For all the blood, sweat and tears the best athletes pour into improving their game, there is a more subtle, yet just as impactful training routine that keeps them in tip top shape: mindfulness and meditation.
The likes of Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter and Joe Namath have credited part of their success to routine meditation, improving various aspects of their in-game performance and mind-body balance. From recovery to focus, mindfulness can be a lethal part of every athlete’s training toolkit.
And it can even be a part of your routine. Here’s what you need to know:
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that involves focusing one’s attention on the present moment, fully engaging in the here and now without judgment. It encourages individuals to become aware of their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without getting entangled in them. This heightened state of awareness cultivates a sense of clarity, calmness, and self-compassion.
The On-Court Benefits of Meditation
- Enhanced Focus and Concentration
Mindfulness meditation hones an athlete’s ability to sustain attention in the present moment. By practicing mindfulness regularly, athletes can improve their concentration during high-pressure situations, thereby making better decisions and executing movements with greater precision.
- Stress Reduction and Anxiety Management
Sports often come with intense pressure and stress, and this is where the mind-body balance becomes crucial to victory. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, helping athletes stay composed and perform optimally even in challenging circumstances. With post-game nerves, progressive muscle relaxation can both ease an athlete’s physical tension and their anxiety.
- Emotional Regulation
Emotional control is vital in sports. Mindfulness helps athletes recognize and accept their emotions without being overwhelmed by them. This self-awareness allows them to improve their emotional intelligence and respond to heated situations more effectively while giving them a tool to build rapport with their teammates.
- Injury Recovery and Pain Management
Mindfulness meditation can aid in injury recovery by promoting a positive mindset and reducing negative thoughts about pain and discomfort. By accepting the present moment, athletes can better manage pain and focus on the healing process.
How to Meditate Like an Athlete Every Day
- Center Like It’s Pre-Game
Prior to competitions, athletes can engage in mindfulness meditation to center themselves, quiet their minds, and build confidence. A short meditation session can help them enter the competition with a clear and focused mind.
Likewise, you can ease your own nerves and get in the zone in the morning so you can seize the day. A healthy morning routine can set the right tone for your day.
- Reflect Like It’s Post-Game
Throwing in the towel after a devastating loss isn’t what top athletes do. They use meditation to reflect on their performance, analyze strengths and weaknesses, and set intentions for future training. This post-game reflection facilitates learning and continuous improvement.
And we’re no strangers to failure either. The simple act of journaling is in itself a form of reflective meditation, a place where we can air out our regrets and talk to ourselves, ideally in a positive tone. In a 2019 study, positive reinforcement found 117 junior athletes performing better. Similarly, reflecting on victories, no matter how small, can give you the momentum you need to improve every day.
The Takeaway: Mindfulness is a Game-Changer
Mastering mindfulness isn’t easy, and the ideal mental training routine to help you perform off and on the court could look different for everyone. That said, you can use tools like CircleDNA’s genetic test to find insights into your ideal training routine, stress response, and predisposed behaviors to help you find what your mind and body specifically need to improve.
In any case, mindfulness is a game-changer for athletes and everyone else. Your full potential could just be there waiting for you in the peace and silence of mindfulness meditation.