A little less than 7 weeks out to my first bodybuilding competition and I am feeling great. In my last blog post I talked about strategies to stay confident and positive, and it looks like they definitely helped me out of the dangerous downward spiral that I was headed towards. This week I want to talk about two things: how to stay on Cloud Nine, and how to follow through.
Cloud Nine It is great to feel indestructible, motivated, excited, empowered, and confident, but how do you make sure to keep riding Cloud Nine? As I mentioned in Chapter 4, it is important to reflect and be aware of not only what brings you down, but what brings you up as well. Because I have been feeling so good about my preparation these last few days, I asked myself, “What am I doing to stay motivated? What is exciting me?” in order to pinpoint the strategies that work for me (yes for ME - they may be different for you).
I wake up at 5am from Monday to Friday and train first thing in the morning. Yes, there are days that are harder to get up than others, so I make sure that I am excited to get up. So what excites me you ask? Food and a good cup of joe! Meal prep is part of my lifestyle (not just my preparation for this competition) and I make sure to make delicious omelets or quiches for my breakfasts during the week. I love food and experimenting with new recipes keeps me excited to wake up in the morning and devour my creations. I also love coffee and have been making a new recipe that my mom showed me on the weekend which involves cinnamon, turmeric, cocoa powder, a splash of milk, and some chocolate protein powder… I suppose it is more of a protein-coffee-spice shake? Anyway, it is delicious and I look forward to it every morning.
I changed my training program this week, with the help of my coach Curt, and this definitely has been getting me motivated and excited to wake up in the morning. There is nothing worse than a boring or old training program that you are dreading to do. I make sure to set goals for each training session and crush my workouts by staying focused and relying on my cues and performance statements to keep me on my A-game.
With that said, tips for staying on Cloud Nine are:
1. Reflect on why you are there in the first place 2. Recognize what motivates you and incorporate it in your daily routine 3. Recognize what excites you and incorporate it in your daily routine 4. Repeat your pre-set cues and identity statements in order to help you stay in a positive state of mind
Following through Training five times a week (and now nine since I recently added cardio sessions) does damage to the body, whether you feel it right away or not. I have been very lucky that my back injury has not reappeared recently, and I want to thank my coach, osteo, and physio for this. I guess I can also thank myself for doing the exercises prescribed and making sure to warm up properly before I start lifting. I was tired of pulling out my back all the time and I realized that most of us only seek help when we need it. Why not seek treatment when we don’t feel like we need it? I have come to the realization that regular massages, and osteo and physio treatments are so important to stay injury free! I also want to add yoga to this list since I am someone who could probably use a little bit more stretching in my program...
For months I have been telling myself to book appointments, but it was hard for me since the bills add up quickly, and because I don’t feel like I actually need treatment (one excuse after the other). This week I have been feeling so good that I told myself that I want to make sure I continue to feel this way for the next 7 weeks. So yesterday I booked my first cupping treatment, as well as a deep tissue massage for next week, and today I bought a membership to a yoga studio. What made me do this all of a sudden? To be honest, I was tired of seeing the same things on my to-do list. I made myself accountable by reserving 3 yoga sessions, and booking the treatments.. now I have to go! I put it in my agenda and now I am excited to give my body some TLC.
It is easy to say you will do something, but harder to follow through. This is where the mental side of things comes to play. Here are some tips on how to make sure you follow through: 1. Stop making excuses 2. Ask yourself why you have not followed through yet 3. Ask yourself why you want to do this 3. If you were successful in the past, what made it possible then? 4. Make yourself accountable 5. Schedule it in your agenda 6. Take the plunge, and just do it!
“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” -Rosalynn Carter
Confidence - it can make you or break you. Last week it broke me. I have been noticing more lowlights than highlights the last few days, which lead to discouragement, frustration, and negative self-talk. In my search for posing videos, I found that I started to compare myself to others. I started to worry about posing and how little time I had left to work on my weaknesses. The cues I implemented worked at times, but I needed something more to get me out of the downward spiral I was starting to give in to. Now I am pretty sure my experience is relatable to you in some way or another. We all have bad days where we have less confidence in our skills and abilities and question why we are doing what we are doing. It is easy to get caught up in the negative, so it is important that we become aware of not only what brings us down, but what brings us back up as well. As I have been mentioning, reflection is a very important process and it will always be the first step to behavior change. As I look back on these last few days, I notice that comparing myself to others and worrying about the unknown is a waste of time and leads me feeling pretty low. I also notice that the times that I did feel more positive was due to realizing successes (I finally learnt how to flare my lats), being around supportive people, and refocusing by doing something that brings me back up. With that said, here are some strategies that you can start to implement to make sure you build on your confidence everyday. Yes - I said everyday. They should be used to prevent that downward spiral from happening.
1. Be aware of what brings you up and what brings you down - at the end of the day reflect on your different moods, and at the end of the week, try to see if there is a similar pattern going on. Knowing what brings you down can help you manage certain situations better; and knowing what makes you feel good can be used to make your refocus strategy.
2. Surround yourself with positive vibes - get rid of the people who are not supportive. Make sure you know who is in your support network and remember to thank them! These people should be supporting you on your bad days, and not just your good days.
3. Pat yourself on the back - okay maybe not physically, but make sure you are realizing your accomplishments. Start a Highlight Journal if you haven’t already. By noticing the positives you are steering your focus away from the negatives.
4. Know your strengths - list all the things you are good at and keep it in plain sight. If you are not sure what goes on that list, ask around. This should serve as a tool to help you on those days when you feel like giving up and find yourself saying, “I suck”, or “I’m not good at this”. Make sure to leave some space at the bottom so you can keep adding to it.
Overcoming negative thoughts is not easy, and these strategies must be practiced in order for you to benefit from them. As IDFA 107 is quickly approaching, I will make sure to add these strategies to my mental skills training program. Preparation is getting harder and harder and I am starting to truly test out my mental toughness. However, I know that if I practice and implement the proper tools and strategies, it will all be okay!
"Be confident. Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren't. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it's only when you accept everything you are - and aren't - that you will truly succeed." - Unknown
I realized that I was a little ambitious last week with my goal-setting. The transition from relaxing on the beach to getting back to work and lifting has been rough. Thankfully using my pre-determined refocus cues has helped me get through some challenging moments.
For the next 9 weeks I will just be presenting you the lowlights (what needs to be improved) and highlights (what went well) of my mental skills training program, as well as how I plan on adapting the components of my mental workout to future weeks in order to be prepared for April 8th. Though I was able to get my first hour of posing practice in the books (you can see a short video on my personal Instagram account), I was unable to put in the time for daily research and finding competitors I admire. I also realized how hard it is to change my routine and put in the effort to consciously think about following my mental workout everyday. Having implementing this type of training to my preparation has definitely helped me understand what my clients go through when they do the same.
The following are my lowlights - hopefully you can relate to having similar challenges and perhaps get ideas of how to move forward.
Lowlight 1: On some days I forgot to implement my mental workout. Moving forward: I will schedule in time to do it in my agenda, and put visual reminders on my training program so that I remember to use cues when lifting.
Lowlight 2: I didn’t accomplish my goal of daily research/watching videos of competitions, which led to failure in finding 2 professional figure competitors that I admire (as mentioned in “Chapter 2”, this will help me with substitution imagery). Moving forward: Since the ambitious goal of researching for 20-minutes a day did not work out, I will set a more realistic goal of researching at least 3 times this week. I found that when I did research, it was for at least half an hour, so I will just have to make sure to get more time in this upcoming week.
It is so easy for us to dwell on past mistakes, get caught up in a spiral of negative self-talk, worry, and get stuck on the dark side. All this is normal, and can be healthy as long as you learn from your mistakes, move forward, and end on a positive note.
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” - Frank A. Clark
Here my highlights from my mental skills training last week, and how I plan on staying consistent with those behaviors:
Highlight 1: When I remembered to implement my breathing technique into my lifting sessions, it helped me when I needed to refocus. I was able to play with the 2-to-1 ratio and realize that the magic numbers for me are 3 and 6 seconds. Maintaining consistency: Because I am more of a visual person, I will write the numbers 3 and 6 on my training program so that I will see it when I lift - hopefully this will remind me to use the strategy on a daily basis!
Highlight 2: With the help of two colleagues, I was able to practice walking and posing in those dreaded 5-inch heels. I expected to only practice for 30 minutes, but we went on for about an hour, and to my surprise, I was able to walk comfortably the whole time. Using substitution imagery helped me get into the right mindset when I was practicing the walks and poses. I definitely feel more confident than I did a few days ago! Maintaining consistency: To make sure I am not stressed and worried about practicing posing, I entered practice times into my calendar. Because my agenda is pretty much my bible, this works for me (you may have to play around with other strategies) and allows me to build on my confidence once again.
Highlight 3: When I remembered to implement my performance and identity statements, it helped me get in the right head space before doing those gruelling last sets that make you wonder why you torture yourself at the gym. I realized that I used only a few cues that I had planned to. It is normal for the MST program to be constantly changing, so it is good that I am aware of what cues work for me at this point in my preparation. Maintaining consistency: I need to remember to implement the mental workout everyday and use the strategies when the opportunity comes. This upcoming week I will write down the cues that I found useful directly on my training program (beside the numbers 3 and 6) to help me remind myself to use them.
Though I did not accomplish all my goals last week, it is important for me to realize my successes in order to continue to build on my confidence. One of the first things I tell my clients to do is to start a Highlight Journal. By writing down what went well at the end of your day, it forces you to end your day on a positive note, as well as think about what needs to be improved. The importance of reflection and self-awareness is key to any behavior change and listing lowlights and highlights can definitely help you with any of your goals, whether short-term or long-term. This week I challenge you to start a Highlight Journal - have fun!
I survived Punta Cana. Before leaving I was concerned that I would drink too much while away, eat my face off, and train less. To my own surprise, I found that it was only normal for me to get up early and run on the beach before my day started. I worked out every single morning and decided to spend more time running than lifting at the gym to give my body a much needed rest. I did not deprive myself of any food - one night I ate 5 slices of cake. I ate 3 meals a day instead of my usual 5 since I was burning less calories just lying on the beach all day… it also helped that the heat took away my never-ending appetite that I usually have. My motivation to stay fit and lean for this upcoming competition kept me disciplined. I simply just did not feel like sipping on “cervesas” and cocktails all day long, but I did let myself indulge in Dominican rum during a day trip to Saona Island, and may or may not remember the end of that adventure… To be honest I was expecting some loss of my gains upon my return home, along with some difficulty in the transition to following my macros again, but it feels good to be back in my routine. It was nice not to meal prep for a week (okay maybe I meal prepped a few times for our day trips and the plane ride home), but I am glad to be eating my regular meals again. I went to Punta Cana without any expectations in terms of training and eating clean, and I am happy that I was able to stay mentally strong and disciplined while away. On top of all that, I even managed to get a yoga session in, as well as work on my focus through some meditation in the sun. A week of rest and relaxation definitely did the mind and body good as I feel refreshed and energized at work and have definitely gotten stronger with my lifts. I am ready to crush these next 10 weeks of mental and physical preparation for my first bodybuilding competition.
It’s crunch time as the word, “no” will be a big part of my vocabulary. This will be a true test of my mental toughness as I will not be drinking or eating out for the next 66 days. Nutrition is everything so it is important that I stay on point with my macros. Don’t get me wrong, I will not be starving myself or depriving myself of chocolate and carbs. My goal is to do this in a healthy way which means to eat as clean as possible, but not completely cut out the foods I love, otherwise I will go crazy! I’ve done well so far - since May last year I have been counting macros from Monday to Thursday and eating what I want on weekends, so I know that I have the discipline to continue this hard work daily for a few weeks.
As I mentioned in my first blog, I will be sharing my brain training program with you in order to educate and increase awareness of the importance of mental skills training (MST). Today I started to put together my mental workout which includes:
The 2-to-1 Breathing technique
Highlight reels (visualization)
This is a pre-performance mental routine that will last 5-10 minutes, which I will use to stay in the zone on game day. It is important that I perfect this routine so that it is useful when I need it the most. Like any mental skills training program, trial and error is a big part of figuring out what works for you, so I will be incorporating the routine to my lifting 5 times a week, and posing practice. By using the routine on a daily basis, I will be able to quickly figure out what mantras, cues, statements and images are best for me to stay confident, in control, and focused when I get distracted or find myself having negative thoughts.
In addition, I will have to watch posing videos and learn how to walk gracefully in 5-inch heels. By setting short-term goals, blocking off times during the week to research, pose, and practice my mental workout, I can assure that I stay on top of my prep.
Today I determined that my 2-to-1 breathing technique will consist of a 4 second inhale, and an 8 second exhale. Will this work? Who knows. I will try it out this week and see if I have to adjust. I came up with a mantra to use to replace negative thoughts and 3 powerful cue words as part as my performance statement. The hardest part of my MST program is visualization since I have never really used this in training before. It will be hard for me to imagine past successes since I have never competed on stage and therefore have no experience to draw from. For this reason it’s very important that I do proper research by watching videos and choosing professional competitors that I would like to mirror. The concept of “substitution imagery” was brought to my attention a few weeks ago from Christine Carter, a professor and performance psychology coach who gave an excellent lecture on mental skills training for musicians. With this exercise I will literally be picturing my head on someone else’s body - weird, I know. After I start practicing posing I will then be able to get a better idea of what I want my performance to look like, making it easier to create my Highlight Reel. Finally, I chose 2 identity statements that are positive and empowering that will help me feel confident.
An important part of any MST program is reflection and self-awareness, which I will be doing in a journal, as well as in this blog series. Reflection allows us to analyze our strengths and weaknesses, enabling us to better determine what has to be improved and what has to be done to maintain consistency. This is one of the first skills I teach my clients as without it, it’s hard to turn weaknesses into strengths. I will be reflecting on a “lowlight” and “highlight” of my mental skills training of the past week in each of my posts so I know how to adapt for the upcoming week - so stay tuned to see how the the concept of trial and error is used when creating an MST program.
Now that I have the “rough draft” of my mental workout, it’s time to put it into practice this week during my lifting sessions and posing practice. I believe that mental training is just as important as physical training, so I will be doing my brain exercises 5 times a week, just as often as I train. In addition, I will continue to meditate daily as this practice has allowed me to improve my focus.
My goal this week in addition to implementing my mental workout to my training, is to research (watch videos) for at least 20 minutes a day, find 2 professional figure competitors that I admire, and to practice walking in 5 inch heels - wish me luck...
“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” -John Wooden