Pushing yourself, planning your day and training your brain

This newsletter is a little bit of a download, with some important clinical pearls scattered throughout. I hope you enjoy it.

Take home messages:

  • Don’t pander to the modern shortened attention spans by shortening them further for people – push people to learn more, concentrate harder and involve themselves in activities which stretch their capacity.
  • Plan your day before entering into devices and answering emails.
  • Set aside some time each day for brain training, n-back training and reading.
  • When you train do just enough, not too much to allow sufficient time for other activities listed above or to allow more time to recover generally from your training sessions.

Lots of life is about layers, layers of complexity when you learn new things – layers of intensity when you progress with fitness or flexibility.

Knowing where you are in your layered approach means you’ll know how to do just enough to get an effect not too much to hamper adaptation.

All of these can be trained by pushing up against the most recent limits of your capacity in that area.

Nudging your thresholds is important rather than trying to smash through them all the time, this is because over-reaching too frequently or too aggressively makes recovery harder.

Systems help us do this well, as we can trust the system once built to deliver returns. Tracking recovery and progress gives us the awareness we are following the right path and the reassurance we are being well supported and coached.

If your system results in a record amount of injuries in pre-season then maybe you need to hire a new coach?

Not got a system? A pioneer? Don’t worry you can build as you go. The most important thing is action……

Layer Cake & Layers of Stress

When pushing our limits further we can think about this in terms of stripping off layers of toughness or complexity before delving deeper into new realms, bigger weights and more difficult problems.

Each time we delve deeper we are activating new tissue or territory. If we don’t strive for something greater than we already have then atrophy can occur. We’ll go backwards by doing the same thing at the same intensity all the time.

If we delve too deep reaching our capacity or tolerance levels, we will either need to break from the task and recuperate or risk diminishing performance or even injury.

We can apply the layer cake principle to learning, training and adapting to new stressors. Bearing in mind the essential phrase “if it does not kill you, it will make you stronger”

Knowing how fat to push means keeping detailed records.

Stress + Recovery = Resilience.

Interestingly the layers of stress model is employed really excellently in this model focussed on dog training. Just like us dogs need a strong base from which they can be adapted and remodelled.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back” interesting phrase which means you push your capacity to hard from too many angles then something small can cause a breakdown.

This can be a small tweak in your back picking up a towel or an angry outburst due to combination stressors.

In both these situations, inadequate attention to recovery behaviours is often the cause.


Lacking the lower levels of support means higher levels of function under stress are less likely and the top can blow off in this situation. Building a foundation of health and resilience means a higher capacity or threshold for stress resistance.


In essence foundations of trust and security allow a base from which we can strive into the unknown and excel.

For children and puppies we can expect good owners and parents to build this essential base for strength. Once this is built though – self-sufficiency and self-awareness need to guide us moving forwards.

One cannot constantly rely on others for a foundation of trust and security we have to build these ourselves at some stage.

In a team situation this might mean the team can adapt to challenges on the pitch as they present themselves. No amount of set-pieces can teach you this game craft. The international teams who excel are the ones who can adapt in real time to new challenges.

A big part of this is how mentally prepared each individual is – mental preparation involves training to maintain attention. Just one mistake, perhaps due to shorter attention spans generally can cost you a game, test-match or bout.

In an age of uncertainty, you can build your foundations by keeping to a routine. Start with the simple stuff…. Build up from there.

Onion example

We’re easily distracted, and our attention spans are decreasing rapidly, some scientists saying a goldfish can concentrate on something longer than the average human being.

This is an excellent visual about our attention span: https://www.wyzowl.com/human-attention-span/

Too many tasks and pieces of information keep us from staying on point on task if you like.

If you check your emails before planning your priorities and daily tasks, then you are basically setting yourself up for a reactive day rather than a staying on the front foot day.

The power of Less. Is a great book which helps us pretty much pick 3 key principles you are going to apply to your daily ritual to do well each day.

We hear the work resilience bounded about a lot these days. As I’ve mentioned before this state can be achieved by the combination of stress + recovery.

No stress = no need for adaptation and then you’ll lack resilience. Lack of priority around recovery systems, no recovery = no adaptation.

Progressive overloading of stress is important so as we don’t overwhelm the body’s recovery systems. As we progressive overload any system we build increased work capacity, tolerance, resilience and thresholds are increased.

Just enough, not too much. When we injure ourselves which often happens for people who constantly strive for more, the road back to full capacity shows this threshold theory in good light. You do what you can through a pain free range of motion gradually pushing and building more movement, strength, then speed and power. Each session taking yourself up to the safe limits of your injury, then backing off, resting and repairing.

The other phrase is sometimes called “stimulate don’t annihilate”

When training higher intensity endurance our lactate threshold can be pushed higher. When trying to lift more weight in less time with shortened rests our work capacity is increased.

The fastest way to increase fitness is to exceed your VO2 max in interval style training.

However, if this is too hard or you cannot hack the intensity due to lack of fitness capacity then you need to go back to building the base up again. Cycling lower intensity and higher training in your weekly cycle.


When trying to build muscle we need to push ourselves to be able to lift the maximum weight for 6-8 reps, although hypertrophy can occur in muscle fibre types across all phases, endurance, fast twitch and intermediate, lifting as much as you can for 6-8 reps seems to be one key for muscle growth.

Training at a lower intensity you can greasing the grove as it were Pavel style, keeping a couple of reps in the bag – means you can train more frequently and build a strength reserve, meaning every now and again for competition you max out and drive yourself to lifting 10-20% higher then your standard routine practices. Don’t get me wrong greasing the grove is still hard work…. Example listed below of this style of training.

In terms of the Power of Less. We could apply the principles of 3 to this situation;

3 exercise at different positions of flexion.
3 sets per exercise challenging different muscle fibre types and energy systems.
3 seconds lowering the weight on each set.

To build muscle we can either look to use maximal training intensity e.g. 3 sets of 10 rep max, or we can do higher volume say 5 sets of 80% max. You can usually train harder and shorter or longer and less intensively (still working hard) to achieve muscle density and volume increases.

The type of training you choose to do will depend on preferences; e.g. do you enjoy being in the gym? Or time pressure, e.g. do you need to get maximum stimulation for adaptation in the minimum amount of time? It’s good to have both in the locker. Use the one you prefer doing most of the time, then if you are travelling, busy on projects you can switch to abbreviated higher intensity training to keep your strength and fitness levels tip top. Just warm up properly.

You could actually stimulate maximum work capacity and muscle fibre stimulation with 2 sets. 1 higher rep set to pre-fatigue and 1 all out set at maximum weight for maximum reps to failure. This is called heavy duty or sometimes abbreviated training principle. Popularised by Mike Mensa, Stuart Mc Robert, Randall J. Strossen's Super Squats all those guys.

To continue to progress we need to continually challenge ourselves.

Why challenge yourself harder than necessary for optimal adaptation?


Attention Spans can also be trained upward or downward. Today these are tending to reduce. With the TV, emails and internet pandering to lower attention spans and very simple messages there’s little capacity to expand your grey matter from screen time like this.

My good friend Adelaide Goodeve, an awesome coach and triathlete is very well versed in helping individuals and athletes train this part of the brain.

N-back training is different as are most brain training style apps. This style of training can help increase attention span. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23184506/

The internet is also bad for this as shopping on the internet can be a case of click, click, click as the brain is stimulated each time for new images and colour. A bit like gaming too. Adverts and music videos are very similar, images are switched on a maximum 3 second turnaround, of all the screen time activities, watching a film or gaming require longer attention spans, at least some games require extended focus along with creativity on the task in hand.

Sitting still and reading a book for an extended period is also a great way to increase attention span and relax too.


We can see the threshold principle applied to health conditions too. Obviously there’s a threshold for diagnosis, when we become dysfunctional or diseased in an area this area has ceased to function optimally.

This is often because the area has become overwhelmed, just as in general stress. This can come from a variety of sources, you’ll see in the vicious cycle of chronic toxic overload you can have stress from poor food, toxins, oxidative stress, poor gut function, emotional stress, yeast, then to treat your inflammation or fatigue;

Pain killers
Anti-inflammatory medication

If you are suffering or want to optimise your own health and wellness please do contact me for a consultation at matt@aminoman.com