We’ve addressed the benefits that physical exercise can have for your mental state a few times on this blog. However, did you know that the inverse can also be true?
It’s true, according to an increasingly large body of research on the subject. A few minutes a day of simple mindfulness exercises—whether sitting in calm meditation or engaging in tai chi or qi gong—could help you get a lot more out of your physical routine. Meditation can improve both your performance as well as the enjoyment you get from the activity. So, let’s have a look at the ways in which mindfulness meditation can make you a better athlete.
#1. Reduce Anxiety
With meditation, the main idea is to focus your attention on the present and to be aware of sensations and experiences in the here-and-now. Don’t misunderstand: that doesn’t mean not thinking at all about the future. On the contrary; mindfulness meditation allows you to look past anxiety and to approach a situation with a calm mindset. You can perform better under pressure when you’re not letting anxiety drag you down.
Physical exercise has long been a therapeutic treatment for mild-to-moderate anxiety. The effects of mindfulness meditation can significantly amplify those benefits when performed alongside your regular routine.
#2. Improved Neural Function
Both disciplined physical and mental exercise have demonstrated benefits for how your brain functions. When practiced in combination, physical and mental exercise can have a complimentary effect and provide even greater benefits.
Research in 2014 explored the benefits of incorporating meditation-based aerobic workouts like tai chi and qi gong into your regular routine. The study found that combining these exercises with more intensive workouts created a positive feedback loop. The intensive workouts made your meditation more beneficial, and the meditation made your workout more effective.
#3. Better Focus
Meditation trains you to focus your attention for an extended period. Your can learn to tune-out certain sensations, but clearly identify others, allowing you to both fight through resistance, as well as read your body’s signals more effectively.
Through mindfulness exercises, you can target areas of the body with greater precision to maximize your effectiveness. There’s also the added benefit of sharpening your mind and your ability to focus well-after you step out of the box.
#4. Improved Recovery
We all need some recovery time after a punishing training session. The relaxing art and practice of focused meditation will help you relax and rebuild tired muscles to rejuvenate your body more quickly. Of course, there are positive effects for your mind as well. With a bit of focused meditation, you can more easily switch mental gears to maximize the use of your workout time, then more easily transition back into your regular mindset.
#5. Be More Adaptable
We all want to take advantage of new opportunities when we see them. Whether that’s in the box, or in the business world, the key is to be adaptable and ready to fit the situation at hand.
While energy and endurance are important to overall victory, you can’t function at the top of your game if you’re tuning your mind out and letting your body take over. Mental awareness is essential to your performance, allowing you to recognize and adapt to changes and new factors. This requires a high degree of mental awareness and clarity, which is something that meditation can help with.