Benefit of Sports on Your Mind
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I assumed that playing sports well was purely about physical prowess. I looked at footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo, boxers like Floyd Mayweather and cricketers such as Virat Kohli and only one thing came into my mind; pure physical strength.
So when I first started taking sports seriously, I hit the gym thinking lifting weights and doing pushups are going to be what brings my game to the next level. It wasn’t long until I realised that I couldn’t be more wrong; while the extra stamina and fitness did help, what I actually lacked was the mental strength and endurance to last a whole football game.
Then I had a eureka moment; I realized that the athletic heroes I looked up to have one major thing in common - Mental Fitness. This was re-emphasised when I started noticing that all those athletes were giving interviews on how Mental Strength is really important, such as this interview given by Ronaldo on the importance of mental strength.
So I have set out to find out more about how this works and why our Mental Fitness is as important as our physical prowess.
Benefit of Sports
Firstly, participating in sports has so many benefits. They improve your overall health, they foster a sense of community and they make you feel good in yourself. You might appreciate sports because it allows you to spend time with your pals. Perhaps you enjoy sports because they keep you fit. Sports are also beneficial to your mental wellness, and can make you feel happier or less stressed. Sports can help you relax your mind, strengthen your muscles, and improve your general health.
It is simple to begin participating in sports and reaping these benefits in your life. When you exercise, your brain produces hormones that make you feel happier and more calm. Participating in a team or group sport also provides the extra benefit of pleasant social contact.
It's evident that sports benefit us physically and mentally, but, have you ever thought about how a strong mentality can also benefit sports performance?
The Link Between Athletes Mental Fitness and Their Performance
Negative psychological variables can cause mental blocks, resulting in gaps in focus and preparation, poor performance, and, in some cases, athlete injury. They can even result in bodily reactions such as muscle tightness, tremors, and increased perspiration. Some of these in turn can result in increased chance of injury.
However, positive psychology gives athletes an edge over their fellow competitors. Athletes can see an improvement in running times, better anxiety management, higher confidence and can even help you to avoid injuries. Overall, a fit mind enhances your performances. Rocio Pomares, head of High-Performance Psychology of Barcelona Football Club mentioned that emotional stability, inner force, adaptation ability and competitive development are one of the key physiological factors that affect athlete performance.
Perhaps, this is why FC Barcelona provided the world with one of the best football players to have ever lived - Lionel Messi. Barcelona gives great importance to Mental Fitness, and the results speak for themselves. They have won every trophy, multiple times, so something’s working for them.
It is not just clubs that engage in such training for there are many top athletes that engage in personal mental training. Some examples are, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan who worked with renowned “Mindfulness Meditation Coach,” George Mumford throughout their careers. Nick Faldo worked with sports psychologist Richard Coop for years, and it clearly paid off with 39 professional wins, 30 victories on the European Tour, and six major championships.
Sports Role in Managing Depression and Stress
When you're engaged in an enjoyable physical exercise or team sport, you may become completely diverted from the stresses and hardships of daily life. This brief break from stress can assist you avoid becoming engulfed by negative thoughts. When you exercise, your body creates endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that can help you deal with stress and despair. Endorphins are responsible for leaving you feeling energized, calm, and optimistic after a successful workout.
Once you start feeling energized and calm, you automatically filter out negative thoughts in your mind. I used to be worried about my grades, personal life and many similar common concerns. But when I started exercising my mind as well as my body, I felt like I could control my thoughts and emotions better and by the time I'm done with it, my body and mind feel amazing.
This was something that helped me get through many hardships in life. As the saying goes, “Once you step onto the field, you forget all your worries”. Not once have I felt stressed about personal life problems when I stepped onto the football field with my friends and teammates. It truly feels magical.
The best part is that this benefit applies to active persons of all ages. Teens who participate in sports have lower levels of melancholy and stress, as well as better mental health, according to research.
How I integrated Mental Fitness into my workout Regime:
Often my mind would go blank during games when I held on to the ball and I always would end up misplacing a pass or giving away possession. I was frustrated at myself because I don't make such mistakes in training.
Once I realised that this is not a skill problem, but a mental one, I started experimenting what worked for me and what calmed my nerves the best, and finally discovered the beauty of deep breathing exercises. I started off by incorporating some deep breathing exercises before my big football games and I genuinely could see myself a lot more aware of my surroundings in a football game. I also started to take care of my sleep routine to ensure I had sufficient sleep before big games.
At this point, I learnt that one of the most important things for athletes is getting sufficient sleep. In this day and age, so many of us are going to bed late and waking up early because we either can't fall asleep or we are up having some “me time”. If you are struggling with getting good sleep, you should read our article on sleep tips that ACTUALLY work!
How I looked at sports to how I see sports now is completely different. I always tell my teammates and friends to take care of themselves mentally, and their minds would take care of them on the field. Focusing on myself mentally has been one of the best decisions of my life, and it not only helps me in sports, but in every single aspect of my life.
How You Can Integrate This Into Your Life
I hope this has helped you realise that sports are far from just being physical. Training yourself mentally is going to take your game to the next level. Why not try a short meditation before a big game, or some deep breathing exercises the next time you partake in sports. These are exercises that can help you calm down and control your breathing. It will leave you feeling more focused and get you “in the zone”. Check out the resources that are available in the Evexia Mental Fitness app to get started: