How Meditation Builds a Stronger Mind in Sport

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Ultimately meditation (or mindfulness) is about being in the present moment. Removing the idea of ourselves, or even the notion of getting ourselves out of the way. This allows us to be very objective about the thoughts that we feel, running our lives, running our minds and being able to move them out the way to focus fully.

My own journey of meditation started when I got into yoga. If you ever have done a yoga class, at the end of the session, where you lie down there is a moment called Shavasana.

A very blissful moment to relax whee you allow the body to restore at the end of the session.

Teachers that I’d worked with would use it to create a moment to use mindfulness meditation.

So I would engage with it because you were already in the session, but if I had been told to get in and start the session like that then don’t think I would have gone to it.

I wouldn’t have even sat down in the first place because I wanted physical movement first, I wanted to get some energy out and feel like I was progressing my body first before engaging with the mind.

But it wouldn’t be until the last year or so (actually no I think of it, just this year) where I’ve changed my narrative around meditation.

I found it so difficult to sit down and be with my thoughts because all the regular excuses.

“I don’t have time”

“There are too many thoughts in my mind”

“I get distracted all the time”

Leaving me super frustrated with it.

It wasn’t until I started this reframing of meditation, which I’m going to share with you, that allowed me to engage with it and become better at what I wanted to do in my sport, or everyday life.

And the idea was that meditation is basically ‘Bicep Curls’ of the mind

The largest frustration came form when my mind would wander (and it would wander often) that I was losing the ability to meditate.

When actually it is embracing that distraction and noticing the distraction and loss of focus that IS the bicep curl.

To then bring that focus back to the present focus. THAT is the repetition of the mind. And the ability to build your skill of concentration.

So for every time you get distracted, notice it, and return to the focus. That equals One Rep.

Distraction + Refocusing = One Rep

And we know that the same way you build muscle in the body, the more reps that you do, the stronger you become.

The same with the mind. 

Within sport, we can use this skill to train our minds to focus under pressure. When we need to perform a skill.

Take a footballer taking a penalty, their tasks is to hit the ball into the part of the goal they are aiming at. They would have done this in training many times (hopefully).

Yet thoughts, or fear of the future, past events, distractions around them, people in the crowd, the judgement they feel, will distract them from their ques to kick the ball. They become lost in thought.

Training the mind to notice this loss of thought is where the good bit comes in.

You recognise you aren’t on tasks, refocus to a present event (such as taking a breath) and then get back on task to execute the skill.

Sounds perfect right?

It may not always work out for you but on reflection, you should be able to recognise whether you were engaged in the process or not.

If not, it’s time to practice the skill of concentration.

It’ not a coincidence that you see big performances from world-class performers just before they to kick that goal, make a shot, they take a deep breath. Whether they know they are or not, it’s triggering a relaxation response in the body and refocusing the mind.

What are they trying to do and I encourage you to try this out to encourage you to.

Meditation builds your skill level of concentration and focus, so that when you’re in a challenging situation and you are overrun with thoughts you can bring your focus back to the present moment.

You can also use it for relaxation and stress, in general, you might find that you become overwhelmed the night before a match or dwelling on a performance, so it’s a great opportunity to just sit there and recognise your thoughts for what they.

I see my thoughts as if they are walking into the room, I visualise looking at myself sitting there, from a bird eye view, just recognising what thought is going to come into the room (my mind).

And greet that thought as if it’s a person walking to the room, I see it for what it is.

Is it a story that isn’t true? Is it a judgement that isn’t valid? Does it really matter?

I think put my mind to where I want it to be, whether that be through a mantra, or visualisation.

I recognise where my mind is currently, and then where I want it to be.

Thinking that you have to be sitting there for 20 minutes a day isn’t necessarily realistic, it may be a minute each day. Practising the skill. Tapping into the process.

You may take periods throughout the day where you are refocusing, recognising when you’ve lost your train of thought, you’ve become distracted and bring it back. If you do that for multiple mini periods throughout the day, that will add up.

This idea of meditation can help you out and it has given you may be a different approach to how you would ultimately training of the main building that concentration building that focus on building a skill it is a skill.

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Instagram – @lewishatchett

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