All our lives we have been promised that if we exercise long enough, our body will begin to release endorphins … and that this will make us enjoy and become “addicted” to sport.
However, as hard as we try and as much exercise as we do, nothing seems to get us closer to that moment in which chemistry replaces motivation and willpower; so that our brain is the one that pushes us to go for a run or lift weights… and not the one that tempts us to stay on the couch watching Netflix.Imagining yourself practicing a sport or some movement can improve physical performance.
Fortunately, there are some strategies that we can apply to turn sport into one of the most pleasant moments in our daily routine:
Imagination to the power
American swimmer Michael Phelps wrote in his autobiography “No Limits” that he visualizes himself competing before every race: “I can see the start, the lines, the walls, the turns, the finish, the strategy, everything.”
And it is that, although it may seem a bit strange, imagining yourself practicing a sport or some movement can improve physical performance . It is a strategy that helps muscle memory and motor processes because -in this way- our brain reviews the physical experience that the muscles are going to experience before starting to train… making our movements much more precise and consistent the time has come.
This strategy is nothing new. Science has spent many years studying the relationship of music with our psyche. In the case of sport, music has three fundamental benefits: a hard melody and a good lyrical composition can be really inspiring and it will also increase the “physiological arousal” ; accelerating our heart rate and better oxygenating the muscles. Likewise, a rhythmic and constant melody serves as a pattern to naturally synchronize the movement of our body and -finally- the fact of thinking about music can also distract us… making a hard exercise session more “bearable” and lighter physical.A harsh melody will increase “physiological arousal”; accelerating our heart rate and better oxygenating the muscles.
Now, you have to know what music is going to put the best soundtrack to our training. Research from Brunel University (London) estimated that a carefully selected playlist could reduce perceived exertion by 12% , increase endurance by 15%, and improve movement efficiency by 7%.
Persevere and you will notice the results
According to research carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Turku (Finland) that was published by the specialized magazine “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise”, anyone -even those who are more reluctant to exercise- can change their mental patterns regarding the sport and thus enjoy the training.
In their study, the researchers recruited 64 volunteers , who participated in three intense spinning classes. Meanwhile, scientists from the University of Torku scanned changes in their brain activity and – finally – the 64 men answered a series of questionnaires about their feelings and about their attitude towards exercise.
The researchers found that those “individuals with higher aerobic fitness reported exercise-induced improvements in mood than those with lower fitness.” That is to say, that the most trained people receive a bigger shot of the natural analgesics (endogenous opiates) produced by the body itself. This means that those people who are fitter respond better to pain, maintain motivation better and are able to regulate stress and anxiety more efficiently.In the same way that the body gets used to training and begins to get less tired, the brain also begins to get used to… and -even- to enjoy the exercise.
In conclusion, just as the body gets used to training and begins to get less tired, the brain also gradually begins to get used to and even enjoy the exercise. Since the more you persist in physical exercise , the better the activity of brain opioid receptors. For this reason, for those for whom training is tedious, forcing yourself at first to enjoy later may be the rule.