Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Jan 26, 2022Fred

Blog: Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Would you believe I have run a marathon while competing in a chess tournament? It's true, and I've won both – simultaneously. An impossibility or just plain nuts? If you've never competed in high-level sports (national or international levels), you may be unable to relate. If you're the curious type, read on. I'll connect the dots for you.

Today's blog is an extension of last week's mental toughness topic. The highest level of physical endurance without mental clarity may get you ahead in sports, but it will not guarantee a winning record. From the elite athlete to the weekend warrior, sports activities require certain physical stamina and mental lucidity.

As I reflect on my success in high-level tennis competitions, the physical part of a grueling match can quite literally feel like running a marathon (or more than one). And the mental and intellectual requirements of tennis involve mastermind problem-solving caches like those used in chess. Thus, in my tennis career, I participate by employing the physical requirements of a marathon while competing with the mental dexterity of a chess logician. This demands optimal physical and mental preparation. And that preparation has paid off.

Allow me to share the secret combo that brings championship recognition. I will share a few tips, but it's essential that you do your own homework. Start with your own experiences and couple that with advice derived from OPE (other people's experience). Study the science behind physical and mental training methods. More importantly, find what works for your body and mind.

Coach's sidebar: When using OPE, find someone that has successfully done the thing you want to learn at least three times successfully. There's a good chance their knowledge is sound, and their advice will be valid. Don't' be fooled by talkers who are not doers. 


 Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Tip #1: Become mentally malleable

Understand that one's point of view is based on currently available data, and it will evolve as new information surfaces. Keep your mind malleable so that it can remain current and fresh. Neuroplasticity, or the capacity for our brain cells to change in response to our behavior, can help us more thoughtfully engage in activities that will contribute to our wellbeing – no matter our age. Malleable brains learn more quickly. 

I'm watching the 2022 Australian Open tennis tournament now in progress. Tennis is my sport and passion, yet I am continually reminded of how unique the greatest players are. Their necessary skills are many and varied, and interconnected. These athletes must have incredible all-directional speed with an exceptional braking system in the physical arena. And in the mental arena, their decision-making capacity is swift and nimble. All these physical and mental actions look seamless and smooth to their fans.

In tennis, every second requires resolute concentration and astute observation. Just like a quarterback who must adapt plays based on what's happening on the field, tennis players must continually fine-tune. Tom Brady (NFL record-holder) knows the advantages of mental agility and clarity. He believes just as strongly in the importance of mental fitness as he does about physical fitness. His mental toughness helped him stay sharp and make better split-second decisions on the field.

Tennis players also must be able to make split-second decisions and have the laser focus of a chess master as they navigate through changing tactics and strategies of every ball hit. Players must concentrate intensely for 1-3 hours (or longer) during a tennis match. That's an intense malleable focus. As you watch the finals of the Australian Open this week, look for that vital interflow between physical and mental endurance and how critical it is for the championship. If Tom Brady had chosen tennis over football, I wonder how many grand slams he could have won. My guess is quite a few.

Can you play chess while running a marathon?<br>

Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Tip #2: The nutritional and mental link

The finest Formula One race car in the world cannot perform at its peak unless it uses the highest-grade fuel. Your body is no different. Athletes require a lot of energy and nutrients to stay in shape. Every person's needs are different. Your optimal food will depend on your age, height, weight, and sport or activity level. 

Study how the body utilizes simple carbs, complex carbs, fats, and proteins. Determine if you are best suited to be a carbohydrate or a keto athlete. There are more than just these two categories, but I mention these two as examples. Once you understand your optimal food source, you are on your way for your specific sport.

The link between good nutrition and good mental performance is well-established. The connection stems from the close relationship between your brain and gastrointestinal tract, often called the 'second brain.' Eating healthy food promotes the growth of good bacteria, positively affecting neurotransmitter production. Conversely, a steady diet of junk food causes inflammation that hampers production. Depending on how many changes you implement, it may take days before you start to feel the mood-boosting effects of a better diet.

Once you've done your research, implemented dietary changes, and refined eating plans, you will start to feel like that Formula One race car on high-performance fuel. One more step: Consider the endurance factor. How are you going to perform for hours without being able to stop and eat? There is still debate over whether the high carb or keto diet is best suited for different athletes. The higher carbohydrate intake has been a strategy for decades and is believed to improve specific endurance parameters. However, as time has gone on, other fueling methods have emerged. It is now known that keto-adapted athletes can achieve more extended training periods with sustained energy levels and reduced need for refueling, allowing them to maximize the aerobic benefits from training and competing. Choose what works for you.

Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Tip #3: Endurance fuels mental toughness

Staying hydrated is one of the most crucial things athletes can do. The body is nearly 60% water. During a workout, you quickly lose fluid through sweat. In addition, it is necessary for athletes to-top up their energy and electrolyte reserves. Deficiencies in certain electrolytes can negatively impact mental performance. For example: If sodium is deficient, cortisol goes up. Cortisol is a hormone released during times of stress that affects nearly every process (including your mental state) in your body. Magnesium deficiencies may cause agitation, anxiety, or confusion. And a lack of potassium has also been linked to mental fatigue. Electrolytes are essential for mood-balancing and mental toughness. 

Understanding the difference between a fitness fuel and a sports drink can change your athletic trajectory. There are three factors to consider when deciding on the ideal addition to your training regime: Energy, Electrolytes and Endurance. 

Coach's sidebar: As a coach, I firmly believe the sports industry's biggest disservice to athletes is the perpetuation of those well-known brands of sports drinks. I am perturbed by the blind acceptance and prodigious prevalence of these sugar-laden, artificially dyed, and emulsified drinks. Read ingredients carefully. Research. Learn. There are better choices.

Choose your energy source carefully. I recommend a super starch component, a complex carbohydrate that provides quick energy that lasts well beyond simple carbs (sugar). Just as important is the electrolyte formula your body needs. A blend of essential sodium, magnesium and potassium along with the complex carb creates a balanced interflow, enabling you to power through sports activities keeping your electrolyte stores in check. Fuel your endurance, and it will fuel your mental toughness. 

Endurance requires hydration in a fuel comprised of low glycemic, complex carbohydrates, including the proper balance of electrolytes. Hydro Helix is an all-natural synergistic formula with sustained energy fuel and essential electrolytes for optimal long-lasting performance. Endurance is vital for building strength and reducing the risk of injury.

Take control of your physical and mental fitness. Your future self with thank you. Think... Can you play chess while running a marathon?

Learn. Share. Inspire.

Be well,
Coach Fred

More articles