Mind Over Matter

by Tia Dewick in Training

dumbbells | personal trainer

Do you ever have those days where you feel like you can’t train? When you’re fully rested but just can’t bring yourself to get up and hit the gym? This is a prime example of mind over matter. Until recent discovery, research believed that this was due to peripheral fatigue (exhaustion at the active muscle); however, it is now speculated that central fatigue (perceived exhaustion of the brain stopping the muscles from contracting) is the leading cause of this inability to train.

How can I overcome this central fatigue?

Caffeine is a great way to delay or even stop this central fatigue from occurring. Caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline which enhances the rate of physical exertion with reduced rate of perceived exertion. Basically, caffeine allows you to work harder without you realising it! However, the disadvantage of caffeine is that consuming too much or too late in the day, this can lead to sleep disturbance and heart palpitations. The optimal daily consumption is 2-3 cups of coffee to stop any of these negative side effects from occurring.

Additionally, a sweet solution has also been shown to activate the central nervous system to initiate a sense of alertness. By swilling your mouth with a sweet fluid without swallowing it, has been shown to enhance perceived energy levels. This is because the sweet taste sends a signal to the brain to stimulate awareness of fuel availability, without even consuming the fluid! This means that you can have an enhanced perception of energy without consuming any calories! It has a similar psychological effect to when you think about chewing on something sweet (like skittles or sherbet) and you begin to saliva.

Most importantly, psychological positivity influences fatigue state. It’s becoming increasingly popular for people to see the glass as half empty as opposed to half full. If you tell yourself that you can’t go to the gym because you’re too tired then 9 times out of 10 your body is going to believe you. On the other hand, if you remain positive and identify the benefits of going to the gym over staying at home, then you can overcome this barrier. By being more positive within daily life we activate the positive regions within the brain which release ‘feel good’ hormones. As a result, not only do we feel more empowered to complete daily tasks, we feel much more confident and energised. As the saying goes, ‘the more you do, the more you want to do’.

Furthermore, social support is critical to motivate us to train. Do you train alone? If so, this is a likely cause for you to come up with excuses not to train. On the other hand, if you train with a friend or join a group class to make friends, you are more likely to have the motivation to overcome this mental barrier stopping you from training. In conjunction with social support, it’s about finding something that you enjoy. Don’t enjoy weight training? Then why not try swimming or boxercise or even trampolining! Find what makes you happy.

In conclusion, following these little tips and tricks may enable you to overcome this barrier of mind over matter. You can train and you will benefit from training, you just need to tell yourself that you can. Remember to not just identify training as a positive aspect of life; if you identify every day activities in life as positive, you will become much less susceptible to this perceived fatigue state. Don’t let the fatigue win, you are in control.