Fitness Walking Meditation

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Fitness walking meditation is a form of moving meditation. Unlike traditional meditation, which is practiced while sitting quietly, moving meditation uses the movements that accompany any repetitive continuous physical activity as the focal point. Walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and cross-country skiing are examples of repetitive, continuous physical activity that typically is sustained for at least twenty minutes and can provide an aerobic training effect as well as a meditative benefit.

Walking is an excellent activity to use to learn moving meditation because it is safe, can be practiced by almost anyone, and can be done both indoors on a treadmill and outdoors. It also is an excellent starting point for those who ultimately want to begin a running program. During fitness walking meditation you focus on the individual components of each step (lifting the leg, bending the knee, stepping forward, heel touching, toe touching, etc.), the process of walking (feelings in the feet, legs, back, etc., one’s balance and sensation of movement), and your breathing. Regular practice of fitness walking meditation will not only help you relax through meditation, it will help increase your fitness level.

In this combination of moving meditation and fitness walking you walk at a pace and for a sufficient duration of time to obtain an aerobic training effect. You focus your attention on each footfall, extension, bend of the knee, and redirect your thoughts back your walking when they stray. You can use your cadence of footfalls and your breathing pattern to help you minimize distracting thoughts while you focus on what is going on in your legs, feet, and hips as you walk. You can count “one, two, three, four” in synchrony with the beat, time, and rhythm of your steps. You can also determine how many steps you take with each inhalation and exhalation and synchronize them. For example, I take six steps with each inhalation and six steps with each exhalation when I am walking. When I am running I take three breaths with every inhalation and three with every exhalation. This helps me keep my thoughts on my breathing and my footfalls rather than the thousand and one other things running around my brain when I walk or run.

To achieve an aerobic fitness training effect when performing mindful moving meditation you must keep your heart rate between 60 percent to 85 percent of your maximum attainable rate for at least twenty minutes of continuous activity.

Instructions: The following instructions are for an indoor program using a treadmill. You can modify the instructions to accommodate outdoor walking on a trail, sidewalk, or path. 1. Stand on the treadmill and hold onto the railings for support. 2. If you have a heart rate monitor make sure your heart rate monitor is on, adjusted properly, and ready to use. 3. Turn the treadmill on to the lowest setting. 4. Start walking at a slow pace to warm up. 5. After a few minutes of walking at this slow pace to warm up, check your pulse by hand or with a monitor. 6. You may want to stop the treadmill when doing this. 7. Start the treadmill and increase the speed or incline to get your heart rate into the 60-85 percent of maximum heart rate range. 8. Focus on your breathing and count the number of paces it takes for each inhalation. 9. Use this number to count to yourself with each inhalation and each exhalation as you continue to walk. 10. Shift your attention to your feet, legs, knees, and hips as you continue to walk. 11. Start to pay attention to each footfall (striking with the heel of your foot, rolling forward onto the ball and forefoot, pushing off gently with your toes). 12. Pay attention to your footfalls for several steps. 13. Shift your focus to your ankles and lower legs as you continue to walk. 14. Note how your ankles and lower legs contract and relax in relation to each footfall. 15. Pay attention to your ankles and lower legs for several steps. 16. Shift your focus to your knees and upper legs as you continue to walk. 17. Pay attention to your knees and upper legs for several steps. 18. Shift your focus to your hips as you continue to walk. 19. Note how your hips sway in relation to each step. 20. Feel your hip muscles contract and relax in relation to each footfall. 21. Pay attention to your hips for several steps. 22. Shift your focus to the complete walking process from footfall through hip contraction and flexion. 23. Try to focus on the fluidity of your stride as you walk effortlessly on the treadmill, breathing deeply and steadily and counting off your cadence to yourself. 24. Do not be critical of yourself if your mind wanders or if you have a difficult time focusing on your muscles. Simply note what is going on and get back to your breathing and observation of your walking. 25.Continue walking for 20-30 minutes. 26. At the end of this time, slow the treadmill down, decrease the incline, and continue walking. 27. Slowly return your focus to your surroundings. 28. Continue walking at a slower pace as you fully adjust to your surroundings. 29. After about five minutes stop the treadmill and carefully step off.

To get the maximum benefits of meditation and aerobic training you should practice this activity four times a week. If you find the 40-45 minutes it takes to do this too long, walk for a shorter duration and gradually work your way up to the full-time. You can also walk at a slower pace for the full-time if you can’t maintain your target heart rate. If you are not interested in achieving an aerobic training effect, disregard the part of the instructions that deals with checking your pulse and walk at a comfortable pace. In about three months you should start to experience some of the benefits of increased aerobic fitness and meditation.