You may know meditation can reduce your risk of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even more serious conditions like heart attacks and strokes. It can also make you a better Spartan racer.
Meditating for as few as five minutes a day is a game-changer, reducing stress, improving sleep and focus, strengthening willpower and protecting you from anxiety and depression – even heart disease. Here are an additional four benefits of meditation specific to Spartan athletes.
4 Benefits of Meditation for Athletes
1. Meditation Develops Mental Grit
One undeniable benefit of meditation is that it helps build resilience by keeping you focused and calm when physically exhausted.
A Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports study showed that those who practice Transcendental Meditation techniques are able to develop similar brain-functioning characteristics to world-class athletes: enhanced focus and comprehension, along with broad and proactive planning. Building mental grit through meditation helps you power through physical challenges, so peak performance is not just about physically training your body; it’s also – and maybe even more so – about training your brain.
2. Meditation Builds Muscle Memory for Proper Breathing Techniques
As a Spartan, you focus on getting stronger and faster. But learning to breathe properly while exercising through intentional breath work practice is an important benefit of meditation. This focus on breathing helps your body efficiently deliver oxygen to your cells, allowing them to work harder for your body during strenuous physical activities like lifting heavy and running long distances.
Instead of exhausting yourself with shallow and rapid breathing, sticking to a consistent meditation practice will develop muscle memory for steady rhythmic breathing through your nose and from your diaphragm that prevents overall muscular fatigue so you can prioritize your energy on the physical feat ahead of you.
3. Meditation Increases Your Pain Tolerance
A Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study found that mindfulness exercises like those practiced during meditation enable your brain to not only process pain more efficiently, but to actually control it. For some skeptics, the idea that mindfulness meditation can seemingly alleviate pain intensity seems unlikely. However, researchers of another study published in The Journal of Neuroscience proved that a “sham mindfulness meditation,” where study participants weren’t using true meditation techniques, was not associated with pain relief.
A higher pain tolerance is a benefit of meditation that gets you through those last excruciating miles of a marathon or an Ultra (when everything hurts), but taking a few minutes to meditate at the end of a busy day can also help relieve post-workout pain and stress, so you can recover faster.
4. Meditation Lowers Cortisol Levels to Improve Recovery
The majority of people in their early 20s – 78% of men and 84% of women – use exercise as a means of stress relief, according to the International Journal of Exercise Science. While exercise does help lower stress levels, overtraining without proper recovery can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Studies show that meditation decreases the release of cortisol by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. If you want to perform at a physically optimal level, keeping your cortisol levels under control is paramount. Program meditation into a recovery day of your training plan to offset the stress of a heavy training load and a busy life while strengthening your mindset, too.