Becoming a Mindful Athlete

Sports are stereotypically “physical” games, but anyone who competes knows that more often than not it’s way more of a mental game, especially in lacrosse. It’s mental toughness that provides that foundation to fight tirelessly to come back from a first half deficit, it’s mental toughness that empowers us with confidence that we can make that 8-meter even if we’ve been having a rough day shooting, and it’s mental toughness that serves as the backbone for goalies to keep their heads in the game. Being mentally sound plays such a huge role in our overall successes athletically. We train for hours, endlessly to prepare our bodies for competition. We work to improve our stamina, speed, reaction, power, the list goes on and on. However, it seems that even though our games are very “mental”, that side of training often gets overlooked.

Practicing mindfulness is one of the ways we can work on our mental toughness as athletes. A way we can train our minds to be stronger. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Mindfulness in athletics has gotten more and more attention in recent years. Some of the “greats” like LeBron James, Misty May-Treanor, and Kobe Bryant are all avid supporters of mindfulness and the positive effects it has had on their performance.

Mindful eating is an easy way to implement mindfulness subtly into our daily lives. Instead of scrolling through social media, news feeds, or whatever else on your phone, try to just eat. Bring your attention to the smells, tastes, and textures of your food; notice the color, the smell that emits when you bite in, all of the tastes that come and go as you chew. Take a moment to appreciate the meal you have in front of you and be grateful. Mindful eating is just one way to implement mindfulness. Mindful walking, mindful showering, yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are all ways to work on bringing mindfulness practices into your life. I have personally found that mindful walking, mindful photography, and yoga work the best for me. Just keep trying until you find what fits you the best. Incorporating mindfulness practices into your life will help you stay focused, improve resilience, better cope and adapt to adversity, boost your confidence, increase the connection between your mind and body, and improve your ability to understand and control thoughts and emotions, all of which inevitably will give you a competitive edge. I urge you to try to implement mindfulness into your daily routine, whether it be 10 minutes of meditation to start your mornings or yoga or just mindfully listening to others. Try to hold yourself accountable the same way you would for lifts, runs, or extra reps at the field and you will being noticing the difference in your play, as well as your overall quality of life.

Kaitlyn Kimball
Epoch Women Author

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