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.

 

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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

 

Bye Bye Bat Wings! 6 Moves for Strong, Sculpted Arms

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One of the biggest questions I get asked when training is “How do I get rid of my jiggly arms?!” While this question comes mostly from my female clients, males are just as concerned about this area. So, what to do? Try adding these arm focused supersets to your fitness routine and you’ll be on your way to stronger, sculpted arms in no time.

The exercises below will be performed back to back to create a ‘superset’. Rest 30 seconds in between sets and repeat each set 3-4 times. Rep range should be between 8-12, if you can hit 13 reps, up your weight.

 

(Click the link for how to’s)

Superset #1

Dips – can be performed on a bench or dip bar. The tricep dip targets all 3 heads of the tricep making it a must have in any routine.

Narrow Grip Barbell Curl – a classic move, keep grip narrow to target the long head of the bicep.

Superset #2

Overhead One Arm Tricep Extension – this move hits the lateral head of the tricep as well as the long head, perfect for creating that aesthetically pleasing ‘horseshoe’.

Seated Concentration Curl – seated dumbbell concentration curls yield 97% biceps activity making this a perfect way to isolate the bicep muscle.

Superset #3

Reverse One Arm Cable Tricep Extensions – this move isolates the medial head of the tricep.

Wide Grip Barbell Curl – by switching your grip this exercise targets the short head of the bicep.

Competition Prep B.C. – Let’s go Shopping!

You’ve decided to compete so now where to find your suit, shorts, jewelry, shoes?? Relax, I’ve got you covered! Here is a list of Canadian retailers that have everything you need for your competition.

suitCompetition Suits

The following shops provide both custom and ready to wear competition bikinis and shorts/trunks. Many of these retailers also carry competition shoes, jewelry and other accessories.

 

Competition Shoes

shoesIf you cannot find what you need from the retailers above, you have the option of shopping for competition shoes in the US. These retailers ship to Canada.

 

Competition Jewelry

glamComplete your look and have some fun shopping for your show bling at these retailers. These shops are in the US so I recommend checking out the stores under Competition Suits first. Sites like Etsy and eBay and stores like Ardene’s and Aldo Accessories are always great options as well.

 

Single Leg Training – Benefits of Unilateral Training

I’m a huge fan of single leg training because of its many benefits as well as the results I’ve achieved from using unilateral movements such as balance, growth and strength. Before we get into some of the best single leg exercises, lets go over the benefits of adding them into your routine.

Benefits of Unilateral Leg Training-

  • Improve stability
  • Improve balance
  • Increase single leg strength
  • Increase in bilateral training
  • Engage smaller muscles (gluteus medius, abductors)
  • Reduce injury
  • Reduce spinal compression
  • Reduce knee pain

If single leg training is new to you, give yourself about 6 weeks of unilateral training to bring your unilateral strength up and achieve balance.

Top 10 Single Leg Exercises –

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift – an accessory movement for the deadlift, focuses on the hamstring. Can be performed in a braced position to allow for heavier loading.

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Single Leg Glute Bridge – targets the glutes and hamstrings.

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Elevated, Single Leg Hip Thrusts – the range of motion in this exercise increases both hip extension strength and single leg stability. Targets the glutes and hamstrings.

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Split Squats – main muscle worked is the quads while also targeting the glutes and hamstrings. Grab a pair of dumbells for added weight.

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Pistol Squat – work those quads, improve single leg strength and coordination with this unilateral move. For beginners, progression is key, try holding onto something as you lower yourself down and pull yourself back up or use a bench.

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 Single Leg Back Extension – one of my favorites, targets the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

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Forward and/or Reverse Lunges – the main muscle worked in the lunge is the quads however you will also work the calves, glutes and hamstrings. Grab a barbell or dumbells to kick this move up a notch.

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Box Step Up – work those quads as well as the calves, hamstrings and glutes with this move. Can also be done with a barbell or dumbbells.

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Quad Extensions – alternate legs on this excellent quad building machine!

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Hamstring Curls – same as above, except targeting the hamstrings. Can also be performed on a stability ball.

Competition Prep B.C. – 5 Things to Know Before Entering Your First Fitness Competition

Co15025200_1069914893125895_4324883308266392994_ompeting in a Fitness Competition can be an excellent way to build discipline and see what your body is capable of while crushing new goals and pushing the limits. What it is not is a walk in the park! Prepping for a competition will impact every part of your life as well as the lives of those closest to you. Now, this doesn’t have to be a negative thing, but knowing what to expect before making the big decision to compete can definitely help you prepare.

Evaluate the time you will need to prepare – deciding when to start your prep is #1 because we are all different and while one athlete may only need 6 weeks another may need 12 or more. Figuring out how much time you will need should be evaluated by a prep coach or someone who has experience competing. The key indicator of being stage ready is your body fat percentage. The average woman is 25-31% body fat according to the American Council on Exercise. A bikini competitor is anywhere from 8-13% body fat. In order to show 6 pack abs, the body fat level needs to be <13% Finding someone who understands this and can help you gauge how much time you need to reach this is key.

As a single mom with two young kids prepping for a show not only effects me but my children as well. My first prep was a great learning experience for all of us and this made my 2nd prep a little smoother. I took the time before and during my prep to explain to my kids what I was doing and why, covering everything from the twice a day gym sessions to the 6 meals a day to the mood swings. While they liked to tease me with their Halloween candy, they were very supportive and understanding when Mom would burst into tears over nothing, needed a time out or had to ask their help taking progress photos for my coach. Letting your family and friends know what to expect and asking them for patience and support should definitely be one of the first things you do once you have decide to prep for a fitness competition. Unfortunately not everyone is going to be as supportive or understanding as others and so that is where our next topic comes in…..

Prepare to feel lonely – even with friends who compete and have prepped alongside me, there are times when I felt like I was totally alone and no one understood what I was feeling or going through. Looking back I know this is mainly due to the stresses that can come with prepping for a show. I found the best way to beat this feeling was to do something I enjoyed that had nothing to do with the gym or prep. A board-game with the kids, a hike with the dog…anything that will take your focus off your prep for a little bit.

As you get closer to your show (4-12 weeks out, depending on where you started) social outings and time with friends and family can be difficult and many athletes end up isolating themselves to avoid temptation and ‘cheating’ on their diets. Depending on the interests of your friends, this can cause some tension, so again, it is important to talk to those closest to you and explain the reasons as to why you may choose to avoid certain situations. True friends will stick by your side no matter what 😉

Cost – the cost of competing adds up quickly so it is definitely important to get an idea of how much everything is going to cost you to make sure it fits your budget. Have a look at The Cost of Competing to get an idea of what competing in B.C. can cost you.

15168728_762731867200940_3134113005952849267_o.jpgMindset & Expectations – your mindset and expectations during your prep, on show day and after competition is crucial and not just to succeed but in order to have a positive experience no matter what the outcome. Knowing why you are choosing to compete and what you hope to get from the experience is key in keeping you motivated and focused. While there is nothing wrong with being confident, going into a show with an arrogant attitude can do a lot more harm than good, especially if you don’t do as well as you were sure you would.

As a first time competitor my personal goal was to stay disciplined during my prep and to hit that stage knowing I did my best and to feel like I fit in with the other girls. I had no expectations to place so when I did, it was that much more exciting and rewarding. Appreciate the process, appreciate your progress and learn from the experience.

Post Show Rebound – while not everyone will have an issue with this, many will and so it’s important to discuss. You spend your prep sticking to a strict diet and during that time may find yourself day dreaming about the foods you cant have and making plans to get your hands on them after the competition is over. While you definitely deserve to reward yourself for all of your hard work it is important to have a plan in place to avoid any harmful effects of abruptly coming off such a strict diet. Your coach should help you with a reverse diet to ensure you avoid a rebound and transition from a pre-show to post-show nutrition plan.

Without a post show rebound plan many competitors find themselves binging which results in speedy weight gain as well as issues such as bloating,  cramping, digestion issues and so on. What’s of bigger concern is how this can effect your mental health and self esteem. Going from ‘shredded’ even back to your normal weight can be difficult, but adding extra pounds to that because you binged for a couple weeks post show can really mess with your self image. If you don’t have a coach then I recommend you seek the guidance of someone such as a registered dietician or nutrition specialist.


15000805_1071780842939300_1064812122837815025_oYour first fitness competition can be a great experience and a lot of fun if you plan, prepare and go in with a positive attitude. While yes, this is a competition, you may be very surprised at how supportive and helpful other athletes can be. I have made some amazing and extremely supportive friends who not only compete in the same shows but in the same class as me. This not only makes the experience that much better, but should you choose to compete again it can be reassuring to know you just may have a friend or two to share the experience with.

 

Fitness Competition Prep B.C.- Backstage Etiquette

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When preparing for a fitness competition there are many things to consider such as choosing a show, a suit, planning out your tan, hair and makeup and so on. One thing that may not cross your mind but is just as equally important is backstage etiquette. A lot of work, money and time goes into preparing a show for us athletes so it’s really only fair that we do our part as well to keep things running smoothly and stress free for everyone!

BE KIND!

If I could stress one thing, this would be it. Everyone backstage, from the other athletes to the volunteers are all a little stressed out and anxious to do their best. The volunteers work their butts off for us so be sure to treat them with the respect they deserve, without them we would be a lot more stressed out as we attempted to oil our own backs and glue our suits to our behinds! It’s a long day for all of us but even more so for these volunteers who stay behind to clean up after us while we’re out celebrating with our friends and family.

Every athlete has a story and a background you may know nothing about so don’t be quick to judge or assume. You can only control your own words and actions so keep them kind and avoid gossip or judging other competitors. If someone treats you disrespectfully or is unkind to you just remember that this is most likely their own insecurities talking. Be the bigger person and don’t indulge in such childish behavior.

Clean Up After Yourself

I really shouldn’t have to say this but you’d be surprised at how messy things can get backstage. Garbage and pee cups probably being the two main things people seem to have a difficult time tossing into the trash :/  I have never seen a shortage of garbage cans at a venue so why this happens is beyond me.

Backstage can get pretty chaotic and you can expect to share small quarters with a lot of other competitors so keeping your personal items neat and organized can not only help keep the space uncluttered but can help you avoid losing or misplacing items.

Sportsmanship

Perhaps you don’t place how you expected, this is no excuse to be rude to anyone or throw a fit. How you act both on stage and backstage matters, be an adult and keep yourself together. It’s ok to be upset, its natural, but taking others down to make yourself feel better is just not ok and will speak volumes of your character. Being happy for others is a great feeling and I highly recommend congratulating those who deserve it!

This can go for those who place well too. Being pompous or arrogant because you placed better than others won’t make you any friends and can be hurtful.


Backstage can be a lot of fun and you can create some amazing memories, meet some truly inspiring people and make a lot of new friends. Not everyone is going to be friendly or helpful but I can tell you from my personal experience, many will be and if you go in with a positive attitude and a kind demeanor you’re going to have a much better time 😉