Τετάρτη, 23 Νοεμβρίου 2011

Technology in sports. Is it a mind game?

Nowadays runners, cyclists, swimmers and in general whoever is involved in sports at whatever level, has access to all this amazing instruments which are monitoring crucial factors of the workouts, the sleep, the nutrition, the technique, and all this on 24x7!!! Athletes or casual sports enthusiasts have watches or smart phones with sensors that will record, analyse and present in a very comprehensible format, all the needed information. Furthermore, numerous studies and training plans have been based on the findings of these recordings, that will guide with certainty every athlete for the proper training plan.

It is amazing for most of us to be able to access all this information so easily, especially compared to just 15 years ago when all this was accessible only to elite athletes, through expensive laboratories. Also there is this new sight in every race where runners, cyclists, swimmers, have their attention (or part of it) focused on their gps-watches and stopwatches, that will give them the much appreciated feedback to achieve their target. Most of the times, their watches will indicate the distance, or the pace, the heart rate, the calories consumed, the power output, signal when to eat and drink for endurance sports. It looks like we all have access to a personal coaching service every step of the way!

As I have mentioned in an other article in this blog, there is this principle in physics which is called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum physics. In simple words this principle is presenting how the observation is affecting the subject being observed. It is always convincing to present Quantum physics principles related to sports!!!

The moment an athlete looks at his/her sports watch, it is an undeniable moment of truth. The stop-watch will inform about the time achievement so far, which will be translated to an estimated pace by the brain. Similar information will be passed on by the distance indication, the heart rate monitor, the power meter, etc. Given the fact that the athlete is using these instruments for training as well, the performance comparison cannot be avoided. So, even subconsciously, emotions will be generated which will correlate to muscle control adaptations. These emotions are partly caused by the information presented by the monitoring device and partly by the character and the reaction of the athlete.

When we count our push-ups during a strength training work out, we know that our capacity is at xx number of repetitions. The closer we get to this limit (and we know that we are getting close, because... we are counting!) the more fatigued we become. Most of the times, we stop as soon as we reach this number of repetitions. If someone was to ask us "how many repetitions can we do", the answer would pop up easily (based on the experience). In a similar manner, if someone would ask us, how fast can you run a half marathon, we would come up with a time performance which is derived from our experience during training or previous races.

The question is: Is this blocking us from going faster, further? Is, this kind of detailed information, making the wall that we need to overcome, even taller? I have read many books about training plans and tables with performance indications for all levels of athletes. All of these are focused on exploiting the wealth of information provided by the monitoring devices, to lead the way to a higher level of physical activity achievements. But there are very few touching the subject of training the mind and the character so that it will be able to achieve the goals! Most of the times, it is expected to train the brain, just by applying discipline and determination to follow a training plan and then to apply this during a race. But it is obvious, that if we apply the same training plan to any two different persons, the outcome will be different, even if they start from the same physical level and their everyday training is done on exactly the same conditions! So, what is that makes each one of us different? It is our brain and our way of thinking.

In sports we can see the real character of every one. When the going gets tough or when the limit seems to be getting closer, we react in ways that have nothing to do with our training, but only with our character. Training the character thus the brain to react in situations and address key points during physical activity, in a way that will help deal successfully with what lays ahead, will allow to discover new frontiers.

There is an article I 've read recently about the training methods followed by marathon runners in eastern Africa countries. Their approach is totally different to anything I have seen. The runners tend to run not based on their capabilities, but according to the capabilities of the fastest runner of the group. This way, many will collapse early in the race or even in the training. Very few will be able to follow till the last stages. But they all learn to challenge their limits every time. And the limits are not set by a monitoring device, which cannot calculate the level of physical capability at the specific moment. The limits are set by the runners' real capacity on that specific moment. The big benefit that comes out of this method is that, from time to time, everyone will manage something that appeared to be out of reach at the start of the effort. This is a moment of revelation and it is engraved as experience on the mind. next time this runner, will address the task in a different way. This is the way to move to higher levels, and maximize the outcome of any training plan.

Looking back in the last 3 decades of sports history, when they started becoming a massive trend, we have seen the rise of the physical approach to the preparation of the athletes, then we experienced the rise of chemical physiology with applications in nutrition and supplements, and in the recent years, we see the technological explosion providing amazing information to everyone. The next level should be the training of the brain. Training the mind to overcome barriers, and to attempt conquering new frontiers. To handle the body in a whole different way. This is the only way to maximize the effect of all the previous technological advancements.


Trail : Get Ready For, la préparation mentale from OVERSTIM.s on Vimeo.

3 σχόλια:

  1. Leo i can agree with you to some extent. Training the brain or as you put it train youself, or push your self to the limit depending on the fastest runner on the track is the toughest quest of all. I would think that, that kind of "brain training" or mind set would be comparable to olympic athletes that really PUSH themselfs from every aspect, )Training, Medication, Brain trainnig.) In our small world of Ultra or trail running, if we try to catch the first Guy in the pack i think its a "game over" situation as you mentioned above we are different and unique... I agree that in the past to get that data today produced by a (gps+hearate monitor watch) you would need a whole room with a Treadmill... I do really believe that todays technology really helps elite or hobbiest athletes from, overtraining and suffering from injuries. If you follow the quickest or strongest guy in the pack i think you will just suffer from injury or succeed in improving your aerobic state maybe ?

    ΑπάντησηΔιαγραφή
  2. The "run till you drop" approach is not my proposal. My point is that too much technology is convincing us of our limits! If you do not try you will never find out. This is a state of mind. And this state is not cultivated by technology.

    Also I am not against technology. Technology is providing the tools. It is up to us how we will use them. What I see though, is a growing trend of technology defining who we are and what we can do. You GPS is telling you "you are going too fast". It is not your heart or brain... If you do not try you will not find out.

    ΑπάντησηΔιαγραφή
  3. Had an interesting, related experience just recently. Tried to keep up with a couple of MUCH faster swimmers in the pool and discovered another level, another limit that I inadvertently miss by relying on faithful reproductions of known lap times and feeling confident that the workout is proceeding well... Today I tried to mimic that subjective experience (of drowning while failing to keep up with them) on my own and discovered I can swim faster! (and of course feel wiped out this afternoon ;)

    ΑπάντησηΔιαγραφή