If you’ve ever pushed your body to its limits in high-intensity training or a marathon, then you probably already know that having a strong mental game is just as important as being physically conditioned.
Multiple researchers have looked at how psychological strength can enhance your performance inside and out of sports. Pros discuss training their brains using visualization methods and mindful meditation.
In the 1980s, during an investigation into why so many marathon runners were collapsing, researchers concluded that it was not due to dehydration, as everybody had believed, but the opposite: they had been drinking too much water. The official recommendation to runners is that they needed to drink approximately 50 ounces an hour- THAT was poisoning them.
U.S. specialists, affected by the sports drink industry, rejected those findings. The advice was not changed until 13 per cent of participants at the 2002 Boston Marathon endured water intoxication and one runner died consequently.
The current belief is that athletes become tired when their bodies reach physical limits- if their muscles run out of oxygen or become damaged by the accumulation of toxic byproducts like lactic acid. This then triggers pain and exhaustion, forcing us to stop exercising until we recover.
Studies have shown that although amounts of gas within muscles (glycogen, fat, ATP) decrease with exercise, they never come to an end. Researches requested cyclists to ride exercise bikes with wires. Conventional sports theory claims that athletes must recruit all available resources as they tire, engaging an increasing number of muscle fibres before, with nothing more to give, they eventually hit the breaking point. However, the reverse was found by this experiment. Muscle fibres were being switched off as the cyclists neared fatigue. At the point where volunteers said they felt too fatigued to continue, they were not tripping more than about 50 per cent of the available muscle fibres. Exhaustion forced them to quit exercising, yet they had a huge book of muscle simply waiting to be utilized. Why is that?
The new theory proposed from this experiment is that the sensation of exhaustion is enforced by the mind. Obviously, there’s a physical limit to what the body can achieve. But rather than responding directly to tired muscles, the mind acts in advance of the limitation, which makes us feel tired and forcing us to stop exercising well prior to any peripheral signs of damage happen. In other words, fatigue is not a physical event but a feeling or emotion, formulated by the mind to stop catastrophic harm.
From an evolutionary viewpoint, such a system makes sense. Relying on signs of harm in the muscles, to alert us to exhaustion would place us perilously near collapse. Shutting down physical action beforehand ensures a safe margin of error, and means we can continue to operate even after an exhausting struggle.