As we know, exercise is fantastic for our mental well-being in addition to the obvious benefits to your physical health. However, did you know that by adding a daily meditation session, you will enhance your performance and approach to your daily workout?
Over the past few years, there has been an increased level of research on meditation, mindfulness, and well-being in association with physical exercise and the conclusions are nothing short of amazing. From personal experience, I started my meditation journey around 18 months ago, the timeline ties into my healthier lifestyle choices of which kicked off in January 2019. Initially, I used meditation for clarity, breathing, and calm. However, now I use my mediation for everything and that includes my athletic performance.
So first of all, let's set the scene. You are in your first year of CrossFit. You have the foundations, your gymnastics movements are picking up and you have just completed your first Open. You were happy with your scores but noticed that you felt anxious prior to and during the workout, and just couldn't break the barrier of your fitness that you know is there to help you go to the next level. Below is a short description of 3 fundamental areas in which mediation will help your Crossfit performance.
“When you're meditating, the point is to focus on one thing and allow your other thoughts to pass by”, according to Mayo Clinic. So how does this apply to a WOD or class? Have you ever been finishing a lifting component whilst thinking about the WOD, or been on a 35 cal bike and wondering how you are going to get through the 21 burpee box jump-overs?
Through fully focusing on the task at hand, a Crossfit athlete can direct the power of every muscle in his or her body to target its energy towards completing a heavy front squat or that very first set of toes to bar. Crossfit workouts are, by design, almost always centered on multi-functional movements that engage a variety of muscle groups. Improved concentration, by helping to activate every muscle group simultaneously and with increased intensity, yields improved results in all movements to increase success.
That same focus on the present moment will not just help you push yourself to a higher one-rep max, it will also enable you to more easily push through the brutal 300+ rep or hero WOD like Murph in front of you.
Mindfulness and presence techniques are specifically designed to build the strength of focus even under the most extreme levels of duress. By practicing meditation, you will be able to more efficiently shift your inner monologue from the long road ahead (“How can I get through 100 pull-ups after this mile run?”) to execute the next rep (“Tight kip wing, big pull, and bench press away. This is the best technique”). As the reps pile up, your energy will remain in the present moment. By using focus to identify the task that is being approached, you are able to then cycle through the movements whilst engaging in the tools of meditation. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, and lecturer at Stanford University identified daily meditation as a key tool for improving grit for all persons including soldiers, athletes, teachers, and health care professionals in her excellent book The Willpower Instinct.
Effective meditation training combines mindfulness techniques designed to improve present moment awareness, with visualizations designed to improve performance. Visualizations help meditators clearly identify their long and short-term goals, experience the feeling of successfully accomplishing those goals, and use the nature of our neural programming to improve their ability to succeed. Now let's put this into context. Whether you are attempting to string your first Double Unders together or hitting depth in an Overhead Squat, you can center your thoughts to visualize this being completed successfully.
Now, I am no meditation connoisseur. Actually, I am a novice but pride myself in a few simple tools I use for guided meditations:
- Spotify - Search guided meditations and many pops up
- Ask Alexa - Say, “Play mediation of the day.”
- Instagram @beeyourhealth. Bridget is amazing and is a qualified meditation teacher who works remotely from NYC through Zoom and Instagram. Her approach is sincere and cares for clients is exceptional
I hope you enjoyed today's blog and happy woding!
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