Tennis legend Arthur Ashe once said, “The ideal attitude is to be physically loose and mentally tight.” Football great Alex Karras said, “Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in the muscles.” Long distance runner Lynn Jennings said, “Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.”
What do these three quotes — not to mention countless others from elite athletes across just about every type of sporting activity — have in common? They all acknowledge the magnitude of the mind when it comes to motivating the body.
Here’s a closer look at the mind-body connection, along with tips on how to harness the power of the brain to reach your fitness goals.
Brain Power 101
In the most literal, physiological sense, the brain plays a pivotal role in supporting fitness training by telling which body parts to move as well as by releasing mood-boosting endorphins afterward.
However, the brain is also essential in a very different capacity: mindset. People who commit to making exercise an intrinsic part of their lives are much more likely to succeed.
The best part? The relationship is reciprocal. A growing body of evidence points to the profoundly positive impact of exercise on cognition across everything from attention span to memory. University of California, Davis professor of psychiatry Richard Maddock told Outside, “There is a very consistent finding that the brain works better after exercise.”
Maximizing the Mind-Body Connection
Whether you are struggling with taking the first step of signing up for a gym membership or have reached a weight loss plateau months into a new program, having the right mindset can make all the difference, no matter where you are on your fitness journey.
As anyone who has ever tried to jump start a fitness program knows, however, getting the right mindset can be easier said than done. (Want a simple way to start achieving your fitness goals? Sign up for a trial pass at Brick Bodies today.)
Which begs the question: How can you position yourself to be among exercise achievers? Personal fitness trainer to the stars Bob Greene told SheKnows, “Change your view closer to something that you do for the benefit of yourself. Changing your view is enormously important … so you are not constantly fighting it.”
There are many ways to train your brain to embrace exercise, including:
- Exercising with a buddy or group
- Reminding yourself daily of why getting healthier is important to you
- Stretching after exercise to keep the feel-good benefits flowing post-workout.
Experts also recommend starting small, finding a favorite exercise, and focusing on the importance of moving your body more, wherever and whenever you can.
Lastly, fitness experts highlight the value of deliberate exercise. As professional running coach Steve Magness told Outside, “To get the most out of key workouts, you need to be completely present, internalizing how your body and mind feel and respond to certain effort levels. If you really want to master a skill or effort-level, you need to be completely there in the process of doing so.”
So while you may not be able to conceive of working out without external stimulation like music or your smartphone, setting aside these distractions may be the key to taking your fitness training to the next level. You may find that joining one of the Brick Bodies yoga classes will help you make that all-important mind-body connection more easily.
What is the takeaway? Many people push themselves far beyond boundaries they ever thought possible at first. While a strong body is part of the equation, a strong brain is equally — if not more — important. Join one of our yoga, or other mind body classes for free during our Zen Days of Summer event.