On the question of mental practice, meditation and athletic training: I noted yesterday that the great Olympic star Michael Phelps was seen as a child who lacked the necessary focus to 3rd grade academic tasks. With that in mind, much made of the fact that Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD and it was the practice of lane swimming that helped him “channel” his all over the map energy.
I won’t debate the cultural psychology or politics of the ADHD diagnosis, but its safe to say that in listening to Phelps speak about his own training methods, we hear the mantra “focus, focus, focus.” Dedicated goal setting, avoiding negative mental chatter, and being with the very moment of his action (a.k.a. the ole Ram Dass mantra “Be Here Now”) — this is the stuff of Olympic athletic mental training.
We also learn that Phelps has the gift of maintaining a relaxed state before a meet and there’s talk that he produces less lactic acid build up in his muscles that most athletes. No doubt, there are many online (yours truly included) who are curious to comb through the details of Phelps Olympic genius.
And what can we learn from this athletic genius? Mental training of Olympic athletes has long been of interested to sports trainers, kinesiologists and sport psychologists but more to the point: Phelps’s own minimalist theory (“Set a goal. Focus only on that goal”) insinuates the brain technology involved in peak body performance. Sports psychologist Steve Ungerleider offers a somanautic perspective culled from years of researching Olympic athlete training::
From his 1996/2005 book MENTAL TRAINING FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE:
Breath, Meditation and Forming Mental Snapshots are two of the four mental practice traits shared amongst Olympic athletes. (The other two being building confidence by means of positive self-talk and learning to use relaxation to cool down and revvv up!) Yep, taking time to find the natural rhythm of ordinary breathing and picturing the goal — using your imagination to see the goal accomplished — even visualizing all of the steps in getting to the goal — the power of creating a mental “snapshot” cannot be under-estimated by anyone engaged in sport or movement training.
Here then are glorious mind/brain/body fruits for digesting: Those fascinated by the challenge of peak performance, be you swimmer, biker, dancer, designer, entrepreneur, corporate leader or yogic journey woman/man of health, fitness and well-being, the kernel of Olympic truth seems to lie in the story told by those who have imagined and accomplished their goals:
SpaceSuit Yoga/Olympic Mantra:
Make a goal.
Focus on the Goal.
Breath into the orchestrated unity of Mind/Body/Brain.
Visualize the Goal.
Feel into the Goal.
Be the Goal.
The vast frontier of mental practice is before us — with neuroscience unlocking the neuronal mysteries of the brain/body mapping, and showing the neural networking engaged by meditation, guided imagery and right brain talents like mental practice visualization — students, parents, teachers, coaches, thought leaders and all those seeking the 21 century path of enlightenment are bound to reap the benefits!
May the Breath Be With You!