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!