Have you ever had a lapse in focus, concentration or confidence that resulted in falling short of your goals?  It's often we are thinking too far into the future or ruminating in the past, missing the moment that is most important: the present moment. The space where the play is being made and we are absorbed in our task, playing to our best potential.
As an athlete, mindfulness can be your added edge. It provides a practical and proven way to focus, letting go of internal (the stories we tell ourselves) and external distractions (the stories we tell others).  It is the practice of getting into, and staying in the zone, in order to increase your response mechanism. 

Sports are 90% mental and 10% physical.

How many hours are spent training your body to reach peak performance: progressing specialized skill, building strength, increasing endurance? In contrast, how many hours are spent training your mind to reach peak performance: learning breathing techniques, exploring meditation, or practicing yoga?

The benefits of mindfulness are evident in the practice of some of the most skilled professional athletes in history.  

  • Lebron James: NBA superstar relies on meditation and has even been seen meditating during a time out.
  • Derek Jeter: MLB short stop relies on mediation for increased concentration.
  • Misty-May Treanor + Kerri Walsh: dynamic professional beach volleyball / Olympic duo that make yoga, meditation, and visualization part of regular practice. 

The benefits of mindfulness in the sports world.

These athletes know that mindfulness provides a competitive edge and improves performance. A few other key benefits of learning mindfulness:

  • Increases focus and concentration.
  • Improves control of emotions and thoughts.
  • Facilitates a mind / body enhancing physical efficiency.
  • Helps manage physical discomfort.
  • Reduces performance anxiety and stress.
  • Improves resilience.
  • Boosts confidence.
  • Increases recovery time.
  • Better endurance.
  • Helps you adapt to change in the heat of competition.

5 mindfulness exercises for you to practice now!

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing:  belly breathing involves fully engaging the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathing. This means actively pulling the diaphragm down with each inward breath. In this way, diaphragmatic breathing helps the lungs fill more efficiently.
  2. Mindful Body Scanone of the most effective ways to begin a mindfulness practice is to tune into your body and reconnect with your physical self.  Notice any sensations you are feeling, but do so without judgement.
  3. Full-Body Progressive Muscle Relaxation: purposely tensing and relaxing muscle groups increases this contrasting awareness and aids relaxation. When you tense a muscle group, breathe in and as you relax, breathe out.
  4. Visualization: sport specific visualization aids in mindfulness and is a clinical technique that provides a mental rehearsal. 
  5. Walking Meditation: one of the simplest forms of meditation to aid in mindfulness. Focus closely on the physical experience of walking, paying attention to the specific components of each step and your surroundings.

Despite the amount of hours spent training the body, your performance may suffer if you do not spend time training the mind. Improving mindfulness, or participating in mindfulness-based practices, will lead to an increase in confidence  concentration and focus, while reducing sport related anxiety. 

Woman practicing mindfulness