Mindful Athletic Training
What is MAT?
MAT is not some new fitness fad. It is also not something I invented per se. Instead, it is — or rather should be — part of every effective athletic training methodology.
Mindful athletic training is a method of body and movement awareness on which we build our physical training to progress and improve.
It is a fundamental approach to your workout and exercise regimen of any kind.
It is a key ingredient in good physical athletic training: the art of ‘tuning into’ how the movements feel internally to get intrinsic control over how we move our body while we train or exercise. That is what I call ‘mindful awareness of movement’ or ‘body awareness.’
To better understand what exactly this means for your own individual training, be invited to explore following thoughts:
1. What does 'tuning into' your movements mean?
2. How does a movement/exercise feel?
3. Why do you need to improve your 'autopilot' for movement?
4. Better movement leads to better workouts/training
1. What does 'tuning into' mean?
Ask yourself honestly: How many times have I worked out or tried an exercise or practiced Yoga postures and not really felt I know what I was doing?
You are not alone.
Most people are not certain if they execute their exercises effectively, leading them to the intended results. We might learn the famous general instruction: do this / don’t do this!
They might mentally understand not to ‘do’ something but are not sure how this feels in their own body while executing the exercise.
Telling someone to engage their core when doing a plank or not sag in their lower back is only helpful, if that person has learned how the difference between those two movements feels.
Therefore, it is not as simple as knowing what is ‘right or wrong.’
And excellent illustration where this becomes most evident is when one’s training is video recorded for the first time. Many people who finally opt to see themselves train or work out, are shocked by the stark difference of how they ‘envisioned’ their training would look like and how it actually looks on tape.
In almost all cases one will e.g. think: “Wow, I thought I was engaging my core, but I obviously am not, my back is sagging terribly/my upper back is completely rounded not extended. I had no idea.”
What needs to follow is the ability to take that knowledge from your mind into your body.’ And that requires us to re-train our nervous system, the mind-body-connection.
2. How does a movement/exercise FEEL?
Movement or exercises elicit a specific ‘feeling’ on the inside. We can learn how it feels when we engage our core or balance on one leg while turning our torso, etc.
There is a remarkably fine-tuned system of proprioception that interacts between our nervous system and our muscles, joints, and tissue, giving us some control over movement.
Imagine you have an internal fine-tuned feedback system of ‘feeling’ if you engage parts of your body or not. You are capable of ‘knowing’ if your arm is in a 90° angle or not, or if your feet are pointing forward or are angled outward.
Now, imagine how your exercises’ quality would improve if you deliberately could position yourself to feel stable or mobile and controlled in the coordination of your strength exercises like lunges, planks, pushups or rotational movements like a Golf swing e.g. What a difference would this make in your workouts?
3. Why do you need to improve your 'autopilot' for movement?
When we train physically with mindful awareness for that movement, we can hone our skills in how to move, which in turn makes our workouts more effective, efficient, and valuable.
That, in turn, trains our ‘autopilot’ to be more precise when moving without thinking about moving.
Your ‘autopilot for movement’ is the control center for the sum of all the movements you do throughout your daily life. It is located in part of our brain that controls our movement we are not consciously thinking about the way we move, hold our body, activate specific very complex systems in our body. They are governed by the nervous system responsible for willful movement and happens mostly automatic.
However, if we re-learn to pay attention to how we move, we can gain some control over the execution of our daily movement and we certainly can learn to train and exercise in a way that improves our movement capabilities.
And that is our ultimate goal when living a healthy and active life. We do not want to have to think about how we carry ourselves all the time.
We want to know when we choose activities like playing Golf or Tennis, we will not get injured or hurt because we train with awareness of how we move. Therefore your physical workouts and training can specifically prepare you better for whatever activity you want to improve.
This leads to a skilled autopilot that allows us to enjoy moving without pain and with the most efficiency and support. That is why most people work out and exercise to prepare to live the life they want to healthily and joyfully
4. Better movements lead to better workouts
We can work out, exercise, or practice Yoga asanas better if we can move better.
Suppose we establish a relationship with our posture and learn how to train our nervous system concerning the body’s parts that execute the movement. We learn how to breathe during exercise and fine-tune our muscular coordination, and we learn how the body feels when it is relaxed or active.
Ultimately, these improvements help you not get injured while working out, make you stronger, more balanced, more flexible, or improve any other physical skill, give you more energy or let you play Golf with more ease.
These body awareness techniques are not a separate method to learn; rather, I integrate them in all of my teachings. MAT is a personal skill applied to any form of physical workouts. It will help you improve your workouts, exercises, posture, and movement skills no matter if you do sports conditioning like TRX Training, work out with resistance/weight, or practice Yoga Asanas.
That is how we develop skillful athletic training, which we then can use to heal ourselves or excel in our chosen Sport.
Key principles for MAT
1. Understand the WHY and HOW
you move during your training or your yoga practice (our unique capabilities, limitations, specifics). Learn what exactly the exercises want to teach you.
2. Assess and improve
how you move by becoming aware of your realistic posture and movement quality through feedback (e.g. video recordings and coaching).
3. Develop body awareness/body-mind connection
by learning to mentally and emotionally become present to connect the exercises with how they feel on the inside. Use feedback techniques to chart progress.
4. Apply this skill to any workouts
sports conditioning, and outdoor activities. When you learn to move with body awareness, you will protect yourself from injuries, increase your movement capabilities, enjoy outdoor activities, and become a better competitor in your Sport.