For a more than a decade I have been immersed day in, day out in the middle and long distance running world as well as the equally high octane strength and conditioning and Australian rules football space, every day from 5 am I’m talking/yelling sets, reps, volume, intensity, frequency, distance, aerobic, anaerobic, hills, miles, marathons, triathlon. Of course, I Love it and I am hugely passionate about all of the above, I’m also lucky enough to coach some of the best people on earth.
We have always known that recovery is the key to adaptation and therefore success in athletic performance; us coaches load the stimuli into our athletes and then you guys (the athletes) eat well, sleep well, and regenerate and all things being equal, adapt and improve!
At the pointy end of elite sport, they are always looking for that extra .1%, sometimes to the detriment of the athlete/sport- think any convicted drug cheat.
But I truly believe that there is an edge we can grasp from a tool that we as coaches and even the experts still only know a fraction about – OUR MIND.
I’m not delivering anything ground breaking I know, the practise of mediation having been around for centuries, millenniums even. But I feel there is so much to gain, and it is exciting that we as humans still have so much we can extract from our lives.
Every day we should be on a mission to go to bed that night a better version of ourselves, this includes being a great parent, spouse, employee, employer, and fitting in our physical endeavours Be it the gym, or a run, or our sport. This may include study structured, compulsory or otherwise, we are on a mission to be the best version of ourselves.
Meditation whether 2 mins or 40 mins is a great tool in grounding us and helping us live in the now!
Not the past, Not the future, but the NOW- this is the only way to succeed in anything – planning is great, but worrying about the future is futile.
This brings me back to mindfulness for sport and general population athletes.
I’m certainly no expert in the field of meditation, but I have learnt from them and we felt it important enough to include upstairs in our boutique running and strength and conditioning studio here in Melbourne Australia, it’s aptly named “RUNNEZ, ABOVE THE SHOULDERS”
And we have a brilliant, highly qualified teacher taking classes for people from all walks of life.
But if a class is not your thing, download an app, or practise on your own.
Every athlete mediates – for many reasons, every endurance athlete, footballers, lifters, dancers some big-name basket ballers are advocates, namely Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and a bloke you may have heard by the name of Michael Jordan. Big time performers, musicians, actors and broadcasters practise.
If it is good enough for MJ surely its good enough for a domestic basketballer who works full time and studies part time, or a mum of 4 who runs a half marathon twice a year and fits in her training where she can! We the general population and not professionals or people with plenty of time on our hands, we need to be in the now even more than an athlete like Jordan.
The thing about is it only takes a couple of minutes – and the health and performance benefits are enormous, in a recent blog I spoke about exercise for mental health (see below)
Well meditation is a proven way to help decrease stress, anxiety and depression, therefore improving immune function and sleep behaviour – all while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.
Lack of sleep and high levels cortisol inhibits fat loss and increase the chance of gaining weight.
This all usually results in an increased mood.
Apart from all these existing health benefits, the performance benefits - which I believe are still largely untapped, are crazy GOOD!! It is VITAL for optimal performance – for the reasons listed above as well as teaching us how to relax in stressful situations of a race or game, regular breathing training, visualisation training, enabling us to focus on objectives of training and goals, and the enhanced sleep promotes recovery from harder sessions!
It’s not easy to do especially at the beginning but the leaders in the field will tell you that if you practise for 4 weeks it gets a lot easier and the benefits you derive will be noticed.
For me as a coach and an athlete the exciting part lies in that “edge” what can we achieve if we truly train our brain to be present “right here, right now” You may have heard of the “flow” state, this could be for another blog, but flow is described as “the most productive and creative state of mind in which to work”
But like anything achieving flow take time! If I want to be the world’s best golfer I better start putting, the same goes for mindfulness, like I said start with 2 mins a day.
In regards to mindfulness and endurance athletes it really could be the edge to take that extra few seconds or even minutes of your PR.
Think about a marathon – 32km and the metaphorical bear jumps on your back, and the mind starts to play tricks “am I going to feel like this for the next 10km” maybe I should slow a little” “I can’t sustain this pace” at this point 10km feels like 3 marathons combined- what if we could bring it back to this very step and this very breath – control the controllable’s, the next 10 steps and then the next 10 steps, focus on economy and form, and breathing and relaxing!!
Nothing positive comes from thinking negative, take it a lamp post at a time or a water station at a time, and you will surprise yourself how quickly that 10km flies by.
I’ve made it sound easy on paper, it’s certainly not, but practise this on your next quality or long run, It will take time, and I’m certainly no expert as I’ve already stated, but if we train hard, train smart, recover well and eat well, then I believe this is a very under unutilised tool will assist in the pursuit of uncharted individual athletic excellence.
In finishing legends, why wouldn’t you want to improve your everyday well being and health without leaving your lounge room, sit down – don’t worry about a thing – and be in the NOW!
Founder/Head Coach - www.RUNNEZ.com