You already know that working out is good for your mental health, but taking care of your mind could benefit your body. Thomas Robson-Kanu, Premier League footballer and founder of The Turmeric Co (theturmeric.co), explains how to prime your mind for performance
You can’t run from your problems but going for a run definitely helps you deal with them! We all know that moving in moderation makes us feel better. Increasing our heart rate and releasing feel-good endorphins on the treadmill, in the pool or even at home can do wonders for our mood and energy levels. But while the relationship between exercise and good mental health has been talked about at length, we hear less about the other side of this virtuous cycle – how our mental health actually affects our physical performance.
As a professional footballer, the amount of resources that went into ensuring we were performing at our peak was astonishing. Everything from our nutrition, to workouts and recovery schedules was planned out – even our sleeping patterns were monitored! Until fairly recently though, peak performance was poorly understood.
A champion mindset
With the advancements in sports science, athletes are understanding and preparing their routines better than ever before. And alongside these developments in sport science, breakthrough studies in psychology have also taught us about the interaction between our emotional state and physical performance. In professional sports nowadays, monitoring and optimising mental health has almost become as important as physical health.
You only have to look at how clubs and managers work hard to protect their players from undue stress to realise the extent to which mindset plays a part in performance. Another interesting example is in Formula One, where drivers go into an almost meditative state before a race, tempering their adrenaline, visualising the track and getting in the zone. But for those of us who aren’t driving around bends at 200mph, here are a few observations from my experience about how my mental health has impacted my physical performance:
Throughout my life I’ve used exercise as a way to reset. To focus on a short term goal, clear my mind and relieve stress. There have been times where I’ve pushed myself too hard though. It can be tempting to push your body beyond its limits, especially if you’re feeling out of sorts. Now, I take a more balanced approach to exercise, listening to my body and giving myself time to recover. I find that if I can be content missing a day in the gym, I’m happier when I get back in there.
Team sports have a priceless social element to them. I’ve made friends for life in football, and exercise makes up a significant proportion of the time I spend with my family – whether it’s going for walks in the woods or a swim on holiday.
I’ve become more aware of how my mental health affects my physical performance over the years. And sleep is definitely one of those things I used to massively underestimate the importance of. I’ve found that a bad night’s sleep really affects my aerobic fitness and mood on the pitch – just ask some of the refs I’ve played with!
A tough day, a little argument – anything that’s going to cause you stress is going to damage your ability to perform at your peak. Although a lot of people use exercise as a way to dispel stress, I’d always recommend mindful workouts, rather than mad ones.
Looking after my mental health using techniques such as deep breathing and short meditations have certainly helped to improve my physical performance. It’s a virtuous cycle that’s really worth getting in the habit of, for a more positive outlook on life and a more peaceful existence.