Meditation is not only for the yogis. Increasing your focus also pays dividends for runners and other types of athletes. Recent research shows that cyclists who had been participating in a sports-specific meditation program gained positive changes in their brains to respond to physical challenges. In another, young athletes reported that they felt more focused and better recovered after mindfulness training for three months.
There is a variety of programs that guide meditations: audio tracks which range from 1 to 45 minutes in length to increase listeners’ ability to focus on the present moment without judgment or anxiety.
Here’s a guide to five meditation apps that might help athletes, especially runners, get their heads in the games.
Headspace: For the runner who’s on trend
Free basics, subscription $12.95/month or $94.99/year; iOS, Android
Andy Puddicombe, the founder of this popular app, recently led Jimmy Fallon and the audience in The Tonight Show’s two-minute meditation. Before becoming a Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe studied sports science. Try climbing on his bandwagon and you will find a lot of options for athletes. There are up to 10-session sport “packs” which consist of daily 10-minute reflections, targeting about every phase of training, from pre-competition, post-performance analysis, to recovery and rehab. I’m sure that you will find the “training” module highly useful. With a combination of breathing exercises and clear explanations, it teaches you how to note your thoughts and then dismiss them so that you can stay focused during workouts. If you run with headphones, there is a meditation that you can use while running to keep your steps and mind free, light, and natural.
Pacifica: For the anxious runner
This app was designed by psychologists and based on cognitive behavioral therapy, a treatment which can relieve anxiety and stress. Despite the fact that it lacks an athlete-specific program, many of the brief audio exercises (mostly in less than 10 minutes) can easily be applied to a runner’s life. You can try “Positive Visualization” to record your own verbal affirmation and then the app will repeatedly play it back to you for a minute over a soothing soundscape, from ocean waves to a cello suite to city din.