Self-Sabotage

“If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it”

That’s nonsense.

It’s not as simple as wanting a Land Rover Defender and the next day for it so be glistening in your driveway.

Self-sabotage prevents you from getting what you want. But by identifying insidious doubts and using strategies to negate them, there is a way to get that Defender (and not just imagine your beat-up Mitsubishi as a boulder-crushing beast).

Look at your goals – what do you really want in life? Take a fine tooth comb and analyse what it would take to get what you wanted. Do you still want it knowing the effort it will take?

Nothing of value comes easy, and you must be willing to make sacrifices. Big sacrifices.

What’s your gym goal? To squat twice your bodyweight or nail the elusive pull-up? If achieving a target is integral to you, does your plan reflect this?

Have you searched the net for a coach to guide you? Have you devoured every squat resource? Have you removed all extraneous exercises from your program?

No? Why the hell not?

I thought you said you really, really, really wanted to squat twice your bodyweight? Or punch out a pull-up? Or finally, achieve x?

That’s lesson number one for overcoming self-sabotage – conviction. You need to be sure of what you want. Change your mindset from ‘I’d really like to squat twice my bodyweight’ to ‘I will squat twice my bodyweight’.

Once you have a goal in mind, let it percolate awhile. Give it time to mature and make sure it’s something you want. Not something you kinda want.

Only when you’re certain – clear a path. Begin planning. Most know what to include in a plan but are afraid to trim the fat. Remove everything that blocks you from reaching your goal or is not necessary.

This is where most fall away. Why do you have calf raises in your program? Will that benefit your squat? No? Then scrap it. You can worry about developing the girth of your lower leg some other time.

Now that your goal is concrete and your plan is without deviation – there is one thing to do.

Act.

Start doing whatever it is you need to do to pull this thing off. Every now and again review your progress and make subtle shifts, if necessary.

Conviction + planning + acting = [insert goal here]

Make it happen.

Advertisements

Mental Rehearsal

Mental rehearsal, like visualisation and imagery, are common terms in elite sport. What do they mean? Are they worthwhile? And should you include them in your day-to-day practice?

Rehearsal is imagining an event or moment. Picture yourself performing well. But don’t make your performance perfect. Make the re-creation accurate. If you’re squatting heavy, feel the bar’s pressure. Settle the butterflies in your tummy.

Mental rehearsal helps to:

  • Build confidence
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve the efficiency of motor patterns

It works because the brain can’t tell the difference between something you’re doing or something you’re imagining.

Use

It can be used to practice gym lifts or public speaking. The application of mental rehearsal is limited only by your imagination.

Benefits

Increased training time

Quality practice leads to success. The more practice the better. Mental rehearsal bypasses the hurdles that limit how much you can practice. Things like:

  • Commitments, such as family, friends and work
  • Injury
  • The need to rest and recover
  • Lack of appropriate equipment
  • Poor training conditions, like bad weather

Confidence

Nerves sharpen the senses but too much anxiety can hinder performance. Mental imagery helps build comfort through familiarity. When it’s time to do the ‘real thing’ you’ve already done it a hundred times. It’ll be like brushing your teeth.

Image result for mental rehearsal

Example

Your goal is to squat 200kg. Your training program calls for squatting four times a week. In addition, you mentally rehearse the lift each morning and evening (fourteen sessions). Therefore you train the squat, in some form, eighteen times a week instead of only four.

What does it look like?

Create a mental image of the squat rack and the bar loaded up to 200kg. Picture the entire process taking place as vividly as possible – the set-up, unracking the bar and squatting.

Keep it realistic. When executing the movement, in your head, re-create the struggle and effort. Try starting from the warm-up and feel the session become harder.

Weaknesses

Beginning mental imagery can be a frustrating process. How do you know if you’re doing it right? How do you know if it’s having any effect?

It’s difficult to evaluate the success of mental imagery. Changes to performance and your confidence are good indicators. Be patient. Don’t give up after a few attempts. Also, the practice shouldn’t take hours out of your week. A few minutes a day will suffice.

Application

You must commit long-term to see the benefits of mental imagery. Start with a three-month block. This gives you enough time to improve your imagination skills. Also, it allows for the brain to develop more effective motor pathways for your chosen task.

What are your thoughts on mental rehearsal? Have you used it? Did you find it effective? Leave a comment below.

 

Evolution of The Strength Scout

When beginning this blog months ago, my intent was simple: to test methods and speak of my own experiences of building physical strength and resiliency. But as the evolving content reflects, my mindset has shifted. Isolating physical development, from the rest of the body, is futile.

The Strength Scout has become an eclectic approach to developing strength and resiliency. Challenges await anyone who wants to squat 200kg or master the handstand. And while having a road map to these goals is valuable, learning to navigate the unforeseen obstacles is just as important.

The pursuit of physical goals has become less important to me. I still have goals – like wanting to squat 200kg – but I’m no longer burdened by them. The value lies in the process and the lessons learned along the way.

I have been guilty of allowing physical endeavours, such as achieving certain strength feats or physique goals, hold me back from progressing. My single-mindedness was more of a hindrance than a help, I know realise.

It’s clear that pursuing mental strength benefits the physical and vice versa. But developing the mind is not thought of highly enough, and this belief holds many of us back.

Physical training is a great to practice things you wouldn’t normally associate with the gym, like mental rehearsal and patience. By being more conscious and aware of our bodies in the gym, we can achieve better outcomes.

Redefining Strength

‘Mum’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind when talking strength. Not physical strength anyway. But as I found out, mothers are strong – they have endless reserves of patience and are the lynchpin of the family.

As I interviewed my Mum, I discovered ‘strength’ means different things to different people.

Defining strength

Strength is hard to pin down. While the physical strength of strongmen and powerlifters is clear to see and quantify, there is another form of strength that eludes the naked eye.

“There is physical strength and inner strength. We need both,” Mum says.

“Physical strength helps us to keep up with the demands of life and maintain wellbeing”.

She was less sure when defining inner strength, admitting it was difficult to put into words. “Inner strength is what stops us from falling apart. It’s a type of emotional strength that helps us cope with bad news and tough times,” she says.

Building strength

Physical strength is something that can be developed but what about inner strength?

“I don’t know if this counts but I pray to God. I don’t believe in organised religion though there must be a creator,” she says. “I pray for help, guidance and reassurance. I feel a sense of calm after”.

It’s invaluable to spend time with our thoughts. It gives us a chance to break away from being on autopilot and interpret what’s going on in our head. It also lets us practice gratitude.

‘Mindfulness training’ is no longer a tool accessible only to yogis and the enlightened. There is an increasing number of mindfulness apps available while businesses are beginning to focus on mental wellbeing in addition to physical health through increased support and flexible workplaces.

But building emotional strength isn’t as logical as physical strength. Mum admits that having a proactive approach to inner strength is difficult. It’s something that is developed mainly with time and experience, in her opinion.

“It’s about stepping up to challenges. When you receive bad news, like a health scare, it’s important to stay positive. I’ve learned over the years that nothing good comes from falling apart. You’re better off acknowledging the event then getting on with what needs to be done,” she said.

Life gives us opportunities. It’s how we perceive them that determines how we respond. If we view obstacles as challenges, then we put ourselves in a position to tackle the issue positively. But if we see obstacles as problems, we shy away, make excuses or complain.

It’s our choice.

Who is strong?

People who have overcome adversity, like financial hardship or a health scare, are those we consider strong. But there is more to it than that, according to Mum.

“They may be strong on the exterior but this could be a facade. People act tough to protect themselves,” she says.

Though, what might begin as false bravado might become genuine strength and resiliency over time. Just as those around you perceive you as strong, you too will begin to believe in yourself if you put on a front for long enough.

There’s value in acting strong even if you don’t necessarily feel it.

Your biggest strength

It doesn’t take me long to list off my Mum’s strengths – patience, commitment and consistency, are few of many. But when asked, Mum draws a blank, “I don’t know if I’ve got one,” she says.

At this point Dad chimes in. “Her cooking!” he shouts from across the room. Then he answers more seriously, “She’s fair-minded, your Mum. And what still strikes me to this day is her ability to put others well being before her own,’ he says.

After gentle coaxing, Mum finally opens up. “I guess I would say my ability to raise my children,” she says.

Parenting is a balancing act, “I wanted to make sure I didn’t pressure your way of thinking but at the same time provide enough guidance to a happy life,” she says.

“It’s funny when you were little you wouldn’t listen to me when I asked you simple things, like to sit down at the table at dinner time. I’d pull my hair out and tell myself that you’d listen more when you grew up. But you still don’t listen!” she says.

Luckily I evade getting drawn into a discussion on why you should always listen to you mother by pointing out that the interview is over. The perks being the interviewer!

Conclusion

I’m guilty of hanging off every word of a stranger’s opinion on strength, success or happiness. But the people around us – family, friends, and colleagues – can teach us just as much through their experiences.

Fame isn’t proportional to a person’s worth and strength is more than lifting a heavy weight.

What About The Mental?

Do you train your mind?

Many resources exist on how to train the physical body. It is a well-researched topic and it’s easy to observe changes – we look different in the mirror, can run further or lift more weight. This feedback is a nice way to confirm we’re doing something right.

Also planning a training program is easy. Run this amount of kilometres, lift this amount of weight and progress over time.

But do you train your mind?

Why don’t we put the same effort into developing a strong mind?

Because it’s not tangible, it’s difficult to quantify, less information exists on how to do it and there is stigma attached to ‘mind training’ –  a feeling that it should be left to Buddhist monks and Jedi’s.

Why is it important?

We rely on our bodies for many tasks and often they fall within our physical capabilities, like doing the groceries. Seldom do we do things that truly challenge our body. We’re capable of performing most activities with next to no effort. Imagine if we could get to the same level of mental ease.

We call on our brain for every task we do. Improving mental efficiency improves effectiveness – from ensuring the supermarket receipt is correct to negotiating challenging social situations.

Muscles are trained by lifting weights – with correct application and time, heavy dumbbells become light. The same principle applies to mental training and difficult mental calculations soon become easy.

How do we train the mind?

Just as the body is trained in different ways, such as strength versus endurance, there several approaches to training the brain…

Practice mindfulness

Be ‘present’.

The mind is in a constant state of flux flickering between past, present and future. By remaining grounded in the present, we do better at the job at hand and reduce unnecessary worry about the future or dwelling on the past.

Practice mindfulness with mundane tasks. Chores around the house, like sweeping, for instance. Focus intently on doing the task perfectly.

Continual learning

Without constant stimulation, the brain stagnates and atrophies just as muscles waste when not used.

Lifelong learning keeps the brain fresh. Learn about topics that interest you – read, research and sign up for courses. Take advantage of free online learning platforms like Coursera and edX.

Meditate

Meditation benefits everyone not just Yogis and progressive types who say “Yeah man,” too often.

It’s another opportunity to practice mindfulness. When beginning meditation, the mind rarely stays in one place and instead jumps from thought to thought. Learn how to meditate using techniques like focusing on the breath. These apps are useful too.

With practice you’ll be able to separate yourself from your thoughts, allowing them to float by like clouds instead of becoming attached to them. Your concentration will improve.

Mental rehearsal and visualisation are also great tools. Elite athletes, foreseeing their future success, have popularised these techniques. Create vivid mental imagery of an area of your life you’d like to improve and see yourself succeeding.

Do you put time and effort into mental training? What techniques and strategies do you use? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.