Endurance, speed, and strength are the things of physical fitness, but every human can only perform a certain limit. Still, many of us are capable of more than we think we can.
Elite athletes are a good example of those who push beyond perceived human limitations. Gold-medal winning Olympians, in particular, are far better at going beyond the limits than what we think is possible.
Such limits are mainly physical. Muscles aren’t exactly conditioned for all tasks, and they could end up tearing due to stress. Sometimes, swimmers’ bodies even need more oxygen when underwater, but the mind plays a vital role in setting boundaries of what we think we can accomplish.
Here are two things that athletes do to push themselves further.
Learning to Withstand Pain
Perhaps humans rarely come close to physical limits, but there’s a good reason we should stop before reaching that extreme point. Most of us don’t want to go that far, and our brains force us to say enough before we come close to pushing our true limits.
Still, the best way to improve withstanding pain is to keep pushing physically, making training all the more critical. Elite athletes have also learned to embrace physical pain to enhance performance.
Athletes generally do this by clenching their fists repeatedly as their hands are held in a blood pressure cuff. One triathlete even described accepting the pain as a deep tissue massage session.
While we can’t know for sure that someone can improve their half-marathon time by getting to the point that they can physically withstand more pain, there are good reasons to think it’s possible.
During practice or a competition, that can mean accepting that pain is part of an endurance effort, but not the sharp pain of an injury. This pain should be welcomed, not dreaded.
Believing Improvement Is Attainable
Getting better and faster isn’t always about pain; sometimes, it’s about believing improvement is attainable.
The most important breakthrough performance for most runners comes when they feel better than expected at a race. Sometimes it’s in being told you are running faster than you think you could but still feel alright, giving you sufficient energy to power through and set a personal record.
Belief and emotions can impact performance in many ways. For instance, runners burn less energy when told they feel relaxed, while people can sustain an extended performance when imagining they’re doing an evil deed. Moreover, heat affects people less when told the temperature is lower than actual.
Many researchers think that mindful practice could help athletes prepare for the unpleasant sensations and emotional surges in competitions. Some trainers have also been experimenting with electronic brain stimulation to find a way to zap the brain of athletes into the right zone to achieve peak performance.
The Final Lap
All this really points out is that the mind plays an incredible role in pushing performance limits. It makes it clear that there’s no reason why we should assume we can’t do slightly better. This is not only limited to athletes, and even ordinary people can try to push themselves further.
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