Author of Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life (Atria Books/ Beyond Words Publishing)
Throughout sports history, many athletes have unknowingly possessed a deep understanding of the principles of the mind-body connection and have subsequently found remarkable success. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky, for example, weighed about 170 pounds during the better part of his career. He obviously played a bruising sport, was often the focus of the opposition’s tough guy, and during the course of the season, logged an incredible amount of ice time. How then would you explain the fact that he was rarely injured during the twenty-two years he played professional hockey?
The answer lies in an overlooked and more profound aspect of the mind-body connection: Players with the keenest of mental games naturally conserve energy during play. When you are conserving energy, your body is far less susceptible to injury compared to those players who are constantly fatigued.
Since this notion might seem obvious, let’s take a closer look at why athletes who play their sports with a relatively free-flowing state of mind rarely spend time on the disabled list. Players get hurt when their minds are not present or absorbed in the task at hand. Much like when we fail to live in the present in our daily lives, when an athlete dwells on a past mistake or worries about the future, he or she will get careless. When we get careless, we open ourselves up to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in the wrong physical position. You can figure out what often comes next. Clearly, the gift of living in the present moment has allowed Gretzky to excel, but it also has enabled him to play longer.
There is one other factor that has significant implications in an athlete’s quest to remain off the disabled list. And it is often confused by coaches, parents, and performers alike. Players who believes that they must force himself into a revved-up state of mind before a game will be extremely vulnerable to injury. Athletes with tranquil minds, on the other hand, will compete with natural resilience and effort and tend to stay healthy regardless of age. In fact, look closely and you’ll see that sports history is loaded with anecdotal evidence of the connection between longevity, success, and ease of mind. Think Cal Ripken, Martin Brodeur, Jerry Rice, Nancy Lopez and Shaquille O’Neal.
A modern example of a pro athlete who exhibits this type of mind-set is another fine hockey player and the author of the foreword to this book, Minnesota Wild and U.S. Olympic team player Zach Parise. I have had the good fortune to work with Zach over the past two years, and the power of a clear mind is one of our primary focuses. Now, if you have ever watched Zach play hockey, you know he never stops hustling, no matter the game situation. And even though he is more than willing to throw his body around, Zach is rarely injured. Up until the 2010-2011 season, he had only missed three games in his NHL career.
How then is it possible for a hockey player to put forth so much physical effort, night in and night out, and remain healthy? Zach’s rigorous off-ice training program is part of the explanation, but more significantly, he is learning to play the game freely. When an athlete is in the zone or free, he actually hustles and conserves energy at the same time. That’s productive hustle. Zach often finds himself in a positive position to make a pass or score a goal, and he’s also less likely to be open for a hit (or to be in a compromising physical position when he is hit) that might lead to injury.
Plus, even if Zach happens to lose that feeling, he now understands that it’s temporary; he allows his mind to calm (lets the glass sit). And with this self-correction in place, effort is easy once more.
The above is an excerpt from the book Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life by Garret Kramer. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2011 by Garret Kramer
Garret Kramer, author of Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life (Atria Books/ Beyond Words Publishing), is the founder and managing partner of Inner Sports, LLC. His revolutionary approach to performance has transformed the careers of professionals athletes and coaches, Olympians, and collegiate players across a multitude of sports. Kramer’s work has been featured on WFAN, ESPN, Fox, and CTV, as well as in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national publications. For more information please visit http://www.garretkramer.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter