Missing The Best Part of Working Out?

by Miles Mettler

What is the best part of your workout? Maybe your first thought was, “There isn’t a best part!” What I’m observing is that the readily available tech gadgets begging to entertain us are actually distracting us and we’re missing the best part of working out.

You see it the gym. The treadmill, elliptical, and bike machines come equipped with personal viewing screens so you can watch TV, plug in your iDevice, or surf the web…all while you elevate your heart rate.

You see it on the street with people out walking with a headset plugged into their favorite tunes, listening to a podcast, or audiobook.

The thing I enjoy most about working out, most people seem to be missing out on.

The best part about working out is being alone with your thoughts. That’s right…no music, no talking, no business, no reading…just you and your thoughts.

Our world bombards us with information and ‘noise’ from every direction. When do we ever have time to be alone with our thoughts?

Meditating may be another time you’re alone with your thoughts. But, working out in solitude is different than meditating.

Because of the physiological response to exercise, you’re able to attain a whole new level of thinking and introspection that you can’t match with sedentary meditation. (If you want to read more about the mind body connection, SPARK is an excellent resource.)

If you’re used to being distracted and don’t think you’d ever be able to workout for 30 minutes without listening to or watching something, think about this. Are you really saying that you’re so boring you can stand to spend 30 minutes alone with yourself? Oh, that maybe hurt! Sorry about that.

As the popularity of podcasts and audio books increases, you may feel that you want to be productive so you listen and learn while you workout. You view it as a good use of time and, in fact, it may be. Indeed, you may have helpful thoughts and revelations that occur due to the content you’re listening too. I’d recommend you save that listening to car time or chore time.

Alone with your thoughts is rare to accomplish in our modern day life. Have the advances in technology have outpaced your ability to manage it? Unless we’re intentional, it’s easy to crowd out and suppress the primary mechanism we have for solving problems and having mental breakthroughs.

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking," observed Friedrich Nietzsche. And Henry David Thoreau said, “Me thinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Realize that you’re in your best state to allow your subconscious to surface and connect with the creative process that you possess when you’re in motion and unplugged.

How about you? Are you willing to give it a try? If so, start slow. Unplug for 5 or 10 minutes at first, during your workout. Then increase the time and as you do you’ll find that the longer you can stay unplugged the more your creative side will expand and lead to a feeling of peace and serenity that can only be found at the end of a great workout.

Physician and philosopher George Sheehan, MD said, "While out on the roads, I am engaged in what Aquinas called man’s highest activity – contemplation. …. It is the nature of man to go inside himself and examine himself and the world. And fortunately for me, it is the nature of running to free me to do it. In using my body, I become disembodied. I become pure intellect. My life becomes thought. Motion has made time stand still. I am totally and completely in the present."

As odd as it sounds, when the motivation to get out the door and get moving is lacking, I’ll wonder what thoughts that might lead to a breakthrough will I be missing out on if I don’t go for a run…so out the door I go.

When you’re done, immediately find a piece of paper and started jotting down the key thoughts that occurred to you during your time alone. You most likely won’t recall everything, but you don’t need to. Establish the habit of doing it and what you do write down could prove golden.

Are you ready to unplug?