Team Mind Strong Athlete Focuses on Mindfulness

mentaltraining2This week in the Team Mind Strong Athlete Members area we are focusing on mindfulness as well as anxiety reduction and relaxation. I know I am like a broken record with this thing. But the truth of the matter is once we master mindfulness, we can master any mental skill. If we want to be able to visualize our goals, regulate our emotions, streamline our focus, or let go of what is out of our control, the key step is mindfulness.

Just like when you start your diet, you first get rid of the cookies and junk food. That is the way I see mindfulness, an important foundation to our upcoming mental skills.

I have added a video and audio practice on mindfulness and I also have videos and worksheets. the worksheets will first help you to assess your anxiety level, second, establish your current relaxation resources, and create new ones, and finally to help you focus on what is important, controlling the controllables.

Feel free to email me any or all of your worksheets and I will provide you email feedback. For coaching clients we will discuss in our next coaching call the worksheets and how we will be incorporating those into your mental training program.

And if you are not already a member, what are you waiting for? Team Mind Strong Athlete is the only contest prep team that focus not only on your body but your mind.

Here is what I do specifically, I help figure, bikini and physique athletes who struggle with confidence, body image and distorted thoughts, and instead want to feel empowered, self-assured and mentally strong.

Check out the focus of the week here:
https://mindstrongathlete.com/focus-of-the-week-mindfulness

Time to Get in the Zone

Getting in the zone; in the fitness world we call that flipping the switch. Which is ironic since so much prep work needs to really happen ahead of time it seems like a switch is being flipped. In reality we are going over in our head all the ways in which said switch should be flipped. It is a mental game and a major struggle. Why? Often times we can’t seem to find the switch to flip.

Today I posted a short video in my private Facebook group a little mental exercise on flipping the switch. By the way, if you are not a part of my group and you are interested in taking your mind and body to the next level, you will want to add yourself to the group. Here is that link:

Step 1: How do you know you are not in the zone? The way you know you are not in the zone is that you have been there before, so we do have something to compare it to. Write out all the ways in which you know you are not in the zone:

a. What are you saying to yourself in regards to your workouts, your food prep, your cardio, your body, etc?

b. What pictures are you making in your mind’s-eye? Do you have an image in your mind of looking shredded? Or are you picturing yourself sleeping in and getting a little bit more rest?

c. How do you feel? How is your posture, is it upright or slouched over? How much energy do you have? How fast are you walking? Do you have a spring in your step?

Step 2: Recall a time that you knew you were in the zone.

a. What were you saying to yourself in regards to your workouts, your food prep, your cardio, your body, etc?

b. What pictures were you making in your mind’s-eye? Did you have an image in your mind of looking shredded? Or were you picturing yourself sleeping in and getting a little bit more rest?

c. How did you feel? How was your posture, was it upright or slouched over? How much energy did you have? How fast were you walking? Did you have a spring in your step?

Step 3: Try on a sample from your zone experience right now. The easiest is to try on the auditory. What were you saying to yourself when you were in the zone? Say that now. Now change your posture. Now change the images to match the type of images you had when you were in the zone.

I hope you enjoy this technique and find it helpful. Remember to join my private group for more videos and updates on mental skills.

Until next time,

Nancy Georges

IFBB Figure Pro
Contest Prep Coach
Mental Game Coach

The Mental Game of Dieting for Competition

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Transforming Hunger
The Mental Game of Dieting for Competition  

What I am about to talk about is a very controversial subject. I want to approach this subject with extreme care. I am going to talk about hunger, and how to accept it as part of the dieting process. I am sure you can already see why this is controversial, since hunger is our body telling us that we need food and it is mandatory for our survival.

So, I will issue a warning, that is, I am assuming that your diet is enough food to sustain you but you are still hungry. If you are having problems with memory, concentration and focus, extreme headaches, and lack of motivation, or if your diet is under 1200 calories, then the probability that you are not eating enough is higher. Each person will be on a case by case basis but, I want you to be responsible enough to gauge whether or not you need to change you plan of action (i.e.: the diet) or change the way you are thinking about it. If you feel you are eating enough calories and you trust your support team, then please read on. If you are having any concerns then please consider a second opinion to your procedure.

The subject of hunger came up because of several athletes that have mentioned to me they are struggling with hunger. In addition, I was having a conversation with my sport psychologist recently about the sport and we were talking about hunger, and he was asking what I do when I get hungry. And I said, well you are going to be hungry, there is no way around that. He seemed pretty surprised by that. I just accept hunger as part of the process. I told him that I reframe hunger into my hunger for how I want to look. And the better you look, the easier it is to live with the hunger. He really did seem shocked. He said, so hunger is inevitable? I said, of course, it is a diet. I said most people (non-competitors) eat at the smallest discomfort, they don’t even wait to be hungry. So the reality is, most people never feel real hunger. This got me thinking and wondering if people really think that they are going to diet and not feel hungry, seriously? We are reducing our calories, so of course there will be hunger. Which got me to wondering what other misnomers are out there about dieting and the competition journey. I always claim for things to be easy and I stand by that. However, I do feel hunger. It is the way I perceive it that is what makes the process easy for me. Here are some other common threads that we have as competitors. Now, this is not a license to complain, rather an awareness to reframe and use some mental techniques to help make the journey you are on easy and fun.

Normalizing the Dieting Journey

1. You will feel hungry. I think that we all are in agreement that we will feel hungry. However, stating it as such that everyone feels it, really puts it into perspective. There is nothing wrong with your hunger signals, they are real and we all feel them. We are used to grazing. So, when we set up a plan to eat every three hours and not snack in between, it is difficult. The sooner you make peace with hunger, the sooner you get shredded.

2. You will sometimes have lower energy. This also surprises some people. I am going to be upfront, we all feel this too. Some of us hide it better than others, some of us drink more coffee than others, but we all go through periods during dieting where we feel tired and we don’t want to go to the gym, or fold our clothes or wash our hair. Seriously, sometimes washing my hair during contest prep is just a hassle. Now you know, we are all feeling it, even if we don’t say so.

3. You will sometimes get irritated about things that normally don’t bother you. When I am dieting and I hear someone complain about something that seems trivial to me I am thinking… seriously? Do you realize that I did an hour of cardio, spend an hour packing my food, and had a weight workout before you even woke up this morning? I like to pretend that I am stoned. (not that I have ever been stoned) but if I had been, I would want to feel stoned when someone was saying something annoying so it would just roll off my back like no big deal. Realize we are a little hypersensitive and give others the benefit of the doubt that their behavior would probably not be that annoying if we had just ate an entire pizza.

4. Some people will comment on how you look in a negative way. This is probably the hardest one to deal with, feeling fantastic about how you look and then someone saying, you look tired, are you OK? Or you look sick, you really should eat. Or, are you still doing that diet thing? People don’t get it. I stopped trying to force them to get it. I don’t let it bother me.

5. You may feel lonely or isolated. This is probably the most difficult. We so want people to understand and appreciate what we do. As it gets closer, we do limit our social activities, but that does not mean we need to be or feel isolated. We usually connect through food, but we don’t have to. Find other ways to connect with people. It is challenging but it can be done. Make peace with many people not getting what you are doing, this will also be very beneficial in helping make the process easy.

6. You will wonder if this is worth it, or if you should quit. This may not come into play until a few weeks out. But, most athletes at some point in the contest prep will have an emotional meltdown (or two) wondering if it is all worth it. I remember one time having a meltdown and crying over nothing as I recall it. I was sincerely and honestly upset. I finished my rant to my boyfriend, then lifted up my shirt and said, and look at my abs, my abs are shredded! And I continued to cry. No joke. Doesn’t happen daily but it happens. Make sure you have a strong support team that will be there for you when you need it.

I hope you found this list helpful, there are of course many many other things I could have selected, but in the 20 years that I have been competing and coaching, those are the ones that stand out to me most. My thought process around all of these subjects is to find ways to make them a normal part of your process. Not everyone is going to understand what we do, personally I don’t care. I want what I want for me, not for anyone else anyway. So if I don’t get the approval, I don’t try to force it down people’s throat like a religion, but if they want to ask me questions about what I am doing, then I will share, and of course I hope they join in on the healthy eating bandwagon, because that is one less stressor in my life, however, I don’t need other’s approval in order to move forward to achieve my goals. I move from the passion of my heart, that is my guiding force. I hope that it is yours also. At the end of the day, very few will really get what we are doing, and that is OK. That is what the fitness community is for.

Mental Game Tools: Hunger Resources
Hypnosis Download: Appetite Control
Visualization Exercise: Nutrition Compliance
Nutrition and Life Balance: Inner Athlete Coaching

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

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.