Do your muscles cry a workout when you’re trying to hold a plank or push through the distance on a long run, or do speed drills? New research says they are a result of getting mixed messages from your brain, causing give up.
To understand it better, read on: With every step or rep, your muscles send signals to the brain, telling it what they need in order to keep going-namely, oxygen and other fuel-and reporting their level of fatigue. The brain then responds, adjusting muscle contraction demands accordingly, says Markus Amann, Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah. “If we can train our brain to respond to muscle signals in a certain way, we can actually push harder and for longer,” Amann says.
Tips for that Killer Workout
Outsmart your brain, Keep the upbeat thoughts coming as you sweat it out.
Tell yourself powerfully positive statements, like, “You will definitely make it up this hill.” The signal to throw in the towel during a workout can come from one of two places: your central nervous system or your muscles. What experts call “central fatigue” originates from the former region, while “peripheral fatigue” originates from the latter. You’ve likely experienced heavy legs in the last miles of a race or trembling arms as you lower yourself for a final set of push-ups in boot camp. That’s peripheral fatigue, a decrease in your muscles’ ability to generate power.
Smile during tough stretches of your workout.
Associate your brain with something that feels good during the tough phase. (The “fake it till you make it” approach totally applies; positive thinking really does work). The muscles that contract to make a frown are actually a reflection of how hard your body feels it’s working. Try to smile during tough stretches of your workout so that the muscles that trigger thoughts of exhaustion are less active. Just as with your muscles, when you lighten your mental load, you can go longer and stronger.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice makes you impervious. The more you repeat cycling at sprint speed, the more injured your muscles will be to the burn and the less likely they will be to beg your brain to stop.
Raise the motivational stakes of your workout
swap that Spinning class for a bike race to preoccupy your brain so it doesn’t hit the panic button at the first sign of stiffness.
Pick the right Beverage:
The right beverage can rev your brain to give you more “go” power during exercise. For a mid-workout, swish and spit out a carbohydrate drink such as Gatorade to see a performance boost. According to a study in The Journal of Physiology, cycling participants who wet their mouth with a sports drink finished a time trial at least a minute ahead of the control group. Well, for those of you who prefer to swallow your beverages, caffeine can work wonders on brain drain. Research shows that having two or three cups of coffee before a workout kicks your head into high gear, requiring less brain activity to produce muscle contractions.