Archive for the tag - mind

Exercise Boosts Creativity & Inspiration!

Creativity_NithyanandaOver the last six and a half years, I’ve published something like 700 YouTube videos on three different channels. People often ask how I continue to come up with so many ideas, but – in a world as interesting as ours – I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

Nonetheless, generating so much content does take some creativity, and I’ve always wondered if physical activity (i.e., exercise) helps boost that creativity. After all, we know that authors like Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James and Thomas Mann all took walks before writing… so is there really something to it?

To get some answers, a cognitive psychologist named Lorenza Colta studied the impact of physical activity on divergent thinking and convergent thinking, two ingredients of creativity. While divergent thinking means coming up with as many solutions for a given problem (in this case, list all possible uses for a pen), convergent thinking involves one correct solution for a given problem (in this case, finding the common link between three dissimilar words).

According to the data, frequent exercisers outperformed individuals who didn’t exercise regularly. In other words, physical activity may help the mind think creatively.

In my own personal experience, I’ve found that exercise also quiets my mind. Whether it’s running on a treadmill or performing repetitions, exercise can be like a waking meditation resulting in mental stillness. When the mind is turbulent, insights are lost in the craziness. It’s like throwing a stone into a raging ocean. But when an insight strikes a quiet mind, it’s like dropping a stone into a still pond.

In new and striking ways, we continue to learn that exercise isn’t just good for the body. It’s good for the mind. And that the connection between our bodies and our minds is far deeper and more complex than many of us imagined.

Thinking About Your Muscles Makes Them Work Harder!

chest-pressEarlier in the year, I posted about mind muscle control. While it sounds like something from a science fiction movie, mind muscle control is really pretty simple:

Mind-muscle control refers to the feeling of connection between your mind and the muscles that are being worked.

While some of us have a tendency to let our minds wander elsewhere during exercise, turning your attention inward to the muscle being worked can actually result in a more effective workout. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that thinking about a muscle during exercise makes that muscle work 22% harder.

Why? There are probably a number of reasons. When you’re being mindful about an exercise, you may be less likely to rush through it – or to cheat during a repetition. You might be more likely to maintain proper form and less likely to engage other muscles to help out.

Regardless of the reasoning, the takeaway is clear: Keep your head in the game. Make paying attention to your muscles part of your exercise practice.

What is Mind-Muscle Control?

MMCLogo1When performing a given exercise, we sometimes fall into the rut of simply going through the motions without paying attention to what we’re really doing.

Bicycle crunches can be a perfect example. As you bring in that opposite knee to the opposite armpit, are you really feeling your core and oblique muscles contract? Or are you just using momentum to peddle your legs in and out?

Mind-muscle control refers to the feeling of connection between your mind and the muscles that are being worked. In the above example of bicycle crunches, you’d bring awareness to the contraction of the oblique as you pull your knee into the opposite armpit. This ensures that you’re working the muscle that you’re intending to work.

When you focus on the contraction, you’ll discover that you’re producing stronger contractions than if you were just mindlessly going through the movements. In turn, you get a better and more effective workout. A bicycle crunch is only as good as you’ll let it be!

There are other mental techniques that you may wish to explore. Some exercisers find it helpful to visualize a workout before they complete it. Or they’ll see themselves completing a new, higher level of resistance – or an extra repetition or two. Doing so may help you to clear your mind, build confidence and boost performance.

Needless to say, tapping into mind-muscle control requires focus and present moment awareness. To do this, you’ll need to leave your cell phone in the locker room and commit yourself to your workout. You may even find that it means turning down (or off) any music/iPods to reduce distractions. And you certainly can’t do it while chatting with friends or socializing.

The mind is a very powerful tool. Put it to use for your workout.

Deceive Yourself for Better Results?

Your new fitness mantra: "I know I can. I know I can. I know I can."

When it comes to exercise, what’s the limiting factor? Obviously, you can only lift as much – or push as hard – as your body will allow. But, as it turns out, your mind plays a significant role, too.

In a series of interesting experiments, Dr. Kevin Thompson, head of sport and exercise science at Northumbrian University in England, set out to test the effects of deception on performance.

In a test, cyclists raced a 4000 meter virtual course at their top speed. Then, an avatar was introduced on the course. Though the cyclists were told that the avatar represented their own top speed from the previous test, it was actually programmed to go 1% faster. Keeping up with the avatar, the cyclists actually beat their own personal best times. When, on the other hand, cyclists were told that the avatar would be exceeding their personal best, they found themselves unable to keep up.

The findings of the study aren’t entirely surprising. I’ve seen trainers use deception on clients at the gym. If, for example, a person believes that they can bench 200 lbs for 8 reps as their max, the trainer might slip on an extra five pound plate to either side. The client ends up doing 8 reps of 210 lbs, believing the weight is actually lighter. If the trainer had disclosed the actual weight, the client might have only been able to do 6 or 7 reps.

While this sort of deception can erode the trust in a client-trainer relationship, it does speak to the power of our beliefs. Yes, our bodies have physical limitations – but our minds play a bigger role than many of us may realize.

For me, the takeaway is this: If you tell yourself you can’t do something, you probably won’t be able to do it. If, on the other hand, you believe something is possible – and perhaps even visualize yourself achieving it (many professional athletes use visualization) – then you are far more likely to actually do it.

Since positive self talk is easy, free and makes your fitness goals more achievable, why not give it a try?