JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Going to extremes

Date

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Experts say that some sporting activities can pull you into a natural state of mindfulness.

Experts say that some sporting activities can pull you into a natural state of mindfulness.

Here’s a question for you: What do mountain bikers, snowboarders, rock climbers and other extreme sportspeople have in common with meditation gurus?

Still thinking? Let me tell you a story.

Last weekend, a member of my team took a much-needed break for a snowy long-weekend in Thredbo. Despite enjoying the best snow the resort has seen in ten-years, I really wasn’t expecting Christie to come back to work feeling recharged or refreshed. My line of thinking was more exhausted, more tired and potentially nursing the mandatory skiing bumps and bruises.

After all, with 14-hours of mind-numbing driving time and three full-days of lugging a heavy snowboard up a mountain before sliding precariously back down again, there wasn’t really going to be much time for her to relax. Right?

Apparently I was wrong. When Christie showed up to work on Monday morning she looked calm, relaxed and seemed even more focused than usual. When I asked her about it, she responded that she hadn’t thought about work once in the entire time she was away and that she felt mentally refreshed and energised.

But how could this be?

Dr Arnie Kozak, a mindfulness-based psychology expert, has investigated the same phenomena in a book called Mindfulness in Sport and Exercise.

“All athletes have experienced a meditative state worthy of a Buddha. Sometimes athletic activities pull you into a natural state of mindfulness. Sport becomes a form of meditation when you engage in it with your full attention,” he writes.

Kozak is not the only one to have noticed this pattern. Researcher G.E Brymer showed that extreme sportspeople experience freedom from everyday thoughts because being involved in extreme sports or a highly skilled activity left no cognitive room for any other thoughts. They were in the moment.

Formula 1 racer, Jochen Rindt, once said that “when driving you completely ignore everything and just concentrate. You forget about the whole world … It’s a very special feeling”.

Whether you’re flying down a mountain on a snowboard, running the last kilometre of a marathon or kayaking through a river with a grade 5 difficulty level (translated as scary), you’re so focused that you are actually practicing a form of meditation – moving meditation.

Moving meditation is the feeling you get when you are completely aware of your breath and your thoughts are aligned with what your body is doing. You might be skateboarding, hang gliding, doing kettle-bell training or skiing down a snow-tipped mountain – if you are totally in the moment and fully engaged in the activity (sometimes referred to as being ‘in the zone’, ‘flow’, ‘switched on’, etc.) then you are practicing moving meditation.

When I think about this it really does make sense and even solves a problem for me.

I know the benefits of meditation and we even have a meditation guru at our clinic. I know it calms my mind and helps me to focus - allowing me to be in the moment so I can go home to my young kids full of energy and with a reservoir of patience. It also helps me to maintain good posture and avoid stress during tough times.

But as a high-energy ‘sports/jock’ type of guy, there are times in my life where I struggle to sit still for five-minutes and slow my breathing, stay calm and meditate in the traditional sense.

Now I know that I can grab my surf ski, rig up my mountain bike or throw on my running shoes and still experience the same benefits of psychological disconnection as I would through a sitting meditation, I realise how easy it really is for me to add ‘moving meditation’ into my life. (Note: The research shows that you are best to try and incorporate the two different types of ‘moving meditation’ – extreme sports/movement for a shot of adrenalin and energy to the system and to help you recharge and freshen the mind; and the more traditional relaxation activities like yoga, tai chi and deep breathing to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, or off button, and help the body to recover physiologically).

So next time you find yourself dreading the thought of sitting still for five-minutes to meditate, I suggest you take a leaf out of the extreme sports handbook. Throw yourself into something like mountain bike riding, surfing or kayaking that takes you out of your comfort zone.

And if you really need a recovery break and an energy boost – why don't you try a mountain biking holiday in Italy, a mini-break in the snowy mountains, or perhaps a white water rafting expedition instead of a poolside blitz in Fiji with full mobile connectivity.

How do you switch off and forget about the stresses of the day?

13 comments so far

  • It's one of the benefits of riding a motorcycle to work. Riding a motorcycle in traffic consumes a much greater portion of your conscious thought process than driving a car. This concentration clears the mind and allow better process of subconscious and semi-conscious thoughts. It similar to when you are trying to work something out but fail after working on it for hours. When you walk away and do something else the solution often comes to you.

    I'll often leave work with a problem and come back with a solution the next day, even though my team is still struggling on it.

    And it is very much like meditation. With meditation you concentrate on a sound or your breathing, until your mind clears. With motorcycle riding, the concentration is on riding.

    Commenter
    ibast
    Location
    Prestons
    Date and time
    September 11, 2012, 10:21AM
    • Totally agree, nothing calms me more than strapping on the harness and going for a blast in the supra. When you are focussed on picking lines and perfect overtakes there is never any room for anything else.

      Commenter
      Hawkeye2jz
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 10:52AM
      • This is absolutely correct, and the first article I've ever read that confirms what I've been saying to everyone for years. I've raced motocross since I was 4 years old, and I can tell you that if you race motorbikes you're not thinking about anything else for a single second you're out there. Total, utter concentration. When you're done for the day, even though you're physically and mentally spent, you feel refreshed and clear-headed.

        Commenter
        Advantage
        Location
        MELBOURNE
        Date and time
        September 11, 2012, 11:04AM
        • It was always a marvel how time seemed to slow down when exiting a plane door or base jumping, I put it down to your mind speeding up and a dump of your *cache* memory, go on, try to think of sex when moving fast, nigh on impossible.

          nb yes, it's been tried, and no, it did't work ;)

          Commenter
          oghamsrazor
          Date and time
          September 11, 2012, 11:27AM
          • as a weekend warrior (who runs a late 80s Group A touring car in club motor racing events) I have to agree with Rindt... at high speed or in the middle of corners, you are concentrating 110% on the task at hand. The rest of the world can go to buggery at those times.

            It also a complete change from the rest of the stress week..the bit that pays the bills.
            Helping manage and administer the running of a large national company means I need a stress reliever. Motor racing is it for me....

            Commenter
            Les
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            September 11, 2012, 12:37PM
            • There is more to it than that.

              Most of our work stress is all the things we can't control, such as crazy bosses shouting at us, suppliers who lie to us, colleagues who fail to do their job and so on.

              It is the lack of control and reward that is the problem, because things to could happen to us at any time. On top of that we have electronic communication meaning we get an email from the client in another country at 3am in the morning.

              If our work lives gave us more control and reward we would have less "bad stress"

              Commenter
              Flingebunt
              Location
              Brisbane
              Date and time
              September 11, 2012, 1:48PM
              • Very interesting. I am actually experiencing it, not in the exercise form, but with my kids. For the times I have them, I have made the effort to forget about work, and focus on the children. And I find that I come back to work the next day relaxed and refreshed. And what really helps is that for one of the nights, we have a fun night. Takeaway dinners from the local fish & chip shop. That is our night. No after school activities, just us.

                Commenter
                Farmer
                Date and time
                September 11, 2012, 3:16PM
                • How wonderful to come across such great posts celebrating motorcycling. I'm from NQ, but lived in Sydney for 15 years. 2 wheels & big motor only. By nature, agressive in traffic, ocassionally overly so (the red mist descends). You don't think about risk or that some moron in a car can put you in a wheelchair for life - concentration is 100% on what you're doing, 360 degree vision for the traffic conditions, rain hail or shine. But even better was the yearly 5,000km round trip home to see the folks and just wind down in the tropics. Spend a couple of days at speed, locked inside your helmet, encased in leather, concentrating on nothing other than traffic/road conditions/Constable plod, listening to the song of your engine - man & machine as one - was nirvana. Which is something fellow motorcyclists understand, though there is no need to discuss or analyse it. What joy.

                  Commenter
                  Fang
                  Location
                  NQ
                  Date and time
                  September 11, 2012, 6:23PM
                  • Peter Brock would often talk of how he would have literal out of body experiences when REALLY in the zone. He would leave his body and watch himself driving the car down conrod at full whack. And you could tell from the way he said it he meant it.

                    Commenter
                    PeterH
                    Location
                    Burleigh
                    Date and time
                    September 11, 2012, 8:40PM
                    • Totally agree with this. There's nothing for calming you down like jumping on the motorbike, strapping yourself into the seat of your car and finding some exciting and difficult curves on your favourite backroad. Similarly intense exercise is a great way to completely separate your brain from work. I wholeheartedly recommend strenuous exercise after work as a way to rewind, Go for a run, a swim, a ride, whatever it is it doesn't matter as long as you do it hard. After an hour you'll find that even the most annoying and boring client or colleague is so far from your mind.

                      Commenter
                      Aargh
                      Date and time
                      September 12, 2012, 8:19AM

                      More comments

                      Make a comment

                      You are logged in as [Logout]

                      All information entered below may be published.

                      Error: Please enter your screen name.

                      Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

                      Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

                      Error: Please enter your comment.

                      Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

                      Post to

                      You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

                      Thank you

                      Your comment has been submitted for approval.

                      Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

                      Advertisement
                      Featured advertisers
                      Executive Style newsletter signup

                      Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

                      Sign up now

                      Advertisement