Meditation and Mindfulness

As soon as you walk in you hear the plates on the weight machines clanking together. Beads of sweat dropping to the floor from one workout bench to another. At the Canadian Sports Institute, just outside of Toronto, they mean business. Olympic and Paralympic level athletes are training hard all around us. As we set up for the interview, I spot Melissa Humana-Paredes still doing squats. The clock says we aren’t early. As soon as we’re done setting up she comes running over in her training clothes. On her way she dumps water all over her head for a quick shower then sits down.

Her vibrant personality is instantly apparent. We ask about her daily routine. She runs through it with ease and stresses how important it is to plan things out as an elite athlete. When asked about how she mentally prepares for her sport, she pauses as she reflects about her childhood.

“I actually started this when I was really young with my father and my brother. My dad used to be my coach for a long time. He would sit us down in the living room and for 30 seconds we would lite candles and turn off all the lights and we would just listen to his voice and focus on our breathing. He would say breathe in, breathe out. You’d feel the air go through your nostrils and out of your nostrils. Until we would really just key in on what he was saying. When I was younger I used to think it was so silly. I’d be like, “Dad this is so stupid. I feel so stupid doing this.” But then when I got older and more competitive and playing at a higher level, I noticed the huge benefits of that.”

Now she meditates without her dad.  For her, it’s just sitting in a dark room and focusing on her breathing. She says she uses phone apps and YouTube videos to help walk her through it. Depending on her schedule she might only do it for a minute or two but still recognizes how important her mental health is to her performance.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness has become more common in the athletic space. Athletes such as Lebron James meditate before and even during games to keep their minds sharp and clear for athletic performance.

A study done out of the University of Miami found that athletes who participated in a meditation group showed considerable mental resilience, improved attention spans and their mood was improved overall. Their data suggests that mental training is a key to improving on field performance. 

Finding time within an athlete’s schedule may seem like a challenge but the results can be worth it. For athlete’s such as Humana-Paredes it can be just a minute or two a day. Other people may prefer a longer practice. There are many resources out there to guide you through the meditation process, you just have to look! Discover some mental practices compatible to you, a quiet place and a few spare minutes to get started.

Game Change was founded in 2011 to serve and enhance the athlete development needs of major professional and elite sport organizations and athletes.  Game Change specializes in customized research and assessment services, the development of applied interventions and resources designed to provide long-term positive outcomes for organizations and individual athletes.  Game Change believes strongly in sport as a catalyst for societal change and adheres to the philosophy of ‘changing the world one athlete at a time’.