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5 Ways to Become a Better Athlete Immediately


5 Ways to Become a Better Athlete Immediately

1. Consciously expecting to feel terrible in a race aids performance. This is because perception of effort during competition is influenced by expectations. If you feel worse than expected, your perception of effort will increase and your performance will suffer. By bracing for a hard time, however, you ensure that how you feel during the race is no worse than expected, thereby setting yourself up to get the most out of your body.

2. Having the "wrong body" for an endurance sport—that is, having a body that is anthropometrically or physiologically not ideal—can be transformed from a disadvantage to an advantage through a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Even if your body is non-optimal for a given sport, if you work hard, your brain gets creative and figures out the most efficient ways to move from point A to point B. The same phenomenon also explains why athletes can comeback better than ever after a major body-changing injury. 

3. "Choking” in endurance sports is caused by self-consciousness, or an excessively internal focus during races, which actually increases perception of effort. An athlete can avoid choking by releasing from their obsession with achieving a goal. Rather than focusing on a specific outcome or “not failing,” athletes should instead strive to be fully immersed in the moment and the task at hand.

4. Endurance athletes perform better when they pursue a quantified goal versus race by feel. This is because perception of effort, which athletes use to judge the highest speed they can go from their current position to the finish line, is open to interpretation. Chasing incremental time goals (think: 2 seconds per mile faster than my PR) helps athletes be more certain and confident that they can achieve their goals, which in turn convinces an athlete to accept a slightly higher level of effort.

5. Athletes get fitter and race more successfully when they train in groups and compete for teams. One reason for this is called “behavioral synchrony,” where working together in groups releases in the brain the feel-good neurochemical dopamine which reduces perception of effort.

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#4 seems key to me.

If you can measure it, you can improve it.

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