16 February 2016

Show Me the Data!

How Peak Performance Physiology Training  Can Enhance Your Sport Psychology Practice

Anyone working with elite or professional athletes knows that the days where one trains only for their specific sport are over. Training regimens can include weight training, endurance training, sports nutrition, yoga for flexibility, and even things like hypoxic chambers and cryotherapy. And, of course, there is mental training.

The Next Level In Science and Mental Conditioning
Mental training plays an important role in helping to shape the mental and emotional state of the athlete to increase their ability to deal with pressure and to thrive under difficult conditions. But, how do you know if your training is having the desired effect?

"If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." - Lord Kelvin

An athlete’s emotions and thoughts lead to changes in physiology that are both measurable and controllable. Peak performance physiology training involves the use of equipment that monitors a variety of physiological signals and feeds this information back to a computer where the information is displayed in real time. Athletes can see how their body reacts to emotions and stress, and can learn how to control these reactions. They can objectively tell when they lose focus or are hindering their own performance, then correct it and get their body and mind back in the game.

Back to the Data...
"So initially I asked myself...let's see if we can put together some information because coaches are used to having data. They have data from the medical department, they have data from scouting, oppositional scouting, technical analysis. They have data coming from the strength and conditioning department - so they have data. They don't have data from the psychologists. So I said, let's see what we can do." - Bruno Demichelis
At the BFE 18th Annual Meeting in Rome, Dr. Bruno Demichelis (22 years of experience with AC Milan and work with Chelsea football club and the Vancouver Canucks) and Dr. Tim Harkness (Chelsea football club) gave a keynote address on the use biofeedback and neurofeedback in sports. Their presentation focused on what they have gleaned from the psychophysiological data of over 250 elite athletes they have trained. You can view the full presentation below.



What is Peak Performance Physiology Training?
Athletes using peak performance physiology training learn to  bring themselves to a place that combines mental clarity and sustained energy with a sense of inner calm and active engagement. Virtually everyone experiences these moments of flow at some point in their lives. Elite athletes learn how to access them when they need to.

PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES THAT ARE MONITORED INCLUDE:
heart rate; respiration rate; skin conductance; muscle activity; peripheral body temperature; brainwaves; reaction time

Peak performance training involves understanding one's self and learning how to put one's body and
mind in a state to perform at the maximum level. A good example is how tension carried in the shoulders can decrease the range of physical movement,  which in turn affects performance. Your brain creates the tension so, change the brain, lose the tension. Similarly, an athlete's breathing techniques might not be optimal, but since every person is different there is no "one size fits all" solution. An athlete's respiration rate can be assessed in order to determine the best breathing techniques specific to that individual. The concept of focus is used a lot in sports, but often athletes don't know what that is in terms of physical calmness and mental intensity. Focus can be taught through brain training and can help to minimize over-anxiety and 'trying-too-hard', while still maintaining the commitment to do well.

Benefits of Training
  • Improved Focus - maintain concentration on the task at hand, with fewer instances of distraction.
  • Quicker & More Efficient Recovery - there are only so many seconds between each set, pitch, hit or shot. Make sure you use all that time to improve your capacity to be ready for the next game-changing moment.
  • Eliminating Interfering Self-Talk - your worst enemy can be yourself. Learn to keep your head in the game and push out that voice of self-doubt.
  • Improved Visualization - studies show that the better an athlete can visualize their success, the better they perform.
  • Decreased Reaction Time & Better Discrepancy - the faster your brain processes the events around you, the earlier you can react appropriately to them. Learn to be faster than your opponent.

Optimizing Performance and Health Software Suite
Developed from the clinical research and method of Dr. Vietta 'Sue' Wilson, the pioneer of peak performance physiology training and sport psychology,  the Optimizing Performance & Health suite is a full program that allows practitioners to assess and train an athlete's performance and response to stress. This software package's records objective physiological readings in its assessment and presents them in an easy to read report. With data in-hand, the athlete and coach can understand where the body or mind is holding the athlete back from their best level of performance.  Re-training of physiological reactions then takes place with live biofeedback/neurofeedback, so that the athlete can put their mind in right state to correct their maladaptive reactions and thinking.

The following physiological markers of performance are examined in the Optimizing Performance & Health suite's assessment and retraining: heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV), respiration, skin conductance, peripheral body temperature, muscle activity and brain waves.

All BFE software suites are compatible with the Thought Technology BioGraph® Infiniti™ platform.



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