There I was: in the middle of a soccer game, right by the goal, waiting for the cross. And just like I had imagined, the perfect cross came through. I imagined myself channeling my inner Zlatan and performing a graceful volley and scoring. My body did not see it the same way, though; much to my dismay, I ended up with a pulled hamstring instead of that perfect goal.
I know that I am not the only athlete to whom this or something similar has happened. Now, as a mental strength coach, I have a much clearer idea of what exactly happened and what to do about it. As mentioned in my last article, one of the first steps to becoming more mentally strong is to become more fully aware. There are many forms of awareness: awareness of your mind, thoughts, feelings and emotions, actions and reactions. Awareness of your sport means knowing your skill level, the terms of your sport, and even the rules of the game. But one of the easiest and most important things to be aware of is your body.
What is body awareness?
Body awareness involves having a keen sense of your body’s strengths and weaknesses. Being aware of your body includes knowing your limits and how far you can push them. Do you have enough flexibility to kick that ball in the air? Can you run the extra mile (literally)? Can you lift the bar with the added 30 lbs? Can your body handle being in a racecar for 6 hours? Having this type of awareness is key to enhancing performance, especially for elite-level athletes.
How does it help performance?
Increasing body awareness can benefit your performance in several ways:
- It helps you structure your training or workouts more efficiently.
- It focuses your attention on taking advantage of your strengths, and improving your weaknesses. In my case, it can save you from embarrassment.
- It allows you to optimize your technique. This is VERY important, especially in elite sports, where 1 mm or a tenth of a second can be the difference between winning and losing.
- It aids in preventing injuries. Body awareness ensures that you have the correct form, that you are doing the movements or actions in a safe way, and that you are prepared for how your body will react to certain movements.
Awareness, like any other mental skill, is just that: a skill. This means that you can train, develop, and improve it.
Ways to build your body awareness:
- Yoga and stretching routines – These practices help to reveal your own limits, both mental and physical. Showing you what your body feels like in certain positions, and how much control you can have over it.
- Massage and Assisted stretching – These modalities will show you where your body holds tension and stress. Both should be considered part of a comprehensive health and wellness program.
- Fitness classes – Find what your physical and mental strengths and weaknesses are; as well as what do and do not enjoy.
- Visualization – Use your mind to learn what your body looks, and feels like in different ways.It can also assist in healing and relaxing the body
Resources – Free guide to teach you about visualization and awareness. Bonus gift included.
A note on injuries
Injuries, though painful and inconvenient, can teach us a lot of valuable lessons. Having an injury essentially pushes you to become aware of how your body acts and reacts. This could be by having to sleep on one side because of your injured hip, or having to use your non- dominant hand to do simple actions like brushing your teeth. Along with everyday movements, the recovery from injury and physical therapy involved will also give you a greater knowledge of your body’s strengths and weaknesses. So, in the unfortunate event that you do experience an injury, use it as a way to improve your mental strength through awareness.
If you are looking to increase your performance, improve focus, or prevent future injuries, developing your body awareness can be a great tool to take your game to the next level. If you want more information or advice, follow this link and reach out to us to schedule a FREE 30 minute consultation. Until then, stay aware!
Yours in mental and physical health