1) Define It
Metacognition is a keen awareness of our thinking processes. It’s been described simply as thinking about thinking. It is an essential system for self regulation. It gives us a greater capacity to see not only the big picture, but how individual operations interact with and affect that picture. It compels us to think in terms of the next question, the next step forward, the consequences of our methods. It is a schema for testing self efficacy.
The prefix, meta, is from the Greek meaning after or beyond. Cognition is mental action. Metacognition is attending to the way we process information and make decisions.
Metacognition is a consideration of our thought mechanisms and their relevance to one another. Academics refer to it as, “the knowledge about and regulation of one’s cognitive activities in learning processes and can be operationalized into two key functions namely monitoring and regulatory functions” (Efklides, 2001; Flavell, 1979).
Applied to fitness, metacognition is the conscious effort to consider how we recognize if our training and nutrition programs are effective and productive.
2) Know Why Metacognition Matters
- Increase Focus: Metacognition increases our attentiveness.
- Set Better Goals: Metacognition, by definition, requires objectives, standards and benchmarks against which we can judge our performance.
- Strategies: The goal is an end result—strategies are how we get there. Ask yourself, “How do I have to think about this training program to make it useful for achieving my goals?”
- Wellbeing: The ability to feel in control of some aspects of our lives enhances our capacity to direct other aspects. It’s a kind of halo-effect on our own accomplishments.
- Spot Weaknesses: Immediately recognize when we are in danger of overtraining or guilty of turning in a lackluster effort. We learn to manage our results in real time.
- Interaction: Metacognition is a whole-earth approach; training, nutrition, situational awareness and mindfulness. For example, metacognition helps us observe how, when and what we eat affects performance.
- Mastery: Ultimately we want to flourish, not merely thrive. We aspire to achieve higher levels of expertise. Athletes seek that extra edge or the pinnacle within their sport. A Greek university study on psychology of sport and exercise, put it this way, “Teachers who emphasize mastery in their classes are more likely to have students who use metacognitive strategies during learning and performance in physical education.” This suggests that no matter the endeavor, incorporating metacognition into our skill sets leads to greater overall results.[/su_list]
3) Remove Ego From The Equation
Ego can cloud objectivity; it directs our attention ineffectively. From the psych-lab study, “These results suggest that ego-oriented individuals are more likely to focus on performance rather than a deeper understanding of the task…”
We know from our own experiences that ego hampers proper form, such as using momentum to lift a heavier weight. It denies injury, ignores purpose and leads to temptations to indulge, abuse performance-enhancing drugs or misuse supplements as ego triumphs over science.
When we behave egocentrically, we tend to compare ourselves to others rather than our own progress. This can force us to continually change strategies based on bro-science or what ‘the other guy’ is doing.
4) Set Better Training Goals
Metacognition can help predict outcomes, adapt to environmental changes, monitor progress, recognize positive accidents e.g. the changing of a grip or stance that gives us better results.
Metacognition helps to avoid or eliminate amotivation which is conduct without understanding, purpose or impetus. We may not know why we do something but we do it anyway, out of habit, boredom, groupthink or other vaguely defined reasons. If we are practicing metacognition, our actions are always purposeful.
5) Take A Holistic Approach To Training And Nutrition
Metacognition helps us recognize value and implement an integrated approach. Everything we do has an impact on something else. How we think about nutrition affects training. How we think about training is correlated to our results. How we think about assessing our results alters the way we implement better strategies. Metacognition allows for the ready response to slight changes in performance.
There is a type of extrinsic motivation known as integrated regulation. It has the highest scale of self-determination. Integration occurs when we have fully harmonized our ideals into our sense of self and are congruent with our values, goals and needs (Ryan & Deci, 2000a; Ryan et al., 2009).
6) Start Now
Change the questions you ask yourself. Asking different questions changes perspective which leads to new insight. Make an effort to notice not just what’s on your mind but how your mode of thinking is influencing your decisions.
If it seems there’s a lot of self-questioning involved – you’re correct. Over time the questions will be less obvious and they’ll become understated, a natural constituent of the manner in which your brain governs your actions.
I’ve interviewed dozens of very successful women over the past three years and I always ask two questions: have you ever had an epiphany or moment of clarity? How do you have to think about your job to be good at it? Every time I ask, these inspirational women have answers to both questions. Metacognition underpins that heightened level of awareness.
Before you do anything, ask a simple question: is this bringing me closer to or further from my goals?
How do we know when it’s time to re-evaluate our fitness goals? There are clues: we’ve hit a plateau, we’ve attained a level of mastery, we’re regressing, we have achieved our short-term objectives. Introspection is useful. Reformulating goals and strategies can boost our drive for new triumphs.
Reassess, review, rethink, then reemerge—smarter, stronger, leaner, healthier. Metacognition is a measure of self-efficacy on a path to mastery.
I’m fifty-six. Getting and staying fit over fifty presents unique challenges, but meeting them has boosted my proficiency in other areas of my life. I’ve improved in organization, management of work/training/learning, honest self-assessment, patience, and the proper delegation of priorities.
It has elevated my strength, endurance and capacity to stay present in the rapidly evolving world of nutrition and fitness science.