Flex Your Men­tal Mus­cle

Muscle & Performance - - Brand Spotlight -

als who learn to fight back against neg­a­tive thoughts by search­ing for a more pos­i­tive spin, while also mak­ing sure to re­flect and act on gen­uine con­cerns and prob­lems, are more re­silient to stress.

Lew Lyon, PH.D. and vice pres­i­dent of Sports Medicine at Med­star Health, which treats pros on teams in­clud­ing the Bal­ti­more Ravens, Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals and Wash­ing­ton Wizards, ad­vises his ath­letes to prac­tice tech­niques such as pro­gres­sive mus­cle re­lax­ation ( you fo­cus on slowly tens­ing and then re­lax­ing each mus­cle group). He also sug­gests guided im­agery (a tech­nique in which you form men­tal images to take a vis­ual jour­ney to a peace­ful, calm­ing place or sit­u­a­tion) to help re­duce the stress of com­pe­ti­tion and pre­vent burnout.

“A grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies show that you can use such spe­cial­ized stress re­duc­ing skills to help con­trol your mind,” says Lyon. Deep breath­ing and med­i­ta­tion are two im­por­tant tech­niques that can help re­duce your re­sponse to stress.

The most pro­duc­tive way to think about stress is to learn how to gain con­trol over the mo­ment. Be­ing in con­trol of the mo­ment is a very im­por­tant part of whether or not you will feel stressed by a spe­cific event. If you can learn how to feel that you’re in con­trol of a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion, you can help re­duce your over­all stress re­sponse (see the side­bar Zoned Out).

Biomarker Anal­y­sis

One of the more rev­o­lu­tion­ary new tools in the ath­lete’s re­cov­ery ar­se­nal is biomarker anal­y­sis. Biomark­ers (sci­ence-based blood an­a­lyt­ics that are linked to in­jury, well­ness and per­for­mance) are used to mon­i­tor and pre­dict health states in in­di­vid­u­als. Ev­ery bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tem (for ex­am­ple the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem, meta­bolic sys­tem or the im­mune sys­tem) has its own spe­cific biomark­ers. Many of these biomark­ers are rel­a­tively easy to mea­sure and form part of rou­tine med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions. For ex­am­ple, a gen­eral health check may in­clude as­sess­ment of blood pres­sure, heart rate, choles­terol, triglyc­erides and fast­ing glu­cose lev­els. Body mea­sure­ments such as weight, body mass in­dex and waist-to-hip ra­tio are rou­tinely used for as­sess­ing con­di­tions such as obe­sity and meta­bolic dis­or­ders.

Biomarker anal­y­sis is now be­ing used by many top pros to help keep them at peak per­for­mance lev­els. Brian Moore, PH.D., the founder and CEO of Or­reco, a pi­o­neer in the field of sports and data sci­ence, says that in any sport the trick to op­ti­miz­ing per­for­mance comes down to find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween load or stress and your re­cov­ery. Find­ing and main­tain­ing that bal­ance is unique to each in­di­vid­ual, and it can be­comes more com­plex for peo­ple who are also balanc­ing the de­mands of fam­ily and full-time jobs.

“Ul­ti­mately, biomark­ers are in­flu­enced by is­sues such as liver func­tion, hor­monal im­bal­ances, thy­roid prob­lems and mus­cle tis­sue dam­age,” says Andy Barr, DPT, the owner of In­no­vate Per­for­mance in Los An­ge­les.

That’s why one of Barr’s im­por­tant “three pil­lars” of high per­for­mance deals with an ath­lete’s nu­tri­tional sta­tus in­clud­ing proper hy­dra­tion; ad­e­quate car­bo­hy­drate, pro­tein, and fat in­take; and es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als such as vi­ta­min C and mag­ne­sium. When an ath­lete’s pro­file starts to show spe­cific biomark­ers of fa­tigue and overuse such as high lev­els of white blood cells, Barr might add omega-3 sup­ple­ments to his or her diet to help re­duce the amount of in­flam­ma­tion in the body. In ad­di­tion, Barr states, “A good pro­bi­otic is im­per­a­tive for pre­vent­ing leaky gut syn­drome that can cause all sorts of in­flam­ma­tory is­sues through­out the body.”

“A grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies show that you can use such spe­cial­ized stress re­duc­ing skills to help con­trol your mind,” says Dr. Lew Lyon. Deep breath­ing and med­i­ta­tion are two im­por­tant tech­niques that can help re­duce your re­sponse to stress.

One of 'r. Andy Barr’s im­por­tant ´three pil­lars” of high per­for­mance deals with an ath­lete’s nu­tri­tional sta­tus in­clud­ing proper hy­dra­tion; ad­e­quate car­bo­hy­drate, pro­tein, and fat in­take; and es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als such as vi­ta­min C and mag­ne­sium.

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