This is a multi-part series on applying mindfulness to athletics or performance-related activity. We’ll track each series here with a bookmark. For now, welcome to series 1: the Drop-In.
The drop-in. Think about bringing yourself into the moment. Athletes do it in different versions, with team announcements in the NBA, team run outs in the NFL, walkout songs in the UFC, on and on. What is your trigger to enter the stadium. More pointedly, what is your mental queue to say this is the time to focus in and bring your best. Introspection and observation are the two things here that bring you into the existing moment. Both are essential to high performance in almost any sport or performance related activity. Ironically, the easiest analogy comes from a sport that wasn’t even consider a sport as of the late 1900’s: skateboarding. Dropping in as it relates to skateboard involves going from the standing on the edge of the point of a ramp to going with speed down the ramp. It involves confidence, practice and commitment.
More importantly though, it’s a place of familiarity with a healthy curiousity. Picture Michael Jordan before game 7 of the finals, waiting to walk out to his home crowd. Sirius, from the Alan Parsons Project playing to the Chicago Crowd. He’s dropping in. He’s tuning into the moment, taking it in, and defining what the next 120 minutes of basketball will look like, and define a piece of his legacy. He’s well aware of all that, and also exactly where he is in that moment.
Physical cues can orient your mind to drop-in before an activity. You could be a hockey player lacing up your skates, taking everything in from what you are doing with the laces to the sounds going on around you.
It could also be a new physical cue that you make up. Let’s say you usually have 45 minutes to take a run in your neighborhood. It’s that moment right after you’ve fed the kids breakfast, your husband hasn’t gone to work yet and you know you have a quick window to get in that run. So you lace up your sneakers, throw on some tunes and sprint out the door. Off you go for a nice 45 minute run. Your mind is swirling, and it takes the better part of 10 minutes for you to realize that a.) you went out too fast and b.) it’s actually a really nice day out. What if instead of running out the door, you stole 5 minutes out of your 45 to mindfully lace up your shoes on the front steps, take in the fresh air, and then take a brief walk to ease into your run. Taking in the moment, being mindful of your feet hitting the ground, 1-2-1-2. That approach sets you up for a much better run.
You can also use this moment to re-commit to what you set out to do. Sometimes we are best when we commit to a plan prior to doing. For example, tomorrow I am running 7 miles. 5 at half marathon pace. 1 warmup. 1 cool down. There is a prescriptiveness to that as well as a simplicity that makes it achievable. Better than saying I plan to run about 7 miles, if I can wake up, if it’s not too hot, if I feel hydrated, if my Achilles feels ok, if, if, if. Come up with a plan, commit, and then use the 5 minutes at the beginning of your activity or right before to recommit. The results will speak for themselves. You are your own boss.