Becoming fitter might be excellent for the body and soul, but if you pay attention there are innumerable gray matter gains to be had. Let Kandace Hudspeth show you how.
Ever been mid-cardio session when suddenly you find the mental clarity you’ve been seeking? That problem you’ve been trying to solve suddenly seems so simple? If you’re like me, you start talking to yourself. ‘Duh! That’s totally the answer’ or ‘Hell, yeah! What an awesome idea.’ Unfortunately, with workdays packed full of meetings and deadlines,there’s little time to dedicate the mental energy into solving a specific challenge, or just to be alone with your thoughts.
Research at the Center for Brain Health found that doing aerobic exercise, like running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike, for one hour, three times a week, improves brain function, memory and, of course, fitness. The scientists said one of the reasons this happened was thanks to improved blood flow to the brain. This is why I really look forward to my daily sweat session and the ability to zone out, listen to music and take advantage of uninterrupted quiet.
Lock down the ideas
When I look back at some of my biggest breakthrough professional moments, I find that my creativity struck hardest when I was doing cardio. I’ve learned to always have my phone with me so I can take voice notes and capture all of the ideas that surface.
I’ve also learned to maximize the time immediately after this cardio session. It’s not only during the actual cardio session that I can activate a higher level of thinking, because I’m more productive immediately post cardio and have sustained mental focus for the entire day.
Setting the alarm clock
I love to start my day with cardio, and over the years I’ve had people tell me they think I’m crazy for wanting to get up before 5am. Some days, it can be difficult to get up, but when I do rise and get moving, my entire day is more productive. There’s just something about that early morning blood flow to the brain that provides increased creative abilities, sharper decisions and a feeling of absolute readiness to dominate the day.
If an early morning alarm is a worry then you should know that getting up to exercise is a far smarter option than doing brain exercises on the way to work. In fact, research in the journal Nature found people who do brain training with puzzles, like sudoku and memory puzzles, did not get mentally fitter or perform better in problem-solving tasks. So waking up to hit the treadmill is the easiest way to have a game-changing idea that pivots a project, or even your career.
The benefit of burning extra calories is just a bonus. Run for your mind and your body will soon follow.
Five tips to harness your creativity:
1. Pick a form of cardio that allows your mind to wander: stair mill, incline walk, running, jumping rope etc. If it’s too complex, like boxing, then you’ll be concentrating on not getting punched, instead of getting new ideas.
2. Give yourself enough time to spend with your thoughts – at least 30 minutes. This will allow the runner’s high hormones to kick in and get the creative flow happening.
3. Listen to music that energizes both body and mind. The lyrics shouldn’t be too overbearing, since it’s the beats that will draw the inspiration from your mind.
4. Use a note-taking app with voice-record capability, like Evernote, because you don’t want to risk losing those ideas.
5. Dedicate 30-60 minutes post cardio to working on a specific project while your creativity is at its peak.
Find fitness tips and more in every issue of TRAIN for HER magazine.