Mind & Fitness: Keeping on the right track

Keeping On Track

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All of you who are committed to bodybuilding and physical fitness can relate to stalled training. This is called a plateau and it can result from physical or training-related issues. Perhaps you jumped too quickly into a new routine and your body just wasn't ready for it. But many times, plateaus can be traced hack to ineffective thoughts. The good news is that you can bring your positive change.

Clearly some workouts are better than others. Think of a time when you had your best workout. Did you have fun or did you hate it? We're willing to bet you loved every minute of it. Okay now think of one that you didn't enjoy, that seemed to drag on forever. What were the differences between the two? A lack of fun was one. Do you know what your state of mind is and what emotions you experience during your best workouts? Do you have a precise and disciplined ritual for getting yourself into that state of mind and feeling those emotions every time you train. If you answered no to either or both questions, you have some work to do.

Getting Back on Trac

One of the primary components of our training process involves enhancing your emotional performance. To increase your awareness of your emotions, think back to the last time you had an awesome workout. Make the image as vivid as possible. Write down as many adjectives as you can to describe what it felt like (for example, challenged, energetic, focused, fun). Next, write down the positive thoughts you had throughout the workout. like: "You can do this," "this pump feels great" or "I'm trying with this weight". Finally describe the body language you displayed how did you walk? What was your posture like? In completing these assignments, you're mentally preparing yourself to perform at maximum. We call this your Ideal Performance State (IPS) - the emotional state you want to create every time you train. One of the easiest ways to do this is to think and act in a precise and disciplined manner that mirrors your IPS. In other words, if you aren't in your IPS, then start thinking and acting as though you are. 'This strategy creates 'a physiological response in the brain that will begin to move you into your IPS.

The IPS State of Mind

Weight training and bodybuilding are all about setting standards and busting through them. Sometimes, however, you might place artificial limits on yourself. Here's an example: Suppose you have a friend who puts a lot of emphasis on how much he can lift. At first it was a bench press of 200 pounds, then 225, then 251. But now it's time for 301 pounds. After months and maybe years of hard work, he's finally ready to pump out a rep or two at 300, But for some reason, on the day it matters, he can't. He has done 290, but can't come close to 300. He chokes every time he tries. This scenario is exactly what can happen when you focus solely on numbers. Numbers can be tremendous motivators hut they shouldn't be your primary focus in the gym. That's when your focus has to he on the quality of the process. A visualization ritual before your bench-press workout will help you get on track. Make sure you're in a comfortable, quiet place where you can sit or lie down. Make the images as real and vivid as possible. The goal is to feel the emotion at your core.

Feel the Power

A sample visualization ritual could go like this. You see the bench from a distance, There's no other place you'd rather be than right here right now. You position yourself on the bench and feel your feet pressing firmly against the floor you look up behind you at the bar to make sure you won't hit the uprights as you lock out. Your upper back is solidly on the bench your lower back is slightly arched. You measure your hands on the bar to get an even-spaced grip. This feels familiar and comfortable. You pick a fiscal point on the ceiling; that's your reality now. You count to three out loud. With the help of your spotter you lift the bar out of the rack. It's just you and the weight now. Your reps are smooth and powered with precise rhythm as you inhale on the way down and exhale as you extend. You are in the groove. As you struggle to finish the set, you have to fight the weight. But you stay focused. That's your IPS - relaxed power; You successfully make the set, it hurts so good. This is what you love.

Note that this ritual and concentrating on your IPS have nothing to do with numbers or results, By focusing on the process of bodybuilding and being in the moment with every rep, the results you want will start chasing you. You'll need to develop an understanding of thoughts and actions that lead to your IPS.

Create Your Own Ritual

The next step is to create a preworkout ritual along the lines we've described here. To enhance the effect, we teach our clients a 15-minute ritual that uses music and visualization. Find some music that inspires you and emotionally connects you with your IPS. Then revisit your training purpose and remind yourself why you work so hard. You must tie into the emotion underlying why you do what you do. Then visualize yourself going through your workout with perfect technique. See yourself doing several repetitions of even a set of each exercise. If you can teach yourself to perform this ritual consistently, you'll not only get pumped up to work out but you will be able to keep your mind in the present so it isn't wandering to the next exercise or to what happened that day.

Our bet is that you'll experience fewer performance plateaus and enjoy even the little things about training. Now that's cool.

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