Mindfulness, like meditation or yoga, is a topic that is getting a lot of attention in the media lately. You know that it is an important way to combat stress and mental health problems but did you know that it can also benefit athletes performance?
I am currently studying Mindfulness Skills for Performance: The Four Pillars of mPeak with Ottawa River Psychology Group and have been implementing many tools with my skaters.
When athletes perform their best it is almost always when they are “in the zone” or completely in the moment. I use keywords to help cultivate this through a system I created called The Performance Mindset. You probably received the blue print for this when you signed up for my newsletter. In summary, it involves flooding the mind with keywords, completing the element, detaching from the outcome and letting it go. Training mindfulness in skaters also happens off the ice.
In my private and group mental training sessions I guide skaters through a body scan, whereby they bring 100% attention to each small part of their body, noticing and being curious about any sensation that they might be experiencing without trying to change it. This is a passive approach that brings great awareness to the athletes body in space. Distracting thoughts are marked and attention is brought back to the body.
Box breathing is another simple yet effective tool for cultivating mindfulness. Athletes breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4 and hold for a count of 4. They cycle through this exercise several times focusing and calming the body.
Mindful stroking is an exercise I created that requires the skater to bring attention to 4/5 senses during their stroking warm-up at the beginning of the session. While stroking they notice the sound and feel of their blades cutting through the ice, what they see around them, the sound of the music playing, the distinct smell of the arena, the cool breeze against their skin, etc.
All of these exercise help to bring the athlete’s mind into the present moment. The body can only be in the present but the mind can get stuck in the past or future. If you want to perform your best and achieve your goals, your mind and body must both be in the present.
Start practicing mindfulness both on and off the ice!