I often say that my lifelong dedication to fitness has positively affected me in all areas of my life. Training to be a competitive athlete, meant training to be better… period.
A better person.
A better business person.
A better everything really.
Discipline isn’t accidental.
But why the correlation?
Working out is mostly psychology. Yes, it pays to understand human physiology (- this is an understatement really). But when it comes down to understanding and manifesting success or failure… that’s psychology.
Think about it: A guy can lift a rock 100 times each day, and develop a strong lean body without any real understanding of correct movement ( – as long as he does what feels right, and isn’t living in the pie section of the supermarket). But it takes that psychological trigger to initiate that desire to want to get in shape in the first place. Think about it.
You thought about it didn’t you? And that’s my point: higher brain function, emotive responses, rationalisations – that isn’t physiology. Not in its purest sense.
*points to skull*
That’s grey matter.
A lot of trainers and trainees alike don’t understand that. The weakest link in your plan of attack isn’t usually your back, inactive glutes, tight hamstrings, or bum knee. It’s your spouse. It’s your workmate who comments on your meals and weight daily. It’s your skinny friends who invite you dinner, feed you garbage because they can eat it without getting fat.
It’s your mind.
Luckily, the mind can be trained. Hell, most of the time it NEEDS to be trained. Most of the time, it needs to be trained harder than any muscle.
My clients mostly think that I’m some insane zen master, because I’m always dribbling the above. But they, like me, still practice that thing I like to call “Iso-Perfection” – Isolated Perfection… which, basically, is the process of drilling absolutes in to the subconscious.
Nothing exists outside of that absolutely perfect repetition.
Not work drama.
Not your spouse.
Not the cunt who cut you off in traffic and cussed you.
Not the other 8 reps you should be shooting for in that set.
Nothing… outside of the immediate now: You, struggling against you… to manifest a better you.
And, I realise that this sounds like the opposite of everything your muscle and fitness magazine subscription and copious hours of youtube exercise-video-watching would suggest… but, were you to think about it logically, you’d probably reach the same place as we.
Again… you thought about it… didn’t you? 😉
Studies show that stress increase cognitive decline. Yet so many of us prime the edge (i.e. force the fight or flight response) in an attempt to power through to a desired outcome.
But we fail. Repeatedly. We psyche up, when we should be calming down: immersing ourselves in the moment, experience, and environment.
Think about the number of times you’ve gone to lift something that you know you could lift, psyched yourself up, and failed… stressing about every little thing, except that perfect rep in that intentionally perfect moment.
And it’s the same for every other area of life: work deadlines,sex with a new partner for the first time. You name it. Performance anxiety is no joke.
So, what can we do?
How do we brainwash the brainwashing away?
1. Learn to activate, and deactivate tunnel vision.
Tunnel vision, like bacon, gets a bad rap. The world, and intellectual discussions alike, tends to be all or nothing: something is either the best thing in the world, or pure poison. Tunnel vision is one such thing. Pundits are quick to label it as negative. But successful sportsmen have been (successfully) using this manner of thinking (-did I mention successfully) for centuries. The problem lies in not knowing when to shut it off.
With myself and clients, I use it situationally: If my goal is a perfect set of 500 lb deadlifts, I switch it on just before my first repetition… right before I…
We get what we focus on. This is true in all areas of life. Successful basketballers focus on the hoop. Successful golfers focus on the hole. Successful cricketers focus on the ball. Nothing else around them matters in that moment. Normal people focus on distractions and can’ts. How many times have you thrown trash at a garbage can and missed?
I thought so.
When I’m in the gym, before the start of my set, before my tunnel vision switches on, before I even touch the bar, I close my eyes and visualise. My hands travel to the muscles that I’m about to fire explosively. I touch, contract them, and imagine them hoisting an ungodly amount of weight in a stupendous manner. I talk to myself. And then I…
3. Quiet the mind – Practice mindfullness: The beginner’s mind
Jeffrey Brantley, and Wendy Millstine, in their book “Daily Meditations for Calming Your Anxious Mind” defined mindfulness as: “… paying attention on purpose in a way that […] does not try to add or subtract anything from whatever is happening.”
They also defined the “Beginner’s mind” as: “paying attention to each moment and to your breathing as though you’re doing it for the first time, so that you’re curious and welcoming.”
Which is a mouthful mind you. The easiest takeaway of which is: “pay attention to your breathing.”
I often use verbal cues with my clients, and self for this purpose.:
“relax your shoulders”
“push your tummy out when you inhale” (-which is an uncomplicated way of getting a person to focus on expanding and contracting their diaphragm muscles… utilising full lung capacity – something that the average person doesn’t do).
I know this has been a lot to read.
So, here are footnotes… for those not inclined to read all the way through:
Train your mind for better fitness results… and better life results. Period.
Focus on perfection in the moment. Nothing else matters in that time. Nothing. Trust me. The world will continue to turn in those moments when you act like it doesn’t exist.
Anxiety isn’t our friend. And life isn’t a competition. The only person you have to beat is you.
Them: “What should I take to look like you?”
me: “Take a yoga class.”
Them: “wtf dude? This is a SERIOUS question!!”
…I’m always serious.
Stretching and emphasizing impeccable posture are two of the most important things one should focus on, to support weight-training, fitness, and aesthetic development.
This post, by the way, is aimed at you:
-Guys with the too-big chest, forward-sloping shoulders, who walk around as if their back is so wide that their arms can’t go down (when, in reality, there’s no muscle there at all).
– Chicks who walk as if they’re swinging humongous legs around a 5lb vagina… when, in reality, their legs are tiny and lacking any semblance of tone.
Stop it. Stretch more. Focus on the upper back muscles… you know, the ones you can’t see or think you can’t show of in the club… the ones that help to maintain posture pulling the shoulder blades back without conscious effort on your part (were they firing optimally).
I recently had a discussion with highly-ranked Olympic lifter… who said that they never do direct bicep work, because (they believe) doing so will result in an inability to lock the arms out completely. She referenced the average gym guy, who walks around with his arms slightly bent at all time, because he works his arms so much. I pointed out a couple things to her:
– My arms are 2-4″ bigger than the average gym guy
– I don’t have that problem
I also pointed out that the reason that Olympic lifters have hypermobility isn’t their lack of direct bicep work… it is due to the extreme stretch position of their primary lifts. e.g. the snatch, which requires developing hypermobile wrists and biceps.
I also pointed out that the reason why I don’t suffer from ‘gym-guy syndrome’ is the same: extreme stretching… Either via the lifts I undertake, or active daily stretching and re-alignment.
Which brings me back to the core point: Stretch more.