After 10 years of playing rugby I decided to hang up my cleats and focus on my career: personal training and mental skills coaching. I started to lift weights 5 times a week since I was always at the gym for work, and before you know it I was counting my macros (special thanks to Curt Griffin) and getting the leanest and strongest I have ever been. Since May 2016 I have been training and eating like a bodybuilder so I asked myself, “Why don’t I just do one of these competitions?”.
The training and nutrition aspect has become routine for me these last 9 months, so preparing to compete will be easy, right? WRONG. Apparently I have to learn how to walk in 5 inch heels and pose in front of hundreds of people. Challenge accepted. I try to step out of my comfort zone on a daily (okay maybe weekly) basis in order to grow as a person and professional, and this is something I advocate to my clients. This experience will not only challenge my mental toughness, but it will help me understand the mental and physical preparation that goes on for these competitions, enabling me to have a greater skill set as a coach and trainer.
So why am I writing these series of blogs? Well if you are hoping to learn about training and nutrition, this is the wrong blog. My goal is to bring an awareness to my readers on the importance of mental preparation and mental skills training by sharing my own personal journey towards my first bodybuilding competition. By doing this I hope that I can offer some tips and strategies for not only other competitors, but for anyone who has to prepare for any type of performance. We can all admit that the mental side plays the same role as the physical (or even more), but how many of you actually exercise your brain as much as your body? Most of us don’t put in the same hours of mental training as physical training, even though we can agree that they are both equally as important. Perhaps it’s a lack of knowledge, education, and support - well hopefully I can bring this to you in the next several weeks.
In addition, I want to start a conversation. Most of us don’t like to talk about what goes on in our head, since doing this usually leads us feeling vulnerable and looking pretty weak - it’s normal. But if you want to turn your weaknesses into strengths, and help others do the same, it must be done! So suck it up and join the conversation about the mental game with me.
IDFA 107 will be held on April 8th, which leaves me only 11 more weeks to get my shit together:
Practice what I preach and implement a mental skills program to my training.
With the help of Curt, learn how to pose and walk in 5 inch heels (aka stop worrying about posing).
Set specific goals. Winning is nice but I can’t control my competition, so I have to stop looking at other competitors and focus on myself.
Oh yeah, and have fun! The journey is much more valuable than the destination…
Every week I will be posting a blog about my mental preparation of the previous week. I will give you a sneak peek at my own mental skill program as well as present not only an issue that happened, but a highlight as well, as I believe that it is very important to finish anything and everything in a positive note. There is no use dwelling over mistakes - learn from challenges and only move forward.
My mental skills training program will consist of the tools and strategies I have learned during my Master’s degree in sport psychology. I will also take from books I have read, lectures I’ve attended, other professionals I have networked with, and the experiences and skills I have accumulated playing rugby, teaching physical education, personal training and mental skills coaching with athletes and musicians.
I will be training my brain through a series of “brain exercises” and tools such as specific breathing techniques, cues, visualization, and cognitive restructuring. All these strategies will be used to make sure I stay focused and in the zone when I need to be. There will be distractions. There will be times where I will want to give up. But by training my brain 5 times a week, just as I physically train 5 times a week, I will be able to work on my mental toughness by developing my resilience, confidence, and determination.
This weekend I leave for vacation for 7 days. This means I will pretty much lose 1 full week of regular training. Telling myself that I still have 10 weeks to prep when I come back allows me to stay sane while I am away. I will focus on the positives that I have experienced these last few months of training and know that when I come back, I will be as disciplined as I was before I left. It is important for my brain and body to rest (considering I haven’t really rested since May), so I am confident that I will be able to relax and enjoy myself while doing HIIT workouts, yoga, and meditations on the beach. Who knows, I may even have a drink or two... or thirty-seven. I will let myself enjoy the Caribbean food and when I come back, crush it just like I have been. So stay tuned for my next blog that will be out the first week of February. I will talk more about how I will be starting the first phase of the mental skills training program, and we will find out if I was able to stay sane while away, or if I come back a total mess.
"...If you’re in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, Remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt...." -Unknown