Nike’s ability to inspire and equip athletes to meet their goals and enhance their performance continues thanks to its expanding partnership with guided meditation and mindfulness app Headspace.
“We believe it’s critical to serve the complete holistic needs of athletes,” says Sean Bruich, VP of Membership Services and Consumer Knowledge. “To do that, we’ve used our influence in the world of sport to partner with companies that are experts in their fields so that together we can offer our members access to exclusive experiences, services and products.”
This partnership also serves to reward athletes throughout their journey — and the more active someone is in the Nike Run Club (NRC) app or Nike Training Club (NTC) app, the more they get rewarded. It's all part of the exciting new benefits available with a NikePlus membership.
But this joining of forces delivers more than just access to content and deals.
When Headspace first began developing sports meditation content, they worked with top sports psychologists to determine exactly how athletes might benefit from mindfulness. They found that training mindfully will ensure an athlete is preparing, performing and recovering in the most efficient and effective way possible — no matter what activity they’re doing.
"Mindfulness is the ultimate tool for any athlete at any level,” says Andy Puddicombe, Headspace co-founder. “Easy to learn and simple to apply, it can help strengthen motivation, increase focus, improve resilience, enhance form, optimize recovery and, perhaps most important of all, get us out of our head and into the body for an enjoyable and fulfilling training session.”
Here are the three biggest ways Nike is bringing this tool to athletes and NikePlus members and how you can take advantage of the relationship to go into your next workout with a calm mind and clear perspective on your goals.
How: Audio-guided runs (AGRs), which you can find in the NRC app, provide step-by-step expert coaching from Nike pros and elite athletes to help you improve pacing, speed and endurance, making them a great way to take your running to the next level. “By the end of each of these runs, the hope is the athlete has learned a little more about themselves as a runner,” says Chris Bennett, Global Head Coach of Nike Running.
Now, Nike is adding-audio guided mindful runs — the first of their kind — to NRC’s arsenal of AGRs. The first three are in the app now and feature Coach Bennett, Headspace’s Puddicombe, and Olympic steeplechaser and Nike athlete Colleen Quigley. What sets these apart from Nike’s other guided runs is that in addition to getting effort-based running instruction, you’ll also learn how to unlock strength and peace from within. “The guidance blends technical and motivational components, making it a little more active and upbeat than a sitting meditation,” Puddicombe explains.
Why they work: Each mindful run falls into one of the same three categories every NRC run does (long, speed or recovery), but even though you may run fast during one, running fast won’t be the focus of the session. Instead, you’ll be coached in ways that help you feel like you are in control of your run, your outlook on your running and even your life.
Part of getting there involves getting in the zone. “We've all had those workouts where, for whatever reason, we just feel completely present,” says Puddicombe. One way he coaches you to do that on a run: When you start to feel your mind drifting to thoughts of your to-do list, unanswered emails or plans for later, let them pass instead of dwelling on them, he says. Instead, bring your attention to your body, focusing on your running form starting with your head and moving down to your feet.
The moments of pure focus are fleeting, and you won’t experience that feeling on every run, but with mindful running, you’re more likely to hit your stride, says Puddicombe. “When we are running mindfully, we are actively creating the conditions for that sense of flow, meaning everything is enhanced, from technique and motivation to focus and recovery,” he explains. In other words: Mindfulness may be the missing link between you and your running-related goals.
How to apply them: Many runners who’ve tested Nike’s mindful runs said they noticed an instant benefit on their first run. But the great part about mindfulness training is that it’s just like running — you get better with time. “Once you realize that every day is an opportunity to work on both mind and body, you realize that every day is truly a starting line and never a finish line,” says Coach Bennett.
How: Practicing mindfulness can enhance your time in the gym, too, so you’ll also be able to find additional expert tips and stories throughout the NTC app from Headspace on how to use mindfulness to improve your workout and overall performance, says Rich Pierson, Headspace’s co-founder and CEO.
Why they work: These tips can help you tune out distracting thoughts (“am I doing this right?” and “I’m so tired,” for starters) that can easily get in the way of a good workout by helping you connect mental and physical activity, which, according to Headspace experts, can amplify the process and improve your performance.
"Often, we are simply not aware of what we are doing, or not doing, to achieve peak performance. Mindfulness ensures we remain aware. For example, on days when we are not applying enough effort and feel distracted, mindfulness helps us focus. This sharpened focus can help us maintain a good technique,” says Puddicombe. “Bottom line, science has shown that when we are heavily distracted, our performance can suffer, and we may not be able to experience the full health benefits of a workout. In contrast, when we are more aware, with a relaxed focus, we are able to fully realize the potential mindfulness can bring to our exercise, resulting in a happier, healthier you."
These suggestions also hit on topics like how to choose a workout partner who will best set you up for success. Other tips include easy exercises to help you develop new ways of thinking. For example, one tip that recently appeared in the app coached NikePlus members toward developing a growth mindset (where you believe attributes like talent and intelligence are malleable rather than fixed) because evidence suggests it can make you more likely to persevere through challenges and come out with better results.
How to apply them: At the beginning of every week, check your NTC feed for new Mindfulness Mondays stories from Headspace on things like how to stay motivated even after you hit a training milestone. If you explore the NTC Collection workouts, you’ll see mindfulness tips from Headspace related to that Collection’s particular goal.
When you take advantage of this exclusive content from Headspace, you’re joining the ranks of the elite-level athletes who are also learning to help improve their performance through mindfulness training with Headspace, says Pierson.
Nike has begun inviting Puddicombe to bring mindfulness training to amateur and pro athletes by sharing guided meditation and specific focus drills (helping them to approach and react to negativity differently, for example). By incorporating mindfulness into the lives of more top athletes and helping them to focus on their specific craft, Nike and Headspace are serving athletes in new ways through personal interactions, insight gathering and more.
“It’s a different way of thinking about and approaching sport and sports psychology, and ultimately another tool athletes can use to be better,” says Ryan Flaherty, Senior Director of Performance with Nike Training. “For Nike to share Headspace with our athletes, it will help them perform better, which also informs how we innovate and serve our everyday athletes.”
Incorporating mindfulness into your workouts can help you to become the best athlete you can be during those moments when it matters most. “Think of your mind as another muscle you can use to power your body toward your goals,” says Coach Bennett.
Try the first three audio guided mindful runs on the NRC app and look out for stories and tips on the NTC app now. New content will continue to roll out on both apps and beyond in the future.
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