Even though I’m in the industry, I feel that physical fitness is overrated. It’s one component of physical health (a distant second to nutrition) that is just one piece of the total health pie. I like the book Fourfold Path to Healing by Dr. Thomas Cowan. He writes that to achieve optimal health, we need to have our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional bodies in balance. I agree, and have some ideas on how to implement mental training into your routine.
Here are 7 ways to get your brain as shredded as your abs:
- Practice awareness in movement to strengthen your mind-body connection. Mindlessness has a time and place, but movement shouldn’t be one of them. Instead of staring at the screen on the cardio machine, learn and/or practice skills in your training. Balancing is an excellent skill that demands focus, and carrying is a skill that’ll test your fortitude. Try these and other skills in various settings and situations, and you’ll have your brain’s full and undivided attention!
- Get nervous, then conquer! Whether you’re preparing for a race, first date, public speech, etc., performing while tense is good for your mental power. The rush of getting your central nervous system fired up and the subsequent confidence that comes from prevailing during these experiences build strong minds!
- Deal with it (for a little while)! A group of friends and I do monthly cold water plunges. The discomfort is undeniably strong, but it’s temporary and definitely worth the serotonin reward! Or, from the “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” file, start your day by winning a mental battle with cool-cold showers. You’ll feel invigorated and accomplished before even leaving the house!
- Honor your brain’s messages. We all have strong and weak days, high and low energy days. If your body says “walk” on a day you’ve scheduled a run, then listen. But, if your body says “faster” or “heavier” during your workout, listen then, too!
- Meditate. Start with 10 minutes; you’ll love it.
- Set your mind free! Every now and then be spontaneous and random in your workout. Chances are you’ll do things you did when you were a kid; in other words, you’ll be more creative and have more fun!
- Do some research and eat brain food. The act of research and self-experimentation is an awesome learning experience. In general, high-quality fat is good for your brain and sugar/refined carbs are not. You can take it from there.
Bonus activities: visualization exercises can help your performance, hill/sprint repeats test your will, and “all-weather” workouts build toughness. Now go train your brain!
Ryan McGowan is the owner of Laid-Back Fitness in Warwick and RI’s only MovNat Certified Trainer. He focuses on skills of natural movement in lieu of standard reps and sets of exercise. He also organizes the Frozen Clam Plunge on New Year’s Day at Goddard Park in Warwick.