Well Being

Article

The term ‘muscle dysmorphia’ was coined in 1997 (Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, & Phillips, 1997) to describe this new form of disorder, commonly referred to as ‘reverse anorexia’, and now more commonly ‘bigorexia’. The causes are not known but two key ideas revolve around bigorexia as a form of obsessive compulsive behaviour and secondly, the […]

The term ‘muscle dysmorphia’ was coined in 1997 (Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, & Phillips, 1997) to describe this new form of disorder, commonly referred to as ‘reverse anorexia’, and now more commonly ‘bigorexia’. The causes are not known but two key ideas revolve around bigorexia as a form of obsessive compulsive behaviour and secondly, the effect of the media putting the same type of pressure on men to conform to an ideal shape as has been the case with women for years.

The predominant characteristic of bigorexia is that regardless of time and effort spent the view is that they are not as muscular as they want, regardless of others viewpoints. This condition is more predominant in male gym goers but in recent years with the emergence of the sub culture of female bodybuilding this condition has been sparsely reported in females, this how ever does not mean that all male gym goers have this condition. Found that normal male gym goers spend on average 40 minutes a day contemplating their physical development, in the case of bigorexia these males spend 5 hours plus a day contemplating their physical under development and how to correct it. They examine their body through mirror checks averaging 12 times a day in comparison to other male gym goers who on average mirror check three times a day (Zubcevic-Basic, 2013).

Males with bigorexia often overlook personal commitments such as social events, birthdays, holidays, socialising and in cases work obligations as they may interrupt training schedules. In reported cases the delusion of needed to grow in size has led to individuals quitting their jobs to focus more on training (Zubcevic-Basic, 2013). This training requires a very strict diet, this may lead to the individual feeling uncomfortable eating outside of their home as their dietary restrictions and balance may not be met or they may feel awkward eating in front of others whom may judge their choices, this a major factor which leads to males developing eating disorders (Segura, Castell, Baeza, & Guillén, 2015). The need to be the biggest leads to self-comparisons being drawn to other males, it has been found that when they compare themselves to others of exact equal size males with bigorexia have judged themselves to be smaller and not as strong (Zubcevic-Basic, 2013).

In the quest to reach what they internally deem their ideal for many individuals turn to the use of anabolic steroids to gain strength and size at a quicker rate despite the many side effects associated with the use of steroids, the sub culture of bigorexia gym goers influences the use of such drugs to keep up and gain recognition from peers for their physical development. The ideal body in these cases involves an obsession with a lowered body fat percentage while gaining muscular weight and size another contributing factor the development of eating disorders as stated earlier (Joubert & Melluish, 2014).

There are many psychological abnormalities associated with bigorexia, although they may training intensely and to those external of the sub culture may appear to be “bodybuilders” or have the physic of one, there is a stark difference between the two. A bodybuilder trains to show their physic whereas bigorexia will cause the individual to hide their physic as they themselves do not deem their body shape ideal (Joubert & Melluish, 2014). Bigorexia has been found to influence low self-esteem, as the individual never sees their physic as ideal leading to feelings of worthlessness, despite external comments. This low self-esteem may manifest itself into drastic mood swings due to abnormal eating habits or hormonal imbalances within individuals found to have bigorexia (Segura, Castell, Baeza, & Guillén, 2015).

There is limited research available to suggest a treatment for bigorexia either in groups or individuals, with the main issue being those who suffer from bigorexia do not see it as a condition but rather a driving force to improve themselves regardless of the side effects it is perceived as something natural through influencing factors in the sub culture. There is however limited research on the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural treatment highlighting changes in thought patterns towards long term and short term goals, future longitudinal research may identify treatment for bigorexia. In current society the growing prevalence towards body image in the media as well as social media may cause the sub culture of bigorexia the grow meaning this previously unknown psychological condition if not treated may cause long term side effects in the future (Al-Kasadi, 2013).

Article

In achieving optimal body composition for either aesthetic and/or performance purposes, we often cut calories and more specifically alter quantities of particular food groups that we consume. Namely, the low carbohydrate/high protein approach is among the most commonly used strategy in order to lose weight and maintain or increase lean mass (Halton and Hu, 2004). […]

In achieving optimal body composition for either aesthetic and/or performance purposes, we often cut calories and more specifically alter quantities of particular food groups that we consume. Namely, the low carbohydrate/high protein approach is among the most commonly used strategy in order to lose weight and maintain or increase lean mass (Halton and Hu, 2004). Where carbohydrate intake becomes extremely low (<20g/d), a ketogenic state is likely to be reached.  This occurs due to the reduced availability of glucose and in turn, an increased production of ketone bodies from fat reserves which are then utilised as a source of energy.

While those of you who have subjected oneself to such a regime at one point or another, you will agree it is not a pleasant experience. This has been supported by the literature with side effects of low carbohydrate diets including headaches, cramps and general weakness (Yancy et al., 2004). From both a performance and productivity point of view, it is also important to understand that this strategy can impair brain function and so should be carefully implemented around a time where concentration does not need to be at its’ peak such as in competition or where life demands are high. This has been supported by (Wing et al., 1995) where a neuro-psycholoical test requiring higher order mental processing and flexibility proved difficult during the first week of a 28 day ketogenic diet when compared to a non-ketogenic diet.

So, what is happening to our brains during this time of reduced glucose availability?

The brain requires a constant supply of energy permanently 24/7; 100mg/min of glucose along with oxygen. At rest, the adult brain uses 20% of dietary energy consumed and 20% of inhaled oxygen. Even during sleep the brain continues to utilize glucose and interestingly, this increases by 16% during a nightmare. The brain runs on glucose alone and despite a fractional glycogen reservation, it relies heavily on its’ supply i.e. diet. The frontal cortex of the brain is most susceptible to becoming hypoglycaemic which in turn impairs planning of tasks, alters initiative, changes in personality and reduced creativity (Buchsbaum, M.S., 2004).

Intellectual efficiency is much determined by the quality of the first meal of the day. Breakfast, often referred to as the most important meal of the day anecdotally, is really only the most important meal provided it is made up the correct nutrients in the correct amount. A bowl of sugar puffs will have an entirely different metabolic effect in comparison to a bowl of porridge having a contrasting effect on blood glucose levels and thus the energy supply to the brain. Sugar must arrive slowly but regularly into the blood stream in order to maintain positive glucose supply to the brain.

So how do I maintain a steady glucose supply to the brain?

A glycaemic index (GI) has been established to classify foods according to the extent and duration of the rise in glucose level when they are consumed. Glucose itself is positioned at 100% on this index, honey at 73% and fructose at 23% which is contained in fruit. Consuming carbohydrates that have a slow energy release (i.e. a low glycaemic index) is the desired objective to maintain a steady energy supply to the brain. So, where carbohydrate within the diet has been reduced dramatically, in order to hold onto consistent brain function particularly in the area of cognition essential for performance and day to day tasks, consuming low (GI) foods at the start of the day is important. A mix of low GI foods include all-bran, rolled oats, porridge, cherries, plums, grapefruit, whole milk, lentils and sweet potato to name a few. In theory, consuming low GI foods seems logical where one is trying to lower carbohydrate intake. In a practical sense of course, we rarely eat carbohydrate on its own without some form of protein and/or fat to accompany it. Consuming carbohydrates alongside other macronutrients alters the GI of food and can make it difficult to quantify its’ energy release. To add to the complexity of achieving ketosis, not all low-carbohydrate diets are necessarily ketogenic as 57g of glucose can be metabolised from 100g of dietary protein (Sumithran and Proietto, 2007). Blood and urine samples are a means of monitoring whether an individual on a ‘low-carbohydrate diet’ is actually in a state of ketosis or not. This is not always practical. However, with that, where total calorie intake is considered, Sumithran and Proietto (2007) have concluded that it is the restriction of carbohydrate rather than total calories that is required to achieve a state of ketosis.

Safety Approach

In the short term, along with the irritabilities already mentioned, following a low ketogenic diet has led to pancreatitis, severe metabolic acidosis (Chen et al. 2006; Shah and Isley, 2006) and severe hypokalaemia (Advani and Taylor, 2005). Research examining the long term effect of this dietary approach has largely been conducted on epilepsy sufferers and so it is difficult to translate any long term effects to the general population. There have been reports that this dietary approach may be nutritionally inadequate as it can be lacking in fibre, calcium, potassium, A, E and B vitamins. However, this inadequacy will depend on the level of carbohydrate restriction, duration of the regimen, the sources of nutrients and its’ overall composition. In some cases, the nutritional composition may surpass an ad libtum eating regime depending on the factors mentioned (Stock and Yudkin, 1970).

Take Home Message

  • The brain needs glucose to function
  • Where one is trying to lose body fat for performance and aesthetic purposes, a ketogenic regime may be adopted
  • The timing of this implementation is important so as it does not hinder daily function especially where cognition is concerned
  • Choosing carbohydrates that release energy slowly into the blood stream is essential
  • Due to the unknown consequences of adopting this eating pattern long-term, one should be mindful of overall health when using a ketogenic approach
Article

Football has been described as “more than just a game” (Jones, 1995). As a result, footballers are experiencing psychological distress despite achieving great sporting success. To attest to this point, more than one quarter of professional footballers suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety (Gouttebarge, 2014).   Football is a highly pressured environment where emotional experiences […]

Football has been described as “more than just a game” (Jones, 1995). As a result, footballers are experiencing psychological distress despite achieving great sporting success. To attest to this point, more than one quarter of professional footballers suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety (Gouttebarge, 2014).   Football is a highly pressured environment where emotional experiences are entwined in many aspects of performance, and the exasperation of negative emotions can result in more long-term negative consequences. But when does psychological distress begin?

Football is a popular career ambition for youth males, however; the likelihood of becoming professional is minimal. Professional football clubs recruit players as young as 8 years old, and make contract cuts until they are 12 years old. The fortunate players then sign two-year contracts, but between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, players have to survive the pressure in order to get a three-year contract.

Hill (2013) said: “It can be harsh. At its worst, we are talking about an environment that can develop, foster and maintain a mindset where athletes are wholly invested into the idea of being the next David Beckham.” However, the reality is that in approximately 10,000 young athletes participate in football, it is estimated that less than one percent will make to professional football.

As professional sports contracts are extremely difficult to obtain and maintain, the pressure felt by competing athletes may contribute to the psychological distress. Although we do not know the prevalence of psychological distress experienced by youth footballers, we do know that adolescents are not exempt from experiencing issues of mental health. The prevalence rates of psychological disorders among young people and adolescents (16-34 year olds) are high at 25-25%. In fact, adolescence may be a key time where psychological issues begin to occur as 75% of mental health problems start before the age of 25 years old (Gulliver, Griffiths, & Christensen, 2012).

In the extreme case of Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper who committed suicide at the age of 33 years old, it was apparent that he felt pressure from football during his adolescent years. In the book, A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke, his anxiety seemed to start being detrimental during his adolescence. Enke felt crippling anxiety as a 16-year-old ‘thrown in’ to play with the 18-year-olds (Naume, 2011), and felt debilitating emotions when he made mistakes in a game. To exemplify this, Enke said, “for the whole of the next week, I had the error in front of my eyes. I couldn’t get it out my head. I couldn’t forgive myself a mistake” (Reng, 2012, p.24). Following a game where he made a ‘crucial’ mistake, he stayed off school for a full week, and used the excuse that he was ill. There are various accounts in his book about the pressure he felt to be the best, and sadly he suffered from depression throughout his playing career.

Adolescence may be a crucial time to intervene with athletes, particularly as this is a time when significant transitions occur and pressure may become significantly greater. What could have been done to support the likes of Robert Enke? How can we alleviate the pressures of sport and make sure that individuals have adequate coping mechanism? And in particular, how can we support those suffering from mental health issues? Within the recent report, the New Strategy for Sport Consultation, it was emphasised that we need to ensure that if mental health problems emerge in athletes that they receive the proper care and support they need to recover. It was also noted that:

“Given the increasingly early age at which young, talented athletes are identified and put in high potential programmes, we need to ensure they are still receiving the right sort of support to all them to develop in a balanced way, ensuring that if they don’t achieve their dream as an athlete, they are able to pursue other options and retain other skills” (p.47, Department for Culture and Sport, 2015).

With that being said, it is imperative to athlete’s wellbeing that we teach them about their value as a person. I like to tell athletes, “sport is something you do, and not who you are”. Of course, sport gives people an identity, nevertheless, sometimes this is an athlete’s only identity. In that case, an athlete’s self-worth may be contingent on their sporting performance and this is when we need to show that they are worthy as a person, as well as a performer.

For those suffering from issues of mental health, creating a culture shift where mental health issues are no longer stigmatized and youth athletes feel supported both on and off the pitch. There has been a lot of good work in raising awareness of mental health. Specifically, the charity MIND made a national call to tackle mental health in sport after a number of high profile sports people disclosed their mental health struggles. The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation was launched in March 2015. The Charter aims to tackle the stigma towards mental health using the power of sport. Time to Change campaign is led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

In conclusion, it is imperative to create an environment where athletes feel valued as people and their self-worth is not contingent on performance. Additionally, it is important that athletes who are facing issues of mental health feel supported and valued. I would recommend reading The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation and information on the MIND website for further information on mental health and issues within sport.

Article

The medical field has recognized the importance of physical therapy in regards to injury recovery for many years. Specific exercise plans are carefully designed to strengthen the muscles weakened by injury so that the patient may return to normal functioning. Medical massage has even been added to the treatment process due to its effectiveness in […]

The medical field has recognized the importance of physical therapy in regards to injury recovery for many years. Specific exercise plans are carefully designed to strengthen the muscles weakened by injury so that the patient may return to normal functioning. Medical massage has even been added to the treatment process due to its effectiveness in progressing physical healing. Although these methods are highly beneficial, they only address one aspect of the human body. Patient’s overall mental well-being plays a vital role in injury recovery but is often ignored or overlooked. It is important to identify the psychological effects of injury to ensure that the patient receives the most comprehensive care.

To illustrate an example, think of a patient with an ACL tear. Often, recovery can last six to nine months even with the most advanced care. This lengthy recovery time can not only contribute to a significant loss in muscle, but a decline in a person’s mental well-being as well. ACL tears make everyday activities such as walking strenuous and even painful. Not to mention can take away from a patient’s everyday activities and sense of independence. Throughout the healing process, this type of patient could largely benefit from a sport psychology program that could help with depression, loss of motivation, fear or anxiety associated with injury, as well as teach proper goal setting which would encourage patients to maintain their physical exercise program.

Research has shown that specific tools in psychology are essential during the rehabilitation of injured athletes (Hamson-Utley, Martin, & Walters, 2008). If this is the case, these same skills can be transferred to help anyone who is being rehabilitated from an injury regardless of involvement in sports. A few key points from this research study indicated that athletes have benefitted from the use of psychological skills in the areas of maintaining a positive mindset, decreasing stress and anxiety, as well as visualizing healing occurring in the injured body part. A specific example of a psychological skill used with athletes was mental imagery which allowed athletes to reduce fear and anxiety through relaxation before and after surgery. Imagery was also found to be beneficial when used before returning to sport to reduce the fear of re-injury (Hamson-Utley et. Al. 2008).

The most commonly reported psychological issues associated with athletic injury were anxiety and negative stressors. This information led to the use of a model to interpret how an athlete responds to injury. The integrated model of response describes the response to injury as being influenced by personal and situational factors which are then associated with the behavioral and emotional response of the athlete. The physical and mental recovery from injury are directly influenced by these behavioral and emotional responses often characterized by negative/positive self-talk, frustration, and adherence to rehabilitation. This model emphasizes that the skills that are influential in promoting positive behavioral and emotional outcomes are coping skills, mental imagery, positive self-talk, and goal setting (Hamson-Utley et. Al. 2008).

The knowledge of this information opens the door to the implementation of a sport psychology program in a physical therapy setting. Many physical therapists do not receive formal education in the use of psychological skills for rehabilitation but are often open to opportunities to further their education. Studies have even identified a positive attitude toward gaining the psychological skills necessary for providing patient mental care among sport trainers and physical therapists.

If physical therapists integrate psychological concepts and skills in their day-to-day interactions with patients, they will find rehabilitation as a whole to be a more positive experience. When patients have access to the skills above, they have the ability to achieve the fastest recovery possible. This is because such a program would ideally be paired with the physical rehabilitation program as the mental rehabilitation component to recovery.

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Already, in the UK today, the scale of Dementia presents a worrying statistic – so much so that George McNamara, head of policy at Alzhiemer’s Society, has described the condition as the biggest health challenge that the UK faces (The Guardian. 2015). Presently there are approximately 850,000 people suffering with the condition (Alzheimer’s Society. 2015. […]

Already, in the UK today, the scale of Dementia presents a worrying statistic – so much so that George McNamara, head of policy at Alzhiemer’s Society, has described the condition as the biggest health challenge that the UK faces (The Guardian. 2015). Presently there are approximately 850,000 people suffering with the condition (Alzheimer’s Society. 2015. Dementia 2014 Infographic), it being identified as the third leading cause of death in the UK (Alzheimer’s Research UK. 2014). Worryingly, though, a recent report commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading Alzheimer’s research charity, has warned of a significant worsening of these current statistics in the future. Carried out by the Office of Health Economics, the report projects that of those born in the UK this year one in three are anticipated to develop Dementia in their lifetimes; a forecast that the charity has described as a “looming national health crisis” (BBC News. 2015; Alzheimer’s Research UK. 2015. One in Three People Born in 2015 Will Develop Dementia, New Analysis Shows).

Why is such a trend expected, you might ask? The biggest risk factor for developing Dementia is age. The UK population is now living, and is expected to live, longer than those previous owing to a greater knowledge with regards to healthy wellbeing, diet, and fitness, as well as improvements in medicine. Therefore, as people live longer, the numbers with Dementia will rise.With this expected rise  now more than ever Dementia demands our attention. As a result, Alzheimer’s Research UK has called for greater efforts to help develop treatments and preventions that will help curb the projected trend (BBC News. 2015).

So what can be done?

Dependent upon the particular type of Dementia, there do currently exist methods that have demonstrated effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of the condition; Medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, or Psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are such examples. Use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors have also offered signs of treatment. However, the effects of such methods have been found to be inconsistent among sufferers and have not provided a long-term cure. (NHS. 2015; Alzheimer’s Research UK. 2015. Treatments Available)

Interestingly though, exercise may have a role to play.

Benefitting both physical and mental health, regular exercise training and physical activity has been claimed to have a “significant impact on the wellbeing of people with Dementia” (Alzheimers Society. 2015. Exercise and Physical Activity). By offering improvements in physical fitness, balance, muscular and bone strength, mood, self-esteem, and cognitive abilities, conclusions from a number of studies postulate that exercise has the potential to slow down cognitive decline of those already suffering from Dementia, offering benefits for people in all stages of the condition, and also offer a protective benefit for the risk of developing Dementia (Kramer, Erickson, and Colcombe. 2006). Seated exercises, Tai Chi, music and dance, and indoor bowls have all been utilized in exercise programs for Dementia sufferers in the past. Even those suffering from the most extreme forms of Dementia, where mobility is severely compromised, can harvest the benefits of exercise by moving around a little more during day to day life, or even sitting unsupported for a couple of minutes each day (Alzheimers Society. 2015. Exercise and Physical Activity).

And there is credence to the claims. Pitkälä et al. (2013) conducted a study that focused on the mobility and physical functioning of home-dwelling Alzheimer’s disease patients. The researchers randomized participants into one of three groups, each representing a different condition – a tailored home-based exercise program twice a week, a group based exercise program twice a week held at a rehabilitation Centre, and a control group. Results indicated that exercise can be beneficial for the physical functioning of Dementia sufferers, with the control group suffering from significantly quicker deterioration than either of the other two groups. Rolland et al. (2007) reported similar results, finding that Alzheimer’s sufferers who exercised demonstrated greater improvements in mobility, walking speed, and participation in activities of daily living compared to those who did not exercise.

Larson et al. (2006), on the other hand, offer support for the notion that exercise can act as protection against the risk of developing Dementia. Using an observational research method 1,740 male and females above the age of 65 participated in the study, none of whom had yet suffered cognitive impairment in the form of Dementia. Participants were initially asked to report the number of times per week that they performed physical activity. Following a period of 6.2 years, 158 of the participants had developed Dementia –  the incidence rate being significantly greater for those who performed less exercise (fewer than 3 times per week), compared to those who exercised more. Similarly, Andel et al. (2008) reported that participating in exercise or physical activity at midlife may reduce the odds of Dementia in older adulthood.

Treatments for Dementia are currently few and far between and, with current projections detailing a rise in numbers, the future look bleak. Although research in the area is still fairly primitive, recent findings offer encouragement for the implementation of exercise interventions as a strategy for delaying or preventing disease onset, or slowing down the cognitive and physical deterioration of those already suffering from Dementia. The nature of Dementia can, of course, provide difficulty when it comes to performing physical activity. However, with professional help an exercise program can be developed that considers age, physical and cognitive ability, and the type and stage of Dementia that ultimately has the potential to offer a better life to those suffering with the condition.

Article

Google the words fitness trackers and you will see a number of different equipment pop up into your browser. You have options to choose from a Fitbit wristband, a Jawbone wristband, a Garmin fitness watch, a Strava watch and more recently the Apple watch. All of these different pieces of fitness equipment can operate in […]

Google the words fitness trackers and you will see a number of different equipment pop up into your browser. You have options to choose from a Fitbit wristband, a Jawbone wristband, a Garmin fitness watch, a Strava watch and more recently the Apple watch. All of these different pieces of fitness equipment can operate in a number of ways including measuring heart rate, GPS tracking, measuring steps, distance covered, pace and calories burned.

We understand the benefits that fitness equipment can have on our physical health but what can they do for our psychological well being. How does technology influence the psychology of exercise? Can these fitness trackers promote and increase physical activity among a nation where 64% of adults are classified as overweight.

Recently I was having a discussion with Professor Andy Lane about fitness trackers and running. Andy is a avid runner and takes part in numerous park runs across the country. Andy mentioned to me that he uses a Strava GPS watch to measure his performance. Not only does Andy see this piece of equipment as something where he can gather all of his physical information but the Strava watch now becomes a social event. The Strava watch allows you to share data with other runners which promotes one aspect of well being which is positive relations with others. This fitness watch allows Andy to discuss different aspects of performance with runners and competitors. Running now becomes fun. Running now becomes an activity where you can interact with other runners and create positive relationships with friends. Running now becomes a social event to discuss, share and interact with the running world.

Often when people go running they mention that they are not having fun. Well maybe these fitness trackers are starting to make exercise fun. Let’s look at the Fitbit. The Fitbit is a wristband which comes with an app that you can download directly to your phone.  This app allows you to track all of your data so that you can set daily goals or challenges. You can challenge yourself to try and achieve a certain amount of steps each day. Goal setting can have a number of benefits to any performer. Setting goals help people to focus their attention on the task at hand. They help people to think about the different strategies they will use to achieve these goals. Lets say you set a daily challenge to achieve 10,000 steps. Now you have to start thinking how you will achieve this. The first question you can ask yourself is do I need to exercise to achieve these 10,000 steps? Would it not be possible for you to try and go for 2 walks a day? Too often we worry that we must exercise at a high intensity to achieve a healthy amount of physical activity. Why don’t you start by walking more? Why don’t you try and walk for 20 to 30 minutes twice a day? Not only do goals increase our focus but they also increase your effort in working towards a goal. Goals prolong your persistence and foster the development of new learning strategies.

The best part of the Fitbit app is that you can add friends and start to set challenges against them. You can challenge a friend to a step challenge to see who can do the most steps over a day or week or weekend. Fitness and exercise starts to become social. Fitness starts to add an element of competition. The majority of fitness equipment now come with some fantastic applications which help to monitor numerous aspects of physical performance. Next time you use your app start to think what influence it is having on your psychology. Understand how the application is influencing you to move and exercise and how it applies to your well being.

When we talk about exercise we often assume that people need to be working at a very high intensity for around 20 to 30 minutes every other day. The NHS recommends that adults do around 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, an average of 30 minutes five times a week.  We view exercise as something where people need to be panting and sweating to make a difference to their physical health. Why don’t we start to view exercise as movement. If everyone just started to move more would they feel better? The benefits of exercise/movement on mental health has been well documented in numerous research papers. Exercise has shown to reduce depression and anxiety.  Through exercise you can develop environmental mastery by feeling as though you are in charge of the situations in which you live.  Exercise can improve your personal growth and purpose in life by giving you more new challenges and making you feel as though you have an aim in life.

How can technology be applied to life and work?

Imagine you are a sport club, organisation or business. As director of your business or sport club you want to promote positive mental health. You want your coaches or colleagues to feel good about themselves, to be happy and to feel less stressed. One great way to achieve this could be by investing in some fitness trackers. Activity can now become a social event among your colleagues and in the workplace. Everyone could track their activity, share it with the workplace and even compete with each other. Not only will people start to move a bit more and see the benefits on their physical health but they will start to improve their mental health and well being.

Walking meetings

Throughout a working day the majority of us will be sitting behind a desk. For most of us we will argue that it is not easy to find time to exercise. Lets start being inventive. Lets start thinking of different ways of moving throughout a day. Why not try walking meetings? Professor Andy Lane mentioned to me that at his university where he works he arranges walking meetings around the running track. What a great idea to promote movement and physical activity. This movement could then be tracked through a fitness tracker and shared with your colleagues or friends. Why not try and come up with different ways to promote movement around the workplace. If you have a coffee trolley why not try and put the coffee in a room where people have to walk to. Why not try and promote breaks for people to get their daily movement.

Next time you think about exercising think about the benefits that a fitness tracker could have for not only your physical health but your psychological health and well being.  Start to think about the psychology of technology and what influence these small pieces of equipment can have on all areas of your life.

Article

Today we are living in a digital era, and the advancements being made in technology are continuing to grow at extortionate rates. Since the invention of gadgets such as the iPod Nike +, GPS watches such as the Garmin runner, coupled with the explosion of social media, we upload more and more about our sporting […]

Today we are living in a digital era, and the advancements being made in technology are continuing to grow at extortionate rates. Since the invention of gadgets such as the iPod Nike +, GPS watches such as the Garmin runner, coupled with the explosion of social media, we upload more and more about our sporting success on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and share the music we listen to on our ‘running playlist’ on internet sites such as Spotify. In addition to this, the use of motivational words, and ‘quotes’, has also become a popular theme in social media, in our own home interiors, and in particular corporate gyms and training grounds. In sports science literature these quotes, or a certain motivational stimuli, is known as priming. But to what extent does the personal iPods’ ‘gym playlist’ and unconscious glances at a motivational quote on our iPhone, or gymnasium wall actually bare an impact on our mental state, and in turn, our performance?

In many respects, music and sport are seen to be quite disparate. Yet, on close inspection of their two worlds, it is evident that they share a great deal in common. One certain stimulus that has been widely reported to bear an influence on people’s motivation and psychological states in the domain of sport and physical activity, is music (e.g., Blood et al., 2013; Fritz et al., 2013; Sanchez, Moss, Twist & Karageorghis, 2014). The use of music has become extremely prevalent, from group exercise classes, gymnasiums, sports stadiums blearing music in the warm-up and half-time breaks, and the solo exerciser plugging into their iPod, music is now almost inescapable in almost any sport and exercise setting.

It is now apparent that even professional athletes routinely use music to enhance both motivational states and performance (e.g., Bishop et al., 2007; Harwood et al., 2011). However, despite the fact that athletes often report positive effects of music during training and competition (e.g., Bishop et al., 2007; Laukka & Quick, 2013), scientific evidence to support such effects remains limited. Almost any sport and exercise setting can incorporate music in four main ways; pre-task, synchronous, asynchronous, and recuperative. Pre-task music is applied immediately before a physical task or event, as a tool to arouse, relax or regulate mood (Terry & Karageorghis, 2011, p. 316). For example, In 2012, such deliberate use of music as a pre-performance strategy could be witnessed not only in the swimming pool (e.g., Eleanor Simmonds), but also on the athletics track (Tahmina Kohistani), in the white water centre (Jasmin Schornberg), and in the velodrome (Chris Hoy). Music is clearly valued as a preparatory tool by Olympic athletes, including gold medallists – and this seems to parallel young people’s daily use of music to manage their moods (Saarikallio & Erkkilä, 2007).

Karageorghis & Priest (2012a, 2012b), have discovered 4 influencing factors that music has on physical activity. These were: (a) encourage the movement pattern to synchronise with the beat of the music, (b) reduced perceived effort used to complete the task by transferring their attention away from the physical sensation of fatigue, (c) influenced psychomotor arousal, and (d) improved mood of the exercise participant. In the most recent research to date, Hutchinson and Karageorghis (2015), examined the psychological effects of music and music-video during treadmill running. Here, it was found that the music-video condition elicited the highest levels of dissociation, lowest RPE, and most positive affective responses regardless of exercise intensity.

In the instance of motivational words, the term ‘priming’ is used to describe “the influence a stimulus has on subsequent performance of the processing system” (Braddeley, 1997, p.325). Priming was traditionally used to explore the relative automaticity of certain behaviours, and has since developed into the investigation of desired behaviours unconsciously through priming methods (see Bargh & Chatrand, 2000). There is a well-established literature demonstrating the influence of visual primes on decision-making processes and situational motivation. It has been proposed that human motivation can be activated automatically without the involvement of conscious guidance or choice. During a study conducted by, Aarts & Dijksterhuis (2002) it was found that priming participants with words associated with fast animals (cheetah, antelope) or slow animals (snail, turtle) led to faster and slower walking speeds. Thus, highlighting the potential benefits of priming methods to physical performance. In a more recent study, Loizou & Karageorghis (2014) looked into the effects of priming, video and music on anaerobic exercise performance. Results indicated that the combined use of video, music and primes was the most effective (compared to no music, video or primes) in terms of influencing participants pre-task affect and subsequent anaerobic performance, followed by the music-only condition.

So, next time you prepare for an event, or routine workout or training. Think about the music on your playlist, the inspirational lyrics you hear, and picture those motivational quotes that are the current fashion on our news feed and gym walls. Theoretical research shows it may just give you that extra edge…

Article

The topic of frequent physical activity and, more importantly, a sedentary lifestyle dominate the media on a near-daily basis. Although many people feel they undertake enough physical activity to reap the subsequent health benefits, The British Heart Foundation (2012) discovered that less than 10% of men and women could correctly report the government’s guideline recommendations […]

The topic of frequent physical activity and, more importantly, a sedentary lifestyle dominate the media on a near-daily basis. Although many people feel they undertake enough physical activity to reap the subsequent health benefits, The British Heart Foundation (2012) discovered that less than 10% of men and women could correctly report the government’s guideline recommendations for weekly exercise. The lack of awareness and willing to engage in exercise presents in itself a collective health problem; individuals begin to suffer with ailments whilst the NHS counts the financial cost of treating those who are inactive with costs being estimated at up to £1.06 billion (Allender et al, 2007). The relationship between exercise and personal well-being is well established where research has shown that regular physical activity can lead to a plethora of health benefits (Coombes et al, 2013). In this respect, it is vital that professionals begin to identify ways in which people can be successfully engage in physical activity and maintain this in the long-term. Research thus far has mainly focused on mobilising effort toward the uptake of exercise yet very few studies have attempted to engineer interventions to sustain these efforts (Naar-King et al, 2013). Identifying individual indicators of persistence when exercising would enable greater understanding and potentially inform interventions when dealing with inactive people in society.

Mental toughness is a term that is used by many people who are involved in sport: coaches, athletes and the media. Despite the fact that mental toughness has been used as a reason for a good performance by coaches and players alike, it has only recently been conceptualised. It can be defined as: ““having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to, generally, cope better than your opponents with the manydemands (e.g., competition, training, lifestyle) that are placed on you as a performer” (Jones, Hanton & Connaughton, 2007). The importance of mental toughness in sport has been revealed on multiple occasions; it possesses links with other psychological skills such as coping (Nicholls, Levy, Polman & Crust, 2011). Issues with the actual definition of mental toughness appear to have been resolved where four clear components are believed to constitute mental toughness within which reside 30 more sub components: attitude, training, competition and post-competition (Jones et al, 2007). Obviously, these four elements may not transfer as appropriately to the exercise domain. Mental toughness has been found to be one of the central characteristics held by an elite athlete and a major contributor to performers reaching the pinnacle of their sport. Drawing from this, professionals have begun to consider the effectiveness of mental toughness in an exercise setting. It could be suggested that dealing with issues, coping effectively and persisting through adversity are all necessary when sustaining regular physical activity. Therefore, what can we gain from our understanding from mental toughness, and how, if it at all, can it be applied in the exercise setting?

One particular research study, has endeavoured to reveal more on the role of mental toughness in exercise and how it can be defined. Through the use of extensive interviews with frequent exercisers and qualified exercise leaders, a more concise image on exercise mental toughness (EMT) can be formulated (Crust et al, 2014). Firstly, it was noted by the participants that exercisers who appeared mentally tough were incredibly intense in their physical output and persistence; they have a motivation to achieve. Further to this, it appeared that the mentally tough exerciser had clear purpose and goal to strive toward. Having a long-term goal imparted a sense of meaning to the individual and allowed them to persist through particularly hard sessions. Taking this forward, health professionals should seek to establish clear goals with sedentary individuals. Proactive individuals could begin to consider what their ultimate goal is when beginning exercise and noting it down. This could help their motivation to achieve. Doing so could improve their mental toughness and, ultimately, their commitment to an exercise program.

Moreover, the participants believed that becoming mentally tough when exercising involved adopting a very strong sense of focus. This focus could also be perceived as a form of selfishness and it was argued that this is not necessarily a negative quality to display whilst exercising. Importantly, if the exerciser experienced a setback, they experienced a ‘rapid refocus’ onto the next goal/task. Similar to dealing with adversity in sport, it could be argued that this a difficult quality to develop in an individual. However, professionals in the exercise setting could attempt to educate individuals on how to overcome setbacks when working toward a goal. In any case, some level of failure is necessary for growth. Informing those who are inactive of this could serve to change perceptions of exercise and thus increase participation. Commitment is also stipulated to be typical of possessing EMT. The prioritisation of exercise appears imperative to sustaining engagement with activity. Although efforts have been made through various government campaigns, it may be that a different perspective is adopted when promoting physical activity. Ensuring that inactive individuals are aware of the health benefits they can reap through exercise could be a potential method to improving EMT and, in turn, subsequent adherence to regular exercise.

Although a lot can be gathered from this relatively new domain in the exercise research field, further research is required into the concept of mental toughness in exercise. Clarifying the role it may have in exercise maintenance could explore new avenues in promoting exercise adoption. In doing this, it could relieve pressure on the health industry and improve well-being across populations.

Article

Ironman triathletes; Personification of self-actualization The article presents self-actualization (the process of self-fulfillment and reaching one’s ultimate potential) in relation to the unique group of individuals who commit to the 140.6-mile multi-sport event that is Ironman Triathlon. There is no doubt that the typical profile of an Ironman triathlete as well as the Ironman mantra […]

Ironman triathletes; Personification of self-actualization

The article presents self-actualization (the process of self-fulfillment and reaching one’s ultimate potential) in relation to the unique group of individuals who commit to the 140.6-mile multi-sport event that is Ironman Triathlon. There is no doubt that the typical profile of an Ironman triathlete as well as the Ironman mantra ‘ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE’ exemplifies the theoretical prototype of a self-actualizer. The article aims to provide answers to the following questions; 1) What is self actualization? 2) What are the characteristics of a self-actualizer, and how can examples from Ironman Triathletes be used to contextualize self-actualization? 3) I want to reach my potential, should I sign up to an Ironman?

What is self actualization?

Self-actualization sits at the top of Masolw’s (1943) hierarchy of needs. The 5-stage model depicts a pyramid of requirements that we are intrinsically motivated towards satisfying. Successfully fulfilling the needs at a lower level allows an individual to move onwards and upwards. Ultimately reaching a state of self-actualization, coined as ‘realizing personal potential, self fulfillment through an active process of seeking personal growth and optimal experiences’.

Individuals can only move up to the next layer of the pyramid once the lower levels are satisfied. The needs reflected within Maslow’s theory are as follows;

  • Physiological needs–the most basic needs to survival; water, air, food and sleep. All other needs become secondary until these are met
  • Safety needs – The need to feel secure and safe include; a stable job, health care and a secure home and environment.
  • Love / Belonging needs –the need to feel affection and form relationships. Whether these are friendships, romantic attachments or within the family, there is a need for companionship and social acceptance.
  • Esteem needs – After the first three needs have been satisfied, the need for self-esteem, personal worth, and accomplishment become increasingly important.
  • Self-Actualization – The journey of ‘becoming’ and finding a meaning of life. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth and interested in fulfilling all they are capable of being.

It is a widely held belief that every person has the innate desire and capability to move up the hierarchy towards achieving self-actualization. Nevertheless this process is often disrupted by life experiences causing a deficiency at lower levels. An ongoing recursive process of fulfillment between the lower levels means that only 1/100 people achieve the active state of self-actualization.

Characteristics of a self-actualizers and examples from Ironman Triathletes.

The 8 characteristics presented below are by know means an exhaustive list of attributes. Furthermore in order to become self-actualized one does not need to conform to all these characteristics, self-fulfillment is about a unique continuous journey, not the achievement of a singular state at one moment in time. However individuals on the road to ‘becoming’ do tend to share some commonalities and athletes on the road to becoming an Ironman seemingly embody the majority of these.

  1. Acceptance and Realism – A fundamental characteristic of unlocking one’s potential is to remain grounded, accepting one’s fate for what it has been, is currently and will be. During an Ironman race this attribute distinguishes between those who finish and those who flourish. It is detrimental during the ultra-triathlon event to speculate; ‘what if’ or ‘what next’? Instead remaining logical, rational and well reasoned will allow the athlete to overcome the inevitable mental battles that accompany the race and thus allowing continued progression up the hierarchy towards self-fulfillment.
  2. Autonomy and Solitude – Reaching one’s potential is ultimately a journey of individual discovery. This concept is complimented through the hundreds of hours of solo training Ironman triathletes do. These athletes embrace independence and the notion of free will, enjoying their own company and being at ease with themselves and there thoughts.
  3. Continued freshness and appreciation – Ironmen athletes have an irrefutable ability to live in the moment and appreciate life for the small things. Athletes recall moments whilst racing or training where they became overwhelmed with the love for turning the pedals, or running in the most beautiful places in the world. The ability to practice mindfulness and value the world is commonplace for an individual concerned with achieving their potential. Thus it is also routine for the Ironman athlete.
  4. Peak experiences – It is fundamental that a ‘self-actualizer’ demonstrates engagement in ultimate experiences. Ironman athletes consistently describe the euphoria of crossing the finisher’s line, or the overwhelming emotional experience of being re-united with their family after completion of the race. Additionally peak experiences are often achieved during the training process for Ironman. Some athletes combine the whole Ironman process as a collective peak experience, indicating that the nature of the challenge as a holistic experience to both be endured but enjoyed. It is a ride, which will allow you to learn far more about yourself and extract your deepest capabilities more than just one moment in time such as retrieving your finisher’s medal.
  5. Highly Creative – The ability to be creative and think out side the box reflects the necessary skill of an Ironman athlete to be able to adapt to uncontrollable situations. Over the 140.6mile race there are many obstacles, which cannot be accounted for. Nutrition strategies, mechanical failures and weather issues will undoubtedly require creativity if they don’t go to plan. The ability to adapt especially in a state of physical and mental fatigue is unequivocal in the successful Ironman and the self-actualizer.
  6. Taking of responsibility and hard work – Many athletes on their way to completing an Ironman recall how the training demands and strains are often harder than the race itself. Months of relentless swim, bike and run sessions require an unequivocal commitment to the end goal. An Ironman will simply not be achieved on the back of inadequate and irresponsible preparation. During this journey the athlete accepts accountability for the tensions put on themselves and their relationships. Such a profound ability to work hard, as well as accept the costs, reflects the drive towards reaching ones potential.
  7. Avoiding pretense and being honest – The need to be truthful with yourself and others is fundamental of the Ironman. To remain committed over such an extensive training and racing period, keeping the mind and behavior straightforward is key to success. These characteristics and the forthright behaviors that follow allow athletes to complete the race and ultimately realize there potential as individuals when they break the finishers tape.
  8. Strong moral and ethical standards – Self-actualizes are commonly seen as the ‘do-gooders’ of society. Mirroring this image is the generalization that Ironman athletes often emerge from professions in which moral obligation and ethical guidelines must be adhered to (for example; educational, law and order and emergency services). However above and beyond the employment sectors Ironman athletes represent they also reflect the most active members of communities. Ironman athletes are commonly the un-sung voluntary heroes, engaging in activities that demonstrate equality for all and high moral functioning.

I want to reach my potential, should I sign up to an Ironman?

Before you hastily spurge on copious amounts of lycra, sports nutrition and a race entry to complete an Ironman triathlon (2.4mile swim, 112mile cycle, 26.2mile run) it is worth considering the fact that 1% of the population achieves self-actualization, whereas a substantially smaller amount complete an Ironman. Indicating that there is a magnitude of other ways for individuals to embrace the journey of self-fulfillment. As highlighted in an article by Kenrick and colleagues (2010) an individuals own interests such as; literature, education, the arts or business success provide more than adequate motivation to drive them towards the highest point on Maslow’s hierarchy. So let your own inhibitions guide you, however adoption of the Ironman mantra ‘ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE’ is certainly a great place to start.

Article

Burnout is a maladaptive outcome of sport participation. Kids and talents driven too hard in their sports domain can potentially lead to burnout from an activity they ones loved. But what is the underlying mechanism that drives the burnout-process? Sport Psychology research has established a meaningful link between motivational constructs and the process of burning […]

Burnout is a maladaptive outcome of sport participation. Kids and talents driven too hard in their sports domain can potentially lead to burnout from an activity they ones loved. But what is the underlying mechanism that drives the burnout-process?

Sport Psychology research has established a meaningful link between motivational constructs and the process of burning out over the last decades. Athlete burnout is in this context considered a multidimensional process, with physical and emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation and reduced sense of accomplishment as end products (Raedeke, 1997).

Several studies have pointed out a relationship between athlete burnout propensity and motivational aspects (Gould, 1996; Gustafsson, Kenttä, Hassmèn & Lundquist, 2007; Lemyre et al., 2007; Raedeke, 1997). Burnout research taking a social-cognitive perspective has revealed that motivational dispositions, perceptions of motivational climate, perceived ability, and dimensions of perfectionism are closely linked to symptoms of burnout in elite athletes (Lemyre, Hall, & Roberts., 2008). Based on different motivational profiles, results at the end of the season yielded distinct differences on signs of athlete burnout (Lemyre et al., 2008). The following conclusion pointed out a relationship between a maladaptive motivational profile and athletes` perception of being controlled. In combination with low goal attainment this might contribute to the athletes’ feelings of entrapment in the sport context. Feelings of entrapment are often followed by lowered intrinsic motivation; where ego orientation, perception of a performance oriented climate, and dimensions of perfectionism is known to be major contributors (Lemyre et al., 2008). Motivational profiles were a high task orientation remained, whereas ego orientation was suppressed displayed low signs of burnout. If both goal orientations were moderate to high, there was a greater risk of elevated burnout scores (Lemyre et al., 2008). This finding can be explained by the dimensions of perfectionism that may evoke athletes` concern about mistakes, and constant striving for errorless performances (Lemyre et al., 2008). This indicates that the burnout syndrome is not simply “motivation gone awry”, as stated by Gould (1996), but more likely a consequence of an underlying maladaptive motivational profile (Lemyre et al., 2008).

Meaningful relationships between different levels of self-determined motivation, autonomy support, and signs of burnout in elite swimmers have also been established. A decline in motivational quality throughout the season increased possibility for athlete burnout at the end of the season (Lemyre et al., 2006). Authors suggested that monitoring athletes’ motivational quality and feelings of self-determination in their actions was potentially helpful in the attempt of steering athletes` clear of maladaptive outcomes such as burnout (Lemyre et al., 2006). An argument to this conclusion is athletes’ maladaptive response when being fuelled by external regulations in their athletic participation. Potentially, this influences them to follow training plans without questioning or adjusting them according to personal needs and developments. Consequently athletes` feelings of autonomy are suppressed and further training adaption is inhibited (Lemyre et al., 2006).

It has also been established that self-determined motivation and overtraining have their own unique contribution to athlete burnout. This was based on the fact that high levels of self-determined motivation did not function as a moderator for reports of overtraining in burnout development (Lemyre et al., 2007). Findings from the Olympic team athletes indicated a much clearer relationship between overtraining and burnout symptoms than did the group of junior elite athletes. Additionally, level of self- determined motivation was more evident in burnout development among juniors compared to Olympic athletes (Lemyre et al., 2007). A relationship between self- determined motivation at the beginning of the season and signs of burnout at season’s end, clearly emerged in the group overall, supporting this approach to burnout research. Authors concluded it not being the motivation per se, but the quality of athletes’ motivation one must consider important in development of athlete burnout (Lemyre et al., 2007).

It has also been proposed that other factors besides training load must be considered when explaining athlete burnout (Gustafsson et al., 2007). Qualitative research also emphasizes the importance of motivational factors in developing burnout (Gustafsson, Hassmèn, Kenttä & Johansson, 2008). Initially high motivation is common among burned-out athletes. Motivation tends to disappear as the burnout experience develops. Athletes described a shift in motivation from intrinsic to becoming more extrinsically motivated, resulting in amotivation at the end. Additionally, nine of 10 athletes described having mainly ego oriented goals during the period before burning out (Gustafsson et al., 2008). An ego oriented goal orientation catalyzed the burned-out athletes` motivational loss, by not being able to beat others and not coping well with the fact that other athletes outperformed them. This supports the possible maladaptiveness of an ego oriented goal orientation especially when ability is low (Gustafsson et al., 2008).

Findings taken from three case-studies emphasises the need to understand each burnout case individually (Gould, Tuffey, Udry & Loehr, 1997). Inappropriate goals, self-induced perfectionism, and triggers from significant others must be considered contributively factors in the complexity of burnout development. The fact that athletes reported high initial motivation developing towards motivational loss and burnout (Gustafsson et al., 2008), and the altering from perceiving sport as fun to experiencing burnout and loosing motivation (Gould et al., 1996b) shows a dynamic nature of the burnout process, and possible changes over time spans.

As I have pointed out in this article, the link between motivation and burnout is a complicated process we have to take into consideration when developing athletes. I hope this could give some advise to coaches and athletes in how to administer training and training environments to help steering away from maladaptive outcomes like burnout:

– Give athletes room for autonomy in the training process – foster and nurture intrinsic motivation and support an adaptive motivational profile.

– Create mastery-oriented performance climates to support an adaptive motivational profile.*

– Monitor training load, hours and fatigue closely to steer away from overtraining symptoms. Focus on recovery from training.*

– Be aware that perfectionism could possibly inhibit performance development.

– Make training and competitive settings fun!

Article

It is accepted that throughout an athlete’s career they will encounter injury setbacks. But it does appear, at least anecdotally, that some athletes experience more injuries than others. I’m sure any sports fan could come up with an example of an athlete who has had seemingly endless injury problems. Without wishing to name any names, […]

It is accepted that throughout an athlete’s career they will encounter injury setbacks. But it does appear, at least anecdotally, that some athletes experience more injuries than others. I’m sure any sports fan could come up with an example of an athlete who has had seemingly endless injury problems. Without wishing to name any names, I can think of a certain footballer who has had a torrid time with injury. Indeed, according to the physioroom.com from the beginning of 2011 to today he has had 24 separate injuries, all of varying severity. Whilst there are undoubtedly a range of factors ranging from physical to genetic that determine injury, this article will focus on the psychological factors that may influence injury risk.

Andersen and Williams (1988) first proposed a model of stress and athletic injury, which has since been revised (Williams & Andersen, 1998) and extended (Petrie & Perna, 2004). Essentially the model proposes that certain psychological factors predispose an athlete to become more stressed when under pressure. This stress response leads to physiological and attentional changes that can increase one’s propensity to injury. The psychological factors included in the model are: personality, history of stressors, and coping resources. Research into each of these factors has identified more specifically what variables are important (see Johnson, 2007 for a review). However, it should be noted that the research has been carried out in a variety of contexts and using a range of sports. Whether or not certain factors are more or less relevant in certain sports is yet to be clarified.

Regarding personality, the characteristics of competitive trait anxiety, somatic trait anxiety, mood states, perfectionism, self-confidence/ self-esteem and mistrust have all demonstrated relationships with the stress response and subsequent injury risk. The history of stressors category is composed of daily hassles and life event stress. Whilst it is unclear whether daily hassles such as being late or unexpected arguments have an effect in this model, life event stress does appear to be influential. These major life events like moving to a new city, divorce, or a new baby can be linked to increased stress and propensity towards injury. Finally, coping resources refer to factors that may help an athlete to cope with stress, such as social support from family and friends. An athlete’s coping resources does appear to be linked to subsequent injury.

To try and give you a better idea of what I am talking about let’s put this into an example. Say an athlete is about to compete in a major final. Their personality is high in trait anxiety and perfectionism and they have recently divorced from their partner and had to move into a new house. Moreover, they are don’t have many friends in this area and their family lives far away. All these factors, coupled with the high pressure of the competition leads to the player becoming highly stressed.

That they will be stressed in this situation is unsurprising, but why should being stressed increase the likelihood of a player getting injured? To explain one must examine the changes that can occur under stress. One proposed change is an increased in generalised muscle tension. This not only can mean that the muscles are more likely to rip or tear but also it restricts the athletes’ ability to move easily. Therefore, if an opponent is trying to tackle them, they may be less able to avoid it. Another change during stress involves a narrowing of the visual field. This restricts the view of the periphery which may mean the player is less likely to spot a dangerous situation, such as the opponent arriving to tackle them. The final change included in the model is increased distractibility. It is hypothesised that when under stress, people are more prone to focus on distracting stimuli. Once again this increases the possibility that an athlete may fail to notice a potentially injurious situation.

It is important to remember that the model does not claim to be 100% accurate in predicting injury and it does not mean that stressed athletes will get injured. The very nature of elite competition is stressful and clearly not every athlete competing at this level is injured. However, the model does have potential to identify athletes who are most at risk of injury and give ideas about how to help them, for instance by increasing their coping resources.

Article

Defining attentional focus. Attentional focus in athletes can be split into two broad strategies, that of association and dissociation (Lind et al. 2009). A range of terms for association and dissociation are in the literature, these include internal focus, attention, and redefinition for association and external focus, distraction and avoidance for dissociation, although the constructs […]

Defining attentional focus.

Attentional focus in athletes can be split into two broad strategies, that of association and dissociation (Lind et al. 2009). A range of terms for association and dissociation are in the literature, these include internal focus, attention, and redefinition for association and external focus, distraction and avoidance for dissociation, although the constructs themselves are extremely similar (Brewer & Buman 2006). Attentional focus is a critical psychological element within a wide range of endurance sports such as running (Summers et al. 1982; Schomer 1986; Goode & Roth 1993; Masters & Ogles 1998; Stevinson & Biddle 1998; LaCaille et al. 2004; Buman et al. 2008; Tenenbaum & Connolly 2008), rowing (Connolly & Janelle 2003; Longman et al. 2014), and cycling (Stanley et al. 2007). Originally Schomer (1986) developed attentional strategies through the single dimension of task relatedness, merging association and dissociation with attentional width for example, whether attentional focus is broad or narrow and the direction of attention for example, towards internal or external signals. Associative thoughts consequently contained thoughts that were task related such as bodily sensations, conditions and pacing with dissociative thoughts containing thoughts that were non task related such as daydreaming, problem solving and admiring the view. However, it had been established that 63% of thoughts existing in participants were not classified as the thoughts fell in between associative and dissociative, for instance a thought that was associative as it was related to the task, but also dissociative as it acted as distraction from the distress during the run (Summers et al. 1982). This led to attentional focus being re-developed by Stevinson & Biddle (1998) who proposed a two-dimensional classification system as seen below.

External Task-relevant  

Outward monitoring: For example, strategy, mile markers, water stations,  split times, route and conditions.

External Task-irrelevant

Outward distraction: For example, scenery, spectators, other runnersand the environment.

Internal Task-relevant  

Inward monitoring: For example, breathing, muscle soreness, thirst, fatigue, perspiration, blisters and nausea.

Internal Task-irrelevant

Inward distraction: For example, daydreams, imagining music, maths puzzles, philosophy and religion.

A range of methods to measure attentional focus in runners have been utilised such as recording devices (Schomer et al. 1986), structured verbal interviews (McDonald & Kirkby 1995), online interviews (Buman et al. 2008), and questionnaires (Goode & Roth 1993; Stevinson & Biddle 1998). However, it must be acknowledged that each has methodological limitations. The utilisation of recording devices to record spoken thoughts whilst the runners ran could result in participants discomfort and potentially cause a decrease in performance level, subsequently experimentally-imposed dissociative thoughts may be provoked (Masters & Ogles 1998). Self-report methods can cause participants to be selective in reporting because of potential embarrassment. Furthermore there is the possibility of vague thoughts being incorrectly classified by researchers (Longman et al. 2014). Additionally the use of recalled attention focus has the potential to be inaccurate due to the distorting effect of time on memory (Schomer et al. 1986).

Attentional focus in competitive endurance performance.

The research has indicated that elite endurance runners and experienced runners prefer to utilise associative strategies during performance (Masters & Lambert 1989; Silva & Appelbaum 1989; McDonald & Kirkby 1995), this is most likely due to the elite performers often being more experienced, and thus are able to afford an associate strategy because of the physical superiority. Furthermore an increase in exercise intensity has demonstrated this transition to associative thoughts (Hutchinson & Tenenbaum 2007; Tenenbaum & Connolly 2008; Razon et al. 2009). The significance of employing associative strategies to increase performance level during phases of high intensity is widely recognised (Birrer & Morgan 2010). Via associative strategies, performers can monitor sensory feedback to improve performance by modification of racing strategy or pacing (LaCaille et al. 2004). For instance, when increasing speed to keep up with the leading pack in an endurance race, if the runner does not ‘check up’ on forms of physical pain, an incorrect pacing decision may be made. This may result in the performer decreasing pacing drastically due to fatigue at a later stage in the race or completing the race sub maximally. These associative strategies have been deemed a predictor of success in endurance performance (Silva & Appelbaum 1989). Alternatively in weaker runners dissociation appears more frequently, being more effective than association, these results are likely influenced by the weaker performers often being less experienced (Brewer & Buman 2008). The use of dissociation enables performers to desensitise oneself from sensory feedback, thus decreasing the level of pain, discomfort and monotony during performance (Schomer 1986). Furthermore dissociative strategies have also been seen to increase when the duration of the exercise increases; which often corresponds with a decrease in exercise intensity at maximal exertion, the desensitising results in a reduction in the perception of exertion (Stanley et al. 2007; Lohse & Sherwood 2011). This has been shown to be crucial in performers decision making processes, which can be the difference between success and failure through adapting pacing strategies and even the choice whether to cease or prolong performance (Morgan 1981). For instance, when taking part in the final stages of an endurance race when physical discomfort is high, if the performer does not ‘distract’ ones-self this may cause a sub optimal pacing strategy or even cause the performer to give up and quit the race due to the perceived pain.

Coping strategies for endurance performance.

The inclusion of psychological skills training, for example, self-talk and imagery (Masters & Lambert 1989), has been recommended alongside attentional focus manipulation, in particular for non-elite endurance performers to prevent the interpretation of exertion and pain in a more emotional manner (Masters & Lambert 1989). A study by Blanchfield et al. (2013) recognised that in particular motivational self-talk in endurance performance can cause an enhanced perceived ability of the performer to sustain the necessary power output for an extended period of time. Thus the cognitive effect of motivational self-talk led to a reduction in rating of perceived exertion therefore, the point at which maximal effort was believed to have took place was delayed. Examples of motivational self-talk used in this study including; “drive forward”, “you’re doing well”. In terms of attentional focus manipulation an early study by Stevinson & Biddle (1998) consisting of 66 non-elite London marathon runners determined that inward monitoring is crucial for sustaining physical awareness, changes in pacing and monitoring fluid intake thus increasing comfort and performance. This being said, over attention will amplify discomfort levels resulting in ‘hitting the wall’ at an earlier stage of running. Thus regular but short in duration ‘check ups’ instead on continuous monitoring is recommended.

Article

1 in 4 of us will suffer with poor mental health at some point in our lives. Anxiety can affect around 16% of the British population at any one time with depression affecting around 1 in 10 adults. Anxiety and depression are generally controlled through medication and, for the fortunate who have reached the top […]

1 in 4 of us will suffer with poor mental health at some point in our lives. Anxiety can affect around 16% of the British population at any one time with depression affecting around 1 in 10 adults.

Anxiety and depression are generally controlled through medication and, for the fortunate who have reached the top of the waiting list, counselling and therapies, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). However, an often neglected intervention when dealing with mental health is exercise.

Mental health and physical health are treated separately, however evidence has shown that there is a link between physical activity and positive mental health. The US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) concluded in 1987 that exercise was positively linked with mental health, reduced stress and anxiety and had emotional benefits for both men and women of all ages. Not only can it benefit those suffering with poor mental health, it can protect people from initially developing depression and/or anxiety though chemical changes in the brain that positively alter mood.

The NHS recommends that adults do around 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, an average of 30 minutes five times a week. Moderate exercise means being energetic enough so you breathe heavier but are not out of breath and you feel warmer, but not overly hot and sweaty. Research has demonstrated that medium-intensity activity undertaken for 20 minutes, three times a week has significantly reduced the symptoms of clinical depression (Craft and Landers, 1998).

The prospect of physical exercise may be daunting, particularly if you have minimal experience of exercising. If so, build up slowly, begin by walking for a short distance and gradually develop until you can walk for an hour or even begin running. Remember that even a 15 minute walk can help you relax and clear your mind, as any exercise is better than none.

Physical activity does not have to be ‘sport’ as such. Simply adapting to a more active lifestyle can improve your mood, whilst often saving money. For example, rather than using public transport to work either walk or cycle if possible, or wash your car rather than using a car wash, take the stairs instead of the lift. Any type of exercise is appropriate, as long as it suits you.

Exercise is a brilliant way to meet people and expand your social circle, which can be crucial when dealing with a mental health crisis. Sign up to a local exercise class and meet people from your community, or join a local sports team, such as netball or football club, where you can develop friendships and improve motivation by becoming more competitive. Research has suggested that weightlifting and running can improve your confidence levels and help tackle low self-esteem; whilst team sports can help you overcome loneliness, improve social skills and help to build trust (Da Silva, 2002).

Any form of exercise, from the moderate to the elite end of the scale will help when dealing with anxiety and depression. Exercise can help:

  • Relieve tension, stress and mental fatigue
  • Improve sleep
  • Provide a natural energy boost
  • Give a sense of achievement
  • Lessen anger and frustration
  • Develop a healthy appetite
  • Give you a focus and motivation in life
  • Develop a better social life
  • You enjoy life

Ultimately, exercise can help develop self esteem and self control – two vital components of personality required when overcoming anxiety and depression.

Article

 ‘I’ve grown up in my sport with the impression I was meant to be a superhero. You’re supposed to be able to handle things. You are in high pressure situations so you are convinced you should be able to handle those situations yourself, so it is hard to get help, it is admitting you have a […]

 ‘I’ve grown up in my sport with the impression I was meant to be a superhero. You’re supposed to be able to handle things. You are in high pressure situations so you are convinced you should be able to handle those situations yourself, so it is hard to get help, it is admitting you have a weakness.’- Natasha Danvers (Olympic 400m hurdler).

One in four individuals will experience a mental health problem each year (Mind, 2015), so it should not come as a surprise that sports people will experience these issues too. However, talking about mental health problems is traditionally seen as a taboo in sport. Recently, Clarke Carlisle former chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association revealed he had been trying to take his own life when he was hit by a lorry in December 2014, following an 18-month battle with depression since retiring from the game. Highlighting that mental illness is indiscriminate, with no respect for position, standing or sporting form. Conversely, perception indicates that sports people are mentally tougher, fitter and healthier than others- elevating them to a superhero status. Thus, making it harder to seek help because showing vulnerability is seen as showing weakness.

Mental health issues are not always visible and many athletes might not admit how they feel. For example, ex-England cricketer Mike Yardy commented that with his experience of depression he become a very good actor instead of admitting his feelings. Moreover, issues can come on steadily or be with the individual for several years. Individuals may deal with symptoms without fully recognising them, until a trigger causes symptoms to surface on a more powerful and negative scale, for example, retiring from boxing acted as a trigger for Frank Bruno’s depression.

Through athletes such as Mike Yardy revealing the difficulties they have faced, a message is sent to other sports people that it is okay to talk about mental health. Through discussion, athletes can develop self-awareness about well-being and begin to recognise triggers that could cause symptoms which potentially could have a negative impact.

Within sport there is now a great appetite for addressing mental health issues; however sports people such as Clarke Carlisle have deemed support to be inadequate. Sport can be an uncertain and changeable environment and support is key in mitigating the impact of such a unique working environment on an individual’s mental health and well-being.

Research by Mind (n.d) into elite sportsmen/women’s mental health has found that more needs to be done to pro-actively support athletes especially at key transition points (e.g. retirement); coaches and managers need to engage and understand the value of mental health and well-being to support athletes. Furthermore, by educating coaches they can see that dealing with problems early can be not only be beneficial for an athlete’s personal well-being but for sporting performance as well.

Often as sport psychologists we may be the first to observe mental health issues, nevertheless, we must remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to addressing mental health in sport. Highlighting a value of establishing a pan mental health network; which enables the sharing and cascading of good practice, helping to create an environment where all sports people can fulfil their potential.

Thankfully, we are talking more about mental health issues in sport; however we need to be more pro-active in the provision of support and build upon existing initiatives. Sports people might have extraordinary jobs but they are not infallible superheroes. We are all born with mental and physical health and just like our bodies our minds can become unwell too. Asking for help for your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and it is not admitting weakness. You might require a break to heal as would with a physical injury; however, there is a route back; recovery does happen!

“However bad life may seem, while there is life, there is hope”– Stephen Hawking

Useful Links:

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

http://www.stateofmindrugby.com/cmspages/

http://www.thepca.co.uk/mental-wellbeing-partners.html

http://www.thepfa.com/wellbeing

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

 

Article

Music Some recent research (Karageorghis et al 2009) has found the following relating to music: Beats per minute (BPM) in music are linked to the desired heart rate BPM in exercise Fast tempo/louder/higher intensity music has been shown to lead to shorter reaction times and higher arousal (also important for imagery/visualisation – remember you do […]

Music

Some recent research (Karageorghis et al 2009) has found the following relating to music:

Beats per minute (BPM) in music are linked to the desired heart rate BPM in exercise

Fast tempo/louder/higher intensity music has been shown to lead to shorter reaction times and higher arousal (also important for imagery/visualisation – remember you do not want to be relaxed during imagery as you will be aroused during competition). Tracks I have used with clients before have included lose yourself by Eminem and Aerodynamic by Daft Punk. The two occasions I used these were cup finals and both worked a treat!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO2wA0Te0wM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCnJ2_xN2jU 

 Another track that worked well for an MMA client was ready or not by the Fugees. Although it was a slower track, if you listen to the  lyrics they have an ominous warning:

“Ready or not, here I come, gonna find you and take it slowly…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA1PAkKD3Q4

Factors that seem to influence the motivational qualities of music:

Tempo (beats per minute)

Musicality i.e. harmony/melody/rhythm

Association (thoughts/feelings/images evoked) e.g. from film soundtrack (such as Rocky)

Familiarity

Volume

Athletes should have a number of tracks (a playlist) that can be used for arousal purposes (loud/intense & matching desired Heart Rate) during imagery. It might not be a good idea to use the same music all the time as according to some clients this reduces its impact on competition day.

Stating the obvious – music can also be used for relaxation as much as psyching up. The opposite would then apply – slow tempo/BPM, quieter and more association with relaxing. My track of choice is One Day Like This by Elbow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NFV8dHrZYM&ob=av2e

The study does however suffer from one of the main deficiencies of sport psychology research in the present day – we know what works, but sometimes struggle to explain why. The next step with this research maybe to experiment on different types of music’s effects on certain areas of the brain and heart rate. To do this, participants would need to have their brain patterns measured by an MRI scanner whilst having their heart rate monitored and different types of music played to them. This may help determine the emotional and neurological responses to music, which in turn may shed more light on how best to use it in a competitive sport scenario.

A bit like the research from this man:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUT9UTVrwp8

When he was played his favourite music (Bach) it had a profound effect on the part of his brain responsible for regulating emotion (the amygdala). Emotion is often described as the missing link in sport. We are always obsessing about thoughts and behaviour, but leave feelings out of the equation. If we could work out to elicit a positive emotional response and harness that in terms of performance enhancement it could be a very powerful weapon. Music can undoubtedly form part of that.

Article

The internet is filled with great advice from well-meaning advocates of exercise and the consensus is clear – if you want to have the best chance of sticking at your exercise regime and get the most out of it, then you should find someone or a group of people to exercise with. The benefits cited […]

The internet is filled with great advice from well-meaning advocates of exercise and the consensus is clear – if you want to have the best chance of sticking at your exercise regime and get the most out of it, then you should find someone or a group of people to exercise with. The benefits cited include:

  • You’ll be less likely to skip an exercise session
  • You’ll work harder and lose more weight
  • Your mood will be better
  • You won’t have to worry about planning what to do
  • You will make new friends

Indeed, there is significant evidence to support the physiological benefits of working out with others, with studies such as Plante, Coscarelli and Ford, 2001 suggesting exercising with others can help reduce stress, make you work harder and improve wellbeing in comparison to exercising alone.

The significant issue to highlight is the psychological challenge of initiating group-based exercise participation, particularly for those who may have significant body image concerns.  Body image dissatisfaction occurs when there is a negative difference between our body image reality and our ideal. This healthy body ideal is linked to social norms depicted in the media and affects both men and women in different ways. Women typically perceive a ‘thin ideal’ leading to attitudes related to a need to lose weight whereas men typically perceive a ‘muscular ideal’ leading to attitudes related to a need to bulk up and gain weight.

The Catch 22 here is that whilst physical exercise has been shown to have positive benefits on body image satisfaction, concerns with body image can prevent an individual from engaging in exercise in the first place. And the issue the websites don’t seem to talk about is that exercising with other people can be an additional social barrier to participation. According to Leary’s (1992) self-presentation framework, the way an individual presents themselves is strongly connected to cultural ideals such as the healthy body ideal, and this will shape how they feel they are being evaluated by others.  Accordingly, those with the highest body image concerns (and who have the most to gain from exercise) report being the most likely to want to exercise on their own away from others in order to avoid embarrassment or shame. In fact, group exercise sessions where physique is mentioned can exacerbate the problem. The assumption of a lot of gyms and personal training businesses is that a fit and toned instructor acts as a powerful positive role model to participants. The reality is that unfortunately it can have the opposite effect by causing additional anxiety and a feeling that we are being judged.

The bottom line is that encouraging any form of exercise should be the goal. If exercising alone is the way an individual needs to do it in order to get started then this should be applauded and supported. Encouraging progression into supportive group exercise environments with other like- minded individuals will no doubt increase the likelihood that exercise behaviours will be maintained, but we need to be careful not to mistake which modality will give the biggest returns over time with the one that will be most likely to get the individual to start the journey.

 

Article

As many theories in psychology suggest, our actions, behaviour and personality is greatly influenced by those within our lives, whether friends, parents, teachers, or in a sporting scenario, our coaches. This article shall look at how a coach can hold significant power in the coach-athlete relationship, which ultimately can play a role in athlete burnout. […]

As many theories in psychology suggest, our actions, behaviour and personality is greatly influenced by those within our lives, whether friends, parents, teachers, or in a sporting scenario, our coaches. This article shall look at how a coach can hold significant power in the coach-athlete relationship, which ultimately can play a role in athlete burnout.

Burnout can be referred to as “a withdrawal from [sport] noted by a reduced sense of accomplishment, devaluation/resentment of sport, and physical/psychological exhaustion”, and occurs when an athlete experiences an increase in stress-induced costs, such as the amounting pressure to perform (Smith, 1986; Raedeke et al., 2002). Ultimately, burnout would result in dropout and withdrawal from sport. Our role as coaches or sport psychologists is to find the trigger and predictor of burnout, in order to prevent burnout from occurring.

Perceived coaching styles/behaviours have been found to predict athlete burnout (Vealey, Armstrong, Comar and Greenleaf, 1998). With much of the coaching field being dominated by coaches who possess a goal-orientated and coach-centred approach to coaching, the results have a tendency to be the predominant focus. For some coaches, how the player gets to the successful end result is not important, which explains coaches direct linear approach to coaching and decision-making. Sport is primarily based on providing opportunities, so when an athlete has a lack of control and autonomy in the decisions influencing their actions and performance in sport it can trigger burnout. With this in mind, it suggests that burnout can be perceived more as a social and interpersonal problem, instead of a personal failure (Coakley, 1992).

When an athlete becomes absorbed into the sport they may connect their identity with the sport. Therefore, if a coach has control over the direction of sport, it may be thought that a coach has control of the shaping of an athlete’s identity.  As an athlete becomes somewhat ‘powerless’ in the decision making process with a lack of autonomy, it may be assumed that their identity and personal development spirals out of their control (Kimball, 2007). When this occurs, athletes may experience burnout, due to the confusion, and therefore stress, and detach themselves from sport in attempt to regain control of their identity (Coakley, 1992). This in itself is a highly emotional process, as feeling the need to detach yourself from a sport which you are highly involved in just to gain control of your self-identity can be perceived as a big decision and lifestyle change.

As a result of the focus of sport today primarily being directed towards winning and results, coaches may push their athletes to their physical and mental limitations. Coaches may enforce repetitive practice in hope to see success. This may result in overtraining; training to the extent where there are no benefits, just consequences (Brenner, 2007). With no evidential benefits, players may have no motives to continue and therefore become demotivated to continue trying, resulting in withdrawal from sport. In addition, players may devaluate sport. Devaluation in sport relates to the loss of interest and resentment a person holds towards a sport due to a coaches focus on performance, oppose to the individual holistically (Goodger, Gorely, Lavallee and Harwood, 2007). This means that by a coach highlighting results and winning as the key focus instead of holistic player development, players may become detached from the sport; they may feel that they are participating because they have to, instead of intrinsically wanting to, thus causing burnout (Goodger et al., 2007).

Overall, much of what has been mention relates to the coach being predominantly in control of the direction and decision surrounding an athlete’s involvement in sport. As burnout can be influenced by significant others, such as coaches, it suggests that burnout is not only based on physiological exhaustion, but also social complications. The lack of awareness a coach has in relation to the power in the coach-athlete relationship can fundamentally trigger burnout, due to the assumption that coaches have the responsibility to make decisions within sport.  Instead, power in the coach-athlete should be seen as constantly shifting, meaning that athletes too should have the freedom to make decisions and have input in regards to direction and choices surrounding their involvement in sport. Coaches should therefore be more aware of how influential their input is, so instead to telling an athlete what to do, they could instead scaffold and guide their learning in order to give them a sense of achievement. This would ultimately retain engagement within sport and reduce the chances of burnout, as athletes may recognize that they do have control of their own lives. Instead of sport and coaches controlling the shaping of player identity, sport instead can act as a tool to guide and enhance self-identity and a positive development.

Article

Everything within our lives is subject to change; whether it be our looks, where we live, or our friendship circle. In sport, as an athlete develops and progresses it is likely that they are going to experience changes, such as who they are being coached by, their teams, or in some cases, the country they […]

Everything within our lives is subject to change; whether it be our looks, where we live, or our friendship circle. In sport, as an athlete develops and progresses it is likely that they are going to experience changes, such as who they are being coached by, their teams, or in some cases, the country they train in. Change can be defined as ‘an act or process through which something becomes different’. Within sport, athletes go through many changes and ‘transitional periods’; “an event or a non-event which results in a change in assumptions about oneself and the world and, thus, requires a corresponding change in one’s behaviour and relationships” (Schlossberg, 1981).

For athletes wishing to pursue sport at an elite level, dealing with and being flexible to change is crucial. Wylleman and Lavallee (2004) propose four transitional phases an athlete experiences throughout their life, in regards to:

1)      Athletic career (e.g., initiation into a sport, injury, retirement).

2)      Psychological development (e.g., moving from adolescence into adulthood, recreational play to competition).

3)      Social development (e.g., adapting to a new coach, new teammates).

4)      Educative and professional development (e.g., moving from novice to professional, college to university).

Success through each transition is undermined by individual differences, in relation to how an individual views change and copes with the problems that arise. For instance, one player may struggle playing under a new coach, whereas another may thrive under the experience. These individuals who find change beneficial tend to be optimistic and see change as a new challenge and opportunity to achieve. On the other hand, those who are pessimistic towards change, or feel cautious towards change, may struggle to adapt through each transition. Poor awareness and lack of ability to cope and adapt may result in feelings of anxiety and discomfort (Alfermann and Stambulova, 2007. This supports the famous words of Arnold Bennet, who once said that “any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts”.  There are thought to be five stages we go through when facing a change, and as we go through these stages it is thought that we progressively desensitized from the change (Zutphen, 2008). The five stages consist of:

1)      Denial: the initial fight against the new proposal of change.

2)      Anger: the feeling of insecurity and frustration against the change.

3)      Dejection: the depressed state an individual feels when recognising that a change is going to occur.

4)      Acceptance: knowing that change is going to happen and preparing for it.

5)      Learning: reflecting on the idea that change may be beneficial on performance.

Many individuals fear change and the unknowingness of the future. This fear stimulates pessimistic beliefs about the outcome change brings about, due to familiarity bias about the security of the presences (Cao, Han, Hirshleifer and Zhang, 2011). In regards to sport, an example of this fear of change could be moving to a different team. Insecurity arises from this change, which can stimulate anger and frustration, which can ultimately be detrimental in an athlete’s performance, in regards to consciously forcing performance, overtraining and thus causing injuries. On the other hand, accepting change and recognising that change can be beneficial can result in a positive transition and overall boost in self-confidence. An example of this is being promoted within rooster of a team; going from bench warmer to starting line-up.

To conclude, change is natural occurrence in life which everyone experiences, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. Athletes may experience many changes throughout their careers, whether planned, such as a change of club, or unplanned, such as becoming injured. The way in which an athlete responds to changes and transitional periods throughout their career is very much undermined by individual differences, such as their personality. With this in mind, coaches should be aware that every athlete may respond differently to change, meaning their approach should be individually adapted.

Article

It was only five months before the 2014 Winter Olympics when Team GB snowboarder Billy Morgan ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee during practice. He was medically advised that the injury required an operation, but with the recovery time for an ACL op lasting a minimum […]

It was only five months before the 2014 Winter Olympics when Team GB snowboarder Billy Morgan ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee during practice. He was medically advised that the injury required an operation, but with the recovery time for an ACL op lasting a minimum of six to nine months this would rule him out of competing in the Sochi Olympics. With the determination of an elite athlete and a positive mindset to rival the most observant Buddhist monk, Billy powered his way through months of intensive physiotherapy to be back on the slopes competing in the Aspen X Games in January; and then placing an incredible 10th overall in the first ever Olympic slopestyle event in Sochi a month later.

What gives athletes the strength of mind to battle through the setbacks caused by a serious injury and stick with a rehabilitation programme?

This has been a question of much debate and fascination among sports professionals, and has been the focus of a growing number of research papers (Duda et al., 1989; Fisher et al., 1992). When an athlete suffers a serious (or even minor) injury, the physical implications are immediately clear and the recovery time can be quickly assessed through medical prognosis. However, what is less clear is the psychological impact of an injury for the athlete both during and post-rehabilitation. An athlete must quickly learn to accept their injury and the temporary limitations, and focus solely on the gradual process of rehabilitation. When this involves a complete lifestyle change from training every day and competing every week (for example) to a painful and more sedentary lifestyle, which could involve learning to walk or run again, it can be extremely hard to adjust. In the first place athletes have to struggle with the loss of ego from feeling weak or feelings of isolation from not being with the team. Secondly they also have to overcome the mental setbacks when returning to their sport after a long hiatus and regain the confidence to compete at a high level again.

Early researchers in this field sought to develop a “stage approach” theory that would define the psychological process experienced by an athlete following a serious injury. Kiibler-Ross (1969) created her “loss of health” or “grief” model, which, although developed as a result of her clinical experience with terminally ill patients, is still widely cited in the current literature. The model suggests that a grieving individual passes through five sequential stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While it has not been supported that all injured athletes progress through these emotions in the exact order, Kibler-Ross’ theory has provided a solid framework for sports scientists to further investigate this complex psychological process. Recent research findings include tension, anger, depression, frustration and boredom as typical emotional responses to athletic injury (McDonald and Hardy, 1990); with frustration and boredom being reported as the primary responses when athletes are asked to rank their emotional responses post injury (Pearson and Jones, 1992). The groundbreaking research by Weiss and Troxel (1986) highlighted the psychophysiological effect an injury can have on an athlete, and follows the stress-response model originally developed by Selye (1976). This posits that the cognitive-appraisals of an injury can greatly influence the emotional response of an athlete both positively and negatively. The emotional response in turn can precipitate a host of physical and psychological reactions, ranging from severe anxiety, depression, and anger to increased muscle tension, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Now that sports practitioners understand the consequences of negative appraisals following an injury, it is important to provide the right psychological support for athletes in order for them to accept their situation and adhere to a rehabilitation programme. Gordon et al. (1991) and Pearson and Jones (1992) explain that the physiotherapist is in an ideal position to apply psychological principles because of the close relationship that exists with an athelete under their care during rehabilitation. However, it is still debated as to whether it is within the professional limits of a physiotherapist to help restore the psychological wellbeing of an injured athlete. Brewer et al. (1994) suggest that interventions of a psychological nature should always be incorporated in the physical rehabilitation programme, so that they are not interpreted as separate or extra. Further evidence for the positive impact of emotional support came from Bianco’s (2001) study into elite skiers and their experience of social support from coaches, team mates, friends, and family during the rehabilitation process. The study involved in-depth interviews with athletes who had experienced career-ending injuries and a selection of their close social support network. Given the significance of emotional responses to injury and the short time frame with which to begin effective rehabilitation, it seems almost ineluctable that psychological interventions will be increasingly provided to athletes following a severe injury.

Snowboarding is an extreme sport by its nature, and participation in the sport (much like other extreme sports) carries with it a high risk of injury (Kim et al., 2012). Elite competitors often have a catalogue of previous injuries from their progression from novice to elite level, and these tend towards serious injuries due to the extreme nature of the sport. Therefore, these athletes must learn to expect and to deal with the psychological effects of serious injuries, to ensure a rapid recovery and psychological harmony. However, sometimes it is almost impossible to comprehend the emotional response when faced with the prospect of a career- or even life-threatening injury. In such cases not only must your lifestyle change dramatically, but your whole outlook on life. This can be no better highlighted than in the pure grit and determination of the ex-pro snowboarder Kevin Pierce. Following a severe brain injury during practice for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Kevin showed that through strength of mind it is possible to reinvent yourself (in his case as an inspirational survivor, sports commentator, motivational speaker and advocate for brain injury and Down syndrome) and become a positive force in the world, even for the elite athlete who has only known their sport as their main motivator. The commitment and compassion of his friends and family are a testament to the power of social support and its influence on adherence to rehabilitation.