Training to focus on building mental muscles in athletes. Multiple studies in sports medicine have concluded that mindfulness exercises can improve athlete performance. One month after players had training in a mindfulness-acceptance-commitment approach or MAC, their problems had decreased compared to players receiving more traditional psychological training. These studies also warn that mindfulness training doesnâ€™t work the same way for everyone. Studies suggest that mindfulness exercises can distress some people by bringing up past trauma.
The researchers wanted to know if mindfulness training would improve the playersâ€™ performance and sense of well-being. With buy-in from the schoolâ€™s athletic director and lacrosse coach, Researchers led the players through six weeks of mindfulness training before one seasonâ€™s play. They then had monthly follow-ups over several more seasons.
They started with stationary meditations. These focused on breathing and self-compassion. Then they moved on to mindful yoga and walking. They ended with throwing and catching exercises. In groups, these players also talked about what theyâ€™d learned. They described how they used this new training to let go of mistakes.
Their coach reported that the players who took part seemed more focused on the second-to-second decisions. They no longer dwelled on things that had gone wrong.
In surveys, players later reported feeling that they could more easily be in the zone after the mindfulness training. The researchers wrote in 2019 in the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action players also reported feeling less anxious.
The findings reinforce results from a study on attention in Florida with the University of Miami football team during pre-season training.
Florida researchers measured the playersâ€™ focus before and after mindfulness training. Researchers divided the players into two groups. One worked through a four-week training with mindfulness meditations. The other received four weeks of relaxation exercises. Exercises focused on bringing attention back to the present moment whenever the mind strayed. Relaxation exercises focused on relieving tension without focusing cues.
After Hurricanes pre-season training was completed, tests were conducted to assess the impact. Researchers concluded that the longer the University of Miami Hurricanes practiced mindfulness, the less their ability to pay attention dropped during a period of intense physical training.
Word of Caution
Mindfulness training doesnâ€™t work the same way for everyone. Studies suggest that mindfulness exercises can distress some people by bringing up past trauma.