We talk a lot about mindful meditation and all the benefits it brings with it. Better still: our app contains all kinds of guided meditations to help you on your way. But did you know that mindfulness can also improve your athletic performance?
Taking the stress out of competition
It’s no wonder that we haven’t delved into this subject before now—because this special side effect was only discovered a couple of years ago. Curious about how his team could prepare themselves psychologically for races, the coach of the American BMX team asked a few scientists to conduct some research.
The scientists asked the athletes to focus purely on how their bodies felt as a type of “mental scan”: how each organ reacted and how their limbs felt as they raced. After doing this through 8 weeks of training, it became clear that the way each racer dealt with the stress of competition vastly improved. Of course, this wasn’t labeled “mindfulness” at the time, because the concept had not been associated with sports. However, the athletes had become more mindful of stressful situations and were better able to deal with the (possible) panic that came along with them. Thanks to this “tactical training,” it only took 8 weeks for the athletes to become less susceptible to stress.
Competing in the moment
Although it may seem counterintuitive for (top) athletes to live in the moment and be conscious of what they’re thinking and feeling, in practice, it appears to be very beneficial. And great athlete or not: you can benefit from it as well. For example, by being more mindful about what you’re thinking and feeling, you can more easily obtain that extra bit of motivation you need to finish that (half) marathon. This is because you’re less focused on the results and more in tune with the process itself and the skills you need to be successful.
Play through the pain
And that’s not all—mindfulness can also help you rid your mind of negative thoughts during competition. Maybe you’re tired, or you’re experiencing annoying little pains: when you’re mindful, it’s easier to push these thoughts into the background. This automatically gives you more energy to focus on what’s really important, like the position of your opponent, or the tactics you need to achieve something and help win the match. It clears your mind of distraction so that you can direct your energy towards the ultimate goal in front of you.
Warming up the mind
Just like the body, warming up the mind before sports is extremely beneficial. For example, practicing a bit of mindfulness before your marathon or match with the rival club causes your cortisol levels to go down, resulting in less stress before the competition starts. Your sensitivity to pain is lowered, as are your nerves and potential fear of failure. Mindfulness helps you acknowledge these issues and discover their root causes, making you less sensitive to stress in general. Sounds, great, right? Check out our simple meditation exercises for a perfect pre-game warm-up.
Ready, set, go
By living in the moment and being conscious of everything your body is feeling, you actually have more control over your performance. Good physical preparation is essential, but you’re only truly ready for competition when you’re mentally prepared as well. Try it yourself: create a ritual where you take a bit of time for yourself before a match—even just 10 minutes—and you’ll notice the positive effect it has on how you feel and the way you approach the competition. In turn, it will most likely improve your result.