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July 26, 2022 6 min read

Relaxing your body and calming your mind can be an important part of the recovery process and can be beneficial to your mental health. Yoga and massage therapy are two popular forms of relaxation and recovery, but a meditation session can hold its ground next to them.

Meditation had previously been associated with scholars and religious practice, but during the mid-20th century, it became popular by common people in the United States. Although it’s most commonly associated with Hinduism, meditation has been practiced in various religions throughout history.

As it became more normalized, more people in the fitness world started using it to help clear their minds, aid in recovery, and improve their well-being. 

Whether you meditate before or after a workout, it can be beneficial in its own way, but it does call the question if one is better than the other.

Benefits of Meditation

There are countless types of meditation, and whichever one you choose can be beneficial when paired with exercise.

  • Mental Stress Reducer:Living in a fast-paced world can become stressful when you have work, finances, and health on your mind. Stress can take a physical toll on your body and can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, and may even cause brain shrinkage.

Being able to take some time to help reduce that stress can be beneficial for your physical and mental health.

Meditation practice can help give a sense of peace and mindfulness meditation can even help lower symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that helps slow down your thoughts and pay attention to what you‘re feeling in that moment without any judgment. This can help you let go of negativity and relax your mind and body.

  • Physical Stress Reducer:After your body has been put through stress after exercise, it’s important to calm it down. Although you may experience lower stress hormones like cortisol after exercise, it can increase physical stress in your body.

Post-workout meditation can help calm your nervous system down, but meditating before your workout can help bring more oxygen to the brain and decrease stress.

It can also allow you to clear your mind, bringing you to the present moment, and focus solely on your workout without having external stressors running through your head.

If you still have a hard time focusing, try Focused-AF for unparalleled focus.

  • Better Heart Health: Physical activity is one of the ways to help reduce your risk of heart disease related illnesses, but incorporating regular meditation can also have positive effects on your physical health.

Our nervous system is made up of two systems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, and together, they help control our blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion.

The sympathetic helps our body react to stress and is also known as fight or flight, but the parasympathetic helps our body recover from stress.

If we experience chronic stress and our cortisol levels remain high, it can result in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. 

Meditation helps to activate our resting state by relaxing our body and our mind, therefore helping to reduce our risk of heart disease and improve our overall wellness.

  • Reduced Pain: You may have heard that pain is a state of mind, and some people have a higher tolerance than others. Chronic pain is typically defined as a pain that lasts longer than the typical healing period, and it can cause a lot more trouble than constant discomfort.

Chronic pain can have negative effects on your social life, productivity, and finances, so finding a way to help reduce that pain is likely a top priority.

Meditation as a pain reducer may seem like some kind of mind trick, but it’s actually been shown to help people save money on pain medication and reduce the symptoms of pain.

This may be due to meditation helping to make our minds less sensitive to the pain, and by increasing our brain‘s natural pain-reducing chemicals.

  • Mood Booster: Depression is at an all-time high and is the most common health condition in the general population. People may take anti-depressants or other stimulants to help relieve some of the side effects, and some people replace that with exercise or meditation.

Meditation can help release endorphins, which is the hormone in the brain that can help trigger positive feelings in the body.

Regular meditation can help boost your mood, much like how a run or workout session can give you that “runner’s high” feeling after. The areas of the brain that are most affected by meditation can also be associated with happiness.

Some of the more common ways to try to treat insomnia are sleeping pills, exercise, developing a sleep schedule, and avoiding caffeine, but one of the more lesser known treatments is meditation.

Mindfulness meditation in particular could be a good alternative to other insomnia treatments and can help improve nocturnal symptoms and waking distress.

How to Meditate

You may associate meditation with sitting cross-legged on the ground in silence with your eyes closed and palms together. But meditation is more personalized than that stereotype.

There‘s no right or wrong way to meditate, but if you‘re a beginner it can be difficult to understand what to do. A few minutes a day is enough to reap the benefits of meditation.

Here’s a simple guide to get your started:

  1. An important first step is to get into a comfortable position, whether that means sitting criss-cross on the ground, laying in bed, or sitting in your car.
  2. Set yourself in a place with little distractions, so you can solely focus on yourself and the moment.
  3. Focus on your breathing. You may notice your chest moving up and down, or how the air flows through your nose and out of your mouth.
  4. You may sit in silence, have calming music, or use a guided meditation.
  5. If you find your mind wandering off into your thoughts, try to bring it back by focusing on your breathing. Through practice, you‘ll find this to become less difficult.

Pre-Workout Meditation

Before hitting the gym, you may get your playlist ready, take some pre-workout, and hop right into your routine. Often people neglect stretching or mobility before their workout, and even more may neglect the benefits of meditation.

Taking the time to practice breathing exercises, stretch your muscles, and find the present moment could make all the difference in your workout.

Meditating before your workout can help bring more oxygen to your muscles, which is important for performance. 

Your muscles have to work harder during physical activity, so they demand more oxygen.

If you take some time to meditate pre-workout, you may help reduce lactic acid build up, allowing you to have a longer, more intense workout.

Meditating prior to working out can also help enhance your focus since your mind is more clear from racing thoughts of work, finances, and other outside stressors that could otherwise inhibit your fitness goals.

Post-Workout Meditation

Be honest. How often do you stretch after your workout? A proper stretch and cool down after a bout of cardio or strength training can help reduce your risk of injury, improve your blood flow, and be beneficial for your overall health.

Meditating after your workout can provide similar benefits for your mind and body. Taking a few moments to breathe and clear your mind after an intense workout can help you better solidify your goals and intentions, whether it be weight loss, muscle growth, or well-being.

Practicing breathing exercises after hitting the weights can also help reduce your cortisol levels by calming your nervous system and aid in the recovery process.

After you exercise, the oxygen in your blood can be deficient, so it needs to be replenished in order to help your muscles recover. Meditating can help bring more oxygen to your muscles, just like it can before a workout, which can help better repair them and reduce your risk of injury.

So, Should You Meditate Before or After Your Workout?

Meditation at any point can be beneficial for your mind and your body, and by incorporating it even just a few minutes a day can help improve your overall physical and mental health.

Depending on what your goals are can help determine whether you should take a few minutes before or after the gym to meditate. 

If the workout is longer, more strenuous, and will require intense focus, such as Olympic lifts, you may consider meditating pre-workout to help clear your mind of distractions.

If you‘re more focused on recovery after a tough leg day and keeping your stress levels low, meditating post-workout may be the better option.

There‘s no one-size fits all when it comes to meditation, and that includes when, where, or how you do it. As long as you take the time to improve your overall well-being, you‘re on the right track.