Get Your Head In The Game
29September/2014

Get Your Head In The Game

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Get Your Head In The Game

 

Mindful Training for Maximum Results

                                                                             By Michael De Medeiros


EVERYTHING IN LIFE gets old – your car, your style, your humour, your workout, even you. We can’t always be there for you on all fronts, but there’s one thing you can always rely on Ultra FITNESS for: finding a great way to get your head in the game when it comes to your training. Been working out for a while and things are getting into a rut? No problem. Getting back into the weight-training game and already feeling a little under-enthused? We’re going to get your mind back into the right space in no time.
How do you accomplish that? Well, we enlisted the help of Shauna Shapiro, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Santa Clara University and author of The Art and Science of Mindfulness (American Psychological Association, 2009). Shapiro believes that achieving your best in the gym can only be done by being mindful of what you’re doing when you’re training. “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when you intentionally pay attention in an open, accepting and discerning way,” she says.

If you’ve been working out and living the Ultra FITNESS lifestyle for as long as you can remember, it’s very easy to assume that your body knows how to do all the exercises you’re doing – that’s a given. But getting your mind to focus on every little aspect of every minute detail of your program can assure the best results for maximum muscle gains and fat loss. Exercising mindfully enables you to recruit the right muscle group immediately. This makes your workout that much more focused, says trainer Michael Seril, founder of the Excellence Through Exercise Foundation. “Being mindful helps you put your mind into the muscle,” he says – and that can lead to significant fitness gains. “Your muscles have more than a 10 per cent response when you simply imagine moving them,” says Seril. Bottom line: mental imagery alone creates activity in your muscles. Exercising mindfully allows you to take that muscle activity to another level and ensure that you’re not only doing your best in the gym but also giving your best on each set and rep.

Want more proof? A 2004 Cleveland Clinic Foundation study found that practising “mental contractions” for 12 weeks greatly improves the mind-body connection. Participants in the study improved strength in their little finger by 35 per cent and their elbow by 13.5 per cent (those were the only two body parts the study dealt with). How, you ask? The answer is simple: by imagining yourself contracting your muscles when you’re not even in the gym, your brain sends a signal to the muscles you’re thinking about. Visualise yourself working the muscle when you are actually working the muscle and your brain will send an even stronger signal, which translates into a much more effective workout. Since mindful training is all about this kind of mind-muscle connection, adding it to your daily gym program will inevitably pay off. You’ll feel as though you’re hitting your muscles with more emphasis than the first set and your body will respond favourably.

Where do you begin? Fix that attitude. No, we’re not talking about sending us emails sucking up for the answers (though they’re always nice, we admit). Actually, all you have to do is commit yourself to making sure that your workout efforts aren’t being clouded by the thoughts you usually have in your head. Remove all of that mind-filling clutter and focus on your training. It’s simple and it’s just about you getting your head into the game. If your mind is wandering when you’re playing football, you’ll pay for it when you land on your butt. If your mind is wandering in the gym, you’ll just end up with fewer results (or maybe a flabby butt).

Doing this means finding a state of calm within yourself to truly focus. Seril has his clients begin each training session by setting a goal for the workout. It may be as vague as strengthening your arms or reaching a certain number of minutes on the elliptical. “Take two to five minutes to get centered,” says Seril, through deep breathing and visualisation. Then, you’re ready to begin.

As you begin your session, take note of your body: how do your muscles feel? Can you feel your heartbeat? Are you sweating? “Do a check-in with your body,” says Robert Belley, BSc, YCS, YFS, CPT, host and creator of the Belley Fitness Television and author and creator of workout.com. Stay aware of the cues your body is sending in response to your training. The added benefit is that you’ll also reduce your chances of injury.

We know that getting rid of your distracting thoughts can be the hardest part – they didn’t invent spandex for women with this philosophy in mind. But your thoughts are “a huge source of stress,” says Belley. The real key to getting your head in the game for your training is to realise that thoughts about your job, partner and bank account will always be on your mind, but you have to train yourself to not think about them when you’re in the gym – you have to focus on the mind-muscle connection. “The goal isn’t to have no thoughts,” says Belley. “It’s about saying ‘Oh, there’s a thought’ and then letting it go and going back to the breathing, back to the movement – over and over again.” Eventually, this process will come naturally, making it even easier to get mindful and fit in the gym.

Train Mindfully



Follow these tips for better training that will fire up your mind-muscle connection—and your fat loss, too.

1. PRACTISE FLEXING IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR. Try contracting only one muscle at a time, making note of how your body responds. Doing this before your workout will make it easier to maintain form and control during exercise.

2. DITCH THE DUMBBELLS. Take time to go through the motions of the exercise without any equipment before each workout. Without the weights, it’ll be easier to focus on the muscle contractions and prepare for your strength session.

3. FOCUS ON GETTING THROUGH EACH REP INSTEAD OF THINKING OF THE SET AS A WHOLE. Remember: quality over quantity. Once you get through one set, switch your focus to the next.

4. TUNE IN TO YOUR BREATHING BY COUNTING. For example, when you do a biceps curl, inhale and then exhale for a count of one to two to lift and inhale for a count of four to lower.

5. CLOSE YOUR EYES FOR ONE
REPETITION DURING EACH SET. Doing so will allow you to fully experience how your body moves, and it will block out visual distractions.


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