The work explores the body-mind connection through the design of a system that allows one to train the mind through the body. What kind of training equipment could make an athlete stronger not by hardening the muscles but through conditioning their mental state?

Following the practices of mental toughness building and sport psychology techniques, this speculative object was designed to choreograph the body into conditioning the mind. The aim of the work is not to invent a new training device, but to highlight and question the relationship between the body and brain, inspired by the elite athlete mindset.

Olympic phobia can be as paralysing to an athlete’s performance as physical injury. The bespoke interface between muscles and neurons aims to materialise techniques of anxiety control in an attempt to train the unconsciousness to quieten disruptive self doubts.

The structure is loosely based on the principles of the samurai armour, directing a ceremonial ritual as an anchoring stimulus to engage a specific state of mind, an inner outer-body experience. The scorpion pose clears the mind, keeping the body in motion and encouraging a rush of blood to the abdomen, controlling nervous response form the stomach.

Through rhythmical breathing a trance like state is induced, and an imagery device is put into action - triggering mirror neurons* in the brain to mentally rehearse the motor repertoire via still observation.

“It’s not a case of getting rid of the butterflies,
it’s a question of getting them to fly in formation”
Jack Donohoe

Commissioned by RADAR, Loughborough University.

* Based on the research Functional Imaging of Motor Experience and Expertise During Action Observation (Glaser et al. 2004), UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.