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Why vulnerability is important for personal growth
A new picture is emerging of the way that the brain manages the body's resources and how this can be swayed by our motivation, and by our broader beliefs about our capabilities and the task ahead.
These new insights offer enticing strategies that we can all use to boost our performance and improve our experience of exercise.
Caffeine, for instance, has long been considered a muscular stimulant that can enhance performance in many sports - yet that is largely a product of our expectations about what it can do.
According to multiple studies, people can benefit from so-called open-label placebos, even though they know they are taking an inert substance.
There is no substitute for auto-suggestion, or self-belief.
Understanding the power of mind-over-muscle might lead us to reconsider some of our core underlying beliefs about our fitness. For manifold reasons, we might assume that we simply aren’t cut out for exercise.
We may have had poor experiences in gym classes at school, for example, and our feelings of inadequacy could then be exacerbated as we compare ourselves with the stronger and faster gym bunnies around us.
Scientific research shows that negative beliefs about our capacity for exercise can reduce our endurance and increase our discomfort. This will naturally make it much harder to summon the will to work out in the future.
We can also look out for ‘catastrophic thinking’ while we go about the exercise, and try to interpret feelings of exertion more objectively. If you have a dim view of your fitness, you might currently interpret the natural aches and pains and feelings of fatigue as a sign of your own ineptitude.
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