Question: Apart from an Olympic medal, what does Allyson Felix, Armand Duplantis, Eliud Kipchoge, and Josh Kerr all have in common?
Answer: They all practice mindfulness as a means of reaching their fullest potential as an athlete.
One factor most athletes aren’t overly prepared for is the high stress situations they encounter in competition and in life in general. Despite how physically ready athletes are for competition, if the mind isn't prepared for the inevitable adversity, pressure and fatigue of competition then the sporting potential can't be realised. This is because when we are faced with these challenges in our chosen sport, it is the mind that is the athlete and the body is simply the means.
Regardless of how positive a person each athlete is, there will be negativity flying around them during competition. We all know what that negative internal dialogue can sound like: "I messed up, I’m behind on count-back, I should have done this, I shouldn't have done that, and now I’ve just got to get lucky and I’m at the mercy of my opponent", or "He/she did an amazing PB last week, I'm so much slower, I can't beat him/her, my best chance is second". When we unconsciously focus our attention on this kind of internal self-talk then it follows that our chances of success are limited.
The performance research on mindfulness meditation for athletes is well established and is now regarded as another very productive form of training for those seeking excellence in the sporting arena. Think of mindfulness as being a scientifically proven method of gym work for the brain, and by flexing this brain muscle, athletes can create a happier, healthier and more functional mind. Through becoming aware of and not buying into negative thoughts and emotions, practicing mindfulness can help all athletes focus during competition, boost their confidence and, through increased emotional resilience, cope with any sport related anxiety.
Athletes in all sports can find mindfulness is the competitive advantage which helps them to be process-oriented and less anxious, allowing them to enjoy better health and improved performance.