Exercising with Mindfulness

Get better results from your workout with a mind-body connection.

Like anything and everything in life, if you are mentally focused on the task at hand, you are going to get so much more out of it and drastically increase your degree of success. If you agree with this statement, read on to learn how you can apply this to your workouts. Also, be sure to watch the video to see a great example of the benefits of exercising with mindfulness. Instead of having to do 100 mindless crunches for my abs, I now do 10 mindful crunches with better results!


Hopefully you’ve heard by now that multi-tasking is inefficient. If you haven’t heard, just check out a few articles on Google. I found one on forbes.com that featured Stanford research, where “…..new studies show that multitasking kills your performance and may even damage your brain”.


Over the past 22 years I have spent thousands of hours in the gym. One thing I can’t help but notice is the explosion of multiple T.V.s in gyms. Everywhere you look there is a T.V. Even your own personal T.V. on the cardio machines! I’m all for watching some tube to make your cardio time can go by faster. In fact, most multi-tasking experts agree it’s OK when doing simple, mundane tasks like talking on the phone while washing dishes (thanks to headsets).


But nowadays I’ll see people doing their resistance training while completely zoned out to CNN, ESPN, or HGTV. Take your pick. Yes, it’s still better than watching it on your couch eating potato chips, but let’s talk about getting the biggest bang for your workout time by exercising mindfully.


Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, is credited with coining the phrase “mindfulness” back in the 70’s. I like his definition: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment….” Simple in theory but not so easy to practice. When I train a client, I give them plenty of stimuli to pay attention to, to keep them in the present moment with their body, and on purpose with attaining their workout goals. Bonus benefit: If my client has total awareness in the present moment with their body, guess what they’re not thinking about? Work issues, their grocery list, the kids, making dinner, tomorrow’s to-do list, etc. Mindfulness leads to peace in the present moment.


My daily meditation practice of 20+ years has helped me live mindfully and teach it to my clients. But my extensive Pilates training truly transformed my personal training. Pilates has taught me two invaluable principles:


  1. Train the body from the inside out
  2. Always focus on the muscle, not the movement.


Instead of focusing on moving a weight from A to B, focus on contracting the muscle you are working. Thus, the weight moves from A to B as a by-product of contracting the muscle. It may sound simple, but this small change in perception takes an exercise from mindless movement of equipment to mindful training of your body.


I’ll leave you with a few tips, but remember to watch the video. I’ll show you how to incorporate mindfulness into any workout with two detailed examples: A standing biceps curl and an abdominal crunch.


Tips to Mindful Training – Standing Biceps Curl Example


  • Start with focusing on your posture. Is your spine neutral? Are your knees soft and hips set back? How’s your head position? Make sure your face stays relaxed throughout.
  • Next, before you contract the working muscle, simultaneously start your exhale and “set” your abs by drawing your navel to spine.
  • Now focus on the muscle that is creating the movement and start your biceps contraction. Feel the biceps begin to shorten as you contract.
  • During the biceps contraction, keep exhaling while you accentuate the navel drawing to spine.
  • At the peak contraction, give the biceps an internal “squeeze and hold” for a good second and the navel one last tug. (see video for this one!)
  • Visualize the biceps lengthening as you lower the weight down with a long, deep inhale through your nose.
  • Try the exercise with your eyes closed to truly “go inside” the body as well as block out external distractions.


One last thing. The practice of meditation will enhance mindful living. I specialize in teaching meditation to people who think they could never meditate, because that was me! My CD, Mindfulness Meditation – A simple, practical guide to a profound, powerful practice has helped thousands. Please contact me if you’d like more focus and peace in your life 🙂

JayDee Cutting III, MBA

JayDee Cutting III, MBA is an Educator for the American Council On Exercise and holds 12 fitness certifications including Pilates, yoga, personal training, lifestyle and weight management. JayDee is a Total Gym master trainer and spokesmodel since 2004. He lectured and taught wellness at Rancho La Puerta Fitness Spa and is featured in over 10 fitness DVDs and over 40 fitness television programs. He developed his own Coregolf Fitness Program and founded the NiceDogYoga Company. His mission statement is: “My passion is inspiring people to enhance their lives through wellness, creating healthier, happier, higher qualities of life.”

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