Trendy modern ultra-hip concepts like mindfulness are rooted in careful mental understanding.  That’s all nice to know but can it help us in rowing? 

Mindfulness is described as the practice of raising awareness or paying attention to what is going on in the present moment, without judgement, and with curiosity.

mindfulness in sport, rowing mindfulness

Difference between mindfulness and a full mind Image credit: University of Michigan Health Service

What is mindfulness in sport?

Well paying attention or being aware is something we all know about in rowing – whether as athletes or coaches or coxswains.  We have to focus in order to learn to become skilful and to diligently practice.   Space Saver has done the research for you.  Here are the results of our research 

The founder of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment. Mindfulness also involves ignoring intruding thoughts and feelings which sometimes come to us when we are trying to concentrate on the task at hand. However instead of wasting energy using tools to get rid of unwanted thoughts, mindfulness teaches that more energy could be invested in concentrating on the game. [From BelievePerform]

Benefits include

  • improved focus
  • mental strength
  • less stress
  • perform consistently
  • achieve the ‘flow’ state

How do you do it?

Focus on your breathing – count as you breathe in and out for a minute is an easy first practice.  How many counts to breathe in? Can you match the same number to breathe out.

The focus on one thing (breathing) gives your mind and body a rest from other distractions.  Also by nose breathing you can get hyper-oxegenated and more oxygen brings acuity.

Then you can focus on another thing – maybe the sound of the boat, or the wind and birds for another minute.  Lastly focus on your connections to your crew mates. 

Unhelpful thoughts will come into your mind.  The key to these is to quietly tell them to go away and focus back on your intended purpose (Sounds or your breath).  They are neither good nor bad, just not what you want to focus on now and so need to be removed without a judgement.

By practicing this focus while not rowing, it will help you to focus when you are rowing.

The goal of sport mindfulness is to focus on the task at hand – this could be your coach’s instruction; the coxswain’s voice, or a technical point you are trying to master.

They suggested that performance outcomes depend on the extent to which an athlete accepts their own positive or negative thoughts and feelings (called experiential acceptance) and maintains focus on the task at hand.

Boathouse Mindfulness

Having an eye to others using the boat shed can be part of mind-ful practice.  

When you leave the changing room is the light turned off?  Have you picked up rubbish on the floor?  Is someone going to trip over a bag left in the middle of the floor? 

I work with a coach whose work is on para-rowing.  She gets mad when people in her club forget to tidy the floor mats in the gym – because a wheelchair user cannot get over them easily.  

What could you do in your shed?

Mindfulness in sport resources