Take a timeout

 In Coaches, Focus & Awareness, Professional & Olympic Athletes

I’ve developed a new tactic for helping my athletes become more aware of cognitive and somatic ‘feelings’. It is called the ‘timeout’.

What is it

The timeout is a tactic I’ve developed for athletes who struggle with awareness around what they are thinking and how their bodies are feeling.

1st progression

  1. I have athletes set an alarm on their phone once a day for 5 days for a 5 minute timeout.
  2. I start with body sensations: how is their body feeling?
  3. Using progressive relaxation and breathing I have them relax their mind & body.
2nd progression
  1. From here we move to several times a day for 5-10 minutes.
  2. How is their body feeling?
  3. Add what are they thinking?
  4. Start writing it down.
  5. We work on connecting how their body is feeling to those thoughts.
  6. We begin working on changing the negative thoughts.
3rd progression
  1. Including all of the above.
  2. If their mind wanders I suggest that they bring it back to the breath and then back to cognitive and somatic feelings.

How does it help with awareness

When an athlete puts a timeout in their schedule it becomes part of their day. The alarm helps remind them that they need to take 5-10 to think about how they are feeling cognitively and somatically and start recording it. This begins to give the athlete deeper awareness, a connection with their body and a sense of control over being able to change what’s been automatically just occurring.

It also helps with Focus

During the 5-10 minute timeout many athletes have struggled to stay focused; it can feel very similar to meditation. Through this exercise athletes learn that their minds wander (sometimes more than they realize) during training and competition but also in daily life. They have to work on developing and refining their focus so that their mind doesn’t wander off. This awareness can start with average, everyday experiences because there is transfer into sport.

From everyday life to athletic life

Once an athlete has developed this level of awareness in everyday life they can use it in their sport to check in and see how they are feeling and determine what they are thinking with the ability to move toward the optimal cognitive and somatic feelings for training and competition.  For example, once athletes have developed a base of this skill, I recommended that they check in the night before and as they drive to training and competition. This is a good time to start making changes to how they are feeling physically and mentally. After some practice and success I then suggest that they check in during their warm-up.

And as I’ve talked about before, we start defining (developing awareness) specific macro and micro situations that produce stress, anxiety, doubt, worry, etc. and come up with techniques for further dealing with those situations.

Take a time out, check in and see how it feels. A couple of deep breaths and some progressive relaxation will distract your brain from thinking about negative, potentially hazard thoughts, relax your muscles so that you are able to act and respond and provide your brain with the oxygen it needs to think more clearly!

Happy Wednesday!

Dr. Michelle

Photo credit: mascobz.com

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