Thursday, September 1, 2016

Clif Notes from a conversation on mental training for endurance athletes

A few months ago I chatted with Tim Floyd (Magnolia Masters swim coach) about one of my favorite topics - mental training and sports performance. Specifically, we bounced around ideas & tried to connect the dots between brain power, physiologic stress, and swimming/biking/running faster while avoiding injury.

These are the notes I took:

If you've been following along, you may have noticed I think in diagrams. I also scribble a lot. Here's the English language interpretation of the above:

  • Attention & awareness is important. If you "fix your brain" (meditation, mindfulness activity of choice, etc), you're better able to attend to/be aware of your internal & external experience. And vice versa. The better your attention & awareness is, the healthier/"more trained" your brain will be.
  • Attention & awareness allows you to observe & not react to internal/external stressors. This decreases your perceived stress level. Less stress leads to a healthier autonomic nervous system (think heart rate variability). This likely shows up in practice as less neuromuscular fatigue
    • Decreased neuromuscular fatigue -> decreased injury risk.
  • Deep practice is key. Athletes may experience this as getting into a "flow state." Practices that train attention & awareness (eg mindfulness) likely enhance your ability to get into flow state. The easier it is for you to do that, the more deep practice you'll get in (key for swimming technique and performance, for example).
    • The effects of deep practice likely also interface with autonomic nervous function and neuromuscular fatigue.
  • Interesting peripheral things we talked about, as they relate to the above key points:
    • MyJump - app that measures vertical jump height. Why would we care about this? Indexing neuromuscular fatigue.
    • Focus Band - a "mind training headset" that *maybe* gets you to deep practice. I haven't personally used it, but my impression is it's essentially mindfulness training with external feedback. 
    • Float pods - in the "healthy autonomic nervous system" toolbox.
  • Reading recommendations!
    • The Quiet Eye in Action
    • Zen Body Being
    • Easy Speed


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