To get the most out of your body you MUST prepare your mind. Taking just a few minutes prior to your training session to focus on your breath and get your head in the right space, can make a huge difference in your performance, strength, & endurance for that session. Practicing a pre-workout meditation prior to every training session no matter how challenging or how easy it may be will take you to the next level of self-awareness and performance.
Give this pre-workout meditation a try before your next session.
“Daily disciplines build on one another. You can’t complete change in one day, but when you work towards implementing a daily routine, that routine can create real noticeable prolific change”
All to often we wake up in a rush, turn on the news, or hop on social media, see something negative, and in our over-tired state of mind let that negativity create our attitude going into the day. In our recent Health Episode Podcast Alix and I discussed taking ownership of your day, which is exactly what you have the ability to do when you flip you daily script from allowing outside forces dictate your attitude, reactions, & emotions. Instead wake up and say to yourself “Today I WILL XYZ” and take ownership of your day.
So here is what we recommend you do:
At the beginning of each morning spend 1-5 minutes box breathing with a slight smile on your face. As you are breathing and smiling begin to create your day. “Today I will ________”, not I “want to” or I “hope to”, be definitive in your thoughts and declaration.
At the end of each day, take a minute or five and write down in a journal “What I did today” that was positive, that improved your quality of life, your health/fitness, your relationships personally and professionally, your mindset, etc.
The next morning you can even review your “wins” from the previous day as a reflection and motivation to accomplish goals for the day ahead
Start with small goals each day. As you write them down you are building a catalog of accomplishments, wins, etc. Go back at the end of each month and review all of your wins and take a moment to appreciate your progress. Small goals/wins amount to huge victories and success in the long run.
You have spent months preparing your body for race day. You train when you feel good, you train when you’re tired and feel bad. You eat well and supplement to ensure you’re recovering between workouts and now race day is here and your body is ready to perform. But what about your mind? Regardless of your physical readiness and your stellar nutrition plan, if you have not created a solid mental race plan, you could be selling your performance and ability short, or worse, setting yourself up for an all systems failure.
The latter actually happened to a good friend of mine at our last race. He had trained for months, every day, getting stronger and faster and on paper should have dominated this race. He rarely, if ever, missed a training day and his nutrition couldn’t have been cleaner. Yet as we were toeing the line to start the race the one critical piece of his training puzzle that was missing bit him in right the ass like that dog that finally got loose on the mailman. His race was literally over before it even started. He forgot about his mental race plan.
To create your own mental race plan follow these steps, and feel free to edit any step or add another step if it helps you but do not skip any of the steps below.
Day before the race nutrition
Have this planned ahead of time so you know on race morning your tank is full with exactly what you need to perform your best
Although this isn’t necessarily mental, practicing with this fueling strategy in training will give you the piece of mind that it works
A few weeks prior to your race, or as far ahead as you can, begin to visualize race day
What time will you wake up
What will you do if you oversleep
What will you eat
Mentally rehearse chewing slowly and intently to properly digest your pre-race fuel
Driving to the race
See yourself sitting up straight in your vehicle, holding the wheel at 10 & 2 and practicing focused/confident box breathing
Visualize exactly how you will execute your warm-up
See the start line and your competition (this is a big one)
Visualize walking to the start, box breathing, and create a mantra that gives you confidence and power
Mantra example: “I’ve trained for this, I am ready, I am strong, I am confident”
If you are racing an OCR and have the ability to view the obstacles ahead of time, or know what they are from a previous race, mentally rehearse exactly how you will complete each one
If competing in a triathlon or other event, visualize exactly how you will begin your race- if a multi-sport race, visualize the start of each discipline along with transitions between
Mentally plan for roadblocks during the race i.e. failing an obstacle, a flat tire, a cramp, extreme fatigue, legs that feel like lead, etc. Create a mental plan to overcome each/any of these that could apply to you on race day
Create a mental anchor and mantra that when the going gets REALLY tough during the race, you visualize this anchor and repeat this mantra to give you confidence and strength
Meditate while box breathing going over each of the steps above at least 3 times per week.If you can do it daily, or even pieces of it daily that is even better
Again, feel free to add any step that could help you perform better on your big day. Put as much practice into your mind as you do your physical training and you will set yourself up for an incredible day! If you need help creating your personal mental race plan email firstname.lastname@example.org a consult.
“Action begins with a thought; and it is in this thought that we open our mind, create a plan, and achieve the impossible.” – Coach Mo
In my studies of Sports Psychology I have found that many great athletes, Olympians, world champions, etc., have one thing in common that they relate to their success. They each visualize their performance hundreds of times, over and over, so that on the day of competition their brain has rehearsed every movement so many times that their bodies know exactly how to react, respond, perform when it matter the most. It is as if their body is running on autopilot, there is no thought to movement, their body just responds as it is supposed to. But what if you are not a world champion or an Olympian? Does the same visualization apply to your and your needs/goals? Absolutely it does!
Whether you are training for a race, training for fitness, or preparing for a big meeting, presentation, etc., seeing your movement can play a critical role in the outcome of your need/goal. If training for a race you must visualize every step of the race in your mind, create a plan for any obstacles along the way, and repeat this daily until your body naturally responds to any situation thrown at you on race day. This works the same in life/business. If you are preparing for an important meeting or presentation mentally rehearse and see your movement. How will you sit/stand, how will you respond to difficult questions/objections, what if you lose your train of thought, etc. Create a plan and see your movement.
I have a client that is a very talented musician. He can play two keyboards simultaneously, control two separate foot pedals, and sing all at the same time. However, when I give him a new physical movement in a workout he tells me “I’m just not that coordinated”. That was until I taught him how to see his movement. Just as he learned to play the keyboards, it first took hours and hours of mental and physical practice until now he does it automatically. We broke down the “challenging” new physical movements and had him watch me demonstrate, see it in his mind, then execute. The first several times his movements were not smooth, fluid, or coordinated, but the more he visualized the easier it became. What he once said was impossible to achieve because “he’s just not that coordinated” is now a part of his workout, and it all started with seeing himself move. This takes practice and patients, but again, it is the key to your success in sport, in business, and in life. See your movement, believe in your ability to learn, and achieve the impossible.
Laughing increases serotonin and endorphins in your brain, and smiling releases dopamine that increases feelings of happiness and content. The power of laughing or simply cracking a smile as you go through your morning and day can have profound positive effects on your mood, stress, and health. Take a look at this incredibly detailed article from Helpguide.org on all the health benefits of daily smiling and laughing and learn how you can incorporate a little more joy into your day :-).
“Fear can’t kill you, but it can contain you” – Unknown
Before attempting a daring physical feat, before approaching your boss for a raise, before any difficult conversation, there are those two words that consume our thoughts. “What if”. What if I fall, or don’t make the jump, or get hit? What if my boss gets angry and demotes me, what if my friend, wife, husband, takes what I am saying the wrong way and it damages our relationship? What if?
But what if it didn’t? What if you changed your thoughts to how the physical feat WILL go well, meticulously planning every move. What if the conversation, meeting, presentation went exactly how you wanted it to go or even better? What if you created the victory in your mind and then approached your challenge with confidence and mental strength? Don’t let the “what if’s” contain you, change your vocabulary to “what will” and go get it.
Listen to the audio for detailed accounts of some amazing people doing seemingly impossible feats of physical and mental strength, by using fear and “what if” to make them successful.
Starting your day with a positive uplifting mindfulness practice can be a game changer in your ability to process the rest of the day in a calm & responsive vs. quick tempered & reactive way. This mediation called “Morning Ritual” is my all time favorite. I have easily listened to it over 200 times in the last year. If you have not yet tried Insight Timer, I highly suggest you download the app and give this guided 10 minute meditation a try. I guarantee it will put you in a better, happier, focused, & peaceful state of mind.
In the book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”, Dr. Joe Despenza talks about rehearsing how you “want” to react to a particular situation. Just as you may visualize yourself performing a physical activity or mentally rehearsing a race or sport, you must rehearse your communication and/or responses to an emotional trigger situation. Dispenza says that if you want to be or act a certain way, create it in your mind and rehearse it.
I will use myself as an example. I have a very bad habit when someone challenges my opinion or disagrees with me to get VERY defensive and react abruptly and aggressively with a response. I don’t want to react that way, but I have been this way most of my life. Instead of giving up and saying, “that’s just how I am”, I instead assess past situations and then create a calmer, more appropriate response. I first tell myself that the person disagreeing or challenging me isn’t doing so out of hate or malice, they simply have a different opinion or maybe are simply asking for clarification. I then mentally rehearse how I would have, and will now, respond differently. I do this in my mind during a meditation and by doing so I begin to literally rewire my brain to respond better. If I just think to myself “I don’t want to snap at people, I want to/should respond better”, I am not creating dialog and a proper mental response. Like anything it takes practice, and I can tell you that it works! I have been much more successful in responding vs. reacting to situations.
Use mental rehearsal before going into a difficult meeting with a client, friend, or boss where you know you would normally be angry, afraid, etc. Create your response to other drivers on the road. One thing that helped me long ago was something my karate sensei taught us. He said “when someone reacts negatively towards you, says something rude, or someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of reacting aggressively with a counter attack think to yourself, maybe this person has had a really bad day, maybe they just found out some really bad news. Show them grace and be kind.” I have done that several times and it’s really cool how you feel after. My point with that story is CREATE your response to those situations now if that’s your trigger. Try this. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of telling them there “number one” with your special finger simply smile, maybe wave and literally say out loud “I hope everything is ok and you get where you are going safely”. Trust me on this one. It’s a really good feeling.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength – Marcus Aurelius
Most of us are familiar with the concept of mental toughness and/or having an “unbreakable mindset”. I have been practicing mental toughness for years as an endurance athlete and coach, but only realized recently that what I have REALLY been practicing is mental resilience. Being able to gut out the last several reps in a hard workout, pushing through the pain during the last few miles of a race, or being able to handle difficult situations in life, like being exhausted but still mustering the strength to get through the day. That is mental resilience. Defined as“the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”, mental resilience is something we all possess, but most of us rarely tap into.Allow me to give you a few examples.
I first really learned how to differentiate mental toughness with mental resilience at a men’s retreat last fall. A former Army Special Forces Operator came to our event to talk to us about this topic and take us through a workout. The workout was a 10 minute Sandbag Get-up test, where each man would hoist an 80lb sandbag over his shoulder and proceed to complete as many Get-ups as possible within a 10 minute time period. During the test you could switch shoulders as needed and you could put the bag on the ground BUT only for 5 breaths, then you had to pick it up and continue moving. Quitting was not an option. Each man had a partner that was responsible for counting your reps out-loud and motivating/pushing you to keep moving. This was the longest/hardest 10 minutes of my life, but I did not quit. I completed 65 get-ups. His top tier athletes complete 120 (insert big eyes emoji). After the first few minutes my lungs were on fire, my legs quivered, and I felt like my soul was dying but I did not stop. I focused on one rep at a time, pushing air in and out of my lungs, and knowing that this would eventually end. After the exercise was complete he explained to us that this was a test of our mental resilience. He said that he aloud us to take the “break” of 5 breaths when needed, BUT every break was a small version of quitting… What??!!! He then explained, in a life and death situation such as combat, you MUST possess the mental resilience to keep moving and not stop. Otherwise you die…
Former Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine, founder of www.unbeatablemind.comsites in his book Unbeatable Mind, that the human body is capable of 20 times more than we think we are. He calls this our “20X Factor”. During the infamous BUDS Hell Week, the candidates are put through continuous training for 5 ½ days, 24hrs a day, while constantly being submerged in the freezing waters of the Pacific Ocean. During this literal hell week the candidates are given only 4 hours of sleep. Why 4 hours? Because that is the minimal amount of sleep the human body can have in that time frame without literally dying. This continuous beat down day in and out while freezing, hungry, and tired breaks the candidates physically for sure, but moreover it breaks them down mentally. It is often said in BUDS that it’s not the strongest or fastest guys that make it through, it is the guys with the mental resilience that they cannot and will not stop or be broken. In a life or death situation such as combat, you MUST possess the ability to push forward regardless of circumstance. Once the candidates realize they CAN keep going, a whole new realm of possibility and confidence sets in, and their ability to withstand mental and physical stress is multiplied 20 times over.
Taking it down a notch from military/combat situations, I have experienced and seen mental resilience at every Ironman triathlon that I have ever raced or supported. We see it all the time in athletes and has been talked about for several years now in endurance events like Ironman, yet instead of being called mental resilience, it is referred to as the “Central Governor Theory”, wherein an athlete has the ability to mentally override a fatigued broken down body and muster up the power to run faster towards the end of the 26.2 mile run of an Ironman after the 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike portions of the race. I have witnessed athletes barely being able to put one foot in front of the other for 24-25 miles of an Ironman but as soon as they “smell the barn”, here the music at the finish line or sense that they are close, almost miraculously their once completely broken down legs go from doing what’s known as the Ironman shuffle into a full blown run. Personally, every Ironman I have ran I have experienced this. As soon as I reach mile 20, knowing I only have a 10k left to run my pace increases significantly. It hurts like hell, but I have the resilience to persevere through the last few miles faster than before. I could just shuffle to the finish, but I grit my teeth, literally put my head down, embrace the pain and run like hell.
The aforementioned scenarios may sound interesting, inspiring, or down right insane, and you may be saying to yourself “well that’s not me”. “I’m not a Navy SEAL and don’t ever see myself racing an Ironman”. So I give you this final example of being a new parent. Although I have not had the experience of being a new parent, the stories from friends, and clients telling of constant sleepless nights and fatigue for up to a year or more, are well known amongst this group of folks. I use this as an example of mental resilience because often times in the absence of a tiny little life to maintain, if someone were to experience that level of sleeplessness and fatigue they would surely shut down, call in “sick”, etc. Yet because they have no choice, they forge a mental resilience to push through the fatigue and carry on with life, work, and responsibilities. It is in no way shape or form easy, but remember, mental resilience isn’t about not feeling pain or discomfort, but rather diving head first into it and not looking up until you have accomplished the mission or the goal. Mental resilience is not a “want to”, it’s a “have to” mindset.
After many meditation sessions, guided, repeating mantras, and some with sound only for a year now I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on “being present” and focusing on my breath, a visualization, or something similar. Then I discovered the Muse Brain Sensing Meditation Headband; you can check them out at www.choosemuse.com. I called their headquarters for more information and spoke to one of their representatives for about 15 minutes.
I was intrigued by the ability to quantify our ability to focus on a single thing, such as breath. When wearing the muse headband during a meditation it can detect when your brain begins to lose focus and your mind begins to wander. It then gives you instant feedback based on what you are listening to. For example, if I am meditating and listening to ocean waves on the muse app, the water sounds calm like small waves washing onto the shore. When I lose focus on my breath the smooth calm waves become louder like crashing waves, nothing violent that or excessively loud, but enough to bring your attention back to your breath. After each session the Muse app gives you a diagram comparing the time during the session that your mind was calm, neutral, or active (see photo above). Your goal is to increase your calm time and reduce your active time. The ability to remain focused on a subject/object/etc. is crucial to maximize your ability to visualize during meditation. For me, I thought I was able to remain focused, but turns out my mind begins to lose focus each time I exhaled. It was quiet interesting and really made me think about how to remain focused. This has actually helped me stay focused during daily tasks. It’s pretty cool.
Using the Muse headband just before working on an important project/assignment as a busy adult, on a paper or studies if you are a student, or even prior to exams can help you retain a calm focused mind. I recently saw a news segment about meditation where a 5thgrader would meditate prior to a test to help her stay calm and focused. I think incorporating the Muse headband could help increase focus and a sense of calm presence even more. If you practice meditation or even if you are thinking of beginning a meditation practice, which you should J, I encourage you to give the Muse headband a try. In our fast paced, over-stimulated, multi-tasking on top of other multi-tasking world, having the ability to calm our mind and thoughts and truly be present for just a few minutes a day could be just what you, I, we need.