It’s no secret that a positive mindset can help promote positive behavior. If the action of merely thinking positive thoughts can improve our mood and daily life, could we apply the same approach to improve performance? Jump higher, run faster, nail the spear throw. Are they all a matter of connecting the mind to the action? Research into this field is ongoing and inconclusive. But ask any athlete practicing mindfulness and I guarantee that they use the practice as part of their training and race regimen.
The benefit comes from ones ability to train the mind to be as strong as, if not stronger than, the body. Unarguably all sports, including obstacle racing, have a mental component. Sometimes the difference between success and failure, or even just finishing a race, all comes down to the mental strength to persevere even when your body feels as though it wants to give up.
Mindfulness is a mental state of being aware of the present moment and the feelings associated with it. A mantra (originated in Hinduism and Buddhism) is the practice of repeating words or phrases which concentrate on a specific feeling or outcome. The goal is to create transformation through repetition. By incorporating mantras as a mental training to overcome fear, fatigue, and self-doubt, athletes can develop an ability to push through barriers of the mind while allowing the body to complete the task that it has trained for.
Despite consistent training, the conditions of a race (outside temperature, humidity, course elevation, and fierce competitors) may begin to break a Spartan down. Focusing on a mantra such as “Power through, it’s up to you” can help refocus energy. Instead of worrying about things we can’t change, we embrace positive self-talk to shift the focus back to our goals.
A study in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Research reviewed the use of Mindfulness Meditation Training for Sport (MMTS). A beneficial outcome of the study was the athlete’s ability to better mentally prepare for competition. Athletes increased awareness of their emotions, were able to identify success and failure of past competitions, and use those components to develop strategy towards improvement. One such strategy was to develop mantras to promote positive outcomes during the next event. The athletes identified that the use of mantras to overcome past challenges placed the power back in their own hands, shifting focus to the desired outcome versus a repeated mistake.
Tony Robbins, billionaire entrepreneur and motivation speaker, has helped powerful athletes such as tennis player Serena Williams capture the power of the mind to overcome setbacks. Serena’s 2011 injury was devastating, knocking her from #1 to #172. By working with Tony on building a strong mindset and using mantras, Serena was able to overcome injury and come back stronger than before. His powerful mantra? “Where your focus goes, energy flows”.
Keys to developing a successful Mantra:
1. It has to speak to you. When you have the right mantra, you’ll know it. The words will resonate with your feelings towards the desired outcome.
2. Keep it short and sweet: The key to mantras is repetition. By keeping the mantra concise, you won’t have to expend effort to remember it and it will instead come to you in the moment you need it.
3. Have a back up ready and don’t forget to practice. The mantra that helps you remain calm at the start line of a race may not be the one that powers you up that hill 8 miles in. Practice different mantras throughout different times in training. When it’s race time, you’ll know which one to put to use at the exact moment you need to use it.
Still not convinced?
Check out what these top performing Spartans used as their mantras while competing in the Spartan World Championships in Tahoe.
Qualitative Study of MMTS: Coaches’ Experience A. Baltzell, K. Chipman, L.Hayden, C. Bowman
Journal of Multidisciplinary Research,Vol. 7, No. 3, Fall 2015,5-20.ISSN 1947-2900 (print) • ISSN 1947-2919 (online) Compilation Copyright © 2015 by St. Thomas University.
The Mindset of a Champion. (2017, June 29). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.tonyrobbins.com/mind-meaning/the-mindset-of-a-champion/