At age 13, Magnus Carlsen became the youngest ever chess Grandmaster. By the time he was 19, he was also the youngest player to be ranked #1 in the world.
A few years later, he won his first world championship, and in 2014, he obtained the FIDE rank of 2882. Why is that ranking significant? Because it’s the highest of any player, ever.
In other words, you could argue that Carlsen, the reigning four-time world champion, is the best chess player of all-time.
But not only is Magnus pretty good at this chess thing, he has a crossover appeal that not many chess greats do. For instance, he’s done quite a bit of modeling, including several campaigns for the G-Star RAW clothing brand. In 2013, Cosmopolitan named him one of the “sexiest men” in the world. And that same year, he also made the cut for Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”.
While chess and modeling may be radically different pursuits, much of Carlsen’s success in both fields can be traced back to the same habits. Keep reading to find out what those habits are – and how you can apply them to your own life, whether you’re an aspiring chess player or an ambitious entrepreneur.
How Magnus Carlsen Fuels His Brain – and His Body
Like any great chess player, Carlsen spends a lot of time studying the game, whether it’s working with a coach, like the legendary Garry Kasparov, reading through endless chess books on positioning, tactics, openings, and endgames, or using a computer program to analyze some of the most famous chess games in history.
No surprise there.
However, there is an aspect of his training that isn’t what you’d expect from a chess player – and that’s Carlsen’s focus on his physical health. Magnus uses a combination of exercise, diet, and relaxation not only to keep his mind sharp, but to maintain the endurance that fuels his play style.
“These long tournaments are quite tiring and long games are very tiring, especially at the end. If you are in good shape and can keep your concentration you will be the one who will profit from your opponents’ mistakes.”
As a younger player, he focused on aggressive attacking, but now he uses his endurance to his advantage, wearing down his opponents through the middle and endgame.
“Games are lost or won in the final hours due to mistakes caused by fatigue.”
But how exactly has Magnus built up this physical endurance? Let’s take a look at some of the specific habits that he uses to maintain a world-class chess body and mind.
How to Build Training Habits Like Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen has built up his physical strength and endurance through a combination of daily training, a healthy diet, and deliberate breaks.
Want to become a chess superstar – or just get more out of your mind and body? Try integrating these three habits into your daily routine.
Develop a Daily Exercise Habits
A day in the life of Magnus Carlsen includes either a 30 to 60 minute run on the treadmill or an hour or two of soccer, basketball, tennis, hiking, or skiing. And that’s during tournaments, when he’s trying to conserve energy.
His activity levels are even higher most of the year, when he’s not competing. That’s a pretty serious regime for a chess player, but it just goes to show the importance Carlsen and his team place on physical fitness.
Of course, even when he’s running, he’s thinking about chess:
“Running is a time where I can go through game strategies.”
But he also enjoys the camaraderie and competitiveness of sports, and even plays for a local soccer team.
Want to match Carlsen’s endurance? Add 30 to 60 minutes of cardio to your daily routine, whether it’s a jog through the park or a pickup basketball game.
Eat Foods That Fuel Your Brain
Magnus follows a mostly vegetarian diet, which is heavy on things like salads, stir fry, and smoothies that pack a lot of nutrients. But don’t worry, we’re not going to insist you give up meat.
However, you should consider adopting some of the brain-boosting foods that Carlsen incorporates into his diet. What kind of foods?
“I don’t have a favorite meal, but before the match I would usually eat an omelette or a some yogurt with fruit.”
There are a few right there: eggs, fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.), and fruit, especially blueberries.
Magnus also gets plenty of avocado, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and green veggies. Other foods to improve your brain health include oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, etc.), coconut and olive oil, beets, green tea, and yes, even dark chocolate.
If you want your mind to operate like a well-oiled machine, add these brain-boosting foods to your daily diet.
Take Regular Breaks from Work
Despite Carlsen’s killer endurance, he knows when to give himself a break. This comes in the form of relaxation time at home, but he even takes breaks in the middle of games.
“Whenever it’s your opponent’s move, as long as you don’t leave the playing hall, you can basically do whatever you want. You can walk away. In general I don’t think you can keep full concentration for very long.”
To be clear, this is a fairly odd habit for a professional chess player, and it even has the added benefit of unnerving his opponents. But it’s also a great way to get your blood flowing and keep yourself fresh.
And if Carlsen can find time for breaks in the middle of the World Chess Championship, as millions look on, you can afford to take breaks too.
Take hourly breaks from your work to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, or just clear your head.
Add these daily habits to your list:
- Do 30 to 60 minutes of cardio – build mental and physical endurance through running, cycling, swimming, or sports
- Eat brain-boosting foods– use oily fish, walnuts, avocado, pumpkin seeds, beets, blueberries, and more to improve your brain health with proper nutrition
- Take a 10 minute break from your work every hour – get away from your desk, stretch your legs, and take in some fresh air to keep yourself going