Associative Mindfulness and High Performance

To run (or do anything stressful?) significantly better, perhaps paying attention is the best strategy — immersing oneself in the sensations of the moment, rather than attempting to ignore them. Terry Laughlin, elite swimming coach, writes in "Zone In, not Out, to Overcome Your Limits":

... But a key difference between average and elite marathon runners is that whereas average runners describe zoning out to make it through the last few miles of the race, the elite runner zones in more keenly.

This habit of better runners will be familiar to anyone who has practiced the "purposeful mindfulness" Total Immersion advocates for stroke improvement. While dissociation is intended to take an athlete's mind off the distance to be covered, or the effort required while running or cycling near one's limits, a contrasting mental technique—let's call it association—is far more interesting and functional ... .

Dissociation techniques are actually rather widespread and not limited to those who race. The TV-watchers and magazine-readers on the treadmills at the gym appear to find exercise so boring they do anything to take their mind off it. ...

... Rather than taking your mind away from what you're doing, the goal is to be completely present with it, and to use that mindfulness to make your awareness deeper and more subtle. ...

Laughlin alludes to a 1977 study by Morgan & Pollock ("Psychologic characterization of the elite distance runner") that, though based on a ridiculously small sample, found that the best marathoners "... paid very close attention to bodily input such as feelings and sensations ... [and] constantly reminded or told themselves to 'relax', 'stay loose', and so forth." Shades of "Softening into Experience"?!

(cf. Swimming Fine (2008-04-24), Mind Over Exercise (2008-10-22), Total Immersion Philosophy (2011-09-24), ...) - ^z - 2014-07-21