Whether you’re a professional cyclist or a weekend warrior, incorporating Mindfulness into your training program will help you develop the ability to stay focussed on the present moment as well as strengthen your mind-body connection.
Mindfulness is a disciplined practice that helps train the part of the brain that creates an alert and calm state of mind, which helps us to stay focussed on the present moment. It teaches you how to avoid distraction and how to perform at your best.
It is natural for any athlete to experience a heightened sense of awareness in a competitive situation. But the question is: Are you able to stay connected to the present moment, despite your racing heart and butterflies in your stomach? Or do you allow your mind to fill with thoughts of previous failures or worries about the outcome of the race? These thoughts create a stress response that makes it difficult for us to use the part of the brain that connects us to the present moment. We are unable to make good decisions, solve problems and stay composed, which makes us more prone to mistakes.
A certain degree of stress is normal, but for you to perform at your best you need to find a way to moderate that stress and to withstand internal and external distractions like fear and a loud crowd.
Mindfulness training teaches you to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. It also reveals how quickly your mind wonders away from the task – this reflects directly on your sports performance. It helps us to focus internally. We experience a heightened sense of awareness of our bodies. This allows us to pick up on physiological changes, like tense muscles easier, and gives us the opportunity to make adjustments accordingly before it influences your performance.
In Mindfulness practice breathing takes centre stage. Start with 2 to 3 minute a day. Focus on the sensation of your breath as it moves in and out of your body. If your mind wonders, gently guide it back to your breath. It’s about the awareness of the breath and not the breath itself. Your breath becomes a tool that anchors you in the present moment.
Staying present while cycling not only makes you more aware of what is happening within you, but also gives you a better awareness of your surroundings, which ultimately leads to an all-round better ride.
Article by Annelize Taljaard (Psychologist)