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“Amped up” the right amount to perform your best?

published: 11-06-2013
Filed under: Mind, Performance, Stress
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Whether you’re falling asleep or too “amped up,” you probably aren’t performing your best. Depending on who you are and what the task is, some middle ground is generally going to be best.

With simple tasks that require little conscious thinking, your reaction time is probably at its best around 60-70% of maximum heart rate (see HPRC’s article on aerobic conditioning), but response times for bigger bursts of movement improve if you’re more amped up. For example, you may be able to pull the trigger of your weapon fastest when you’re at 60-70%, but reaching for your weapon in the first place may be quickest if you’re at 90%. Keep in mind that this may not apply to more complicated tasks that involve rapid thinking, such as distinguishing a “friendly” from a “non-friendly” when someone is disguised.

There are two basic ways to get yourself amped up: physical activity and anxiety. Physical activity can happen through an intentional warm-up or even on its own because of the demands you are facing. If anything, you might find yourself needing to calm your body down. The same goes for anxiety. There’s the “butterflies-in-your-stomach” kind of anxiety and the more panicky “Darn! What do I do now?” kind. A little bit of the butterflies kind can be helpful, but again, it’s good to learn how to calm down and find middle ground!

To learn more about being in the right “zone” for what you are doing, check out HPRC’s “Performance Strategies: Optimize Your Body’s Response.”