Mindfulness For Athletes

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Just “go with the flow” – seems like a ridiculous thing to suggest to fitness professionals or indeed to our clients! After all, we’re encouraged to have goals, to have plans, to beat a PB and, by definition, we’re pretty energetic individuals impatient for results.

This is the first in a series of articles I was invited to write for Personal Trainer Magazine and was originally published in April 2015.

For many years my life used to be ALL about deadlines and goals; I thought by making sure I had my running shoes in my suitcase, multivits, energy bars and my sachets of wheatgrass at the ready would be me sorted. I could still train for that half marathon, work long hours and be fit and healthy – wrong!

Enter stage – mindfulness practice

Ever wondered what the heck it is? Or, what’s that got to do with you or your clients? Mindfulness-based stress-reduction has been around for several decades as a therapeutic tool. By turning our attention to what is actually happening in the present, we’re able to see the situation for what it is, allowing us to have absolute control over how we react in any given moment. That’s mindfulness in a nutshell. We are invited to simply be aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different.

The benefits of introducing this practice into our daily lives as fitness professionals are huge: we learn to relax (allowing the body to heal), we learn not to dwell on the last bad training session or match, which can seriously affect our performance (it’s gone, it’s in the past!) and once we have a plan in place, we learn that the “how we get the results” doesn’t always come about in the way we expected.

How to get started?

The first stage is learning to relax. Try this the next time you’re feeling frazzled after a full day of coaching or weary from over-training. Take 10 minutes to sit or lie down undisturbed (we can all find 10 minutes) and connect with your breath. Inhale and exhale deeply, using all of the muscles involved in breathing: the abs, diaphragm, intercostal muscles, and up into the chest, noticing any areas of tension in the body and allowing yourself to simply relax. Just notice any thoughts that come into your mind, allow them to come and go (you can’t stop your mind having thoughts, but you can become an observer rather than a participant in them). With this technique, you’ll automatically switch on the parasympathetic part of your nervous system allowing you to relax naturally. You wait, 10 minutes will soon become 15 and so on.

Yes, it takes practice, but the rewards are instant and exponential. Every few minutes that we choose to direct our attention to the breath and relax into the body, is like having a 30-minute power nap, only much quicker and longer-lasting.

With love and wellbeing wishes,

Chrissie Tarbitt - Integrated Wellbeing

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