MAP training stands for Mental and Physical training - the training of the mind and body. It’s something Olympic Athletes practice on a daily basis - becoming both mentally and physically strong in order to optimise their performance and pursue their dreams.
Mental training has recently become one of the most popular research topics, and, partly aided by improvements in technology, neuroscientists can now look at structural and functional changes in the brain as a result of mental practice.
We at Fitsmind believe that looking after your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. The two go hand in hand, because what the mind believes, the body can achieve.
One of our very own stars and team-mates, Sara Isakovic, a Silver Olympic Medalist, performance psychologist and TEDx speaker, knows the effect the mind can have over the body. Sara has hands-on experience as a published researcher in mental training from the University of California San Diego, working with NAVY Seals, Marines and Olympic athletes.
Meditation - and the training of awareness - has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Studies have shown the impact of awareness meditation on stress reduction - acting as a coping mechanism to buffer physical and psychological reactions to stress. Attentional capacity, cognitive processing and emotion regulation, have all been shown to be positively affected by awareness practices.
With regards to performance, extensive research has been carried out on the U.S. military, who engage in awareness meditation training as a way to build resilience prior to deployment. The data shows improvements in body-based self-regulation, decision making skills, as well as enhanced stress recovery.
When considering benefits on physical fitness, a study by Dr. Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist, has shown that when participants increased their levels of awareness during workout routines, on average lost 2 pounds in weight, reduced body fat content, and reduced blood pressure.
Neuroscientists have shown that when you visualise, or create an image in the mind (of what you want to happen, or how you want to feel), the brain cannot distinguish whether you are imagining it or whether it’s truly happening. This is because the same brain patterns are activated when you picture something, as when you are experiencing it in real life.
So when you mentally practice a situation/performance, the brain goes about creating the necessary new neural pathways, like a blueprint, to be followed in the actual performance. When re-visualising the same action, or physically carrying it out, the neural circuit gets stronger, allowing our mind and body to carry it out more effortlessly - or more specifically increasing confidence, enhancing focus and decreasing anxiety once performing. When you imagine what you want, it strongly influences the prefrontal cortex in the brain - the executive centre - which takes action and finds resources and tools you will need to achieve your goals.
Interested in learning more? Or want to hear more personal stories on the effectiveness of mental training? When you join us, you’ll learn from some of the very best athletes in the world and give you a new toolbox to get inspired and motivated to try it out yourself.