The mental aspect of athletic performance has been studied extensively over the years. In the past, experts promoted the mental strength to hide negative thoughts and ensure competition success. However, this position is now out of date. “Instead of trying to control your thoughts, mindfulness helps you choose how to respond to those thoughts,” suggests meditation expert Jamie Price, co-founder of Stop, Breathe & Think, an app that promotes mindful meditation.
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Price points to several studies linking this practice to athletic success, including one published in the journal Behavior Therapy that found mindfulness techniques significantly reduce distracting thoughts and worries, as well as increase enjoyment, exercise intensity, and overall performance of the Athletes led.
Another study, carried out by researchers from Harvard and published in the journal Psychiatry Research, showed that eight weeks of meditation literally changed participants’ brains by improving their learning skills and memories, increasing awareness, while reducing anxiety and stress – all advantages for the pursuer better performance.
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Another study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that participants who were trained to increase mindfulness during activities showed higher levels of activation in the parts of the brain that are responsible for processing pain and internal stimuli such as hunger, shortness of breath and faster heart rate are responsible. “Such increased activation enables the body to deal more adaptively with stressful situations,” emphasizes Price.
There’s no firm consensus on how often or for how long to do meditative exercises for positive exercise benefit, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. “Daily practice creates the basis for using these skills in a high-pressure situation,” says Price.
Her Recommendations: Begin and end each workout with a few minutes of meditation, focusing on your breath and body to develop an intention for that workout and to focus your attention on the present moment. Maintain this mind-body connection while exercising by staying aware of your breathing, focusing on the contraction of your muscles, and paying attention to your exertion to eliminate disturbing thoughts and avoid fatigue.
“Calling attention to bodily sensations is an effective way to redirect [the mind] from any internal dialogue about weakening energy or losing concentration, which often makes this negative state worse, ”explains Price. “Extensive research shows that when we focus on what we shouldn’t be doing – like giving up – we tend to do exactly what we avoid.” This means that not only is meditation helpful before and after your workout, but it can also be your secret weapon in the heat of battle when you just need to try a little harder to cross the line in front of your opponents.
Conclusion: Meditation is easily accessible to everyone and can be used as an effective performance enhancer at any time. Best of all, you have all the tools to master this exercise in your own head whenever you need it – on the starting blocks, across the finish line, and all those exciting moments in between.
5 meditative minutes
Are you a beginner in meditation? Use these tips to get started.
- Think of meditation as a time when you can explore your current state of being as it is in the moment. By letting go of the idea that you are working in a certain way, meditation can bring your awareness into the present and ground you in your experience.
- A good place to start is with your breath. Focus on inhaling and exhaling. Become aware of your posture and straighten your spine so that you feel awake and relaxed, but not rigid.
- If you notice your mind wandering, which it often does, just acknowledge and let go of the thought, feeling, or sensation as it occurs, and gently focus your attention back on your breath for as long as you like.