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What’s the secret top athletes like Michael Jordan use to excel in their chosen sport? For Jordan, part of the magic came from working with meditation teacher George Mumford to remain focused during championship games. Do you want to emulate his success? If so, you might wonder if you should meditate before or after your workout.
Your mind and body work together in an intricate dance that scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding. The right mindset can help you bounce back from defeat or injury and take your fitness routine to new heights.
The ideal timing depends on your purpose. Should you meditate before or after a workout? Here’s what to know.
How Meditation Affects Your Workouts
Your brain is your body’s control center. Please don’t fall into the common misconception that your thoughts don’t matter or influence your performance. Numerous studies highlight the impact of stress on your ability to concentrate and focus. You can only direct your limited energy and attention in so many directions at once, and the flood of chemicals your body releases while under pressure can hinder more than help.
Fortunately, your thoughts can also benefit you. For example, studies on those who meditate show increased hippocampal and gray matter volume. Your hippocampus plays a crucial role in memory formation and processing sensory input, helping you make faster, better decisions and repeat movements that get the job done with more precision.
Words of Wisdom on Meditation
Do you need more inspiration to meditate before or after your next workout? Check out what these professional athletes have to say about the practice:
- “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them; a desire, a dream, a vision.” ~ Michael Jordan
- “I can only control my performance. If I do my best, then I can feel good at the end of the day.” ~ Michael Phelps
- “There’s no way around hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there is always something you can improve on.” ~ Roger Federer
The Best Times to Meditate Before a Workout
Should you meditate before a workout, after it or both? You can take any approach you like. A better question might be, what are the benefits of meditating before performing your fitness routine? Consider what this technique can do:
- Calm and focus your mind: You’re sure to be ramped up before a match. A few minutes of deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you tame the jitters.
- Mentally rehearse your moves: You’re more likely to land the perfect layup shot if you take a few test runs in your mind first.
- Outsmart your opponent: This adversary may be yourself — you can use meditation to convince yourself to go to the gym when a Netflix binge tempts you. You can also concentrate on what tactics the opposing team is most likely to use and how to counter them.
Pre-Workout Meditation Tips
How can you meditate before your workout? Once you become proficient, you might be able to close your eyes and get in the zone with the crowds roaring around you. Otherwise, try these tips:
- Find a quiet place: It helps concentration.
- Focus on your breathing: You can use various breathing techniques. Pick one that works for you.
- Consider using affirmations: An affirmation is a short, positive saying that reconfirms your belief in your abilities. For example, “I’ve practiced hard and am ready to do my best.”
The Best Times to Meditate After a Workout
Meditating after a workout is like a private post-game review. Instead of looking at what the team does as a whole, you analyze your contributions and where you could improve.
You can also use post-workout meditation to calm any emotions you might feel. Now’s the time to borrow a few techniques from cognitive-behavioral psychology if your last match didn’t go as you intended. Were you unprepared for their assertive defense? If so, how can you prepare a better counterattack next time?
You can also evaluate the other factors affecting your performance. Did you wear the right duds to wick away sweat while not impeding your movement? Did you make some mistakes in your pre-workout routine, like loading up with too much protein, slowing your digestion and leaving you sluggish? What can you eat next time to gain energy without feeling heavy?
Post-Workout Meditation Tips
The most crucial part of meditating after a workout is to check your self-condemnation at the door. While it’s okay to admit you made a mistake — it’s an integral part of improving your performance, after all — you should avoid beating yourself up over it.
How can you avoid slipping into rumination in your post-workout meditation and make it productive, not self-shaming? Try these tips:
- Keep it short: Set a timer for no more than 10 to 15 minutes and stick to that period for self-reflection.
- Keep it positive: Change your don’ts into dos. Instead of thinking, “Don’t forget to watch out for high kicks,” reframe that thought to, “Monitor both the high and low zones of the soccer goal.”
- Keep it focused: You might have many areas you want to improve. Choose one. For example, if poor fielding hurts your softball team’s chances of advancing to finals, work on that instead of hitting the batting cages. If you want to run faster and lift heavier weights, select one area to focus on first before proceeding to the next.
Should You Meditate Before or After a Workout?
Meditation can take your workout to new heights. Scores of top athletes swear by it for a good reason.
Should you meditate before or after a workout? It all depends on what you hope to achieve the most. You might discover that a few minutes of mindfulness takes your athletic prowess to new heights.