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Mental Strength in Training - MonsterSupplements.com
Trevor Macca, an avid believer in health and fitness is constantly on the lookout for the next snippet of information to guide our FitMag readers – here is yet another golden nugget on mindset!
We have all probably been there…at the end of the long run or the last rep of the hard squat session. Do you wonder why some professional sportsmen seem to be working forever while the rest of us reach our limits so soon? Obviously conditioning and genetics play a huge part, but how much of it is psychological?
An interesting study by stone et al examined the effects of deception (a misleading falsehood) on exercise performance.
Nine cyclists underwent 4 rounds of cycling. 1st was a familiarisation run, 2nd – for baseline performance measurement while in the 3rd and 4th rounds the cyclists were shown avatars which they were told represented their baseline performance. The avatar in the 3rd trial was the correct one while the 4th was actually set at higher power output than the baseline one, acting as a deception. – Results?
The cyclists gave their best and fastest performance in the 4th round with deception. It suggests that there is some kind of metabolic reserve which is assessed via deception/mind manipulation. Quite interesting, isn’t it?
The tone of the majority of messages I will receive suggest ‘’drastic’’ or ‘’rapid’’ results are what is on everyone’s mind. If you could bottle up these two ‘’power phrases’’ as a commodity and label it they would sell for a fortune – everything these days has to happen now, if people don’t see results today they won’t be interested tomorrow.
At least that is the impression many create, yet all the people who carry show stopping physiques generally have a very different mind-set.
Beyond the ‘’dreamers’’ mind-set which is fuelled by nonsense headlines on glossy magazines promising a herculean physique in 21 days and the likes of, what goes into the physiques you see is blood, sweat, tears and consistency over a long period of time!
If you are willing to do the same and give up on faddy promises which promise to deliver today, instead of tomorrow then you will get real results. Below are the fundamental pillars of building the physique of your dreams.
How badly do you want it? How far are you willing to go? Everyone has their limit in every walk of life – some want wealth but don’t want to go out of their comfort zone to attain it just like everyone wants to look like a fitness model but they don’t want to live like one.
Be honest, as you sit and read this how desperate are you to go through the real process to achieve your goal? Most won’t have the mind-set to go ALL the way, that is a very tough journey but it is one which is open to you freely – you just have to be willing. Are you?
Some people will have you believe they are ready to diet harder than 10 Mr Olympia athletes combined for the next 5 years only to find next week they have lost that drive. Emotions are very powerful and it is quite common for individuals to allow them to control their behaviour.
Whilst we all have ‘’good’’ and ‘’bad’’ days you have to ensure you do not allow emotions to control your behaviour, negatively. When you are feeling like it, stick to it – when you are not, take a moment to acknowledge today isn’t your day but you must continue. Many will cope with a ‘’bad’’ day by eating junk, if you are serious about getting across that bridge to the other side and achieving this physique you cannot!
Control your emotions or they will control you.
This point summarises and encapsulates what it takes to design the mind-set which will allow you to achieve your physical goals. Above all else you must remain focussed on the task at hand and more importantly your goal. If you lose sight of your goal by allowing your focus to lapse then cheating follows soon after. After all, why stick to the plan when you don’t have complete focus on this goal you are shooting for?
Get designing that mind-set of yours, this will pave the path for your physical development to follow.
At 16 years old, I started the gym for one main reason; to improve my strength. I was always one of the smallest and weakest lads in my year group; even the year below me could probably out bench me or exert more power into a rep than me. I wanted to be at least on par with the other lads in my year. I was tired of being the one who got picked last in rugby because of my narrow shoulders and little arms. I was always of lean and had a footballer’s build, so when it came to upper body strength, I had none.
I took to joining my first gym and started reading Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness magazines to try gain some understanding. My confidence was low and my technique was poor; and so I watched the seemingly hulk-like men and made myself some sort of routine.
February 2011, I weighed in at 5 foot 9 and was a mere 9 stone 6 with only 6.6% body fat. I could barely lift the 12kg dumbbell to my bench without breaking a sweat. It took me a lot of courage to go the gym, knowing I was the weakest and smallest there. I was conscious that I was just a little kid lifting feather weights whilst, either side of me, men with arms the same size as my thighs bench pressing 3 times my body weight. I started lose interest because my gains were next to none, due to an inconsistent training programme and no idea about diet.
18 months down the line, after plucking up enough courage to lift the weights of the rack, now at 18, I weigh 11 stone 6, a body fat percentage of 8.75 and a muscle percentage of 84%! I am well on my way to achieving the goals I set out to achieve upon joining the gym. For example, gains of around 8 inches around my chest, 5 inches around my arms and several other significant strength gains; including being able to forget my embarrassing 12kg dumbbell struggle to now pressing 28kg.
Knowing how hard I have worked to get to where I am now around a hectic college schedule and a part time job, it would be silly to undo it all now. If you are in the same boat as I was 2 years ago here is my advice – just do it!
Although many will relate to my work as a transformation over a course of a given time I like to emphasise the importance of a complete lifestyle switch. To make a successful switch getting into the shape of your life is only part of the battle, the second part is ENJOYING what you are doing so that you can maintain it – indefinitely. Below are 3 steps I would recommend anyone to take if you are going to make this a total lifestyle switch and you are NOT a professional athlete or bodybuilder.
OK that title may be a little over zealous for some but the point is this, if you have eaten for 12 weeks a diet you have grown to hate what do you think you are going to do on day 85? Over eat and scoff half of the local supermarket down probably, all by breakfast. Instead if you have the foresight to enjoy your meals during a transformation and take the time to cook healthy, good tasting meals then it will become a lifestyle. Look at ALL the ingredients you are allowed and get creative. As an example, I am allowed natural peanut butter so my partner made me an unbelievably tasty satay chicken meal on the weekend. It tasted better than any restaurant food yet it was 110% compliant with my diet. When this is achieved why would I crave junk food? The same can be said for YOU!
When you have a cheat day to eat what you want how do you feel after the first few mouthfuls? By the end of the day you feel pretty crap both physically and mentally right? The next day you probably feel worse. However next week or the week after you forget about this and want to go through it all over again. Keeping a diary is a fantastic way to keep yourself mentally on track with your new lifestyle. Just record how you feel and read it before another ‘’binge’’ day is due. It might well encourage you to go for a more sensible day of eating knowing what the outcome shall be from past experience.
Human nature says that we enjoy having things to look forward to. This can mean looking forward to a gathering in 20 days’ time, where you know there will be loads of great food you would love to enjoy. If you are eating clean for the majority of time knowing you have up and coming dates where you want to relax is great, you can go there and indulge knowing that the next day you will back on track. The secret to longevity with a lifestyle transformation is to do the right things most of the time, this is what really counts.
These pointers will help you do these things, over and over again equating to long term progress.
Are you the type of person who always sets a goal to begin a new transformation ‘’next Monday’’ only to find that the following Monday seems a more suitable date? If so then you will find that ‘’next Monday’’ always appears to be better than this Monday. It is a vicious circle which always justifies inaction. More often than not the same social network obstacles cause this and in order to overcome this you need to break the trend. Do any of these factors seem familiar to you?
If you work in an office with a large group of people there is always some reason to celebrate, birthdays, anniversary’s and the likes of. In a tradesman’s environment the usual suspects include pasties, biscuits and sandwiches and in a trade `where ‘’physical’’ energy is needed it is no wonder people resort to sugary foods. The first thing people will say to you at work is ‘’why’’ are you eating that food? They will probably belittle it too and call it ‘’rabbit food’’ or question your intentions, this is where most people cave in and think ‘’sod it.’’
Outside of work the people who probably influence you most will be your friends. In a group of friends there will always be people who support your new lifestyle, and unfortunately those who do not. The latter will laugh, think it is pointless and say it will not work – this is possibly one of the hardest things to deal with during a transition in lifestyle.
Probably the hardest hurdle in my opinion is your partner. If they are on side it is a BREEZE, if not then you are going to have some tough times ahead. Partners generally have the strongest pull on your behaviour and they won’t mind arguing about it if they don’t like your response. If you say ‘’no’’ to certain foods and they want you to say ‘’yes’’ they will let you know, sometimes causing friction between you.
There are several easy solutions to all of the above issues. Positivity is the first thing you need to surround yourself in, in abundance might I add. Find role models who inspire you and make you want to achieve your goals – if it takes a ‘’pep talk’’ from them every day to keep you focussed do so, take their book to work, read their online blogs or watch their videos. Anything which makes you feel as though you can comfortably deflect any negativity which is thrown your way at work.
With your friends this is a case of being selective – not necessarily avoiding those who disagree with your efforts but choosing your time with them wisely. Going out for food with them isn’t wise and in some instances you may end up not spending so much time with certain friends of yours.
With the partners this is a much more complex situation. If you intend on staying together then education and showing them WHY you want to do it is the only way, if this doesn’t work then. . . . . . . .I am not your point of call!
Today was one of those days for me, we all get them and even though I am a self-proclaimed training and fitness addict I even get them. Of course, I am talking about the days when you wake up and just want to have the day off – no training, just do your work and chill in front of the TV (at this point you usually dream up some obscene reasons why a packet of biscuits is also beneficial). However in my experience it is these days which separate the winners from the losers because your mind-set can go one of two ways. You go easy on yourself, or you MAKE yourself go for it and get the job done. Nick Mitchell, undoubtedly one of the finest trainers in the world and the best in the UK once said ‘’do you deserve unrealistic results’’ and since then it has always stuck with me. People look at somebody with a washboard stomach, bulging arms and a torso fit for an action movie and think ‘’he trains hard.’’ The truth is he doesn’t, he trains BLOODY hard, he diets hard and he is consistent with it. SO, with that small yet relevant speech over (almost brave heart like, wouldn’t you agree) I am going to lay down 3 techniques to stay in control of your sometimes deceiving mind!!
The Night Before
Before you go to sleep think about the training ahead of you the next day. Decide there and then that you will do this workout no matter what, commit to it and write it down on a piece of paper next to your bed or on your mobile phone. This will help combat the possibility of you changing your mind in the morning when you don’t feel so rosy!!
Whatever floats your boat is the name of the game. Everyone has idols they look up and these people go through the same kind of mind battles you go through – they always win though, that is the difference. On days where you feel like having the day off make sure you have either an article or video clip of your idol at hand to provide an instant injection of motivation when the tank is low.
Know The Goal
Always have the goal in your head, live it, breath it, eat it and TRAIN it – let it become part of you! There are times when I cannot sleep properly because all I want to do is get in the gym and hit a personal best and lift some heavy ass weight!! Having this kind of infectious mentality towards your goal and training really helps keep the motivation topped up.
Now your mind-set is intact, you can achieve unrealistic results!
or those of you that have completed are in the middle or beginning of a transformation will know how difficult it is to obtain. Frequently there are times whereby we lack motivation to continue doing it, to go to the gym, get up early for cardio or eat our ‘diet’ food. Having both structure, support and motivation are three very important points deemed necessary in order to succeed. Some people are geared to work well with intrinsic motivation but there are times for all of us that we need some outside support. A new trend that has become more increasingly popular is ‘coupled dieting’, this is a when two people do a transformation or diet and exercise programme together. There are many benefits other than providing motivation for one another and I shall state these in the appropriate paragraphs below.
I have said it before and I will say it again, professional athletes can be the ultimate source of motivation. As you watch Roger Federer whisk his opponent off the court with an effortless stroke of the wrist, Bolt breeze the 100Ms with seemingly twice as much effort to give and Messi run circles around defenders like their cones all you see is talent. However, what you don’t see is the repetition of practise these guys have all done in a volume most of us could never comprehend. Yes, being born with genius within helps – however it is the consistency at which these guys do all the right things which takes them to the top.
Of course, London is home to possibly the most prestigious sporting event in the world – the Olympic Games. As I was repetitively treading rubber on the treadmill this morning there was a programme on the screen all about the athletes, their preparation and their journeys. We talk about 12 week transformations yet these guys commit to a 4 year goal which doesn’t event include the rest of their life leading up to this point!!
If you’re lacking on focus and motivation, follow me.
Becoming goal orientated is the secret because it acts as the fundamental driving force when everything else seems to stop motivating you. Just like the amazing athletes who are competing at the 2012 Games you need to pick your goal. For them it is to win and that’s it, Gold is all they think about. Are you going to go for gold? Just imagine the mental strength it takes to commit to a goal with that timescale attached – create the same desire for your own goal and this will drive your mental focus through the ceiling!!
Are your goals realistic? This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t shoot for the stars because if you miss you will still land feet first on the Moon! Just make sure you are not setting yourself up for a bigger reality check, for example aiming to be Mr Olympia in 2 years when you are 19 years old. I once heard a fantastic quote from somebody I really look up to and respect, Nick Mitchell – ‘’do you DESERVE unrealistic results?’’ Think about it, do you?
Look around and study anybody in the world who is successful at what they do. What do they possess? Commitment in abundance and you can bet if this was a commodity they would buy more. Commitment is the true secret, once your goal is set all you have to do is stay true to that and take the correct steps towards your goal, day by day.
By analysing the success of these elite athletes at the Olympic Games in London it is very interesting to see that they all possess similar mental strengths, if you can transfer these to yourself you are on the winning straight!
In light of a recent issue I have begun to notice a lot in the gym I wanted to talk about mental preparation. Don’t get me wrong, I am not that guy who has turner all mystical and ‘’fluffy’’ I am just talking plain and simple ballsy mental preparation. No BS on mental techniques or anything like that, just plain real life steps you SHOULD be using before and during your workout.
All too often I see no mental engagement, no thought or focus going into people’s workouts as I observe in the gym – it is all very casual, almost pointless in my opinion. Last week I got a little wired when a trainer in the gym asked my client for a photo (he is an actor), I was gobsmacked and so was the dude by the time the words which I spewed hit his ears.
In my mind for a productive workout you need total mental clarity and focus.
What gets you going? What is it that makes you want to go to the gym, even when it isn’t time to go? Is it a certain song or artist? Is it a certain video of some idol of yours working out? Whatever it is, 30 minutes before hand give yourself that time to flood the mind with these things! Personally I love to sit with my black coffee and watch some dude smash the iron about – normally an athlete I aspire to be like.
Keep It Going
Once the buzz is there you must maintain this! Visualise your workout on the way to the gym, what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and how much you are going to lift. As you do this you should almost feel the muscles working (not literally) and be ready to jump out the car window as you get to the gym!!
This is probably one of the biggest issues, distractions. You walk in the gym all ready, you’re fired up and someone brings you down with loose conversation about the weekend or other stuff which can wait. Once the mental focus is built keep it, switch off for that 45-60 minute window and remain firmly on task. Personally I find the easiest way to combat any unwanted interruptions is to wear headphones the whole workout and avoid eye contact. Simples!
This article is there for you to take your mental preparation to the next level; some will debunk the foundations of this but trust me it works! So learn what works for you and get vexed because you best believe I will be!!
Two weeks seem to have disappeared since I started my transformation, so what has happened so far? Lots and I am trialling lots of new training and diet techniques which I believe in theory should work, but before I disperse this information via FitMag I want to be the guinea pig. With that said, I am going to give you the run down on how week 2 went!
The diet is where it is at on any transformation, mine included. Today I am going to let you in to a little secret, but don’t tell anyone. With my OWN diet I can be a little harsh on myself and sometimes play mind games which I think a lot of us tend to do. Many top trainers I know will use their colleagues to guide them, and in the past I have done the same – this time I want to do it myself though.
The problem is, when I would usually recommend a high carb day for example I am sometimes prone to making myself wait which isn’t always the best answer. However so far I have been pretty solid, my diet is consisting of 1.6g of protein per pound of body weight now, around 60-70g of fats from nuts and eggs and fast acting carbs post-workout followed by a delicious pancake with blueberries.
My fat loss is steady but to be honest I don’t lose fat very easily therefore it will be sooner rather than later that I begin to chop back some of the carbs from my low days. This week I had a high day and it was heaven, heaven I tell you! I began the day with pineapple and water melon along with wholegrain toast! Later on in the day I enjoyed a very large bowl of oats and more wholegrain toast this time with jam which was . . . . .well, heaven. Of course the next day I had gained a kilo which is to be expected but in the next 6 weeks I expect to lose another 3-5kg.
My exercise programme has been extremely diverse, more so than ever before. There have been days where I have hit the same muscle groups twice with a varied workout at both ends of the day, other days I have hit some circuits and others I have plodded along briskly on the treadmill. I like to kid myself that I am one hard core SOB however it really is time to turn the heat up, hello high volume training!!
Supplements this week have been pretty basic, the usual – to many my ‘’usual’’ may be advanced. I use omega 3s, multi-blend protein, carb powder, fat burners and I have also added a new product to the list but this one can wait, we all need a little surprise and suspense in our lives right?
OK, until next week keep training hard yourself – I must dash because quite frankly I am on a mission, a mission to impress!!
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