May 25

Tip of the Week – May Recap

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Coach Monika says…

Lately, I have been receiving articles about stress and anxiety. This affects not only daily life quality but also carries over to training and performance.

One suggestion by experts is to become more aware of our breathing patterns because we don’t tend to pay attention at all – or at least minimally. In addition, most of us also take shallow breaths and do not exhale fully.


Week 1:

Harvard Medical News Advice:

  • Relearning to ‘breathe from the diaphragm’ is beneficial for everyone. Diaphragmatic breathing (also called “abdominal breathing” or “belly breathing”) encourages full oxygen exchange – that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.
  • Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat, and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.


Week 2:

Harvard’s “The How of Diaphragmatic Breathing”

  • Lie on the back on a flat surface (or in bed) with knees bent. Use a pillow under the head and knees for support, if that’s more comfortable.
  • Place one hand on the upper chest and the other on the belly, just below the rib cage.
  • Breathe in slowly through nose nose, letting the air in deeply, towards the lower belly. The hand on the chest should remain still, while the one on the belly should rise.
  • Tighten the abdominal muscles and let them fall inward when exhaling through pursed lips. The hand on the belly should move down to its original position.
  • One can also practice this sitting in a chair, with the knees bent and the shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.


Week 3:

Strive to Increase Attentiveness

NeuroNation Germany encourages the practice of ‘attentiveness’, which is interpreted as a method of ‘meditation’ to train our mind over body, thoughts, and spirit.

Test yourself to determine your attentiveness by asking yourself: How often do I live in the ‘here and now?’ How often do my thoughts ‘spin’ in future or past events? Attention training is directed at our body, our breathing, and our thoughts. One becomes more mindful that only a small part of our daily life takes place in the ‘here and now!’ It is important to realize that emotions, thoughts, and pain are consciously experienced in the ‘now.’


Week 4:

Positive Aspects of Attentiveness Training

  1. Increasing Feelings of Happiness and Pleasure

We tend to focus much more on negative events, aspects of future happenings, or past events… however, the ‘here and now’ approach reduces anxiety and worries.

  1. Re-directing Negative Emotions

Since we experience negative emotions in the ‘here and now’ sphere, we consequently become more conscious of them, and learn that they are part of our normal emotions. Subsequently, we evaluate them with less apprehension, and tend to accept them as such. Thus, depression is based less on negative emotions.

  1. Learning to Control Pain

So-called ‘Alpha waves’ of the brain are responsible for controlling our will and thoughts. Experts have discovered that people engaging in attentiveness training tend to suffer from pain far less because they find it easier to ignore it.

  1. Dedicating Ourselves Fully or Totally

In daily life, we rarely dedicate ourselves to one particular or special ‘thing.’ NeuroNation studies reveal that the ability to concentrate improves substantially through attentiveness training.


I believe that this training can be very useful for athletes.

Refer to my personal note at the end.


Personal Note:

In 1989, I was diagnosed with lymphatic leukemia, given 5 days to live.

As I was in the hospital, I decided to use attentiveness training and visualization.

I left the hospital, continued to teach, and coach successfully, getting my daily energy level by engaging in this training during class breaks in my University office. I kept going on as the ‘trooper’ I was known, which made it difficult for some of my colleagues to believe that I was really sick!

The cancer was under control but resurfaced with vengeance in 2011. I was on chemotherapy, …and, believe me… I lived with my ‘head in the bucket’ for several months, loosing weight – 90 pounds at 5’7”! My oncologist kept saying, …you broke many records as an athlete… you are setting one now!

I am still ‘kicking’ 27 years later and believe me …it works!


By the way, the cancer may be traceable to inhaling chlorine during my training and teaching years in pools. One of my former German teammate died at age 45, and several National US and Canadian swimmers recently came forward suffering from the same ailment.

Thankful now, for those pools having salt water!


Stacked rocks at the beach

Train to Balance It!


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