How to Train your Autonomic Nervous System for Peak Performance

“Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda

Our brain is a complex organ that manages to control each and every muscle of the body. Every movement, perception and reception of enormous amount of data is all done by the brain. With so many things to do, it is surprising that all the tasks are to be are performed are delegated to the nervous system.

The whole system is called the peripheral nervous system. This system is divided into two parts; the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

As athletes we focus almost entirely on the somatic nervous system. (Voluntary muscles) but how do we train and why do we overlook our autonomic nervous system? The autonomic system carries out the functions below the conscious level (i.e. the heart and lungs). And how does control of this help?

To evaluate both systems being used watch the ski biathletes in the Olympics. They skate ski and their heart rates are high. Then they stop and shoot. Immediately they drop their heart rates. How? With focus and intent and practice, they are able to drop their energy and regulate their autonomic nervous system.

Athletes can drop energy output and increase power

With every athlete I work with I advise them to drop their energy and increase their power; through this focus and intent there is increased awareness and power that lies below the conscious level. Professional Ironman Triathletes Angela Duncan Naeth and Mirinda Carefrae have been able to find more strength in this manner. The whole point of triathlons is to go fast easily. The ability to go fast at a low heart rate is critical.

The ability to consciously lower your heart rate during a race will yield a more efficient energy output improving your endurance and performance.

Here are some techniques to try:

It is estimated that we only use about 10% of our brain power and the dominant untapped potential of the subconscious lies underneath the surface. Undiscovered and underused is this vast reservoir of knowledge and experience. However, guided mediation, music, or relaxation can take us to these unknown shores. Go there.

“Close both eyes. Now see with the other eye” Rumi

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