Understanding the User

As mentioned in a few chapters behind, this thesis is about improving the athlete’s performance. To understand this user, you have to know what type of athlete I am referring to. This athlete is a person who has a high level of performance. Maybe, he/she even compete in a specific sport although it is not a requirement to fit this profile. When you sign up for a gym, there are a certain amount of people who go on a regular basis, which is usually about 10%-15% of the subscribed people at the gym. They are one of many people who take their game is very serious, and they train for self-improvement. Some of them might be paid athletes, and others might have a regular day job and workout in the morning and afternoons, some might be coaches and find a career in their sport.  This thesis is directed to all those athletes who one to take their training one step further. 


As a user my self, I have been in contact with a bunch of athletes from different disciplines, and I found some common needs between us. The first and most important one is that we are always looking to improve, even when we think we have reached our 100%, we still believe we can do better.  Usually, athletes are very concerned about their well being, always trying to get fitter both physically and mentally. What most of us don't realize is how important the mental part is, and how 90% of the success in sports is because of the mind power we have over our body and our abilities to make decisions. Mind Fitness will be explained in detail in further chapters describing how to do it and the benefits of it. 


It is essential to keep in mind that these athletes spend a lot of time training. Whether it is a paid athlete or they live in the city and have a job, their mind is always thinking about training and getting better. To get a better idea, I did a high-performance training survey where I categorized the athletes three parts. First is the elite athlete or competitive athlete who trains 12+ hours a week depending on the sport and intensity. The second is a high-performance athlete, who does more than 8+ hours a week, who might still be at a competitive level but doesn't necessarily compete. Finally, the standard athlete who does 5+ hours of exercise a week and always takes it pretty seriously but, they have other obligations, so they can't train for as long as they want. 


Now, once I am done setting up my user, I need to know how to reach them. Social media and commercials in sports tv is always a direct way to contact them if you are introducing a new product to the market that is good for athletes. Although athletes usually have such busy lives that they might not be watching that much tv and if they are famous, their social media is probably set on private; therefore all publicity directed to them, will not be seen. So, another way to approach them is through their doctors, coaches, gym, trainers, supermarkets, pharmacies, smoothies posts, and reaching directly to star athletes to recommend and talk about the product. Of course, no one will be willing to do this unless they believe in the product and know it works. But, if you do have a product worthy of the athletes in the world to use, then the word will go out, and everyone will want to have it. 

Vocabulary Recap

While going over my Vocabulary writing with my peers, they made me realize that I have a lot to cover. All of the words I have been using are straight up from a Sports Psychologist, but they pointed out that I should probably add some athletic vocabulary to explain how athletes communicate and understand concepts. So, I will start working on that and do an update on the vocabulary by the end of this week. 

I also want to point out that while my classes evolve and my projects as well, there will be more stuff to cover and the vocabulary will definitely increase. 4 main topics are been researched right now. First, An EEG headseat for athletes with the purpose of understanding athletes brainwaves when the exercise and focus in order to improve. Second, an app focused on reading this brainwaves and reading pattern in order to help the athlete improve. Third, an experience testing this exercises to increase the athletes focus. Finally, turning all this into a service or business by creating a Mind Fitness Gym. So, as this moves forward, my concepts and vocabulary will evolve with them. 

Vocabulary

Thesis II

Sebastian Harmsen

Teacher: Abby Covert

Since the day this thesis started a lot of things have changed. The topic changed from smart clothing for athletes to improving athletes performance through mind fitness. This is because I was searching for the thesis of my thesis. Now that everything is narrowed down, I need to start investigating in depth what is actually means to understand the mind. There are tons of research on sports psychology, EEG for Athletes, Mind exercises to improve focus and it is just amazing everything that is been done in this area. To make sure I get my point across, I would like to go over some terms that I will be referring to my thesis the way I interpret them. 

Athletes Happiness: A balanced state of mind where the subconscious is free of negative emotions. 

Focus: The athlete's ability to maintain his/her brain in an alert state while competing or training. 

Training: The different types of training the athlete does whether it's physical or mental. 

Visualization: Technique used by sports psychologists to help athletes get their mind in the game and project before competing the exact movements and routines they will be doing while competing. 

Pressure: Mostly referred to mental pressure and how athletes are influenced by it. What are the causes and effects of pressure in an athletes life? 

Subconscious mind: The side of the brain that stores memories and feelings that you are not currently thinking about but that can be triggered by specific moments. 

Breathing: Athletes technique to slow down their heart rate, send oxygen to their muscles and calm down. 

Sports Psychology: A specialized psychologist in sports with the purpose of improving the athlete's performance. "Sports psychology can even help people off the playing field. The same strategies that sports psychologists teach athletes — relaxation techniques, mental rehearsals and cognitive restructuring, for example — are also useful in the workplace and other settings."

EEG: Electroencephalography. Sensors that track your brainwaves. 

Mind-controlled objects. Objects or apps controlled with an EEG sensor with the purpose of exercising the mind. 

Performance: Athletes level of competition

Mind Fitness: How fit is an athlete mentally to support moments of great pressure and perform to his/her best. 

Relationships: Athletes ability to get along with other teammates. 

Social Life: Athletes ability to keep healthy relationships with people outside their sports team. 

High-Performance Athlete. An Athlete who competes. 

Fear and Hate: What athletes feel when they are threatened by another player or team. Commonly confused by saying "I hate that team" when they are actually saying "I am afraid of this team because they might actually beat us."

Anxiety and Depression: Most common symptoms in athletes who can't handle the pressure of competition and don't have much support outside the team. These athletes dedicate 100% of their time to their sport, isolating them.

 

Audience & Markets

    The main user for this Thesis are High Performance Athletes. These athletes either take their sport very seriously of compete professionally. They are very centered around the sport they do and their life’s goal consists on improving their performance in that sport. They spend endless hours training to be better and put their 100% effort to it. This would be my main user because they are the ones with the experience to share it with me. I want to know how do they train their minds in order to improve their performance specially in moments of pressure. 

    This is what I know about this user. They train year round. They only get about 4 weeks off every year. Then they start with pre-season training to get into shape before the actual season starts. When they are in “vacation” they still need to do some sort of workouts wether its yoga, cross fit, gym anything that keeps them active. Their training varies depending on what part of the year they are in. Every training is focused with one main goal, the best performance possible for the day of competition. This training involves a very high fitness level to achieve and a higher one to maintain it. When it comes to sports psychology, most of them have a psychologist if they belong to a team but I found out through my research that a lot of individual athletes don’t use a sports psychologist. When big tournaments like the Olympics come, the entire team has a sports psychologist, no matter what discipline the athlete is participating in. The US Olympic committee started realizing that the athletes who had more mental training approaching the competition actually performed better. The group with 25% physical training and 75% mental training performed the best. This is when I realized that mind fitness is very important. 

So, for mind fitness, these are the following questions I would ask to this user. 

  • Do you lose trust in yourself often?
  • When competing, is it hard to stay relaxed?
  • Does the pressure affect you?
  • Would you consider yourself as someone who gets mad when things don’t go as expected? 
  • Is it hard for you to achieve the goals you set up for yourself?
  • How is your relationship with your teammates?
  • Can you sleep well before a competition?
  • Do you get nervous?
  • Does this pressure affect your performance?
  • Are you frozen by nerves?
  • If something goes wrong, does it take long to recover from that feeling of failure?
  • Have you ever done mind fitness exercises? If so which ones?
  • Did they help?
  • Did you know about mind fitness?
  • Would you train your mind?

This questions will help me understand my main user and see where can I improve my approach in order to develop a product more specific to my user. 

    My next user would be a Sport Psychologist. I would be creating my product from the research and information I get from them. The idea is that they would use my product to help the athletes they are treating and advising. This doctors work with a team or teams and sometimes with individual athletes. They usually have private sessions with them or work with the athletes directly in the field. Some of the psychologist I interviewed also compete in some sport or have competed at some point in their lives. This is great because they can relate to their patients and speak with them from experience. The questions for this user would be:

  • How do you approach each athlete?
  • What are the main challenges athletes face?
  • How do you approach each challenge?
  • Challenge #1 
  • Challenge #2
  • Challenge #3
  • Challenge #4
  • What are some solutions for this challenges?
  • Challenge #1 
  • Challenge #2
  • Challenge #3
  • Challenge #4
  • Do you work with any type of mind fitness exercises? 
  • Which ones? 
  • Are you aware of the EEG Brainlink tech?
  • Do you use it? 
  • How? With what purpose?
  • Besides the psychological aspect, what type of training do you have your patients do?
  • What techniques are the most commonly used to improve athletes focus and performance?

    The third user for this thesis would be the team coaches. Not all teams can afford a sports psychologist, so the coach should also be aware of mind training. They know their players and what they are going through. They can tell which players are lacking and falling out. They are also aware of the players who are performing great. They will not only train them but also give them advice. 

    From the interviews I have done, the coaches had similar answers in some areas. They all want to have a positive impact on the student. Some students are not so easy to reach or connect with. Ryan Dodd said “You have to get to know your students inside and outside the field to create a bond. Then, you have to find a path to understand him/her in order create this positive impact and help them find their path.” Some of them are very aware of nutrition and psychology, some just focus on the physical part of the training and don’t mention the health or mind side of the training. They would like tools in order to help their students improve their performance and their mind fitness. 

    The questions for him would be very similarly to the ones I would ask the sports psychologist without the psychological specific questions. 

  • How do you approach each athlete?
  • What are the main challenges athletes face?
  • How do you approach each challenge?
  • Challenge #1 
  • Challenge #2
  • Challenge #3
  • Challenge #4
  • What are some solutions for this challenges?
  • Challenge #1 
  • Challenge #2
  • Challenge #3
  • Challenge #4
  • Do you work with any type of mind fitness exercises? 
  • Which ones? 
  • Are you aware of the EEG Brainlink tech?
  • Do you use it? 
  • How? With what purpose?
  • Besides the psychological aspect, what type of training do you have your patients do?
  • What techniques are the most commonly used to improve athletes focus and performance?

    This thesis is not only designed for athletes who compete. The ultimate user would also be an athlete who takes their sport very seriously but doesn’t necessary compete. They still want to improve at their performance and take it very seriously. If you offer them a product that has proven to improve athletes performance, they will probably take it. This athletes have a job or study. They have more of a social life than competition athletes but still have a high performance level. The questions for them would be as follows. 

  • Do you lose trust in yourself often?
  • Does the pressure affect you, your performance?
  • Would you consider yourself as someone who gets mad when things don’t go as expected? 
  • Is it hard for you to achieve the goals you set up for yourself?
  • How is your relationship with your teammates?
  • Do you get nervous when doing your sport?
  • Does this pressure affect your performance?
  • Are you frozen by nerves?
  • If something goes wrong, does it take long to recover from that feeling of failure?
  • Have you ever done mind fitness exercises? If so which ones?
  • Did they help?
  • Did you know about mind fitness?
  • Would you train your mind with mind fitness products?

Why I chose this Thesis

Hi,

    Since I can remember I have always been an athlete. I think the reason for it was because I never saw exercising as exercise. Me, my cousins and friends have always done sports we enjoy. So when we went surfing or water skiing it was more like lets go have fun than lets go workout. Then, by the age of 12, we realized we had a sufficient level of performance to compete and thats when it started. For over 20 years I have competed in water skiing (slalom, long jump, trick skiing and wake boarding) and done other sports for fun. When I started my undergrad for architecture, I had to really organize my time on order to keep up my level of performance and practice water skiing while getting good grades. Finally, I started doing my sports as hobbies and started focusing on my professional career with the idea that I will pick it up later when I have more time.

    Now, I am here at SVA and I am trying to workout on gyms and go out for runs or swims just to do something. On the weekends I try to go surfing to New Jersey or Rockaway beach. Not been able to constantly workout on the sports I Love because I am busy, feels like drowning. Not doing one of the things I love the most because I have no time seems unacceptable and this is how my thesis topic came up. I want to find a way to motivate athletes to keep going and get better. I want to find ways to  help people start working out if they don’t and prevent those who do, from stoping. Exploring the athletes life has been amazing and now I think focusing on the athletes mind in all of its aspects will be a great way to synthesize my thesis and finally reach the thesis of my thesis!

3 Prototypes

    Through the evolution of sports, athletes have pushed the boundaries in order to perform better making the sport become their lives.. They push themselves so hard, that their bodies take a beatdown every time they train and compete. With the evolution of technology and knowledge about the sports, athletes are able to perform better because now they have tools to better take care of themselves. The three products I present here draw from this knowledge and technology to better serve athletes and help them reach their goals, recover more efficiently from injury and stay active

 

The Hot/Cold Chamber.

    The Hot/Cold chamber is based on a body treatment to relax the athlete's muscles. This is usually applied after strong workout sessions or competitions and it is used to treat the tense muscles after extreme pressure. So, the Therapeutic procedure is to go into a cold bath where the temperature will prevent the muscles from swelling and because it's cold they tighten up. Following that, the athletes will go in a hot tub, where the muscles expand because of the heat and relax, allowing more blood flow through the muscles incrementing the oxygen muscle delivery and other essential nutrients the muscle needs to recover. By repeating this procedure many times after a strong workout session or competition (10 min cold water, 10 min hot water) it accelerates the healing process.

    The chamber I designed, enables this treatment in a more controlled way. The athlete steps into the chamber with only their head sticking out. (see pic 1). The chamber fills up with water where your entire body is submerged. The entire chamber has water jets all around, keeping the water inside moving, this enables further relaxation of the muscle structure. The bottom of the chamber has platform that moves up and down to regulate the altitude and to enter and leave. The size of the chamber is designed to minimize the use of water but increase the healing process. The water temperature changes smoothly for the muscles to get a smooth temperature transition, incrementing the blood flow in the muscles for the healing process. It is also designed to occupy a small area, a cylinder of 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide, which could easily fit in training lockers, bathrooms, or even at home.

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The Perfect Nutrition Lunch Box.

    The Perfect Nutrition Lunch Box is designed for athletes who have a hard time staying on track with their meals. Most people just eat when they are hungry and don't really control the quantities they ingest. For an Elite Athlete, nutrition is extremely important. Not only to stay in good shape but also to stay on top of their game. Each food has different nutritional values and should be eaten in a different time of the day depending on their activities. For example, if they are going to workout, before the exercise their body needs natural sugar and carbohydrates. This gives the athlete energy to perform better and have more strength. After the workout is complete, they need protein, to heal and regenerate the muscle from what was affected in training. This lunch box is designed for that purpose. So they can separate their food by their nutritional values and apply it to their daily routines. Always eating correctly and performing to their 100%.

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The Rehab Glove

    Technology advancements have helped medicine come a long way. In this case, the rehabilitation process has evolved throughout time. A lot of athletes take high risks when they get injured, some of them even continue playing despite their injuries until they can no longer play the sport, and retire. The Rehab Glove is a piece of advanced technology that it could be applied to the entire body to treat many different types of injuries and even possibly prevent them.

    They way it works is very simple. It has two types of sensors, a flex sensor and a vibration motor. These sensors are connected to a bluetooth command center that sends all the information acquired by the sensors to the phone or computer app. The flex sensors can detect how much is finger is bending, if applied to another part of the body like the knee, it could also detect how much the knee is bending. It is programmed to vibrate when the patient reaches the limit prescribed for the knee, fingers or any other body part that requires repetitive bending for therapy. This technology would provide better and faster rehab process and it can prevent injuries in the long run. It could also help you fix your posture and position when doing a specific exercise or maneuver in a specific sport.

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    These three prototypes are an exploration to improve the Elite Athletes Performance and to make sure these athletes have a long lasting career without getting injured as much and take better care of their bodies. These designs are inspired by the technology used out there and applied in a specific ways to help improve a specific scenarios. Hopefully, this technology will change the statistics of athletes that are going through rough times and help improve their life quality and improve as an athlete.

Reading Reflections

 

The Mental State of an Elite Athlete:

Imagine an important presentation throughout your career. It could be a Thesis, a big business meeting, a special client, we have all felt that pressure of something coming up as well as feeling and hoping everything is going to workout fine. If the case is Thesis, then you want a good grade and recognition, if it is a big business meeting you want to hear the company is going well and if it is this is the feeling a special client you are hoping to close that contract.

    With Elite Athletes, this is the feeling every time they compete, and adding to the pressure you have,  the competitive part where you not only have to if you take my previous suggestion you can delete this perform your best but actually beat the other guy or you are out. This pressure is sometimes treated by a specialized psychologists, but most of the time it is not and a lot of the athletes don't know what to do or who to go to. Some of them get hit so hard by the mental pressure their performance starts to decline. So the big questions is, how to we help improve this issue.

 

The Training of an Elite Athlete:

    Every sport in the world, every team, every individual has their own way of training. When you get to an Elite Performance Level, (I know this from personal experience and elite athletes friends) you are the best of the best, meaning you probably know YOU better than any coach that comes along the way, but, you do need to keep training and competing with others if you want to stay on the team.

    When competing for a position on a team, athletes show everything they’ve got on the training field, but even when they make it to the team, they still keep training and competing with the girl/guy next to them. This means a lot of people are still getting injured constantly throughout training, some of them so hard, they don't even get to compete at an international level.

    Others who do compete, still have to stay in shape. But the exercise and training sessions are made for the whole team, not specifically designed for 1 athlete. In effect, some athletes have been worn out so badly by such an intensive training, that it is impossible for them to perform at a 100% capacity on competition day. Not only that, it begins affecting their private lives, to a point where they have to stop.

    Finally,let’s talk about the rest. Some of these athletes are so worn out, that they do not have a chance of recovering fast enough for the next training sessions. Rest is the most important requirement for an athlete. He/she won't recover and won't be able to perform at a 100% if he/she does not rest. When you sleep, the body gets rid of the lactic acid in the muscles, which is what makes them tense up and induces protein in order to fix the broken muscle tissue from the training. All this can only happen while you are sleeping (R.E.M. sleep cycle). So, rest is extremely important.

 

The Nutrition of an Elite Athlete:

Athletes eat, and eat and eat and eat because an Athlete is burning so many calories through the day, his metabolism is incredibly fast. The reason for this is that they is used to training so hard that their body is still recovering from the workout 24 hours later. This means that your body is still burning calories even if they are not working out. That's why their metabolism accelerates itself, because their body is asking for more proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc to recover itself throughout the entire day which explains why they don't gain weight, even with poor eating habits.My argument is that if they would eat healthy, then their performance and recovery would definitely improve.

 

Smart Clothes for Elite Athletes during Training:

Smart Clothes for Elite athletes is already out there in the Market. From personal investigation and testing, I would have to say that Athos is probably the best one out there. Using smart clothing for training can improve an Athlete's performance to 110%. The tech is already out there, but it has not been applied in a specific way to a specific sport. The Athos smart shirt and pants detect your entire body movements (basically if you lift your arms it maps it out in the app), it can detect your heartbeat, breath, and it separates which body parts you are working out and which ones you are not, which is amazing, a great advancement in tech.this tech could be possibly modified to adapt it to any desired sports. I believe I can help athletes improve their posture, fix their body position when running, swimming, shooting, skiing, etc. by keeping track of muscle tension, and helping athletes prevent injuries.

 

Smart Clothes for Elite Athletes on a Daily Basis:

The Fundamental Idea of using smart clothes on a daily basis is simply to keep track of whatever it is you want to keep track of. In this case, the idea is to keep a constant tracking of the athletes daily movement and at the end of the day feel a form on the app, which will be linked to your training session smart clothes as well, and create a pattern to know what is it that they are doing when they perform at their highest and what is it that they are doing when they perform at their lowest. It will track how they eat, sleep, walk, play with their kids, breath, heart rate, core temperature and hydration levels. The purpose of this, is for the app to know how they perform every time when they train.

 

Rehabilitation with Smart Clothing:

There's so much tech out there that is probably impossible to keep track of every single thing that comes out every day. There is technology using smart sensors and arduino coding that is very simple to use yet with the right programming amazing things can be achieved. Much of the technology out there is fairly simple, but when coded, it becomes amazing. Through bending sensors (short flex sensors) you can tell how much something is bent which is a great opportunity to explore rehabilitation methods.  

    When athletes go to rehab, they usually end up wearing a piece of clothing or armor to protect the area that was injured. For example a knee cab or a wristband or a shoulder mount, etc. All these pieces help the athlete get better faster by releasing tension from the affected area on their daily routine. Yet sometimes, athletes fail to follow the doctor's orders, or simply push a little bit too far.

This technology can help improve this! If you make a smart knee brace, then the person in rehabilitation would be able to see how much he can really bend that knee. Better yet, the doctor con see it on the computer and with a vibration sensor, it could warn the athlete to stop bending, stop stretching or stop walking. It would help improve their recovery to a 110%.