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5 Easy Mindfulness Activities to Boost Athletic Performance

Your athletic performance depends on many factors, including physical fitness, mental strength, and emotional balance. Mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, can be a powerful tool for enhancing overall performance and unlocking your full potential. Cultivating mindfulness allows athletes like you to improve focus, reduce stress levels, and enhance resilience in the face of challenges. 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — George Mumford

Here are five easy mindfulness activities that athletes can incorporate into their training routine to boost their performance.

1. Mindful breathing

Breathing is one of the most fundamental aspects of life — and crucial to any sport — yet it is often taken for granted! Mindful breathing is a simple yet powerful mindfulness practice that involves paying attention to the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the body. This practice helps with stilling the mind, boosting your focus, and reducing performance anxiety.

To practice mindful breathing, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and focus on your breath as it moves in and out of the body. Always bring your attention back to the breath. It’s common to place your hands on your belly to feel the rise and fall of your stomach as you breathe in deep. A simple place to start is the Box Breathing method. Inhale for four seconds, hold at the top for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold at the bottom for four seconds, repeat.

Practice mindful breathing for a few minutes at a time throughout the day, or incorporate it into your warm-up or cool-down routines. This will create more space during game time and allow you to take a moment, find control under pressure, and get into the headspace of just doing, not thinking.

2. Body scan meditation

The body scan meditation involves systematically scanning the body from head to toe, paying attention to the sensations in each part of the body. This practice can help athletes to develop greater body awareness, reduce tension and stress, and improve their ability to relax and recover after exercise, all of which will benefit overall performance.

To practice the body scan meditation, find a quiet and comfortable place to lie down. Close your eyes and focus your attention on the sensations in your body. Starting at the top of the head and systematically scan down through the body.

This is a helpful, 10-minute body scan for athletes to get you started.

The body scan meditation is ideal for after a workout or before bed. The more you know and are intune with your body, the better you’ll be for both grinding and performing.

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3. Mindful walking

Mindful walking involves paying attention to the sensations of walking. This is another tool similar to the body scan and mindful breathing that can help you focus up, calm down, and enhance your overall mental resilience, which translates to performance resilience.

To practice mindful walking, find a quiet and peaceful place, such as a park or mellow trail. Then, focus your attention on what you’re experiencing, paying attention to the movement of your feet, the rhythm of your breath, and the sights and sounds of the environment. It’s easy for your mind to wander, especially at first. If it does, gently bring your attention back to walking.

If you’ve been working on our Law of Rest Days, adding mindful walking into your week is a triple win involving rest, recovery, and mindfulness!

4. Mindful visualization

Mindful visualization is a mindfulness practice that involves imagining a positive outcome and focusing on the sensations and emotions associated with that outcome. This practice can help athletes to develop greater confidence, reduce anxiety and fear around performance, and enhance their ability to perform under pressure. It has been well studied in sport and performance psychology, and we’ve written about it before in other blog posts like this one.

To practice mindful visualization, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down. Then imagine a positive outcome, such as winning a race, hitting the perfect shot, or achieving a personal best. Try to feel the sensations and emotions associated with that outcome, such as the euphoria of success, the joy of accomplishment, and the pride of achievement. Practice mindful visualization for a few minutes at a time, ideally before a workout or competition.

5. Mindful Eating

Finally, mindful eating involves paying attention to the sensations of eating, such as the taste, texture, and aroma of food, as well as the experience of hunger and fullness. This practice can help athletes to develop a healthier relationship with food, improve their digestion and nutrient absorption, and enhance their overall performance by becoming more familiar with their body and its needs. For more on why mindful eating is beneficial to athletes and for how to get started, make sure you check out our blog post that lays out all the basics. 

These are just five of many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your workout routine. Mindfulness can be a simple tool that accelerates your gains, inner peace, and lets you become your best self on and off the field. By starting with just five to ten minutes a day and ingraining mindfulness as a habit into your daily routine, you can unleash your full athletic potential and boost your athletic performance.

“The fact that we can be in a hostile environment with fans yelling and screaming and pressure situations and it having no effect on us because we were never too high, never too low. We were just in the moment and felt very secure in who we were. That was my introduction to meditation.” — Kobe Bryant

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