Olympic Medalist Katherine Adamek Has Secrets To Train The Brain

By Gary D'Amato, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Aug. 18, 2018, 11:54 a.m. (ET)

Elite athletes, no matter the sport, have a few things in common. They’re highly competitive, motivated and results oriented. Quite often, they’re self-absorbed perfectionists and hard on themselves when they don’t achieve goals.

Those qualities can help them earn college scholarships, make Olympic teams and sign multimillion-dollar contracts. But they are double-edged swords. When athletes can’t turn off the voice in their head that chastises them for a lousy workout or introduces doubt about an upcoming race, they’re not focusing on what they can do right now to get better.

As a two-time Olympic medalist in short-track speedskating, Katherine Adamek (née Reutter) knows all about the pitfalls of what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” She wonders how much more she would have accomplished had she learned earlier in her career how to turn off that voice.

“I absolutely think I could have done more at a younger age with more mindfulness training because everything back then felt like win or die,” Adamek says. “Everything felt like if I can’t beat (China’s) Meng Wang, that is a personal judgment about my character.

"Something about me as a person just isn’t good enough.”

It was only later that Adamek, through a mental skills training program called Vision Pursue, unlocked the power of mindfulness and meditation. By then a series of debilitating injuries had left her a physical shell of her former self. She attempted a comeback but fell short of making the 2018 U.S. Olympic team, eight years after winning silver (1,000 meters) and bronze (3,000-meter relay) in Vancouver.

Now, Adamek, 29, wants to teach athletes, teams, coaches and people in the corporate world what she learned. She is a “performance mind-set coach” and has started a Milwaukee-based business called Fix Your Mindset (fixyourmindset.com).

Mindfulness and meditation sound like some New Age thing, but it’s not about an athlete sitting around and om-ing when he or she should be running wind sprints or doing squats.

“It’s not some hippie-yoga-guru thing,” Adamek says. “It’s as simple as training your mind to focus and to be in the here and now. Literally, everyone can use some mind-set training because you can decrease stress, increase emotional resiliency, increase focus and increase your ability to bounce back from things that go wrong.”

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