Picture This…Best Training Practice

A picture is worth a thousand words. It is cliché, over-used and perhaps under-appreciated but this tired quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte is still powerfully, resolutely true regardless of the realm or genre in which it is employed. 

Why is this so? While the answer lies within the science of brain neurology and biochemistry, which is greatly beyond my own knowledge and training, I nonetheless have experienced the truth of positive mental imagery within the realm of my physical fitness training.

Whether pictures are generated mentally or viewed through the lens of our physical eyes, imagery excites our being at a subconscious level. Whether it is a symbol, a photograph of our beloved one(s), an artistic rendering or creation, or landscapes and portraits discovered in nature, imagery impacts us profoundly. Positively or negatively, imagery triggers changes in our thoughts, feelings and biochemistry.

Our brains translate our words and thoughts into images. Images ignite our mirror neurons. These mirror neurons are located next to our motor neurons. The excitement in mirror neurons resonates in the motor neurons and vice versa. This is why athletes can improve their athletic performance with visualization. Jennifer Morse MS PhD

When we invoke this positive biochemical cascade frequently enough, especially with the use of personally meaningful images or imagery, we create a neurological super-highway within the structures of our brain. These mental super-highways construct bridges from our mind, to our brain, then into our body so as to build memory maps into our muscles. Continued, regular activation of our imagination via our mind/body super-highways, create predictable physical responses in our body which thereafter translates or replicates into habitual, memorized re-actions.

And we all know how easy and how difficult it is to overcome an acquired pattern of moving or behaving. Habits are naturally preferred by mind and body because they using the neural super-highways. These super-pathways require reduced thinking resources from our conscious mind. Hence, once we birth a new way of thinking or being, these new pathways become preferred patterns for our doing and/or behaving.

Failure is an inside job. So is success.
If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first.
You can’t let the failure outside you get inside you.
You certainly can’t control the length of your life—but you can control its width and depth.
You can’t control the contour of your face—but you can control its expression.
You can’t control the weather—but you can control the atmosphere of your mind.
Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?
The Maxwell Daily Reader

Perhaps you now realize where I am leading you in this discussion. If the idiom we have considered is true, and we know by experience that it is, then you may avail yourself of its power when you use and think upon those images which create positive attraction or emotion within you. Your attention to this detail (image attraction/repulsion) is keenly important.

During your playful imagery research, take notice also of the quality of feeling excited within you when viewing a particular image or symbol. Once you discover and identify the imagery which pings you or sparks your imagination or creates hope to stir excitedly in your center, refer to and call upon those imagines whenever your thinking needs inspiration or refreshment.

Have fun stocking your mental image vault. Keep only those images which propel you positively toward your desired goals. Cycle through them as needed, whenever you need a lift or motivation or you require a change of direction.

Just picture this…You reaching your goal…reach for it! Climb, go on…climb higher still! Scramble, hike, run! Chase it down, don’t stop, don’t stop ever…only wait until you are done!

Riddle Me This

Who are you?

Who you think you are is everything! Have you ever stopped to listen to what you are telling yourself about yourself? You should try it some time. Listening…to the dialog. You may have to sneak up on yourself, and pretend like you’re eves dropping on someone else’s conversation, but take some minutes in any given day to be quiet and alert to your inner dialog. Then notice how you feel about yourself after listening to your self-talk.

Do you have warm, accepting feelings about the YOU of your thinking? Or do you disdain and belittle the person, the YOU of your thinking? Do you realize YOU are the author of your life’s story? Can you wrap your mind around this truth: WHAT you think about yourself is WHO you become? Is it time for you to re-write your script?

English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones is noted for saying that, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself.”

In my profession as a personal trainer, people pay me to help them reconfigure their bodies. But what my clients may not be aware of, is that I am also training them to pay attention to their mind via what they are thinking…especially, what they are thinking about before and after they exercise.

If a client thinks she can or cannot achieve the fitness goal she has set for herself, then I guarantee that she most certainly will achieve what she is thinking and believing.

What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone else may think about you. Every problem introduces you to yourself. It shows you how you think and what you’re made of.” George Matthew Adams

A very important part of my training program is to teach my clients how to be their very own best cheerleader.  When I am with them, I encourage them, with positive words, stories and suggestions to help them understand that they have the power to change a negative health behavior into a positive healthful habit.

Mind is everything; muscle–pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.
Paavo Nurmi, Finnish Olympian who won nine gold medals

When I am with them, I am the voice in their head. If they spend enough time with me and believe the things I tell them as true, then my words, spoken into their listening ears and received by a believing heart will soon become internalized. My thoughts about them will  become their own thoughts, their own dialog, their own story about who they are and who they are becoming. Thinking becomes believing. Mind is the master, not the servant, of the body.

Living with the end in mind informs the decisions we make each day.
A Common Ground ~ Todd Outcalt

Everyone feels lost and out of sorts in life from time to time. This is a natural by-product  of the human experience. Since we will deal with difficulties as long as we inhabit our physical body, perhaps we should consider our trials as benefactors in disguise.

What if we turned our thinking around? What if we chose to think of those things we don’t like about our self or our life as gifts to help us discover who we really are at our essence?  What if our upset or short coming is our clarion call for change?

     Consider that your learning goal is the ongoing pursuit of a lifetime of consistent physical movement and self-care.
If you are going to be successful staying physically active and taking care of yourself, you need to learn Strategies that will enable you to prioritize your plans and be consistent, flexible, and creative as you learn to incorporate physical activity into the rest of your dynamic, ever-changing life.
The Strategy of beginning with the end in mind asks you to take the long view: Your goal is lifelong behavior change, and that’s what you want to keep in mind ~ always.
Michelle Segar ~ No Sweat

Now tell me again: Who are you?

Which One Am I Feeding?

Okay, I’ll admit it…I’d like to lose a lousy 5 pounds. No more, no less. Honestly, that’s it. I know better than to be fixated on the numbers on my scale. I’m a personal trainer and health coach. And I’m always telling my clients how those scale numbers are not nearly as important as their body composition (% of fat and muscle) numbers. I say these things so often they are now cliché training-speak. I am not proud to admit these things, I am no different, no better than any one else I train. I have a love/hate relationship with numbers; they attack my logical brain and leave no room for reason.

Imagine my surprise on the day I contemplated my 5-pound conundrum, when a thought  occurred to me:  How can I help my clients to eat mindfully when I don’t always manage my own mindless eating? I only want to lose 5 pounds, I don’t need to lose 5 pounds, I just want to. And I have a hunch (okay, I KNOW) these last 5 pounds are not going to budge unless I make some changes in my way of eating. Why? Because I have a cheat. I have caloric wiggle room because I exercise a lot…every day…it’s my job and I love it. But it does not exempt me from the law of calories in = calories out.

I don’t know why I had this thought the other day, but that’s the nature of thoughts after all. Thoughts are like feathers blowing in the breeze, floating here and there waiting for us to give them a place to loft so as to entertain our attention. Once we attend to a thought, it may grow upon us and in us.

Now some thoughts are more entertaining than others. And depending on our current state of mind, we may or may attend to any given thought. But one thing is true, certain thoughts are better left for dead. Unattended if you will. Intuitively we know which thoughts make us feel happy or sad or encouraged or angry or defeated or motivated or lazy. So maybe this is why I gave that thought some attention the other day; because it made me think.

What we say and do is based on what we have already built into our minds.
Dr. Caroline Leaf

Actually the thought made me question…myself. And the question it asked was this: What is your intention regarding the food in your hand or on your plate? Are you feeding  yourself in response to bodily hunger or emotional hunger? What would your diet look like if you only ate with an intention to nourish your physical body rather than your emotional body?

Okay, so that was 3 questions. But the initial thought surprised and intrigued. Have I really been so un-intentional, so question-less in my eating? Yes, more often than I would care to admit. Yet here’s the irony of my thinking and believing: I say (I believe) my goal is to train my body for health and physical performance, and yet I eat food which I know will make my body (head and/or stomach) hurt. Really? Really!

Should I expect to reach my  fitness goals when I eat without intention? If I eat because it’s a reflex and not an answer to a question, then I may not be nourishing my body after all but rather my emotions.  So tell me something I don’t know…duh! And this double mindedness intrigues me…

Now that you have more information about me than you needed, bare with me one moment longer. Because I’m just going to put one little question on the table, before you and before me. For the next few weeks (until the end of September), before I put food in my mouth, every time, I will ask myself a question: Is this food you are about to eat for your body or for your emotion? Then I’ll wait for the answer. And if the answer is the one which will help me towards my goal…I will eat…and if it is not…???

So here’s to a half month of research. I’d love to have you join my little research project…if you feel so inclined. I’ll report the results in a post around the first week of October. Here’s to our thoughtful eating…cheers.

 

 

Just Practice

As  a personal trainer I often admonish my clients to put their mind into their muscles when they engage in strength training activities. It is my fervent belief that we train our muscles best when we practice putting our mind on feeling what our muscles are doing throughout each exercise repetition.

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. Aristotle

When it comes to strength, muscles or otherwise, I believe our mind is our most potent, powerful agent and ally for change in our physical body and in our life. What we think  (believe) has the potential to germinate the seeds of well-being or dis-ease. With every thought, with every belief, we grow ourselves stronger, larger. It’s just that simple.  If you want to get better at anything, then your betterment is determinant upon your practice of doing.

Your brain reflects the way that you think throughout your life. You kind of shape it by your thoughts and your behaviors. If you play violin for eight hours a day, then the parts of the brain responsible for helping you to play the violin will get larger. If you’re thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day then those parts of the brain are going to get larger and other parts of the brain will deteriorate. Jo Marchant

Your brain is like a muscle that responds (grows) by the thoughts you put into it from your mind. Your mind is superior to your brain. Your mind (your soul, your personality, your will) feeds and directs your physical brain. Conscious and subconscious thoughts  bathe your brain with input (thought for food…food for thought) 24/7. Check your thought diet! Are you consciously or unconsciously feeding your brain junk food? Junk thoughts?

If you think you are in danger, your brain sets into motion your fight or flight response. Your breathing respirations increase as does your blood pressure; all systems are on high alert, ready for action. Conversely, if you think you are in safety, your parasympathetic pathways are engaged, and your body is calmed, your breathing is slower and deeper and your blood pressure returns to normal. Your brain needs your mind to direct its resources in accordance to your body’s needs. Your mind drives your body. Have you checked whose in charge lately?

The mind is willing, but the body is weak.

Whatever virtue, trait or ability you want to improve or enlarge in your life, you must only do one thing: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. This is so simple. This is why I am often fond of saying, “less is more”. It only takes one thought, one act of your will, to put into motion a healthier, happier life. You decide. So please do not be careless about what you think because it will effect what you practice.