpreted as laziness or a lack of willpower. But being in tune with your body—or feeling in the zone, with various outside factors blocked out—helps you recognize the difference. “Meditation allows us to be an unbiased observer to see things more clearly, so you can work toward a healthy body and push to reach your athletic goals.”

It Can Help Prevent Injury

Rilinger’s class is all about mindful movement, which, when it’s boiled down to the basics, is essentially what meditation is—a focus on being present and living in the moment, she says. Rather than blazing through move after move, trying to squeeze in as many reps as possible, Rilinger says moving with that mindfulness helps slow things down so you can perform the exercise with proper form throughout—thus preventing injury. “I’d rather see you complete 10 reps of an exercise properly than race through 20 with bad form,” she says. It’s a tough habit to break though, so Rilinger uses music to guide people. “People inherently want to move to the rhythm of the beat in a workout class, so I’ll choose songs that bring the pace down a bit so they can really dig deep into the move I’m prescribing.