Hank Shell

So, you’re giving this High Intensity Interval Training thing a shot. Good for you! Really. It’ll pay off in the long run. But, oh yea, also, HIIT IS HARD.

That’s the point, of course. High intensity, high reward. Still, it’s a little easier to motivate for a quiet run through countryside than it is a set of hill sprints. And that’s what I want to talk at you about today. Motivation.

My Approach to Mindfulness

Real quick, though – as I’m sure you’ve surmised by now, I like to tell people how to do things. My own ability to execute said things is often questionable. I also like to explain things to people. Mansplain, if you will. The concepts I explain are often ones of which my own grasp is tenuous at best. Hey, I’m only human, and at least I’m up front about it. But what I’m getting at is the thing I’m going to talk to you about today – mindfulness – is hard. I’m sure as HELL no expert. In fact, my knowledge of it is pretty rudimentary. And that’s PERFECT. That’s the thing about mindfulness. It’s always practice. It’s never perfect. At least, that’s what my therapist says. So, as we get into this, remember that no, I’m not an expert, and neither are you, so you should listen to me anyway.  Also, remember that mindfulness takes practice. Hell, it is practice. But stick with it. You will be rewarded, according to science.

Using Mindfulness During HIIT

So, how can mindfulness help our HIIT routine? By managing that sweet, sweet pain. So, there are a lot of ways we deal with pain, and much is left up to our own interpretation. A group of researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Max Planck Institute for Human, Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and the University of Manchester decided to examine how a group of expert meditators deal with pain. These meditators reported experiencing less pain than the average Joe, though their brains actually showed more activity in the regions associated with experiencing pain.

Mindfulness and HIIT

This jibes with what we know about the practice of mindful meditation – we focus on body sensations like pain. Doing so helps us dissolve those thought processes that turn the pain into a negative experience. You know that moment when you’re running up a big hill and suddenly the thought pops into your head – Damn, this is hard. I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish this. It’s generally followed by the thought, OK, let’s stop.

By being mindful during that last interval of our workout, by being present and aware of the pain, by allowing it to be, we can silence that devious little voice in our head.

Here’s a good way to prepare yourself for this – during your regular meditation practice, try shifting your awareness to different parts of your body. If you’re into guided meditations, check out the body scan meditation from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.

Takeaway

Getting used to focusing your awareness inside the body during meditation will make doing so during your workout much easier. When you’re finally on the hill and digging deep for that last 100 meters, bring your awareness into that horrible battery-acid burn sensation in your legs. Just let it be. Don’t make up a story about it. There, there, isn’t that better?

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