A Natural Fit

Naturopath and Olympic Gold Medallist Lauren Burns is uncovering the key to elite athletic performance.

When it comes to understanding elite athletes, Lauren Burns is a natural. Earning an Olympic Gold Medal in Taekwondo at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Lauren was keen to understand how elite athletes like herself excel, delving into a ground-breaking study at RMIT to find out.

“I was excited to jump in and explore the factors that impact high performance sport. Having my own sporting experience gave me insight, but I knew this study would have greater reach, highlighting the lifestyle factors and mindset needed to reach the next level, in sport and in life.”

A qualified naturopath and nutritionist, Lauren initially investigated the effects of organic food versus pesticides on elite athlete performance, receiving funding through The Jacka Foundation Research Training Scholarship to assist her research.

A not-for-profit charitable fund, The Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies (JFNT) was established in 2010 to promote the safe and effective use of natural therapies through supporting research into the field.

“The Jacka Foundation aims to advance natural therapies and develop a community of naturopathy researchers, scholars and leaders. There is little funding for natural therapies research, so we were thrilled to partner with RMIT to support three research scholarships, one of which Lauren received,” said Pauline McCabe, JFNT Board Director.

When Lauren was unable to obtain additional project funding, she began a new study on the lifestyles and mindsets of Olympic, Paralympic and world champion athletes. 

“The research journey can be so changeable, but I landed on a topic I find so interesting and that deserved to be investigated, as these principles are applicable to the business world, support services, and everyday life.” 

Olympic Gold Medallist Lauren Burns
Without the Jacka Foundation and RMIT, I could never have done this research. Their support has created opportunities for research that is not normally done.

"They’ve allowed me to follow the work without any pressures, just support, and it’s been a fantastic experience. I am looking forward to my research being out in the community and having real-life impact."

Publishing her findings in two articles in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Lauren’s study found that championship performance primarily occurs at the intersection of a strong psychological profile, interpersonal support, effective performance strategies and lifestyle.

“Through this research, we highlighted that psychological factors and support networks are key to success. The next step is looking at a much larger sample of athletes through a National survey, to compare these practices between foundational and mastery level athletes,” said Lauren.

Lauren’s work has already gained international attention and she’s slated to speak at FEPSAC 2019, Europe’s largest sport psychology conference. She will also be presenting her findings at the International Congress of Complementary Medicine Research and the JFNT annual general meeting.

“I have a passion for supporting naturopaths like Lauren. There are such benefits to broadening research in our area, supporting our profession and growing knowledge, and I’m excited for Lauren to share more about her research process and findings with us” said Pauline.

Already delving into phase two of her study, Lauren remains grateful for the JFNT’s support.

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