"Check Out the Big Brain on Brad!”
- Jules, “Pulp Fiction”
Even though I’m in the industry, I feel that physical fitness is overrated. It’s just one component of physical health (a distant second to nutrition), which is just one piece of the total health pie. I love 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 8 ways to get your brain as shredded as your abs:
1. Practice awareness in movement to strengthen your mind-body connection.
People often tell me that they run to “turn the brain off.” I understand, but think running mindfully (i.e. noticing how your foot strikes the ground, monitoring your cadence, paying attention to your breathing, etc.) is better and will have the same stress-relieving effect. This applies to all movement, but great examples are balancing, which is an excellent skill that demands focus, and carrying, which will also test your fortitude. Try these and other movements in various settings/situations and you’ll have your brain’s full and undivided attention!
2. Get nervous, then conquer!
Whether you’re preparing for a race, first date, court, 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! I’ll take that over a strong body any day!
3. 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 with cool-cold showers. I can almost guarantee it’ll be the toughest mental battle you face all day, which makes everything that follows feel easy.
4. Respond like an optimist.
One of my heroes, Jocko Willink, says “GOOD” every time he’s faced with adversity. This technique was also mentioned in Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit.” Blizzard-like conditions? GOOD! Let’s gear up and shovel for exercise. Ozone alert during your marathon? GOOD! Let’s see how that hydration strategy holds up! You get the idea.
5. 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 walk. But, if your body says “faster” or “heavier” during your workout, listen then too!
Start with 5 minutes, you’ll love it.
7. Set your mind free!
Every now and then, be spontaneous and random in your workout. Don’t establish a plan, just move! 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!
8. Do some research and eat brain food.
The act of research and self-experimentation are awesome learning experiences. 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, walking/running up hills test your will, and “all-weather” workouts build toughness.
Now go train your brain!