Until next time,
IFBB Figure Pro
Contest Prep Coach
Mental Game Coach
Until next time,
IFBB Figure Pro
Contest Prep Coach
Mental Game Coach
Using Cue Words to Stay Motivated
Lately I have been playing around with the voices in my head. OK, I admit, that sounds rather strange, but follow me for a minute. We all talk to ourselves. I think I probably talk to myself non-stop throughout the day when I am not engaged in an actual conversation with another person. I would love to have a transcript of all the things I say to myself throughout the day. I am guessing I am not alone on this.
Do you talk to yourself? What does the voice sound like? Is it generally pleasant, or it is mean and critical? One way we have a positive effect on our goals is by changing up the way we talk to ourselves, using cue words. I will admit, I won’t be able to change all the negative voices in your head in one article, however, cue words are a very effective way to easily help us stay on track with our goals.
Here is an example of how the process of developing cue words can work. This week I have been rather busy studying for finals. When I study, I feel extra snacky. I want snacks!!! The café cookies and brownies were looking extra good this day. I took a moment to check in with my body and really connect with my cravings. Urge surfing is a technique that I walk through with my clients in session that have challenges with snacking. So I checked in with my body and I said to my body, what is this feeling? Then I noticed I said to myself: “I feel unsettled.” I took a deep breath and did some brief mindfulness and I said to myself “Settle in.” Ahhhhh!! Instantly I relaxed and felt better. I repeated settle in a few times and the craving went away.
Now you can use this technique to help with cravings, to motivate yourself for a workout, or any other behavior that you are wanting a little extra motivation with. Cue words are usually used in a performance context, but I tweaked it, because those of us on a fitness journey of sculpting our bodies have additional challenges with our sport or lifestyle when it comes to hunger.
Step 1: Identify an area that you want to have more motivation with. It could be to workout, to eat healthy.
Step 2: Connect with the feeling. It is good to do this in real time. For example, if you are not wanting to go to the gym, do this right then on the spot. Check in with your feeling and ask yourself: “What is this feeling about?” Or something like that. Take a few moments to connect with it.
Step 3: Take a few nice deep breaths and you wait for the communication from your body. Relax into whatever the feeling is.
Step 4: Identify a cue word based on how you feel. For example, I was feeling unsettled, so I said to myself settle in.
Step 5: Repeat your cue word several times to test the effectiveness. If it is not very strong, repeat the steps and create a new cue word.
Step 6: Write your cue word down and use it as often as you like for similar situations.
That’s it, that’s all there is to it. I hope you enjoy this technique and find it helpful especially now at a very tempting time of the year. I like to say, if you can eat healthy this time of year, you can do it anytime.
Also be sure to visit my audios if you are wanting some extra motivation in this potentially challenging time of the year. Here is the link:
And if you are interested in some personalized attention, check out my customized programs. I would be happy to offer you a complete custom nutrition plan along with all the mental tricks custom to your situation.
Until next time,
IFBB Figure Pro
How do you create a flow experience? As an athlete it is just as important to do our mental training as it is to do our physical training. Here are the elements of flow:
1. The task you are taking on is a match to your skill level. Is what you are taking on too hard, or too easy? If so, flow is more challenging.
2. You become one with your movement. Whether you are working out in the gym or participating in an event, you seem to meld into and become one with what you are doing.
3. You have a clear focus on your goals and your intention is focused as well.
4. You are free from distractions. Although you may be aware of external factors, they seem to be blurred and fall by the wayside and irrelevant variables.
5. You feel in control and yet as if you don’t need to be controlling. Everything you are doing feels effortless.
6. Your internal dialog is positive, supportive and uplifting.
7. Time distortion. It may slow down or speed up.
8. You are greatly enjoying what you are doing. The process is the reward and there is almost no need for an external reward, trophy, prize or acknowledgement from people you care about.
Getting into flow states can be trained through Psychological Skills Training. Interested in learning more? check out my Inner Athlete Coaching Program for details.
Athletic Applications of Mindfulness Part 1
My therapist has been attempting to get me to practice mindfulness for about a year now. Being such a fan of hypnosis and active visualization, you would think I would be motivated by the thought of sitting for 10 minutes doing nothing. “It will make you a better athlete.” He says alluringly. Hmmm, I raise my eyebrows, really? Now you have got me interested. “How exactly is mindfulness going to make me a better athlete?” I queried. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something along the lines of “Well, you will just have to try it and see for yourself.” Yep, he’s a sports psychologist. Now I am starting to get motivated. “Mindfulness has been shown to reduce cortisol as well.” He adds. He shrugs his shoulders as if to suggest “But whatever.”
So off to sit for ten minutes doing nothing I go. I have about three months of inconsistent practice. Once in a while he checks in “Have you been doing mindfulness?” Grrrrrr. Stop asking me, but don’t stop asking me, is what I am thinking. I know it is beneficial, and I also know I am super resistant, but frankly I have no idea why it is so difficult to sit and do nothing. Well, the idea as he suggested was to sit and pay attention to my breath. But breathing is so boring. I don’t want to pay attention to my breath. I want to do other stuff. I want to stretch and wiggle around and do the splits and put my body into fun positions. That’s just what I do when I sit still, I don’t.
Tell me to eat chicken and fish and broccoli all day, no problem. Tell me to do cardio at 6:00 in the morning, no problem. But tell me to sit and do nothing? Big problem! What exactly is the difference? For me, the difference is that when I would sit and focus on my breath it felt like I was being forced to focus on something that I was not naturally focusing on. It is like stopping a car that is moving 100 miles an hour. It is quite shocking to the system of the car. The slamming on the breaks, the jolting of the entire vehicle, the stress to the transmission. That is how it felt sitting and doing nothing.
So here is what I did. Instead of going right to my breath, I focused for a minute on what I wanted to focus on. I did the stretching I wanted to do. I looked around the room; I listened to sounds; I felt sensations in my body, and then, when I was satisfied, I focused on my breath.
What is so important about mindfulness? He never did answer the question, but here is the benefit as I see it. First, checking in with myself in the morning feels great. I love just being with myself and connecting with my body and mind before the day begins. The benefits I have noticed is that I respond to life more from my core, more from my authentic self. If that were the only benefit, quite frankly, I would be happy. But there is more, ten minutes of quiet mindfulness in the morning focusing on my breath allows me to be more in control of my moods, emotions, and responses to life. It allows me to change my focus on a dime if I want to. And it makes sense when we go to the research also.
According to Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson (2012) the purpose of practicing mindfulness is not to help one relax, rather the purpose is to increase one’s ability to attend to present moment experience, to be able to shift, and control our focus whenever we like. If that is not an athletes dream come true, then I don’t know what is.
If you are already practicing mindfulness, then I am preaching to the choir. But for those of you who are stubborn like me, I will leave you with this much for now, and I will elaborate next more on mindfulness. It is such an important subject; I want to give it a bit more attention.
So here is your assignment for the month, if you choose to. Start to get in the habit of just 10 minutes of sitting and focusing on your breathing. Do a lead in at the beginning. I spend from 5 to 15 minutes allowing myself to stretch, look around, listen to sounds and feel my body, then I set my timer for 10 minutes and simply sit. Start off twice a week, then three times a week, then five times a week. Work up to sitting for ten minutes a day on most days. Whatever time you like is fine. Personally, I like to do it in the morning after my morning cardio.
Next month I will have some more specifics on the benefits of mindfulness for athletes as well as some more official practices. For now, just start to warm up to the idea of the utility of mindfulness. Trust me; I know it can be a challenge.
Until next month,
Reference: Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012) Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
People often ask me how I make the process of sticking to a regimented nutrition and training program so easy. The short answer has always been that I make it fun. I like to say, if it is not fun, I am not doing it. And that’s the truth. I competed for 20 years and it was always fun. The only show that was not fun was my last one. That’s how I knew it was time to pursue other endeavors.
But is prepping food every morning for an hour really fun? Is eating practically the same food every day really fun. Is waking up before the sun does to do cardio really fun? This has been difficult for me to articulate to people how exactly I make the process fun. The key to having a successful and enjoyable journey toward any fitness endeavor is to act from a place of values rather than emotions.
Our emotions can be so strong. Sometimes they come at us with reckless abandon encouraging us to lay on the couch because we deserve to relax. Our emotions tell us to have some popcorn with our family because it feels so good to snuggle in and laugh with a big family size bowl of buttered yumminess. According to Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson (2012) the co-creators of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, when we are able to act from our values instead of our emotions, we can have and honor our feelings and at the same time act from a place of integrity with what is really important.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself the next time you are feeling emotional and are ready to act from a place of emotion rather than from your values.
When we live from a place of values, we get to live with purpose in the moment. We are not waiting for some time in the future when we can have x, y or z. When we live from our values, we get to feel good about honoring what is important at a deeper level and not just what will make us feel good in that moment.
It is also a great idea to frequently update big picture values such as honesty, personal development, integrity, passion, authenticity. This helps us to consider what is overall most important so that we can leave from a deeper place without being reactive to our day to day feelings.
Getting back to the example of getting up early to do cardio and making food, when we come from a place of values it is easy to take action that moves us in the direction of our goals. I think about my WHY. Why am I doing this? That helps me to be motivated and also to enjoy the process.
I hope this has been helpful if you have been struggling with making the journey fun. Think about your values, and I promise you will be saying it is easy too.
Until next month,
Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012) Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
The holidays are here. It is time for parties, family gatherings, and social engagements galore! I know many people don’t look forward to the amount of socializing that goes on around this time of year. For one thing, we socialize with people that we only see a few times a year, and getting conversations going can be a bit awkward. On top of that, we have gatherings that are more business in nature, and we are meeting people for the first time. Getting those conversations going, can also sometimes seem challenging.
And then there is that Aunt, who is stuck in the past that every year reminds the entire family of all the embarrassing things they did when they were ten years old. I feel you. It can make one want to sneak away and hide in a bottle and go numb to it all.
But I have a proposal, a challenge if you will. Live each event to the fullest. Be the life of the party, engage enthusiastically, strike up conversations that are stimulating to other people, and leave people feeling good for having interacted with you. Whether that is your sister, step cousin, or that random stranger that one of your family members invited so that they too have a place to go for the holidays.
What if we challenged ourselves in a new way, to live each event as if it were the only thing important in life? What if we gave an overhaul to our social skills and our family etiquette? If you are up for the challenge, here are a few ideas to get things going.
1. Accept others for who they are. It is my opinion that one of the most important ways we can have meaningful interactions is to accept that others are different from us. Some are VERY different. It’s all good, right? We don’t want little clones of ourselves do we; that agree with everything we say no matter what and never challenge us? I don’t think that would be interesting at all. So next party, clear your mind of all that you believe about people and just come in as a blank slate, open to some interesting and engaging conversations.
2. Get interested in their unique story. Once we come in as a blank slate and accept others as they are, it is much easier to become curious about people. When someone is different, be curious rather than judgmental. Think of it as an amazing opportunity to try on someone else’s life for the fun of it and then giving it back at the end of the conversation. Ask engaging questions that will get them excited. Play a game to see how much better of a mood you can leave them in than when they started talking to you.
3. Be the happy person in the room. I don’t recall where this advice came from, maybe it is an old Taoist saying, but people remember you based on how you made them feel. That to me is so wild. Here we are thinking we need to impress people with our fancy dress and perfect makeup, and it turns out, when they feel good after interacting with us, they also feel more positively toward us. It is a win win deal as far as I can tell. You feel good for allowing yourself to be in such a good mood and interact with positivity, and they feel good for the positive interaction. And based on my experience, that positivity will become contagious real quick.
4. Balance family time with alone time. Our schedules are usually tighter than normal over the holidays, be sure to find time for yourself. Even if you have to scale it back from your usual hour a day to 30 minutes a day, at least you are doing something to turn inward and connect with yourself and check in with how you feel and recharge your mind and body.
5. Realize that the only moment that ever matters in life is this moment right now. Or is it this moment now? Or this one? Or maybe this one? Well, you get the point. The past is done and over with, and the future will never arrive. Spend this holiday season in the present, enjoying each moment as it comes.
Make a personal challenge to yourself, to improve your interpersonal relationships. Get to know someone on a deeper level, or maybe several people. Any bit that you do to stay engaged, positive and present will make each holiday event and gather that much more full of spirit and joy. And I think that is what the season is all about, joy.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday full of love and connection,
If you followed my pre-contest diet without a contest video series, you are aware that I have recently intentionally put myself through a mental transformation. Having been a fitness and figure competitor for 20 years, it was pretty easy for me to dial in a diet and let go of the security blanket of hiding my emotions through food. It was quite a transformative process. And even though many people were very curious about what I was eating and how much weight I was losing (naturally), I was more interested in the transformation that was happing inside my mind.
I think part of why we all love to do physical transformations is that we get to see the fruits of our labor visually. We see the number on a scale go down, we see needing smaller pants, we get the accolades from others that we are looking good. But what happens when we go through a mental transformation? We don’t get social feedback about that very often. “Wow Janet, it is so nice to see that you are taking a nicer tone with your internal dialog.” Or “I am so glad to feel you not hating on me today.” Although we can often feel when our energy is closed off to someone else, and we can also feel when someone’s energy is closed off to us, we can’t quite quantify it as easily as we can with the stuff that makes up or physical transformation. It is not ubiquitous, and, therefore, I think we tend to overlook the importance of feeling great and settle for just looking great. But I have never worked with a client that a physical transformation alone was enough to help make a mental transformation. They always had an intent to make the journey both physical as well as mental.
With competition season closing shop, for the most part, and many people hiding under their baggy sweaters and sweatshirts, I think winter is the perfect time to incorporate both a physical as well as mental transformation. No, your friends probably won’t comment on your emotional well-being, but hey, not every life changing event is for show and tell.
So how do we even begin to quantify an emotional transformation? What specifically do we work on improving? How do we know when we have arrived? Or do we arrive? What goals do we set? How do we monitor if we are making progress? Seems a bit overwhelming doesn’t it? I hope to simplify the process right now.
Setting goals in your emotional world is very similar to setting goals in your physical world. A good starting point is as easy as asking: What do I want? You can compartmentalizes, for example, what do I want in my relationships, my work, my health and wellness, my spirituality, etc. Or you can think of a general direction of your goals of what you want. Next ask yourself, what emotions are getting in my way of me getting what I want? Write down your limiting beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that seem to get in the way. Third, set the tone for allowing yourself to experience these emotions. This is the not so easy part, and this is precisely the point where we go into distraction mode with food, internet, TV or some other activity that will distract us from how we feel. But, if we can take a moment to allow it to be present and to appreciate these emotions.
My philosophy is that all emotions that feel bad serve a purpose. There is a message behind the emotions. If we allow ourselves to feel the emotion, then we can do the final step that is where the transformation takes place, and that is receiving the message from the negative emotion. I will simply have a conversation with myself and say: “What message does this emotion have for me?” When I ask the question, I then sit into the emotion and let it express whatever wants to happen. That is not to say I won’t have this emotion again, but at least now, I have a transformative understanding of the message of the emotion, and now I have befriended my so called negative emotion rather than rejecting it. Here is a quick outline for reference:
With a better understanding of the meaning of our emotions, we can have good ones and bad ones and feel a sense of connectedness to our inner experience without being judgmental and critical of thoughts and feelings that don’t feel good. Emotions that feel bad serve a purpose; they have a message for us. The trick is to allow ourselves to me in a receptive state to receive the message and let in our highest desire.
Until Next Month,
How Can We Treat Our Bodies with Integrity and Respect?
I am 7 weeks in to my pre-contest diet without a contest. I didn’t do a week 5 or week 6 video, and I explain why in the week 7 video.
This week the focus is on being in our bodies with integrity and respect. We are more than just an outer shell to be working toward sculpting external perfection. Respecting our bodies in every way is on my mind this week.
Also, I know I sent an invitation out there a few weeks ago to explore emotions, and this week I talk about the window of tolerance and how to have a healthy experience with exploring emotions.
Here is week 7:
I love your feedback. Please let me know what comes up for you after watching week 7. Also, I am committed for 12 weeks, so please feel free to message me what you would like for me to talk about next week.
Are We Healing Emotional Wounds by Achieving Physical Transformations?
This week I talk about the importance of emotional transformation. I put out the question: Are we healing emotional wounds by achieving physical transformations? The answer: We can be, if that is what we are interested in. The emotional transformation is equally as valid as the physical one. Just because you are working on your exterior does not mean you are ignoring the interior. Also find out if I think bodybuilding is a selfish sport.
Here is week 4:
Two weeks in to my new plan to feel all of my emotions, I begin to ponder if I am really vulnerable. What is the difference between being authentic and being vulnerable? Also, for those of you existentialists who appreciate considering the meaning of life and what it is all for, I discuss what it has been like for me this past week to honor the conflict and to accept my full range of emotions, both positive and negative. Here is week 2.
PS- I have no set plan for how long I will do this. I really did not have an intention of doing a week by week video, so maybe I will have one next week, maybe I won’t. It depends on how I feel and how nice you are with your comments. (Just kidding)… sort of.