The Mindful Athlete
Did you know that you can improve your mindfulness skills anytime, anywhere—even while working out? In fact, incorporating mindfulness into your training can significantly improve your fitness and athletic performance. Staying in the right mindset is critical for athletes to overcome obstacles and challenging moments during a game, race, or even a particularly brutal training session. Yet while most athletes train their bodies for game day, very few actively train their minds. Here’s what mindfulness is, how you can improve your skills, and a specific mindfulness approach you can incorporate into your daily routine (and workouts)!
What is Mindfulness, Really?
Being mindful and practicing mindfulness means improving three key skills—concentration, clarity, and coolness. Concentration, the first mindfulness skill, is your ability to pay attention to whatever you want for however long you want. Clarity, the second mindfulness skill, helps you to experience what’s going on in real-time—to notice details of the experience. Being mindful helps you be equally open to pleasant and unpleasant experiences without trying to suppress unpleasant experiences or clinging to pleasant ones. When you are fully aware of the present, you can take a matter-of-fact approach when making decisions. This mindfulness skill is coolness. Instead of reacting to what you are experiencing, you can act in your own best interest. The three skills are closely linked and support each other.
How Can I Become More Mindful?
You can improve your mindfulness skills by using them in a consistent and systematic way. First, you need to plan ahead in order to figure out when and how often you want to practice these skills. The next thing you need is an understanding of how to practice. Basically, you need a few mindfulness techniques at your disposal that you’re familiar with and enjoy practicing in different situations.
Try this guided story run, “Run to Reconnect” and learn a few mindfulness techniques to incorporate in your training.
One of the most effective forms of practice to incorporate mindfulness into almost any activity is using something called Microhits. A microhit is a period of practice during which you dedicate most of your attention to doing a mindfulness exercise, but only for a short period. It could be 60 Seconds, five minutes, or nine minutes. Any practice period that lasts less than 10 minutes is considered a microhit. Anything that lasts longer than 10 minutes we call formal practice.
Practicing Mindfulness in Stillness vs. In Motion
Microhits can help you to implement mindfulness into your current life and activities. You don’t have to set aside extra time in the mornings or evenings to practice mindfulness—microhits can be incorporated into your daily life as it currently is.
We further divide practice into two categories—practice in stillness and practice in motion. Practice in stillness is when you practice a mindfulness technique and you are not engaged in any activity. You might be sitting, standing, or lying down, but you are not engaged with the world around you or moving your body in any way.
Practice in motion, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. During practice in motion, you dedicate most of your attention to the mindfulness technique, but you do it while you are moving, working out, running, stretching, or engaging with the world in another way.
Mindfulness And Fitness
Being more mindful helps athletes perform at their optimal level more frequently and for longer periods of time. It helps them to better deal with difficulties like pain, fatigue, negative thoughts, or challenging emotions either before or during activities (or both)! Developing the ability to navigate those challenges without letting them impact performance is one of the most important skills athletes can develop. When you incorporate mindfulness into your daily training, you are practicing the exact skills you need to overcome those situations.
About the author:
Christian Straka developed a unique approach to mindset training through methodologies for applying evidence-based mindfulness techniques in sports. For the past decade, he has focused on mindset training for peak performance through evidence-based mindfulness skill development, which he incorporates in his roles as the Global Mindset Coach for adidas Runners and position as CEO of MindSize Sports.