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When your brain tells you that your body is too tired to go on, it may be fooling you! Studies show that your mind plays tricks on you to keep you from actually reaching your physical limits. Your caveman brain is planning ahead and keeping reserve energy ready for the unknown. What if right after your workout, you are attacked by a saber-toothed tiger and need to be able to outrun it? Unless you’re a caveman, when your brain complains that you’re tired, it’s OK to tell your brain to buzz off and to Dig Deeper.
We all know that with extra effort or increased strength, we can improve our physical performance. But our brains tell us this isn’t true, that the best we’ve already done is good enough. A study from Northumbria University in England (1) had cyclists pedal as fast as they could on stationary bikes to determine their top speed. Researchers then told the cyclists they would race against a virtual opponent on a computer screen. One group was told that the computer would be going as fast as their fastest recorded pace, but this was not true; the researchers actually increased the pace by 2%. A second group was told ahead of time that the computer would be 2% faster than their top speed. Cyclists in the first group, thinking they could equal the pace of the computer sped up to match their opponent, and improved their best times without realizing it. Cyclists in the second group, who knew the computer was faster than they had gone, didn’t try to beat it, and only duplicated their previous times.
In another study (2) from the University of Kent and the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, two groups of men were asked to pedal an ergometer while their leg muscles were zapped with electrodes that made them fully contract (sounds like fun, doesn’t it?). One group was also asked to perform a tiring mental task at the same time, while the other group was shown tranquil scenes from nature. The group doing the mental task tired 13% faster and perceived the pedaling to be much more difficult than the second group did, even though the amount of exertion was exactly the same. The first group’s minds were tired, and their brains told them that their muscles were also tired, so they gave up sooner.
When Chalene Johnson calls out, “You’re not tired!” she’s right! Don’t be fooled by your lazy brain! These studies demonstrate that when your brain sends the signal that it’s time to quit, that’s your cue to give your workout more gas (unless you’re injured, and then you should probably listen to your brain). Imagine your favorite trainer is standing next to you, checking your form and motivating you to keep going. Show them what you can do! You have what it takes to Dig Deeper and push through those false signals of exhaustion. And when you do, you’ll see that you can exceed your limits to achieve even greater results. Imagine what you could accomplish if you tried harder every time your brain told you that you can’t accomplish something!
1) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/health/nutrition/20best.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 2) Prolonged Mental Exertion Does Not Alter Neuromuscular Function of the Knee Extensors http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Citation/2013/12000/Prolonged_Mental_Exertion_Does_Not_Alter.6.aspx