Biofeedback techniques offer an important additional tool to help the athlete reach peak performance. Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Something as simple as placing your fingers on your neck to feel how fast your heart is beating would be a basic example of biofeedback. A more effective method of biofeedback uses technology to create self-awareness and teach control of body states, such as breathing, heart rate, temperature and muscle tension, which we are typically unaware of in our daily lives.
Biofeedback strategies can be useful during interval training. This type of workout involves alternating between short bursts of high intensity activity and periods of recovery. Interval training allows the athlete to workout at higher levels for longer periods of time. With biofeedback, an athlete can learn to better control their breathing and heart rate. By being able to more easily increase their breathing and heart rate during the work phase and slow their breathing and heart rate during the rest phase the athlete gets more out of the workout. Actively preparing your body for each specific part of the interval creates a more efficient workout which leads to faster performance gains.
In practice this could begin simply with greater self-awareness. Next time you’re working out or playing your sport try to pay attention to the changes that take place in your breathing and heartbeat. You can even try to take your pulse by placing two fingers on your neck or wrist at different points in the activity. Once you become more aware of how your body is reacting during exercise or sport you can then start to learn how to regulate it. This may begin as merely consciously slowing your breathing.
Remember to take a look at the Psychophysiology for Sport Lab page to learn more about biofeedback and to see some ongoing research topics.