On Becoming Superhuman: Using Jedi Mind Tricks To Increase Performance

September 20, 2pm- University of Western Australia, Perth. I’m walking into the University’s Sports Science Lab. This is my first time in a sports lab, and I feel like I’m entering the scene of a Gatorade commercial.

I’m here to take a VO2Max test, which will measure my maximum aerobic capacity- an endurance athlete’s lifeblood. This test is known to be unforgiving: it’s going to show without a doubt how fit I really am.

I’m excited about the whole thing, but also kinda scared.  According to my Dad, an accomplished endurance athlete in his own right (and one of the toughest guys I know) VO2Max tests are “horrible, and they make you feel like a quitter.” Uuuh. Good thing I’ve been working out my “Fear Muscle” lately to help me keep my nerves under control.

On the bright side, the lab has a nice view on the campus’ outdoor pool, and the lab’s speakers are blaring good tunes. I’m digging this Feel Good set-up.

The official reason I’m taking this test is because I’m volunteering to provide data for a research project on muscle fatigue.

The unofficial reason? I want to get some free data to help me evaluate some of the experiments I’ve been running in my own training.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been training for endurance sports my whole life. I was a high-level swimmer, reaching the National Junior Team for Canada in 2005. Lately, I’ve been training for the Anaconda Adventure Race (13km trail run, 2km ocean swim, 13km ocean kayak, 32km mountain bike, 2.5km beach run). Because this race is more challenging than anything else I’ve ever done before, I’ve decided to step up my training a notch.

But not the traditional way, by training more or taking some crazy supplements. No- instead, I’ve started complementing my physical training with Eastern mindfulness techniques to strengthen my mind in addition to my body.

Endurance sports & spirituality… Unlikely combination? Definitely. Effective? Well, we’re about to find out!

And the only way to really find out is to push myself to the limit, and CRUSH this test.

Here’s how the test works: Using a stationary bicycle, I have to pedal at a set intensity for 3 minutes, then increase by 25 watts to reach the next “level”. I change levels every 3 minutes, until eventually I can’t generate the power required (or collapse). Nice & simple.

I ask the researcher how long the test should take. She tells me, “about 15 minutes”. Short & sweet. Perfect.

I get settled with the astronaut-like breathing tube, which will track my oxygen intake as the intensity increases. I put on the “nose-pincher” to make sure that the data will be as accurate as possible.

Now I really feel like I’m in a Gatorade commercial! Let’s do this!

All geared up and ready to go, I start at 125 Watts for 3 minutes. From there, I work my way up  to 150, 175, 200 Watts over the next 9 minutes. So far so good. I’m staying relaxed by listening to the 2 researchers share stories from their weekend.

At the 12-minute mark, things start getting interesting. I’m generating 225W of power and pushing the pace a bit. I start sweating, and that’s when I know it’s time to deploy my Jedi Mind Tricks: a set of mental techniques I’ve gathered over the last few months through my daily practice of meditation and yoga, and which I’ve adapted to the context of high-intensity effort.

The first Jedi Mind Trick is something I call active-relaxing meditation.  The idea is to relax all the parts of my body that are not involved in the effort. In this case, while my legs are pedaling hard, the rest of my body is absolutely relaxed and tensionless. I achieve this by focusing on exhaling deeply while visualizing my body totally limber and loose. This trick ensures that no energy goes to waste.

I then unleash the Second Jedi Trick: the Breaths of Giants. On each breath, after I exhale, I inhale deeply, from my belly all the way to my upper chest, to maximize my air intake.  As we learn in yoga and meditation, most humans naturally use poor breathing patterns  (chances are you are breathing sub-optimally as you read this). This means that it’s our responsibility to learn how to breathe better. This is important for everyday life (to more relaxed and focused), and when doing an aerobic sport such as cycling and running.

To get a glimpse of the power of optimal breathing, try this little experiment right now. Exhale out all the way, then breathe all the way in. Alllll the way in.  A bit more, come on. All right, now, hold your breath for 10 seconds. Done? Now, breathe all the way out.  Do this cycle 2 more times, and I guarantee you’ll already feel differently than you did a minute ago.

Third Jedi Mind trick– perhaps the most powerful one- is a technique called still-point meditation. I fix my eyes and my mind on one point, focus all my attention on it, and forget everything else. This is how I use  Zen power to get in the Zone ! It allows me to turn off my mental chatter, and block off all distractions.

Some people relate this technique to going to their happy place, but for me it’s more like going to my “comfy” place. There’s no party or beautiful beach in my head, but it does shield me against pain, fatigue, and negative thoughts.

These 3 Jedi Mind tricks really helped me crush the 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge, and now it’s time to put them to the test once more.

Back to the 12th minute. Jedi Mind Tricks loaded and ready to go.  Even though the intensity of the effort is increasing, I’m increasingly chilled out as I get into the mental groove.

15 minutes. I’m zoning in & out, just keeping an eye on the computer screen to ensure my wattage is in the right range. But I’m super relaxed otherwise. This feels kinda cool.

20 minutes. Things are going well and I’m breathing at the same rate as when I’m walking. Damnnn, this is totally working!

25 minutes. I’m working hard, but in my mind I’m chilling. The song Party Rock by LMFAO comes on, and I allow myself to throw a few fist pumps.

30th minute rolls around. I’m still going strong. But something strange happens: the machine stops. Uh oh. Confusion sets in, and it takes us a second to understand what going on… I’ve just beaten level 10, which is the software’s built-in limit.

 I can’t help it but giggle a bit and give myself a mental high five as I realize that I’ve beaten the Machine!

The celebrations are short-lived as a few seconds later the researchers hit some buttons, and the machine comes back roaring. This battle ain’t over yet.

And it seems like the machine came back with a vengeance. I’m fighting to keep my breathing under control, and a few little negative thoughts are trying to creep in. Luckily, I’ve got my mental light-saber and I destroy them as soon as they enter my consciousness.

36 minutes. We just cranked up the intensity to 400W. Things are hectic and I’m pedaling like a madman. The tube in my mouth makes it impossible to drink (or salivate) and my mouth is as dry as the Sahara.

Time to focus even harder on the Jedi Mind Tricks. It’s during the biggest challenges that keeping our mind under control is the most critical.

38 minutes. My vision gets blurry. Not sure if it’s from the effort or from having sweat in my eyes. Probably both. This is getting ridiculous. Part of me wants to quit, but hell no, I’m at least going to finish Level 13.

(Focused Phil)

39 minutes. I’ve made it through Level 13, and as a reward, the machine increases its roar. It wants to finish me.

My legs feel like there going to explode, and I’m considering calling it quits any second now. But then, something magical happens.

The researcher looks over at my performance data on the screen. She stops, incredulous, and tells her colleague in a slightly dramatic tone: “I’ve never seen anything like that before”.

Hearing these words gives me a dose of rocket fuel.

F*ck this, I’m going to smash this level too. Time to show science what’s up!

The last 3 minutes are a blur. Halfway through the researchers ask if I want to stop. I grunt and shake my head. No way.

Last minute. I throw the Jedi Mind Tricks out the window. At that point, it’s pure balls & French Canadian toughness.

10 seconds left. Final push!!! I crank it all the way up to 510 watts, which I’m told is the highest ever recorded at UWA.

I cross my mental finish line and stop after 42 minutes of excruciating effort. Woaaahhhh. So much for the short & sweet 15 minutes test!

I get off the bike, and feel like a guy who just got up after drinking 12 beers. My legs are not cooperating anymore and I’m stumbling all over the place.

But suddenly, I get a massive rush of endorphins. Aaahhhh. Feels goooooood!  I collapse on a couch and chill there for a while, with a big ol’ smile beaming on my face.

Meanwhile, the researcher is printing out the results. She walks over and congratulates me for scoring 61.4 (ml/kg/min), which ranks me in the upper echelon of the 99th percentile. To give you a point of reference, it’s higher than any Australian Football Player ever recorded, and almost any Hockey player.

The crazy thing is, I’m not a full-time athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I only work out 1 to 2.5 hours/day, like tons of other people do. I don’t have a coach, training partners, or even an organized training program for that matter.

Yet I’ve just achieved high-level performance on a grueling physical test. How’s that even possible? 3 main reasons: Superior nutrition, more effective training methods, and most importantly, Jedi Mind Tricks.

It’s simple. By practicing meditation, mindfulness, and developing optimal breathing, I can achieve greater performance with less effort. I have a stronger focus on the task at hand, I stay more relaxed,  and I can step up my game when it counts.

While it’s the field of biogenetics that captures most of the attention with regards to human performance enhancement, I believe that Eastern mindfulness techniques represent an untapped gateway into “superhuman” performance.

And the best news in all this? It can help you even if you’re not an elite athlete, but simply someone looking to get fitter, look better, and have more energy. 

So why wait? If you want to get started on meditation, all you have to do is begin with 5 minutes/day. It can be first thing in the morning (which I do), during the day, or at night. But commit to doing it everyday, for at least 30 days.  By the end of the month, it’ll have become a part of your daily routine, and you’ll already be feeling some of the benefits.

I’m coming on the first anniversary of my commitment to everyday meditation, and I can tell you in all honesty that’s it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I know that for many Westerners, meditation is still this weird mystical concept. Something about sitting around with eyes closed while trying to relax. A funny scene with Buddhist monks in the Hangover 2.

But it’s not a bizarre or “woo-woo” activity, but rather an effective and pleasant way to feel good, greatly improve our life… and maybe even become superhuman! :)

Cheers!

Phil

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"PS. Ever feel overwhelmed trying to reach your goals? Watch my TEDx talk to accomplish more with less stress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M9i3-QhWzg&t=565s"
Posted on : 21, Sep 2011

59 Comments

  • wow awsome! congrats!

  • Congratulations dude! Respect for giving maximum!

    Great methods, I always try to concentrate on breathing while working out, good breathing pattern is the most important thing always. I read not long ago that the best pattern for healthy breathing is 2 seconds inhale, 2 seconds exhale, 2 seconds waiting – in that order. (I find myself too often breathing very shallow…not good) But in exercise I try to have at least 4 to 5 seconds, it gives me more strength. All kind of exercise is great, it keeps our bodies in shape and brain active.

    Those Jedi Mind Tricks are awesome, I'll try to use them all whenever I can.

    Regarding the meditation…I love it, but still I don't do it too often, I forget or think it will take too much time at that moment (if i have something more important to do) which is a stupid thinking habit 'cause it doesn't always have to last 30 min how I usually do it and I forget about the advantages of it. For me it is one of the best things, shelter from the problems and/or negative thoughts, state of peace – relaxing my body and mind, focusing my energy, and also attempt in communicating with "source" or "my true self" (philosophy of Abraham Hicks -also mentioned in Philosophers Notes).

    I'm still not sure what are the best method or techniques in meditation, i use just 2-3 seconds breathing pattern while listening The Dive from Holosync.

    Man gotta thank you for recommending PN and Holosync, it's amazing! I looove Brian's notes, it' so good to make your brain work more, to have so much new ideas, thoughts, inspiration, motivation. Really brilliant! :)

    Cheers ;)

    • Hey Ivor!

      -Interesting about the breathing pattern. I always knew taking a short break after the exhale was good but 2 seconds is more than I'm used to. Will definitely give it a try though.

      -Yeah meditation is not easy to get started with: that's why it can be really useful to do a 30 Day Challenge to really get into it. At the beginning doing it everyday, even 1 minute/day, is the most important thing.

      -Awesome job for taking action & picking up the PN's + Holosync. Really excited for you dude! Glad you like it so far: it's only going to rock your world more & more! I got in touch with Brian on Facebook a couple days ago.. he's such an inspiring guy!

      Keep it up buddy, let me know how it all goes!

  • First of all, congratulations! This sounds amazing. This was really good to hear right about now. Lately, I've been beating on myself so much that it is negatively affecting my play. I know it's all in my mind but that just makes me feel worse and makes me beat on myself even more.

    I've taken meditation classes before and I believe everything about its power. There are still some things that I would like to know. I don't have time for meditation classes anymore so I'll just pose the question here (because I know that you are an amazing blog-keeper and will actually answer!): What are ways that I can teach myself? I have a basic understanding of breathing techniques and postures and I want to advance further. Also, I want to know some "mind tricks" that I will be able to employ at the beginning of the day to prepare myself, but also at the end of the day to wind down. Also, I have a really severe phobia that sometimes interferes with my life…what would you recommend for that?

    As for the Jedi Mind tricks…it's actually a Game Day and I fully intend to use every single one of them. I'll keep you updated!

    • Hey T! What's up! Thanks for the questions.

      To your points:

      -Re: beating yourself up, it's something I still struggle with (I think for most competitive people it can be a problem) but just try to remember Michael Jordan's wisdom… there's always another shot, another game, but dwelling in the past won't help you perform better.

      -Meditation is definitely more of a "practice" than something someone can teach you, it's no big deal if you can't go to meditation classes. I only went to 4 classes myself before starting doing it only on my own.

      -So following that, the best way to go is to use the few techniques you know and that you prefer, and get really good at them. For me, it's always been focusing on my breath especially my exhale, and using that to get my body as relaxed and loose as possible. Find the 2-3 techniques that work for you and practice them everyday, that's really the best way to get better at it.

      -For more Mind tricks, I will be releasing my first free eBook, The Feel Good Guide (25 Strategies Proven to Increase your Energy, Happiness, and Mojo), you'll discover a few good ones for morning & night in there.

      -For the phobia, sorry can't help you on that front. I'd recommend maybe looking up online forums of people who have the same phobia and trying to get help from those who've overcome it.

      All right, keep rocking it & hope the game went well!!

  • WOW! Je suis vraiment impressionnée! Le pouvoir du mental et de la méditation est incroyable pour vaincre la souffrance reliée à une telle performance! Toutes tes années d'entrainement ( et une assez bonne génétique!) ont porté fruit aussi mais il faut toute une force de caractère pour se rendre là! Bravo! Maman xx

    • Merci Maman :)

      Desfois je me demande ce qui serait arrive si j'avais eu ces trucs la quand je nageais! Oh well, mieux vaut tard que jamais. Papa a commence a faire sa meditation Holosync a chaque jour, j'ai bien hate d'avoir son feedback.

      Il dit deja qu'il se sent plus relaxe a la clinique et plus friendly avec ses employes. Good things happening :)

  • […] wrote a blogpost about it. If you're into human performance optimization, you got to check it out! On Becoming Superhuman: Using Jedi Mind Tricks To Increase Performance | The Feel Good Lifestyle Cheers, Phil Reply With Quote   + Reply to Thread « […]

  • Nice, these are the same tricks I use for the last mile or two of my extra long hikes. I'd never really thought of them as meditation, though.

    • Yeah they are definitely applicable to any long-distance event. Have you ever tried "normal" meditation?

      • Once or twice but if I sit still I fidget. Even with the fidgetting I can't just sit for more than ten minutes at a time.

        • Yeah it's definitely tricky, took me a long time to overcome that.

          Will be sharing some of my best tricks to help stay still (in mind & body) in my upcoming meditation article.

  • Cool good job!!

    Je veux apprendre!

    • Merci Max, je peux t'enseigner quelques trucs :)

  • Jesus Phil, that is an UNREAL performance! Great job, just goes to show you what optimal nutrition + optimal fitness and mindset gives you

    • Cheers bro!! Yeah dude we fined tuned the nutrition side of things together, learned the "80/20" training from Tim, and once I added the mental stuff things really took off.

  • Wow Phil

    Vraiment impressionnant. Je dois avouer ne pas etre si surpris…

    • Merci mec!

      Check back in, I've got a few more surprises coming in the next few months :)

  • Phil l'homme bionique.

    J'ai hâte de lire sur la méditation, ça m'intrigue et j'aimerais bien commencer, mais comment?

    • Hahah pas encore bionique mais ca s'en vient!

      Je t'ai enove un message pour te donner quelques details sur la meditaition.

  • Very interesting. Thank you. I am convinced we can go deeper in performance than our brains allow us before they send their "stop" signals. Learning to ignore those signals is a huge place to get to. I want to learn how to do that.

    Regarding breathing, especially for cycling, I learned a lot from Ian Jackson at http://www.breathplay.com. I think you will like him. You can email him with your number and a good time to call and he will call you to talk about what he has discovered in the realm of breathing and performance – as I say, cycling in particular.

    Bye for now.

    Morgan

  • Hey Morgan!

    I agree with the stop signal… It's funny, my swim coach when I was 12 always used to tell us that pain was just a signal, but not an actual barrier. 13 years later I'm still working on fully detaching myself from pain!

    Thanks for the link, I'll definitely get in touch with Ian- always love to get an expert's point of view on the stuff I'm passionate about.

    Cheers!

  • I like your website buddy. Keep following your dream. It is very impressive to me. Never give up, and you can do anything.

    • Cheers Johnny! Keep on rocking it. I'll see you at the top. :)

  • Wow, this is so impressive Phil! And I hope the adventure race goes well!

  • Thanks Katharine! Next time I'm in BC you & Paul will have to take me on an adventure in the backcountry! Some of your pics look sweeeeeet.

  • Dude, unreal!

    That's wicked, I can't wait to see the results of the anaconda race! Maybe its the athlete side of me, but best post yet. you crushed it.

    "At that point, it’s pure balls & French Canadian toughness." hahaha

    • Thanks bro!!

      Yeah man I'm getting pumped, as you saw in Marty's video, we went down to Augusta and I got to check out the course and stuff. It's AMAZING. Running on cliffs and on the beach, kayaking at the intersection of the Indian & Southern Oceans, Biking in a wild forest.. Can't wait!

      It'll definitely be bringing the French Canadian toughness to that remote corner of the world!

  • […] hear a lot about getting in the zone, and it’s easier said than done, but you have to find the techniques that help get you there, and practice them in training to put them into the race. That’s whats’ going to get […]

  • French Canadian Balls!!!!

    I love it Bro … I'll have to say that I'm impressed … but at the sametime .. we arent the Quebec World Class Ballers for nothing ;) haha jk .. .. that was world class ..

    Honnêtement, les Jedi Trick sont bon .. La respiration je suis un peu moins sur .. oui il y a des techniques respiratoire mais je crois vraiment que c'est propre a chacun de nous .. je ne crois pas qu'on peut imposer un rythme respiratoire a une personne et lui dire que c'est le mieux pour elle .. mais comme tu dis c'est une question de pratique et d'habitude

    Et la zone .. effectivement … THE FAMOUS ZONE that all athletes talk about .. it is a mindset .. and yes you can train it .. Eventhough im not a high class athlete anymore .. I still have some fire in me to beat myself through running or competing in ultimate frisbee .. so yes .. please .. let me learn some more !!!!!

    I already have a lot of ninja skilsl what is it going to be when i acquire those Jedi skills !! hahaha ;)

    Honestly, great job ! and i'll be reading your next post about inner peace!

    • Hahah cheers bro! Appreciate the feed good feedback :)

      Dude keeping it World-Class one everthing we do.. you know how we roll!!

      Oui pour la respiration c'est sur que c'est personal mais l'important c'est d'y penser et de se concentrer dessus pour l'optimiser.. peu important la méthode qu'on utilise.

      Hhahah c'est sur que t'as encore THE ZONE tu l'as toujours eu naturellement! Pour moi ça l'est moins mais comme tu dis ça se train donc c'est vraiment cool de pouvoir se développer de se cote la.. je teste pas mal de technique pendant mon jiu jitsu pi je commence vraiment a voir une différence!

      Thanks bro, talk soon!

  • You weren't cycling on a stationary bike, but on a kind of… field. couldn't resist!

    My favourite part was just the anecdotal awe on the faces of the sports scientists!

    Amongst top athletes there is a physical barrier to performance in terms of the physical constraints of the body. And as you rightly say, most of the differentiation between the athletes "on the day comes from different mental discipline techniques.

    Your Jedi mind tricks put my pedalling technique of "1,2,3,4,5" to shame. The active relaxing meditation is my favourite technique you mentioned. And what's more is that using relaxation is a technique that cam be applied to almost any activity. Especially when playing musical instruments.

    The way the human brain processes pain is very arbitrary. It's not as simple as neurone firing =ow. You used the correct mental conditioning to trick your brain into interpreting the pain signals in a different way. Not only did you block out the pain, but actually reduced it in a very real way. It's because of these principles that anaesthetic hypnosis has been proven to work.

    • Hey Laurence yeah I agree active meditation can be applied to a lot of different activities… Even just now being on the computer I try to remember every few minutes to say focused yet relaxed.

      I totally agree with your last paragraph- I notice it very much in my cold showers now. It's almost as though I've turned off that cold signal on my skin, pretty cool stuff.

      I'm super excited how far we can take this thing in the months & years to come.. we're only barely scratching the surface right now.

  • […] If you’re skeptical, I don’t blame you. How could sitting down, eyes closed, doing nothing for a few minutes really help us, let alone provide Jedi Mind Tricks? […]

  • […] the next 4 months, magic unfolded. My motivation to train hard, develop my Jedi Mind Tricks, try crazy experiments, and work hard on becoming the best Phil Drolet reached unprecedented […]

  • […] the next 4 months, magic unfolded. My motivation to train hard, develop my Jedi Mind Tricks, try crazy experiments, and work hard on becoming the best Phil Drolet reached unprecedented […]

  • Hi phil I just rode your article and it gave me an enormous bunch of energy ! it’s 10 pm and i don’t care i’m going to jump rope ! I really find your blog inspiring so keep going !

    Btw great performance :)

    • Hey Nassim!

      Hahah, hope the late-night jump rope was good!

      Thanks a lot for the kind words, I’ll do my best to keep making the site better & better in the months to come.

      Cheers and if you ever have any questions about training methods or need a bit of extra motivation, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Cheers!

  • Such an impressive answer! You\’ve betaen us all with that!

    • Hey Loren! Thanks but.. I’m curious, which answer are you referring to?

  • dmZDks rriemhklbhyq

  • Great read Phil!

  • Just came by to get some inspiration! I always read this article when I feel a little low. I think this is probably the best you’ve written so far! And the most authentic one too!
    It’s always so powerful and I feel totally inspired after reading it!
    THANK YOU so much Phil!

    Emma xx

    • Thanks Emma :) I LOVED writing it and I definitely want to write more in the same style.. doing crazy shit and telling the story while sharing my insights is my favourite kind of writing.

      Have an INSPIRED day!
      Phil

  • What a great story!
    Maybe you can use a different perspective to squeeze out even more…
    I suspect that meditation is even older than humanity. In fact, I suspect that meditation was developed from endurance efforts of our ancient forefathers (and mothers). The correlation of meditation and endurance performance is just too complimentary to ignore.

    Your Jedi mind control tricks are ancient.
    Nature wants us to survive. Because nature has found a way to survive – and we humans are a part of that strategy – if we choose to be.

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  • […] Thoroughly warming up before each exercise will allow your muscles and mind to prepare for the task ahead. I learned to apply myself more fully during workouts with Phil’s article on how to use Jedi minds tricks to get in the zone. […]

  • I love this story! I’ve been trying to weed through your blog for several months now and I’ve been taking my time in reading your old posts to really absorb the information. Great job…way to represent!

  • […] If you’re skeptical, I don’t blame you. How could sitting down, eyes closed, doing nothing for a few minutes really help us, let alone provide Jedi Mind Tricks? […]

  • […] the next 4 months, magic unfolded. My motivation to train hard, develop my Jedi Mind Tricks, try crazy experiments, and work hard on becoming the best Phil Drolet reached unprecedented […]

So, what do you think?