But mind-body coexistence can also prove to be extremely positive. According to neuroscientist Allison Brager, US Army Warrior Fitness athlete and author Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain, athletic performance — as well as the motivation to sweat from the start — are largely intertwined with neurological factors. And these factors can be hacked, so to speak.
Dr. Brager, who calls the nervous system “a beautiful thing,” has studied its role in movement, motivation and athletic performance — especially in elite power athletes. It is interesting that “an athlete’s brain is unique”, he shares. “Research shows that a brain scan alone could determine who an elite athlete is compared to who an amateur athlete is.”
“A brain scan on its own could determine who is an elite athlete versus who is an amateur athlete.” – Neuroscientist Allison Brager
The logical question to follow: Are the informal brain scans of elite athletes a reflection of inherent genetic factors? Or, are the abnormalities due to their behaviors, such as consistent training?
According to Dr. Brager, “is a balance of nature and care.” Some benefits are genetic, such as 20/20 vision and increased hand-eye coordination. “Those who are born into a family of athletes and are endowed with selected sports genes have a distinct advantage.”
That said, anyone’s brain can be trained, to some extent, to imitate more closely that of a select athlete. “With training, more effective movement patterns and [brain] the connections are developing “, says Dr. Brager. Whether you are an aspiring athlete or a well-intentioned couch, the following “brain tricks” can bring you a few steps — no, steps — closer to your fitness goals.
Stroke # 1: Touch muscle memory
The more you exercise, the better you become. the fitter you are, the less tiring the physical exercise. Another lesser known benefit of repetition, however, is what Dr. Brager calls muscle memory.
In contrast to the physical strengthening of your muscles, muscle memory is neurological. “The meaning of muscular memory is that the more you practice something, the more secondary it becomes due to the strengthening of the connections between the central and peripheral nervous systems,” explains Dr. Brager. “This is the neurological explanation for the 10,000-hour rule of specialists,” he says.
In addition, “the more experience you have, the less energy [the brain] requires the initiation of traffic and the receipt of information “. In short, practice works perfectly, as the old saying goes – both physically and neurologically.
Brain Trick # 2: Adopt a “no-frills” mentality.
There is a reason why athlete stars, fitness trainers, and even sportswear marketing slogans exude a “failure-is-not-choice” attitude. “Mindset is everything,” claims Dr. Brager. “The body can achieve a huge amount of work with a strong mind,” he says, “but once the mind leaves, it is over.”
The next time you climb an incredibly hard hill in the spin class, check yourself: Is your inner monologue supportive or defeatist? Creating a mantra that you can turn to when you want to slow down can improve your mindset – and, often, your stamina.
Stroke # 3: Understand Neuroplasticity — and Let It Be Your Motivation
The benefits of exercise are great. In addition to strengthening your buttocks, you have probably heard that physical activity can also boost your mood by releasing endorphins. In a more detailed neurological note, “Exercise leads to a physiological phenomenon known as neuroplasticity,” shares Dr. Brager.
Essentially, neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to change and adapt in response to various external factors. In terms of exercise, neuroplasticity equates to “increased growth areas in selected areas of the brain,” says Dr. Brager. Specifically, the areas “start the movement and evaluate the perception and the feeling”.
In addition, he adds, exercise increases the speed at which brain cells communicate with each other. Translation: Exercise can help you feel clearer, clearer and more focused.
Brain Trick # 4: Harness the power of loud melodies
Ever wondered why some playlists make you jazz? As it turns out, “There is a neuroscientific background to feeling a certain way through music,” says Dr. Brager. Specifically, “music activates emotional and sensory areas of the brain.” In fact, Dr. Brager says that music is her most used “brain trick” motivation to maintain a consistent sweat routine.
Eric Stensvaag, curator at Feed.fm, told Well + Good that there are “given research and controlled studies showing that music significantly enhances athletic performance”. In addition, “music can also create an increased commitment to exercise, resulting in people exercising more often and for extended periods.”
Stroke # 5: Meditation
It is no coincidence that many top athletes swear by meditation. At its core, mediation is an awareness-raising practice. Awareness, for example, of your breath, your body and the inseparable connection between the two. By itself, this type of “check-in” with his body has positive consequences for athletic performance.
Meditation also promotes physical and mental rest, which are essential for athletic performance. For this reason, Dr. Brager calls meditation “a useful tool for enhancing recovery.” Practice promotes deep, restorative sleep – which in turn increases endurance, focus and physical energy. As Dr. Brager puts it, restorative sleep is “the most effective drug that improves performance out there!”
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