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9 - Mindfulness Training in Elite Athletes: mPEAK with BMX Cyclists


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2016

Lori Haase
University of California, San Diego, U.S.A.
Göran Kenttä
Stockholm University, Sweden
Steven Hickman
University of California, San Diego, U.S.A.
Amy L. Baltzell
Boston University, U.S.A.
Martin Paulus
Laureate Institute for Brain Research, U.S.A.
Amy L. Baltzell
Boston University
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We introduce the Mindful Performance Enhancement, Awareness and Knowledge (mPEAK) program along with the theory and research that contributed to creating mPEAK, which was developed by Haase, Paulus, and Hickman. The mPEAK program is an intervention for peak performance based on the mindfulness approach and inspired by Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The mPEAK intervention is specifically designed to support high-level athletes in becoming more resilient to high demands and pressure in competitive sport and ultimately optimizing sport performance (see Haase et al., 2015). This chapter will provide a brief overview of the theory and research upon which mPEAK was based, including mindfulness, resilience, and the tenets and efficacy of MBSR. Other interventions in sport using mindfulness meditation (MM) will be considered. In addition, each of the four pillars of mPEAK will be reviewed, namely interoception (i.e., sensitivity to body experience); intentional versus default mode of thinking and acting; orientation toward pain and difficulty (versus avoidance); and rejection of perfectionism (acceptance or tolerance of what is). Finally, the mPEAK intervention will be presented, including initial empirical support for the program.



The mPEAK program's underlying premise is based on the Buddhist conceptualization of mindfulness. The most commonly cited Buddhist-inspired definition of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn (2003). He writes, “An operational working definition of mindfulness is: the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (p. 145). The mindful approach to sport performance is quite different from the typical cognitive behavioral approach used in sport psychology, which is geared toward changing or suppressing thoughts. Such attempts to ignore or stop unwanted thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations often result in the increase of such unwanted thoughts and potentially a disappointing performance (Gardner & Moore, 2007; Wegner, 1994). In contrast, a mindfulness-based approach facilitates performance via the acceptance of physical experience, thoughts, and emotions.

Bishop and colleagues’ (2004) two-component definition of mindfulness brings to light the potential benefit that a mindful approach can bring to performance. Mindfulness practices can cultivate attention, enhance engagement, and when necessary also strengthen the individual's tolerance of emotional or physical difficulty.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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