Fondly known as Ricky, Carlos Brathwaite is an international cricketer and an entrepreneur with a sharp perspective, a remarkable skill-set, & most importantly, a special connection with the people. Carlos has been playing cricket for several international, franchise, and domestic teams and today he shares his thoughts on mental fitness and how this relates to performance when turning sport into a career. Whether you’re looking to get back into routine, or are considering taking on some high level sport, this article might help you focus your mind and achieve your goals.
Mental fitness is the foundation for all your physical movements to be precise, efficient, and reliable. As a professional cricketer, I need to be mentally alert at all phases of play and decision-making.
The Flow State
The flow state (or “being in the zone”) is alertness and relaxation. Every one of us has come across a point in our lives when we became so engrossed in what we were doing that we forgot ourselves, our egos, our problems, and most importantly, all the tension in our bodies. Our focus had been so strong that it was palpable in the air, felt by our loved ones, and our teammates. This state of mind, state of being, is called the flow state and is a powerful tool when participating in high level sport.
Cricket is a sport where your reactions are tested to the maximum. Flow state is the ultimate level of mental fitness and alertness. The day you are truly relaxed in your body and fully present in your moment, you will watch your game transform drastically.
However, one point of caution I always add is this: to reach a point where your movements can become effortless, you need to practice the movements. This is the hard part that a lot of people want to avoid.
“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee.
Things can take a turn very quickly in sports. As a former captain, I have had to practice keeping my mind calm and making efficient decisions. Also, I play as an all-rounder and cricket is a long sport with a lot of breaks. For me, keeping my mental fitness throughout the game is even more critical.
Let me tell you what I do in my daily life to make sure that I stay mentally fit and running on the game day.
Mental fitness comes from physical fitness
The number one thing I focus on when I go on the pitch is checking if my body is relaxed; I want my muscles, my fibres, to be running freely. Tension will stop my power but any anger will turn in adrenaline and anxiety into limitless excitement when you are relaxed. Especially for high level sport, this control will prevent my physical abilities being hampered by my nerves or any distractions.
That state of mind is what I define mental fortitude as, after all I feel most alive when I am playing sports. But in physical fitness, it is crucial to build mental fortitude. Here’s how I manage it!
Sleep and Scheduling
For me, as a cricketer, my highest priority is taking care of my body. My body can only heal, repair, and rebuild itself in the night. In deep sleep, my body can repair.
I take sleep hygiene very seriously, and you should too if you wake up in the morning still feeling groggy and tired. Closing the curtains signals the start of my night, I do not use technology before sleep, and I do not consume caffeine in the later hours of the day. I make sure that the temperature in the room is ideal, there is absolutely no noise, and there is zero lighting in the room.
All the important gym work that I put in the day will become useless if I do not give my body enough deep sleep and protein to repair the muscle.
I realise that a lot of people will turn their heads away or roll their eyes at the very mention of meditation. They say it’s boring; I say you have not even been meditating!
I have practised meditation in the past. It is not boring. It (maybe) is just uncomfortable for you, at this moment in time. It can get deeply uncomfortable for me as well, but it’s not boring. Meditation is you being with yourself in the deepest way possible and truly connecting to your thoughts, feelings and needs. Are relaxing days on the beach or time spent curled up with a book not the same thing? I also cannot think of another activity more healing for your body, other than sleep.
In my personal experience, working on my mental fortitude has not just helped me in sports, but also in life. The match day is an experience that is packed with overwhelming emotions. If I am alert and relaxed, i.e. if I am present in the moment, if I am flowing with the experience, I am surfing the wave of overwhelming emotions with ease.
In the flow state, you surf the wave. With tension, you crash against it and fall. I wish you all the best for whatever you are trying to achieve in your life, each one of you whether you’re a regular gym goer, prefer to stick to walks or want to take things as far as you can in high level sport.