How To Train Your Autonomic Nervous System For Peak Performance

by SwimSwam 4

February 03rd, 2018 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Eney Jones

“Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda

Our brain is a complex organ that manages to control each and every muscle of the body. Every movement, perception and reception of enormous amount of data is all done by the brain. With so many things to do, it is surprising that all the tasks are to be are performed are delegated to the nervous system.

The whole system is called the peripheral nervous system. This system is divided into two parts; the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

As athletes we focus almost entirely on the somatic nervous system. (Voluntary muscles) but how do we train and why do we overlook our autonomic nervous system? The autonomic system carries out the functions below the conscious level (i.e. the heart and lungs). And how does control of this help?

To evaluate both systems being used watch the ski biathletes in the Olympics. They skate ski and their heart rates are high. Then they stop and shoot. Immediately they drop their heart rates. How? With focus and intent and practice, they are able to drop their energy and regulate their autonomic nervous system.

Athletes can drop energy output and increase power

With every athlete I work with I advise them to drop their energy and increase their power; through this focus and intent there is increased awareness and power that lies below the conscious level. Professional Ironman Triathletes Angela Duncan Naeth and Mirinda Carefrae have been able to find more strength in this manner. The whole point of triathlons is to go fast easily. The ability to go fast at a low heart rate is critical.

The ability to consciously lower your heart rate during a race will yield a more efficient energy output improving your endurance and performance.

Here are some techniques to try:

It is estimated that we only use about 10% of our brain power and the dominant untapped potential of the subconscious lies underneath the surface. Undiscovered and underused is this vast reservoir of knowledge and experience. However, guided mediation, music, or relaxation can take us to these unknown shores. Go there.

“Close both eyes. Now see with the other eye” Rumi

Eney Jones has achieved remarkably diverse success as a leading pool, open water and Ironman triathlon swimmer, and is also a yoga instructor.

  • Masters National Champion 100-200-400-500-1500-1650 5k freestyle 2009
  • Open Water 5k Champion Perth Australia, May 2008.
  • National Masters Champion 200-400-1500 freestyle Champion, Portland Oregon, August, 2008.
  • Overall Champion Aumakua 2.4k Maui Hawaii, September 2008
  • Waikiki Rough Water Swim 3rd place 2006, second place Overall 2009, 3rd place 2012
  • European Record Holder and Masters Swimming Champion, 2005. Records included 200, 400, 800, 1500 m freestyle
  • Over twenty time finalist in U.S. Swimming Nationals, including Olympic Trials 1980
  • Gold medal NCAA 800 yd freestyle relay 1979, silver Medalist 200 yd freestyle 1979. United States National Team 1979-1980.
  • Professional Triathlete 1983-1991. First woman out of the water in every Hawaiian Ironman participated (6).

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A mind of its own, my autonomic nervous system, has.


This is really great advice!



Wouldn’t lowering your heart rate during a race such as a 200 free or IM cause less blood/oxygen exchange? I was under the impression that our heart rate increases in order to help us go faster – why would we slow it unless we need to (like to shoot a gun in a biathlon for example)?

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