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Adding Value To Sports Psychology

sports psychology graphic

Sports psychology is an invaluable resource for performance-focused athletes. However, prevention through training, in particular training based on exercise physiology, is an area that has been underutilized and presents tremendous value as an addition to sports psychology.

The value and limitations of sports psychology

Sports psychologists play important roles in the lives of many high-performance athletes. Golf and tennis are examples of sports in which top professional players travel with their sports psychologists. Additionally, many sports organizations (for example universities) have performance coaches and psychologists on staff to provide support, advice, and guidance to overcome mental roadblocks for optimal performance.

With clinical psychology focusing on therapeutic impact and sports psychology focusing on behavioral performance optimization, progressive training regimens to develop mental skills are underutilized. This is not surprising, since exercise physiology and training methodology are not common topics in psychology curriculums. Also, athletes primarily reach out to sports psychologists when problems occur, not before, which leads the focus further toward treatments and away from preventative training. When athletes do work preventatively on mental aspects of their game, the typical approach can be described as “get informed and get tough”. This often boils down to a few good books or motivational talks combined with pushing oneself to the limit in physical practices. While this may work for some, there are plenty of examples of even the highest-performing athletes (including Olympic athletes) failing to perform to their potential when the pressure mounts. For many junior athletes, the consequence of never developing the skills through training is worse: they stop enjoying their sports, they stop trying, or worse…they quit.

What is missing, and where we at 2Mynds come in, is a type of mental fitness training that addresses mental deficiencies in the way we address physical deficiencies: with training founded in exercise physiology. Physical training methods, no matter what they are (CrossFit, yoga, Zumba, boxing, to name a few), all have one thing in common: they use training regimens that are sequenced and periodized based on training principles. Since the brain is a physical organ, if we want to elicit adaptations that improve mental competence, it is obvious that the same principles must apply. This is what we implemented at 2Mynds, and the result is a methodology in which progressive mind-body training systematically overloads mental capacities in small increments. The adaptation (improvement in function) is then maintained through regular specific repetitions that progress to functional performance under pressure. That’s a mouthful, so let’s look at an example.

Take tennis: if a professional tennis player lacks the endurance to play a five-set match without getting tired and losing coordination, the remedy may be progressive endurance training. In that training, physical capacities will be challenged beyond comfort and when the body adapts (with better endurance) the training will be progressed until the adaptation is functional for a five-set match. Interestingly, the same athletes who push themselves endlessly in this manner to address physical challenges typically do not give their mental challenges the same treatment. But they could…

The same professional tennis player who got tired in five-set matches may actually struggle mentally with first sets. Somehow, getting out of the gate seems harder at large tournaments. Thoughts may get in the way and reduce focus at the start of the match. This player may consult a psychologist and a combination of journaling, meditation, visualization, and routine-building may be devised as a remedy. While it is likely that all these activities have value, an essential element is still missing: workouts based on training principles. Without workouts that ensure a sufficient volume and progression of stress, any mental adaptation that may result from the psychologist’s intervention will not be maintained. This is where the 2Mynds approach to mind-body flow training adds to sports psychology.

How 2Mynds works

At 2Mynds we go beyond traditional sports psychology by teaching and training mental fitness under increasingly stressful conditions. This way, athletes develop skills that they can reliably use at moments of pressure. Many athletes know what to do under such circumstances, but that does not mean they can execute based on that knowledge, especially when multiple pressure triggers coincide.

Access to the 2Mynds toolbox for mental fitness is provided through our online platform, called Flow 255. The 2-5-5 refers to the two states of mind, five skills, and five perspectives that are systematically addressed in the training. Regardless of level or needs, everyone starts with taking baseline measurements of their mental fitness, which is quantified by a mental fitness index. Training is done in guided on-demand workouts.

Graphic of a 2Mynds mind-body flow workouts

The 2Mynds workouts cleverly combine mind flows (progressing mental exercise sequences) with body flows (progressing physical exercise sequences) that generate a controlled acute stress reaction. By using this approach, mental fitness is not only developed in calmness but also when the body is challenged or actively working to recover from a stressor. The workouts include techniques to generate a calm mind, relax physically, and visualize behaviors, and there are even specific techniques for resetting and getting ready to perform. Given the fact that everyone is at different fitness levels, you can control the intensity during the body flows – as long as you create a challenge for yourself.

Combining sports psychology with 2Mynds

The 2Mynds method and platform were designed with collaboration in mind. The focus is specifically on developing mental fitness, as a component of mental health and as a pathway to performance. As such, it doesn’t interfere with any sports psychology approach. The platform itself is social and gamified, so it’s fun to use it, but at the same time it is also rigorous and quantitative. The video courses are useful for anyone using 2Mynds independently but the mind-body flow workouts are undoubtedly the part of the platform that shines as a companion to sports psychology. Dependent on the theme and purpose of the psychological interventions, specific 2Mynds workouts can be prescribed to clients to support these interventions, and the combined impact can be tracked through the online assessments.

So, whether you are an athlete who is serious about performance, or you are a sports psychologist with clients who perform under pressure, consider adding 2Mynds to the mix to prevent mental issues and train your mind like you train your body.

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