5 Reasons to Incorporate Mind Body Techniques
into Your Sports Training
1. Improved behavior during training sessions
2. Lowers inflammation in your body
3. Reduces stress for better game performance
4. Engages performance visualization techniques for connecting the mind and body to create “In the zone” performance
5. Can be added to an existing training program to improve it’s productivity
It was in the 9o’s when I was first exposed to meditation and the use of several techniques that could facilitate a heightened awareness as well as reduce levels of stress. These techniques were passed along to me by several teachers who developed these disciplines in a remote ashram in Mexico. One of the techniques was meditation. In order to maintain a state of focused rest one must follow these steps: allow stimuli in environment to settle, allow body to relax while nasal breathing in a rhythmic fashion deep into the diaphragm, place issues or problems into an imaginary box and close the lid, and finally allow all thoughts to come and go. This practice can lead to faster physical recuperation. In a study from Carnegie Mellon University published in January, 2018 in the journal of Biological Psychiatry, mindfulness meditation increased connectivity between two brain areas that typically were in opposition to one another as well as lowered interleukin 6, a marker of inflammation, in mindfulness meditation participants. This evidence is important in the treatment of post workout inflammation in high level athletes who train at a high level on a week to week basis so they can speed the recovery process before the next training session.
As a strength and conditioning coach for the Washington Capitals from 1990-2002, I knew that I would have to give the players every advantage in order for them to be at their best physically, mentally and spiritually. I first introduced meditation to the players in the Summer of 2001 as part of a two week training period for newly drafted rookies for The Washington Capitals as well as players from our Portland Pirates affiliate. The players were skeptical but followed along with the exercise and in the end could feel a difference in how they thought and moved after meditation. Along with other aspects of training such as strength training, speed work, and flexibility, focused rest can be added to an athletes tool box to prepare for competition which can help strengthen drive, focus on the present task at hand and drop all distractions that may interfere with winning. Kabat-Zinn, Beall, and Rippe (1985) found that the introduction of mindfulness training improved college rowers performance well above their coach’s expectations as well as improving the performance of Olympic rowers.
Today I include focused rest in the beginning of training sessions for Bethesda Soccer as part of their training sessions. This allows the players to attain the correct mind set before entering into a training session. With the stressors of school as well as the stress of being a teenager this 5-10 minutes of focused rest allows the athletes to reset and start the session clear minded. In addition, we spend 10 minutes taking the teams through a generic functional alignment segment which addresses any physical dysfunction that each athlete may have. This combination has presented some very favorable results in regards to physical test results and improved behavior during the training sessions.
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