Getting The Mental Edge in Bodybuilding – Part 1

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(fuck knows what happened to the formatting of this post, but I can’t seem to fix the occasional green font and underlining…goddammit!)

There’s no denying the inextricable link between the mind and one’s own physical development. Whether we learn tactics to consciously withstand pain, psyche ourselves to increased levels of heightened performance, induce states of relaxation or, as biologist Bruce Lipton believes is possible, effect our bodies at the cellular level by manipulating our very DNA  I truly believe mind development is one of the next frontiers associated with taking sporting achievement to the next level.

As I’ve alluded to in a previous post; the one common thread all past champions share despite any disparity between their individual nutritional and training approaches, is their assertion that visualisation and a solid mental approach is/was vital to achieving their physique goals.

bodybuilder mike christian and peter siegel.jpg

Mike Christian was one of the many bodybuilders who were avid fans of preworkout hypnosis among other mental strengthening techniques.

Competing in bodybuilding can twist your mind into pretzel-like-knots no amount of daily Facebook-fitness-Kai-Greene-motivation-memes will help you overcome when you’re starving and life’s little challenges begin to bite you in your striated ass.

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I hate this kind of shit….here’s a better quote, “motivation is for losers, winners simply show up everyday and get the job done.”

Mental fortitude, the ability to reframe and reduce stress and balance the extremely finite resource of willpower takes a certain level of mental conditioning.

The ability to visualise the end result and focus on the repetitive daily habits borders on a level of masochism that only the strongest of disciplines can endure.

hypnosis arnold

Training my mind in addition to my body is something I’ve been experimenting with for a while now, but it’s an area I definitely think is undervalued and can be optimised by anybody using a disciplined and holistic approach.

Let me preface my advice by saying I’m no fucking pro at this yet either. My mind sometimes (often) goes all over the place -especially since I tend to lie on the Type A, OCD, introverted end of the humanity spectrum

In this article, I’m not going to delve into popular theories or schools of thought – that will come in a future post.

lee labrada meditating

Labrada displayed a rock solid self belief despite battling guys that far outweighed him.

Instead, here are some of the methods I used to visualise and strengthen my commitment, focus and reduce stress in the process of my own contest prep the last few months.

Visualisation and Goal Setting

Journalling Affirmations

Here’s a great tip I got from Scott Adams from his wonderful book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”. Scott wasn’t a big believer in affirmations until some of the things he started repeatedly affirming daily in a notebook began to strangely materialise. Basically he wrote an affirmation using a simple sentence such as;

“I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.”

for a total of 15 times a day.

And as one of the most successful and prolific cartoonists of all time we know that things worked out.

He also provides other examples along with some great self improvement tips (particularly his stuff on having ‘systems’ instead of ‘goals’), so I really recommend reading this book.

Now, putting aside the obvious “survivor bias”effect, I decided to give it a try. For 4-5 months I wrote everyday in a notebook 15 times, the following affirmation –

“I will win the overall Classic Division Championships at the March 13 show weighing 72kg”

By the end of a few months I had filled a shitload of notebooks. If anyone had picked one of these up and read through them, it would have resembled the scene from the movies “7” or “Fight Club” where some recluse/serial killer had filled similar notebooks with repetitive ramblings of delusion.

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Strangely, I did this also with a non related bodybuilding goal and that too came to fruition.

Yayyy! Gotta love non scientific supported strange coincidences.

How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big

One of the better self improvement books out there.

Head Space App

Headspace

The benefits of mindfullness training and daily meditation are so widely promoted (marketed?) that any discussion as to whether or not you should be building some form of meditation into your daily routine is redundant here.

mindful monkey

As a teacher, we even teach mindfullness to kids these days.

For the busy gym-rat who doesn’t have a whole lot of time to explore the various meditation avenues available, or requires some guided help, this app is a godsend for those wanting to build the daily habit in just 10 minutes a day.

Typically I use HeadSpace before going to sleep at night just to clear my mental-slate. However, I think a twice a day practice – both on rising and before retiring would work even better.

I feel very mentally refreshed after using this. Picture the mental equivalent of closing a browser full of life’s open tabs all at once.

This is what my mind is like most times. When I "close the browser" using meditation, it feels very refreshing.

This is what my mind is like a lot of the time. When I “close the browser” using meditation, it feels very refreshing.

When I break my meditation routine, as happened in the last couple of weeks before my show, I feel very off kilter mentally and emotionally.

Think of HeadSpace as a kind of “cob-web-clearing, nootropic-espresso shot” for your soul and spirit.

Maximum Bodybuilding Hypnosis Track

hypnosis bodybuildong

90’s bodybuilder, Porter Cottrell was fond of saying, we gotta “perceive it, so we can believe it and then achieve it”

porter and dorian

Porter was a beast in the 90’s, but he had trouble “seeing” anything when standing in the shadow of Yates.

To be honest, I’ve always found visualising the end goal of how I wanted my muscles to look a little difficult.

When I closed my eyes, I would always super-impose my physique onto the the template of other bodybuilders I admired and I don’t think this is necessarily an effective visualisation strategy.

Just as staring at pics of Arnold won’t turn you into Arnold, you have to use your own “genetic clay” when visualising your own personal sculpture to be.

arnold visualise

Arnold was the self-proclaimed master of visualising and actuallising his goals.

I found listening to the hypnosis track “Maximum Bodybuilding” a few times a week helped me to achieve this task much easier.

It’s very relaxing to chill out to, and by listening to the speaker guide you through the visualisation process, it became much easier for me to begin concretely imagining how I wanted my physique to look after a few listens to this.

Sphinx of Imagination

sphinx

This is a product that I have used over the years to help me achieve a number of goals – if HeadSpace is an “espresso”, then Sphinx is an “LSD journey” for the mind.

This 50 minute hypnosis track is a narrative journey designed to put the listener into a trance-like state and embed a variety of self-improvement/success related suggestions and commands at both the conscious and subconscious level.

I don’t want to spoil it by offering up any kind of expectations or recommendations. However, I’ll simply recount my own personal experiences.

The hypnosis track isn’t designed to target a particular habit in particular. Its abstraction is left to the determined by the user.

Listened through some high quality headphones you literally feel like your body and mind is being taken on a lucid-dream-like roller-coaster ride. The trick is just to switch off, relax and let the track guide you along the process.

Personally, I listen to this once a month and always feel tremendously serene, yet energetically focused afterwards. I suggest listening to it immediately on waking, when you’re already straddling that point between the waking and dream state and your mind is most open to suggestive programming.

Methods of Relaxation

Beach arnold

ASMR

This is something I stumbled upon recently and can only describe it as the audio visual equivalent of Valium.

ASMR stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” which is those pleasurable tingles and feelings you get when you hear or experience a relaxing voice or sound.

Google or Youtube ASMR and you’ll see the how extraordinarily popular ASMR channels are. Sometimes, I hear a voice that is really relaxing and it’s just….hypnotically entrancing….and stress reducing at the same time.

Sometimes if I feel a period of particular stress or need to induce a mid-afternoon pre workout nap, I’ll pop one of these YouTube vids on and within a few minutes I’ll be asleep.

Playing Video Games

I haven’t played video games since I was a teenager, since I know I would get addicted and the resultant time sink would be unconscionable. I’ve seen a few studies (don’t quote me on their veracity – who knows who funds studies these days..) suggesting that video games are great stress relievers and good at lowering cortisol levels.

I imagine they’re also good at distracting the player from the hunger pangs that contest prep bring, as long as you’re not one of those that needs a bottomless bag of potato chips to fuel your gaming sessions.

Walking A Dog

arnold dogs

I’ve read many times the positive effects of pet ownership has on reducing stress, blood pressure along with a slew of other positive benefits.

The last few weeks I’ve been housesitting and looking after the owner’s dog. I’m not a big animal lover, but taking the dog for a half hour walk in the morning and another at night bookends my day in a strangely calming way that both energises and relaxes me in a way that walking by myself doesn’t.

Having this non-judgemental, silent and loyal little companion walk along side me has really boosted my mood in an indescribable way to the point that I’ve even considered getting my own dog in the future.

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There’s not too much to complain about in life on morning’s as perfect as this…

Cooking

calum cooking

I’ve put cooking just as an example, but really it could be any hobby that facilitates the by-now famous, often quoted Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi proposed state of “Flow”.

Flow is basically the effortless and often pleasurable psychological state that accompanies deep immersion in an activity that is completely absorbing to the participant. I usually achieve a “flow” state when cooking. I switch off from the world and my surroundings, get totally lost in what I’m doing and it’s a very calming and pleasurable activity to me.

So that’s just a few strategies for now to help you improve that all important mindset. Some of them may seem a little esoteric and out there, but like training and nutrition, it’s all about finding that right fit for our individual templates.

 

 

 

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