You have an hour in the gym, but instead of concentrating on repetitions, your brain is working on that great work project or in a fight with your partner. Your inclination can be to choose a training so strong that the discomfort stifles the noise. But there is another antidote: meditation and mindfulness.
These practices are not new to sports. “Professional athletes know the power of pre-game routines,” says Corey Phelps, a coach based in Washington, DC who does meditation with clients. Phil Jackson led the team’s meditations as a Los Angeles Lakers coach in 2009; Coach Pete Carroll employed him in 2015 when his Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl; and members of the US women’s national soccer team. UU. Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara, all credit meditation techniques for their success.
Tons of research promote meditation, and some focus specifically on athletics. A study involving junior elites in Norway found that after 12 weeks of consistent mindfulness practices, athletes had a better approach, performance and recovery. And soccer players from the University of Miami who meditated 12 minutes a day for a month had improved concentration. In addition, distance runners who perform a mindfulness regime showed greater self-confidence and less anxiety before a great race, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sports Psychology.
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For the average athlete, conscious meditation, a practice to focus on the present without judging, is a way to get more involved during workouts, stay focused for longer and work harder. “In each workout, we face moments of physical discomfort when the brain tells the body to quit smoking,” says Phelps.
It’s something that Nike coach of New York City, Ariel Foxie, does with his athletes. “Demanding workouts cause stress in the body, and that may be above the emotional stress that people bring to a session,” he says. Depending on how someone feels that day, Foxie can make them visualize training or breathing exercises. Then they warm up with repetitive cardiovascular exercises, such as jumping rope or running on the treadmill, which becomes a moving meditation for them to concentrate on the present and get out of their heads. For him, the point is to use training to develop mental strength and delay the brain of other problems.
Try it yourself. Find a quiet corner of the gym, put on noise canceling headphones and take a seat. A simple technique is square breathing: inhalation of 3 seconds, pause of 3 seconds, exhalation of 3 seconds, pause of 3 seconds. Or kneel in the child’s posture and take long, slow breaths for 2 minutes, which helps disable the fight or flight mode with which he may have entered. And it doesn’t just work in the gym. You can also do this before that great job presentation.