Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lewis Pugh’s Lecture About His Mind-Shifting Everest Swim

lewis pugh mt. everest swim

In October 2009, I blogged about Lewis Pugh’s upcoming swim at Mt. Everest. Now, almost a year later, I finally stumbled across this great video lecture of Lewis Pugh himself giving his reaction to the swim.

lewis pugh mt. everest swim

lewis pugh mt. everest swim

The video is from a TED Conference, which started out as a symposium for Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED), but has evolved into a small nonprofit and platform for Ideas Worth Spreading. The full transcript and video are available from, here is a small excerpt:

“I swam as quickly as I could for the first hundred meters, and then I realized very, very quickly, I had a huge problem on my hands. I could barely breathe. I was gasping for air. I then began to choke, and then it quickly led to me vomiting in the water. And it all happened so quickly I then — I don’t know how it happened — but I went underwater.”

Watch the full video below to learn about how the Mt. Everest swim taught Lewis Pugh a radical new way to approach swimming, and think about climate change.

You can learn more about Lewis’ training in a video by Speedo (posted on the17thman). I also pulled these quotes from the lecture transcript because Lewis Pugh has some great perspective on mental training:

“there is nothing more powerful than the made-up mind” – Lewis Pugh (1:24 on video above)

“I put on my iPod, I listened to some music, I got myself as aggressive as possible — but controlled aggression — and then I hurled myself into that water.” – Lewis Pugh (5:00 on video above)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Research Into The Science Of Luck

I read a fascinating post titled “Crossing your fingers boosts performance (touch wood)” on the Sweat Science Blog. The post refers to an article published in Psychological Science by lead author Lysann Damisch in which participants performed golf putts, and other motor dexterity, memory and anagram challenges.

In the case of the golf putt, the participants were either informed that their golf ball has been lucky so far, or that it is simply the ball that everyone has been using, before performing 10 golf putts. “Sure enough, the lucky ball group hit 6.42 putts, while the neutral ball group hit just 4.75″ (source).

Because I’m not going to pay to read the full text of the article, I don’t know how many participants were used in the study. However, the use of a control group definitely lends credibility to the study – whereas I usually attribute perceptions of luck to a simple confirmation bias.

The proposed mechanism for luck boosting performance is an increase in self-efficacy. Self-efficacy can be confused with self confidence, but it has less to do with a general sense of certainty and more to do with a belief in one’s capabilities to perform specific tasks in relation to goals.

Some rituals and superstitions that involve stretching, increasing physical readiness (jumping up and down), or routines that help you focus do not influence luck in this same way. These habits have their own physical and mental mechanisms for improving performance. However, it is interesting that the presence of a charm or other arbitrarily lucky object can produce a testable improvement in performance by increasing a participant’s beliefs in their ability to succeed in context of the situation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Your Last Goal-Setting Attempt Failed Miserably: Explore Different Goal Strategies In 2010

Whether you

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top Notch Sport Psychology Article Found At

I found a sport psychology gem in an article posted on As the name implies, the site is set up to be the YouTube of online diving videos. If more people used the site, it would undoubtedly serve as an incredible resource. I know a lot of diving coaches who are eager to get their hands on diving videos of specific dives from a variety of angles.

In any case, I found the article Psychological Issues & Competition Pressure to be right on the mark and very well written. Its works cited section resembles my graduate school bookshelf, and gives specific examples in the training of a fictional diver named Flint while at the same time providing extremely thorough support for the advice given on the topic.

Here’s an excerpt from the section on Practice Specificity:

“It is also important to complement the practice variability training with practice specificity. Flint

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free Sport Psychology Lecture On YouTube: How Young Athletes Become Frustrated

This video comes from, and provides a free 6 minute lecture on How Young Athletes Become Frustrated while providing a model for parents and coaches to consider.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canadian Swimming Uses Neurology Feedback In Coaching Tactics

ethics of neuroscience

The article The ethics of neuroscience in sport, on, provides some new information on the ways athletes use advances in neuroscience to their advantage.

Specifically, the article mentions the prevalent use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe the human brain in action. Since the 1990′s fMRI’s have observed the brain under almost all conceivable conditions. Ok, this is an exaggeration, but fMRI’s are commonly used in research. They produce an animation of brain activity rather than just a snapshot of the soft tissue itself. By correlatinig these activations with moods and emotions, reserachers have some basic understanding of what activity in different parts of the brain means.

Stanford-trained neurologist, Dr. Judy Illes, says that fMRI’s are becoming more common in sports research too – and the Canadian swim team was quick to take advantage of this development. Here is an excerpt from the article that talks about the Canadian swim team’s use of fMRI:

“Hap Davis, the team

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Brief…

kast-a-way swimwear in brief

> Tom Daley: Olympic bust-ups, bullying and embarrassing dads Times Online
> Should Sports be ‘Dumbed Down?’
> Hardy returns to competition following suspension Associated Press
> 93-year-old swims for third gold medal at Senior Games Enterprise News
> Tom Daley: ‘If I had a girlfriend, she’d have to understand that…
> Micheal Phelps: Avoiding the Deep End When It Comes To Jitters Through Your Body
> Lord Coe believes there is support for the London Olympics
> Sports Hollywood: 10 Questions with Dara Torres Sports Hollywood

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Alissa Finerman, Competitive Edge On Universal Sports

Alissa Finerman has been providing motivation and coaching advice on Universal Sports’ “Competitive Edge” for the past two months. Since June 5th, she has already written 9 different articles ranging from the power of setting goals to understanding your comfort zone.

I think it’s great to see sport psychology-related articles on a mainstream site like Universal Sports. The sport psych movement has really been building speed in the past 30 years or so. Check out our sport psychology topics tag, just click the related links below.

Alissa has been providing her services as a life coach and motivational speaker through her own company, Finerman Living. She has worked with both athletes and business executives, which seems to come naturally to someone who is at home both on Wall Street and in the professional tennis circuit.

I think she sounds exhaustively enthusiastic! But it’s good to know there are living spark plugs out there to help get the rest of us up and running.

Check out Alissa Finerman’s Competitive Edge articles on

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Getting To Know Those Butterflies In Your Stomach

butterflies in your stomach

Everyone has probably experienced the feeling of butterflies in their stomach at some point. This classic metaphor describes the sensation of a “tickling” or “fluttery” feeling in the stomach that is generally associated with nervous excitement.

The sensation of butterflies is most likely caused by the release of epinephrine from the adrenal glands, which causes a chemical reaction in your body often associated with “fight or flight.” Epinephrine causes blood from non-essential body processes (like digestion) to be redirected to more immediate resources like the brain and muscles. This temporary loss of blood to the stomach is probably the reason for a number of symptoms of nervousness: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and butterflies.

Generally, people would rather not experience butterflies before a big meet or event because they can be distracting, make you lose confidence, or second-guess how prepared you are. However, David Bellinger, a sport performance consultant with Excellence in Sport Performance (Pleasanton, CA) recently wrote an article for Gymnastike titled “Making Those Butterflies Fly In Formation” (link).

In his article, Bellinger says that “nervousness is only a problem if it prevents you from performing your best,” and explains that being nervous shows that you care about something or that it is important to you (like doing well in competition). It’s much easier to manage a few butterflies than it is to deal with a complete lack of effort, or apathy towards competition.

Bellinger continues:

“If you have butterflies in your stomach, the goal is not necessarily to get rid of all of them, but to get them to fly together in formation. You want to get the optimal amount of nervousness for you, and then channel your nervous energy into helping you perform your best.” (source)

Everyone has their own optimal energy level that will help set themselves up for the best possible performance. Identifying how you feel when you perform your best is the first step in managing your nervous energy. You wouldn’t want to decrease your nerves to the point that you don’t care about the competition, or increase your nervous energy to the point you get distracted and jittery. Finding your optimal balance is the key.

David Bellinger is a contributing blogger at Gymnastike (a gymnastics mirror to FloSwimming). You can find more of his articles HERE. Also check out related sport psychology content here on Kast-A-Way Blog.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

USA Diving Article On Divers And Their Rituals

USA Diving Communications Intern, Kelly Capehart, wrote a great article for about divers’ superstitions and rituals (link). The article includes comments from Olympians Mary Beth Dunnichay, Kelci Bryant, David Boudia, and Thomas Finchum, about their thoughts on rituals and some of the things they do to focus before a meet.

Divers are no exception to the many accounts of superstitions and rituals seen throughout sports, and these rituals vary even among divers. As Kelly reported, “Rituals certainly do vary from diver to diver, wavering between the mundane and the slightly more unusual.” However, she goes on to say that there is a distinction between superstitions and what can be thought of as simply a ritual focusing technique.

In an interview, Olympic coach John Wingfield of the National Training Center in Indianapolis told Kelly that routine can not only help you get into the zone for competition, but it can help to keep you there. You can hear all of Wingfield’s comments on the YouTube video now appearing on the USA Diving YouTube channel. Here is another clip that can be found on the USA Diving channel: it’s Olympian Kelci Bryant talking about her pre-meet rituals.

Of course my favorite parts of the article are the quotes from a former college diver (and current blogger):

Eric Teske, who dove for five years at Miami ( Ohio) University and plans to return to Masters diving, explained that

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