I was a guest on a football Internet radio show in 2012. This show was dedicated to featuring elite athletes, hoping to garner professional contracts. Each week two football players shared their stories and the hosts highlighted the strengths of their past performances.
Just before it was my turn to talk about training for peak performance, I was listening to one of these fellows tell his story. His performance at a recent combine had raised eyebrows all around because his results in the 40-yard dash, bench press, and other drills were above the other athletes at this combine.
For those who may not know, scouting combines are showcases where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of NFL as well as other coaches, general managers, and scouts. These events allow personnel directors to evaluate upcoming prospects in a standardized setting.
The show hosts were much impressed with this young man’s stats. From my point of view, having immersed myself in yoga for nearly four decades, one thing stood out strongly: This elite athlete worked out in silence. It was crystal clear to me that his stellar results at the combine were in great part due to his training in silence.
Think about it. When you work out while watching TV and texting and conversing with the person next to you, how much do you really get out of your workout?
Loud music and TVs can’t be avoided in most gyms and training facilities. Every corner has a TV playing or an intercom that blasts out the radio and music. Their purpose is to distract your mind to get you through your drills without too much discomfort.
My point is, if you are not paying attention to your body and the mechanics of what you are doing or to the space around you and the equipment you are working with, you are not going to see and feel what happens. You miss out on what your body is telling you, whether your alignment is off, as well as the small voice of wisdom inside that is giving you support and warnings about what you are about to do. You are not paying attention to your surroundings and equipment to make sure you are working with them properly. Perhaps that is the reason college football player Stafon Johnson dropped weights on his neck.
We are living in a society replete with attention deficit. Yet being present is a doorway to getting where you want to go! Being present is perhaps the most important gift you can give yourself when you train. When I work with an athlete or champion in any profession for that matter, we always start with techniques to be present, to introspect, and to develop concentration. Working IN for Champions Sports Performance™ is the door to a highly effective workout. When you shift your focus to the present, you open the door to double the value of your training. When you keep your focus on what you are doing while you are doing it, you hone your skills and you will move more steadily toward success. This is something I learned from the science of yoga.
Exactly what is yoga? Yoga is becoming more popular and classes are springing up everywhere. In relation to training for peak performance, yoga is a great deal more than an exercise system. What is of most value to your training is being present and working IN. Yoga is a state of consciousness when thoughts are suspended which gives the experience of bliss, peace and connectedness to all. For an elite athlete, the state of yoga can give quicker reaction time and the ability to think on your feet. It means wisdom in your training and power in your performance. It can also mean avoiding injury and quicker recuperation.
Yoga was first experienced by yogis in deep states of meditation. Later, what happened was written down in texts so others might follow the footsteps these yogis had taken and also reach the state of ongoing joy and connectedness. Some yoga texts are thousands of years old. There are many practices and techniques in the texts which help us get closer to the experience. For elite athletes, it is about accessing the Zone, when effortless mastery happens in competition.
Don’t be dismayed, thinking this is beyond your reach. It’s not rocket science. My guess is you have experienced the Zone more times than you can count. Think of a moment when you spaced out and sat staring peacefully into thin air. Calm and clarity happen also when you concentrate on something you love to do. When you become absorbed in focus on one thing, you are there.
Staying present is the beginning of empowerment and it is the foundation for peak performance. To build the skill requires practice just like any other training technique. For this reason, I share with my clients tools from the science of yoga, time-proven practices and techniques that develop the ability to become present and stay present.
Next time you go to the mat, to the bench, to the track, or the gym, turn off the radio, shut the TV down, and turn the cell phone to silent mode. Check your conversations at the door. Even if noise is around you, focus on yourself and what you are doing. See what happens when you are fully present.
When you can stay anchored inside, then during competition you are a powerful presence. If you want to achieve performance levels you have always dreamed of, stay balanced, keep your smile and your hard-earned contract, be present.
Kamala Nellen. Coaching for Champions: The Art and Science of Working IN for Champion Sports Performance. Copyright© 2012. All rights reserved.
Kamala Nellen is the founder and owner of Coaching for Champions, a consulting firm for elite athletes and champions from all walks of life. She pioneered The Art and Science of Working IN for Champion Sports Performance™. For more information about Kamala Nellen or to set up a consultation to start learning The Art and Science of Working IN for Champion Sports Performance™, visit www.kamalanellen.com or www.coachingforchampionsllc.com.