Enhancing the Brain for Performance
Knowing your strengths is important, and unfortunately, fitness is not one of them for me. That is why my friends over on ‘The Refusal of Mediocrity’ wrote this post on how you can enhance your performance by helping your brain out. I hope you’ll enjoy this post and if you do, please check them out. Now, on to the post!
The relationship between top physical performance and mental fortitude comes from a strong and healthy mindset. The difference between two physically similar athletes are often separated by mental toughness alone, but how does one improve mental capacity to a level required to perform at a high level? Here are some tried and tested ways to ensure you make the proper steps to not only improve your mindset as an athlete, but to keep it that way.
Rushing into significant change almost always carries negative outcomes. We feel good when we stick to our nutrition plans and exercise regularly for a few weeks then feel disappointed when there aren’t significant results. In this instance our mindset has gone from the peak of positivity to the trough of disappointment. In this short period of a few weeks the mind has swayed from such extremes that the person may now be put off from making change in the future. Those that are successful in making strong changes are the ones that are consistent in the long term.
Test Yourself in Tough Conditions
Comfort zones are great, we feel safe and secure and can live under those conditions almost indefinitely. Unfortunately, the absence of challenge does not usually breed a successfully tough mentality. Both the body and the mind require progressive overload of stimulus in order to improve, without that we find the diminishing of muscle tissue, neurological pathways and thought processes. The most personal growth often comes from the toughest conditions.
Create Emotional and Mental Stability
An erratic mind reflects clearly into an individual’s actions. Put a stressed and tired football player on a pitch and he’ll show a reduced set of reflexes and basic skills. A fundamental lack of mental stability often means a lack of motivation and the expectation of a negative outcome. Staying grounded and remaining on course with your objective allows us to take the good and bad days and use them as experience, not allowing them to damage confidence or knock us off course.
We know that brain function is directly correlated with a well-rested body from adequate sleep. An active body requires proper rest in order to recover and grow stronger, allowing us to cope with the ever-increasing load we demand from it. 7-8 hours of sleep per day is generally accepted as optimal for humans. Look to minimise stimuli from media devices and food prior to sleep to ensure the brain is primed to rest and not to be active and alert.
Whilst a strong nutritional platform is a clear requirement for optimal brain function, there are supplements that can further enhance it. Creatine, which is primarily known for its ability to increase muscle size and strength through the increased production of ATP also has carry over to cognitive function. Sleep deprivation shows a significant reduction in phosphates in the brain, resulting in reduced CNS activity and cognitive impairment. A daily 5g dose of creatine has the ability to restore brain phosphate stores ensuring we can perform with sustained strength, energy and power. If you are a coffee drinker you will be well aware of the feeling caffeine gives to boost energy and alertness, doing so by inhibiting adenosine receptors that counter the feelings of tiredness. As with many stimulants, humans will build a tolerance over time and more is required to have a consistent effect. Around 5mg per kilogram of bodyweight for regular coffee consumers and a slight increase for those who do not or rarely consume.
Positive Reinforcement and Self Confidence
So often when tasked with something new and daunting the first thing our brain throws back at us is what I like to call the three phases of mental failure. I will, I can’t, I won’t. We start initially with a flood of self-optimism and excitement before phase two hits. The I can’t phase, where self-doubt creeps in and the brain rationalises why the idea you had was in fact ridiculous and cannot be done, which leads to the final stage. I won’t, the terminal phase of mindset where the brain has overruled the initial feelings of self-confidence and has convinced us that under no circumstances will it be attempted. Usually at the end of stage three our mindset is as far into the negative as can be conceived, but this is where we can draw an immense amount of change. From adversity we can often draw upon our most intense emotions and self-drive. That internal monologue, that internal belief, the will to encourage yourself that it can be done can lift even the darkest mindsets from the depths of despair into new heights. Even talking to yourself in the first person carries power, now we move into a totally new level of belief, I will, I can, I shall succeed and do my absolute best. To shift away from negative emotion this way can even seem a bit false, but it widens our perspectives and creates a space in the mind in which to diffuse prior negativity.
Armed with these tips everyone can benefit, these are absolutely not just tied to athletic performance. Mental health is a serious topic and it’s very easy to prioritise physical fitness and health whilst ignoring the mental side, all be it unintentionally.
Yours in Health,
As mentioned, if you liked this post, please go to ‘The Refusal of Mediocrity’ for more posts! I also wrote an article over on their website about how you can get in some exercise without losing too much time in your day. For more Mind and Body Intertwined, please subscribe or follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest! What are your favourite ways to enhance your performance? Please let me know in the comments below!
Lots of love,
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