April 4, 2013
Athletes don't need steroids to improve performance!
Many sports have had their share of scandals involving steroid use, performance enhancing drugs and blood doping. Recently, some of major league baseball’s luminaries have come under suspicion for using banned substances. However, baseball is by no means the only sport to have come under scrutiny for this kind of behavior. Cycling, football, mixed martial arts, boxing, tennis, golf, hockey, track and field, body building and swimming have all been impacted by athletes who have been using illegal or banned substances. These violations have occurred at the high school level, the collegiate level, the Olympic level and the professional level. Because these substances apparently can improve endurance, strength, speed, muscle size and shorten the recovery time from injuries, they have become quite popular amongst some athletes, trainers and coaches. The rewards for succeeding in sports are substantial as is the pressure to succeed and to perform well on a regular basis. Consequently, elite athletes are always searching for ways to “get an edge over” their fellow competitors. Athletes explore different training regimes, different diets, various supplements, new equipment and different mental approaches in order to elevate their games to that next level. Most trainers, athletes and coaches know that the mind can impact the body’s behavior and that it can affect the way a person performs under pressure. In a recent study with 15 college baseball players and one high school player, athletes were taught a simple mental technique which allowed 90 percent of them to increase their strength in just a few minutes. The testing took place at a 90-minute seminar for baseball pitchers called “How to Throw More Strikes with Sport Psychology and Self-Hypnosis.” Each athlete was pre tested and post tested with a dynamometer. A dynamometer measures grip strength. After the pre-test the group of athletes was trained in a simple technique which is a combination of meditation, visualization, guided imagery and self-hypnosis. During the post test, many athletes increased their measured strength by 30 percent. While this study has a small sample size, it is interesting to note that a brief and simple intervention can produce a change and can help athletes to better understand the connection between their brains communicate with their bodies. The athletes who took part in this study reported having virtual no mental training in their careers. If athletes can increase their strength with a small amount of mental training, it is likely that they can improve their overall performance with some increased understanding of the relationship between their minds and their bodies and some more intensive training in sport psychology techniques. Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in River Edge and the founder of StayInTheZone.com.