How Well You Perform Physically May Depend on How Fit You are Mentally

Dr. James Bender. Dr. Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, provide security as a convoy passes through a valley in southern Wardak Province, Afghanistan.

When most people hear the words “psychologist,” “mental health” or “shrink,” they think “mental illness.” After all, why should you talk to those guys unless you have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression? It’s unfortunate that some people think that way, because in addition to helping with serious conditions like PTSD and depression, behavioral health specialists can offer much more. A big part of psychology concerns itself with improving physical performance.

All service members are called upon to perform physically throughout their careers. Everyone has to pass a physical training (PT) test, infantry soldiers need to shoot and run, Navy rescue divers need to perform physically in harsh environments, security forces troops have to stay sharp while protecting flight lines and perimeters, and the list goes on. When I was in Iraq, I told my soldiers to think of themselves as athletes because they are.

Anyone who’s endured endless PT knows that the military is very good at training your body to perform, but that’s only part of the solution. A huge part of your physical performance depends on your mindset, and that’s where behavioral science comes in. During the next few months, I’ll spend some time blogging about the mental aspects of human performance. Hopefully, you’ll learn some things that will improve your execution on the job.

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Want to learn more about the mental aspects of human performance? Join Doc Bender for a LIVE chat on Twitter, Tuesday, September 18 at 11:30 a.m. Be sure to follow DCoE at