The more we move, the better we feel. Sport can have a good effect on sleep, improves our well-being, releases endorphins, happiness hormones in our body. However, sports psychologist Karin Vravková warns that we should not force ourselves into movement or blindly follow trends. There are people who can be hurt by sport more than it can help them. In her practice, Karin meets professionals, but also children who have lost motivation.
It is often said that athletes are happier people. How do you perceive it?
Sport is a job like any other, even more physically demanding and even more focused on performance. The public often sees only the good in the headlines, but little is said about how difficult the sport is. Clients come to us because they do not want anyone to see their weaknesses. They want to act as role models in newspapers. However, when we start talking this image begins to change. We explain to them that they do not have to wear masks, that we will talk about common problems.
What are the positive effects of sport on humans?
From a physiological point of view, the more we move, the better we feel. Mentally, sport releases endorphins, the hormones of happiness. Sometimes a walk is enough, but a lot also depends on the diet, how we sleep, whether we have a hard job, it's not just about the activity.
Can we improve our sleep through sports?
Physical activity helps us better cope with stress. Body tension can block our sleep. So sports help, but we should not do physical activity 2-3 hours before bedtime, because then endorphins are still circulating in our blood, we are awakened. We need sport to start the organism rather than to put it to sleep, but when we use the energy for something good, it calms us down.
Do you recommend team or individual sports to your clients?
It is different. Everyone only has to do what they enjoy. People need to find out if they enjoy it more in the team or not. If someone is individually set up, it will be difficult to work in a team. I can divide my clients into two groups: youth and professional athletes. Young people often come to the conclusion that there are not enjoying their sport anymore. Their parents want to know what happened that their children lost their motivation. Others come to us to help better tolerate losses or sports cause them anger and anxiety.
Professionals, on the other hand, suffer from performance problems or the fact that they are good in training, but not in the game anymore. Sometimes there is burnout, disagreements with the coach, or fear of injury are also common. For example, they can have a problem change their club. We also talk about self-confidence and concentration at meetings.
How to properly motivate to move?
One should not have external motivation, that is, someone else will tell him what to do. If we enjoy being outside, we will only try to run three kilometers, try to keep up with activities that bring us pleasure. But it doesn't have to be just a sport. It can be, for example, a cinema. There are people to whom sports do more harm than good.
Some of them are helped by aesthetic things: they go to the theater, to the gallery, to the culture, to relax, to gain energy. It should be noted that if someone has not played sports all their lives, it probably had a reason. Then why did he force himself in his thirties or forties, if it did not bring him pleasure until then. Sometimes it is enough to change our diet because what we eat strongly affects our mental well-being.
Let's imagine a situation where we start playing sports to improve our lifestyle. How to mentally adjust to make it last?
The first rule is that less is more. Let's not make too many changes at once. You need to start slowly, first try to exercise, then adjust your diet and then you can start investing some money in equipment. Let it not be just a quick boom that will fade quickly.
The purpose of the movement must be considered. Do I want to lose weight or do I want to feel better? Do I want to have some hobbies? Let's not choose a sport based on what is modern, such as running. If we don't enjoy it, we do not need to buy shoes for two hundred euros.
Just start walking, look at what our friends are doing. When we play sports with someone, we will enjoy it more. First, we go just sometimes, then we can spend half an hour a week, then more often. We gradually adjust our lifestyle so that it suits us for our work and private life.
In the beginning, one does not have to know how much he can do. He can be more physically or mentally exhausted than he should be. What would you advise him?
Whatever we do, we must listen to what our body tells us. If we are not ready to run five kilometers, we will probably feel really exhausted. We should move only as much as we want, it is okay, for example, to take a three-week break and then be active for a month. It is also related to the seasons. Spring and summer are the best seasons for sports, they help us to feel more energy.
Do you remember when you got into sports?
As a child, I played tennis, although I started quite late compared to others when I was ten years old. Dad played basketball, he's a lifelong athlete, my mom was a dancer, so it was natural that also I and my sister will be doing some sports. Later, I decided to study rather than do sport in a professional way.
Why did you choose sports psychology?
I was interested in biology, fascinated by the functioning of the brain, and it seemed to me that I would enjoy psychology as well. However, my parents discouraged me, telling me that we have so many psychologists and I can have a problem making money. So I applied for physiotherapy, but twice in a row, I was not accepted to study, and I also applied for psychology, where I was finally taken.
In the first year, I still wanted to try physiotherapy, but when they didn't take me again, I didn't mind because I was interested in psychology. I decided to focus on the issue of a healthy lifestyle, on sports psychology.
You work with both adults and children. Does it happen that parents often force children into sports?
I don't want it to sound negative, but mostly when parents ask me for help, the problem is in themselves. I try to point out that they are forcing their children on what they would like to do. I met a tennis player who finished playing tennis at the age of fifteen, and her father took it very hard. She wanted to do team sport and her father forced her to play tennis. However, puberty came and suddenly she slammed the door: I would not go there again. Parents sometimes push for performance, for example, they coach a child in a car after a match: you should have done this differently, there was a mistake. Suddenly it is no longer a parent, but a coach.
On the other hand, a child at an early age may not know what he would enjoy. How to motivate him then?
Children often do not need to motivate, they only do what their parents do. If they have an active lifestyle, children will be encouraged as well. However, when parents sit on their butts all day, have a home office, and play on the phone, children will find it difficult to motivate to move. They should try what they enjoy: gymnastics, swimming, football… They develop their possibilities and later find out what they want to improve in. I don't think early specialization in sports from the age of five to six can be healthy. The child concentrates on one thing and then he can't make a simple move because he has shortened muscles from another sport.
How can we estimate what is bad for us in sports?
Professional athletes have to be careful about overtraining, or if they have nothing in life but sport, burnout can come. In everyday life, we should not do sports as compensation for something we miss in life. For example, if we are not happy in personal life or if we are unhappy at work. You need to realize whether you use sports as a barrel, for relaxation, or as an escape from life.
Is talent important in sports? Is there a certain attribute that we have to be born with in order to succeed in sport?
Honestly, I don't like this question. Talent is often talked about, but no one can define it. We can talk about whether someone is predisposed to sports, whether he is more of an endurance or dynamic athlete.
If the parents do not lead the child to discipline, to hard work, the knowledge that he has to do something, then a good predisposition can last him until he is fifteen years old. Then he has to do something extra, regenerate, prepare and children used to discipline can easily overtake him.
Do you feel that people started playing more sports during the pandemic?
I can't confirm if they started playing sports more, but I feel that they spend more time outdoors, in nature. I notice more children with balls on the playgrounds, playing football or basketball. The question is, how long will it last and whether people will not return from sports activity to coffee in shopping malls.
Article from CURAPROX Apríl magazine: https://aprilmagazin.curaprox.com/sportova-psychologicka-cokolvek-v-zivote-robime-malo-by-nas-to-bavit-plati-to-aj-o-sporte/