Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Training Your Brain

The entire mission over at P3 is staying ahead of everybody else when it comes to training the body to achieve human potential. And when I say that body I mean all of it, including the parts we may not associate with athletic performance. Lately, they’ve been focusing on the mind. From their blog:

The brain is the command center that drives the body’s performance. How it functions affects an athlete’s control of focus, speed of reaction, quality of sleep, efficiency of motor movement, emotional reactivity, and ability to mentally recover after an error. When the brain is able to efficiently function, an athlete is better at performing under pressure, sustaining focus, as well as mentally resetting during competition.

“Sure, sure,” you’re probably saying. “Of course athletes need to control their minds. They’re under a lot of pressure to perform. But I workout in my living room while the rest of the family is asleep. How does this affect me?”

But I submit that your life is probably harder than a professional athlete’s. Sure, if you fall over during Yoga X there aren’t five million people watching but you also probably don’t have the means to focus 100% on your training and performance. In fact, you’re probably trying to it in around your job (or two, this being America and all), family, maybe school and whatever vestiges of social life you can still weave in. Quieting your over-stuffed brain long enough to get the most out of your workout takes fortitude. Just think how much easier life would be if you had the ability to control your anxiety or stress levels in this hectic world. Getting interested yet?

After a basic analysis of how brain training works the article concludes:

Along with baseball players initial observations of better sleep, the data showed that P3 athletes improved their focus (increased beta, decreased theta), reaction and mental processing speed (decreasing dis-regulation and increasing regulation, brain wave patterns are optimized which enables more efficient processing of sensory information) and stress regulation (having the correct alpha to beta ratio) throughout the off-season. Perhaps most interestingly, we are already able to identify hitters vs. pitchers based on their original EEG patterns.

Being able to quantify and train mental performance systems, similarly to how we quantify physical systems, is very exciting and will prove to be the new frontier in performance.

As cool as this might sound most of us don’t yet have the means to make it happen, at least at this level. P3 is partnered with a company called Neurotopia, which makes equipment to test and train brain function. And while this stuff’s a ways off from becoming standard exercise equipment in any household juggling whether or not they can afford an extra set of dumbells, just the knowledge that training your brain is effective should get the ball rolling.

We already know that, with our customers, by far the biggest obstacle in their path to success is motivation. This is why we’ve created such a strong support system and was the catalyst for our coaching network. As we learn more about the effects of brain training you can be sure that it’s going to make its way into our training systems as well.

pics: p3 athlete parker coffin in a situation where the benefits of mind control are obvious. below, visionary businessman jackie treehorn's been championing the potential of mind training for decades.


Anonymous said...

yeah, well, I still jerk off manually.


Josh said...

P3 should send Tiger Woods a gift certificate for a free sesh. He could use some help with his mental game these days.

Mental outlook is, without a doubt, that which separates the best from the everyone else.

I remember watching Chris climb back in the 90's - Reed and I were up in SC visiting him. It wasn't that he was consciously doing any mental preparation - it was just that he didn't seem to believe that there was a limit to what was climbable. It didn't even cross his mind that he couldn't get up something. Whereas the rest of us tend to only think about how impossible or hard something is.

Be the ball, and all that rot.


Jackie said...

Course you do, Dude.

Matt Withers said...

Saw the P3 article the other day and am pretty psyched to see what they do with this. I'm particularly excited to see them eventually look at how the brain operates in those who self-identify as having a high pain threshold vs. those who identify as having a low pain threshold.

For instance, take Donovan McNabb playing a half a football game with a broken fibula (or tibula if you're Howie Long :-) How much of that is how his body processes pain, vs. mental focus. Or the late Steve McNair who QB'd one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL for years playing with injuries that most people would consider debilitating. Can the brain be trained to do that?

To take it even further, the monks who have set themselves on fire as a form of protest. Absolutely insane, and yet people have trained their brain to be able to handle that level of pain.

I'm personally interested because I feel like I falter pretty quickly at my pain threshold. I train, get in better shape, and thus push that threshold further back, but ultimately when things start to hurt I'm not one of those guys who just keeps going. For instance, I'm currently doing P90X/INSANITY hybrid, and while I've gotten so that I can attack both programs over time, when my body starts to burn it seems to fail on me quickly.

I don't feel like I'm not tough enough or anything, but if there was a way to train the brain to allow the body to push past that wall for those of us who are not naturally inclined to do so, it'd be pretty interesting I think.

Josh said...

I'm not sure I'd look to the NFL as a place to examine the brains power to control the body. It's fairly well documented that over the years NFL players are some of the most heavily injected, pilled and otherwise doped athletes in the world.

I would point you to Tyler Hamilton's stage 16 victory in the 2003 Tour de France as a great example of high pain threshold - since he did it with a broken collarbone. But, then of course, he was busted for doping - twice.

As for training yourself to push past the wall . . . I would recommend the time tested and proven method of visualization; or, if you want to be a pro athlete in this day and age, dope.

I would also tell you that if Beachbody's programs didn't make your body fail, they probably wouldn't be very successful in making you fitter.


Steve Edwards said...

It's not only pain threshold that's being tested. Most athletes are pretty good at that. The training, at least that I've seen so far, is mainly how to keep cool under pressure. Fighter pilots have been, well, the test pilots for this training and it's supposed to be pretty effective.

bob banks said...

Josh, I'm not a football fan, but I think you're selling the NFL guys short. Professional athletes get there because they're better at every aspect (talent, work ethic, pain threshold). NFL players in the 50s played hurt all the time and it's unlikely they were doping the pain away. Today would be the same but for high value painkillers that are sideline accessible and accepted practice.
Professionals of all kinds play hurt and do it well because that's what they do, drugged up or not. Period. Remember Michael Chang in the French Open in the early 90s or something lobbing his serves and continuing to play on when his legs were so cramped he could barely stand up?

Or Ali getting his fucking JAW BROKE in the first round vs. Ken Norton and fighting to a 12 round decision?

To hell with Tyler Hamilton sitting on a bike with a broken collarbone. Try getting hit in the face for a half an hour with a broken jaw.

"I can't even imagine the kind of pain he was in." - Ferdie Pacheco, Ali's doctor at the time of the Norton fight

Steve Edwards said...

I don't think anybody's going to argue over boxers' ability to withstand pain. Well, does it count if you don't actually fell pain, like Tex Cobb?

I'd probably also rather ride my bike over some mountains with a broken collar bone that play linebacker in a Super Bowl (Jack Youngblood, I think) with a broken leg no matter how much dope I had. Though, in Tyler's defense, I'm not sure I'd make that choice compared to riding for 20 straight days with a broken collar bone. I broke my collar bone. It hurts like hell. And I even like pain.

We can play the Normal Guy game. How much money would it take for you to ride in the Tour de France each day with a broken collar bone? How much would it take to break your femur, inject it with any dope you want, and then let a 250 pound fullback hit you running at full speed?

Tex Cobb said...

You think I got all this scar tissue running into cars?

Matt Withers said...

Obviously there are tons of examples of near superhuman pain tolerance. And it's probably a mix of physical pain thresholds and mental fortitude that make up these stories. I doubt outside of doping there is much you can do to actually raise personal pain threshold, but it does seem likely that the brain could be trained, if directed properly, to deal with pain when it occurs more - not sure what word to use here; efficiently?

Certainly with all the rehabbing that P3 helps athletes with they'll have ample opportunity to look at what is going on as the athlete works through pain.

Just one of many questions that leapt to mind when I read the article on what they're doing. Looking forward to what comes out of their research.

Josh said...

Yep, better at every aspect, including doping.

I sure as shit ain't saying that pro football players don't have high pain thresholds - sure they do. And I certainly want no part in having one of them run me over, much in the same way I prefer not to be run over by cars.

But hey man, cortisone shots and blow are still performance enhancers, are they not.

Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?