Olympic Athletes Learning Mindfulness Techniques

Bill Bowerman on the track with athletes

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Mindfulness Techniques

testing2Here are the 3 basic principles and foundational tools of mindfulness techniques that can be simply understood by athletes and coaches of all levels:
1. Non-judging
2. Acceptance
3. Patience
Non-judging is important because we have a constant stream of thoughts all day long.  In fact, the National Science Foundation reports that we think between 12,000-50,000 thoughts per day.  We lose time and energy judging those thoughts and experiences as good or bad, thus creating a mind that is constantly wavering back and forth.  In essence, this judgmental thinking creates an “in your head” argument.
Acceptance simply means seeing things as they exist now, and knowing not to waste time thinking about past or future events. This seems simple, but any athlete knows how difficult it can be to let go of a mistake.  With awareness of the thoughts, an athlete can begin to name the thought as negative and come back to the moment and task at hand.  That simple act of naming the thought sets the stage for redirecting the thought processes.
Patience is required as you begin to learn these skills of non-judging and accepting the present moment.  Developing these tools takes time and regular practice.
With consistent practice these principles build strength.

Mindfulness exercises in sport

Here is an example of how this looks in an athletic performance (You can also imagine your sport):
Imagine that a triathlete starts her competition with the swim, but she does not like her performance and time.  She begins her cycling but continues to dwell on her poor swim time and judges herself for her poor time.  Soon, she begins to lose focus on her cycle performance and she slowly begins to slip in her cycling time because she is not aware of how her thoughts are affecting her performance. When she finishes the cycling portion of the race, she moves on to the run.  Now she is mad that she did not mentally let go of her swim performance sooner and messed up her cycling time.  So, she continues to dwell on the past for her run, too.  All the while she is wasting valuable mental energy that could have been prevented with an awareness of her judgmental thoughts and accepting what is in the current moment.

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