Tag: Athletes

The Psychological Effect of Long Distance Pacers

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

If you have run or even watched a marathon, you have surely seen the pacers leading packs of people while carrying pieces of paper on poles signifying the time that they are pacing for. Pacers are experienced runners who keep track of the time during a race and run at a pace which will allow them to finish the race at the time their sign publicizes. Less experienced runners run nearby the pacer during a race to be sure that they finish at the time they desire without over exerting themselves.

Pacers take much of the thought out of running. Instead of a runner having to pace himself or herself, one simply has to keep up with the pacer. Because of this, pacers have been used throughout the history of running to break world records. One of the most significant of these records is Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile. The sub-four-minute mile was thought to be unreachable. Athletes had tried time and time again, often running the mile just seconds above four minutes. Bannister was the first to run a mile below four minutes, finishing the mile at 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds in 1954, and he credits much of this time to the two pacers who helped him during the race, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher. More recently, Nike put on a project for three champion marathoners to break the two-hour marathon with the help of pacers and Nike’s new marathon designed shoe. With multiple different pacing groups containing many different experienced runners, Nike created an intense pacing plan which allowed one runner to finished at 2:00:25, 2 minutes closer to the sub-two-hour marathon than ever before.

From these examples, it is clear to see that pacing is a way to both assist and push runners. But how does it work? While much of the effect of pacing can be said to be due to physiological effects, psychologically, pacers allow runners’ focus on more important aspects of race. During a race without a pacer, runners have multiple things to think about. Runners are receiving many signals throughout a race including those of pain from their aching bodies telling them to slow down or stop. If a runner is not focused on something ahead of them, they are likely to have their focus drift to the feelings of pain, causing them to slow down without even noticing it. A pacer in front of the runner allows that runner to focus solely on keeping up and keeps the runner in check.

One research study measured the effects of a self-controlled pace versus a pace set by a second runner on a nonelite runner. The results showed that when the second runner was setting the pace, the nonelite runners perceived the run as easier, despite the fact that it was still the same 5 km that they had run at a self-controlled pace (Bath et al., 2012). Yet another study showed that an externally-controlled pace aided performance when compared to a self-controlled pacing strategy due to increased attentional focus (Brick et al., 2016). The results of these two studies suggest that running alongside a pacer aids performance because it reduces the amount of mental energy a runner has to use on thoughts regarding their pace. A runner who is focused on maintaining their pace sacrifices mental energy that could be put towards more important aspects such pushing himself or herself to the finish line.

So what does this mean for other sports? While the concept of a pacemaker cannot be introduced into many other competitive realms, such as basketball, learning from the benefits gained from pacemakers can help your own performance. The main benefit gained from pacemakers is, evidently, that reducing the amount of required thought about topics which can be externally controlled can aid in both focus and performance. With this, you can take the idea of narrowing your focus, apply it to your own performance, and like a runner following a pacer, keep your head up and look forward.

 

References

Bath, D., Turner, L.A., Bosch, A.N., Tucker, R. Lambert, E.V., Thompson, K.G., & St Clair Gibson, (2012). The effect of a second runner on pacing strategy and RPE during a running time trial. International Journal of Sport Physiology Performance, 7(1), 26-32.

Brick, N.E., Campbell, M.J., Metcalfe, R.S., Mair, J.L, & MacInyre, T.E. (2016). Altering pace control and pace regulation: Attentional focus effects during running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(5), 879-86. doi: 10.1249/MS.0000000000000843.

Friel, A. (2016). Hired guns: A brief history of the pacer [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://thelongslowdistance.com/2016/02/09/hired-guns-a-brief-history-of-the-pacer/.

Huebsch, T. (2017). Big names in running comprise roster of pacers set to lead Nike’s Breaking2 attempt [News Article]. Retrieved from http://runningmagazine.ca/nikes-sub-two-marathon-breaking2-pacers/.

Nolan, A. (2017). So close! Kipchoge runs a 2:00:25 in the Breaking2 attempt [News Article]. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/2-hour-marathon/so-close-kipchoge-runs-a-20025-in-the-breaking2-attempt.

 

 

A Personal Perspective

By: Premier Sport Psychology

This week’s blog is a personal story from Taylor Finley, sharing her own experience with a sports camp earlier this month.UTC War Paint

What would you think if someone asked you compete in an intense competition for 20-hours straight? You would probably think that they are crazy!  But over the past month hundreds of collegiate athletes across the country took on this challenge at Athletes in Action’s infamous “Ultimate Training Camp”.  This high intensity, Christian sports camp teaches athletes 5 biblical principles and then puts them to the test in a 20-hour sports marathon known as “The S.P.E.C.I.A.L.”. Athletes refer to this challenge as, “the toughest 20 hours of my life,” “pure exhaustion yet,” and “absolutely life-changing”.  I had the opportunity to attend Ultimate Training Camp this year and can say that it was nothing short of life-changing.  Although the focus of the camp was to incorporate God into your sport, which was certainly central to my experience, I was also amazed to see how elements of sport psychology and the power of the human mind played such an important role in every athlete’s experience.

I want to focus on The S.P.E.C.I.A.L., as it was an incredible platform to see sacrifice, passion, pain, and triumph through sport in its most extreme form.  Many athletes experienced a breaking point, or point at which they don’t believe they can go any further, and their body wanted to break down due to exhaustion.  This is when it was crucial to apply the biblical principles we learned, humble ourselves, and surrender to the Lord.  For me, seeing grown men and the strongest of athletes fall to their knees and break down in tears was extremely powerful and emotional.  In physical exhaustion but more so overwhelming emotion, we learned how to surrender and move forward when we thought our bodies couldn’t carry us anymore.  This is when the mind, and for me the grace of God, allowed us to persevere far past what I ever thought was possible.  Personally, this may not have been the most physically challenging workout I have done in my life, but through this experience I saw the biggest transformation in myself as a person and as an athlete.  I was amazed and how far I could go.  Sprints, push-ups, or anything else thrown my way, I could not only complete but also excel at because of the power of my mind.  Whether that is grit, mental toughness, or the grace of God, one thing is that through sport these athletes were able to experience something that had a dramatic affect on their lives.  

In your weakest moment, you learn the most about yourself.  Sports often expose your weaknesses in the most brutal ways, and The S.P.E.C.I.A.L. certainly forced the athletes to feel exhaustion and weakness.  However, what most athletes found was that they had some source of strength deep inside themselves, to fight through and not simply survive the competition but actually thrive!  This is the beautiful and unique thing about sports.  Athletics has a unique way of breaking an athlete down in order to build them up even stronger, and this is when the greatest lessons are learned as we saw through The S.P.E.C.I.A.L.  Through sports and competition you can experience pain, suffering, failure, disappointment, and exhaustion like no other; whether physically through an injury or emotionally through a loss of a big game.  At the same token however, sports teach us how to overcome adversity and preserve, resulting in incomparable joy, success, and relationships in teammates.  Every athlete can say that playing sports shaped their character in some way or another for the good.  It is often through the trials, such as that breaking point in The S.P.E.C.I.A.L., that qualities such as leadership, determination or grit develop within the individual.

This is when having a growth mindset, a concept that is widely used in sport psychology training, comes into play.  Having a growth mindset involves believing abilities can be developed through effort and dedication, and in times of trial it is important to know that this challenge is all part of a process and a bigger picture.  Finding your purpose and a strong motivation for why you play your sport is essential, and can help you overcome these times of disappointment or when you just don’t think you can push any further.  For the athletes at Ultimate Training Camp, we focused on playing for God as our motivation.  For any athlete, if you find a powerful motivation, whatever that may be for you, and focus deeply on that in every moment, whether practicing alone or playing in front of thousands of fans, you will be amazed at how far you can go and what you can achieve.

Taylor Finley

Meet Taylor Finley

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Taylor will be with Premier Sport Psychology for the summer of 2016 as one of our interns. Read on to learn more about Taylor.

Let’s start with a fun fact about yourself.FullSizeRender
My oldest sister and I were born on the same day, April 27th, but exactly 9 years apart.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would love to travel to Spain and try to put the little bit of Spanish I know to the test.

Do you prefer movies or Netflix?  
I honestly don’t watch either that often, but I’m a sucker for watching a good chick-flick with my sisters.

What is the best show you’ve watched on Netflix?
Friends! Loved it before it was on Netflix, and I love it even more now!

Chocolate or vanilla?
100% chocolate, I’m a chocolate extreme DQ Blizzard kind of girl.

What is the most played song on your iPod?
“Break On Me” by Keith Urban.

You are being sent to a deserted island you can bring one person and one item, who and what would you bring, and why?
I would bring Jesus Christ, because I could talk to him and learn from him forever, plus he could probably get us out of there by performing a few miracles! I would bring along lots of sunscreen, because there is nothing worse than a bad sunburn and I’m hoping it will be a sunny, tropical island.

Favorite sport to play? How about to watch?
Basketball for sure, but I would rather watch hockey, a true Minnesotan at heart.

What is your experience with sports?
My dad is a basketball coach so I pretty much grew up in a basketball gym and I have played the game since I can remember. I have coached AAU basketball teams, directed basketball camps, and I currently play at the Division I level.

What has drawn you to the sport psychology world?
I absolutely love sports and always wanted to be involved in some way. After taking psychology classes in college and seeing what sport psychology could do for my own team at Harvard, I can see how impactful sport psychology can be on not only an athlete’s performance but their entire life.

What is your educational background and future aspirations?
I graduated high school from Providence Academy, and will be a senior at Harvard University next year where I study psychology and sociology. After graduation, I hope to continue my education and pursue a Master’s and Doctorate in Sport Psychology.  

 

 

 

Everyone Can Be a Champion, Just Like Matthew Williams

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Matthew Williams is a champion. He trains five days a week to excel in both basketball and speed skating and has gone on to represent Canada in international competition. In his inspiring TED Talk, Williams discusses how society has become more accepting of athletes with intellectual disabilities—however, we still have a ways to go. “The world does not see all people like me as champions,” Williams says, “Not long ago, people like me were shunned and hidden away. There has been lots of change since Special Olympics began in 1968, but in too many cases, people with intellectual disabilities are invisible to the wider population.”

Unfortunately, too many athletes have not been given the opportunity to perfect and showcase their talents. The Special Olympics has taken great steps to help all athletes reach their fullest potential by not only supporting athletes in competition, but also supporting their health: “Special Olympics also addresses critical health needs. Studies have shown that, on average, men with intellectual disabilities die 13 years younger than men without, and women with intellectual disabilities die 20 years younger than women without. Special Olympics keeps us healthy by getting us active and participating in sport. Also, our coaches teach us about nutrition and health. Special Olympics also provides free health screening for athletes who have difficulty communicating with their doctor or accessing health care.”

Playing sports have a variety of benefits such as building teamwork and leadership skills in a safe and fun environment—an environment all athletes should have the opportunity to be a part of. The Special Olympics is just one organization that is doing incredible work—work that Williams has the utmost respect for: “Special Olympics is changing the world by transforming four and a half million athletes and giving us a place to be confident, meet friends, not be judged and get to feel like and be champions.”

For more information on the Special Olympics, visit their website.

Watch the full talk below:

From Super Bowl 50 to–Retirement? Managing Breaks From Our Game, Both Brief and Indefinite

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

This Sunday millions of people will be huddled around their televisions with an array of jalapeño poppers and chips and guac to watch the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos (as well as the commercials). There has been a lot of talk surrounding Superbowl L as Peyton Manning squares off against Cam Newton–specifically around Peyton and if this will be his final game. Whether that is the case or just a rumor, athletes’ decisions to end their playing careers altogether or take breaks from their game are some of the most difficult decisions they must make.

There are many factors that play into deciding whether to take a break from/stop playing a sport completely—some are controllable and others, uncontrollable. A serious injury, for example, is a factor that athletes have no control over. Now, you may have control over how closely you stick to your rehabilitation process and if that injury was due to poor form, but most injuries are accidents and are therefore uncontrollable. Right after an uncontrollable event occurs, it is easy to get wrapped up in worst-case scenarios; however, we must step back and look at our situation with a lighter perspective. To help you do this, work through the following exercise:

Take a sheet of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. At the top on the left, write “controllables”; on the right, write “uncontrollables.” Think about the situation you are in and write aspects of it in the appropriate column. For example, “broken ankle” is something you cannot control, but “going to rehab and doing the exercises daily” as well as “attitude about the situation” are two things you can control. From there, think about how you can control those “controllables” in the most healthy and positive way.

Whether you are talking about taking a break from your sport, transitioning into a new phase of playing, or retiring completely, spending time thinking about your “controllables” helps you mentally shift away from negative thoughts and toward positive actions that can help you get back on the field/move forward.

 

 

Sport Spotlight: Mixed Martial Arts

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

The second in our series of “spotlight sports” focuses on mixed martial arts, or MMA, which began in the ancient Olympic games known as Pankration. It was later passed on from the Greeks to the Romans. Some of the basic skills that were used back then are still used today, and with the help of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the sport is consistently rising in popularity.

MMA is a full-contact sport that combines fighting techniques from multiple styles of martial arts and combat sports. Since various styles are used, all fighters must be well rounded and versed in multiple disciplines. Almost all MMA fighters started in a particular area or areas of martial arts then crossed over to mixing the martial arts.

Rules and Regulations

When this sport first began there were hardly any rules, if any, which made for a free-for-all. As a result, today’s MMA fighting and competitions include many rules to keep athletes safe. The most common rule set around the world is The Unified Rules, which includes rules ranging from hand wrapping to ring conditions to weight class regulations.

Fights last for five minutes and mostly go for three rounds, however, in some cases there are five rounds. There are three ways to win a fight: knockout, submission or decision—the referee also can intervene and determine a win. Three judges score each fight using the 10-Point Must System, where the winner earns 10 points and the loser anything less than that (except in rare circumstances). Click here for a more comprehensive list of the rules.

How to Get Involved

Being one of the fastest growing sports today, there are many opportunities to get involved with MMA here in Minnesota. Check out the following links to see some of the studios Minnesota has to offer:

Warrior’s Cove

The Academy

Next Level Combat

 

“Concussion” — Not Just the Movie

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

In the new movie Concussion, premiering Christmas Day, Will Smith plays a Forensic Pathologist who discovers neurological deterioration (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in football players. He goes on to spread the word about concussions to help keep athletes safe. This blog aims to do the same.

What exactly is a concussion? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury where a blow to the head causes the brain to move back and forth in the skull. This movement in the brain can change chemicals in the brain and bruise it. Concussions can also lead to more serious issues later in life, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

What sports are they most prevalent in? For male athletes, they are most prevalent in football and hockey, whereas for female athletes, it is soccer and lacrosse.

How do I know if my athlete has a concussion? Symptoms of concussions include: loss of consciousness, memory, or coordination; headache or feeling of pressure; nausea or vomiting; fatigue or sluggishness; and ringing in the ears. If you suspect your athlete of having a concussion, it is important to bring them to a doctor right away.

What is the best way to overcome a concussion? The only way to recover is giving the brain time to recover. This involves restricting activity as well as giving it the rest it needs, which includes reducing screen time on computers and TVs as well.

How can we prevent concussions? The only way to fully prevent sport-related concussions would be to abstain from sport; however there are preventative measures that can be taken to reduce risk. Make sure that you wear the proper equipment for the sport, use proper technique for physical contact sports, follow the rules when it comes to tackling, checking, etc., and have good sportsmanship.

Concussion premieres December 25th. Be sure to check it out!’

 

Embrace Your Shake Like Phil Hansen

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Phil Hansen was going to school to become an artist when he discovered something that he thought would end his career before it even began. He had developed a shake in his hand from using pointillism—a painting technique in which small dots are applied in patterns to form a single image. Because he could no longer create art through his preferred method, he decided to drop art school and art altogether. However, years later he decided to return to art and saw a doctor about his condition. The doctor changed his life with a single question: “Why don’t you just embrace the shake?”

Hansen’s TED talk describes his inspiring journey to find his new calling through art: “And I realized, if I ever wanted my creativity back, I had to quit trying so hard to think outside of the box and get back into it.” Athletes can mirror this idea by spending time going back to the beginning and thinking about what aspects of their sport made them fall in love with it in the first place. More importantly, this talk—and what we can all take from it—is about remembering what makes us unique and what strengths we have.

As his talk comes to a close, Hansen professes: “Limitations may be the most unlikely of places to harness creativity, but perhaps one of the best ways to get ourselves out of ruts, rethink categories, and challenge accepted norms. And instead of telling each other to seize the day, maybe we can remind ourselves every day to seize the limitation.”

Everyone has a “shake” or weakness, and although this insecurity may seem like a flaw it is simply something that makes you unique. However, because “shakes” are unique to each individual, it may seem as though you are the only one with that particular “shake.” Sometimes, that results in athletes defying their shakes in the attempt to be “normal.” This perspective is understandable considering technicalities in sports require athletes to follow certain rules and regulations. As a result, it is hard for them to both accept and figure out an alternate path to take toward the designated goal. Although taking another route for the sport or skill they are working toward will be an adjustment, it will make them a stronger athlete with stronger weaknesses.

Athletes have the ability to embrace whatever “shakes” they have just like Phil Hansen. Rather than letting the shake define them, athletes can define it for themselves and use it as a performance enhancement they never knew they had. In other words they can seize the limitation in their shake. Believe in what makes you different; never give up on something just because it is not viewed as typical. Most importantly, embrace your shake.

See Hansen’s inspiring talk here.

 

 

Keep Your Athletes Safe: Stay Informed About Their Hearts

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

For athletes, heart health is one of the many benefits of maintaining the active lifestyle that they do; however, having a heart with structural changes to cope with athletic demands can sometimes come with complications. Symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, passing out, and irregular heart beats are all signs to go see a doctor.

Another issue with the hearts of athletes is genetic or irregular heart conditions. Heart conditions are often undiagnosed and can lead to serious life threatening consequences like cardiac arrest while playing a sport. One of the most common heart conditions involved with causes of sudden death in athletes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)—the enlargement of the heart muscle to a dangerous size—which is commonly undiagnosed.

The key to keeping your athlete safe is detection. To help determine if your athlete has a heart that could potentially be at risk, be aware of familial health history and learn what symptoms to look for. If you know your athlete could be at risk, consult a doctor and arrange to have further testing done. If they don’t seem at risk but you notice your athlete begin to exhibit something similar to any of the symptoms, err on the side of caution and go see a doctor. From then on the doctor or specialist can determine what the next best course of action is. This could range from testing, monitoring athletic activity, or refraining from athletics altogether. Sometimes the best way to protect the heart is to stop athletic activity and let it return to normal size. This gives it a chance to work properly without all the stress of performing under athletic conditions.

Overall, athletes having heart conditions are nothing to panic about—just be aware. Just like you are aware of your athletes’ injuries, you need to be aware of the potential injury their hearts could have. The heart is just like any other muscle in the body that can become pulled or strained. Many people have heart conditions and can live normal lives, but being an athlete puts more stress on the irregularity of the heart, which can cause more serious issues. Remember being informed is crucial and to take precaution through prevention, detection, and diagnosis. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

For more information, check out the following links:

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Athletic heart syndrome

Looking for a TED Talk? Premier Has a Few Recommendations

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

At Premier, we always strive to learn more. We read through the latest scholarly journals, explore new books, and—one of our favorites—watch numerous TED talks. Below is a list of some of our favorite TED talks about sport and/or psychology along with a memorable quote from each of the pieces. If you have any recommendations for us, let us know via Facebook or Twitter!

Sarah Lewis – Embrace the near win “Coming close to what you thought you wanted can help you attain more than you ever dreamed you could.”

Dan Gilbert – The psychology of your future self Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been.”

Diana Nyad – Extreme swimming with the world’s most dangerous jellyfish And with all sincerity, I can say, I am glad I lived those two years of my life that way, because my goal to not suffer regrets anymore, I got there with that goal. When you live that way, when you live with that kind of passion, there’s no time, there’s no time for regrets, you’re just moving forward.”

Christopher McDougall – Are we born to run? Running — it’s basically just right, left, right, left — yeah? I mean, we’ve been doing it for two million years, so it’s kind of arrogant to assume that I’ve got something to say that hasn’t been said and performed better a long time ago. But the cool thing about running, as I’ve discovered, is that something bizarre happens in this activity all the time…”

Angela Lee Duckworth – The key to success? Grit Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Amy Cuddy – Your body language shapes who you are So, for example, we smile when we feel happy, but also, when we’re forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth like this, it makes us feel happy. So it goes both ways. When it comes to power, it also goes both ways. So when you feel powerful, you’re more likely to do this, but it’s also possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful.”

Carol Dweck – The power of believing that you can improve I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade ‘Not Yet.’ And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade ‘Not Yet’ you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.”

Sophie Scott – Why we laugh Everybody underestimates how often they laugh, and you’re doing something, when you laugh with people, that’s actually letting you access a really ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds, and clearly to regulate emotions, to make ourselves feel better. It’s not something specific to humans — it’s a really ancient behavior which really helps us regulate how we feel and makes us feel better.”

Amy Purdy – Living beyond limits If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go? That’s the question that changed my life forever.”

Andy Puddicombe – All it takes is 10 mindful minutes “…when did you last take any time to do nothing? Just 10 minutes, undisturbed? And when I say nothing, I do mean nothing. So that’s no emailing, texting, no Internet, no TV, no chatting, no eating, no reading. Not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Simply doing nothing…”

Ben Ambridge – 10 myths about psychology, debunked So the myth is that psychology is just a collection of interesting theories, all of which say something useful and all of which have something to offer. What I hope to have shown you in the past few minutes is that this isn’t true. What we need to do is assess psychological theories by seeing what predictions they make, whether that is that listening to Mozart makes you smarter, that you learn better when information is presented in your preferred learning styleor whatever it is, all of these are testable empirical predictions, and the only way we can make progress is to test these predictions against the data in tightly controlled experimental studies.