Today we are delighted to have a guest post from Caitlin Evans who is sharing how you can train your brain in order to get better fitness results.
A word of encouragement can be the cornerstone upon which cathedrals are built, but scorn can be the earthquake that topples towers. What you say and think will shape who you are and the latest research has only shown that there is a solid basis for this in science – through the segment of your brain known as RAS. There is nothing mystical about the connection between your psyche and your body and you can go an extra mile to train your brain for better fitness results.
The power of the mind
Could cognitive conditioning be the key that unlocks the gates of success? Clear vision, hard work, and flexibility will pave your way to extraordinary accomplishments, but RAS might just be the connective tissue that keeps you on the firm track. RAS – which is an abbreviation of Reticular Activating System – is located in the core of your brainstem and it bridges your conscious and subconscious mind.
Of course, this is a simplified explanation, but for all intents and purposes, you should primarily be interested in what it does and how it works. RAS will take commands from your conscious mind and transfer them to your subconsciousness. This is why, if you focus on a specific goal or topic, you will begin to see related patterns over the following period. For example, you might notice the object you desire – such as a car, a type of clothing or a book of a certain writer – more often around you. In addition, you can encourage and discourage your mind in equal measure. With this taken into account, reciting those mantras out loud suddenly doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it once did.
Coach your mind – coach your body
You can coach your mind and, in extent, your body to achieve astonishing feats if you keep encouraging yourself with relentless consistency. The results may actually surprise you due to the sad fact that we are often not aware of our potential.
Visualize the level of fitness you want to achieve and keep repeating to yourself, as a form of mantra, that you will get stronger, faster, agile and toned. As long as you keep doing this before bedtime, you will feel the increasing effect of motivation to realize exactly what you set out to do, and visiting gym will feel less and less like a chore.
The workflow caught between RAS and Cortisol
With the newfound motivation to reach new levels of physical fitness, you may feel the additional kick of “readiness” to spring into action. Among other things, RAS affects your thought patterns and performance by working in tandem with Cortisol, a steroid hormone that is naturally produced by your body’s adrenaline glands and which is also known as the stress hormone. Now, a modicum of alertness is necessary to stay determined, and this is intricately connected to the Cortisol-producing bio-mechanism; if it were any other way, your RAS would be off guard, However, it is also crucial to keep Cortisol levels healthy in order to avoid “blowing the fuse”.
In other words, if you overwhelm yourself with information that includes a cocktail of exercising rules, related medical facts, dangers, and a whole mess of dietary advice, your RAS may go into total Cortisol-fueled frenzy while trying to pick apart information according to relevance. This is only one aspect of a thoroughly researched phenomenon known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law – which refers to the unique relationship between Cortisol levels and the activity of RAS or motivation/arousal. Furthermore, the Cortisol levels that make RAS go haywire can also happen if you over-exercise and cause sore muscles for prolonged periods.
Conclusion – A positive loop
Thankfully, there is a convenient flipside to this. If you’ve set your fitness goal clearly and compartmentalized it into smaller, concrete goals (for example – what you want to achieve for the week), achieving these goals will condition the release of endorphins and dopamine.
These positive neurochemicals are directly linked to the ‘feel good’ states of mind, and they may even lead you to feeling overjoyed for a short while. This reward will, in turn, motivate you even further to repeat their effect, which stimulates your RAS to filter just the right thoughts and patterns in order to achieve fitness goals.