The Mind Is What’s The Matter
I have often heard coaches tell me that the mind is the most useful tool for a competitor. In competition,
managing emotions and perfecting our own mental game is essential to succeeding. But as we know very little
about the power of the human brain, we know even less about its influence on our performance. This mystery has
been slowly unraveling and clear conclusions are tough to come by. A recent article by Gina Kolata of
the New York Times explores this relationship between mind and performance.
Her article reports on a study by Dr. Kevin Thompson of Northumbrian University in England. In his study
he had cyclists ride a stationary bike as fast as they could for 4,000 meters. Later he had the same riders perform
the same test, but this time they could see both their own progress on a video screen compared to what they thought
was their pace from the previous attempt. In reality what they were told was their former effort had been greatly
sped up. Because they believed they had pedaled at that speed before, they tried to keep up with their former effort.
All of the riders performed better when racing what they believed was their past effort. Because they thought they
had ridden that fast before they believed they could do it again.
This example seems to point out something different then the old cliché. While the mind can be a performers
greatest asset it can also be their worst enemy. The human brain can convince us of roadblocks that do not exist.
What we believe are our limit may just be figments of our imagination.
Kolata, Gina. New York Times. Sept. 19, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/health/nutrition/20best.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta1