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Sports Are 80 Percent Mental

7 Posts tagged with the olympics tag

The Physiology Of Speed

Posted by Dan Peterson Aug 29, 2009

!http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SnHCZzVlKJI/AAAAAAAAA5w/59rCxBaOnQE/s400/usain-bolt-olympics-200m.jpg|src=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SnHCZzVlKJI/AAAAAAAAA5w/59rCxBaOnQE/s400/usain-bolt-olympics-200m.jpg|border=0!</div>

Usain Bolt, the triple Olympic gold medal sprinter from Jamaica, predicted last week that he could break his own world record of 9.69 seconds in the 100 meter sprint with a time as low as 9.54 seconds.  (8/15 update: he came very close running a 9.58 at the World Championships in Berlin.)

 

He claimed his coach told him its possible, so he believes him. His coach, Glen Mills, may have just finished reading some new research coming out of Duke University that showed sprinters and swimmers who are taller, heavier but more slender are the ones breaking world records.

 

At first glance, it may not make sense that bigger athletes would be faster. However, Jordan Charles, a recent engineering grad at Duke, plotted all of the world record holders in the 100 meter sprint and the 100 meter swim since 1900 against their height, weight and a measurement he called "slenderness."

 

World record sprinters have gained an average of 6.4 inches in height since 1900, while champion swimmers have shot up 4.5 inches, compared to the mere mortal average height gain of 1.9 inches.

During the same time, about 7/10 of a second have been shaved off of the 100-meter sprint while over 14 seconds have come off the 100-meter swim record.

 

What's going on

Charles applied the "[constructal theory | http://www.constructal.org/]" he learned from his mentor Adrian Bejan, a mechanical engineering professor at Duke, that describes how objects move through their environment.

 

"Anything that moves, or anything that flows, must evolve so that it flows more and more easily," Bejan said. "Nature wants to find a smoother path, to flow more easily, to find a path with less resistance," he said. "The animal design never gets there, but it tries to be the least imperfect that it can be."

 

Their research is reported in the current online edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

 

For locomotion, a human needs to overcome two forces, gravity and friction. First, an athlete would need to lift his foot off the ground or keep his body at the water line without sinking. Second, air resistance for the sprinter and water resistance for the swimmer will limit speed.

 

So, the first step is actually weight lifting, which a bigger, stronger athlete will excel at. The second step is to move through the space with the least friction, which emphasizes the new slenderness factor.

 

By comparing height with a calculated "width" of the athlete, slenderness is a measurement of mass spread out over a long frame. The athlete that can build on more muscle mass over a aerodynamic frame will have the advantage.

 

!http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SnHDFQlORaI/AAAAAAAAA54/r8PIzp7Vp7E/s320/Eamon_Sullivan.jpg|src=http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SnHDFQlORaI/AAAAAAAAA54/r8PIzp7Vp7E/s320/Eamon_Sullivan.jpg|border=0!

The numbers

In swimming, legendary Hawaiian champion Duke Kahanamoku set the world record in 1912 with a time of 61.6 seconds with a calculated slenderness of 7.88. Some 96 years later, Eamon Sullivan lowered the world mark to 47.05 seconds at a slenderness factor of 8.29.

 

As the athletes’ slenderness factor has risen over the years, the winning times have dropped.  In 1929, Eddie Tolan's world-record 100 meter sprint of 10.4 seconds was achieved with a slenderness factor of 7.61. When Usain Bolt ran 9.69 seconds in the 2008 Olympics, his slenderness was also 8.29 while also being the tallest champion in history at 6-feet 5-inches.

 

“The trends revealed by our analysis suggest that speed records will continue to be dominated by heavier and taller athletes,” said Charles. “We believe that this is due to the constructal rules of animal locomotion and not the contemporary increase in the average size of humans.”

 

So, how fast did the original Olympians run? Charles used an anthropology finding for Greek and Roman body mass and plugged it into his formula.

 

“In antiquity, body weights were roughly 70 percent of what they are today,” Charles said. “Using our theory, a 100-meter dash that is won in 13 seconds would have taken about 14 seconds back then.”

Bolt puts his prediction to the test next month at the track and field world championships in Berlin. One of his main competitors is Asafa Powell, the previous world record holder, who is shorter and has a slenderness factor of 7.85. My money is on the Lightning Bolt.

 

Please read more sports science articles at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental.

448 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, sports_science, track_and_field, usain_bolt


!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Torres.jpg|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Torres.jpg|border=0!!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/favre.jpg|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/favre.jpg|border=0!!http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Lance.jpg|src=http://drp2010.googlepages.com/Lance.jpg|border=0!
Maybe its the fear of turning 40.  Maybe its the feeling of unfinished business.  Maybe its the fire in the belly that has not quite extinguished.  For retired elite athletes, the itch is always there to make a return after experiencing "life after sport".  For some, it becomes too strong to ignore.  This year has seen the return of at least three champions, Dara Torres, Lance Armstrong and Brett Favre.  As they explain their individual reasons for coming back, some similarities emerge that have more to do with psychological needs than practical needs.  In a recent Miami Herald article , Torres explained her comeback to competitive swimming at age 41, "For me, it's not like I sat around and watched swimming on TV and thought, `Oh, I wish I was still competing'.  It was more gradual. But all of a sudden, something goes off inside you and you start seriously thinking about a comeback.  You'd think the competitive fire would die down with maturity, but I've actually gotten worse.  I wasn't satisfied with silver medals. I hate to lose now more than I did in my 20s. I'm still trying to figure out why.''

 

Drawing inspiration from Torres, Lance Armstrong has decided to make a comeback at age 37 with a declared goal to win his eighth Tour de France.  In a recent Vanity Fair article , he described his rationale, “Look at the Olympics. You have a swimmer like Dara Torres. Even in the 50-meter event http://community.active.com/blogs/sportsare80percentmental/2008/09/26/retirement-rebound-the-return-of-torres-favre-and-armstrong/freestyle, the 41-year-old mother proved you can do it. The woman who won the marathon http://community.active.com/blogs/sportsare80percentmental/2008/09/26/retirement-rebound-the-return-of-torres-favre-and-armstrong/Constantina Tomescu-Dita, of Romania was 38. Older athletes are performing very well. Ask serious sports physiologists and they’ll tell you age is a wives’ tale. Athletes at 30, 35 mentally get tired. They’ve done their sport for 20, 25 years and they’re like, I’ve had enough. But there’s no evidence to support that when you’re 38 you’re any slower than when you were 32."

 

Is it the 40 factor?  Brett Favre, who turns 39 in October, made his well-publicized return to the NFL last month wanting to return so badly that he accepted a trade to the New York Jets so that he could play.  His public and emotional decision to retire in March, only to begin hinting at a comeback in early summer showed the internal struggle he had with stepping away from sports.  You could hear the indecision in his retirement press conference, "I've given everything I possibly can give to this organization, to the game of football, and I don't think I've got anything left to give, and that's it.", Favre said. "I know I can play, but I don't think I want to. And that's really what it comes down to. Fishing for different answers and what ifs and will he come back and things like that, what matters is it's been a great career for me, and it's over. As hard as that is for me to say, it's over. There's only one way for me to play the game, and that's 100 percent. Mike and I had that conversation the other night, and I will wonder if I made the wrong decision. I'm sure on Sundays, I will say I could be doing that, I should be doing that. I'm not going to sit here like other players maybe have said in the past that I won't miss it, because I will. But I just don't think I can give anything else, aside from the three hours on Sundays, and in football you can't do that. It's a total commitment, and up to this point I have been totally committed."  Some observers point to the end of the Packers' 2007-2008 season with a heart-wrenching Favre interception in overtime that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl instead of Green Bay.  Being that close to the pinnacle of his sport must have been confidence that his skills had not diminished and once the fatigue of the past season had passed (by about June), that he was not ready to just ride the tractor in Mississippi for the next 40 years.

 

So, what do the sport psychologists make of these second thoughts?  These three athletes are world famous, but what about the hundreds of professional athletes that have had to make the same decision without all of the front page stories and fanfare?  Why does Chris Chelios, all-star and future Hall of Famer in the NHL, continue to avoid the retirement decision at age 45?  Coaches aren't immune either.  Bobby Bowden of Florida State and Joe Paterno of Penn State have refused to retire to the point of becoming an awkward story for their schools and fans. ''After all the adulation and excitement wear off and elite athletes come face to face with retirement and a more mundane life, they suffer a sense of loss, almost like a death,'' said sport psychologist John F. Murray .  "If you're Lance Armstrong, you realize that what you are is a cyclist, that is your identity, and if you feel you have one or two more titles in you, why let it go? Why not tackle unresolved challenges? Competing at that level provides a high that is hard to match. How can you not be addicted to that?''

 

Beyond the professional ranks, thousands of college and Olympic athletes are left with the realization that they face similar decisions of when to "give up the dream" and move into the more practical world of finishing their education and finding a job.  Their emotional attachment to their sport has developed over years of building an identity linked to their success on the field.  Despite the statistics showing the "funnel effect" of the diminishing number of athletes getting to the "next level", younger athletes continue to believe they are the ones that will make it to the top.  There is also the more emotional issue of unwillingly leaving a sport because of injury or simply not making the team due to diminished skills.  Dr. Murray adds, "When your whole life has been geared toward athletic excellence, the prospects of retirement can be dreadful! This is commonplace at collegiate level where 99 per cent of the athletes do not go on to play their sport professionally. Counseling is a way to prepare athletes for the inevitable loss that occurs after the glory is over and only memories remain. As with any loss, people need effective ways to cope. Going at it all on your own might work for some, but I’ll submit that the vast majority of athletes benefit from early discussion and planning for retirement. There is definitely life after sport."

 

Some colleges and universities, as well as some professional teams, have started to offer formal "retirement planning" for athletes as their formal sport careers wind down.  Life After Sports , a counseling firm started by Adrian McBride, a former college and NFL player, provides services to retiring college athletes to help them emotionally and practically adjust to a post-sports life.  The University of North Carolina has set-up the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes to offer a home for academic research into these issues.

 

Additional academic research is also coming out on athlete retirement including two articles this year (see citations below) from the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.  First, Katie Warriner and David Lavallee of the University of Wales interviewed former elite gymnasts regarding their retirement at a relatively young age from competitive sport.  They found the loss of identity to be the biggest adjustment.   Second, Patricia Lally and Gretchen Kerr looked at how parents cope with their children's "retirement" from sport, as they also go through withdrawl symptoms when the "end of the dream" finally comes and the lifelong ambition for their child's athletic success is over.

 

Who's next up for a retirement rebound?  Just as Lance got inspiration from Torres and maybe Favre, the trend may continue.  The Bulls could use Jordan or Pippen and Roger Clemens is never far away from a phone.  Stay tuned!

 

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<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofAppliedSportPsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1080%2F10413200801998564&amp;rft.atitle=TheRetirementExperiencesofEliteFemaleGymnasts%3ASelfIdentityandthePhysicalSelf&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=20&amp;rft.issue=3&amp;rft.spage=301&amp;rft.epage=317&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informaworld.com%2Fopenurl%3Fgenre%3Darticle%26doi%3D10.1080%2F10413200801998564%26magic%3Dcrossref%7C%7CD404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3&amp;rft.au=KatieWarriner&amp;rft.au=DavidLavallee&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology">Katie Warriner, David Lavallee (2008). The Retirement Experiences of Elite Female Gymnasts: Self Identity and the Physical Self Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20 (3), 301-317 DOI: 10.1080/10413200801998564

<span style="font-size: 130%;" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=JournalofAppliedSportPsychology&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1080%2F10413200701788172&amp;rft.atitle=TheEffectsofAthleteRetirementonParents&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=20&amp;rft.issue=1&amp;rft.spage=42&amp;rft.epage=56&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.informaworld.com%2Fopenurl%3Fgenre%3Darticle%26doi%3D10.1080%2F10413200701788172%26magic%3Dcrossref%7C%7CD404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3&amp;rft.au=PatriciaLally&amp;rft.au=GretchenKerr&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology">Patricia Lally, Gretchen Kerr (2008). The Effects of Athlete Retirement on Parents Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20 (1), 42-56 DOI: 10.1080/10413200701788172 </span>

704 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, football, cycling, swimming, tour-de-france, retirement, lance_armstrong, dara_torres, sport_psychology, brett_favre

Inside An Olympian's Brain

Posted by Dan Peterson Aug 25, 2008

!http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZpzLgQCI/AAAAAAAAAZc/rtpQWpa3TXk/s320-R/phelps.jpg|src=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZpzLgQCI/AAAAAAAAAZc/rtpQWpa3TXk/s320-R/phelps.jpg|border=0!!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZv_ldbmI/AAAAAAAAAZs/ADQSC1YRVjU/s320-R/may.jpg|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZv_ldbmI/AAAAAAAAAZs/ADQSC1YRVjU/s320-R/may.jpg|border=0!!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYan3gpoAI/AAAAAAAAAZ8/azuH_ryf_mQ/s320-R/Liukin.jpg|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYan3gpoAI/AAAAAAAAAZ8/azuH_ryf_mQ/s320-R/Liukin.jpg|border=0!!http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZzBUF6yI/AAAAAAAAAZ0/cqTNjX3gV88/s320-R/lindan.jpg|src=http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYZzBUF6yI/AAAAAAAAAZ0/cqTNjX3gV88/s320-R/lindan.jpg|border=0!
Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, Misty May-Treanor and Lin Dan are four Olympic athletes who have each spent most of their life learning the skills needed to reach the top of their respective sports, swimming, gymnastics, beach volleyball and badminton (you were wondering about Lin, weren't you...) Their physical skills are obvious and amazing to watch. For just a few minutes, instead of being a spectator, try to step inside the heads of each of them and try to imagine what their brains must accomplish when they are competing and how different the mental tasks are for each of their sports.


On a continuum from repetitive motion to reactive motion, these four sports each require a different level of brain signal to muscle movement.  Think of Phelps finishing off one more gold medal race in the last 50 meters.  His brain has one goal; repeat the same stroke cycle as quickly and as efficiently as possible until he touches the wall.  There isn't alot of strategy or novel movement based on his opponent's movements.  Its simply to be the first one to finish.  What is he consciously thinking about during a race?  In his post-race interviews, he says he notices the relative positions of other swimmers, his energy level and the overall effort required to win (and in at least one race, the level of water in his goggles.)  At his level, the concept of automaticity (as discussed in a previous post) has certainly been reached, where he doesn't have to consciously "think" about the components of his stroke.  In fact, research has shown that those who do start analyzing their body movements during competition are prone to errors as they take themselves out of their mental flow.


Moving up the continuum, think about gymnastics. Certainly, the skills to perform a balance beam routine are practiced to the point of fluency, but the skills themselves are not as strictly repetitive as swimming. There are finer points of each movement being judged so gymnasts keep several mental "notes" about the current performance so that they can "remember" to keep their head up or their toes pointed or to gather speed on the dismount. There also is an order of skills or routine that needs to be remembered and activated.


While swimming and gymnastics are battles against yourself and previously rehearsed movements, sports like beach volleyball and badminton require reactionary moves directly based on your opponents' movements. Rather than being "locked-in" to a stroke or practised routine, athletes in direct competition with their opponents must either anticipate or react to be successful.


!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYi4C58yJI/AAAAAAAAAaE/Pv9HH8UEWWE/s200-R/motor-cortex.jpg|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SKYi4C58yJI/AAAAAAAAAaE/Pv9HH8UEWWE/s200-R/motor-cortex.jpg|border=0!So, what is the brain's role in learning each of these varied sets of skills and what commands do our individual neurons control?  Whether we are doing a strictly repetitive movement like a swim stroke or a unique, "on the fly" move like a return of a serve, what instructions are sent from our brain to our muscles?  Do the neurons of the primary motor cortex (where movement is controlled in the brain) send out signals of both what to do and how to do it?

Researchers at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT led by Robert Ajemian designed an experiment to solve this "muscles or movement" question.  They trained adult monkeys to move a video game joystick so that a cursor on a screen would move towards a target.  While the monkeys learned the task, they measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the actual movements of the joystick with the firing patterns of neurons.  The researchers then developed a model that allowed them to test hypotheses about the relationship between neuronal activity that they measured in the monkey's motor cortex and the resulting actions.  They concluded that neurons do send both the specific signals to the muscles to make the movement and a goal-oriented instruction set to monitor the success of the movement towards the goal.  Here is a video synopsis of a very similar experiment by Miguel Nicolelis , Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University:

http://www.youtube.com/v/7-cpcoIJbOU&hl=en&fs=1

To back this up, Andrew Schwartz , professor of neurobiology at the McGowan  Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and his team of researchers wanted to isolate the brain signals from the actual muscles and see if the neuron impulses on their own could produce both intent to move and the movement itself.  They taught adult monkeys to feed themselves using a robotic arm while the monkey's own arms were restrained.  Instead, tiny probes the width of a human hair were placed in the monkey's motor cortex to pick up the electrical impulses created by the monkey's neurons.  These signals were then evaluated by software controlling the robotic arm and the resulting movement instructions were carried out.  The monkeys were able to control the arm with their "thoughts" and feed themselves food.  Here is a video sample of the experiment :


"In our research, we've demonstrated a higher level of precision, skill and learning," explained Dr. Schwartz. "The monkey learns by first observing the movement, which activates his brain cells as if he were doing it. It's a lot like sports training, where trainers have athletes first imagine that they are performing the movements they desire."


It seems these "mental maps" of neurons in the motor cortex are the end goal for athletes to achieve the automaticity required to either repeat the same rehearsed motions (like Phelps and Liukin) or to react instantly to a new situation (like May-Treanor and Dan). Luckily, we can just practice our own automaticity of sitting on the couch and watching in a mesemerized state.

 

!http://www.researchblogging.org/images/rbicons/ResearchBlogging-Medium-White.png|height=50|alt=ResearchBlogging.org|width=80|src=http://www.researchblogging.org/images/rbicons/ResearchBlogging-Medium-White.png!

 

<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=Neuron&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1016%2Fj.neuron.2008.02.033&amp;rft.atitle=AssessingtheFunctionofMotorCortex%3ASingle-NeuronModelsofHowNeuralResponseIsModulatedbyLimbBiomechanics&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=58&amp;rft.issue=3&amp;rft.spage=414&amp;rft.epage=428&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0896627308002213&amp;rft.au=RAJEMIAN&amp;rft.au=AGREEN&amp;rft.au=DBULLOCK&amp;rft.au=LSERGIO&amp;rft.au=JKALASKA&amp;rft.au=SGROSSBERG&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2CCognitive+Psychology">R AJEMIAN, A GREEN, D BULLOCK, L SERGIO, J KALASKA, S GROSSBERG (2008). Assessing the Function of Motor Cortex: Single-Neuron Models of How Neural Response Is Modulated by Limb Biomechanics Neuron, 58 (3), 414-428 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.02.033 </span>

 

<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.jtitle=Nature&amp;rft.id=info:DOI/10.1038%2Fnature06996&amp;rft.atitle=Corticalcontrolofaprostheticarmforself-feeding&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=453&amp;rft.issue=7198&amp;rft.spage=1098&amp;rft.epage=1101&amp;rft.artnum=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nature.com%2Fdoifinder%2F10.1038%2Fnature06996&amp;rft.au=MeelVelliste&amp;rft.au=SagiPerel&amp;rft.au=M.ChanceSpalding&amp;rft.au=AndrewS.Whitford&amp;rft.au=AndrewB.Schwartz&amp;bpr3.included=1&amp;bpr3.tags=Psychology%2COther%2CCognitivePsychology%2C+Kinesiology">Meel Velliste, Sagi Perel, M. Chance Spalding, Andrew S. Whitford, Andrew B. Schwartz (2008). Cortical control of a prosthetic arm for self-feeding Nature, 453 (7198), 1098-1101 DOI: 10.1038/nature06996 </span>

641 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, coaching, sport_science, sports_cognition, vision_and_perception, sport_psychology

 

!http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJ39bdJ06LI/AAAAAAAAAZU/4DN1--2fQ-4/s200-R/GoldMedal.jpg|style=border: 0pt none ;|src=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3b3RMRFwqU0/SJ39bdJ06LI/AAAAAAAAAZU/4DN1--2fQ-4/s200-R/GoldMedal.jpg!Imagine winning a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics .  No really, go ahead, close your eyes and visualize it.  What did you see?  Were you standing on the medal platform looking out at the crowd, waving and taking in the scene through your own eyes, or were you a spectator in the crowd watching yourself getting the medal put around your neck?  This choice between "first-person" or "third-person" visualization actually makes a difference on our motivation to achieve a future goal.


Noelia A. Vasquez, at York University and Roger Buehler, at Wilfrid Laurier University wanted to see if there was a link between our visualization perspective and our motivation level to achieve the imagined goal.  They asked 47 university students to imagine the successful completion of a performance task that was in their near future, whether it be a speech in a class or an upcoming athletic competition.  They were also asked to assume that the task went extremely well.  One group of students were asked to imagine this scene "through their own eyes" seeing the environment as they would actually experience it.  The second group was told to use the third-person perspective, pretending they were "in the crowd" watching themselves as others would see them achieving this goal.  Next, they were given a survey that asked each group how motivated they were to now go make this successful scene a reality. 




As hypothesized, the group that saw the scene through their audience's eyes (third-person) ranked their motivation to now succeed significantly higher than those that imagined it through their own eye (first-person).  The authors' explanation for this is the perceived additional importance attached to the task when we consider other peoples' opinion of us and our natural desire to increase our status in our peer group.  Seeing this newly elevated social acceptance and approval of ourselves from the eyes of our peers motivates us even more to reach for our goals.




The road to achievements like an Olympic gold medal is a long one with many steps along the way.  Over the years, as athletes maintain their training regimen, they can keep imagining the future goal, but they may need to also look back and recognize the improvements they have made over time.  This "progress to date" assessment will also provide motivation to keep going once they realize the hard work is actually having the desired effect and moving them along the desired path.  So, as they review their past to present progress, does the first or third person perspective make a difference there as well?




Researchers from Cornell, Yale and Ohio State, led by Thomas Gilovich , professor of psychology at Cornell, designed an experiment to find out.  They recruited a group of university students who had described their high-school years as "socially awkward" to now recall those years and compare them with their social skill in college.  The first group was asked to recall the past from a first-person perspective, just as their memories would provide them.  The second group was asked to remember themselves through the perspective of their classmates (third-person).  Next, each group was asked to assess the personal change they had accomplished since then.




As predicted, the group that had recalled their former selves in the third person reported greater progress and change towards a more social and accepted person in college than the group that remembered in the first-person.  "We have found that perspective can influence your interpretation of past events. In a situation in which change is likely, we find that observing yourself as a third person -- looking at yourself from an outside observer's perspective -- can help accentuate the changes you've made more than using a first-person perspective," says Gilovich.  "When participants recalled past awkwardness from a third-person perspective, they felt they had changed and were now more socially skilled," said Lisa K. Libby, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University. "That led them to behave more sociably and appear more socially skilled to the research assistant."




So, whether looking forward or backward, seeing yourself through other's eyes seems to provide more motivation to not only continue the road to success, but to appreciate the progress you have made. 




Then the actual day of competition arrives.  It is one hour before you take your position on the starting blocks at the "Bird's Nest" stadium in Beijing or on the mat at the National Indoor Stadium for the gymnastics final.  Should you be imagining the medal ceremony and listening to your country's national anthem at that point?  In a recent Denver Post article , Peter Haberl, senior sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee says, "It takes a great deal of ability and skill to stay focused on the task at hand."  He distinguishes between an "outcome" goal, (receiving the medal) and "performance" (improving scores/times) and "process" (improving technique) goals.  "The difference is that these types of goals are much more under the control of the athlete," explains Haberl. "The process goal, in particular, directs attention to the here and now, which allows the athlete to totally focus on the doing of the activity; this is key to performing well.  This sounds simple but it really is quite difficult because the mind takes you to the past and the future all the time, particularly in the Olympic environment with its plethora of distractions and enticing rewards." 




Mental imagery is a well-known tool for every athlete to make distant and difficult goals seem attainable.  By seeing your future accomplishments through the eyes of others, you can attach more importance and reward to achieving them.  Just imagine yourself in London in 2012 !



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<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Vasquez&amp;rft.aufirst=Noelia&amp;rft.aumiddle=A&amp;rft.au=Noelia+ Vasquez&amp;rft.title=PersonalityandSocialPsychologyBulletin&amp;rft.atitle=SeeingFutureSuccess%3ADoesImageryPerspectiveInfluenceAchievementMotivation%3F&amp;rft.date=2007&amp;rft.volume=33&amp;rft.issue=10&amp;rft.spage=1392&amp;rft.epage=1405&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=http%3A%2F%2Fpsp.sagepub.com%2Fcgi%2Fcontent%2Fabstract%2F33%2F10%2F1392&amp;rft.id=info:PMID/17933735">Vasquez, N.A. (2007). Seeing Future Success: Does Imagery Perspective Influence Achievement Motivation?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(10), 1392-1405.




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593 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, olympics, coaching, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sports_science, sport_skills, mental_imagery

HGH - Human Growth Hoax?

Posted by Dan Peterson Jul 27, 2008

 

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Athletes, both professional and amateur, as well as the general public are convinced that human growth hormone (HGH) , Erythropoietin (EPO) and anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are all artificial and controversial paths to improved performance in sports.  The recent headlines that have included Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Floyd Landis, Dwayne Chambers, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens and many lesser known names (see the amazingly long list of doping cases in sport ) have referred to these three substances interchangeably leaving the public confused about who took what from whom.  With so many athletes willing to gamble with their futures, they must be confident that they will see significant short-term results.  So, is it worth the risk?  Two very interesting recent studies provide some answers on at least one of the substances, HGH. 




A team at the Stanford University School of Medicine, led by Hau Liu MD , recently reviewed 27 historical studies on the effects of HGH on athletic performance, dating back to 1966 (see reference below).  They wanted to see if there were any definitive links between HGH use and improved results.  In some of the studies, test volunteers who received HGH did develop more lean body mass, but also developed more lactate during aerobic testing which inhibited rather than helped performance.  While their muscle mass increased, other markers of athletic fitness, such as VO2max remained unchanged.  “The key takeaway is that we don’t have any good scientific evidence that growth hormone improves athletic performance,” said senior author Andrew Hoffman, MD , professor of endocrinology, gerontology and metabolism.




Both Liu and Hoffman cautioned that the amounts of HGH given to these test subjects may be much lower than the the purported levels claimed to be taken by professional athletes.  They also pointed out that at a professional level, a very slight improvement might be all that is necessary to get an edge of your opponent.  Hoffman also added an insightful comment, “So much of athletic performance at the professional level is psychological.”  If an athlete takes HGH, sees some muscle mass growth and isn't 100% sure of its performance capabilities, might he assume he now has other "Superman" powers?




That is exactly the premise that a research team from Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia used to find out if HGH users simply relied on a placebo effect.  Sixty-four participants, young adult recreational athletes, were divided into two groups of 32 and tested for a baseline of athletic ability in endurance, strength, power and sprinting.  One group received growth hormone and the other group received a simple placebo.  It was a "double-blind" study in that neither the participants nor the researchers knew during the testing which substance each group received.




At the end of the 8 week treatment, the athletes were asked if they thought they were in the HGH group or the placebo group.  Half of the group that had received the placebo incorrectly guessed that they were on HGH.  Not too surprisingly, the majority of the "incorrect guessers" were men.  Here's where it gets interesting.  The incorrect guessers also thought that their athletic abilities had improved over the 8 week period.  The team retested all of the placebo group and actually did find improvement across all of the tests, but only significantly in the high-jump test.
Jennifer Hansen, a nurse researcher and Dr. Ken Ho, head of the pituitary research unit at Garvan have not released the data on the group that did receive the HGH, but they will in their final report coming soon.




So, let's recap.  On the one hand, we have a research review that claims there is not yet any scientific evidence that HGH actually improves sports performance.  Yet, we have hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes illegally using HGH for performance gain.  Showing the effect of the "if its good enough for them, its good enough for me" beliefs of the public regarding professional athlete use of HGH, we now have research that shows even those who received a placebo, but believed they were taking HGH not only thought they were improving but actually did improve a little.  Once again, we see the power of our own natural, non-supplemented brain to convince (or fool) ourselves to perform at higher levels than we thought possible.




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<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&amp;rft.aulast=Liu&amp;rft.aufirst=H&amp;rft.au=H+ Liu&amp;rft.au=DBravata&amp;rft.au=IOlkin&amp;rft.au=AFriedlander&amp;rft.au=VLiu&amp;rft.au=BRoberts&amp;rft.au=EBendavid&amp;rft.au=OSaynina&amp;rft.au=SSalpeter&amp;rft.au=AGarber&amp;rft.title=AnnalsofInternalMedicine&amp;rft.atitle=Systematicreview%3Atheeffectsofgrowthhormoneonathletic+performance.&amp;rft.date=2008&amp;rft.volume=148&amp;rft.issue=10&amp;rft.spage=747&amp;rft.epage=758&amp;rft.genre=article&amp;rft.id=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.annals.org%2Fcgi%2Fcontent%2Fshort%2F148%2F10%2F747&amp;rft.id=info:PMID/18347346">Liu, H., Bravata, D.M., Olkin, I., Friedlander, A., Liu, V., Roberts, B., Bendavid, E., Saynina, O., Salpeter, S.R., Garber, A.M. (2008). Systematic review: the effects of growth hormone on athletic performance.. Annals of Internal Medicine, 148(10), 747-758.

662 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sport, sport, sport, sports, olympics, baseball, floyd, landis, in, skills, human, doping, psychology, growth, hormone, science, barry, bonds, marion, jones, jason, giambi

 

From:  Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - Getting Sport Science Out Of The Lab And Onto The Field

You are a coach, trying to juggle practice

plans, meetings, game prep and player issues while trying to stay

focused on the season's goals.  At the end of another long day, you see

this in your inbox:

 

MEMO

To:          All Head Coaches

From:      Athletic Director

Subject:  Monthly Reading List to Keep Up with Current Sport Science Research

  • Neuromuscular Activation of Triceps Surae Using Muscle Functional MRI and EMG

  • Positive effects of intermittent hypoxia (live high:train low) on

exercise performance are not mediated primarily by augmented red cell

volume

  • Physiologic Left Ventricular Cavity Dilatation in Elite Athletes

  • The Relationships of Perceived Motivational Climate to Cohesion and Collective Efficacy in Elite Female Teams

 

Just some light reading before bedtime...  This is an obvious

exaggeration (and weak attempt at humor) of the gap between sport

science researchers and practitioners.  While those are actual research

paper titles from the last few years under the heading of "sport

science", the intended audience was most likely not coaches or

athletes, but rather fellow academic peers.  The real question is

whether the important conclusions and knowledge captured in all of this

research is ever actually used to improve athletic performance?  How

can a coach or athlete understand, combine and transfer this

information into their game?

 

David Bishop of the Faculty of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Verona

has been looking at this issue for several years.  It started with a

roundtable discussion he had at the 2006 Congress of the Australian

Association for Exercise and Sports Science with several academic sport

scientists (see: Sports-Science Roundtable: Does Sports-Science Research Influence Practice?

)  He asked very direct questions regarding the definition of sport

science and whether the research always needs to be "applied" versus

establishing a "basic" foundation.  The most intriguing question was

whether there already is ample research that could applied, but it

suffered from the lack of a good translator to interpret and

communicate to the potential users - coaches and athletes.  The panel

agreed that was the missing piece, as most academic researchers just

don't have the time to deliver all of their findings directly to the

field.

 

In a follow-up to this discussion, Bishop recently published his proposed solution titled,  in Sports Medicine

(see citation below).  In it, he calls for a new framework for

researchers to follow when designing their studies so that there is

always a focus on how the results will directly improve athletic

performance.  He calls for a greater partnership role between

researchers and coaches to map out a useful agenda of real world

problems to examine.  He admits that this model, if implemented, will

only help increase the potential for applied sport science.  The

"middleman" role is still needed to bring this information to the front

lines of sports.

 

The solution for this "gathering place" community seems perfect for Web 2.0 technology.  One

specific example is an online community called iStadia.com.

Keith Irving and Rob Robson, two practicing sport science consultants,

created the site two years ago to fill this gap.  Today, with over 600

members, iStadia is approaching the type of critical mass that will be

necessary to bring all of the stakeholders together.  Of course, as

with any online community, the conversations there are only as good as

the participants want to make it.  But, with the pressure on coaches to

improve and the desire of sport scientists to produce relevant

knowledge, there is motivation to make the connection.

 

Another trend favoring more public awareness of sport science is the

additional, recent media attention, especially related to the upcoming

Beijing Olympics.  In an earlier post, Winning Olympic Gold With Sport Science, I highlighted a feature article from USA Today.  This month's Fast Company also picks up on this theme with their cover article, Innovation of Olympic Proportions,

describing several high-tech equipment innovations that will be used at

the Games.  Each article mentions the evolving trust and acceptance of

sport science research by coaches and athletes.  When they see actual

products, techniques and, most importantly, results come from the

research, they cannot deny its value.         

 

Source:

Bishop, D. (2008). An Applied Research Model for the Sport Sciences. Sports Medicine, 38(3), 253-263.

554 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, relevant_research, sports_cognition, sports_science

 

From:  Sports Are 80 Percent Mental - Winning Gold With Sport Science

Its something that every coach and every athlete of every sport is

searching for... the EDGE. That one training tip, equipment

improvement, mental preparation or tactical insight that will tip the

game towards them. The body of knowledge that exists today in each

sport is assumed, with each competitor expected to at least be aware of

the history, beliefs and traditions of their individual sport. But, if

each team is starting with the same set of information then the team

that takes the next step by applying new research and ideas will

capture the edge.

 

To me, that is what sport science is all about. The goal is to improve sports

performance by imagining, analyzing, experimenting, testing, documenting and

training new methods to coaches and athletes.

 

You might have seen a great article in the 6/23 edition of USA Today.

We meet Peter Vint, a "sport technologist" in the Performance Technology Division

of the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, whose job it is to find ways

to win more gold medals. From the article; "The next revolution, Vint says, is breaking

down the last secrets of elite athletes: response time, how they read

the field and other players — everything that goes into the vision,

perception and split-second decision-making of an athlete. 'We've

always looked at that as mysterious, something that's unmeasurable and

innate,' Vint says. 'But we think it can be taught.'"

 

Interestingly, Vint cites another pioneer in evidence-based sports coaching, Oakland

A's general manager, Billy Beane. "We're becoming progressively more

data-driven," Vint says of the center's training efforts. "We are

trying to pursue what Sabermetrics and Billy Beane did for baseball,

identifying factors that can truly influence performance." The radical

concept that Beane created, as documented in the bestseller, ,

is to stop searching for "the edge" in all the same places that

everyone else is looking. Instead, he started from scratch with new

logic about the objectives of the game of baseball itself and built

metrics that gave new insight into the types of players and skill sets

that he should acquire for his team.

 

If sport science is going to thrive and be accepted, it faces the challenge of inertia.

The ideas and techniques that are the product of sport science can also

be captured in the phrase, "evidence based coaching". Just as evidence

based medicine has slowly found its place in the physician's exam room,

the coaching profession is just beginning to trust the research.

Traditionally, "belief based coaching" has been the philosophy favored

in the clubhouse. Training drills, tactical plans, player selection and

player development has been guided by ideas and concepts that have been

handed down from one generation of coaches to the next. Most of these

beliefs are valid and have been proven on the field through many years

of trial and error. Subjecting these beliefs to scientific research may

not produce conclusions any different than what coaching lore tells us.

But, today's coaches and athletes see the competition creeping closer

to them in all aspects, so they are now willing to at least listen to

the scientists. Beane likens it to financial analysis and the stock

market. The assumption is that all information is known by all. But, if

someone can find a ratio or a statistic or make an industry insight

that no one has considered, then they own the competitive advantage; at

least until this new information is made public.

 

It takes time, though, to amass enough data to convince a head coach to

change years of habits for the unknown. Reputations and championships

are on the line, so the changes sometimes need to be implemented

slowly. Vint describes the gradual process of converting U.S. hurdler

Terrence Trammell and his coach to some of his ideas. "The relationship

between the athletes and sports scientist is critical," Vint says. "But

(for some), biomechanics has not yet provided useful enough

suggestions."

 

There still is debate on evidence based coaching vs. belief based coaching.

Robert Robson, sport psychologist and management consultant, stated,

"Sports coaching should absolutely be evidence-based, but any argument that places the

sole source of evidence in the realm of the scientific method is, I

would argue, naive and lacking in an understanding of the philosophical

underpinnings of science."  Looking forward, I will dig a little deeper into this topic in the next week, so

please check back or subscribe to Sports Are 80 Percent Mental.

481 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: olympics, coaching, coaching, moneyball, sport_science, evidence_based_coaching, sports_cognition, sport_psychology, youth_sports, billy_beane, rob_robson


Dan Peterson

Dan Peterson

Member since: Oct 1, 2007

A Look Inside the Mind of the Athlete - You can find a mix of sport science, cognitive science, coaching and performance stories here as I focus on the "thinking" side of sports. My "home" is at http://blog.80percentmental.com. Thanks for stopping by!

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