Train Your Brain – 7 Strategies for Building Mental Toughness

train.jpgSo yesterdays post covered the Mental Aspect of Prepping for a Fitness Competition so today I wanted to follow up with some strategies for building mental toughness.

“Research tells us that top competitive athletes succeed because of their physical talents and their dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their dexterity in dealing with the psychological pressures of a sport. In short, mental toughness and resilience are tremendously important for any athlete aiming to be the best in a sport” – Forbes

Mental toughness is about consistency and focus. Mentally tough people have created habits which keep them focused on whats important no matter what situations may arise. Its not about inspiration or motivation, as these feelings come and go, but about commitment and again, consistency!

Building mental toughness is just like building muscle, it takes time to grow and develop. So, just like you create a routine for your body, here is one you can start on to strengthen your mind.

 1. Evaluate Your Core Beliefs – we all have core beliefs, and while we may not even realize what they are, they can make a huge impact on our success or failures in life. Our core beliefs are developed over time and are mainly based on past experiences. These beliefs will create our thoughts and actions. If you doubt yourself or think negatively towards your abilities to accomplish certain goals or tasks,  you can most likely expect failure.

Taking time to identify what your core beliefs are can help you to evaluate and modify any negative or doubting beliefs. Modifying your core beliefs requires purposeful intention and work, but it can change the entire course of your life.

2. Get Focused – set your goals and stay focused on the long term outcome. Depending on your goals, some may be accomplished within days whereas others can take much longer. Staying focused on the outcome of reaching your goal can help you keep your cool when obstacles pop up. Writing your goals down, telling them to a close friend or family member can also be a great way to hold yourself accountable.

 3. Have Some Patience – anything worthwhile takes time and expecting results immediately will only leave you frustrated and potentially giving up on hitting your goals. Life is a constant work in progress so relax, and let things happen as they will. Stay focused!

4. Learn Acceptance – you cannot control every situation which arises but you can change your attitude and reactions to these situations and create a more positive outcome. Accept what you cannot control and don’t waste your energy on complaining or allowing them to get in your way of accomplishment.

5. Practice Gratitude – focus on being grateful for what you have and not on the things others have that you don’t. Be grateful for your accomplishments and the achievements you have made or will make.

6. Put things in Perspective – not all days will be perfect but keeping things in perspective can help keep this bad day from turning into a bad week or month. Mental strength allows you to see the positive and keep on keeping on when it feels as though the world is against you.

7. Stay Positive – staying positive when things get tough, don’t work out as planned or don’t happen as quickly as you like, is crucial. While some life events may seem impossible to turn into a positive experience, over time they can. Patience, perspective and acceptance can help.

 

Mind Matters – The Mental Aspect of Prepping for a Fitness Competition

indexWhile some may argue, mentally preparing for a fitness competition is probably the most important part of prep. Your mindset from the moment you decide to compete will set you up for success or, unfortunately, failure.

Why are you competing?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself and answer, truthfully. Is it because you want to prove to others you can? Your friends are doing it? While these reasons can play a small part for any competitor, if they are your main reason, you’re off to an erring start.

Now, I cannot tell you what your reasons for competing should be, these will be different for everyone but if not for yourself and your (unique) personal reasons, you may want to reconsider or at least give some more thought into why you want to compete.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Preparing for a competition is much more than just planning out your routine, supplements and nutrition plan. Prepping for a show is an all day, every day event that can last anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months +, depending on the competitor. Planning is crucial and includes everything from meal prep to training time to rest days, all on top of your daily regular routine of work, school, kids etc.

Life is full of distractions and stress, expected and unexpected. How do you plan on handling these situations as they pop up? Not having a plan can have a negative effect on your prep as well as leave you feeling overwhelmed and potentially lead to burnout.

Mental Resilience

is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity”

I’ll be honest in that I went into my first competition thinking I had the mental toughness to see me through my prep at ease. Yeah, I was wrong. While it turns out I did have the mental resilience to see it through, it was only because I refused to give up and took every opportunity as a challenge to learn. Having lived with a mental illness for 15 plus years now (anxiety/panic disorder and depression), I have spent a lot of time learning to master my thoughts and doing so to my benefit, in every aspect of life. I truly believe everyone has the ability to do the same, many just do not know how or think they are already ‘mentally tough’ and until they are in a situation where this toughness is going to be tested, they really have no idea.

The best advice I can give here is if you want to step on that stage with your best package and have a positive experience no matter the outcome, don’t be ignorant to the fact that some days may be really hard. Hell, if they aren’t, you’re not doing it right!

 

Be sure to check out the follow up post Train Your Brain – 7 Strategies for Building Mental Toughness

 

What Working Out Does To Your Psyche

Chris Kolaskos

What Working Out Does To Your Psyche

Most of us work out to improve our respective physiques. But aside from the benefits of having sculpted bodies, we also actually enhance our overall mental wellbeing just by regularly exercising. You think all that bench press or treadmill run does is make you stronger and agile? Think again! There are far more benefits, psychological that is, which you’ll obtain if you start to regularly break a sweat.

It’s that feel good chemical that’s responsible

Whenever you exert your body to perform a range of physical activities, your brain releases endorphins, a kind of feel good hormone. Of course, when endorphins are present and actively functioning in your brain, then you become particularly happier and therefore more energetic as well.

You’re bound to feel less anxious when you work out

If you have bouts of self-doubt, or you sometimes feel worried or hopeless…

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Positive Motivation for Fitness

Whether it’s getting started on a new program or sticking with your current one, motivation can come and go and for some, just down right not exist when it comes to fitness. I’m human, I definitely have my days where working out is the last thing I feel like doing, heck, I’ve even hit a few slumps where I wont work out for a week straight. I can tell you though, when that happens, after a few days I start to feel awful, and that there is part of my motivation to get my butt back in gear!

Getting motivated to make fitness a regular part of your life needs to be a positive experience. Your drive needs to come from within, and it needs to be about YOU and what regular exercise can do for YOU. My main focus for fitness is not just about looks, sure, I enjoy the benefits fitness has on my physical appearance but how it makes me feel about myself, how it improves my mental health, is my driving force.

Lets list a few negative reinforcements that you want to try and avoid. Although some may seem to make sense for helping to motivate, in reality, any type of negative thinking is going to have a negative effect. These can include unnecessary stress and low self esteem. In the second list you can see how we take some of these negative motivators and put a positive spin on them so that they work in your favor to boost self esteem and keep you on the right track.

NEGATIVE MOTIVATORS

Negative self talk (spoken or not) is the number one issue and this only leads to low self esteem, stress and in many cases, quitting or giving up on reaching your fitness goal. Negative self talk can include the following;

  •  Viewing the negative outcome of a situation (was too difficult, you didn’t complete as many reps as planned etc)
  •  Focusing on what you could have done better
  •  Comparing yourself to others
  •  Fixating on your current state of health/fitness
  •  Telling yourself you aren’t capable, worthy or good enough

POSITIVE MOTIVATORS

If talking to yourself in a positive way is not something you currently practice than repeating positive phrases to yourself may feel strange but like any other habit, it just takes a short time before it becomes natural. Now lets have a look at some positive reinforcements;

  • Reminding yourself of your accomplishments
  • Focusing on the progress you have made
  • Celebrating milestones and goals achieved
  • Telling yourself you are worthy and deserving of a healthy body and mind

Making the switch from negative to positive self talk can and will have a huge impact on your health and mental well-being. Self esteem rises, stress is reduced and overall, you feel and look healthier & happier. Perhaps you aren’t even aware of your negative self talk, perhaps you think beating yourself up will help motivate you, either way, it’s got to stop!

How to go from Negative to Positive Motivation

  • Set realistic goals. (Write them down and look at them often)
  • List the things you are grateful for.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive and encouraging people.
  • Talk to yourself as though you have already accomplished your goals. (I look great, I feel great, I’m gonna rock my new bikini this summer etc)
  • Place positive notes or quotes around your home so that you are constantly bombarded with positivity!
  • Create a vision board and hang it somewhere you will see it everyday. (A collage of inspiring and motivating pictures, quotes, goals etc)

These don’t have to be all fitness and health related, they just need to be positive! Over time thinking positively will become natural and the negative self talk will phase its way out of your life, where it belongs!

Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

xo

 

 

 

Fitness for Mental Clarity

Stress gets to all of us at one point or another and although some of us may handle it better than others, taking time out to clear your mind and focus on the now can be extremely beneficial in your overall mental health. Daily exercise is great for both your body and mind and can really help you to achieve some mental clarity, both immediately and long term.

During exercise blood flow to the brain is increased, delivering more oxygen, elevating serotonin and boosting energy levels, all leading to improved mental clarity. Exercise produces a relaxation response in the brain relieving stress, anxiety and depression. It boosts your mood and leaves you less irritable, more energized and feeling ready to take on whatever comes your way.

Be it yoga or weightlifting, at home, outside or in the gym,  finding the type of exercise most enjoyable to you and a comfortable location is the most important step.  Forcing yourself through a routine of any type isn’t going to help if you don’t enjoy it! I personally like to switch things up as often as possible to keep things fresh and exciting. Running up and down the bleachers at the dog park with my pup on a sunny day leaves me feeling refreshed and energized. On not so nice days staying home and working out to my favorite music turned up loud pushes me to keep going as I enjoy my favorite songs. Either way, after any workout I can definitely say my day gets a more positive start!

xo

 

 

Fitness for Mental Health

brain jump rope2As someone who has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression for 15+ years, this topic is an important one for me and one of my main reason for becoming a personal trainer & health coach.

Fitness has changed my life.

…and I’m not just talking about my appearance or my strength, I’m talking about how fitness has brought me from an anxious, depressed state to a positive, confident and more outgoing person. Of course, it didn’t happen over night but I can honestly tell you it didn’t take long for the mental health benefits of exercise to kick in either!

Anxiety was a daily thing for me, going out anywhere had me riddled with fear yet I had not had a panic attack for nearly 10 years. That was until Christmas 2013. I’m not sure if it was the stress of the Holidays, the fact I was hosting this year or the sad reality that it would be the first year without my dear Grandparents, or all of the above, but my anxiety was kicked up a notch and it quickly turned into insomnia and full out panic attacks.

Within a few days I felt like I was losing my mind, which is common when you haven’t slept more than 3 hours in 4 days and are experiencing non stop anxiety, and I knew I had to make a drastic change quick as I was spiraling into a deep depression, something I just cannot have being a single mom of two kids. So, I decided that the next time I woke up at 3 am to a panic attack I would work out as a distraction. It started with the basics; pushups, squats, crunches etc…within a few minutes my anxiety eased off and my concentration was on my form and breathing. It was a temporary solution at first which worked in the moment.

Fast forward 1 year…

I have never felt better in my life. With daily exercise and proper nutrition I haven’t had a panic attack and rarely feel anxious (first dates will have you anxious no matter what 😉 ) in just over a year! Depression is a thing of the past and my self confidence has definitely risen.

This isn’t just for me. This can work for you too, if anxiety, depression or even low self esteem has got you down, and here is why:

Exercise has been proven to help boost the release of endorphins which make us happy and put us in a better mood. During exercise the increase of neutrophils and monoamines, (neutrophils are white blood cells that assist the immune system and monoamines are neurotransmitters) work to reduce the symptoms associated with depression.

Exercise can help to reduce and even eliminate anxiety by reducing the sensitivity to the fight or flight response which induces fear in those who have heightened sensitivity. Because having anxiety usually leads to panic disorder, or vice-versa, it can help to reduce panic attacks as well.

Another great benefit of regular exercise is that it can help to improve sleep which in return can help reduce insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Starting can be hardest part for someone with anxiety or depression but once you get going and start feeling the amazing benefits regular exercise has on your mental health you wont ever want to stop!

Now go do some jumping jacks and get happy 😀

xo