From the Seattle Seahawks to Olympic darlings Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh, many athletes have proclaimed the virtues of meditation for better performance. Those who practice claim they can focus better and more clearly during training and competitions, can handle and reduce pain, eliminate fear (specifically fear of failing during competitions), reduce stress, and ultimately, sleep and recover better.
Sports psychology and the various offshoots are becoming more popular in the sports community. The “mental game” has always been an important aspect of training and competition, but more athletes than ever before are adopting mental training, partially as a result of professional athletes touting its benefits. I’ve personally tried meditation, and while I didn’t keep it up long enough to see a major difference at competitions, I felt calmer and less anxious throughout the day and during training.
The word meditation encompasses many techniques and types. It does not necessarily mean burning candles and incense and chanting, though it can, if that’s what works for you. For many athletes, a combination of visualization and silent meditation can produce great results. Visualization can be guided, perhaps by a coach or sports psychologist, or it can be done silently. For weightlifters, you can visualize your lifts, beginning with stepping on the platform and ending with a strong lift with three white lights. Be sure to focus on the lightness of the bar in your hands, the speed of the bar path, and the strength in your legs. Be sure to focus on your weak points, whether it’s your lock out in the jerk, dropping your chest in the catch or keeping tension through a pull. Replay your visualizations daily, either before or after training, and multiple times a day leading up to a meet.
For silent meditation, find a comfortable place where you can sit or lie down. Turn the lights down and turn on soft music. The music is optional, as it may be distracting. It doesn’t have to be instrumental or chanting. I tend to listen to my normal playlists, just on a lower volume. Work on making space between the thoughts in your mind. This is not as much about trying to completely clear your mind as it is about relaxing and trying to make space between your thoughts. As thoughts wander into your mind, you’ll want to acknowledge them instead of fighting against them. Some people find success picturing a stream, with their thoughts floating down, letting them pass quickly, but still noting them. Others find picturing a movie screen with their thoughts playing out in front of them works, as it allows you to step back and visually separate them from the space in your mind. Make sure to start in small increments, setting a timer so you’re not distracted by a clock. Try five minutes for a few sessions, then slowly increase to ten, fifteen, twenty minutes.
If you’d rather try a guided meditation, this one below can be helpful.
Let us know if you’ve tried meditation before, and if you’ve seen any results from it!