5 mental tricks to maximise training effect
Training effect measures the impact of an activity on your physiology. Whether you’re an endurance athlete building to a marathon or deadlifting 200kg on a hardcore muscle journey, to improve performance you need to maximise training effect
Physical training matters for results, but there are other strategies you can employ to gain an edge over the competition which require no extra physical training and have been shown to improve performance - here are five of the best you can use today to raise your game straight away.
Boost your performance, all with no extra training. It's all in the mind
1. Maximising training effect: the power of visualisation
With proponents including Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Andy Murray, visualisation is a cornerstone of sports psychology.
As sports psychologist Michael Gervais puts it:
“The objective of visualisation is to create such a lifelike experience that your body believes that it could be real”
Visualisation allows you to imagine how your event could unfold, but it’s not just about picturing a perfect day.
Visualise what could go wrong too (a puncture) and how you'll deal with it (changing the innertube in a calm, efficient manner).
Doing this frequently before your event leaves your mind well-rehearsed in the potential scenarios which may arise on the day, and helps you overcome them optimally.
Visualisation: how to do it
- Eyes closed, spend five minutes each day picturing your pre-race routine: eating breakfast, donning your kit, warming up
- During training, imagine the final miles. Running shoulder to shoulder, digging deep, kicking away in the closing moments
- Visualise good movement. If you’re running, imagine (as Stu Mittleman once told us) the world spinning beneath your feet - you’re simply letting it pass underneath you. Visualise good form to promote high-quality movement patterns
- Even when foreseeing obstacles, keep it positive. Remove fear and anxiety and focus on feelings of happiness, pride and achievement
But don’t just visualise.
As freestyle skier Emily Cook says:
“Visualisation doesn’t take in all the senses. You have to smell it. You have to hear it. You have to feel it, everything”
Alex Honnold takes visualisation to the extreme when preparing himself for a climb.
Alex Honnold, one of the world’s greatest climbers, utilises visualisation to perfect his climbs
2. Maximise training effect: embrace the discomfort
This isn’t about embracing pain on it's own, but rather retaining clarity of thought during hard sessions. Athletes expect a degree of physically demanding sessions and just tough them out.
This is fine, but how many of you are counting down the seconds until the interval is over?
Some sessions require this, but having the mental strength to separate your mind from this moment of hardship is key to developing the mental muscle.
So next time you’re deep in the well, focus on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Your heart may be about to thump out of your chest but keep calm. Keep your face relaxed and your positivity flowing. After all, you get to do this!
Your mind will give up before you do
3. Maximise training effect: keep perspective
Dr Emma Ross, head of physiology at the English Institute of Sport says “It [neuromuscular function] was never thought to be a limiting factor in performance… but we now know the extent to which neuromuscular function plays in exercise tolerance”.
Essentially, during hard efforts in training and racing, it’s our mind that tells us to slow down - it’s self-preservation - rather than our bodies needing to.
Fortunately “physical training desensitises the feedback loop, allowing muscle to sustain higher stress”. So keep that sense of perspective and squeeze a little more.
4. Maximise training effect: stimulate your brain
Research has shown that focussing your mind on something mentally-taxing such as a crossword or puzzle, during exercise improves performance with no need to physically work any harder.
During low intensity sessions where risk of injury through lack of concentration is low (don’t try reading a book while running on the treadmill!), this works by diverting your focus away from the physical activity thus lowering rate of perceived exertion.
5. Maximise training effect: create accountability
Using a coach is an easy way create accountability because you have to report back to them how your training is going. Knowing that someone is overseeing your training is a powerful way to ensure you keep ticking the sessions off week after week.
Having other people buy into your ambitions creates accountability
No coach? Create accountability yourself through:
- Share your goals: Tell people your aspirations. Chest-beating isn’t required, but just enough to ensure they ask how your training is going and, at some level, buy into your goals
- Join a club: Not just social, it's also a great motivator because with fixed group training sessions they also deliver ready-made accountability
- Phone a friend: Roping a mate in as a training partner is a great way to make sure you both turn up
- Get a plan: Write/print your training plan. Tick sessions off as you complete them and keep a training diary
- Do it for bigger cause: Raising money for charity, inspiring your kids or helping a friend train for an event are powerful motivators and will create accountability
Another big win - no added fitness required
The right nutrition powers your body up for strong and stable energy throughout even the longest, hardest sessions. It's also at the heart of great recovery which is where your fitness is truly built, and it fortifies your immune system so you can come back stronger day after day - sick days and race days don't play well together after all.
Here at 33 our mission is delivering the most delicious and effective all-natural sports nutrition to do all of the above.
Our Ultimate Daily Greens for example provide a performance nutrition boost in just one spoon daily. Dissolve in a glass of water before breakfast to give your nutrition the head start it needs before you've even got out of the door.