Wednesday, 27 May 2020

How To Cope With Plateaus During COVID-19?

Have you hit a plateau? Do you lack motivation? Are you eating out of boredom? Guess what? You’re not alone but that doesn’t mean you can’t change that. How? Recall what you did pre-pandemic. What did you do to overcome a plateau or get motivated? Much of the time it helps to be accountable to someone. This could include connecting with a coach online, a friend, someone in your household but basically you’re looking for an accountability partner.

Do you ever feel like your goals/intentions are crashing? When my computer crashes, I do a reboot and similarly when we feel like we’re crashing we need to reboot, specifically reboot our mind. We do this by changing things up, i.e., if you’ve set goals and haven’t been able to follow them, change the goal and make it smaller, more attainable. For example, if you haven’t worked out or even walked due to a lack of energy and/or motivation, mentally gear yourself up to do a 4 minute tabata, which consists of 20 seconds of ‘work’, i.e., burpees followed by 10 seconds of marching in place. Repeat that for a total of 4 minutes and remember to stretch afterwards. This doesn’t seem as daunting because it’s only 4 minutes and you don’t need any equipment as the ‘work’ is based on high intensity body exercises. Another example could be slowly increasing your daily water intake. One small achievement can lead to more achievements which can increase your motivation.

They say positivity breeds positivity so if you’re feeling down, surround yourself with positive, motivating people. This can be following someone you respect through their podcasts, posts, and the like. We are not too old to learn; it’s more a matter of if we’re willing to try something new. Often, we feel ‘stuck’ as we keep repeating what we have been doing expecting a different result; yes that’s the definition of insanity. Even at home, we have social media to selectively choose positive individuals or even groups, i.e., Facebook, to read their experiences and how they actioned solutions for their struggles. We are not islands. We are on a planet called Earth so feel free to seek out positive fellow human beings for inspiration.

As humans, we are social creatures. Not all the time mind you but we value interactions and without the social interactions given COVID-19, this is a missing piece to our well being. A temporary solution is to reach out to others on a regular basis, i.e., to check on them and to have some form of connection with people outside of your home. For people outside of our home, this could be through calling them, text, email, social media chats, videoconferencing, and so on. If you are not alone at home, it can be irritating to be together all the time but try a bit harder to be thoughtful and patient. This is a trying time for most people if not everyone to some degree. Nerves will fray which is to be expected given the circumstances. Keep in mind the bigger picture: we are not alone.

In coping with plateaus, consider getting an accountability partner, reboot with smaller goals, surround yourself / connect with positive people, reach out and connect with others, adjust your expectations of those living in your household, and be kind whenever you can.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

On Your Mark, Get Ready …

Are you ready to go when we get the green light to return to a gym and/or your competition date has been confirmed or rescheduled to later this year? If not, no worries; let’s strategize!

Circumstances are far from being perfect but you don’t need to be perfect or to have ideal circumstances to get your game on. To be physically ready for a show requires planning but so does mental planning. If mentally you’re sitting back waiting for things to be clear, i.e., a show date confirmed, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. If that’s you, you have the power to change that by changing what you’re doing right now. If you just ate something unhealthy, mentally prepare yourself to eat clean for a full day tomorrow. Plan what you’re going to eat and even prep some of that food. Then repeat that. No motivation to train? This is the perfect time to learn how to train when unmotivated. I tell people it’s like cleaning a toilet. I don’t know many people particularly happy and motivated to clean a toilet but you just do it. Mental training isn’t training when you feel like it; it’s training when you don’t feel like it. So you may ask, how does one train despite feeling unmotivated? Great question. The hardest part is getting started so commit to training a certain body part or do some cardio for 10 minutes. Once you complete the 10 minutes, you’re done! But if you want to continue, then go for it! Does even that sound too difficult? Try a 4 minute tabata, which consists of 20 seconds of a high intensity exercise, i.e., burpees, 10 seconds of walking in place and then repeat that for a total of 4 minutes. Remember to stretch afterwards. By restarting your training and healthier eating routines, you’re making a mental shift to commit to doing more consistent work. That’s a great start!

I would encourage you to take that next step by setting short term goals every week and re-assessing how that process was at the end of the week. Do you need to adjust your goals? Do you need to set a new goal? Remember to follow the SMART principle for setting goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Above all, make it simple! When you achieve your goal, you feel a sense of accomplishment. That in turn provides encouragement and will help you rediscover some motivation as well as self-esteem.

It’s not about being perfect; it’s about doing your best given the circumstances at hand. COVID-19 is NOT normal but it’s also not an excuse to give up on yourself. Use this as an opportunity to be creative and work on your self-care and re-establish your goals.

Do you feel like giving up sometimes? Welcome to the club called humanity! We fall, we make mistakes, we make unhealthy choices; that’s human. Falling is human but uniqueness and strength is getting back up. Be stubborn and not let anything keep you down.

The past is the past. What are you going to do now? The choice is yours. Embrace that choice and commit to action!

Friday, 15 May 2020

How to Adjust Goals During a Disrupted Competitive Season

By Lesley Timbol (Adapted from Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.)

Goals are targets that provide you a sense of purpose and direction. They keep you focused, motivated and energized to achieve a personal objective while overcoming obstacles along the way... the key phrase is 'overcoming obstacles'. Obstacles can be big or small, physical or mental, probable or unexpected.

The coronavirus is a big, unexpected obstacle that challenges bodybuilders both mentally and physically. When you experience an obstacle, you may feel like you failed or that your goal is no longer attainable. You feel all your hopes and hard work went down the drain and think, "How will I earn my Pro card?" or “How will I qualify for the Olympia?” or “How can I even prep for a show when the gyms are closed?” These obstacles can leave you feeling anxious, frustrated, discouraged, demoralized and disappointed.

Did you set meaningful goals for this season only to have it cut short? You planned which shows you were going to compete in and already started your prep. Then COVID-19 happened. Gyms closed. Shows are cancelled or postponed. Now what?

When you are faced with an extended time away from your gym and sport, it may feel like your goals are in jeopardy. It’s important to understand that goal setting is always in flux depending on your current performance and situation. Instead of completely giving up on your goals, you should adjust your goals to meet the demands of your current circumstances or adjust for your next season.
When you adjust your goals, you feel you still have something to work towards. When you adjust your goals, you will still feel your actions, practice and hard work matter. You can work towards that goal by training in your basement or backyard.

The disruptions caused by a global pandemic or some other obstacles are merely bumps in the road. Achieving your goal is a matter of creative adjustment.

Adjust Goals When the Season is Disrupted: 

Goals are always in flux and adjustable.  They are not expectations you must accomplish! You must modify goals based on your current performance, or in today's world, the current circumstances.
During these challenging times, what adjustments can you make to stay on track to accomplish your goals this summer or fall?

Goal setting is about working on building muscle using a variety of techniques, i.e., rest pauses with lighter weights, flexibility (remember to stretch, roll), and the mind muscle connection. And don’t forget about working on your mental game. Think about what you DO have and be creative!
Revise current goals or set new goals to improve your physique. This can give you a sense of purpose and keep you energized despite obstacles.

Monday, 11 May 2020

How To Deal with Death During COVID-19

Grieving is hard enough but is particularly difficult during this pandemic. Normally we can gather around and pay our respects, provide and receive support in the form of face to face chatter, hugs and the like but not now.

Feelings are especially mixed because we don’t have the normal channels to express them but you have a right to feel whatever you’re feeling at the moment. Please keep in mind that one person’s experience and how they cope with the loss may be different than your way so try to avoid making judgements.

There are 7 emotional stages of grief: shock/disbelief, denial, bargaining (making a deal/promise to God/higher power in return for relief from the grief/pain), guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance. It is common to go back and forth from these various stages. Often people feel guilty, i.e., not connecting with the deceased sooner, having left things unsaid, not preventing something from happening i.e., if the deceased committed suicide. It is important to realize that there are some things out of your control. You do not control another person’s actions.

The loss can make you feel empty, like the world has changed and you don’t know how to go on. You may question if it would be disrespectful to the deceased if you did carry on with your life, if you happened to laugh at a joke or have fun with friends or family. Having worked with palliative care patients and clients who wanted to commit suicide, all of them wanted their family and friends to be happy and live their lives. It is appropriate to celebrate the meaning the deceased brought into your life but to stop your life for them is a disservice to their memory.

You may want to try to get back to ‘normal’ but you have memories of the deceased, i.e., little things will trigger you to remember them. You may even pick up the phone to call them only to realize no one will answer. This is part of the adjustment process and will take time. It’s okay to be sad and miss this person like crazy.

During COVID-19, social media can be used to celebrate the deceased person’s life, i.e., pay tribute by sharing stories. That camaraderie provides emotional support, which is important for everyone’s healing process.

Please remember to take care of you. Your health can suffer if you neglect it and that will only make things worse for you and those around you. And if you need to talk to someone, contact a professional like myself. That’s what we are here for.

Grieve, honour their memory with a dedication of some kind, and choose to continue moving forward. That’s what they would have wanted so let’s respect that.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

How to Engage Mentally During a Disrupted Season

By Lesley Timbol (Adapted from Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.)

COVID-19 has posed a challenge for all people throughout the world. People from all walks of life are faced with adversity created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bodybuilding world is also in a state of disarray and it's not just the pros dealing with tough times. Whether you’re a competitor or a gym rat, your commitment to training may be called into question with your beloved gym being closed.

With the competitive season hanging in the balance and social distancing in effect, what are you doing to stay in shape and be prepared for the moment you are back in the gym? I mentioned in a previous blog about home workouts. Suffice it to say go check out YouTube home workouts and you’ll see a plethora of options, regardless if you have any gym equipment.

While staying in shape physically has its challenges, mental training is available to you at all times of the day. Mental training will keep you prepared and mentally sharp for when the season reconvenes. Now is an opportune time to take advantage of your time and fully delve into mental training.

One of the most effective strategies to engage your mind and activate your body is visualization. Visualization is mentally experiencing an athletic event in your mind through the use of images in conjunction with your other senses. When you visualize you are both the director and the actor. In other words, you are consciously directing the images and the outcome...And you are the person performing the actions in the visualization experience. For example, you can visualize having the best physique and conditioning and standing on centre stage on show day. Prior to the visualization, you want to create a script in your head, i.e., going through the poses (quarter turns, mandatories) to provide direction while visualizing the event. In addition to creating the scene, you want to live the scene in your mind...what you would feel, see, hear, smell, taste and think.

Visualizing positive outcomes and the feelings associated with those outcomes keeps your mind and body sharp. Visualization is a tool practised by Olympians and other top athletes so bodybuilders can benefit from this skillset as well.

Tips for Effective Visualization

Be Patient--It can be difficult to hold images in your mind. Stay patient, you will get better with more practice.

Be Vivid--Add as many details as you can to provide a "real feel" to your visualization sessions.

Be Positive--Make sure you "see" yourself producing positive outcomes.

Visualization is a great tool to keep you in shape mentally by engaging your mind thus leading to the appropriate physical preparation.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

How Bodybuilders Prepare For Unconfirmed Competition

By Lesley Timbol (Adapted from Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.)

We want that green light when shows are confirmed, when we can return to our gyms, when we can return to our pre-COVID-19 regimes. The problem is that we still face many uncertainties and dealing with the coronavirus isn’t a typical challenge in our prep. 

The solution is held in facts that we have forgotten so allow me to explain. It would be ideal to train under optimal conditions, never experiencing an injury of any kind, having the same prep formula producing the same results every time, being able to present your best physique and conditioning at every show, win at every show and never have setbacks of any kind. Problem: that’s not reality. Every bodybuilder will experience some type of adversity. This could even include outside factors, i.e., losing a loved one, a relationship challenge/change, an unexpected work development. Throughout your lifetime, you will have ups, downs, obstacles, challenges, injuries, wins, losses, setbacks, successes and failures. Adversity comes in various shapes and sizes. Some circumstances will be manageable while other situations will feel insurmountable and overwhelming. You cannot control what comes your way or when adversity strikes, such as COVID-19, but you can minimize the impact by maintaining your focus on what you can control.

We have all prepped for shows when things haven’t been ideal and now is an extension of that. How you respond to adversity is all about your patience, persistence, and attitude. Are you the type of bodybuilder that needs a show to train or do you like training with weights regardless? My previous blog discussed training without going to a gym so I won’t repeat that here. The key is to give yourself new targets to keep you challenged.

Are you using this downtime as an opportunity or as an excuse? If it’s the latter, you have the choice to turn that around. With mini goals, you can make improvements without feeling rushed but set reasonable time limits to feel challenged. When was the last time you practised your posing? You don’t need weights for that. For fun, you can create a posing routine to your favourite song, and who knows, you may use that routine one day. It may sound trite but it is true, while you cannot control your circumstances, you can control your reactions to the situations you are experiencing.

Making the Most of your Current Situation:

Each morning when you wake, ask yourself, "What positive action can I take today to improve as a bodybuilder?" Write those steps on an index card and place the index card in a place where you can review it frequently.

Decide on a routine or schedule that can help you focus on this one skill, body part, drill, or lift at a time, which will help you use this downtime more effectively. 

It doesn't help anyone to lose patience. How can you use your time to become a stronger bodybuilder when you return to competition? 

You decide and then commit to the plan.

Monday, 13 April 2020

One Strategy That Helps All Athletes While Self-Isolating

By Lesley Timbol (Adapted from Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in cancelled, postponed, and unconfirmed upcoming shows so what’s a bodybuilder to do? As a bodybuilder, it would be easy and understandable to feel discouraged with the status of the upcoming season. Look at those competitors who were well into their prep and diet. They could fall into the trap of thinking what they did was just “wasted” and turn to emotional eating. What about the competitors who planned this year or an upcoming show in 2020 as their last show? They had a plan, executed on the plan, and now the plan is turned upside down. The mere thought of having trained so hard leading up to this point and now needing to go through that training all over again and the diet can be disheartening. A similar feeling can be had by those bodybuilders who were training and feeling that this could be their ‘break out year’ but now feel defeated they won’t have the opportunity to prove themselves and their hard work to others.

The gym is a second home to many bodybuilders. While the equipment is important, so is the camaraderie with fellow gym goers. While self-isolating, we can miss that social piece as very few people can relate to what we do unless they have competed.

Feeling discouraged and frustrated is normal but that does not mean you need to obsess over your circumstances. There are things you can focus on while sidelined from your normal bodybuilding routine that will make good use of your time and keep your head still in the game.  How? While you may be home because of COVID-19, you can still do something. Let’s look at both stuff outside and inside of bodybuilding.

Outside of bodybuilding … you mean there’s life outside of bodybuilding? Yes there is. My family and I just spent a week going through our basement and garage doing a solid spring cleaning and filled up a large dumpster bin. That is not something we have made time to do for over a decade. That was a different type of workout and it felt good now that it is done. House projects and cleaning are good options but so is reading a book, learning new recipes or skills through YouTube, etc.
Bodybuilders are used to an eat, sleep, and train routine but without a gym and strict food buying limits at many grocery stores do we throw in the towel? No; you use that towel as a resistance band and do bodyweight exercises and you plan what you eat, including any needed refeeds or cheat meals. Make lemonade out of lemons. Perhaps this is also the time to properly rest/rehab any injuries so rehab exercises can be incorporated into your revised schedule but stick to your schedule.

The next consuming thought can be that bodyweight/banded exercises will mess up their gains (muscle) and/or their losses (fat)? Fortunately, there is something called muscle memory and so what we CAN do is to maintain our muscle as a minimum with bodyweight and/or banded exercises. YouTube hosts a plethora of examples, i.e., John Meadows, Fouad Abiad, Jeff Cavaliere (Athlean-X) to name a few. And they offer different variations from easy to difficult.  And you do not need a cardio machine to do cardio. You can still respect social distancing and go for a walk. And of course there’s the water and soap treadmill you can do in your kitchen (YouTube it).

No show? No motivation? No problem. One strategy to keep you motivated, confident, and make best use of your time is to set small goals each day. Small goals will give you direction and focus. Each time you complete a task or make use of your time in a purposeful way, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. You can turn what you do not have into what you can do. Some training examples can echo what you do in the gym but apply it at home, i.e., develop a training program for tomorrow, document your weight, sets, reps and then when you repeat it next time/week, beat it by at least one rep, increase the weight, decrease the rest time in between sets, etc. If you have been indulging in unhealthy food choices, make clean eating a goal and plan what you’re going to eat tomorrow to stay clean. Have a backup plan for when you feel tempted to cave, i.e., do something to distract yourself, eat raw veggies, drink water, brush your teeth, and so on.

The saying goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Plan to succeed by setting SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. And reassess your goals as needed. Goals provide motivation, purpose, direction, sense of accomplishment, focus and results.

If you focus on goal getting every day, you will make the most of your opportunities, actively engage your body and strengthen your mental game as well.