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The Mind-Muscle Connection

Don't underestimate the power of your mind to grow your muscles.

By Mark Thorpe
The Mind-Muscle Connection

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Anyone who has survived beyond his 10th birthday knows the road to success is usually a tortuous, obstacle-laden single track with plenty of opportunities for failure, not to put to fine a point on the journey. Beyond the manned and unmanned obstructions, often the most influential effect on your behavior is what happens in your head. Self-sabotage can undermine even the best talent, and containing that wild hair of doubt separates the boys from the legends.

Sports psychologist Jason Selk, M.Ed, owner of Enhanced Performance Inc., knows this all too well. He has worked with professional athletes in most major sports and his new book 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental-Training Program For Winning Before The Game Begins is the synthesis of his experience helping our greatest athletes overcome mental hurdles. Selk's program for developing mental toughness is separated into three phases and requires just 10 minutes a day to master. The result, he believes, is individuals who are more focused and driven, and aren't handicapped by self-doubt.

The first phase is called the Mental Workout. It's a five-step process that Selk says is the crux of his entire routine. Master this phase and the others fall in step. Selk talked with M&F and explained in detail how to implement each step into a daily routine. Once committed to memory, Selk says phase one will take about three and half minutes to complete every day. The payoff will be a step toward understanding what it means to use your head to get ahead.

1. The Centering Breath
"This is just a biological way to control your heart rate. When an athlete experiences pressure, his heart rate elevates. The average golfer's heart rate, for example, is between 70 and 75 beats per minute (bpm) when he's practicing. In a competitive situation, that same golfer's heart rate may be 85-plus bpm. Many athletes aren't aware this is happening or more importantly how to control it. That's where the centering breath comes in. Simply breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, then breathe out for seven. That's the first exercise in the Mental Workout.

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