High-performing athletes work day-in and day-out to strengthen and condition their bodies so they can perform at their very best. It’s a grind, to say the least: put in the time in the gym and at the practice facility, lift heavy, run fast, repeat. The harder you work to push your body to its limits, the better athlete you’ll be and the better performances you will have, right?

Not so fast—athletic performance is as much about a well-conditioned brain as it is about well-conditioned muscles. If you’re experiencing brain fatigue or a decline in focus and clarity, you won’t be able to make the right decisions to achieve athletic success, no matter how game-ready your body might be.

In this blog, New York’s brain training experts at Brainnasium will help you understand the connection between the brain and the body in the world of athletic performance, and give you tips for improving your focus and clarity. By keeping your physical and mental state in great shape, you’ll make bigger athletic strides and have a better chance to do what you set out to do: win.

The Brain-Body Connection

While your muscles are responsible for actually carrying out physical motions, it’s your brain that collects and processes physical sensations of the body. Your muscles might feel totally fine, but if your brain senses fatigue, you’ll move slower and experience reduced strength.

But sports aren’t just about sheer force and athleticism—they’re about smart moves and quick decisions that put you or your team in the right position to win. Soccer is a great example here: if your brain is one step behind your body, you won’t make be able to thread that critical through ball pass behind the defense, or have the precise timing to slip past the last defender without going offsides. If you don’t take advantage of fleeting opportunities within the game, it won’t matter how physically fit you are—your brain will let you down in clutch moments, and your overall game performance will suffer. No use being athletic if you don’t put that athleticism to good use.

Winning the “Game Between the Ears”

Legendary golfer Bobby Jones has one of the most famous and important golf quotes: “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course… the space between your ears.” So you how do we win the mental battle that comes with athletic performance? Ultimately, we have to train our brains to be sharp, clear, and in tune with our bodies, and have a positive mindset that reinforces our desire for success. Let’s cover some tips that can help our brains stay fresh, focused, and prepared for the game ahead.

Rest and recover.

Your muscles need time to recover between games and workout sessions, and so does your brain. It’s mentally exhausting to get through a grueling workout session or an intense sporting event—so if you have three grueling workouts a week or four intense sporting events a month, that mental exhaustion can really add up, and it can affect your athletic performance when it matters most.

To avoid compounded mental exhaustion, it’s important to take time to rest and recover. Skip a workout or two (or ease up your workout at least), get some extra sleep, and do some other things you love outside of the sport for a few days. When your return to your regular training regimen, you’ll feel refreshed and inspired, and all that positivity and energy will help you succeed when your next game comes around.

Visualize your own success.

Do you think Michael Phelps went into his final Summer Olympics, far past his physical prime, thinking he was coming out with only silver medals? Fat chance. Phelps saw himself dominating the competition, setting new records, and further cementing his spot as the best in his sport.

In any aspect of life, it’s important to have a deep-rooted belief that you can succeed—that against all odds, you’ll find a way to come out on top. If you think you’re going to lose, and you imagine yourself losing, you’ve already lost. But if imagine yourself taking on the competition and finding a way to win, your brain will set your body up for success.

Eliminate stress.

It was clearly his own fault—Tiger Woods had an extramarital affair in 2009, and his wife, family, and the media all found out about it. What happened right after that debacle? Did Tiger come back and win his next major? Did he put up a series of stellar performances that put the golfing world on notice?

The result was quite the opposite. Tiger saw a steep decline in his golfing game—so steep, in fact, that he hasn’t won a single tournament since the scandal. He didn’t forget how to play golf, and he certainly didn’t immediately lose his strength or accuracy. The intense (self-imposed) stress he faced threw him off his game for good.

This is a very extreme example of how stress affects athletes—all it takes is a small amount of stress to take your mind out of the game. Eliminate, avoid, or tackle your stress, and you’ll have a better chance of reaching your athletic potential and finding success.

Use cognitive brain training.

When it comes to achieving that “in the zone” sports feeling, the best teammate you can have is science—and that’s where Brainnasium can help. Our cognitive brain training programs help top-tier athletes find focus, positivity, and mental clarity so they can train and perform at their very best. Get started with Brainnasium today.