Lifting Weights as Meditation Practice


Lifting weights is boring.

It’s repetitive. It gives no immediate result beyond a number – which may or may not change with each session.

You rarely look in a mirror post-training and see immediate results. Muscles may be a little more defined from the exertion but often they look just the same.

Results – in the form of improved strength, endurance, balance, flexibility and numerous physical and mental health indicators – certainly do come over time but they are rarely seen within a session.

If you’ve ever signed up for a gym membership or program and ditched it two weeks later then you will know that you need something more immediate, or a much higher goal, to keep you motivated.

When I first began training, with five or six sessions a week, the novelty of the activity kept me interested. But even with variety, my enthusiasm for the task was eventually dulled by the repetitiveness.

Three sets of eight repetitions, 12 repetitions, 18 repetitions.

Three sets of slow repetitions for 45 seconds.

Three sets of working-to-fail.

Gratuitous pic of Rachel McLish that has little relevance to this post

Gratuitous pic of Rachel McLish that has little relevance to this post

There’s a lot of counting and a lot of breathing. Lift one, exhale. Release, inhale. Lift two, exhale. Release, inhale. Lift three, exhale. Release, inhale. And so on …

It’s a lot like meditation. Counting. Breathing. Letting go of outcome. Letting go of thoughts. My only focus is the breath and being present in my body. Present in the moment.

In Natalie Goldberg’s classic book on writing, Writing Down the Bones, she refers to her writing as her “deepest zen practice”. Over the years I’ve begun to see my weight training as my meditation practice.

This is now what keeps me going – that strengthening my muscles is also clearing and strengthening my mind.

Strong body.

Clear mind.