Podcast #2 – Diving into Rewire with CEO and Co-Founder, Sun Sachs

What if we could practice for those most difficult moments that we’ll face in competition. For those moments when your mind begins to unravel and self-doubt starts to creep in. How could this type of practice change our lives, not only for sports but for anything that requires mental toughness?

Sun Sachs

On this episode, Ed Gibbins sits down with Sun Sachs, CEO and Co-Founder of Rewire Fitness. Sun started Rewire over a year and a half ago and we discuss his inspiration behind the product, what the system involves and its applications in sport and in life. We also discuss current affairs at Rewire including our beta program as well as some plans for the future.

Ed: Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your background? 

Sun: Yeah, of course, so I grew up in the mecca of endurance sports in the United States: Boulder, Colorado. I spent my early years in road racing as a junior and pre-junior and then as the sport of mountain biking came into being in the 80s I started to get on the mountain bike circuit. I did NORBA, downhill, slalom, cross-country, BMX and bike trials. I competed at a national level in cyclocross and I was also a bike messenger for seven years. So the way of the bike was my life, my whole lifestyle, and as I started to develop my career, I kind of shifted into different types of endurance sports like adventure races, triathlons, long-distance swimming, and more recently I’ve transitioned into doing some alpine climbing, which I’ve been really excited about – kind of growing in that experience recently. So just a lifetime and endurance sports. And then meanwhile, I also have been in software development for 25 years, so building all kinds of products many different kinds of apps since the advent of the smartphone and many web applications, working with some great team members. So it’s a combination of being a lifelong endurance athlete and software development – I’m also kind of a performance nerd!

Ed: So you’ve lived your life on two wheels and been all across the endurance world. Can you tell us how you started Rewire and why?

Sun: Yeah, so I’ve been aware of this science for quite a long time. Basically the science around Brain Endurance Training (BET). I had really just been so excited about it from when I first heard it and had been waiting for a commercial product to come to market and it really never did. One day I was on the trainer and I had this epiphany, I just thought: “Oh, this is how it could be done!” I kind of saw it as a user interface problem – like how do you do brain endurance training while you’re also doing your workout? It’s a little bit tricky. So I got together with my co-founder Cody and we developed a prototype and within a few weeks we had something working and we’ve been at this for about a year and a half really just honing in on the software and the hardware and furthering the product with beta testing. So that’s kind of how it started. 

Ed: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really interesting how no one has sort of done anything with the mental toughness world. Every athlete knows the importance of mental toughness – when we’re talking to our athletes they say 50% to 90% of their performance (some even more) is on the mind. But, how many people actually spend time training their mind and what is there for it? So that’s what we’re going for. Can you speak a little bit more to why mental toughness is so fundamental to sports?

Sun: Yeah, of course. I mean it’s one of those things that’s almost cliche! We all know how important mental toughness is, and the traditional way to build mental toughness or resilience is to beat your body up! You can go on a five-hour ride, three-hour run – it works, but you can’t do that every day! And so, our solution is that we think of it rather than a hammer of beating your body up, it’s more like a scalpel. It’s very targeted, it targets the part of your brain that’s responsible for impulse control, for effectively managing your willpower, and your perception of effort. So what we’re essentially doing is adding more mental load to the workout, so that you adapt over time and become more resilient when you’re under fatigue. Basically, when you’re in those moments of competition or even just having a tough day, that’s when you want to be able to have that breakthrough of the wall and be able to up your game, and not have your brain be the limiter. So that’s a big part of why we develop the product. And then when you think about it, on the hardware side for sports products, at some point you can’t get a faster bike, right? You can only get so aero! At some point you just can’t put any more hours into training, what then? We’re down to the point where, with sports science which is evolved tremendously over the years, we’re down to marginal gains for athletes that take sport very seriously. What’s the new frontier? The obvious area, which has been sitting in front of us for decades, is mental performance. And so our goal is really to help athletes unleash their ultimate performance, to create opportunities for them to build their self-confidence, to build their mental resilience, and to give them practical ways to do that, with the software and the hardware combination

Ed: Definitely, when I spoke to Walter last time we spoke a little bit about David Goggins and the kind of athletes that just train their mind by pushing that body, and that’s great to a point – but bringing it into much more controlled environment is definitely needed. 
As you mentioned, you’ve been following the science for over 10 years now are there any studies have jumped out to you and really forged Rewire?

Sun: Yeah, there’s definitely quite a few. I’ll mention one that our chief scientist did where he basically took 35 amateur cyclists and he had them trained for three months. The control group trained on a trainer three times a week and the test group basically did the same indoor training but also layered on brain training. And as you’d expect in three months of consistent training the all the athletes improved, you know on the physical side. The control group improved by 40% but the brain endurance group improved by a 120% basically a 3X Improvement in performance! And what that actually translated to was five minutes longer on a time to exhaustion test, which is basically an effort where you go until you literally can’t go any longer! Five minutes is significant, 3X is insignificant. You don’t get that from an aero helmet!

Ed:  No, you don’t! Yeah, definitely and with the Rewire team being all athletes we all understand the importance of mental toughness in sports. I know when playing rugby some of my best performances of come when I really had to use my mind in the best way. And equally the other way around when failures occurred it’s because I’ve made bad decisions at that moment and having that ability to keep focused and keep mental toughness is crucial and I think when we look at the highest level of sports and the highest athletes up there, they’ve all got a certain level of mental toughness. 

Sun: Yeah, they’ve done some comparisons in one study between amateur and elite athletes basically looking at their mental resilience. And the elite or pro athletes when under a lot of mental load, even specifically during this cognitive type of training, they had a much more realistic or accurate perception of their effort and were able to maintain their physical and mental goals. Whereas the amateur athletes just didn’t have that same level of resilience built up. What’s exciting about that is that just shows that there is something cognitively that influences performance significantly and from what the science has shown it’s something that could be trained. That’s what we aim to do: create tools for athletes. The other aspect of mental toughness, there’s another study where they basically looked at all the attributes of mental toughness. On the psychological side, there are factors that are obvious and ones that are not so obvious. So self-confidence ended up being the number one attribute for mental toughness – that’s kind of obvious. But positive cognition was the second one, and that’s basically the things you tell yourself when the going gets tough. So if you start to do a negative spiral, I would say probably all of us know how that can go. But if you can shift into more of a positive mindset and keep the motivation up, that’s really where you’re going to see great results. So with our product, we also think about it in terms of mindset and in terms of mental and physical recovery.  So not only do we have a brain endurance component. We also have a tool that will help athletes sort of reset their mind or get into a positive mindset before competition. We all have our pre-race rituals and the things that we like to do to get into a good mindset and this provides tools that will help you go through those steps that help you have a calm, ready state before competition. 

Ed: Definitely! Science, over the past 10 years, is really starting to show the importance of the brain in performance. When we look at the older studies – it’s heavily focused on physiological aspects and now it’s starting to show it’s how the brain perceives that. And how we respond to that, and how we train our minds to improve performance is really starting to get crucial. And you mentioned pre-game rituals and rituals in the game. It’s really interesting because every athlete knows the importance and uses them. For myself, I have three clicks and a tap on my leg and that would be my reset button if I encountered any bumps in the road. So we all know how our mind works and we’re just needing to start to train it now. As you said we need to ‘unleash our performance’. So you mentioned the mindset recovery component of the Rewire system, can you speak a little bit more about what that involves?

Sun: Yeah, definitely! So we combine different scientifically proven protocols that will activate your physiology for recovery and get yourself into a positive mindset. They can be used either actively or passively. So for example, you can go through an exercise where we use box breathing, used by the Navy Seals, and that actually brings your body into a parasympathetic response and you can literally see your heart rate variability (HRV) improve over that session. And then we have protocols like binaural beats so you can literally just listen in your ear buds. And it’s a two-tone frequency, which follows the phenomenon known as brain entrainment, which basically your brain hears these lower-level frequencies and it tries to mirror them. So if we want somebody to get into a relaxed state we can play a theta waves binaural beat, and it is blended into some relaxing music. So it just feels like you’re listening to calm, meditative music, while at the same time, it’s entraining your brain to be in a more relaxed state. You can use it in a variety of ways: at the end of a recovery session to help you get in the right mindset, pre-training to have a positive perspective and build your confidence, you can use it before competition with a series of different steps that you can choose from to get into you in a calm, ready state. So there’s really a lot of different ways it can be used. And the other aspect of it is we track your physiology so we have some objective and subjective measures. We measure your own perception of relaxation and then also your heart, HRV and other data points. So you really can understand what’s effective and what’s working for you. Then in the future, you can basically choose the protocols that work best for you.

Ed: Can you explain in more detail about what the product is and how it’s working? 

Sun: Yeah, so it’s a hardware and software product where you basically have wireless buttons that you hold in your hands or attached to a training device like a bike, rowing machine or any number of different training equipment and then you use your smartphone to do cognitive tasks while you’re training. So you might get on a bike trainer and do a normal workout and while you’re doing that you’re layering on brain training by looking at your phone and answering these cognitive tasks questions. Then on the metrics side, we also track your physical performance, which is your objective metrics and then a number of cognitive metrics and lastly we compare all of that against your subjective rating of effort. That allows us to track your mental resilience over time, so you can really see a measurement of how you’re doing and how you’re improving. 

Ed: That last bit that you just mentioned about having that metric that tracks your mental toughness. I heard on a Joe Rogan podcast with Ross Edgley, the first man to swim around Great Britain, they were talking about “when are we going to get that metric that tracks our mental toughness”. That’s now! You’ve been training with the product since you first created it. How can you say it applies to sport and also life in general?

Sun: If you can do something that will prepare you for those moments in life when things feel like they’re unravelling and when they feel almost impossible to get through. If you can actually train for those moments, how would that impact sport, but also your life in general. Walter mentioned in his studies in the last podcast episode, the mental resilience really kicks in when you’re at a heightened level of fatigue. So what’s what it really is doing is preparing you for those toughest moments in life. Just imagine if you could do something that would prepare you for how to respond well when things get tough and to keep a calm mind and a positive outlook, the benefits would be profound. I’ve noticed definitely in sport it’s made the training feel easier. It’s made me a lot more confident going into a workout, hopefully soon a competition! And then in life too, I definitely have a busy lifestyle with this startup and my other responsibilities. And I’ve found a growing level of resilience having done this consistently now for the past year and a half and it’s really helped me just overall with my quality of life. 

Ed: The perception of effort part that you mentioned that’s critical! I spoke a lot with Walter about that last time, that sort of the piece of the puzzle that is going to increase your performance as you reduce your perceived exertion at the same intensity. So it’s a critical part of it. We’ve been running our second beta program for the past two months. Please can you speak a bit about that?

Sun: Yeah, we have a great group of men and women, elite and amateur athletes mostly in endurance sports. To top line some of their resumes and accomplishments: a former world duathlon champion and ultra runner, the current world record holder for Lands End to John O’ Groats, winners of prominent triathlons and we just recently started collaborating with an elite junior bike racing team in Europe and then quite a few coaches. We’re also collaborating with some organizations in your world, with elite and pro rugby teams. So we started to cross over into a lot of different sports and it’s really been interesting to see how many different types of athletes are interested in this! We’ve had applications to our beta program from strength athletes to tennis to sailing to boxing. You name the sport, athletes are interested in this! And now is really the time because you know, as we mentioned, this is the next frontier for performance and people are looking for that. They’re looking for new ways to get better and this area of performance is virtually untapped. So we’ve been excited and it’s been really helpful to have our beta athletes help us with improving the product and really making it seamless as possible for training and competition. 

Ed: So like we mentioned the majority of our current beta test is with a range of abilities of cyclists and triathletes. We will also be starting one with runners soon, can you speak about how the system is going to integrate with other sports? 

Sun: Yeah, definitely. So, we started with endurance athletes. Definitely partially based on my background and the sports that I know. But, we definitely see this to be a product that is applicable to all sports. And we’re building some foundational pieces to it. Right now, we have a lot of cognitive training that’s based on visual tasks, so in other words, you’re looking at the screen of your smartphone. But, we’re also adding audio-based tasks so athletes will be able to go out for a run with our brain training wireless buttons that they can hold in their hands and they can basically answer cognitive questions while they’re running or doing a variety of other sports: could be in the gym, out on the track, could be playing soccer, could be any number of sports. So we definitely aim to provide some tools that’ll make it easy and seamless for any athlete to use these tools. 

Ed: Definitely, I mean it is an exciting avenue that we’re in. A brand new field, and brand new kind of training and something for the future with the brain being the next frontier in marginal gains. Thanks for talking to me today Sun! I think we’ve got a really exciting future. It’s a really exciting new world that we’re exploring in terms of unlocking that next performance gain by training the mind, so I’m really excited and happy to be a part of it. And yeah, let’s keep it up! 

Sun: All right. Thank you so much, till next time!

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

Podcast #1: Talking Brain Endurance Training (BET) with Walter Staiano

On this episode, Ed Gibbins sits down with Walter Staiano, Rewire’s Chief Scientist, to talk about Brain Endurance Training. Walter has a Ph.D in Psychobiology of Perception of Effort and Exercise Tolerance and is the leading researcher and expert in the practical application of Brain Endurance Training (BET). His research has been featured in best-selling sports performance books including Alex Hutchinson’s ‘Endure’ and he’s worked with Olympic and World Championship teams as well as the British Military.


What is Brain Endurance Training?

BET is a cognitive training specifically designed to increase your resilience toward the sense of fatigue and perception of effort. 

How does BET work?

It works on the principle that the sense of fatigue (either physical or mental) develops in certain areas of the brain and these areas can be targeted by specific cognitive tasks and can induce an adaptation in the brain which will make the athlete more resistant to fatigue. Sense of fatigue is a key component in sport because it critically alters performance by increasing the perception of effort in completing a specific action (both physical and mental).

You were involved in some of the earliest studies on Mental Fatigue, how did you get involved in the field and is there anything that inspired you to do so?

For the most part of my undergraduate and master degrees, I focused my attention on the physical side of fatigue (muscle fatigue). However, I realized that multifaceted topics such as fatigue require multidisciplinary approaches to completely grasp the concept. In this context, by the end of my master degree, I decided to shift my attention toward mental processes of fatigue. It’s there that I met Professor Marcora and I decided to embarque in a journey to understand the link between the mental aspect of fatigue and physical performance. This set the base for what became an innovative and successful line of research across the world on the effect of mental fatigue on physical activity and sport performance. What inspired me the most was that we proved scientifically that exercise exhaustion, in particular in endurance events not mainly caused by physiological factors, instead is the results of complex brain processes that resulted in an increased perception of effort which lead to earlier exhaustion. 

Why is the perception of effort an important component? 

The research so far suggests that rating of perception of effort or perceived exertion (RPE) is a crucial component and a determinant in sport performance. The sensation of how heavy and strenuous a task is perceived is a valid and reliable tool (as good as heart rate).  Marcora et al. (2009) ‘Mental Fatigue Impairs Physical Performance in Humans’ and subsequent work from that group provides compelling evidence for that. RPE is, as well, a simple and reproducible tool for assessing training load in sport as well as military use. 

How do you know BET is working? How does it transfer into sport performance?

For many years, science has demonstrated, and it is well documented, that mental fatigue affects physical performance in several sports. More recently there is evidence that proves using a task that induces mental fatigue as a “training stimulus” to overload the brain will create an adaptation that can be beneficial when translated into sport performance. As a matter of fact, it is very well established in science that the brain can be trained as much as the body and that it is playing a key role in improving sport performance.

There is a lot of controversy in science about the transfer of cognitive drills into the specific sport. So it is sometimes difficult for coaches and sport scientists to understand how much cognitive training can actually help and transfer benefits in a specific sport. BET, however, does not work specifically on improving a specific sport capacity, instead it targets the individual’s ability to become more resilient and resistant to mental fatigue, which has a negative impact on physical performance.

Your studies have investigated the effect of BET on sports ranging from cycling to football. What have been some of your key findings and are there any findings that have surprised you?

In recent years I have collected data using BET training with football and cycling in particular. Some of the key findings that I found really interesting is that BET boosts as much the cognitive performance and the physical performance of the athletes. In the physical domain, it is effective in boosting generic capacities such as Yo-Yo tests as well as more specific ones like sprint and changing of directions. What surprised me is that it seems BET is more effective when athletes need to push while in a fatigued state. That means that this type of training really improves someone’s ability to push their limit by the end of a competition in the case of multiple events on the same day or multiple day events.   

Who can benefit from BET?

Basically everyone who is interested in increasing their level of performance and ability to be more effective in sport or in life and to be more resilient to fatigue. So it can be used by athletes to boost their physical performance, by military personnel or corporate employees to become more effective in taking decisions while in a fatigued state. So the applications are actually very vast. 

In what ways do you see BET assisting your athletes?

BET creates an additional workload outside the physical training routine and it challenges the athlete’s mental ability to tolerate stress and, when able to adapt, increase their resistance against mental and also physical fatigue. You can do these exercises wherever you are and outside regular training hours, as long as you have a mobile phone or an iPad at any time of the day. After a while, it looked that the brain found a way to adapt and handle this additional workload.

What is the most important thing you think athletes need to understand about BET?

Pain or effort perception doesn’t develop in the muscle, but in the brain and so it is worthy to train this part of the body to find a competitive edge.

It is also important that athletes understand that BET is a hard workout and is based on prolonged periods of highly demanding cognitive tasks so it is not a fun game to do for a minute or two. It has to be structured and it can be overloading as much as a high-intensity physical training session. 

There are some athletes like David Goggins that put a big focus on the mind. Essentially for them, the goal of a workout is to suffer physically to train their mind. What do you think the benefit of BET is over and above just pushing yourself and suffering?

This is a great example of how for decades athletes (as well as military personnel) have used physical training to build a mental resilience toward pain or discomfort. Indeed, this is a great and also scientifically proven method (as mental and physical exertion are linked). BET can become a great supplement training to build more resilience without taxing the body (which could lead to injury or overtraining).  

What can we learn from athletes like this and apply in our BET sessions?

Athletes have a huge drive toward improvement and to go beyond their own limit. They have learnt to deal with a lot of pain, high effort and insane levels of discomfort. As such, they explore every possible solution to gain the winning edge they need to perform better. In the last two decades (thanks to scientific and technological advancement), the brain has become the ultimate area to explore in the quest to be faster, stronger and better. In this context, BET is the result of years of research that brought to life a type of valid and reliable training method that can indeed help athletes get the edge they are looking for.  

Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

Bruce Lee

Mentioned Studies

A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brain Endurance Training (BET) to Reduce Fatigue During Endurance Exercise” 
Walter Staiano; Michele Merlini; Samuele M Marcora
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2015

“Mental Fatigue impairs physical performance in humans”
Samuele Marcora; Walter Staiano; Victoria Manning
Journal of Applied Physiology, 2009

“Impact of 4-week Brain Endurance Training (BET) on Cognitive and Physical Performance in Professional Football Players”
Walter Staiano; Michele Merlini; Chiara Gattoni; Samuele Marcora
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2019

A 101 Guide to Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are a form of brainwave entrainment that have been shown to have positive effects on stress, anxiety (1,2), focus (3), motivation, confidence and meditation (4). Binaural beats work when two different frequencies are heard, one in each ear. This creates a third tone, the binaural beat, whose frequency is the difference between the two other tones, e.g. if the tone in one ear is 400Hz and the other is 410Hz, the binaural beat is 10Hz. This binaural beat is shown to have a positive impact on the user’s mindset. It is important to note that stereo headphones are required to achieve a binaural beat since when using a speaker or non-stereo headphones the frequencies are already mixed outside the brain and hence no binaural beat is created.

The various tones of binaural beats affect the user differently. The following tones are used in the Rewire Mindset Recovery System:

  • 0.5 – 3.5 Hz – Delta wave for deep sleep
    • In a 2018 study, participants who received this frequency during sleep entered deep sleep quicker and for longer (5). This allows participants to gain more of the benefits of deep sleep including physical recovery.
  • 4.0 – 6.5 Hz – Theta for meditation/sleep
    • A 2017 study showed that even listening to a 6Hz binaural beat for just 10 minutes induced the user’s brain into a state similar to that achieved during meditation (4).
  • 7.0 – 12.5 Hz – Alpha for relaxation/dreams
    • In a 1990 study, alpha wave binaural beats were shown to have a positive influence on the user’s relaxation (6).
  • 13.0 – 38.5 – Beta for Activity            
    • It has been shown that beta wave binaural beats can positively affect vigilance performance and mood (3), and a recent 2019 study showed that beta wave binaural beats have a positive impact on long term memory (7).

Binaural beats also have a positive effect in counteracting the negative effects of mental fatigue. A recent 2020 study by Walter Staiano, Rewire’s Scientific Advisor, showed that binaural beats reduce the negative effect of mental fatigue (8). This makes binaural beats an important part of mindset recovery and pre-competition preparation in sports to minimise the negative effects that mental fatigue is shown to have on endurance performance (9,10).

We have put together a demo of our mindset recovery system featuring theta wave binaural beats which you can watch and download below.

You can also hear what binaural beats sound like raw and play around with different tones here.

References

1.        Padmanabhan R, Hildreth AJ, Laws D. A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery. Anaesthesia. 2005; 

2.        Garcia-Argibay M, Santed MA, Reales JM. Efficacy of binaural auditory beats in cognition, anxiety, and pain perception: a meta-analysis. Psychol Res. 2019; 

3.        Lane JD, Kasian SJ, Owens JE, Marsh GR. Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood. Physiol Behav. 1998; 

4.        Jirakittayakorn N, Wongsawat Y. Brain responses to a 6-Hz binaural beat: Effects on general theta rhythm and frontal midline theta activity. Front Neurosci. 2017; 

5.        Jirakittayakorn N, Wongsawat Y. A Novel Insight of Effects of a 3-Hz Binaural Beat on Sleep Stages During Sleep. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 

6.        Foster DS. EEG and Subjective Correlates of Alpha-Frequency Binaural-Beat Stimulation Combined with Alpha Biofeedback. 1990; 

7.        Garcia-Argibay M, Santed MA, Reales JM. Binaural auditory beats affect long-term memory. Psychol Res. 2019; 

8.        Axelsen JL, Kirk U, Staiano W. On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue. J Cogn Enhanc. 2020; 

9.        Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009; 

10.      Lopes TR, Oliveira DM, Simurro PB, Akiba HT, Nakamura FY, Okano AH, et al. No Sex Difference in Mental Fatigue Effect on High-Level Runners’ Aerobic Performance. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2020;Volume Pub. 

Training For The Mind: Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

To the untrained eye, the reason that we exercise is to simply improve our fitness. We lift to improve our strength and build muscle and we go on long runs, swims or rides to develop our endurance. That is what, at the most basic level, training is all about – improving our athletic performance.

Sometimes I hear people disregard rest days and the importance of recovery. I usually laugh at this as the inner scientist in me cringes. At first glance, this attitude would seem to come from the false belief that improvements in our physiology occur in the gym and whilst exercising, rather than in our sleep and time spent recovering, and for the vast majority of people, it is likely to be true that they are incorrectly taking this ‘no rest’ approach with the aim of improving their fitness.

However, to some, there is more to training than simply improving fitness. To some, training is less about the body, than it is about the mind. Take David Goggins for example, he never has a rest day, and to many, this would seem crazy and futile. But, the most important thing to him when training is the development of his mental toughness. For some people, training is not about improving their body or fitness, these are just welcome bi-products. Instead, training is about the mind. Creating a high level of suffering to develop their mental toughness and themselves as a person.

‘Who on this f**king earth would be going right now? You are! I believed it enough to where my body said: “he’s not gonna stop”.’

David Goggins

I’m certainly not suggesting that you do go at 100% all the time, and you should give yourself time to rest and recover. But we can learn a lot from the mentality shown by Goggins: we should not be using science as an excuse for slacking. In that sense, you would only be cheating yourself. We should however use the science when it is correctly applied and take appropriate recovery for the our exercise. Indeed, by its very definition, you cannot recover without putting the work in first.

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

Marcus Aurelius

If we cave in to feelings of needing to stop we our losing an internal battle with our mind, and the mind is immensely powerful. Under conditions of mental fatigue our endurance performance is shown to decrease significantly (1,2). Yet, the science shows that using Brain Endurance Training over a 12-week programme was shown to yield 3x the improvement in athletic performance in a time-to-exhaustion trial (3). By putting our mind under uncomfortable conditions and testing our mental capacities we can break the boundaries of what was previously possible.

“That’s one of my big things too is, you know, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”

Laura Kline – Rewire Athlete

References

1.        Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009; 

2.        Lopes TR, Oliveira DM, Simurro PB, Akiba HT, Nakamura FY, Okano AH, et al. No Sex Difference in Mental Fatigue Effect on High-Level Runners’ Aerobic Performance. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2020;Volume Pub. 

3.        Marcora SM, Staiano W, Merlini M. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brain Endurance Training (BET) to Reduce Fatigue During Endurance Exercise. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2015; 

Recommended Reading

Can’t Hurt Me
by David Goggins

Meditations
by Marcus Aurelius

The Obstacle is the Way
by Ryan Holiday

The Joe Rogan Experience #1212 – David Goggins

The Tim Ferriss Podcast: Ryan Holiday (#4)

An Athlete’s Guide to Looking After Yourself During​ the COVID-19 Crisis

Across the globe, people are limited, like never before, with what they can and can’t do. This has, naturally, had a massive impact on everyone’s life and health, meaning that it is more essential than ever to make sure that we tick all the boxes in terms of our health.

Exercise

During this time, it is incredibly important to keep exercising. Since (almost) all sporting competitions and events across the globe have been cancelled, it can become very demotivating to work without a goal. On top of this, with gyms closed and social distancing measures meaning that we cannot train with a partner, more barriers are in the way of our goals. The ability to overcome obstacles is what separates us as athletes.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Michael Jordan

At the very minimum, we want to maintain our fitness, however by using this unprecedented time to do more than anyone else, it distinguishes you and you will be ahead of the rest when we are released back into the sporting world again. One crucial thing to note is that it is important to do something even if it is significantly less than before. One study into resistance training showed that even when doing 1/9th of the original training, participants were able to maintain their muscle mass for the duration of a 32 week period, whereas those who did not undergo any training over 32 weeks regressed to their original muscle mass before the training plan began (1). However, now is not the time for complacency or downheartedness – we have a unique opportunity to use this time to progress and focus on our health in a way that we have never before.

It is also important to consider the positive effect that exercise has on our mental health. Exercise has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and has positive effects on mood, self-esteem and cognitive function (2). This is another of the many reasons why we should continue to exercise regularly.

Sleep

With significantly reduced social commitments it is very easy to let our sleep habits go to pot. Aside from having a negative effect on our physical and mental recovery, poor sleep quality impairs our immune system (3), something we naturally don’t want during a global pandemic. When sleeping, there are a few crucial things to take into account: consistency, appropriate length and quality – all which influence each other. By setting a consistent bedtime and wake up time you can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep as well as improving the quality of your sleep by allowing you to spend appropriate time in each sleep stage. When considering sleep length it is important to remember not only to get enough sleep but also not to get too much, having too little or too much sleep is associated with worse health (4). We cannot ‘store’ sleep and so once we have achieved all the sleep we need, sleep is essentially a waste of time and time that we can utilise for better purposes. When considering appropriate sleep length it can also be helpful to think in terms of 90-minute cycles, rather than hours – a more accurate representation of our sleep. You can use an app such as SleepCycle to track your sleep and wake you up at the lightest point so you feel free and ready to start the day. It is crucial to practice good sleep habits, try to turn off blue light sources as you prepare to sleep so as not to interfere with melatonin secretion, which is inhibited by the presence of blue light. To read more on sleeping efficiently, click here.

Nutrition

Strictly speaking, the immune system cannot be boosted through vitamins. However, vitamins can be used to support normal immune function. Whilst it might not be necessary to supplement vitamins or minerals, it is important to get a sufficient amount in your diet, and if you are unable to achieve suitable levels with your diet, then consider changing your diet or supplementing. Essential vitamins and minerals for supporting immune function are copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D (5). You might find it useful to use an app, such as Cronometer, to track your micronutrient intake and highlight deficiencies. One vitamin to highlight in particular is vitamin D, which we get from sunlight. Considering the lockdown measures that many countries have put in this creates a challenge, particularly knowing that in normal circumstances 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D (6). If you have a garden, try to use it throughout the day or if your current government regulations allow, try to get outside, whilst abiding by social distancing measures. If you are unable to get outside, then consider supplementing vitamin D. Overall maintaining a healthy diet, rich in the relevant nutrients can help to maintain immune function during this crucial time.

Mindfulness

During this strange period, it is easy for us to become stressed and distressed by the circumstances. To help combat this, set aside some time daily to practice mindfulness and breathing exercises. Mindfulness can help us to reduce stress (7), something that we all will be facing to varying extents with the forced change in lifestyle. At Rewire, we have been developing a Mindset Recovery System. This involves guided box breathing exercises (a Navy SEAL technique) to help reduce stress (8) and binaural beats which help to counteract the negative effects of mental fatigue (9).

We have put together a demo of these to help with your mindfulness during this difficult time, which you can access using the following video.

To read more about the positive effects of mindfulness, click here.

Overall, it is incredibly important to stay healthy and active during these uncertain times. Try to create structure in your life where structure lacks and use this unique time effectively to improve yourself without social pressure.

References

1.        Bickel CS, Cross JM, Bamman MM. Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptations in young and older adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2011. 

2.        Callaghan P. Exercise: A neglected intervention in mental health care? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 2004. 

3.        Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The sleep-immune crosstalk in health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2019; 

4.        Kim CE, Shin S, Lee HW, Lim J, Lee JK, Shin A, et al. Association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome: A cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2018; 

5.        British Dietetic Association. COVID-19 / Coronavirus – Advice for the General Public. 2020. 

6.        Forrest KYZ, Stuhldreher WL. Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutr Res. 2011; 

7.        Astin JA. Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation. Psychother Psychosom. 1997; 

8.        Stinson A. What is box breathing? Medical News Today. 2018. 

9.        Axelsen JL, Kirk U, Staiano W. On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue. J Cogn Enhanc. 2020;