Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Whether you’re a competitive athlete or simply enjoy going to the gym, floatation therapy can help in your recovery and aid your performance. It is well known that recovery is an essential component to make athletic gains, the float pods at our centre provide the perfect environment for this.
Athletes such as our partners at British Rowing & Farah Fonseca (GB Strongest Woman, Lightweight) enjoy the benefits of floatation therapy as it aids in recovery of sports-related injuries and accelerates the healing process. Floating removes the pressure of gravity off the joints and muscles so your body can enjoy a high state of physical relaxation.
For a 2005 study that investigated floating's effects on stress-related muscle pain/tension and mental burnout, participants floated at intervals for six weeks. Result: the participants showed lowered blood pressure, reduced pain, anxiety, depression, stress and negative affectivity, as well as increased optimism, energy and positive affectivity.
Another study in 2016 specifically examined floating with elite athletes and combining floating with napping during the session. Sixty athletes floated within three hours after training or practice. Some were instructed to nap while floating and some were instructed not to nap. The results showed that after floating, the answers to 15 of 16 mood questions asked indicated improvements in perceived muscle soreness.
A study in 1990 found that basketball players threw more free throws and archers performed better after floating, indicating a higher level of mental focus during competition. In the most recent study on the effects of floating (LIBR 2017/18) it was found that muscle tension was greatly reduced, with a reduction in fatigue & pain, participants felt very refreshed post float. (See below). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0190292
From swimmers to runners & the GB Rowing team, more and more athletes are turning to floatation to help their bodies and minds recover. But what about using floating to enhance performance? There are a few different ways to help improve performance, these can be applied to sport and in everyday life. If you are working on a project or speech, then the following tips will help. I used some of these when preparing for my TEDx Talk in 2017.
Achieving Flow state for Performance
For many, a flow state is not simple to achieve, and it comes only on the rarest of occasions.
Flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Distilled to its essence, flow enables us to enter a state of optimal experience. During flow your mind enters a Theta brainwave state, the same state as deep meditation and NREM sleep.
There are some simple ways to ensure that you have the highest chance of entering a flow state with the combination of mindful meditation and floating being the main one I used for the TEDx Talk.
For those who have experience getting into a flow state before, they recount it as a moment of Zen. This is because, in a way, it is much like Zen meditation. The mind is devoid of stress and full of focused, creative energy. One of the best ways to get your body ready to enter a flow state is by meditating. Why? A study published in Consciousness & Cognition found that brief meditation improved participants’ cognition. The paper says, “brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuospatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning.” These are all elements of cognition that play an important role in flow states.
Floating offers you the opportunity to switch off the outside world. Since your body isn’t fighting gravity in the float pod and your brain isn’t trying to process multiple sensations all at once, your mind is free to explore. We are free to explore all corners of ourselves courtesy of the float pod… and experience Theta brainwaves of course.
In Theta state, we can achieve a great deal. Theta state is normally reached right before we fall asleep (the elusive in-between awake & sleep moments). It can take years of practice to achieve Theta state through deep meditation. With floating, you can start producing Theta brainwaves in short period of time. Think of it as a helpful tool for your meditation practice or a meditation “fast track” for those of us who lack the practice. What we are doing is training our brains and creating a memory of being in that state, once we achieve this state it becomes easier to transfer to our everyday lives. The more we float the easier it is to just be, this can be a huge benefit pre-race, pre-sports event or even pre-presentation. This provides us with the tools to slow down and get in the zone faster.
A great breathing technique that can help whilst floating and before an event is called box breathing. Take a deep breath in that lasts three to four seconds, hold that breath for three to four seconds, exhale for three to four seconds and hold after exhaling for three to four seconds—then repeat. Repeat this box breathing technique until you are completely relaxed and let your mind empty. You may even fall asleep, which is completely fine because you will still be getting the physiological benefits. Once your time is up, you will be gently awakened by music in the Float Pod.
There are a few other strategic ways to find the Flow state of mind in applied settings, such as Rowing. Mainly, the process all starts with your approach:
1. Be mindful (aware, but non-judgmental) about your thoughts and feelings as you approach your competitive environment.
2. Decide whether you feel anxious because your perceived skill level is not high enough to match your perceived level of challenge, or if you feel somewhat bored because your perceived skill level is above your perceived challenge.
3. If anxious, use an arousal control technique, such as relaxation, to relieve your anxiety; If bored use a focusing technique, such as imagery, to increase your concentration. You can visualise yourself back in the pod, close your eyes and box breath for a minute.
4. Visualise yourself becoming fully engaged, prepared, and confident when you step up to your opponent.
5. Let yourself become engaged, feel the Flow state of mind, and have fun competing.
Visualisation – Imagery & Self Hypnosis
I mentioned visualisation a few times in this post, the Float Pod is a fantastic and well-designed environment for visualisation. They say that success is 80% mental & 20% physical, having the right tools at your disposal can make a huge difference.
Research shows that it may be possible to improve sports performance by using specific mental skills and techniques, including imagery and self-hypnosis.
What is Imagery?
Imagery, sometimes called guided imagery, visualisation, mental rehearsal or self-hypnosis, refers to specific techniques often used by psychologists to help individuals visualize or mentally rehearse a desired event.
It involves using all the senses to create an imagined experience that feels real. By using all your senses, you create a very real experience of the desired outcome.
How To Use Imagery: A Step-by-Step Guide
The first time you try imagery, it's helpful to use a guided imagery recording. This can be an mp3 or CD, you can record your own script to use as your guide if you wanted to. After you are comfortable with the technique, it's easy to practice these techniques on your own. These techniques can be applied during your float session, in the sensory reduced environment all that you are left with are you and your mind! Plenty of clarity for visualisation.
Find a comfortable, quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, a Float Pod is perfect for this.
Relax your body and take several long, slow breaths.
Close your eyes and create a vivid and convincing image. This image can be one you've previously experienced, or one you simply desire.
If you become distracted or find you are thinking about something else, simply acknowledge it and let it go.
Focus on your breathing if you lose the image.
Maintain a positive attitude.
Imagine the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings and even smells of the experience.
Take note of as much detail of the scene as possible. What are you wearing, who is there, what are you hearing, and how do you feel?
If your imagery session is not going the way you want it to, simply open your eyes and start over with your breathing.
Always end an imagery session with a positive image.
Whether you are a top-level athlete, semi-pro, amateur or work in business, floating can help to enhance your performance whether at work or play. Use these tips next time you are floating to maximise your potential and give you the edge.