New Advice from Neuroscience
Katwala draws on extensive research to summarise important techniques that improve sports performance. Although many studies refer to the hand-eye coordination of ball sports, the book contains relevant and interesting advice for runners.
Key Findings from Studies
Your vision must be trained as hard as your physique to fulfil your athletic potential. A major difference between amateur and elite athletes is the latter’s ability to track and act upon the slightest of movements.
Your vision is closely related to your mental strength and agility. Thus the stronger the mind, the less stress will drain your energy.
Distraction from any task at hand is better than thinking too much about it. However, visualisation in training can change your physical make-up; thinking of becoming stronger can actually make you stronger.
You must learn to transform inevitable nerves into fuel. You can do this by training under controlled self-induced pressure, such as placing an outcome on your performance (reward), adding other mental tasks during your exercise, or modifying your workouts regularly to feel more challenged. All these techniques will build your mental resilience and thus prepare you better for racing conditions.
Sport is a complex pursuit for people to master. To make sporting skills less susceptible to interference by external factors or your conscious mind you need to make actions so implicit that they become instinctual. According to Angela Lee Duckworth, by adopting a positive growth mindset and seeking different circumstances to test your abilities you will develop a strong passion for the sport. Deliberate practice sustained over a long period of time will mean you have a greater chance of success.
Runners give up long before they reach their metabolic and muscular limits. The reason is that they have exhausted their brain. Professor Samuele Marcora explains the ‘psychological model of endurance’, a theory that purports runners must train to reduce their perception of effort.
Tips to reduce the perception of effort include
- not relying on your watch for every run
- rinsing your mouth out with a carbohydrate-rich drink
- smiling as you run and especially after work or a long day
- controlling your breathing
Playing video games also builds mental stamina because of their repetitive nature, and improves memory and attention span.
This book supports the notion that being an expert in your sport can have its disadvantages. Sometimes having less information (or forgetting what you know) can actually aid performance by ensuring you are focusing on your natural rhythm.