First off, let me start by saying I do not personally condone amateur and/or personally dosed physical enhancement drugs. This has been a real controversy in the media recently with Lance Armstrong most recently, but also other major competitors in most major sports. “Doping,” as it’s called, is the use of extracurricular drugs, substances, and therapies, to push your body past its “natural” limit. These drugs include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and other drugs with potentially nasty side effects.
Spartans, of course, were doped and altered to obscene levels. A third of them died or were disfigured by the treatments they underwent, but the remainder gained physical attributes far beyond those of a normal human, including increased reaction time, speed, muscle growth, bone strength, and overall size.
So what options do we have? At the moment, very few. Steroids and HGH were already mentioned, and are common enough. Some experimental therapies involving altering rats genetic levels to provide increased muscle growth as well. But the fact is, we’re still a few decades of research away from being able to create superhumans without blatantly horrible side effects, not to mention all the ethical debates that will go on between now and then. Will we ever have Spartan level enhancement technology? I’m sure we will. Whether it’s legal or available to the public is highly debatable, but that’s something for the future
For now, let’s see what we can do without filling our body with steroids and HGH.
Legal and Relatively Safe Substances
Caffeine: Will boost your reaction speed and time, keep you more alert, and boost mental acuity. Careful, can lead to dependencies and/or decreased effectiveness with repeated high doses.
L-Theanine: Found naturally in tea, helps with relaxation and stress relief. Anecdotal evidence also points to it assisting with concentration and focus, although this may just be associated with increased relaxation and decreased stress.
Taurine: Found naturally in meats and fish. Can also be purchased as a supplement or in energy drinks. Some evidence has pointed to it boosting the nervous system, especially when combined with caffeine.
Improving Reaction Time
Reaction time is, in a large part, genetic. However, you can improve your reaction time a bit through drills and exercises, as well as “cheat” the system a bit through “overspeeding.” Caffeine also provides a temporary boost in reflexes and reaction time.
Overspeeding: Practice the action you’re trying to perform or react to at a much higher speed than you normally would. For sprinting, this could be running downhill – gravity assists you going faster. If you’re reaction to a strike, or a ball, have the person/machine throw it at a much faster speed than you normally would. The trick is to make you brain get used to “jumping the gun,” and prediction the circumstances that you need to react to.
Drill: Sprawl: You’ve seen this in football training montages in movies. Run in one place as fast as you can, and then on the blow of a whistle, drop, do a pushup, and get back up again as fast as you can. We do a variant of this in karate where one person tries to touch the other’s stomach when a random kiai is given.
Drill: Ruler Catch: Have a friend hold a ruler above your hand. They drop it at some random interval, and you have to catch it before it falls through. See how few centimeters/millimeters you can let pass through before you catch it.
Drill: Dodgeball: Seriously, get some friends together and play dodgeball. Good reaction time and body management game. For a harder variant, stand in a circle and have a person take turns standing in the middle while everyone throws balls at him/her and he/she tries to dodge it.
Nervous System Coordination
Learning to better control your brain, nervous system, and body can lead to overall better coordination as well. You do this naturally, whenever you practice a certain physical action, however you can also improve the general overall mind-body connection your neural interface has. This is similar to how housing a ship-class AI like Cortana inside a Mjolnir suit actually helps improve the Spartan’s reaction time, performance, and mental acuity as well. Here’s a few ideas.
Work Out Blindfolded: Working out blindfolded can help you to push past your normal weight limits, as well as force you to focus entirely on the exercise you’re performing. This increased level of focus and control can help to boost your personal neural interface and enable you to control your body better. Definitely do this with a partner, however, as you should always have a spotter when blindfolded. Also, I’d recommend it for relatively stationary exercises(ie: not running/biking/swimming).
Visualize: Going hand-in hand with our post about meditation, visualization involves picturing yourself performing the activity you want to do better at. There’s multiple studies indicating that envisioning an activity in addition to practicing it physically can help you perform better and improve faster than someone who just practices it physically. When you’re visualizing, however, you need to do more than just picture the activity. You need to see yourself doing it, and actually feel what the sensation is like. You’re trying to trick your body into thinking it’s actually performing the action of choice.
The Mjolnir Powered Armor
We actually covered power armor for a week a while back, so rather than rehash it I’ll just link you to the original series
How to Build a Powersuit And/Or Powered Armor Part 1
How to Build a Powersuit And/Or Powered Armor Part 2
How to Build a Powersuit And/Or Powered Armor Part 3
How to Build a Powersuit And/Or Powered Armor Part 4
How to Build a Powersuit And/Or Powered Armor Part 5
Finally, you need to remember that Spartans never die, and they never give up. Having the determination to continue perservering at whatever you’re trying to do is what really separates the normal people from the super-human. Devote yourself to something, and put everything you have into it(be it fitness, or something else), and you will achieve exemplary results.
We’ll see you again tomorrow, with The Solitude of Master Chief. Until then, remember to tell your friends about the blog, and continue being awesome.
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace
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