Adrenaline Sports: How to Keep Your Mind Still, Calm, and Focused | Volcano Watersports

Adrenaline Sports: How to Keep Your Mind Still, Calm, and Focused

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4 January 2024

While high-octane sports like waterski and wakesurfing demand a great deal of physical effort, most beginners are surprised to learn that the biggest demand is on the mind. All at once, we need to be able to maintain focus, think deeply about the smallest movements and stay connected to every muscle in our bodies and, at the same time, keep our thoughts steady, even, and still.

If that sounds like a contradiction, it’s because, in some way, it is. But mastering the art of doing everything and nothing all at once is possible, and it’s often what sorts the naturals from the novices.

That’s not to say that, during your first wakeboarding session on one of our boat rentals, if you can’t harness a masterful mind-body connection you’re never going to be able to. There are always ways to improve, and doing so will teach you a lot about yourself.

What Do You Need to Focus on?

The first time you get onto the water, you’re going to have a lot racing through your mind at once. First off, there are all those instructions you’ve just been given about staying afloat before the boat starts moving, standing up as the boat accelerates, and keeping yourself upright as the boat hits its optimal speed. At the same time, there will be your friends or family back on the boat, cheering you on – there will be music, other people out on the water, the sights of our neighbour, Arenal National Park, and the cool of the water.

Everything, including the rope, will be pulling at your attention, but there’s one thing you need to give almost all of it to: your own breathing

Yes, you need to be able to perform the movements and micro-adjustments that your instructor teaches you, but, even for complete beginners, it doesn’t take long before they start to become instinct rather than conscious decisions. If you think too hard about your physical movements and your balance, self-doubt can easily creep in – and, with it, mistakes and falls.

The Benefits of Good Breathing

Proper breathing is more important than any other aspect of a sport. Even with the best equipment, the best instruction, the best diet and recovery plan, you can’t overcome those mental and physical hurdles without the right breathing technique.

Luckily, learning how to do it right is relatively simple – although actually implementing it is a little trickier when your body’s working hard and your mind, even harder. The key thing to remember is this: breathing well will help your body and mind to maintain focus. It makes you stronger and more powerful. In fact, the practise of respiratory muscle training (RMT, which is a very structured approach to training the breathing muscles) can boost muscle power by almost 65%, according to one study from 2001.

Breathing better also…

Helps to lower stress by reducing cortisol

Improves attention and focus

Makes us feel more energetic

Reduces lactic acid build-up in the muscles (lactic acid build-up contributes to muscle fatigue)

Reduces heart rate and blood pressure

How to Breathe During Exercise

As with most learning curves, this is all a lot easier said than done – but, once you can commit to it, everything else becomes a lot easier in practice. Most watersports are major cardiovascular workouts – even tubing – since they require you to engage the large muscles throughout the body, maintain a rhythm, and push your heart and lungs to work more to keep the body oxygenated.

So, breathing during cardio – how do you get it right?

First things first, don’t be too rigid about breath control – particularly when you’re new to the sport. The more you try to control your breath and stop your breathing from getting faster, the worse you’ll feel. Listen to your body and take those big, vital breaths to keep your body feeling strong and resilient.

If you’re feeling a little nervous or hyped-up before you get into the water, put both your hands behind your head with your elbows wide, lock your fingers together, and take a few deep breaths in. This helps to open up your lungs, and feels great if your mind is racing.

When you’re in the water (before the boat starts moving), focus on keeping your breath calm and steady. In through the nose and out through the mouth is a great idea here – this is known as ujjayi breathing in the yoga world, and it’s perfect for keeping your mind and body on an even keel.

As the workout picks up, it’ll get harder and harder to take those long, slow inhalations and exhalations. Breathe entirely through your mouth at a pace that feels natural to you. Don’t hold your breath. At times, this can be a subconscious decision when you’re trying hard to focus, but it’ll make everything feel tougher if you do.

Counting your breath cycles is a great idea. It reminds you to breathe, and stops you hyper fixating on what your body is doing.