How to Keep Your Brain Lean and Toned like an Athlete

Written by Oklahoma DaVinci scholar, Director of Launch Academy, and University Guest Speaker

Forget working out for hours everyday, chugging protein shakes, and consuming enough water to fill a camel (unless of course you like that).

Keeping your brain lean and toned is not nearly as intense as pre-season training for an athlete, but it is just as important. Taking some terms from the fitness realm, incorporate these 4 brain-toning exercises into your day:

1. Circuit Training

Your Body: In circuit training, athletes will do strength-building exercises and then, without resting, immediately go to doing another exercise. An example would be doing bicep curls and then immediately going topush-ups. They’ll usually do 4-6 exercises in one circuit. Remarkably, this not only increases their strength but burns fat like crazy! And the best part: The fat-burning effects last AFTER the workout.

Your Brain: When doing homework or just problems in general (as I know all high schoolers do), practice going through them as fast as you can (with accuracy!) and then immediately jump to another subject and do those as fast as you can ! (That’s crazy!) Just like in the gym, you don’t start by trying to curl 75s. You start small and work your way up. Maybe do 5 math problems and then 5 history problems. And just like with your body’s benefits, the problem-solving muscles keep improving AFTER your workout.

2. Supersets

Your Body: Supersets are done when you work out a muscle for a certain amount of reps and then IMMEDIATELY switch to another exercise that works out that same muscle again. An example would be doing bench presses for your chest and then immediately going into push-ups. They’re intense, they hurt, but they get enviable results. Great for if you’re trying to put on muscle.

Your Brain: After you’ve finished doing your homework, go back and do a few more problems (what?!). Yes. This can help you so much because not only are you working your brain out more than the other students but you’re telling your brain, “Hey, I’m going to learn this stuff one way or another, so start learning.” The problems don’t have to be super difficult (after all, you just did your homework), but somewhere around the “problem #7” range is good.

3. Dynamic stretching

Your Body: Ever watch the summer Olympics? Ever notice how the swimmers stretch before they start swimming? They don’t stand there and stretch out like you did in elementary school P.E. They’re active! They swing their arms, jump in place, rotate from side to side – this is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching gets the most results after a workout (actually, it can be harmful before the workout). It helps your muscles recover more quickly and make your next workout all the more productive.

Your Brain: After doing your homework or even learning in class, do some quick mental exercises (and I’m talking EASY mental exercises). Go through your times tables. Add up the number of shoe laces in the classroom. Recite the state capitals. Go through the water cycle. Mentally practice your arpeggios. These little mental stretches can help calm your cerebral exhaustion and keep you from experiencing the dreaded “school fatigue.”

4. Low-Carb Diet

Your Body: Atkins. South beach. Why do low-carb diets work anyways? In short, carbs are what makes you store fat. No carbs = no fat storage. That sounds amazing and all but try going a day without eating any carbs (it’s pretty much impossible). So carbs aren’t bad, but less of them can help you get that 6-pack and lean, sleek look you’ve worked for. A low-carb diet forces you to burn fat and makes your body work much more efficiently.

Your Brain: Just like carbs are responsible for you storing fat, extra-curricular stuff can be responsible for you grade being a B instead of an A. Now, I’m not saying cut out fun, socializing, and after-school stuff altogether – those things are vital. But limit them. If you want your academic 6-pack, you have to be disciplined about it and limit the extras. And, just like with cutting carbs, it won’t be easy – but the payoff will be worth it. Fill up that extra time with more beneficial things – reading a book, watching the discovery channel, learning how to draw a portrait, going on a bike ride, and other things that allow you time to yourself to reflect on your own dreams and goals and the things you’ve learned in your academics.


When it comes down to it, you are the final authority on what you learn and, until you take control of it yourself, you will always be at the mercy of a textbook or teacher.




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