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A group of athletes performs cardio during the winter months to cross-train.

Train your mind and body like a winter athlete


Professional winter athletes spend a lot of time working on their specific sport. However, to be the best athlete and team member, they train their minds and entire bodies with a variety of exercises. When hockey players are out on the ice and preparing to make the game-winning goal, they’re grateful for the time spent working on mental toughness and overall conditioning. Read on for tips on how you can train like a well-rounded elite athlete.

Getting in the zone with mental toughness training

Elite athletes don’t just spend time perfecting their skills; they focus on their minds and mental toughness as well. Compassion is an essential part of mental toughness or mindfulness training. When you introduce gratitude, loving-kindness, and compassion into your practice, you begin to live more in the present moment. Becoming too focused on what it takes to win could lead to losing sight of what is happening around you and affect you or your team.

Mindfulness practices can start as simple as you need them. Begin with a deep breathing exercise: slow breaths in, slow breaths out, and keep your mind focused on the present.

Work your way up to more intricate practices like loving-kindness meditation, low-intensity bedtime yoga, or aerobic yoga flows. Even the simplest flows that get your mind in the zone can improve your athletic performance and day-to-day life.

Benefits of mental toughness and mindfulness for elite athletes

When you introduce mindfulness into one area of your life, it begins to flow into others. Your mind and body are connected and each can impact the quality of the other. Benefits of mindfulness for athletes include:

  • Better eating habits. Bringing the process of mindfulness into your life not only helps you to calm your mind before a workout but can also enable you to think about what you’re eating. Mindful eating has steered people away from processed foods to healthier options.
  • Improved sleep quality. Research has shown that people who practice conscious thinking perceive themselves to have better control over their mood, emotions, and behavior throughout the day. This can lead to a more relaxed nighttime and better sleep.
  • Sharper focus. The act of mindfulness involves drawing your attention in to be fully aware of what is presently happening around you. Regularly practicing mindful meditation will help to improve your day-to-day focus.
  • A decrease in stress. For athletes, mindfulness and mental toughness help them cope with the stressors of the game and everyday life. When you feel overwhelming pressure, you can return to a focused state of mindfulness to push the negative feelings aside.
  • Keeps you safe. Mindfulness centers on attention and awareness. Safety is essential when working in a team or doing activities like cycling or running close to others.

What does cross-training mean, and what are the benefits?

Cross-training means practicing more than one skill or action to be more well-rounded. Professional athletes mix up the workouts they perform, focusing on a different part of the body on different days. One day might be for leg exercises, while the next could be for arms, and the following focusing on cardio. Cross-training is especially important for athletes who participate in winter sports who might have to modify their training in the summer.

Benefits of cross-training include:

  • Flexibility in workout plans (if the pool is closed one day, you can go for a run)
  • Allows some parts of the body to rest while you work on other parts
  • Ability to continue training while injured (focusing on a different part of the body)
  • Improves skill, agility, and balance

What is an example of cross-training?

When planning your workout routine, the goal is to choose an exercise that focuses on different movements. Select an activity from each group to incorporate into your plan: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility and balance. Examples of cardio exercises include cycling, running, swimming, and rowing. Free weights or weight machines are suitable for strength training. Pilates, yoga, and stretching are a few ways to improve your balance and flexibility.

Cross-training and mindfulness are good practices for any level of athletes, not just the elite ones. If you’re looking to step up your fitness regimen, schedule an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician to plan a routine that is just right for you. To stay on top of your bone and joint health, schedule a visit with our orthopedics and sports medicine program at St. Luke’s Health.


4 Lessons in Mindfulness from the Olympians
Mindfulness and athletes: The one practice you need to know for better workouts
A Winter Athlete's Guide To Training In The Summer
Train Like an Elite Winter Athlete | NASM
Cross-Training Improves Fitness and Reduces Injury




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