performance coaching

The brain decides the effort you can give

Psychological or physical skills in elite sports?

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When most elite players have amazing conditions to train, best of trainers, great physique, who will win?

The winner will always be someone who either

  1. outlasts others (over years of athletic career, injuries, bad timings, preparations, life events) over the years of competing.
  2. someone who can be more focused, has better mindset, and stronger mental control over his/her physique and mind.

We all know that elite athletes are prone to have several injuries, physical inuries during their sports career. What is less known is that psychological demands are far worse and are also one of the reasons some athletes have more physical injuries. Psychological challenges and disorders are often the result of lack of knowledge, bad culture and treatment from the sporting environment, stigma and lack of support system for athletes. Let’s change that!

The Brain issue

I recently read in an article (Andreas Ströhle, 2019) how at any maximal effort moment, about 60% of the active muscle mass is recruited. That means that the central “governor” of the exercise regulation is the brain who controls the motor units and fatigue as a sensation to ENSURE THAT THERE IS ALWAYS RESERVE before a catastrophic failure of homeostasis develops during physical activity and exercise.

In one hand, our brain is always more aware of the effort we can give physically and always tries to keep us in line. At the same time, that means physically we have 40% more to give and even though we think we are giving our 100%, that is not really it.

Healthy maximal effort

To start giving your maximum effort you must understand that maximum effort does not mean killing yourself at all cost, just to get that one win. Maximum effort is constantly, slowly, healthily working on your mental and physical capacities, extending them in a way that it is safe and gives you a chance of long-lasting career. Thus, mental training, the training of your psychological skills will help you maximize the physical potential and do it longer. That is what I call healthy maximal effort.

Ströhle, A. (2019) Sports psychiatry: mental health and mental disorders in athletes
and exercise treatment of mental disorders. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (2019) 269:485–498


About the Author


Performance coach, blogger and activist.

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