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If you have ever tried to ignore a box of doughnuts at work, you know how hard it is to keep your hands to yourself and walk on by. And once you walk on by, the battle isn’t over. Even if you are in a different room and down the hall, you can’t stop thinking about those doughnuts.
Why is it so hard to resist something as small and seemingly innocent as a doughnut? It has to do with habit—and mind set.
The draw you feel from that doughnut goes way beyond just a mild interest: you are wired to want it, and resistance is hard. In his book, The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler MD explains the breakdown:
When you taste foods that are highly palatable (such as foods containing excess sugar, fat and salt), your brain releases opioids into your blood stream. Opioids are brain chemicals that cause you to have intense feelings of reward and pleasure, as well as relieving pain and stress. The pleasurable effect is similar to the feelings that morphine and heroin users experience. The desire may be so intense that you keep taking one bite after another: it can be hard to stop.
That explains why you keep eating. But why do you give in and approach that doughnut box in the first place? Why not just refuse to take that first bite?
The answer is another brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for motivating you to seek out the doughnut so you can get the opioid release. You remember how good it tasted and how great it made you feel. Dopamine energizes you to work for that doughnut. It causes you to concentrate on it and drives you to seek it out.
Once this process happens a few times, the whole cycle becomes a habit that is very reward focused, very ingrained and very hard to break. Your brain’s circuitry has become mapped and wired to want the doughnut. And you don’t even have to be near the doughnut for this process to start--the dopamine can kick in even when there are no doughnuts in site: ever made a run to the store for a treat that you just had to have right then?
Over one-third of all adults in our country are obese. We live in a society in which we are surrounded by highly-palatable foods (think restaurant foods and processed foods). The deeply ingrained habit of eating unhealthy food and too much of it is widespread. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded not only with unhealthy food, but also with a neural circuitry that drives us to pursue that unhealthy food.
Remap your brain with mindset
And now the good news: you can start right now to change the trajectory that you are on. You can rewire your brain and begin reducing the power that those opioid-producing foods have over you. You can draw a new map in your mind that will have you passing by the doughnuts on your way to better pleasures.
The secret is mindset. You must want something else more than you want those fleeting moments of pleasure that the doughnuts bring you. What is it? What do want? Maybe you want to drop a couple of jeans sizes. Maybe you want to be off your blood pressure medication. Maybe you want to be known as an ‘athletic’ type person. Maybe you want to keep disease at bay. Or maybe you just want the immense satisfaction of being in control of yourself! People who can’t resist a doughnut have given away power over their own lives!
Once you know what you want, go after it with the following strategies:
1. Stop. There is no other way to say this: you must stop eating foods that are not in your plan. In the beginning, this will be difficult. When everyone around you is tossing back pizza and soft drinks, you will struggle. You will smell the pizza, you will be in the emotionally charged atmosphere and dopamine will be flowing in your bloodstream. Think about what you want more than that doughnut; think about what you can only have by resisting the doughnut. Sheer will-power is what you have to use at this point.
2. Savor the victory. Once you come out on the other side having successfully won the battle within your own mind, you will have accomplished much more than just saying no to a piece of pizza. You will have begun ‘cooling’ the stimulus, as Dr. Kessler puts it. You have taken the first step toward weakening the circuitry in your brain that drives you to habitual patterns of behavior. The next time, it will be easier. And after that, even easier.
3. Focus on new rewards. As you remap your brain, you are creating new neural pathways that in time will be stronger than the weakening, “doughnut-centered” pathways. Make sure these new rewards are life-giving and energy-producing, such as the thrill you get when you can run a 5K or set a PR in your weight-lifting.
You can have power over habits: it’s all about mindset. You can do this!
So how do you get your players closer to becoming a Total Athlete by developing their speed? Here’s my top five ways to develop speed and quickness in a player.
1. Teach proper speed mechanics
I rarely see a softball player that has great speed mechanics, which is too bad, because it’s the easiest way to develop a speed in any player, regardless of their natural speed.
What do proper speed mechanics consist of? The player has the ability to quickly transition from one speed skill to another, for example a shuffle to a sprint. Proper speed mechanics also regulate a correct sprinting form; a good forward lean, shoulders and hips square, knee drive at a 60% angle and a great stride.
Lastly, players need an accelerated first step quickness which allows them to react quickly within the first two steps rather than a lazy acceleration then slowly picking up speed.
2. Strength Training
One of the best ways to increase speed is to increase a player’s strength capacity. Players should and need to be on a well-developed strength program that is designed to create strength in the muscle groups involved in the running motion. Some of these exercises involved should be; squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, lateral lunges. I could go on forever but those are some great standards to develop strength in the quads, hips, glutes and hamstrings. As you choose a strength program please make sure your strength coach is well educated in designing a safe and productive program.
3. Sprint work
Yes, to become a faster player you must run sprints. Players need to start developing fast twitch muscle groups and increase their speed skills. I have seen coaches and even some trainers have their players run a mile or two to get in shape, that’s a big NO, NO. The topic here is getting faster and running miles at a time or even one mile will slow a player down. The longest I ever have player run for is two minutes, and its usually pitchers to work on endurance.
4. Agility skills
I really believe that creating the skills in a player to make a player more explosive will translate into a faster player. For example, jumping knee tucks may not seem like they would help develop speed but they absolutely do. This movement is developing initiation of the same muscle groups and fast twitch power systems used in sprinting. I also think that ladder drills are good if performed correctly, same with cones drills. The player must have a clear understanding of how to perform the drills correctly.
5. Flexibility and Mobility skills
This seems to be one of the least popular skills developed for players, though it is one of the most necessary. Mobility skills like; dynamic stretching, active dynamic, foam rolling is all piece of the speed puzzle. These skills not only prepare muscle groups and the neurological system for speed but they prevent injury, open up and lengthen muscles, and mentally prepare a player for speed work.
If you notice your teams time to first are slow, they move slowly to a ball, they don’t react quickly or are consistently getting thrown out stealing try incorporating these skills into your players development program.