Fatigue might feel as if it begins in the body – aching muscles, waning strength – aching muscles, waning strength – but research suggests that your mind plays a key role. “Your brain sets the pace so your body doesn’t run out of energy,” says Dr Kevin Thompson, head of sport studies at the University of Canberra. It also keeps some energy in reserve. Tap that for greater performance.
1/ Think You Can
Visualising athletic success boosts mental toughness, a Journal of Applied Sport Psychology study reports. That can be a key predictor of performance. “Imagining a situation reinforces the same neural pathways as executing the behaviour,” says study author Dr Krista Chandler of the University of Windsor. “When you then attempt the task, your body feels as if you’ve already done it.”
Your Move When you hit a strength or aerobic plateau, take 10 minutes to picture yourself conquering a heavier lift or a faster run.
2/ Keep It Positive
Self-doubt can be a powerful saboteur. So change the dialogue. “Positive self-talk reinforces your confidence and boosts your energy so you won’t stop when you feel tired or challenged,” says Nick Galli, an assistant professor of sports psychology at California State University at Northridge. Science agrees: a recent meta-analysis by Greek researchers found that positive affirmations can boost performance.
Your Move Repeat phrases like “I feel good” or “I’m swift and strong” as you lift weights or run.
3/ Clear Your Mind
Stress can hamper a good workout, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. The reason: it commandeers areas of your mind in charge of attention – areas that would otherwise be used to support the mind- muscle connection, says study author Dr Michael Agnew. The less you worry, the more benefit you’ll reap from your workout.
Your Move Count to four as you inhale; hold your breath for four counts as you refocus on training. Exhale slowly. Repeat twice.
4/ Find Your Rhythm
Scientists have long known that music can boost athletic performance. The key, however, is to listen to music that you find motivating, according to new British research. “The music distracts you from your effort, allowing you to train harder and for a longer time,” says Dr Edmund Acevedo, a professor of health and human performance at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Your Move Create your own workout mix instead of downloading a generic playlist or sweating to your gym’s Top 40 countdown.
Photograph courtesy Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool