Want to know about the latest breakthrough in thinking in sport?
Want to learn about how to coach more effectively and get more out of every training session?
Want to hear how to enhance the performance of your athletes?
Here it is: the latest thing – Psycho-physiology (more specifically sports psycho-physiology): The way forward in successful coaching and sports performance.
And guess what?
This revolutionary breakthrough in sports performance is so new that it has only been around for 5000 years…..
What is Sports Psycho-Physiology?
Sports Psycho-physiology (and let me be the first to introduce the inevitable acronym SPP) is a fancy name for the integration of mind and body in the effective training, preparation and performance strategies of athletes. It is about helping athletes to perform better through using their mind and body in harmony in training and competition.
Everything old is new again: Psycho-physiology through the ages.
Before someone steps up and writes a book claiming to be the guru of sports psycho-physiology and that they invented it, this stuff has been around for a long, long time. The Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese and many other great civilizations all have written about, spoken about and lived the integrated mind-body philosophy.
So it has been around for a long time, but only now are coaches and athletes starting to think about how to apply psycho-physiology to enhancing the effectiveness of training and preparation for sports competition.
The only three really new things about (sports) psycho-physiology are:
- Sports scientists and coaches are finally waking up to the understanding that you can’t train the body without simultaneously training the mind IF you want to achieve optimal results;
- We now have the techniques and the technologies where we can measure the changes in the brain that occur through the introduction of mind-body integration techniques, e.g. CBT, mindfulness, meditation;
- We have finally got to the point where we can integrate (sports) psycho-physiology in the Daily Athlete Training Environment (D.A.T.E.) through smart coaching.
What is being done in (Sports) Psycho-Physiology?
There is a lot of exciting work being done around the world in this “new” breakthrough area: here are just three examples:
- In the field of cardio-vascular disease, researchers are looking more and more at the physiological impact of mental and emotional stresses and mental illness, e.g. anxiety, bi-polar disorder and depression. As a result, we now better understand how mental and emotional states can effect the body (e.g. changes in heart rate, blood pressure, adrenalin levels and platelet formation) all of which has enormous implications for competitive sport;
- Researchers are looking closely at the impact of introducing mental skills training techniques like “mindfulness”into training programs including measuring pre (mindfulness) / post (mindfulness) performance of athletes with fMRI technology;
- Many professional teams are using psycho-physiology by measuring brain wave activity as one indicator of over-training, over-reaching and fatigue.
It all adds to up to one thing…………Sports Psycho-Physiology is here and it promises to be bigger (and better) than Pilates, Swiss Balls and Creatine Supplements – the difference being….psycho-physiology actually works!!!
So What does this mean to Athletes.
For athletes, SPP offers unlimited potential for enhanced performance. Traditionally we have prepared athletes for the most part from a physiological standpoint: speed, strength, endurance, power, agility, flexibility…..and then sent them out to “battle” in great physical shape. The “mental” side of preparation we have left to a few war crys, the pre-match psyche up and the ubiquitous (but generally useless) motivation speech. We have laboured under the misguided view that getting the body ready is enough.
However, this is the equivalent of strapping a Ferrari engine to a bicycle frame! An athlete who is well prepared physically but who does not possess an understanding of how to integrate their mind and their “Ferrari engine” together in training and competition can not realise their full potential.
So for athletes…..you have the best ever opportunity to see your dreams become reality.
What does it mean for Coaches.
The key for coaches is to integrate SPP into their training and preparation environments by the addition of a mental component in their planning, periodisation and exercise prescription.
So, in practical terms, it means adding a mental element to every training set, every skill practice routine, every fitness activity: to change your programming tools from just volume, intensity and frequency to volume, intensity, frequency AND a mental factor.
Once you make this fundamental philosophical step of incorporating a mental aspect into your physical training routines and practices your coaching will achieve new heights.
(Watch for a future post: Programming with Sports Psycho-physiology).
What does it mean for Sporting Institutions, Universities, Academies, Coach Educators etc.
For sporting institutions, the Sports Psycho-physiology revolution means four things:
- Integration– of physiology and psychology resources, staff, research and departments;
- Innovation – solving performance problems which incorporate mind / body solutions;
- Inspiration – seeing this new direction as a limitless opportunity to find performance breakthroughs through integrated research, different thinking and as an incredible opportunity to help athletes and coaches achieve new levels of excellence;
- Illumination – changing the way we educate coaches about sports science right from their first day in the coach education system.
Now that the “silo” (i.e. single discipline, reductionist) approach to applying sports science to athlete and coach performance is finally being seriously challenged around the world, more and more of these “inter-disciplinary” breakthroughs will emerge….
So what’s the next inter-disciplinary breakthrough likely to be?
Bio-physiology:(i.e. bio-mechanics and physiology): Imagine what we could achieve by integrating the fields of bio-mechanics and physiology so that when we make a change to an athlete’s technique or skills, we simultaneously consider the impact on physiological efficiency, energy cost, oxygen dynamics etc.
Psycho-mechanics: (i.e. psychology and bio-mechanics): Imagine what we could achieve if we incorporated a mental component into bio-mechanics so that when we work on improving, changing and enhancing an athlete’s technique, we also include things like relaxation, flow, feeling, focus, concentration and mindfulness.
Now that the shackles of the single discipline silo approach to sports science have been removed, so too have the limits to human performance.
Question….Where will it end?