Athletes Mindfulness Practice – Increase Performance For The Next Race

Posted on 03 February 2016

As athletes, how often do we hear the same old adage, “sport is 90% mental.” I wonder who came up with this statement as its difficult to clearly measure mental vs. physical percentages with respect to a race? For athletes who compete in the longer endurance races, thereis always a requirement of significant mental strength to get to the finish line. As I outlined in Stronger Than Iron the average mental vs. physical survey results from the 8 finishers of the Triple DECA Ironman in 2013, was 60% mental and 40% physical.

We tend to spend money on new equipment, technical training and in many cases forget about the benefits of “free” mental training. Performance results may come faster by implementing a regular mental or mindfulness training session into the overall plan. However, without consistency in both components, just like everything else in life, results with suffer (mental and physical training).

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Racing any type of ultra-endurance event – ultra triathlons, ultra-marathons, ultra cycling events and multi day races require the following in almost every race:

1. Making good decisions
2. Solving problems
3. Maintaining perspective and focus

If one of these items is not in alignment, then a stress response will increase along with anxiety and it will have an impact on the race performance. There is now research that (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23527522) indicates the benefits of mindfulness and resulting lowering resting cortisol levels.

One strategy to consider is a test for 30 days of consistent mindfulness practice every morning for 10-20 minutes. There are plenty of resources available on the process of staying in the present and focusing on breath. My recommendation for Type A obsessive-compulsive athletes is to download the Headspace app for free for 10 days to kick-start the habit of daily mindfulness. Personally, I have found it to be a great tool and easy to get started with mindfulness.

Personal 30 days Test – January 2016 (10 minutes a day) of Mindfulness resulted in 3 immediate benefits:

1. Clearly it helped me get through very hard bike intervals by keeping the mind on the present.
2. I noticed during the bike intervals that the lactic acid and pain of just getting air into the lungs was more manageable to hold each one because the mind stopped wandering. Power ranges increased each week – this is adaptation to physical conditioning as well.
3. Helped with my internal subconscious message during training sessions and non-training time. My message is: PISC – Patience, Improvise, Stamina, and Curiosity. When I focus on these words – these are race specific for my goal race of the 4,400 mile Trans Am Bike Race and actually provided a calming and most importantly it lowered stress by continuously checking in and being present.

It’s still an emerging field of the actual benefits of consistent mindfulness practice and physical performance. There is no downside to staying in the present more often in all aspects of life and will make the mind more resilient especially under times of increase stress which we all know will happened during race day.

 

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