We’ve heard time and time again how beneficial meditation can be to our overall livelihood. But did you know meditation can also play a role in improving your athletic pursuits? Yes, you heard that right. Everyone from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James to the Chicago Cubs team has been known to meditate – and clearly they’re doing pretty well.
Alma Omeralovic, a meditation instructor at Chill Chicago, listed a number of ways taking some time for mindfulness can help athletes. It lowers blood pressure and can improve your sleep. It’s good for the heart and for circulation. It’s also an incredibly powerful stress relief technique.
“If you really want to be your best self, it’s a process that you have to do,” she said. “Your brain is your most valuable tool, and you have to work it out just like any other muscle.”
But the benefits go deeper than that. Meditation is a powerful tool for brain clarity and quickness, Omeralovic noted. This means you have a faster reaction time and are more connected to your skill set, both of which are valuable tools to have in sporting events.
For runners, long distance races are all about staying in your body and letting go of everything else while you exercise. “If you’re in your body, that’s how you’re going to be the most successful runner,” Omeralovic said. The same technique is true of meditation. “When you meditate, you start to let go,” she added.
We’re all human, though; it’s easy to let your mind wander while you run – and while you meditate. But meditation teaches the importance of coming back to the present moment, an idea that also applies to running. “The whole point of meditation is when you’ve noticed you’ve stepped away, how quickly can you come back?” Omeralovic noted.
For some, the word “meditation” conjures up thoughts of sitting cross-legged near a body of water at sunrise. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Meditation can happen anywhere at any time – it can even be as simple as taking a few deep breaths before a meeting at work.
When I ran cross country in high school, we used to hold pre-race visualization sessions. The whole team would gather together and each envision how we wanted the race to go. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a form of meditation. And it worked. I always felt better going into race day if I had visualized it beforehand.
In fact, in a blog post for Headspace, psychologist Kristin Keim points out how visualization-based meditation can help athletes enhance their endurance. Additionally, she touches on how mindfulness improves recovery time.
Meditation can bring a sense of peace and tranquility to your life. And if you’re an athlete of any kind, setting aside a slice of time to do so can bring a plethora of benefits to your performance. But the best part is that meditation impacts more than just your workouts. It touches every area of your life. “It’s such a domino effect,” Omeralovic said. “This is a time we need to be embracing these techniques.”