Life Lessons from the World of Exercise Physiology

?Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.? ~John F. Kennedy

In honour of those words, I believe that when it comes to elite performance, a large number of concepts from the world of exercise physiology are transferable to all areas of life and not simply physical performance. Here are a few that I believe are especially relevant:

FIND YOUR PASSION: In athletic endeavours this might be a sport, but elsewhere it could be a profession or a hobby. What they all require is an excellent knowledge of oneself in order to discover what drives you.

DISCIPLINE IS EVERYTHING: When you discover what you truly enjoy, motivation should come in abundance, but discipline is what will ultimately determine whether you persevere in successfully pursuing your goals.

: These two will decide how long you continue to fight for your goals. There may come days where you feel downbeat, less than energetic or face setbacks, but continuing to fight through such periods builds character and confidence.

INTENSITY TRUMPS VOLUME (GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE): Every performance gain whether physical or cognitive comes from pushing your limits. This means adopting actions that move you out of your comfort zone, to the very limits of and beyond perceived capabilities.

KEEP MEASURING: You need to have a performance indicator as a guide to whether you are improving your performance and advancing towards your goals. This also acts as an excellent motivator in continued dedication towards self-improvement.

CHANGE IT UP: Keep doing the same thing over and over again and you'll eventually hit a plateau. Boredom will also creep in and become a problem. To stay mentally fresh and advance, every once in a while you will need to introduce new and different challenges and experiences.

TUNE OUT THE DOUBT: When others can't understand what drives another person to keep fighting through all of the above, they will question that person's motivation. And if they can't see themselves succeeding in a specific endeavour, they won't expect that individual to be able to either.

FOOD IS FUEL: Skip meals, eat junk and ignore your body's nutrition requirements, and you will likely perform at a sub-optimal level. The brain is no different to the rest of your body in that it thrives on high quality nutrition. One recent study has even indicated that our willpower and focus may be determined by our blood glucose levels.

DON'T SKIMP ON SLEEP: This also comes down to discipline, but there exists a large volume of studies indicating that inadequate sleep leads to a decline in a wide variety of cognitive performance indicators, including memory, speed and quality of decision-making. Anyone can work, but maximal and elite performance should always be the ultimate goal, and for that you need an adequate, consistent and high quality sleep schedule.

Taking on these practices is by no means an easy feat, but if high-level performance is what you seek, adopting and adapting these measures will ensure that you take a major step towards achieving any goals that you might have in life.

Photo: Pieter Baert

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