The Mental Edge: Athletic Applications of Mindfulness Part 1

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,

Nancy

Reference: Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012) Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

The Mental Edge: Aligning Values for Peak Performance

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.

  1. What is really important to me here?
  2. What do I want my (fitness journey, contest prep, weight loss, etc.) to be about?
  3. What is this emotion letting me know is important to me?
  4. What is the big picture of what I am creating in my life?
  5. What are my top ten values and how does my goal help me live those values day to day?

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,

Nancy

Reference:
Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012) Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

 

Mental Edge: How To Make The Most Out of Interpersonal Relationships

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,

Nancy

Mental Edge: If You Don’t Take Care of Yourself, Who Will?

5 Keys To Improve Self-Care

Is there ever a good time to slow down? Do we appreciate people telling us to relax and not worry so much when there is so much to get done? I know I don’t. It’s like someone telling you to smile when you were perfectly pleased with the face you had on. However, stress creeps in little by little and before you know it, our time is not our own anymore. It is not until we tell ourselves to slow down that we usually listen.

Rather than offering some suggestions for slowing down, I thought it would be more beneficial to focus on what to do, rather than what not to do. Here are my top five ways of improving self-care. You may or may not chose to slow down the pace, but ultimately what matters is our peace of mind along with positive mental and emotional well being.


1. Learn how to get your needs met:
Getting our needs met is relatively easy. Most people close to us will have no problem meeting our needs; that is if we can articulate them. One simple way of getting our needs met is to ask ourselves the simple question: “What do I need right now.” Simple, yes, easy to implement, not so much. It requires a cognitive process that we become aware that we are compensating our behavior in some way to meet a need that is a substitute for the real need. I think we can all relate to the desire for deep, meaningful connection, only to find ourselves in the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s thinking, where is it? It does require effort, but effort well worth the investment. When our real needs are met, we make less substitutions like overeating, over working, drinking, overspending, gossiping, watching too much TV or spending too much time on the internet, just to name a few of my favorites.

2. Know when to say no: We may think that every opportunity that comes our way is an important magnum opus to take on. Truth be told if we connect with our true values, what is important easily outshines the less important opportunities that end up being energy draining in the long run. Personally, I have a list of my top ten values in mind at all times to make sure my decisions and actions are values based.

3. Scale back rather than eliminate: This is my favorite method as it relates to exercise and proper nutrition. Many people when stress or crisis starts to come toward them at an accelerated pace, end up neglecting exercise because it is not reasonable to do it as often. The same holds true for proper nutrition. Sometimes we need to travel or go to several parties in a row, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop completely. I like to scale workouts back to an amount that I will feel successful doing. Maybe that is two or three times a week, that is fine, it is better than zero times.

4. Be content with close enough: This is a hard one to implement in a society that force feeds us that we need to persist with our goals with passion and not settling for less. But let’s face it, there is a point where we can say we are simply close enough. We don’t need to be so anal retentive and strive for perfection. I remember when I first started college I would squabble about getting a 95% on a paper or a test, and then I realized, it is still an A, close enough. It is not like I need to get to 100%. I can focus my energy somewhere else.

5. Establish your sacred time: I love my sacred time. There is very little that interferes with my one hour weekly sessions with my sports psychologist and my active release specialist. These are two people that I trust to help me stay connected and grounded with who I am, what I am about, and where I am going. It is like a weekly tune up for my mind and body. Find something sacred for you, maybe it is yoga, meditation, a weekly cup of coffee with your favorite friend, or an extra-long nap every Sunday afternoon. Finding sacred time is very important in my opinion. It sends your unconscious mind the message that you are important and worth investing in, whatever way you do that.

I was starting to feel a little of the neurotic holiday energy, so I decided to re-group and gather my resources for self-care. I hope you also find the timing right for you. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. It is my favorite holiday, spending time with people I love eating delicious food. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Until next time,

Nancy

November 2015: What is Mental Fitness? Connecting, Receving and Transforming Our Emotions

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:

  1. What do I want? Create goals in any area of your life. They can be relationship goals, career goals, health and wellness goals, or any goals that are a priority in your life right now.
  2. What emotions are in my way of me getting what I want? Write down limiting beliefs, negative thoughts and self-critical internal dialog.
  3. Allow the “negative” emotion to come up without distracting yourself from it.
  4. Receive the message from the emotion. You can ask: “What message does this emotion have for me?”

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,

Nancy
www.nancygeorges.com

Week 3: Pre-contest diet without a contest

Can Mental, Emotional and Physical Transformation Be Reduced to a Number on a Scale?

It’s the end of week three, and I am still going strong on my pre-contest diet without a contest. My birthday was yesterday, no cake. I didn’t even want any cake. To be honest, it was weird. Once I lock in the diet is easy. The ease of locking into the diet is something that I address in this video, because I know there are people who do struggle with this, and I don’t want to make light of your struggles at all.

The question that came up for me this week in my candid video is this: Can a mental, emotional and physical transformation be reduced to a number on a scale? It is ridiculous I know, but we all do it.

Part of my emotional transformation this week is exploring the resistance. Last week, I seemed to be in the zone with allowing every emotion to come at me with reckless abandon. This week, I have been a little resistance, and I will explore why in my video.

So here’s week three. Let me know if there are any questions you have or anything you want me to address next week. I am feeling committed to another week, so feel free to email me what emotions you would like me to explore while I am on my nutrition plan. Sorry for the rambling at the end. Like I have mentioned, I don’t edit, I just let the video run and the thoughts come out of my mouth.

Week 1: Pre-contest diet without a contest. Is Dieting Really Easy?

Hello, it’s me again. I decided to do a mid-month newsletter this month. I have something that feels important that I want to share with you today. You may know that I stopped competing in 2009 due to a back injury. I have not been 100 percent since. But this update is not about my recovery, rather it is about me moving forward in spite of not having recovery. It is about embracing where I am and being ok with it, even if it feels not ok, and moving forward.

I started a pre-contest diet a week ago today. No, I am not competing. But, I am doing this for several reasons, the first is obvious, let’s face it, I can stand to lose a few pounds. But the second and more important reason is to feel my emotions. Before I was in chronic pain, I never considered doing anything to numb myself to life. After six years of pain, trust me, I have found a multitude of ways to numb myself to pain.

Recently, I have been in less physical pain, and I have decided to feel my emotions in all their glory… Well, let me say, they are not all that glorious. I wanted to do a video so you can see the raw emotional tone of my week as I launch into week one of my pre-contest (without a contest) diet. My diet this past week consisted of 1800 calories, no just-a-bites, no alcohol and no sugar. I cut out most of my fruit as well. I had a small amount of fruit on Friday due to a splitting headache from cutting sugar. As of now my energy is good, and my workouts are strong.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s video newsletter. I know I am not as elegant on video as I am in writing. Hopefully it brings some light on the important subject of being who we really are, while we strive for increased excellence in our lives.

Nancy

July 2015: How Happy Relationships Help With Goal Achievement

Couple of scubadivers looking at camera in water holding hands as if flying

When I refer to balance, I don’t mean that every area of life is equally balanced. That is not realistic. If we are pursuing a specific goal, it is a given that there will be an increased emphasis on the particular area that is the goal, which naturally leaves a decrease in focus on one or more other areas. But balance is still important.

For example, one of the elements that is of upmost importance to me is a person’s support system. If I am working with someone who is having challenges in their relationships, then the relationships need to get tended to first and foremost. It is simply more important to cultivate meaningful relationships than it ever will be to get in great shape. I never really had a rhyme or reason to this philosophy, other than it just seems like common sense to me.

That is, until Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons generated some clarity for me with their study on relationship satisfacation as it relates to the ability to self-regulate and achieve goals. They argues for the importance of happy relationships as it relates to goal pursuit. The hypothesis of the article is that people who are in happy relationships have a much easier time pursuing their goals as well as practicing self-regulation. Naturally, I had to investigate.

Relationship Satisfaction and Goal Achievement

Being the self-regulation advocate that I am, I had to write about this brand new study done by Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons (2015) which argues that people high on state relationship satisfaction have an easier time with self-regulation and ultimately, goal achievement. I want to discuss their “four parameters of effective self-regulation.”

Hofmann, Finkel, and Fitzsimons (2015) base their hypothesis on relationship satisfaction being correlated to self-regulation using the following four factors.

The first self-regulatory factor is perceived control. That is the extent to which a person feels the ability to achieve their goals are within their control. This includes feeling like they have the ability to take the proper action as well as have a stable environment that allows them to focus on these goals. Hofmann et al., (2015) claim that the way relationship contentment affects perceived control is through the emotional stability that satisfying relationships provide. This is not exclusive to romantic partner relationships.

The second self-regulatory factor is goal focus. This refers to a person’s ability to maintain focus on a desired goal. Hofmann et al., (2015) argue that goals are held in working memory, and unsatisfying relationships take up cognitive load that distracts a person from their goals.

The third self-regulatory factor is perceived partner support. This refers to the extent to which a person feels that they are being supported in their endeavors. Hofmann et al., (2015) state that social support offers us an increase in motivation and helps us to reach our goals. When we feel like someone has our back and is cheerleading for us, it helps increase motivation.

The fourth self-regulatory factor is positive affect. Happy relationships put us in a good mood right? Well, for the most part, yes this is true. Hofmann et al., (2015) state that the better mood we are in, the more positive behaviors we will engage in that are related to our goals. They also state that since we are not bombarded with intrusive thoughts and concerns about our relationships, we have extra energy to focus on our goals.

Hoffman et al., (2015) did find a correlation between positive close relationships and one’s ability to self-regulate in order to achieve their goals. I will leave the reference if you are interested in the details of the study.

For the purpose of my newsletter, I simply wanted to flush out the ideas of the importance of positive communication with those that are important in our lives. It is an important consideration simply to enhance interpersonal communication, but it turns out having positive relationships, also benefits us with goal achievement. Now go hug someone you love.

Reference: Hofmann, W., Finkel, E.J., & Fitzsimons, G.M. (2015). Close relationships and self-regulation: How relationship satisfaction facilitates momentary goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1-19.

June 2015: How to Reduce the Need for Self-Control

Successful couple of young athletes raising arms to golden summer sunset sky after training. Fitness man and woman with arms up celebrating sport goals after exercising in countryside field.Willpower, self-regulation, and self-control; whatever you call it, many claim it is the cornerstone to success with goal achievement. In fact, I have written many articles myself on being able to increase willpower and self-regulation.

Recently I came across an article by Job, Bernecker, Miketta and Friese (2015) that argues will power is not in limited supply. In other words, just because we utilize willpower to go to the gym, does not mean we will be any less capable of using this resource to say no to that cookie. It is a fascinating study that aims to prove the only people that are limited in their ability to use willpower are those that believe it is a limited resource. That’s right, if you believe you have limited willpower, then you do. This new insight got me to thinking. Why do we need to use willpower or self-control at all? If we want a goal, why don’t we just do what needs to get done to achieve it? Why can’t we treat our goals like brushing our teeth? We do it every day. It takes daily effort, yet the cognitive load on this activity is almost non-existent. What if we applied the same concept of brushing our teeth to achieving our goals? What if our goals didn’t take self-control at all, rather they were a series of automated behaviors, just like brushing our teeth? Sounds too simple doesn’t it?

Recently I have taken on some new health behaviors that looking back on how I implemented them, they carried very little need for self-control to implement them. All I did was create a plan, write it in my calendar and then performed the tasks. They were small tasks, nonetheless, as I was going for my daily morning walk this morning that I have been doing for about two months now, I got to thinking how natural and easy it has been to incorporate that activity into my daily routine. I started with a plan to go for a walk first thing in the morning three times a week. I did that until I was successful, then I increased it to four, then five, now, I go for a 45 minute walk most mornings and I don’t really think about it as a hassle at all. It is an enjoyable part of my morning. And, when I don’t go, I don’t worry about it, I just go about my day and go for a walk the following day.

I have been theorizing for some time now, that when we have goals, we tend to make sweeping changes in our lives that require cognitive load and take mental space, which causes us to utilize willpower or self-control in order to implement our new activity. But, what if like my morning walk, you made changes in your life in the same way?

There is only one way to find out if my hypothesis is true for you, and that is to try it. Here are some simple steps.

  1. Think about a goal that you have.
  2. What’s one behavior that you can do this week that will move you in the direction of that goal?
  3. Write it down in your calendar. Put the days and times that you will do this activity. Make it simple, maybe three times a week or something like that.
  4. At the end of the week review your progress and make adjustments the following week that are slightly more ambitious.
  5.  Once this behavior gets automated, add a second behavior.

Continue to your heart’s content.

That’s all. A few simple changes now leads to your desired goal later. Here are a few more ideas that will help you to reduce the need to self-control and make your health behaviors an effortless part of your life.

  1. Establish goals that not only have a compelling outcome, but are also fun to do in the process.
  2. Make your workouts fun
  3. Scale back slowly on undesired habits.
  4. Laugh a little, or a lot.
  5. Don’t overthink it.
  6. Get rid of the rules.
  7. De-stress.

Feel free to send me a message and let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear about your success with it.

Reference:

Job, V., Bernecker, K., Miketta, S., Friese, M. (2015, June 15). Implicit theories about willpower predict the activation of a rest goal following self-control exertion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

April 2015: How to Give Your Brain a Workout

BrainAs the days get warmer, motivation increases. Many of us are in the midst of a mastermind plan to obtain and improve our level of physical fitness and physique mastery. We have competitions to win, vacations to take, and short shorts to easily fit into during our summer vacation. We are in the zone and focused on our goal and ready to do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Unfortunately, heightened motivation can lead to overtraining, burnout and even worse, injury. When we are highly motivated, sometimes we want to push our bodies because our minds are motivated to achieve our goals. But, be forewarned, deviating from the scheduled workout program and skipping off days can have negative consequences that will potentially require more time off due to a variety of issues that come with over training. That is where mental practice comes in.

Mental practice is something we can be incorporating in an ongoing way. However, it is most relevant during times when we have a scheduled rest day but are inspired to push ourselves just a little more. Save your joints, and start incorporating mental practice to take your fitness to the next level. Here is how:

Mental Practice: How to Give Your Brain a Workout

Mental practice, is defined by Magill and Anderson (2014) as the mental rehearsal of a skill without physical movement. This is the perfect workout for your brain, on those days that your mind is ready to go, but your body needs a rest day.

Mental practice is not to be confused with meditation, which is often a passive activity. Mental practice is an active cognitive rehearsal. We can use mental practice for a variety of different outcomes. Since there is no one proper way to perform mental practice, I will provide an outline of how mental practice can be done. From there, simply refine the technique to meet your personal needs.

  1. Think of a specific type of mental practice you are interested in. Would you like to image in your mind’s eye, winning a competition, or looking great for the beach, or your summer vacation? Or perhaps you are interested in visualizing your procedure goals, such as having great form and intensity for your workouts, or having a perfectly planned day of food prep and positive attitude and energy. Or maybe you would like to focus on imagery that considers more specific emotional states of mind, such as having the proper arousal and focus for your workouts or day to day activities that help prepare you for your goal. So take a moment to think about what you want to practice and write it down.
  2. Find a place where you can perform your visualizations without distractions. Allow yourself to be free from distractions such as your phone or internet and also put yourself in a place where you will not be disrupted by others. Set a time frame that you wish to do your mental practice and set a timer on your phone.
  3. Get yourself into your preferred state of mind. Often times I actually use music to help me to perform my visualizations when I am focused on being on stage for a competition. I like to focus on my affect, or how I will feel when I am on stage, and music is very inspiring. Whatever works for you, get yourself into that state of mind.
  4. Set your intent to have a great mental workout for your established time. Take several deep relaxing breaths to get yourself relaxed and open to receive a wonderful visual experience in your mind’s eye.
  5. Start your imagery. You may be going through your day with a positive attitude, having good energy, focused on your goal, bypassing treats that are presented to you that are not part of your plan. You may be focused on how you feel when you are working out. Be sure to get the emotional elements of your mental practice, such as how good you feel about yourself and the proper emotional tone for the situation. Think about any thoughts you may be saying to yourself that will help get you inspired and pumped up in this situation. Take all the time you need to really play out your selected scenario.
  6. Come back to the present moment and write down any interesting findings that you have gleaned from this experience or notes on what you visualized so you can come back to this at another time in the future when you want to practice again.

That’s all there is to it. Feel free to modify to anyway that suits your needs best. I sometimes will do mental practice for 45 minutes, which is around the amount I would spend on an actual workout. This is a great way to get in a “workout” when your body needs a rest but your mind is motivated and eager to exercise. I hope you have enjoyed this mental workout.

References:

Magill, R., Anderson, . (2014). Motor learning and control. (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.