Archive for the tag - performance

Deception Improves Performance!

1010_faster_fitnessYou are stronger – and faster – than you think.

Researchers from Indiana University proved just that in a study with cyclists performing 4-kilometer timed trials. For the study, 14 competitive cyclists biked four timed trials with variables (like speed and power output) being displayed on monitors.

Of the four sessions, the first was to familiarize the cyclists with equipment. The second session was to provide a baseline for sessions three and four. In the the third and fourth session, avatars appeared alongside the cyclist on the monitor; the cyclists were all told the the avatar reflected their baseline. However, in the session involving deception, the avatar was actually programmed to perform at 102% of the baseline.

Through the deception, cyclists were able to improve their performance by 2.1% over their baseline performance – even after the cyclists were told that they were tricked.

One researcher noted:

The idea is that there’s some sort of governor in your brain that regulates exercise intensity so you don’t overheat, or run out of gas, so to speak. In this case, the governor was reset to a higher upper limit, allowing for improved performance.

I’ve seen trainers utilize this concept by tricking clients into thinking they’re lifting the same amount as usual. However, the trainer has secretly added a bit more weight. So long as they client thinks they can lift the weight, they do.

Nonetheless, this study underscores the importance of the mind in exercise. And that you are, in fact, stronger and faster than you think.

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?

Gym Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep.

Wakey, wakey. I don't think I'd get too much sleep next to him.

Not getting enough sleep is one of my top 6 reasons why your muscle-building workout isn’t building muscle. But a new study by researchers at Stanford University goes one step further. The researchers found that extending sleep periods can dramatically (relatively speaking) improve the performance of athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.

For athletes participating in roughly two months of sleep extension, 20-yard shuttle times improved from 4.71 seconds to 4.61 seconds, and 40-yard dash times decreased from 4.99 seconds to 4.89 seconds.

While those numbers might not sound significant to the typical treadmill trooper, in a sports world where 1/100ths of second means the difference between between gold and silver, a tenth of a second is like a lifetime.

According to lead researcher Cheri Mah:

Sleep duration may be an important consideration for an athlete’s daily training regimen. Furthermore, sleep extension also may contribute to minimizing the effects of accumulated sleep deprivation and thus could be a beneficial strategy for optimal performance.

Under the surface, it appears that muscle growth occurs during the deep, non-REM stages of sleep. In addition, deep sleep helps rejuvenate the immune, skeletal and nervous systems.

Athletes in the study slept as much as 10-hours – a true stretch for most of us and our busy lifestyles. Nonetheless, Mah believes that all of us can put the results of this study into practice by following these five recommendations:

  1. Make sleep a part of your regular training regimen. It’s just as important as eating protein.
  2. Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition.
  3. Maintain a low “sleep debt” by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to eight hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults)
  4. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. Minimize weekend fluctuations and the like.
  5. Take brief naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.

How much sleep do you usually get? I average somewhere around 7 hours, though I like to aim for a full 8.

Best Time of Day to Exercise.

Dear Davey,

What time of the day is best for working out? Is it better to do it first thing in the morning, around lunch time or in the evening or night?


Dear John,

I get this question a lot. And it’s no wonder: The research on exercise time is divided and contradictory. Body performance (i.e., lung capacity, hormone levels, body rhythms, temperature, etc.) peaks around 6pm for most people. On the other hand, research on habits formation points to early morning workouts. It’s easier to create a routine and avoid distractions in the AM.

I like to take a different approach. In my opinion, the best time for you to exercise is when you have the most energy.

I’m a morning person. At 6AM, I’m ready to go. But by 6PM, I’m thinking about dinner and pajamas. In spite of whatever the research might say about body performance, I’d probably fall asleep on the treadmill.

Know yourself. Are you a morning person? A night owl? When do you feel like your energy levels peak? Whatever your answer is – that’s probably the best time for you to exercise. You’ll be able to give your routine a 100% commitment.

And really, when all is said and done, any time is a great time to hit the gym.

Davey Wavey