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Adding Another Dimension to Your Workouts: Thinking Games

Running on a track

Adding multiple training scenarios into a workout can greatly enhance its benefits by engaging the brain and adding easy-to-implement tactical skills. This can make the workout more fun and make some of the most basic skills more difficult by tiring and physically stressing your body.

Here is a sample method of integrating the mind and tactical skills into gym training sessions:

Random challenges that can be done during rest periods in between HIIT sets to challenge memory of common facts, survival skills, tactical skills, and more.

  • Various knots to tie (square, bowline, beckets bend, clove hitch, right angle, etc)
  • Flash cards or having a partner quiz you on math, history, words to define, foreign language, attention to detail, etc.
  • KIMs game can be part of the workout and in between each set you have to name something you observed at the beginning of the workout. (KIM = Keep in Memory)

Creativity challenges can be added in between movement from one exercise to another.

Learning to keep the creative part of the brain engaged during a rather monotonous, mind numbing pyramid workout can enhance these skills when tired and stressed in a real-world situation.  

  • Set up a circuit outside or on a big open area (basketball court) with about 25-30 meters in between events.
    1. For instance – pullups on one side of the field and pushups on the other
    2. Start a pyramid of 1 pullup – run 30m – 2 pushups – run 30m
      2 pullups – run 30m – 4 pushups – run 30m       

3 pullups – run 30m – 6 pushups – run 30m
(so whatever pullup number you are on – you double it for pushups)

  • Keep progressing up until you fail, but, after the 5th set you have to travel using any other method beside running and you cannot use the same one twice.  Get creative and think about methods like:  fireman carry, crawl, bear crawl, walking lunges, even cartwheels or forward rolls.  You can opt for easier options like walking and dynamic stretches, as well.  Just get creative each set and stay focused on the reps and set of the pyramid.  Just keeping track of your set numbers gets tough enough when doing it on memory.  (No writing anything down.)
      • You can also quiz others on how many reps of pull-ups they have done so far.  You have to quickly add up 1,2,3,4,5 = 15 for example.
      • Adding knots to tie and random flash cards during this workout is a mental challenge too. 
      • Add attention to detail tests by dropping a piece of clothing or other object in the travel zone to see if anyone noticed the "red shirt on set # 6" for instance.
      • Frankly after many sets, it is difficult to remember what number you are on and the basic math of doubling repetitions.

This workout and these drills, in combination, work many different parts of the brain.

Tactical challenges, when appropriate, can help tactical athletes combine workout stress with tactical skills and drills. 

Try adding in tactical skills in between sets as well.  Using a SIRT Pistol (laser gun), dry firing a weapon, or actually shooting if at a shooting range, you can greatly improve the realism of training by shooting steady while physically tired, stressed, and moving. 

While exercising even moderately, you will find basic memory of common facts, math, and history are more difficult to recall.  Adding these type of skills (and there are many others) to a training plan will only enhance your ability to think and recall basic training / facts of long term / short term memory while active and stressed.  For instance, when tired, basic math such as
9 x7 = ___, or 12 + 14 = ___.  Common knowledge of naming presidents, important dates in history, and other bits of knowledge we have stored in our long term memory are difficult to recall when physically tired and stressed. 

Team Challenges

Having members participate as groups or in teams will help the team move and think together, communicate, and build team cohesion. The team tends to find hidden skills in each other when moving, communicating, and thinking together as one.  Get creative and develop challenges on your own that may seem easy during development, but you will see when tested while under physical stress, it takes work and time to figure these common knowledge tests.

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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