When we watch amazing athletes like Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky dominate their sport, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else doing it better. But, performing better than those in the past is how humans evolve. World records are made to be broken, even if the margin between the older record and the new is in milliseconds. As records get closer to each other, athletes have to find new ways to push their performances forward and break through to dominate.
Mindfulness has been a major topic of discussion in Rio. Competitors like Tom Daley, Kerri Walsh Jennings, and Gabby Douglas have said they use mindfulness meditation in their training. When you are running against people with amazing raw talent like Usain Bolt, having your mind fully trained to perform at your best could be the key to winning and establishing new world records.
As you practice mindfulness, you learn to stop judging yourself and comparing yourself to others. This allows you to focus on your own performance and not be worried about the person in the lane next to you. When you excel to your personal best, you let go of the worry of winning. The ability to worry less about the outcome of your event could lead to a better performance and a world record.
Another aspect of mindfulness that can be used in sports training is its ability to build on stress resilience. Through mindfulness and meditation, you learn that the present is important but, it is also a passing moment. If you believe that your present pain is not going to last forever, you are more likely to force yourself to keep going and perform at a higher level. As Richard Keegan, an assistant professor in Sports and Exercise Psychology from the University of Canberra stated in the Huffington Post, when talking about pain and fatigue during sports, “The muscle can still function perfectly safely, it’s the brain that’s exhausted” (Cayla Dengate, Huffington Post Australia).
For now, 21 world records have been broken in Rio. In 2012, the total number of newly established world records was 32. As we head into the final days of the games, we will find out if the adoption of mindfulness in sports training leads to more broken records. We think it will.