Training Tip of the Week: Meditation Practice

Welcome to the “Training Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore every month with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Training Tips of the Month are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s training tip of the week series is centered around Mental Training. The mind is an incredibly powerful force in any part of your life, and more and more swimmers and coaches are realizing the huge benefit that working on the mental approach to practices and competitions can have.

This week will build on last week’s article about mindfulness, focusing on meditation practice. Meditation is a useful mental tool for athletes for many reasons, from reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep quality, and ultimately more frequently put yourself in a frame of mind to focus on what is relevant in the present moment.

Getting In Meditative State Of Mind…

Getting in a meditative state of mind is essentially the same as being mindful, but is more of a regular, deliberate practice. If you haven’t read about mindfulness, go back and do that now as it will help you understand what it means to get in a meditative state.

Meditation is essentially an extended period of time (think anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes) to slow down and sort through your thoughts. Start with slow and deliberate breathing, keeping your focus on your breath and acknowledging (but not dwelling on) any thoughts that float through your head.

Practicing Meditation…

The biggest thing to find with meditation is to figure out how you can make it a regular routine. While it is a deliberate practice and should be done regularly to have the most impact, you don’t need to be sitting cross-legged for hours on end to get the benefits of meditation.

Start by finding a time of day that works for you (often first thing in the morning or right before bed work best) and just try a few minutes of deep, focused breathing. As this becomes more of a habit, you can start working this in before competitions to center your thoughts on what is relevant for the moment (and for your race).

Research has shown that regular practice can improve focus, recovery, and even performance, giving athletes more direction not only within the realm of their sport but in all areas of their life.

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

 

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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