Intense physical training coupled with the strenuous mental demands of work, school, and family life can do a number on one’s ability to recover and maintain high levels of focus over time. To ensure that you are in your best condition both physically and mentally when it comes time to perform, you may want to consider adding short daily meditations to your training routine.
The New York Times reported on a study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement that showed that athletes that practiced daily short-duration meditation were better able to mentally recover from strenuous physical activity. The college football players that participated in the study received mental acuity tests before and after training, as well as answered questions about their mood over time. Those that took part in the daily meditation practice showed increased mental performance when tested, as well as characterized their mood and overall wellbeing in a more positive way on questionnaires.
The study had athletes meditate just 12 minutes a day. Here are some techniques that you can use to incorporate mindfulness meditation into your athletic training program.
The idea behind mindfulness meditation is to control your breathing and to clear your mind. You want to take your attention away from the stresses and worries of your day-to-day activities and allow your mind to quietly exist in the present moment. A simple yet effective way to start practicing mindfulness meditation is a basic breathing meditation. Here’s what you do:
Sit or recline in a quiet, comfortable place. Try to find a location where you won’t be bothered or jolted by loud noises for 10-15 minutes. Sit down with your feet flat on the floor, and your palms resting on the tops of your knees. If you recline, place your hands at your sides, or gently fold them across your stomach.
Close your eyes and breathe. Before starting, it’s a good idea to set a timer so you don’t have to worry about tracking the time. Once the timer is set, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. The deep breathing will fill your body with oxygen, help you to relax and slow your heart rate.
Focus on your breathing. After your 10 deep breaths, resume breathing normally, through the nose. Here is where the mental part comes in. This can be challenging at the beginning, but it gets easier and more rewarding with each session. Bring your mental attention to your breathing. As you normally inhale and exhale, observe your breath and nothing else.
Each breath releases tension in the body and the mind. Keep focusing on the breath and the present moment for the duration of the session. If your mind tries to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
Easy, right? 10-15 minutes a day is all you need to begin seeing the benefits of daily meditation. You’ll be better equipped to handle the mental and physical stresses of high-intensity training, and you will be more mentally balanced and focused during competition. Try it out and see how meditation can improve your game.