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  • Writer's pictureJoe Fit Asia

P2 Incorporating Mindfulness and Sports Mindset for the Highlining Athlete.

Updated: Feb 29

Welcome to Blog 15. This is a follow-up to my last blog – P2 Incorporating Mindfulness and Sports Mindset for the Highlining Athlete. Interview with Gavin Alexander Lewis.

1.     Introduction:

1.     Can you share a bit about your journey as a highlining athlete and how you got started in the sport?

Gavin: I first started highlining in Tasmania, Australia. I had already been Slacklining (umbrella sport) for about 4-5 months and I wanted to take it to the next level. I got in contact with the highlining crew in Tasmania saying that I was super keen and if they would show me the ropes? At this stage of my Australian backpacking life, I was living in Broome, Western Australia and I had a broken-down van that I was living in. I had worked and saved enough money to fix it and was deciding between fixing my home on wheels or go highlining in Tasmania. The sense of adventure was calling me, and I remember saying to myself “f*ck it!”. Next thing I knew I was on my way to Tasmania.

2. Mindfulness in Highlining:

Highlining requires intense focus and concentration. How do you incorporate mindfulness practices into your training routine to stay present and focused on the line?

Gavin: I do a few different things like yoga and stamina strength training. I’ll try to go to a yoga class once a week, and take those practices like single leg posses and incorporate that home for about 15 minutes to wind down after work. I also use that as an engagement/readiness warm up before highlining. As for stamina strength training, I do circuit training with weights and short rest. An example would be total 30 minutes of HIIT, and short rests of 30 seconds – 1 minute rest between exercises, or 2 minutes rest between sets. There is a level of stamina and endurance required for highlining, especially once you start going longer distances. Your heart rate can still beat quite high for standing very still.   

3. Breath and Body Awareness:

Many athletes use breath awareness to manage stress and enhance focus. Do you have specific breathing exercises or body awareness practices that you find helpful in the highlining context?

Gavin: I’ve been working with two different breathing exercises while on the line. One, just the standard deep breath in and deep breath out, and the other is box breathing. As for body awareness, I slightly engage my core and glutes on and off. So, I combine all these together while highlining. You’ll go through different stages throughout the length of the line. Generally speaking, you have 3 stages of the line, there’s the beginning, the middle and the end, and each part will feel different depending on how loose of tight the line is. Your body awareness, breathing pattern and how tired you are also changes and you’ll have to adjust that to the different stages of the line. There’s lots of emotional and internal change within you, but the key is to also remain calm and relaxed.     

4. Visualization for Performance:

Visualization is a powerful tool for athletes. How do you use mindful visualization to prepare for highlining performances, and how does it contribute to your confidence on the line?

Gavin: I use visualization while practicing single leg yoga possess, whether if that’s in class, at home or before getting on the line. While on the line there are a number of different things I focus on; looking at the line anywhere between 5-10 meters in front of me, in my breathing, the stability and firmness on my legs, my core and glutes, and keeping relaxed. When I’m practicing the single leg possess that’s what I visualize.      

5. Mindfulness During the Walk:

Once you're on the line, how do you maintain a mindful state? Are there specific techniques or mental strategies you employ to stay calm and focused in the midst of the challenging environment?

Gavin: Being in the present moment, being in the now. Focusing on breathing, body awareness, pace/rhythm of walking, and your focus point on the line. There is no past and future in highlining, there is only the now. If you’re not present and your mind wonders off, it’ll be very difficult to maintain composure and you’ll most likely fall off.         

6. Sensory Engagement:

Highlining involves a heightened sensory experience. How do you engage your senses on the line, and does this contribute to your overall performance and connection with the environment?

Gavin: Your sensory experience is automatically engaged every time you step out on the line. The sensory and emotional experience this has on your highline performance is fear. Fear in highlining is the one sensory emotion that stands out most. Fear of heights, fear of exposure, fear of anchor and line failure, fear of only being attached to a thin line, and fear of death. This fear contributes to not being able to stand, not being able to walk and performance especially in beginners and depending on the location you’re at. Fear puts a lot of people off and never return to try again or they just simply can’t get over their fears. So, it is up to the individual to either let fear control you, or you control your fears. Controlling your fears takes months and even years to develop. But if you can push past that to control your fears and let that drive bring out the best in you to stand and walk, that’s when you experience true highlining and being fully connected to the environment. People say that there’s only 1% who have completed an iron man, highlining is far less than that.  

7.  Mindful Recovery:

Recovery is crucial in any athletic discipline. How do you incorporate mindfulness into your post-highlining recovery routine, both physically and mentally?

Gavin: Personally, I don’t do or have any post-highline recovery routines consciously, but after a highline session with friends on weekends, if we’re not doing any intensive missions, we’ll usually go grab some beers and food. Highlining it self is a mindful recovery. It’s a mindful recovery from your everyday stresses from life and work, because we’re hanging out with friends in the present moment doing epic things and epic places. 

If we’re doing an intensive highline mission that usually involves lots of walking in the mountains in exposed places while carrying heavy packs of around 20kg, then I’ll usually do a post stretch and definitely have a hot bath.          

8. Mindfulness and Resilience:

Highlining often comes with its share of challenges. How has the practice of mindfulness contributed to your mental resilience, helping you overcome setbacks and continue to push your limits?

Gavin: Highlining has played an immense role in my mental resilience that I use to carry on into my everyday life and future goals. It’s a simple concept, stand up on a thin line and walk to the end, but of course that’s hard to do. We live in a world where people do things for you and help you get out of hard situations, and quite frankly you don’t learn anything from that. In highlining its all you and no one else. You have encouragement from your friends but at the end of the day its you who has to do the walking. You’ll fall, fall, and fall plenty more in strong winds, in hot weather, cold weather, rained on, snowed on, wet terrain, ice terrain, exposed mountains and steep cliffs. All of the outdoor external environment that you can’t control. So it’s up to you to get up and keep walking or turn back.     

9.  Advice for Aspiring Highliners:

For those aspiring to enter the world of highlining, what advice would you give regarding the role of mindfulness in developing a strong mindset for this extreme sport?

Gavin: My advice for aspiring highliners is to find the right people, first practice at the park and then get out there and give it a go! There are no pre-advice or pre-solutions to developing a strong mindset for highlining, there are no words that can prepare you. The only way is to experience it and endure the grueling, lengthy journey, and your mindset will develop along the way. That of course is if you decide to stand up and keep going.  

10. Closing Thoughts:

Finally, what are your closing thoughts on the intersection of mindfulness and highlining? How has cultivating a mindful approach influenced not only your performance on the line but also your overall experience as an athlete?

Gavin: Highlining has changed my life. It has given me purpose. There are simple concepts in highlining like mentioned above that I use to carry into my everyday life and has influenced my mindset. To be good at highlining it will take dedication, practice, time, visualization, being in the present moment, standing back up, try again and carry on, but most importantly having fun. This is my overall experience as a highline athlete. In terms of mindfulness and highlining, mindfulness can only be developed while trying to be a highline athlete. But it is not for everyone and takes a certain character to want to endure this journey. That’s why there’s far less than the 1% of people who have completed an iron man race.

Thank you for reading my latest blog.

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Mahalo & Aloha

Joe Lewis


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