Olympic training to improve brain performance

 

Mental Athletic Development (MAD) actions boost your brain’s performance Mental skills are an essential part of being an athlete and are essential for coping and leading effectively under pressure.

Added on 23 July 2012 by Erika Lucas

Mental Athletic Development (MAD) actions boost your brain’s performance

Mental skills are an essential part of being an athlete and are essential for coping and leading effectively under pressure. In this uncertain economic environment it has never been more important for business leaders to have the skills and inner resources to be able to perform under pressure and make the right decisions.

John Neal director of the Sport Business Initiative at Ashridge works as a performance coach throughout the world and has a 25 year career working at the top level in sport business and the Services. He delivered the Elite Coach Development programme and Elite Mentor programme for UK Sport in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics and is one of the country’s foremost psycho-physiologists specialising in exercise physiology and sports psychology.

John has pioneered and progressed mental development programmes and is a recognised leader in the field of Mental Athletic Development (MAD) and in improving performance under pressure. Here are some of his tips for improving brain functioning:

Why do mental athletics?
Mental Athletics help to manage the intensity of your emotional responses to stress by learning mental techniques to maintain your focus in the present. They help the skills and speed of the brain as well as increasing the cognitive function and effectiveness of both sides of the brain.

Try these MAD actions

Brain drills
1. Texting with the left hand (or right hand if you are left handed). The brain and body are cross-wired so that the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa. Research clearly indicates that physical exercises involving opposite sides of the brain can improve decision making and thinking under pressure.

2. Foot exercises. Make a circle with your left foot whilst doing a cross in the air with your right hand. Controlling the opposite side of your body with different activities increase the neural connections between the brain hemispheres.

3. Listening to two conversations. Concentrating on two sounds at the same time encourages your brain to scan and multitask an essential skill for effective listening and thinking.

4. Simulation training. Training exercises which simulate real events are excellent in creating the right level of challenge and pressure. With the right level of pressure we engage in the process and learn much more than through theoretical case studies.

Create your bucket list
Creative visualisation is a basic technique underlying positive thinking and is frequently used by athletes to enhance performance. Creative visualisation (sports visualisation) is about seeking to alter the perceptions of the individual of their environment and external world by changing thoughts and expectations.

Visualising the future can help with focus and motivation. Creating a ‘bucket list’ (a wish list of things to do before you kick the bucket) is one way to make sure that you use your time and resources in order to accomplish and experience what you really want.

Map out 5 things that you hope to do achieve or accomplish over the coming years. Then tick your goals off your list and focus on achieving your aspirations.

John Neal is the director of the Sport Business Initiative at Ashridge
As well as teaching on a range of Ashridge programmes John is currently psycho-physiologist at the MCC Lords and was performance coach to London Wasps RFC. He has prepared teams for four World Cups in two different sports. He has worked with a wide range of clients including RFU WRU RFUW The British Olympic Association Middlesex CCC plus blue chip companies such as Tetra Pak Orange GSK Yell.com and the BBC.