We are addressing performance in the sport of fitness – maximizing your potential, recording your best time, or executing challenging skills and lifts.
Long before the workout begins, meditation sets you up for higher performance.
One example of this is in creating visions of success, planning and envisioning a specific workout or movement, envisioning yourself succeeding by your own standards, engaging from a place of positivity and strength. To take action on this, all you need to do is close your eyes, take a deep breath, and create such visions. And any time you practice visualization, you are practicing a form of meditation.
A more in-depth approach involves building the neural networks for meditative skills to access during the workout, skills such as relaxing your breathing and calming your nervous system as well as heightening the sensing and awareness of your body. To take action on this, develop your own meditation practice with any amount of meditation. Get specific. Start with a small commitment, and build from there. Initially, simply practice relaxing and tuning in to your breathing and the space your body occupies.
In the warm-up, meditation can help you enter an ideal state for performance: a meditative state of relaxed readiness, focused and alert, energy flowing clearly, lightness of being and lightness afoot, combined with indomitable will and continued positive thoughts and visions for what is about to take place. To take action on this, spend a couple of minutes during your warm-ups to practice entering your own ideal state for performance.
During the workout, nurturing a meditative state can help you to lean in to the challenge, manage your energy, and better execute skills and lifts. With greater presence and pure intention, you can push harder and recover more quickly from muscle fatigue and windedness. You move through the workout with the intention and focus in your gaze and the purpose of your movement.
Meditation also involves sensing, feeling, and observing all the subtleties going on within you, sensing the space your body occupies. This translates to better proprioception in the movement of your body, sensing your body moving through space.
Another aspect involves entering a parasympathetic state, tapping into your autonomic nervous system: your breathing, heart rate, cells, and signals being sent throughout your body. It is like overriding your systems and connecting with every cell.
The more you can feel and the more you can tap into your nervous system, the better your performance.
To take action on this, nurture a meditative state throughout your workouts. Find a greater presence within yourself. Take deep relaxing breaths, practice finding an inner calm while exerting yourself physically, and use any rest periods as meditative rest.
After the workout, upon cooling down, stretching and mobilizing, meditation can immediately help with recovery by calming your nervous system after it has been taxed and fired up. Deep meditation has many similar benefits of sleep. This recovery time is also where you can set positive intentions for better recovery. The simple thought and intention that your body is recovering well can be powerful. This is also where you can set other positive intentions such as eating, sleeping, and hydrating well. To take action on this, spend 5 to 15 minutes after the workout in meditation. Enjoy the precious moments after exertion and observe the results.
These are some simple and broad brush strokes on how meditation can help you reach higher performance.
Until next time, surrender and embrace the challenge, and continue to rise to a higher state.
(post inspired by the new book, Meditative Fitness: The Art and Practice of the Workout, available 12/29/2015)