Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Olympic Mind Training

I love the Olympics. In fact, one of my earliest sporting memories is of sitting transfixed in front of my TV in 1972 watching the great Mark Spitz win an unprecedented 7 gold medals in the swimming events. Since then, I’ve added to an ever-growing list of Olympic heroes with names such as Daley Thompson, Carl Lewis, Steve Redgrave, Nadia Comaneci, Chris Hoy, Michael Phelps and Kelly Holmes. Nothing, however, could beat the experience I had of being in the Olympic Stadium 4 years ago and seeing Usain Bolt winning gold the 100 metres Final. The buzz coming from the crowd was electrifying.

So the Rio Olympics is almost with us and I can feel that excitement starting to grow as we get closer to the opening ceremony. Sadly, a lot of the headlines leading up to the games have been about the Russians’ state sponsored use of performance enhancing drugs, which presents a sad reminder of the days of the old Soviet Union where performance enhancing drugs were dished out like vitamins (in fact, this is what many of the athletes were told they were). The emphasis was on giving their athletes greater strength, speed and stamina and winning at all costs. And winning did come at a cost, as the side-effects of many of these drugs affected a large number of these athletes in a whole host of ways, from hair growth and infertility to breast and testicular cancer and heart disease.

Interestingly, research has shown that working on the mental side of sports performance can actually have as positive effect on a person’s results than taking performance enhancing drugs. It has been found that just having self-belief can improve performance by in excess of 5 per cent. In fact, it is considered that a large part of the gains from taking steroids is actually as a result of a placebo affect rather than being totally from the drugs themselves. This has caused at least one former East German athlete to complain that because he didn’t actually know he was taking steroids he didn’t even get the full benefit he would have got if he had known.

This is why mental performance coaching is becoming such a vital part of an elite sports performer’s training. They recognise that It can be used to make a significant and vital change to performance and with the bonus that it doesn’t have any nasty side-effects.

Enjoy Rio 2016!

Andy Barton
Performance coach