Thursday 15 October 2020

How to be your best friends in sports

 By Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.

Do you beat yourself up after competitions and only focus on your mistakes? Self criticism hurts an athlete but the effect of criticism is doubled when it comes from within the athlete’s mind.

Being self-critical is the quickest way to shatter confidence. Many times, athletes describe themselves as being their own biggest critic.

This mindset is viewed by some in a positive light meaning that this type of athlete pushes to be perfect and nothing less is sufficient. However self-criticism never pushes an athlete towards excellence.

Self-criticism post competition sends the message that you are not good enough and, no matter what you accomplish, that is not good enough either. 

A lot of athletes destroy their confidence between competitions by being too judgemental. When they don’t perform up to their expectations, they tend to beat themselves up.

Rather than focussing on your mistakes, don’t take it home with you. Leave the competition on the stage/field/rink and transition. If you’re thinking about it all night, you’re taking that performance too personally. Give yourself 30-60 minutes tops to assess your performance and then move on.

Secondly, have a post game/show routine where you start to behave a bit differently after the competition. How? First step is to focus on what you did well. For instance, ask yourself what are two things you feel you did well? It’s important to focus on the positive first. 

Step 2 is NOT focussing on your mistakes but rather learn and grow from your performance. It’s vitally important to keep your confidence from competition to competition and not destroy it afterwards. Try to do an honest, objective assessment of your performance. Use that information as a launch pad to know what you need to focus on in your next practice/prep. It’s about growing and getting better and then taking that to practice and applying that. Assess your performance in a way so that you can apply those lessons learned in future practices and competitions. That becomes an objective to improve that specific skill.

 If you need guidance on how to become your own best friend in sports, please contact me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at so I can help you transition, determine the lessons learned and strategise for optimal performance.

Friday 2 October 2020

Prepare for the Unexpected

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

You’re told to capitalize on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. What if you don’t know about a weakness until it happens? What if that happens during a competition? How do you prepare for that? How do you react when the unexpected happens?

Does adversity put a damper on achieving your athletic goals or does it motivate you to find another way to keep momentum moving forward?

Not expecting speed bumps, roadblocks and obstacles is unrealistic. You shouldn't go through the season expecting the worst, but you need to be mentally flexible to handle the adversity when it unexpectedly pops up.

A popular saying is "expect the unexpected" but it is more important to be prepared for the unexpected.

As long as you’re an athlete, you will face adversity. Gymnasts will fall in major competitions, softball and baseball players will suffer injuries, soccer goalies will give up last minute goals, hockey players will be caught out of position, bodybuilders will sabotage their diet or get injured.

Being prepared to act when the unexpected happens takes resilience, confidence, and mental toughness. How can you prepare for the unexpected?

Regardless of your sport, how do you react when things don’t go as planned? Can you recover quickly? Do you regroup or do you dwell on what is going “wrong”?

Like many things, recovering or regrouping is a skill that needs to be practised. Rather than “hoping for the best” and that everything goes optimally from every angle, accept this is a rarity. In other words, expect shit will happen. You don’t know what shit that will be but expect it. 

And then you adapt. Like a chameleon changing to fit into his environment, be open to adapt to whatever changes have presented themselves. Accept there will be times you will struggle but be aware that the struggle isn’t the issue, it’s how quickly you recover from the struggle that’s important.

Do you have confidence in your preparation for your competition or game? Do a quick mental recap of what you did to prepare for this moment. Now how are you going to strike back? What are you going to do right now to regain control of the situation?

With practice, you can develop some “go to” actions to deal with unexpected adversities. Start by mentally formulating some hypothetical situations. Ask yourself how mentally tough athletes would respond in such challenging situations. What does that look like and how can you practise that skill? Quite often, these skills are applicable to a variety of situations which will enable you to move forward towards your athletic objective regardless of the obstacle.

If you need guidance on how to develop mental toughness and mental preparedness, please contact me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at so I can help provide you with the boost needed to meet and overcome the unexpected.

Monday 21 September 2020

Unleash the Beast

Enough is enough. It’s time. In fact, it’s way past time. Bodybuilders are foaming at the mouth to compete. Some of us have been in prep since the beginning of the year. And what a year it’s been with shows being cancelled or postponed to a later date and/or different location.

And for those bodybuilders who decided to compete next year and use this year to put on size, work on weaker areas, rehab, etc. good! You have a plan so stick to it!

Regardless of your decision, it’s time. Like a lion waiting in the long grass about to pounce on its prey, bodybuilders worldwide are training with a vengeance. Covid prevented many of us from training the way we’re used to but as gyms open up and athletes have invested in home gym equipment, it’s time to unleash the beast!

Perhaps many of us took training for granted but no more. Every training session is an opportunity. Avoid focusing on the gains you’ve missed as gyms were shut down or how behind you are. 

Get your head back in the game. Focus on the now. Right here; right now. Before you even begin your physical training, engage in your mental training to block everything else out. Focus on the body part(s) you’re about to train. Focus on every rep, every set. If you get temporarily distracted, picture a stop sign and focus on what you should be doing right now.

The beast is hungry. Are you going to feed it? The beast wants iron. The beast wants healthy and proper macros. The beast wants repair and sleep. The beast is circling its prey. Do you have a strategy of attack?

With a glint and stare in your eyes, furrowing of your brow, snarl of your lip, tensing of your crouched body ready to spring, take what is yours!

It’s time.

Unleash the beast!


Monday 7 September 2020

Do you know how to do this?

Change. Many people talk about changing. Why? Because they want a different result. But change isn’t easy. You have to think about it. You have to plan what you’re going to do differently. The word change is associated with work and sometimes we’re just lazy.

Do you know how to pivot? The word ‘pivot’ seems to sound less ominous. Pivoting indicates a slight movement in a different direction whereas change sounds like significant movement. In short, pivot takes less effort.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result. Yet getting a different result doesn’t have to involve big changes but rather small pivots in a different direction.

Maybe your life is good but are you settling? Could it be better? Sometimes people are afraid to pivot because they’re comfortable with where they’re at. It works for them to some degree. They’re even aware of the pitfalls but that seems okay rather than the unknown of what will happen if they do something differently.

Maybe there are areas in your life you’d like to improve upon but don’t know how. There are a few approaches to address the ‘how’, i.e., trial and error, google search, talk to others who have gone through it, and seek professional guidance and support.

Yet even if we want to change something, we still resist it even though we know it could help us. Why? Because any type of change, even a small pivot, takes effort. Somehow we want life to magically make our circumstances better when in reality it’s up to us to make different choices to get better results.

The next challenge is even if we commit to making the effort to change, we don’t know where to start. Remember to pivot and start small. For instance, if you haven’t worked out since Covid and have been emotionally eating, you can pivot by taking a short walk. If your gym has opened up, you can pack your gym bag and plan when you’re going to go.

The fear shouldn’t be trying to pivot; the fear should be what will happen if you don’t pivot? Nothing changes and that can be scary.

If you need assistance on how to pivot, please contact me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at so I can help you make changes in the right direction.

Friday 28 August 2020

Do You Worry About What Others Think?

Many athletes worry too much about what others think of them. These athletes worry that their teammates, coaches, parents, family, sponsors, social media followers, and/or friends might think badly of them. We call this social approval.

If you think this way, you want to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by other people. Part of this is just human nature, but it can turn into a confidence killer for many athletes.

Athletes who worry about what others think engage in a process called false “mind reading.” Mind reading is when you make invalid assumptions about what others might think of you.

When you think others think you are not performing well, this can hurt your confidence. You end up becoming distracted that can result in making mistakes or atleast sub par performance.

Do you try to read the minds of your competitors or coaches? Or take to heart the responses of your social media followers responding to your posts? 

Focusing too much on what you think others think. That’s called mind reading. You don’t know for sure but you believe what you think as if it were true.

The truth is you don’t know what they’re actually thinking unless they say something to you. There’s a difference between guessing and actually knowing.

What does guessing what people are thinking do to your confidence? If you assume someone, e.g., coaches, audience, judges think you’re not doing well, it affects your performance, i.e., ability to pose, execute a move, etc.

Who are you mind reading about? What are you mind reading about? What are the false assumptions or the narrative you’re making up in your head that’s creating havoc for you?

Worrying what others think becomes a distraction, confidence killer, and a source of pressure when you do mind reading.

If you catch yourself worrying what others think, what do you do?  Step 1 is awareness. When you become aware you’re mind reading, cut it off. Picture a stop sign. Step 2 is recognizing what you’re doing and refocus on doing what is more important, i.e., the next pose/transition/action.

If you need guidance on how to handle worrying about what others think, please contact me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at so I can help you refocus so you appear not to miss a beat on show/game day.

Friday 21 August 2020

No Mask Needed

No you don’t need a mask for this. Get out of your head! The “should’s”, “can’ts”, and the “buts” can stop any athlete in their tracks; however, you can change the verbage to I “will”, “can”, and “it will be done”.

How do you prepare athletes or how do athletes themselves prepare when they don’t know when or how they’ll be competing again? In times of uncertainty, it’s time to look at the “certains”.

Rather than focusing on what you cannot do, focus on what you DO know and CAN control. As an athlete, you DO know how to train, practise, eat, and prepare for a competition.

Mental skills training addresses various challenges to help you approach your show with focus and confidence, staying centred, setting routines, being mindful how you’re feeling when you’re training as well as during the rest of the day, properly dealing with the temptation to watch your competitors’ progress on social media, targeting self doubt, regaining control of your mind when it drifts to negative scenarios, and so on.

Look in the mirror. Like it or not, that’s what you have to work with. Like playing cards, you don’t need a loaded hand to do well. It’s all on how you strategically play your cards. Play them one at a time with planned thought. Focusing on what the other players may have is a distraction. 

Take note of your competition’s strengths, as that is human, but move on from any distracting thoughts. Dwelling on others progress does more harm than good. Focus on your hand and play your cards to the best of your ability.

What if you’ve screwed up at a recent show? Are you banging your head against the wall as a form of punishment?  Welcome to the world of competition; we all make mistakes. 

The real question is what did you learn from that mistake? If you can strategize what you’d do differently the next time it happens, it no longer becomes a mistake;  it becomes a lesson learned. And it’s likely a lesson you won’t forget.

I can recall one show, if not two, where afterwards I thought and said out loud that I was never going to compete again. And I did mean it at that time and for a while afterwards but then, my mind changed. 

Why? After eating some carbs and reflecting on the situation, I recalled my reasons for competing. Yes I want to win. Who doesn’t? But to expect I’ll win at every show isn’t realistic. I do like a challenge and I reflect on my personal reasons for competing.

As competitive athletes, we make up the upper echelon of people. In other words, we’re not like normal people. We follow strict eating guidelines and training routines. We make sacrifices. Others may look at us and comment that we’re “crazy” for doing what we do. Maybe we are but we have a smile on our face and we choose to continue competing so it can’t be that bad.  ;-)

Other people don’t walk in your shoes so avoid taking their words to heart. 

I also invite you to unmask YOUR “should’s”, “can’ts”, “buts” and so on. You don’t need that mask of limitation. You’re an athlete. You’ve already broken various limitations and you will continue to do so.

Change your strategy. Learn from past mistakes and pivot in a new direction. Oftentimes that pivot takes us into an even better direction than our original plan.




And embrace your inner, “I can/will”. If you need assistance in this area, please feel free to contact me at (416) 805-6155 and it will be done.

Friday 7 August 2020

Don't use this language

Words are powerful. Words are how we communicate to others as well as to ourselves. Have you listened lately to what you say to yourself? 

When was the last time you called yourself a “failure”, “loser”, “fat”, “useless”, “pathetic”, “idiot” and so on? Sometimes we mutter under our breaths, i.e., with saying “I’m stupid”, when we make a mistake.

Don’t use this language! Not only is it not accurate but this language negatively affects our self-confidence (our ability to complete a task) and self-esteem (how we feel about ourselves).

What if this negative self-talk, what we say about ourselves to ourselves, comes out before we can stop it? Then correct yourself even if it’s after the fact. For instance, as you’re walking on a path, you trip and call yourself “stupid”

I was showing my kids how to use some weight equipment and they asked how much weight I could do so I did a set. They exclaimed, “you make it look so easy” and referred to themselves as “weak”. I informed them I’ve been weight training for many years so I wasn’t born this way. Everyone has a starting point and if they continue working out they will only get stronger.

Another example is when I invited my kids to do a drop set doing bicep curls. My daughter gave me that “teenage look” and said “you suck”. That kind of language made me smile because I knew she was going to do the drop set despite not liking it. And she still loved me afterwards so all is good … until the next time I practise tough love.  

Getting back to the negative self-talk. How do you change it? How do you stop yourself from calling yourself names, putting yourself down, or never being happy with the way you look (both the general public and bodybuilders)?

The solution is to talk back to the negative side but use logic, facts. Once you’re aware you’re using negative self-talk, get real! Ask yourself what fact are you basing that thought/feeling on? If there is some truth to it, then ask yourself what can you do to change that truth? For instance, if you’re calling yourself “fat”, strategize or hire a coach for direction and accountability to work on fat loss.

When was the last time you did the word balance game? This is finding the positive ‘spin’ to a negative thought. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m stubborn (yes that’s a fact) but oftentimes stubborn is seen as a negative trait. My positive spin on being stubborn is being relentless, persistent. I don’t give up. I may need to change my direction but I keep going.

If you’re struggling dealing with your negative self-talk, please contact me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at so I can coach you on strategies that squash that talk.


Monday 27 July 2020

Negotiation isn’t always a good thing

We are taught that we can’t get our way all the time so sometimes we have to negotiate. The idea behind negotiation is that both sides get something out of the deal so no one side “wins” and the other side “loses”.

However, negotiation isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes negotiation is a form of procrastination. 

Have you ever thought when your life gets better, easier, more manageable only then you’ll be able to achieve a task? If “x” happens, you’ll do “y”.

For example, have you negotiated with yourself that when the gyms reopen, you can get back to your routine by working out regularly and getting back on a better nutrition plan?  

Or have you negotiated to return to the gym only when you can lose some of the weight gained over the COVID-19 shut down? This may be the result of feeling embarrassed having other gym going “regulars” see your unflattering pandemic transformation.

The theme is the same regardless of the example. Wait before taking action. That is a form of procrastination. And we can be so good at finding more excuses to delay taking action.

Why are you waiting to give yourself permission to start now? Is it fear? Do you doubt your ability to follow through on your intended action? Are you worried about how others may view your attempts?

Stop this vicious cycle! Give yourself permission to take action right now. Yes I mean this very second! It can be a small step. If your intended action is getting on a healthier path, a step could be drinking more water, creating a healthy food plan for the day or the week, planning your first gym workout, i.e., exercises, sets, reps, and so on. 

Think of this time leading up to the gyms reopening as your warm-up so to speak to get you ready for “go time” in the gym. Plan a bodyweight circuit or at least a 4 minute tabata to do tomorrow if you don’t have any weight equipment. Go on Youtube for ideas if needed.

The time is now. Now is what we have control over. Now is what we can change. Now is the time to decide to do something.

As Yoda says, “do or do not, there is no try”.

Friday 17 July 2020

Are You On An Emotional Rollercoaster?

Ever feel like your emotions are all over the place especially because of this pandemic, now with 5 months of uncertainty? Will there ever be a vaccine? If we get a vaccine, how long will it last? I hear there’s a second wave of COVID coming, what can we expect and how do we prepare for it? How long is this going to last? Questions, questions, and more questions without answers will definitely bring an onslaught of emotions.

As an athlete, we question whether or not the competition for which we’re preparing will go on. The uncertainty itself can affect an athlete’s motivation, practise, performance, routine, and consistency. What has habitually started as excitement in the preparation stages can dip into discouragement, doubt, and disappointment as shows/games are being cancelled. A further dip of “why bother” leads to a mindset of giving up.

So now is the point of asking yourself do you prepare solely for a competition or is there something more? If there isn’t, you need to look for more intrinsic reasons for why you compete. There needs to be a reason beyond the winning. Recall not everyone can win and many athletes can relate to prepping, not winning a show/competition yet prepping again. So theoretically, if you compete only to win, that would mean if you lost you wouldn’t compete or you would burn yourself out by trying and feel horrible if you never won.

Consider the concept of winning but with that intrinsic motivation I brought up earlier. Do you love to train? What feeling does that give to you that you enjoy? What benefits do you achieve from practising/training? What is it about the competition experience that helps you grow?

Now return to the rollercoaster of emotions. What if you were able to ride out the highs as well as the lows? What if you remained focused, in control no matter what happens? The “why bother” would shift to “oh well; time to get back to work”. Stay calm. Even and despite the pandemic, keep training to build on your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. Then take it to a more challenging level and create mini challenges for yourself to keep yourself interested and engaged.

If left unchecked, riding the emotional rollercoaster can make an athlete lose their determination, drive, focus, and energy. They often react with fear and doubt which affects their routines, motivation and confidence.

Learning how to respond to various stressors requires resiliency. Do you have a stubborn bone in your body? Good! It’s time to use it to bounce back after any type of setback or obstacle. Like working on a specific skill or body part you wish to improve, it is important to work on how you react to both positive and negative outcomes. Can you remain calm, cool, and collected? This requires mental training. You can’t control everything but you can control how you respond and your experience will be better if you accept what comes, good or bad. Easier said than done. It’s converting that roller coaster into a kiddie version so you can manage your emotions better.

How do you do that? Practise practise practise! Practise accepting what comes, good or bad. You can try using a universal response as a starting point. For example, you can use the “that’s interesting” response. Regardless if you’ve had a positive or negative experience, point out to yourself the positive of that experience in a matter of fact voice tone. What did you learn? What can you improve upon? What will you do next time? This process helps to depersonalize your feelings from the outcome.

Secondly, enjoy the process of practising and training. Enjoy and remind yourself of the positive aspects of the athlete lifestyle. Make a game with yourself by making mini improvements within your physical practice. This process can help you learn to enjoy the process more than the outcome (from the show/competition). Think of all the athletes who still train to some extent despite retiring from the game.

It is absolutely fine to be competitive, motivated, and enjoy celebrating your wins but avoid attaching yourself to them. Break that connection by depersonalizing your experiences (both positive and negative) with practised, planned responses, be intrinsically motivated, stay calm, be resilient, and have fun challenging yourself to stay motivated and engaged with mini goals.

What are you waiting for? Get back to it!   😁💪

Friday 10 July 2020

Expectations On Returning To The Gym

FINALLY! After what seems like an eternity, the gyms are going to reopen soon and some have already. We have been anxiously waiting for this moment. Perhaps there is a gleam in your eye, a spring in your step, an eager I-want-to-kill-it-in-the-gym snarl on your face. Regardless, we are ready!

But we need to adjust our expectations. There will be a new norm because of COVID-19: being extra diligent with cleaning the equipment before and/or after use, washing hands, not touching your face, and potentially booking training times to reduce the number of members training at the same time to give everyone space to name just a few considerations. Booking a training time may be a challenge especially if you train more than an hour. Yet what’s a bodybuilder to do when they only have a one hour training window? Does that mean if you can’t train the way you want, don’t train at all? Not at all but it does require you to adjust what you expect, given the circumstances, to accomplish when you’re in the gym. You may need to plan which exercises you do at the gym and which exercises you do afterwards, i.e., in the parking lot, at home, in your backyard, etc. Not ideal but it’s better than nothing. Learning to mentally accept, not like, this fact will help you be in a positive head space when training. The alternative is to focus on what you can’t do in the gym and this negative mindset can affect your performance both physiologically and mentally.

Another adjustment to our expectations involves returning to the gym but not returning to the weights we lifted prior to COVID-19. Unless you had access to a good gym during the lockdown period, it is not realistic to resume with the same weights. If you choose to do so, injury is a high probability because your ligaments and tendons haven’t been exposed to that training load in awhile. Remember it has been a good 2 months so start slow and gradually increase the weight over the coming weeks. In fact, ensure the first set or two is a ‘doable’ weight before increasing it. Focus on that mind muscle connection. Your body doesn’t know what you’re lifting/pushing/pulling; it only knows the degree of resistance. Other suggestions would involve doing more warm-up sets to better assess your current training tolerance, avoid training to failure for the first week or so as the purpose right now is to get reacquainted with the weights so use variety, i.e., dumbbells, barbells, cables, machines, and stretch! Stretching should be done after every training session and it would be reasonable to assume you may be tighter in certain areas (for me it is my hip flexors) over the lockdown.

Check your ego at the door, manage your expectations, train smart and be safe!

Friday 3 July 2020

Don’t Waste Your Pain

Pain is part of life. You don’t have to like it but you can benefit from it. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the following: “pain makes me grow; growing is what I want; therefore, for me pain is pleasure.” While this can be true with physical training it can also be applied to our mental interpretation of pain. Michael Jordan stated “failure gave me strength; pain was my motivation.” Losing a game or not performing as expected on game/show day can defeat you or it can catapult you to an even grittier level of focus and determination. At the time though, the pain may overtake your ability to see through it. The idea that you might one day be grateful for your hurt and disappointment seems unthinkable.

Think of a puzzle. We cannot see the big picture for our lives.  On the front of the puzzle box, we can see what the overall puzzle picture is supposed to look like. But when you look at one piece, you may be at a loss figuring out where it goes, how it fits. As in life, when something negative happens, we often ask ourselves “why?” “Why did this have to happen?” The painful situation/event doesn’t make sense, i.e., you trained hard, stuck to your diet, tried to get as much rest as possible, stayed hydrated and so on but despite your best efforts, your efforts were not rewarded.

Now how do you define “rewarded”? Does “rewarded” mean winning your category, scoring the winning shot or the most shots in the game, or running the fastest time, i.e., being rewarded is correlated with your end results? That is one definition but if that is your only definition, you are setting yourself up for pain without the gain. The gain is what did you learn from that experience? In order to grow from a painful experience, you need to focus your mind on looking for the lesson, as this will enable you to take your power back. The next step is to take action! What can you fine tune and/or do differently next time to obtain more optimal results? By learning and doing things differently, you can transform your pain into motivation, drive, unrelenting focus, and ultimately breakthroughs.

Throughout our lives, we may not understand when negative things happen to us. What we do know is how we feel about it: sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, pain. Yet we always have a choice. Even in our pain we have a choice to make. We get to decide whether we will take the opportunity and grow or whether we will let it consume us.

Pain changes us. How the pain changes you is up to you. You can come out bitter or defeated or come out better, stronger, and more confident. That difficulty is an opportunity to get stronger, to develop character, to gain new confidence. Anybody can give up but that pain isn’t there to stop you; it’s an opportunity to learn, do things differently and make breakthroughs.

All of us go through pain. Don’t just go through it, grow through it!

Friday 26 June 2020

Feeling Like a Failure?

These types of feelings suck! And the problem is the negative self-talk we have with ourselves multiplies faster than rabbits. Now what? How do we stop feeling this way? We don’t want to but when we don’t feel motivated, compare our current lack of accomplishments with our past accomplishments, compare ourselves to others, feel like we can’t do anything right, and so on, we can feel like a failure and hopeless about our situation. Can that change?

Let’s look at the definition of failure. Do you define failure as not accomplishing a goal/task or is it more not even attempting to accomplish that goal/task? This author advocates the latter definition: giving up. While it’s common not to complete a goal, the issue lies with the person feeling like a failure because they interpret their action/inaction as their identity. Take for instance a bodybuilder competing and not winning the overall to get their Pro card. Are they as a person a failure?  Many may believe so but I respectfully disagree. That bodybuilder failed at their goal of earning their Pro card but that does not make them, as a person, a failure.

Consider the scenario of a bodybuilder who wins their category yet still feels like they are “not good enough” or downplay their success. Likewise, there are bodybuilders who don’t earn their Pro card or don’t win at the higher level Pro shows but are very successful individuals.

So how should you feel when you don’t achieve your goal? You can feel disappointed, frustrated, confused, and perhaps even angry as you have a right to your feelings but avoid taking it personally. Not achieving your goals is simply that; not achieving your goals. Nothing more; nothing less. Now you may need to re-examine your goal and make appropriate adjustments but keep in mind the purpose of your goal. Is your purpose extrinsic, i.e., to get sponsored, or intrinsic, i.e., to challenge yourself on how you can change your body over a set period of time? Intrinsic motivation is healthier because it’s about your self-growth; it’s for you. Often people fall into the trap of doing things to please others and that becomes their main source of motivation. These “people pleasers” struggle with feeling successful as it’s determined too much on what other people think. Do these types of people have any recourse? Absolutely!

There is a concept called self acceptance and forgiveness. Often, we suck at this too but it can be done. A first step is rewiring our brains about what failure means. I can’t quote where I read this but it’s very fitting: “I will have temporary defeats in my life but I will never have permanent failure.” This statement alone gives us an “out” in that we don’t have to be perfect; we don’t have to win all the time. We just need to know how to pivot our goal, our mindset, our assumptions, our definitions, our methods as we always have the power of choice. Don’t give up! If you need help, reach out to a professional. They can help you develop a healthier mindset, one that will lead you to more actionable success and feelings of accomplishment.

Difficult situations can define us, diminish us, or develop us but we ultimately decide so choose well.

Friday 19 June 2020

Post-Traumatic Growth: The New Norm after COVID-19

COVID-19 has shaken our ways of knowing and doing things to the core. Feelings can range from helplessness, shock, denial and disbelief. Our behaviours can be affected as well, i.e., getting easily confused, having difficulty focussing, and experiencing insomnia. Coping reactions can range from identifying with various possible negative outcomes to feeling detached. The question most often asked is “What is wrong with me?” Be aware that reaction is normal given the circumstances of an abnormal situation created by this pandemic but there are ways to transcend the negativity and feelings of helplessness.

We’re living through a collective trauma, but we don’t have to bow under its weight. Think of an earthquake. Do you live beneath the debris or do you build something that is better? Trauma’s power comes from rendering us powerless. It’s time to retake our power. How? The answer is reframing! By reframing your negative experiences as ways to achieve greater self-awareness and heightened compassion and deeper/more meaningful relationships both with others as well as with yourself. Post-traumatic growth is finding new meaning in your life. This could include changing how you conduct your business, changing your career, having a renewed appreciation for life and developing a plan on how you will try various opportunities, reconnecting with people after years of not communicating, learning a new skill or hobby, re-evaluating your short and/or long term goals, giving back to society in some way, and so on.

There is the expression to make lemonade out of lemons. Despite the sacrifices and/or suffering we endure, we can ask ourselves how can we emerge from this pandemic stronger and kinder than before?

I will end with a quote by Robert Leahy, PhD., New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center: “‘view this pandemic as a chapter in a book you are writing - chapters always end and if this is your book then how it plays out is totally up to you.”

Happy writing!

Friday 12 June 2020

Lagging body part = your mind

People in general can be their own worst enemy and bodybuilders are no exception. We tend to be very aware of our flaws but do we do everything we can to address these flaws? Let’s examine that.

If I were to ask a bodybuilder what’s their weakest/lagging body part, they could name it immediately. If I were to ask a bodybuilder whether or not they have been eating on plan, they could answer that quickly too. If I conducted a poll among bodybuilders about what they struggle with the most during their competition prep, many reply that the mental piece is tougher than the physical piece. The physical piece of what to eat, how much & when as well as their training regiment is more ‘black or white’ in that it’s more clear cut; however, the mental piece holds a lot of grey.

Mentally preparing for a show has many challenges in the best of circumstances but add lower carbs & calories and feeling depleted into the mix and the ability to think clearly and rationally tends to decrease and we tend to gravitate towards ‘emotional logic’. The problem is that logic is usually missing from ‘emotional logic’, which can consist of listening to people who are not your coach (assuming they are knowledgeable & competent), following what other athletes are doing based on what you see on social media, comparing your current progress to others who post on social media, etc. Emotional logic focuses on where you’re not and being open to ‘doing whatever it takes’ to get the result you want. That desperation can lead to making choices that hinder more than help.

Now there is an element of logic in seeing what you need to do to improve. A lagging body part can be addressed with adjusting your training and likewise a diet can be adjusted based on your current macros and putting them in line with your goals. If you need help with either scenario, you can and should consult with your coach. Similarly, I recommend you work with a mental game coach to help you if you struggle with the mental aspects of prep. This can include but is not limited to doubting your prep, coach, and/or exercise/diet plan, doubting your progress and worrying that you won’t be ready on show day, fearing that you won’t be “good enough” especially if you know you’ll be competing against someone who has beaten you in the past or even just comparing yourself to the pics on social media, overtraining, training after an injury, difficulty dealing with distractions (e.g., relationship issues, Covid-19), overanalysing everything, fearing letting others down, and the list goes on.

Like preparing for a competition, mental prep does not begin during peak week. It’s a process in that it takes time to learn how to exercise the mind properly. To get what you’ve always gotten, keep doing what you’re doing. If you want to improve your mental game, work with someone who has expertise in this area to guide you on proven strategies to elevate your performance and results.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Crisis: What’s Your Move?

What is a crisis? The dictionary cites a crisis as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.” That does not sound good. The pandemic is one such example but there are many others. We don’t want to feel stressed; it doesn’t feel good and can be debilitating. We often ask ourselves why this (crisis/issue) had to happen? We assume no good can come from it. Or can it?

Do we choose difficulty? No. Can we grow from difficulties? Yes. Our experiences, both positive and negative, help shape who we are, our thoughts, how we view the world, our choices, etc. Problems make us grow; they mold us into who we are today.

We have a choice: are we a victim or a victor? Despite the crisis and the associated fallouts, do we allow ourselves to become buried or do we slowly push the rubble aside to make a new path? In this respect, a crisis can be viewed as an opportunity. Without the problem, there would be no need to change what we’re doing and sometimes we settle for where we are rather than push ourselves to achieve our potential. Thus, the problem is a gift, an opportunity to do something different and thereby experience different results.

Our entire life can change in one moment. Do you know how to pivot towards positive change? Ask yourself what is one area in your life that needs improvement? What do you need to do or change to make that happen? Are you committed to going outside of your comfort zone, what you are used to doing? If you keep doing what you have been doing, can you get to where you want to go? If not, what are your obstacles? How can you begin to address these obstacles? What is one thing you can do right now to take one step closer to where you want to be? Make a decision to take action now. It doesn’t have to be a big step. The action could be drafting a concrete plan of action.

Life involves many hardships, and while we may not choose them, we can choose how we respond to them. Life isn’t about what happens to us; life is about what happens for us. No change? No breakthroughs.

Now get out of your head and comfort zone and make lemonade out of lemons. The choice and opportunity awaits you so take it!

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.