Meditation in Motion

The Spinning® program is a great workout for the body and an excellent way to expand your mental training. For athletes, mental training is the key to overall performance. Through mental training, the mind and body work harmoniously together to produce extraordinary achievements or Peak Performance.

Peak Performance can also be described as “a heightened level of consciousness” or being “in the zone.” Developing the proper mental discipline enables athletes and fitness enthusiasts to improve their performance by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and tapping into the “relaxation response” of the body, which creates a calming and peaceful effect even as the body is being pushed to its limits. Meditation is an excellent cognitive technique to “mentally train” for sporting events, and it is also ideal for dealing with everyday stress.

With your help, your Spinning students can derive significant benefits from mental training, both on and off the bike. After all, many Spinning class participants are there because they hope that in addition to a great workout, they will also reduce their overall stress levels and create a healthier lifestyle. Stress can be, and is for many of us, overwhelming. If you can coach your participants so that stress no longer overwhelms them, they will become empowered to live a healthier life while enhancing their overall wellbeing. Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly recognized as significantly helpful in shifting the way practitioners react to stress. Try blending a little yoga and/or meditation into your next Spinning class and see how it works for you and your students.

The benefits of mental training include:

  • The ability to tune in to your body and “stay present”
  • A state of calmness
  • Stress reduction
  • Enhanced mental clarity and increased focus
  • Being centered and balanced
  • Increased awareness and mindfulness
  • A mind-body connection
  • Inner peace
  • A sense of overall well-being
  • More conscious living

You can incorporate “meditation in motion” moments quite smoothly into your Spinning classes in order to draw focus on mental training. Coaching your participants through this process is easy, and you can use the following as a guide. Be sure to explain this process to them clearly before taking them into silence:

  • Put on a 5+ minute instrumental song, announce that you are all going to ride in silence for this one, and tell everyone to close their eyes.
  • Ask your students to clear their minds and focus on the “third eye center” (between the eyebrows–also a key chakra point in the body).

  • Encourage deep breaths, and ask participants to focus either on their breathing or the cyclical range of motion of their legs. This takes their focus off their “busy brain,” which may be formulating their daily to do list at that very moment, tunes them into the gentle rhythm of riding and facilitates the mind-body connection.

  • Ask participants to connect the mind with the body and to “witness” any physical sensations.

  • Coach participants that if “busy thoughts” come flooding in, let them pass and continue to focus.

  • When the song is over, gently take your students out of the silence with an encouraging comment like “nice.” Ask them for feedback on what they experienced and provide additional coaching if needed.

  • Encourage students to meditate at home by sitting in a chair, focusing on their breathing, and clearing their mind. Ask them to try this for a longer period of time—at least 10-15 minutes—to further enhance mental clarity and focus, and to reap the benefits of still meditation.

  • If students are open to this, gradually increase the time period of riding in silence to increase mental training.

Naturally, you might encounter students who won’t want or be able to quiet their minds and focus on such a heightened level for any length of time. In this case, “can’t” and “don’t want to” are matters of attitude, so all you have to do is make mental training seem appealing enough to try, even if only for a minute or two.

Start by asking skeptical students to set small goals such as 30 seconds today and one minute next time. Once they begin to experience the benefits, they’ll almost certainly be eager to try focusing for the entire song. If they seem curious but hesitant, re-emphasize the benefits of mental training and the importance that professional athletes place on it. In spite of your best efforts, you still may have students who just don't want to participate, so just ask them to honor the silence” by not engaging in noisy or disruptive behavior while the rest of the class is concentrating.

I began teaching “meditation in motion” segments in my Spinning classes after taking a six-week Vippasana meditation class and practicing the mind-body connection through yoga for a year. Additionally, I took a great on-line course called “Mental Training for the Spinning Program” with Mad Dogg Athletics, which gives a more detailed background on mental training and its physiological benefits. Now I blend elements from the Vippasana meditation technique, yoga, and the “mental training” on-line course and apply them to my Spinning class for a “meditation in motion” effect. At first, the participants were not overly excited to try this new technique, but after months of incorporating it into my classes, my students now ask for “meditation in motion” or “riding in silence” segments regularly. They tell me that it has helped each of them in different ways, even off the bike.

Pam Sutton Gentile has been teaching group fitness and exercise since 1992. She is a certified Spinning instructor, an ACE certified group exercise instructor and a yoga instructor. She currently teaches at Bally’s in Colorado Springs, CO. Pam also owns her own organic bath and body business, Aroma Body Essentials, whose products are sold in Whole Foods supermarkets and the spa industry.

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