Most people wouldn’t believe that you could stand and build your stamina.
This week, what I want to talk to you about is a continuation of our ideas on stamina building. Most people wouldn’t believe that you could stand and build your stamina.
Today, I want to talk you about a research study that’s really about how powerful the mind is in building your stamina, not only for physical exercise but for resilience in the face of life’s challenges. Let me set the stage for you.
A number of years ago, a researcher started looking at high performers; Navy Seals, triathletes, iron man triathletes et cetera. He was looking at their brains in a functional MRI to go hey, how is it that their brains work that’s maybe different from an office worker?
He looked at a bunch of different people, Navy Seals, triathletes, office workers. Basically, they put a little challenge to them. They put a mask on them. They told them at some during this test, while we’re studying your brain we’re going to cut off the air supply.
What started to happen, and what was very noticeable, is activity in one part of the brain called the insular cortex. This part of the brain, basically what it does is it pays attention to your internal body sensations.
What would happen is when the warning came, the Navy Seals and the triathletes, that part of their brain, the insular cortex would get a big burst of blood. Basically, it said hey, what does the body feel like right now. Then as their restricted breathing occurred the blood supply decreased in that area.
In essence, what they were learning is that their brain was saying hey, I know something tough is coming so I’m going to make sure that I don’t over-think this. I’m not going to get overly emotionally involved in it. Then they compared that to office workers, and their brains actually worked completely the opposite way, which basically showed that when they were under stress, their brain paid even greater attention to what they were feeling rather than less attention. The other part of the brain that got involved in this is called the ACC. Basically, that deals with emotion regulation.
What they figured out was that the Seals and triathletes were able to stay more relaxed and less emotionally involved in the stress process.
They said all right, we wonder is it training, or is it genetics and makeup that makes that happen? They then ran some tests in 2011. They took a bunch of Marines, and they basically put them through a mindfulness training process to help them really pay attention to their internal sensations and in the world. What they found was that after, I believe it was eight weeks of training that Marines’ brains looked really similar to the Navy Seals when this test occurred. Then further training from there, they showed increased performance in endurance efforts.
What does this mean to us? It’s pretty simple. It means that we can actually build perseverance. We can build physical stamina by learning how to run our sensations better.
What I’m going to do today is give you one simple exercise to do for the rest of December. Once you’ve done it, you can actually start to notice a significant difference often in your ability to handle stress much more peacefully, and with less physical discomfort than ever before.
The exercise sounds super-simple. What it is, you can do it standing or seated, but in the study that was done, they did it standing. They would have the soldier stand up, and they would have them spend 5 to 10 minutes focusing on the feeling of their feet on the ground. That’s it. Whenever you focus internally, that activates that part of the brain called the insular cortex.
They put a timer on. This is what you need to do. I would recommend that you not start with 10 minutes, but maybe set a timer for 1 minute. Stand up, and just notice what your feet feel like on the ground. You can also have a conversation about where do I feel more weight, is there anything that’s uncomfortable, is anything tight?
You’re trying to do this in a really nonjudgmental way, just saying what do I feel? Once you’re able to work up to doing this maybe 5 to 10 minutes, you then begin shifting back and forth. This is actually the really key piece. It is called attention shuttling, my ability to focus on my body, focus on the world around me, focus back on my body.
The goal is once you reach 5 to 10 minutes of really being able to focus on your feet, you then open your eyes, you look around, you think about what you’re seeing in front of you. After focus on the world for one or two minutes, you then go back to focusing on your feet.
Normally, like I said, this type of training takes place over six to eight weeks, and you try and do it daily to build this concept into your brain. What we’ve learned over time is that when you do this kind of exercise, not only does your internal sensation become more accurate, it gives you greater emotional control, so that whenever you’re faced with something more difficult, rather than having your brain overreact and freak out, and go oh my gosh, this is terrible, it has a much more accurate view of what’s happening and you’re able to stay more calm under stress.
You don’t have to want to be a Navy Seal to do this exercise. From my perspective, everyone’s life is stressful. Whether you’re an executive, whether you’re going through medical treatment for something that’s greatly uncomfortable, it doesn’t really matter. What it comes down to is understanding how our brains process this kind of challenging information, and knowing that there are some simple things that you can do to give you greater control in your life.
That’s it. You can stand your way to greater stamina. That’s the idea here.
If you have any questions about this drill, we’re going to give you an article to read around it also. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
If you have any questions about how to apply it in your life, what it means to you please let us know. Otherwise, I hope you have a fantastic week.
I look forward to talking to you soon. Thanks.