Training isn’t just about coming in and going through a set of movements. We need to move and train with intention.
As we know, your mindset plays a significant role in the effectiveness of your training. If your mind isn’t in it, if you’re not focused, or if you’re properly aroused/psyched up, you won’t be training with the intensity you could be.
The other factor that can influence the effectiveness of your training is your body language.
Research shows that your posture impacts your mood; that adopting certain poses or postures can improve your feelings of confidence and power. The most popular research into this is by Amy Cuddy, who did a TED talk in 2016 on Power Poses, or what is also known as the postural feedback effect.
The research surmises that adopting expansive postures activates the approach system, which is one of the two systems thought to drive human thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and physiology. Activating the approach system results in greater feelings of optimism and confidence, reduced inhibitions, and increased likelihood of taking action, looking for opportunities, and seeking reward.
On the flipside, activating the avoidance (or inhibition) system by adopting contractive postures (think arms crossed, shoulders slumped etc) leads to the opposite effect, giving rise to a sense of powerlessness.
The research shows that the activation of either behaviour system can be seen in areas such as performance in stressful situations, motivation, ability to be focused, physical strength, interest in learning new things, and mood.
Application to training
Based on this, we can extrapolate and apply it to our training.
You can manipulate your training mindset based on the posture and body language you display.
For example, if you aren’t a huge fan of the airbike and then walk into the gym and see that’s what is programmed for the day, you might slump your shoulder, say a few negative words, and move slower and with less intention through your warmup. All of this is activating the inhibition system, which will likely result in a reduced training input.
Take the same example but instead of already feeling defeated, you square your shoulders, hold your chest high, and move powerfully on the bike during your warm-up, you’re creating feelings of power and activating the approach behaviour system. As a result, you will likely work harder during your session because you feel more confident, powerful, and strong.
We can also use this to our advantage during a session.
As you move through your session and start to fatigue, you might find yourself getting sloppy with technique, dropping your shoulders, and taking shortcuts with your movements. This is signalling a sense of powerlessness, activating the inhibition system. This will start a spiral effect where you get sloppy because you feel tired and then feel more tired because you aren’t moving well and have adopted certain postures.
However, if you consciously pick your shoulders up, stand tall, stay stricter with movement quality, and move with purpose and intention, you can feel stronger and more confident for the remainder of the session. So it might feel hard and you might be tired and challenged, but you have a stronger mindset as a result of stronger body language.
Your mindset plays a significant role in your training (link to previous blog) but your body language also influences this. You can say all the positive affirmations to yourself that you want but unless you are showing up powerfully and with intention, they aren’t going to have the impact on your training that you hope.
Move with purpose and intention and your brain will learn to associate training with feelings of power, strength, and confidence.