A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the news on the radio and it mentioned a study that confirmed something in our brains called insula can give athletes an extra physical edge to excel. I was intrigued!
We have all heard the stories of an athlete being able to perform the unexplainable. Or read accounts of individuals who pushed their body beyond what they thought was possible. There is a scientific reason why this happens. The reality is that our bodies are capable of more exertion than we think – it’s not physiological, it’s perception and anticipation.
Recent studies indicate the brain’s insular cortex can help an individual be more efficient physically and give that extra “edge”. The insula is said to anticipate future feelings. Researchers at the OptiBrain Center and the Naval Health Research Center suggest that athletes can generate a heightened awareness that can accurately predict how the body will feel at the next moment. This allows an individual to activate their muscles to move faster and perform better than typically expected.
The OptiBrain center says this “mindfulness” is a result of the insula serving “as a critical hub that merges high-level cognition with a measure of the body’s state to insure proper functioning of the muscles and bones; those that perform more optimally are the ones who are able to use anticipatory cues to adjust themselves and return to equilibrium.”
The insula helps to calculate how much energy exercise “costs us”. The brain can respond by pushing the body when it needs to and pulling back when necessary. The insula seems to be the key to pushing yourself physically to limits you did not think you could reach.
So next time you are in a workout, try to incorporate a sense of mindfulness…anticipating when you will need to exert yourself to a higher level (for those in our Tabata Bootcamp – you know when it is coming ;-). You might be surprised how much you can push yourself beyond what you thought you were capable.
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