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A woman meditating in lotus position, sitting with her eyes closed on a yoga mat at home. Learn about the benefits of meditating before or after a workout in this article.

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Should You Meditate Before or After a Workout? This Is What Experts Recommend

There’s no wrong answer, but each option offers its own unique advantages.

By Jessica MigalaFebruary 21, 2024

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Some activities are simply better at certain times of the day, from drinking coffee in the morning to kicking back with a good show after dinner. But when it comes to meditation, there’s truly never a wrong time, points out Amanda Fazio, a certified mental performance coach in New York City. Some love starting their day with meditation, while others prefer to practice before bed—but making meditation part of your exercise routine is a stellar combination, too. But does the order matter? Should you meditate before or after a workout?

We spoke with experts to get their recommendations and find out how to make the most of this mind-body practice. Read on for advice on how to level up your workouts with a beneficially timed meditation class.

Should You Meditate Before or After a Workout?

First, know that whatever time you can find to meditate is a win. That said, if you’re trying to decide when exactly to book-end exercise with your practice, Peloton instructor Nico Sarani generally suggests meditating after a workout. But of course, there are plenty of unique advantages to meditating before exercise, too—so rest assured that you can’t go wrong combining fitness and meditation. 

Here are a few benefits of each practice: 

Advantages of Meditating Before a Workout

Although Nico generally recommends meditation after exercise, she says that meditating before a workout can be useful in certain circumstances, too. 

For example, let’s say you’re training for a marathon and the prospect of knocking out a 15-mile long run that day requires an extra dose of motivation to get after it. This type of situation is where meditating before a workout can come in handy. “A few minutes of meditation before your session can help you stay focused, stay in touch with your body, and move more mindfully,” Nico says. “It can also help you push through challenging moments.”

If you’re about to compete—say it’s race day, for instance— there’s so much to gain from meditating beforehand as well. “Meditation quiets down the amygdala—a part of your brain associated with anxiety and depression—and increases activity of the brain’s frontal cortex and grey matter, which are responsible for logical thinking,” explains sports psychologist Haley Perlus, PhD. In this case, meditating before a workout allows you to approach an activity with a calm, peaceful head so you can bring your best self to the challenge. 

These effects are also beneficial before participating in workouts or sports “where mental concentration is crucial—say in golfing, basketball, or gymnastics,” Nico adds. “Meditation may generally help you to stay focused during your workout, and less distracted, which is always a win.”

Advantages of Meditating After a Workout

Here’s why Nico typically recommends meditating after a workout: Meditation asks you to sit quietly while you focus your mind, and moving your body beforehand can better prepare you for doing so, both physically and mentally. “Movement before sitting down for meditation (usually in a meditation posture) makes sitting for an extended period of time easier,” Nico says. You’re already warmed up, you may be less stiff or tense, and you may feel more awake, all of which can benefit your meditation practice. What’s more, exercise itself is de-stressing, which sets you up for success in a subsequent meditation class as well. 

Meditating after a workout can also help you wind down from exercise. “Meditation at this time can help you close out the class, emotionally regulate, and mentally reset so that you’re ready to carry on with the rest of your day,” Perlus explains.

A man meditating outside, looking up while closing his eyes. Learn more about meditating before or after a workout in this article.

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Tips for Meditating Before a Workout

Whether you’re preparing for a tough workout or just want to get grounded before breaking out in a sweat, here are a few tips to consider when meditating before exercise:

1. Find Quiet and Repetition 

To get in the meditation “zone,” you don’t necessarily have to sit cross-legged on the floor, especially if you find this difficult to do before a workout, Perlus says. 

For instance, before starting a cycling class, you can simply pedal slowly while staying mindful. Don’t listen to music, don’t turn on a podcast—just be quiet and focus on the repetition that is pedaling. As it becomes easier to get into this mental state, you can then transition into more formal meditation, if you’d like. 

2. Set an Intention

What do you want to accomplish during your workout? Meditation is a great time to set an intention or mantra that you can take with you into exercise. “This can be a great way to keep yourself going through tough moments during your workout, or to not beat yourself up when things don’t go as you wished,” Nico says. “You can repeat it internally as your personal reminder whenever you need to,” Nico says. That could sound like, “I am strong” or “I can do hard things,” or whatever empowers and resonates with you.

3. Ditch Self-Judgment

Your headspace plays a huge role in your performance. If you’re feeling unmotivated, unconfident, or self-judgemental, you can use your meditation practice to help quiet negativity. “Meditation can help us see those thoughts, have them come in, and then move through them,” Fazio says.  

4. Visualize

Visualization is a wonderful tool, and it can be an especially great part of your pre-workout meditation routine, too, Nico says. Imagine yourself accomplishing your workout goals with ease, she suggests. See yourself pushing through when a lift gets hard, or envision yourself reaching the finish when you hit the wall during a run. 

Envision the emotions of having a really great workout, too. In fact, immerse yourself in it: “Feel the joy that you might feel at the end of the workout,” Nico says. “Make that sensation palpable in your whole body and see yourself in your mind's eye accomplishing what you set out to do.”

Tips for Meditating After a Workout

After exercising, you may feel sweaty and tired, but pausing for even a few minutes to meditate can help you feel reenergized and tackle the rest of your day with more resilience to stress. These tips can help you make the most of a post-workout meditation: 

1. Let Your Body Slow Down First

Consider the type of workout you just completed. Was it a gentle yoga session or a chill stretching class? If so, you can probably move right into meditation. But if it was a HIIT session, run, or cycling class, allow your heart rate to come down first. “Deep breathing or other grounding techniques can help you with that—even lying down for a moment will calm your body and mind and set yourself up well for contemplative practice,” Nico says. 

Perlus agrees. “While meditation can be a way to calm yourself down physiologically, take one or two minutes first to breathe before diving into a meditation exercise,” she advises. Consider this “quiet time” part of your meditation routine, she adds. 

2. Take a Beat

Meditation doesn’t have to happen immediately post-workout, especially if you were just in competition mode, whether it’s game day, race day, or you just completed a group workout class. “I would recommend taking a walk or drinking a cup of decaffeinated tea first before throwing yourself into a meditative practice,” Nico says. If your emotions are high after a competition, it’s going to be more difficult to get into a calm, relaxed, and focused space of meditation, she explains.

3. Show Gratitude

Whether you feel like you crushed your workout or had an “off” exercise day, try to embed gratitude into your meditation and give thanks for what your body was just able to do. (Every time you work out or meditate deserves a self-high-five, after all.)

How to Add Meditation to Your Workout Routine

If you’re ready to make exercise and meditation a go-to combo, here are some tips that can help make it happen:

1. Consider Your Preferences

Ultimately, whether you meditate before or after exercise is based on individual preference, your fitness goals, and how you want to feel going in or coming out of a workout, Fazio says. If that means you use meditation before or after a workout (or both!), remember that it’s totally up to you. 

2. Set Aside the Time in Advance

Planning is important for success. If you’re feeling rushed, you may be more likely to sacrifice meditation. But remember that meditating can be incredibly valuable for your workout (and your day-to-day life!), and it’s worth building in time for your practice. Increase your exercise timeframe or finish your workout earlier so that you don’t have to skip or rush through meditation, Nico suggests. 

For instance, if you have an hour to work out but always feel better when you cap off exercise with a 10-minute meditation, consider reserving those last 10 minutes of the hour for meditating rather than doing a slightly longer workout. Think about meditation as a required part of your warm-up or cooldown routine, and soon, it probably will be. 

3. Add Meditation to an Existing Routine

Nico and Perlus agree that one of the best ways to start a new meditation habit is by attaching it to an old habit, such as an existing fitness routine. (This is actually called habit stacking, and it’s incredibly effective.) “If you’re already a regular exerciser and want to learn to meditate, this is a perfect opportunity,” Perlus says.

4. Pick the Location

Are you going to meditate at home, at the gym, or outside? Ironing out these details in advance can help. “I advise thinking about the ‘how’ and ‘where,’” Nico says. For instance, if you plan to practice in a public or noisy environment, she suggests mapping out the logistics: Should you bring noise-canceling headphones and something to sit on? Can you find a spot where there are fewer distractions and fewer people around? Planning out these details before you meditate can make your practice more effective.

5. Use a Guided Meditation

If you’re setting aside at least five minutes for meditation, consider following a guided meditation class. On the Peloton App, you can find many different types of meditation, from classes that lift you up and help you focus before a workout to classes that help you find calm after exercise. For many, meditating feels easier when you have an instructor helping you time your breath, set intentions, or focus on sensations. 

Nico suggests bookmarking a guided meditation class in advance so you can access it whenever you need it—no thinking or decision-making required. (The Peloton App’s Stacked Classes feature can also help you seamlessly roll along from one class to the next, whether that’s an energizing meditation followed by a cycling class or a yoga flow capped off with a calming meditation.

6. Try Active Meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to be long—just five minutes is a great accomplishment—but if you’re short on time or space to meditate, consider trying an active meditation before or after your workout. 

“When I work with athletes, I suggest that they name things around them and be really intentional about noticing things in their surroundings, such as naming colors as they pass them,” Fazio says. Notice what you see (the bird in the tree), feel (the temperature of the air against your face), and hear (an airplane overhead). You can even practice mindful movement with a walking meditation, tai chi, yoga, or stretching.

The Takeaway

Meditation is a practice that can help you focus pre-workout or help you relax and ready yourself for the rest of your day after you’re done exercising. There is no wrong time to meditate, but if you want to meditate before or after a workout and can’t decide when, Nico generally recommends making the practice part of your post-exercise routine. That way, you can more easily settle into a meditative seat, and the natural mood-regulating effects of exercise can put you in the right mindset to enter into meditation. But as always, listen to your body and do what feels most beneficial for you.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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