Meditation for Athletes: The Benefits
You’re perhaps like many athletes and the idea of sitting down on a mat and listening toyour own thoughts is daunting. But before you move past this ancient practice of the mind, take a look at some of the benefits you could be missing out on (or gaining!) when you take the time to train your mind.
Our attention is being drawn from place to place at the moment. The distractions of social media, work, friends, family, to do lists, chores. It’s taking a tool on our ability to focus on a task at hand. As an athlete, our ability to focus, especially under pressure, is a vital part of having a mental edge over our opponents and our own performances.
This skill of focus is like every other, it needs training. Meditation offers a simple and effective way of tuning into the practice of this skill. By using this practice of noticing sensations, thoughts or the breath you strengthen your capacity to stay focused on one object at a time and allow distractions to be in the background. By practising away from your sport you’ll find you’re able to transfer it into your sport.
Reduced Stress & Anxiety
Most sporting performances revolve around our levels of anxiety, from preparation, and execution of skills to our ability to recover. Anxiety plays a huge role in our overall stress levels, and by reducing cortisol (our stress hormone) we allow for more balance within the body and mind.
“Meditation is really important to me; it is one of the main points in my day to day, not only in training or in my tennis career.”
One of the most common reasons for incorporating meditation into your workout is to relieve stress. Athletic endurance can be improved by practising visualisation-based meditation. Athletes who imagine themselves achieving specific objectives/goals, paired with consistent practise of breathing exercises, can educate their bodies to perform harder and longer in training and competition. Awareness of self talk and using more practiced, positive self talk has been known to improve performance in endurance sports and events, especially when moments become challenging.
All humans, especially athletes, require adequate sleep. Weight gain, mood instability, increased anxiety/depression, inability to retain focus/concentration, and impaired motor control are among the detrimental impacts of athletes who do not get enough sleep, according to a study published in the Journal of Sleep. Athletes who meditate on a regular basis can help their bodies heal faster from training, competition, and even injury. While physical training is beneficial, it also puts the body under a lot of stress, which can lead to muscle fibre tears. Many common sports injuries can actually be sped up in terms of recovery time. Meditation also strengthens the immune system, which helps you avoid illnesses that can interfere with your training and/or performance.
Train your mind.
Sport can be an emotional rollercoaster. Wins, losses, setbacks, successes, selections, injuries, you name it. Naivgating these emotions can be a difficult landscape and often we get caught into reacting to situations rather than responding.
With the practice of meditation, by viewing our thoughts, emotions and reactions in the present moment. We learn to decide how we wish to respond to our environment. you build the capacity to bring your strength forward more often when you have the awareness of what is happening to you.
Through the practice of meditation, athletes become more and more familiar with the dialogue inside the mind. By noticing the chatter in the mind, the storylines being told, that usually are unkind or unhelpful. By noticing these thoughts, you can practice more positive based affirmations and mantras and allow true confidence to come through as a result.