The challenge has officially started. Five weeks left of preparation and I am definitely feeling more tired and less motivated, which is leading to sugar cravings, a decrease in the intensity of my workouts, and a late blog post. On top of my 5 lifting sessions a week, I have added 4 cardio and 2 yoga sessions so you can just imagine how I feel after doing this for 2 weeks now. Let’s just say it’s been hard to find the energy and motivation to work out at 6am and say no to free cookie tastings at the cafe upstairs.
That’s my struggle right now, so what am I going to do about it? Quitting is not an option for me and I believe that this experience will help develop my mental toughness. I have been reflecting these last few days and really trying to become aware of how I can lift myself up. I’ve noticed what works and what doesn’t, but still have some serious planning to do in terms of my mental prep for my workouts. For those of you who have trouble getting to the gym or notice that you are easily distracted and are not able to fully focus during your trainings, hopefully these next few strategies will help you out as well.
Making sleep a priority There are only so many hours in a day, so prioritizing is key to making sure that I accomplish the important stuff! The competition is in about 5 weeks. I have worked so hard the past several months and it is without a doubt that my health and fitness is my focus right now. This week I realized that sleep and proper rest is essential if I want to make sure I can function in and out of work, as well as make sure that I can train consistently. This meant that I had to go back and revisit some goals to make room for more sleep.
Taking naps: I realized that aiming to do yoga 3 times a week was not realistic and that it would be better for me to replace one of those sessions by a 2-hour nap.
More efficient meal prep: I decreased my meal prep time by making big batches of food (such as fish soup), which allows me to get to bed earlier since I tend to cook before bed. Yes, this means that I will be eating the same lunches for a week, but trust me, I make sure the recipes are delicious so it doesn’t phase me!
Scheduling sleep into my agenda: I made sure to plan my day around my new bedtime which is now 9pm. I know if I aim for 9 it will probably turn out to be actually 9:30, but that’s okay.
Setting alarms: I put an alarm at 8:45pm during the week to remind me to get ready for 9pm bedtime. The sound of the alarm lets me know that I should either drop everything or hurry up - so far so good.
Meditation: I usually don’t have difficulty falling asleep, but there are days where I sit in bed and think about work, projects, interactions I’ve had that day, and so on. I believe that my meditation practice has really helped me turn off that voice, which in turn enables me to fall asleep much quicker. Once I notice that I am thinking too much, I start to focus on my breath, which gets me to knock out sooner than later.
Finding the motivation to workout when you just don’t feel like it I have been training at least five times a week for the past ten months now and not once have I felt this unmotivated to lift weight. I believe that it is because I now have a goal of participating in this competition, and the added perceived pressure and obligation to train has affected my way of thinking. I have been having more off days than usual, so it is important for me at this point to reflect on what makes my good days good. On the other hand, I have not skipped a single training yet so I want to make sure this stays the same. This issue is quite new to me and so here are the strategies I have come up with for the next few weeks...
Add in a new exercise here and there: I just changed my program so I don’t want to change it again, but this does not mean that I can’t change sets of bicep dumbbell curls to drop sets of bicep EZ bar curls. Remixing my plan for the day definitely makes it more interesting and exciting to do.
Look good feel good: Since the gym is my second home, I spend more time in shorts and Nike tank tops than in jeans and nice shirts. I noticed that when I wear new, fresh gear, I feel good because I look good (I am sure you can all relate). These are the days that I will post on my social media and to be honest, this helps me keep my intensity during my workout. Now this doesn’t mean I will go out and buy new shoes every week, but I can plan to reward myself with a new piece of clothing if I sleep a certain amount of hours in 2 months for example.
Notice distractions: I don’t know about you, but when I train with my phone next to me I tend to get distracted which leads to longer breaks between sets, a decrease in intensity, and a workout that sometimes lasts 2 and a half hours. When I leave my phone at the reception where I can’t see it, I tend to have more focused training sessions. Obviously there will be times when I check to see if I have messages (or grab it to take a video or post), but when this happens I try and punish myself by adding an extra set to whatever exercises I am doing.
Create a motivating playlist: If music changes your mood like it changes mine, have a playlist ready when you need some tunes to get you in the zone. I usually just put on any playlist on at the gym, but this week I have been noticing that certain songs get me in the right mind state (such as “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child). So I have started to make a list on Spotify and hopefully by then end of the week I will have a workout playlist to keep me motivated at the gym on Monday.
Know the ideal environment - I am sure you hate to train when there are too many people at the gym, because then you’re stuck waiting on machines which disrupts your whole plan! Now some people are good at adapting, and I have enough experience to be able to change things on the fly, but you want to know your ideal environment and plan your workouts around that. Yes, there will be times where you will have to wait on a machine, but focus on the controllables. Since the New Year there have been more people training in the morning when I usually like to train, so now I wait until they leave to work before I start my workout. In addition, I have the privilege to be control of the music since I train during my shift! Create the an environment that works for you.
Motivational images and cheesy quotes: Positive vibes help inspire positive self-talk. I find that looking at those cheesy motivational images and quotes on Instagram really gives me that kick in the butt that I need sometimes. I have started taking note of the words and pictures that work for me, so I can make Post-its to serve as visual cues. Know what motivates you and try and make sure to expose yourself to it as much as possible.
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle” - Napoleon Hill