In athletic performance, the complexities of the human body are put to work and the capabilities of the athlete are tested. Through rigorous training, the professional athlete uses repetition and endurance to prepare for battle and push their physical limits to the next level.
While physical training is always a key component in the athlete's preparation, we have been hearing a lot more about the mental conditioning included in the regiments of some of the most elite performers.
From world tennis champion Novak Djokavic, elite golf icon Tiger Woods, to All-Star MVP basketball legend Kobe Bryant, meditation has been demonstrated as an effective practice by the world’s best.
By developing the mindset of a zen warrior and the focus of a champion, meditation is a powerful way to ensure the mind and body are in harmony and ready to execute.
This makes complete sense when you consider the fact that the mind influences the way we move, behave, and perform on even the most subtle levels. The best athlete's understand that the skills acquired in training are meaningless if they cannot be properly accessed on game day.
Meditation refers to training your mind to react and operate in a certain way so that you can realize an ideal outcome. In this case, we will examine how meditation can help boost your athletic performance.
Reducing Your Level of Stress
Possible causes of stress for an athlete could include friction with their team, personal coach, or family, as well as physical pain, the pressure to perform well, and self-criticism.
Stress has a profoundly negative effect on an athlete’s performance. In fact, a study by Folkman and Lazarus revealed that heightened stress levels lead to increased muscle tension and a delay in response time.
Any emotional stimulation can obstruct the athlete's focus and the physical functioning of their body, which will often lead to a less than desireable result.
Fortunately for the athlete, meditation has been shown to lower stress in several ways. This means that distraction or emotional turbulence can be set aside, enabling the athlete to focus on a sharp performance.
Improve Your Sleep
Sleep is a critical aspect of performance; this is when the body recovers and the mind can rest. Many athletes do not get as much sleep as they should due to aches, pains, and high levels of stress.
When we are dealing with frantic thoughts and feelings of stress, the body is unable to repair itself, let alone get a good quality sleep.
A study by the Harvard Medical School revealed that mindfulness based meditation can help regulate the activity of the brain by balancing out the brainwave activity into a more calm state.
Meditation also helps increase natural levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and behavior which also speeds up the mental and physical recovery processes, allowing the body to rejuvenate and reenergize much more effectively.
Meditation helps the brain release serotonin naturally by inhibiting activity in the stress-producing regions of the brain: the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex.
Learn More About the Biological Effects of Mindfulness Meditation (Archives of General Psychiatry)
Meditation also strengthens activity in the relaxation and happiness response of the brain: the left prefrontal cortex. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, insomnia, migraines, and other ailments associated with chronic stress.
Enhance Your Energy
The most common factor when it comes to low energy is mental exertion. Fatigue is often related to stress and anxious thinking. Even if you don’t feel stressed, you can be sure that your mind is always at work trying to figure something out.
When the mind is busy trying to resolve conflict, or figure out the next move, there is an interchanging of energy taking place in the form of electromagnetic energy.
The higher level of activity, the more energy that is required. This communication originates in the brain, but also affects the body as well, which is why mental fatigue can be felt so tangibly throughout the entire body.
Meditation for Energy
The reason meditation is such a great way to increase levels of energy is because when you bring your attention back into the present moment and allow your mind to release thoughts of the past or future, you are actually interrupting an ongoing internal conversation taking place in the mind. Energy is the language used in this interaction, and the body is very much aware of this process.
For example, if you are dealing with stressful thoughts, your body will be notified and respond accordingly, releasing adrenaline and other hormones in order to prepare for fight or flight. These responses require large amounts of energy and over stimulation can often lead to mental and physical fatigue over time.
Train Your Brain
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not passive; meditation is an act that is carried out with intention and one that challenges the brain. Research on brain plasticity suggests that interventions like meditation can allow people to alter their emotional styles by changing the very brain circuits that govern them.
The prefrontal cortex of the brain is mainly responsible for governing behavior such as rational decision making and willpower. This part of the brain also exhibits strong connectivity with the amygdala — known as the fear center of the brain and plays a large role in influencing vulnerability in mood and anxiety.
In meditation, the prefrontal cortex is challenged through repetitive awareness and focused attention. Increased levels of prefrontal activation enables a more balanced regulation of activity in the amygdala.
This also helps in turning the overactive fear response off once it is turned on. This means that people with more activation in the prefrontal cortex are able to recover more quickly from negative stimulation.
- The Physical Benefits of Meditation
- How Meditation Changes the Brain
- The Benefits of Meditation for Energy Enhancement
In this episode of the MBV Podcast, we talk to Patrick Charron, the owner and developer of Flō-Tribe. For the past few years Patrick has been developing a formula designed to access and harness what is referred to as flow state — the ability to achieve peak performance, also known as 'the zone.'