We all get stressed out. Life can get very hectic sometimes, and we as humans have evolved many different ways of dealing with it. I, like many people I know, use exercise not only to enhance my fitness, well being and performance, but also to manage my excess energy and to control stress. Another very important way of dealing with stress is by mental training. The two most common mental training techniques are: mental imagery (creating an experience in the mind of a particular event), and motivational self-talk (statements made by an individual about themselves). A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, but the reverse is also true. Psychology plays a large part in competition preparation and performance and this has been found to be especially so in competitive sports. We have all had the feeling of being “psyched up” for a big game and ready to win, or being “psyched out” of a good performance due to the psychology applied by the opposition in high pressure situations.


Control Your Mind with Exercise and Training

In humans there is a physiological response to danger that is called the “fight-or-flight” response which consists of two phases. The first of these phases involves a release of hormones which lead to sympathetic nervous system activation which prepares the body for action (such as by increasing the blood flow to the muscles), and diverts energy away from non-essential tasks (such as digestion). The second of these phases is a parasympathetic nervous system response which releases hormones that have an effect on the brain and immune function. If we are constantly under stress, this can have adverse health effects, and mental training techniques can be used to control this response effectively which leads to a healthier stress free life.

Studies have shown that the power of the mind truly does have power over the matter.


Psychological Stress Can Hinder Exercise Recovery

Sustained exposure to psychological stressors have been associated with impaired wound healing which makes strength training less effective by reducing the capacity for successful recovery from workouts. This indicates that undergoing periods of psychological stress in life may reduce the ability to recover from training, and thereby gain strength. Conversely, studies have shown that mental imagery training has been found to a) decrease psychological stress and b) increase physical strength when performed over long periods of time.  A recent long term training study found that training involving both mental imagery and motivational self-talk added to a standard physical training program led to greater increases in strength than the standard physical training program performed without mental training!

In summary, we can see that it is possible that mental training techniques can help to reduce the impact of life stress, improve the ability to recover from strength training, and increase performance in sport and performance. You can apply mental training techniques not only to physical activities but to pretty much anything that you want to! Visualisation and positive affirmations can be used to keep you focused and reduce that nervous feeling we all get when under pressure. Stay positive, and if you need any pep talking or help with your mental preparation come and let us know!

See you in the gym!


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