3 Biohacks To Physically Exercise Your Way Into Mental Brilliance

3 Biohacks To Physically Exercise Your Way Into Mental Brilliance

I love double-dipping and stacking health benefits; anything that smells of efficiency thoroughly excites me. Examples include getting vitamin D while forest bathing or walking in nature, or perhaps you fancy a meditative trance while walking. We live in an age where brains are valued over brawn, so anything that enhances mental clarity and cognitive performance is worth its weight in gold. Instead of cheesy tricks to remember people’s names (which I also need) let’s review some exercises you can do to literally change your brain. Each of these biohacks is beneficial as a standalone fitness exercise, so use the knowledge of their brain boosting benefits as further motivation (or vice versa, depending on your values, either way you get both).

Biohack #1: Handstands

Free, fun, no equipment required, with infinite progressions, handstands are a dream come true. They offer a full swath of fitness-related benefits, but inverting your body rushes blood into your brain, building new capillaries, making it easier to get blood to your brain, which increases oxygen uptake and mental performance. Handstands also stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands, vital for hormone and body balance. Inversion tables will have the same brain blood flow benefits, but they are the clunky, expensive, lazy way to accomplish what a handstand can do (parallel to the free weight versus machine argument in the gym).

handstands, yoga

Biohack #2: Juggling

Juggling won’t tax your nervous system and fatigue you the way other exercises will, yet they offer a potent brain upgrade. Juggling enhances connections in the brain by changing the white matter (provides the electrical circuitry to connect disparate parts of the brain, sharpening concentration and enabling one of the greatest manifestations of intelligence: connecting disparate phenomena). Learning any new skill can trigger these changes, but juggling is the most universally studied and accessible to anyone. Reason #99 to never stop learning.

Biohack #3: Aerobic Exercise

This one was actually a bit disheartening to learn since I don’t sit comfortably knowing there’s an exceptionally compelling reason why I should be running more. Ignorance is bliss; I was happy just doing my high-intensity workouts, but the goal of life is to continually expand your Bounded Rationality. Sustained (20 minutes or more) aerobic exercise has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis in the hippocampus (improves learning ability). You can literally jog yourself into growing new brain cells. If that isn’t better living through science, I don’t know what is.

jogging, running, aerobic exercise

You now have the brain boost trifecta: increasing blood flow from handstands, increase white matter and effectively brain power from juggling, and increasing total neurons from aerobic exercise. You’re getting more gas pumped into the engine, a more efficient engine, and a bigger engine. I don’t give a @#$% about cars but (wo)man am I excited, and that’s what this article is all about!

 

Working Out Simplified: Why CrossFit Haters Need to Rethink CrossFit

Working Out Simplified: Why CrossFit Haters Need to Rethink CrossFit

I used to be one of them, and there’s a chance I will go back to ripping on CrossFit. As a matter of fact, I still tacitly oppose them by refusing to wear their clothing. Anything that makes me feel like another sheep in the herd makes me die 10% inside. There are things to consider. Overtraining and injury are to be watched closely with CrossFit. I also find most CrossFitters to be slightly odd people. They are nice and welcoming, so much so that they will hold you accountable missing a workout (another issue I have with them), but they are just different, a bit too giddy with somewhat uncoordinated enthusiasm.

All that said, I really wish I got on this train earlier than I did, and am here to do my best to convince you to give it a shot. CrossFit is the total body optimization: feel good, look good (lean and not too bulky), full mobility and athleticism, strength gains, VO2 max, etc. CrossFit = constantly varied + functional exercises + high intensity.

Olympic Lifting

#1 Reason to join a CrossFit gym in my opinion. Olympic lifts are a forcing function for excellent mobility, posterior posture support, and explosiveness. And in more fancy terms, they are just damn fun to do. Most gyms don’t have the requisite platforms to drop weights and do these properly. If this doesn’t get you pumped up I don’t know what will:

Gamification of Fitness

You can’t really win, and you can only level up. Be it accomplishing a new movement (handstand walk, muscle up, kipping pull-up, pistol squat, etc.) or hitting a snatch personal record, you can only advance. Simultaneously, you’re faced with healthy competition to see where you rank on any given WOD. It brings me back to my World of Warcraft days, just constantly upgrading your skills & abilities. I have a pet theory that if you’ve ever been a gamer, you’ll love CrossFit.

Gymnastics

Maximum mobility in the maximum number of planes. The least impact way to really build an impressive physique. Endless fun on rings with maximal functionality and range of motion.

Who Vs. What

If you’ve always worked out alone, without a trainer or buddy, it’s time to reconsider. In addition from the golden benefit of getting real-time instruction on form, coaching, and motivation, you are joined by a fleet of athletes trying to better themselves as you are. Even if you’ve never doubted your work ethic, particularly in the gym, I promise you’ll find yourself going harder and further than you would alone. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Mobility

As a former meat-head who thought in two-dimensions, lifting numbers and how tight my shirt felt, I completely missed the boat on what it really means to be in shape. Optimal posture, a full range of mobility, energizing movements, and other health necessities were completely lost on me, leading to lingering back pain and body alignment imbalances like the fabled Anterior Pelvic Tilt. Your body, both today and in the future, will thank you if you take heed of flexibility and mobility. CrossFit will help get you there.

Dynamic & Energizing

You will walk out of every WOD (workout-of-the-day) feeling energized and invigorated. In a world plagued by redundancy and routine, no two days in CrossFit are the same. Even the warm up is different every time, to stress-test all aspects of your flexibility. If you’ve ever walked into your workout feeling uninspired and bored of the same routine, CrossFit will smash that to bits.

 

Bottomline, it’s fun, you’ll get in ridiculous shape, and network with often ambitious and successful people. Simple answers for common objections:

“But I don’t want to overtrain. CrossFit pushes you too hard.”

Solution: Take >1 days off. Do 1 WOD every other day or a handful a week. Listen to your body.

“But it causes injury.”

Solution: Most injuries are from improper form due to inadequate mobility. As a reframe to this, be thankful that you’re getting valuable feedback where you need to improve BEFORE you get injured. There are a million “modifications” that a good CrossFit coach will offer to every exercise so stay congruent with your level of mobility and fitness.

Give it a shot and see if you catch the bug. If not, I highly recommend you pull out the 80/20 of this article and start focusing on your mobility, Olympic lifts, and gymnastic movements.

Thoughts? Feedback? Other hacks to get insane mobility?