If it’s good enough for Usain Bolt…
Hurdler Michelle Jenneke has her famous warm-up dance, long-jumper Fabrice Lapierre competes with a gold chain in his mouth, Usain Bolt points to the sky before breaking yet another world record, while Michael Phelps blasts Eminem to fire him up before hitting the pool.
Rio 2016 is awash with athletes and their pre-competition quirks, but do they actually work? And, more importantly, should us mere mortals get in on the act?
“On some level, it seems that these pre-race superstitions are a means for the athletes to help sink themselves into the present moment,” says Nikki Jankelowitz, co-founder of Centered Meditation.
“A form of mindfulness if you will. A reminder to plug into ‘The Now’ and align mentally, emotionally and physically for the race to come”.
And if you count Bolt and Phelps combined amount of gold medals, that’s proof enough you should be choreographing a jig before heading into an important meeting or taking on that undefeated team at your local netball courts.
“In the lead up to some sort of a ‘big-deal’ situation, our mind often goes haywire contemplating all the possible things that could go wrong,” explains Jankelowitz.
“This subsequently sends our body into fight-or-flight mode, which is why we start to perspire, our tummy feels off, our heart races and our breathing increases.”
In order to stay centred, Jankelowitz recommends applying a similar strategy to these athletes. Find a ritual that resonates with you – it can be as complicated or as simple as you like – that calms you and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
“It can be deepening your breathing by focusing on the rise and fall of our belly, scanning your body systematically for all the various sensations we can feel, or scanning your five sense-organs for what sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feelings we can are experiencing in this given moment,” suggests Jankelowitz.
Before guiding meditations, Janekelowitz herself always fills up a tea, mindfully walks to the front of the room, place the tea on the side table and smiles at her guests.
“This is my version of ‘getting in the zone’. It’s my chance to switch from host to guide, put conversations behind me, and prepare to lull my guests into a place of calm and stillness.”