The Training Effect


Eddie Izzard, what a guy – 43 marathons in 51 days! Just one question. HOW? He’s not naturally uber-fit. He only put in five weeks of preparation. And, with each marathon, his time actually decreased. So, again I say, how did he manage it?

Sports scientist put it down to something called the training effect. I was narked that, as a trainer, I’d never heard of this before. But it doesn’t have anything to do with education, at least in the first place. What is refers to is the biological fact that the more we put our body through, the more it is in turn able to do. Or, to put it in slightly more biological language, a repeated exercise workload causes the body to respond by increasing its maximal performance levels.

This got me thinking about the current controversy over whether brain training games really work. Tetris in particular is singled out for scrutiny. The BBC even has a website dedicated to examining this question called Brain Test Britain.

I suspect that what applies to the body likewise applies to the brain. They are, after all, two parts of the one system. (Eek, I sound like an NLPer!) Keeping the brain active does keep it active longer. However, (1) that means doing a wide variety of mental activities, not just crosswords or brain training games, and (2) many of the claims made by the brain training industry are designed to sell product rather than reflect scientific rigour.

So my suggestions for brain training? Use the games if you want to, but employ them along with other things. Read books that challenge you. Write stories or poems. Take an evening course. Learn to draw. Listen to a variety of music. Look for novelty in everyday experience. Grow a skill to the point of unconscious competence. Give yourself choices. Switch off the TV. Maybe the Nintendo too. And go for a jog instead.

Image credit: Nick J Webb.