Friday, 13 March 2009

Using your Mind-Body Skills for Improved Sports Training

Sport training, relaxation and visualisation are not usually considered important for the non-professional or non elite trainer or sports person. Yet have you considered that before every physical action you take, you probably visualise it, feel it in your body and most likely have some inner dialogue about it?
I'm no expert on you but if you're a healthy human being you will likely notice one, even all three of these inner functions.
Which leads me to ask: what of your mental and emotional skills in preparing for sport or exercising? This article reveals some techniques to enhance and balance the quality of your training preparation and performance.

I'm going to introduce a series of mind-body conditioning tools for you. They begin with preparation before your training or exercise and lead into you performing your exercise itself - in this example running. They will help you build a new awareness of yourself through meditation and transfer this to your body movement and attitude when training.

The first goal is for you to build a clearer sense of your form and perception and beauty of movement.
The second goal is for to either achieve more optimal performance, overall fitness or greater enjoyment and appreciation of your activity.
Furthermore, you will hopefully enjoy greater skills in visualising or imagining new possibilities and achievements.

For the purposes of this article I used running as my exercise as it's very popular and practised by many sport and exercise enthusiasts. Yes, I practised the following suggestions myself. You can use these techniques with many types of exercise. I've also used them with body weight exercises like burpees. Practice the techniques yourself to discover if they give you new limits of mental and physical fitness. Let me know your discoveries.

1. Breathing and Awareness Meditation
  • Sit down comfortably, relax and close your eyes.
  • Breathe normally through your nose.
  • Notice the sensations of the breath upon the tips of your nostrils.
(I highly recommend you sit and enjoy this meditation at many other times as well for general calm and well being).
  • Be aware of this sensation for 2 to 5 minutes. Build this from 2 minutes to whatever length of time is good for you. Remain relaxed and focus upon the breath on your nostril tips.
  • Afterwards you should be in a calm, relaxed or altered state from when you first sat down. Be aware of what you are experiencing in this new state. Then move on to the following.

2. Movement
  • Remaining in this new state, stand up and move around, gradually building up a greater range of movement.
  • Remember to stay or return to this state during these movements.
  • When you feel ready, begin slowly running. Notice what this feels like.
  • Return to the state when you are ready to go for a normal run and notice what the differences are between this and your other runs.

The next suggestion is to be performed on a different training session from the one above.

3. Vivid Visualisation
  • Vividly imagine your body being light and durable.
  • Maybe your body is filled with a substance that represents those attributes to you.
  • Clearly imagine what it feels like, what colours are associated with it and any sounds.
  • Carry this visualisation into your next run.
  • Notice if the differences are beneficial and produce improved running style and stamina.
I'd also recommend only running when you feel the 'light' effects of this visualisation are present. This will help you strongly associate the feelings with the running.

The next suggestion is to be performed at a different training session from the one above.

4. Focused Awareness and your Dynamic Imagination
  • Begin by sitting down and meditating on the sensation of the breath upon your nostrils for 2 - 5 minutes.
  • Immediately after, in as much detail as you can, imagine a quiet, bright, outdoor space where you can clearly see any objects or movement.
  • See a human figure running towards you in the distance. This is your perfect runner. It has the perfect injury free running style, it has stamina, agility and is obviously enjoying the run.
  • Importantly, it has knowledge to share with you. Observe how it runs.
  • As it closely approaches you, join it in the run. See yourself running with this figure or you may merge with it.
  • When this experience is vivid, get up and begin running for real.
Alternatively, only run when this experience of the perfect runner is most clear in your mind.

Above, I've given you 4 steps to explore exercising through your mind-body connection. I want you to enjoy this and find the different ways you can connect your 'inner skills' to your training or sporting performance. You may be searching for optimal performance, increased overall fitness or greater enjoyment of your activity. Whichever it is, I hope you find something very useful in these techniques. I'm sure you will at least have a greater skill in entering useful altered states for your well being and relaxation. That alone is a wonderful achievement.

I currently exercise regularly in a non-competitive style. Which means exercising in solitary style through short distance runs, sprinting, body weight workouts using intervals and Tabata sessions. I enjoy it. It's varied, demanding and short. I rarely exercise for more than 45 minutes. I have enjoyed playing squash and now live in an area with no squash facilities for many miles around. Boohoo.

Let me know your discoveries.

Thanks for reading


  1. through meditation you can improve your mood, helps your blood circulate normally and alleviate tensions..

  2. Hiya

    thanks for your comment. there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this and growing scientific support too. It certainly does wonders for me!