A few months ago, I was speaking to a professor who teaches stretching to kinesiology students. He mentioned that when he stretches someone who isn’t used to being stretched; they often have a hard time making a mind-body connection to know where they should feel certain stretches and if the stretch was adequate in terms of intensity. In my definition, the mind-body connection is when you are doing something physical (exercise or any movement), and you are mentally aware of how that movement makes you feel. Personally, I have found one of the most underrated reasons movement/exercise is great for you, and is that it increases your mind-body connection. If you currently exercise, let me know if the next 3 statements are true for you.
Increases Injury awareness – When I ran track, sometimes one of the questions the coaches would ask before a hard workout was whether you were sore or injured from previous workouts. The reason the coaches would ask this question is that they knew if we were sore, we could persevere through a workout and if you were injured, you should not. If you didn’t know already, exercise at the right intensity could produce pain or discomfort, but since I did so much of it, I could tell the difference easily. Similarly, often times when working with new exercisers, they see all pain/discomfort as the same because of a lack of mind-body connection.
Recognize which muscles are being worked – When I am doing a personal training session with a senior, one aspect of my job is to ask my client a series of questions to determine if the exercises I am prescribing are adequate. Some questions that I may ask are; where do you feel it, or was that weight too heavy or too light? A big reason that I ask questions like these is to know that my client understands what they should feel as they go through a workout. The better my client can understand how they should feel during a workout, the more likely it will get them closer to their goals.
Learn when your body needs rest and how hard to push it – I know you may have worked out before, but do you always know how hard that workout should have been to get your desired result? I say this because I have been to enough gyms to witness many people doing workouts that miss the mark. Typically during a workout, I try to make sure that the last few reps of a set are a challenge.
Also, another important aspect of exercise is to know when you need to rest and how much to take. Too much rest leads to not achieving results, and too little rest can lead to over-training and injury.