Meditation has proven its worth and we now know its benefits (sport included). Find out more here!
Sport and meditation
Research has shown the wide-ranging benefits of meditation on stress, anxiety and well-being. Meditation also helps with training, whether by optimizing mental preparation before a competition or by aiding post-exercise recovery!
Do you feel like everyone is into meditation? Well, you’re not alone. Meditation is all the rage, with a host of apps available and experts extolling its virtues. There’s also growing talk about its value in sport. The holistic approach, where you look after both your body and mind, is already popular with many star athletes. If it works for tennis player Bianca Andreescu, will it work for us too? We find out with Christiana Bédard-Thom, a mental preparation consultant in the sporting world.
The benefits of meditation
We constantly hear that meditation helps us to be more aware of our inner self, and that its effects can extend to many areas of our lives. Meditation is for everyone, but it can especially help those who experience stress and anxiety, or struggle with sleep and concentration. These benefits are advantageous when it comes to sport. For example, visualization and breathing exercises allow athletes to reach a general state of calm before a competition or to push through the pain barrier (which is vital during a marathon, for example). Given that exercise is a form of stress for the body, especially when it’s intense, meditation can also aid recovery after a workout or boost motivation to return to training! How? By meditating, we learn to manage negative thoughts such as “I’m not getting anywhere, I may as well give up now!” and to improve our concentration and renew our enthusiasm. “It’s a different approach, because it’s based on the fact that you don’t need to have a certain kind of thought or emotion to perform well,” Bédard-Thom says.
While meditation is becoming more prevalent among athletes, it’s also a sign of a shift in mindset in the sporting world. In the past, athletes’ mental preparation was based on visualizing goals; but today, a form of meditation known as the “mindfulness” approach is gaining in popularity. This method involves focusing, without judgment, on our thoughts and sensations in the present moment without thinking about the past or the future. Through meditation, we unlock our emotions.
This mental preparation, which can range from a few minutes a day to a few times a week, can be equally beneficial for professional athletes and Sunday runners alike. “For athletes, meditation helps them to better manage pressure and stay in the moment,” says Bédard-Thom. “And in general, meditation among professional and non-professional athletes leads to improved performance and mental recovery, increased concentration and greater motivation.” No wonder current US Open women’s champion, Bianca Andreescu, swears by meditation. Even LeBron James and Novak Djokovic admit to being avid practitioners! As for you and me, meditation can help us put less emphasis on performance and cut ourselves a bit of slack!
Where to start
Meditation isn’t something to be forced; the idea is to start slowly. “My advice to beginners is to start by sitting down and observing. With practice, you will achieve a state of calmness be able to settle down more easily,” explains Christiana. She suggests using meditation apps at first to achieve the desired mindset. There are even guided meditations specifically designed for sporty types! With some practice, you will soon be meditating on your own. During your training session, you could save the last few minutes after stretching for a meditation session. The effects will be felt almost immediately: better sleep, less stress, less anxiety, and, above all, greater general calm. Happy meditating!