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.