Empowering Athletes for a Life Without Limits

Our tendency to ruminate on the past and worry about the future is something our minds are programmed to do. Evolutionarily speaking, we always have a base level of anxiety to prepare us for dangers that may come, or we hold on to dangerous experiences so that we can increase our chances of future survival.

However, in today's day and age we do not encounter the same types of danger our ancestors did when hunting for their food and seeking shelter on a daily basis. And yet, that does not stop our minds from perceiving modern anxiety provoking situations in the same way.

Anxiety around how we will perform in today's race or how our teammates, coaches, or opponents perceive our ability to contribute to the sport (and therefore helps us feel we belong) are just as real as our ancestor’s anxiety about a bear coming to attack them in the woods while they gathered berries.
Having anxiety and worries about the past and future of our modern lives does not mean we cannot train our minds to worry less and therefore experience less anxiety. Living in the present moment is a tool everyone has access to but not many people may know how to use it.

What PMF is and what it is NOT.

β€œTime isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time β€” past and future β€” the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Present moment focus (PMF) or mindfulness has been taught in many different ways and for that reason many people may have a misconception of it. Mindfulness is not necessarily the same as meditation, yoga, or part of a religion. Mindfulness will not clear your mind from thoughts or emotions. It is not a means to relax or help you to fall asleep (even if it is a beneficial secondary effect). Mindfulness will most likely not make you levitate either…

Present moment focus is the intentional awareness of what is happening in the β€œhere and now”. This awareness of the thoughts and emotions coming up from any experience, without judgement or attempt at changing it, is what mindfulness is all about.

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully immersed in the task at hand and noticing when the mind begins to wander. Once you train your mind to catch the distraction you can use mental skills to bring it back without getting frustrated or dysregulated about said distraction. Acceptance and self-love are necessary to put all of your attention on the present moment and not go down a spiral of negativity and frustration.

One way of grounding yourself to the present moment when you notice you are distracted can be to invoke your 5 senses. As you are running you can ask yourself, what is one thing I can see, one thing I can hear, one thing I can feel, one thing I can smell, one thing I can taste.

This way you are able to get out of your head and into your body!

Anna Cockrell practicing mindfulness at the start of a track race

Challenges of staying present.

Now, staying present and regulated may sound easier said than done. There are several obstacles that are beneficial to know about so that you are not caught off guard when practicing mindfulness.

  • Uncertainty: Not knowing what will happen in the future creates a sense of fear of what may come. When you get stuck feeling anxious about the future it makes it harder to remain in the present and be able to do anything about it.
  • Rumination: Playing back the things that have happened to you over and over again traps you in a worry loop that may affect both your mental health and your physical health, as well.
  • The Wandering Mind: When practicing mindfulness it is common for your mind to begin wandering and thinking about any little distraction happening around you. Not only do these distractions make it difficult to practice being in the moment but it also creates frustration that then takes you off track from your mindfulness practice.
  • Putting in the Work: Many times, learning about mindfulness training motivates us to want to get started! But soon we realize the physical side takes up most of our time. Commitment to do the work outside of sessions can be difficult, but just like training to master a physical skill takes time and effort, so does mindfulness.
  • Technology: Although technology has many benefits, some say our phones are like our β€œadult pacifiers”. We tend to use them if we are bored, sad, or in an uncomfortable situation. If used maladaptively, technology allows us to avoid whatever feelings are happening in the moment and distract us from the present moment.

I do want to note, however, that many of these challenges to PMF can also be done in a healthy and helpful manner. For example, ruminating can be hazardous to our performance and mental health, meanwhile, reflecting on your performance and thinking back to what went well and what needs improvement is very beneficial and promotes a growth mindset.

How can PMF benefit your life both in and out of sport?

Now that we have learned a little bit about what PMF is, what it is not, and some challenges around mastering it, let’s talk about how it can benefit us as athletes and in our everyday life.

Mindfulness is not simply a life hack or popular lifestyle trend right now. Mindfulness has good research behind it that shows how it can help reduce anxiety, cope with strong emotions like fear and anger, and enjoy life and sport by reducing stress in both.

During your performance, PMF can help you not only focus on the task at hand but be able to refocus when you become distracted. Instead of burning out your mental capacity during a performance by straining your focus (especially during long cross country races), PMF allows you to dial in your attention as needed. When you feel like things are happening too quickly and you are feeling overwhelmed, mindfulness can help you slow things down and catch the important cues that will help you be successful in your performance


I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the importance of living in the present moment and how it can benefit you and your performance.

I want to highlight that being mindful is simple. Cultivating mindfulness as a skill to help you live a healthier life and enjoy your sport more takes practice and commitment. However, taking a moment to be aware of what you are feeling at any time is easy - like right now! You just have to do it with purpose, on purpose.


If you are interested in learning more about HOW to build on your mindfulness practice, please click here to schedule a free 15 minute consultation. We look forward to helping you gain the tools necessary to become more aware of your everyday life, moment by moment.

Use discount code TPP25DISC for 25% off any package with The Performance Pursuit.

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