How meditation helps your mind make you a better athlete
Tags: stress, antiaging
The mental aspect of athletics is essential to peak performance.
Elite athletes understand the benefits of visualization, mental rehearsal, stress relief, and mental mastery. Without these skills, their physical conditioning would not make them into formidable competitors.
Luke Behncke of RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia wrote a scholarly paper that emphasized the importance of mental skills training, including meditation is an important part of athletic training.
There is a psychological component to every physical movement, says Behncke, and mental skills training enhance the psychological component so that the athlete is able to control their inner mental and emotional world, and attain the self-mastery necessary for high performance.
When an athlete feels that they possess self-mastery, they are motivated to reach even higher in an attempt to increase performance. By contrast, if the athlete has trouble controlling their psychological state (that is, if their thoughts and emotions become negative in any way), they lose self-confidence and performance decreases. Behncke states that self-mastery through self knowledge is the key to successful mental skills training.
Many athletes become frustrated at how slowly mental mastery can come, as opposed to the speed at which they are able to develop their physical capabilities. It’s important to maintain motivation during this critical building period - and the motivation has to come from within.
There are no external motivators for mental mastery (no trophies for mental mastery). There are often a great many failures on the road to success, so the athlete has to maintain intrinsic motivation, which can be difficult. Intrinsic motivation comes from a desire to achieve, just for the sake of personal satisfaction with achievement, not with extrinsic rewards such as respect from peers, trophies and prizes.
Meditation is a mental exercise. The athlete becomes acutely aware of the relationships between physical movement and the mental/emotional state of being. For example, if an athlete becomes tense before an event and that tension contributes to poor performance, meditation can help identify the mental/emotional processes that are causing the tension.
Behncke observes that meditation helps an athlete understand that the physical self is a “tangible expression of the psychological self.” This understanding leads to increased performance because as the athlete meditates and becomes aware of thoughts/emotions that are detrimental to performance, he or she can deliberately retrain those thought processes.
Meditation develops impeccable self-mastery: physical, mental and emotional. It is an essential part of any athletic training regimen, and will boost your performance very significantly.