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Boost Your Brain Power

Mental training exercises that you need to add to your daily athletic routine, writes Protima Tiwary.

Ask any athlete what motivates him to wake up every morning and keeps him going through the day, and his answer will be “discipline” Self-motivated people will brave blood, sweat and tears to reach their goal, and none of this would work without discipline. So how does one learn discipline? Is it something we are born with? Is it something you can learn later in life? God forbid, is it too late to learn discipline in life?

Thankfully, discipline can be learnt, but do not accept results overnight. Just like the physical body takes week, months and sometimes even years to transform, the mind needs its time too. The mind imbibes so much on a daily basis, removing distractions to inculcate discipline seems like an intimidating task to many. With a little hard work, a few months is all you need to grow into a self-motivated, disciplined individual yourself.

How? It’s simple. All you need to do is exercise your mind. Yes, there are exercises that help train your mind into becoming stronger. Note these down carefully, because these exercises can be done at any given point of the day.

Start your day with Meditation

10 minutes before you start your day is all that you need to meditate successfully. Meditation is said to be the strongest of all the willpower workouts, and for good reason. With only 10 minutes a day, your brain will be able to focus better, and you will be less stressed and more energetic to deal with the day. To get started, sign up for some meditation podcasts or Youtube channels that will guide you through the process.

Remember, it will take you some time to train your mind to focus to meditate, but as it is with physical exercises, your mind too needs patience to build strength. Give it time.

Use your opposite hand

Your brain is wired to use your dominant hand. When you try using your opposite hand, your brain will spring into action since it is a completely new activity that it is not used to. You will find yourself to be more alert and focussed. This, using your opposite hand will require willpower.

To get started, sit down with a pen and notebook for 20-30 minutes during your workday.

Treat this as your me-time and you will find yourself looking forward to this experience daily!

Do Cross Lateral movements

The idea is to get your brain to be more alert. Lift your left knee and touch it with your left elbow 5 times, then do the same thing now with the right side. Then, lift your left knee and touch it with your right elbow 5 times, then switch sides again. When you do this, the left and right hemispheres of your brain are being worked together, causing your mind to be more alert.

Cross stimulate your senses

Keep your brain alert by engaging multiple senses like sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. Doing so stimulates new neural activity throughout the brain. Some ways to do this would be to learn a musical instrument, learn to cook something new, read a new book, or even try a new exercise.

Correct your breathing

Inefficient breathing patterns not only affect your brain concentration power but also interfere in your exercises. Inefficient breathing limits oxygen to your brain. By correcting your breathing, you improve your concentration and focus, and even boost learning and IQ!

Here’s what you have to do – place one hand on your stomach, inhale slowly through your nose. You will notice that your abdomen expands while you inhale. Now exhale slowly (for around 5 seconds) and feel your abdominal muscles collapsing. Practice this for 5 minutes daily.

Other things that will contribute to a healthy mind include keeping a check on your savings and spending, keeping a food diary (food affects mood, and knowing what you’re putting into your body will help you decide how to train your mind to feel!) correcting your posture whenever you can (posture affects body language which in turn affects your emotional health) Carry around something tempting whenever you feel like testing yourself, see if you can resist it. This slowly contributes to mental strength too. Eat healthily, drink plenty of water. Also, take care of the vocabulary that you use (use positive words and avoid negative words and thoughts.) Last but not the least, learn to be grateful for what you have.

Whether you are running a marathon or lifting heavy or playing a sport, you need a strong mind to see you till the finish line. Without a strong mind, the body is nothing. Time to train your mind along with your body to be stronger, faster and more efficient. If you could build mental toughness that could help you overcome any obstacle and come out on the other side intact, you would have a positive outlook and a boatload of confidence in life, isn’t it?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An Army kid who wishes to travel the world one wellness vacation at a time, Protima Tiwary is a freelance content writer by day and Dumbbells and Drama, a fitness blogger by night. High on love and life, she is mildly obsessed about travelling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

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How to reach the next level in Running

Your mind can ensure that you get through your most gruelling runs and workouts, and help you reach the next level, says Nandini Reddy

Strong legs and a solid body are not the only requirements to be a good runner. Every sport requires a strong mind and overcoming a mental challenge can be tougher than physical challenges at times. You mind is the one that will decide if your push harder or give up. That extra set of push-ups and extra km of running happens not because you body is energetic but because your mind refuses to give up.

If you don’t want to throw in the towel, then you need to train your mind with a few tried and tested techniques to reach peak performance.

Visualize

If you know you are about to tackle a tough course or workout then first sit down and visualize the course. Understand the hard parts and imagine yourself pushing through the course. Imagine getting tired and being rejuvenated. You need to get your mind to believe that you are now comfortable while tackling the uncomfortable task. You can coach your mind to deal with discomforts and forget about elements that you cannot control. For example, if the weather changes its not under you control but your attitude to the run despite the weather can be regulated by your mind.

Rewire

Running with intensity isn’t a pleasurable experience. You heart rate is elevated; your lungs are protesting, and your muscles are screaming. When this happens your mind automatically asks you to stop. You start to feel like you are not in shape or don’t have the strength or endurance to take on this challenge. But you can rewire your mind to assess this experience differently. You can drive away the unpleasant thoughts by thinking about the finish line, strengthening your legs and building your stamina.

Feedback

Feedback is an incredible motivation tool that your mind needs, to improve. For one you do not need to look at your GPS watch or attach headphones to your phone that is tracking your run progress. The feedback should come from you mind when you congratulate yourself for crossing check points and remembering to hydrate. Listening to music instead is a great way to relax your mind. Mark off points that you had visualized before the race and mentally pat yourself on your back for your progress.

Divide

Mentally divide and mark the course in your mind. Focus on reaching each mark point instead of aiming straight for the finish line. Mini goals are easier to achieve. You will cross the finish line if you can count your small victories instead of focussing only on crossing the final timing mat.

Memory

If your enthusiasm is flagging mid-run the you need to first recall your previous wins. You have done this before and this is another run like the others is a good thought process to follow instead of telling yourself that you want a break. Tackle steep hills and difficult trails one step at a time. If you have a positive affirmation, even one as simple as ‘I can do this’, repeating it to yourself would be a great way mentally boost your passion.

Mental training techniques can improve your running performance and your ability to tackle tough workouts in a more nuanced way than must focusing on the finish line.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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