Here are 5 key factors for athletes to consider if truly seeking to optimize their level of performance and create this balance of body and mind.
1) Recovery – Recovery simply means to treat one’s body with respect. It is the acknowledgement of the fact that every cell that supports the complexity of human physiology is often being stressed out and abused for the sake of achieving greatness and MUST HAVE the ability to return to a balanced state if it is expected to integrate the new information it is learning and apply it so it may adapt and change.
The term recovery, despite years and years of growth as a distinct subsidiary of the athletic performance enhancement industry, is still battling for significance in the lives of most athletes. The song bolder, faster, stronger certainly didn’t help it out. Nonetheless, the increased number of injuries as well as the complexity of modern-day sports injuries is indirectly making the case for the need for athletes to change their relationship with recovery. Whether is active recovery (ex. post-workout flexibility work or soft tissue mobilization techniques), tech-assisted recovery (hot/cold massage guns, compression sleeves, vibration platforms etc.) or passive recovery (breathing exercises, meditation etc.), they all can be significantly impactful in allowing the body to achieve homeostasis while simultaneously providing key physiological benefits for the athlete. The idea that watching Netflix or scrolling through your Instagram feed in between workouts qualifies as recovery must be rendered obsolete.
2) Present Moment Awareness – Present moment awareness is the ability to stay in the moment by cultivating the ability to let thoughts move in and out of consciousness without identifying with them or “getting lost” in them. Given most athletes spend a lot of time dwelling on the failures of past performances or anticipating what may or may not occur in future performances, this skill provides an area of quietude that can enable them to be more aware of their movements and the movements of those players around them, more intuitive in their decision-making, and more capable of entering “the zone” they so often seek to gain entry into. It is often the case that cultivating present moment awareness can be done effectively through breathing exercises, which offers tremendous secondary benefits for the cardiopulmonary system.