Strengthen the Muscle Between Your Ears

Mind Games

Nov 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT, carry a card with six sets of random numbers, starting with a set of five and increasing by one to a set of ten. Start with the five-number set. As you begin your exercises, look at this set once and try to memorize it. Then move up to the six-number set, and so on throughout your strength routine, until you can recall each set of numbers. Once you've memorized them all, try it backwards.

PICK ONE OF YOUR REGULAR run/hike/bike routes. Memorize small landmarks along the way—the numbers or design of a mailbox, the branches of a certain tree, a license plate number, or the number of pine trees along a certain stretch. Each time you proceed through the route, add more and more details. In time, try visualizing and describing to yourself each object along the route before you reach it.
BRING ALONG A SMALL SCRAP of paper with a list of ten words or phrases on it that you can turn into anagrams——words, or series of words, that when rearranged create other words or phrases. Example: Big Bend National Park = Abandoning bleak trip. Now try to create another word or phrase. You can find more anagrams at

PICK A LETTER AND THEN name all the animals you can recall that start with that letter; use your watch or bike computer to clock 60 seconds. (Restak says the norm for those younger than 70 is 17 to 24 animals.) Once you've tried this with animals, move on to movie stars, food items, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, body parts, or geographic locations.

WHILE BIKING OR RUNNING, select a span of time—say, 15 seconds—then set your watch timer. Look away from the watch and try to anticipate when the alarm will sound. Progressively increase the amount of time. This exercise will enhance your powers of attention and concentration.