The Power of Focus

I have spent the last couple of days taking a little time out to reflect, to refocus & to get ready for the next few months. In doing this i have been going over some of the conversations i I have spent the last couple of days taking a little time out to reflect, to refocus & to get ready for the next few months. In doing this i have been going over some of the conversations i have been having with clients & colleagues and there are a couple of things that stand out for me specifically around our direction of focus.
 
With regard to the direction of focus i have noted a tendency to focus on others a lot of the time, to what they’re doing, to what they are saying, to whether they achieve X or Y result, to whether or not it is easy for them. This achieves nothing it only serves to distract us from our own tasks & goals. it prevents us from being mindful about what it is we are aiming to achieve. As humans we have a limited capacity for focus so the more we spend it elsewhere the less we have for our self and what we do. I think this video sums this point it up pretty well!!
 

Without Prejudice – Fitness accessible to all.

“Some people have a mental health condition they aren’t comfortable talking about,” says Dawn Hughes, national partnerships advisor for Activity Alliance, which has been supporting sport and leisure facilities to be more welcoming and accessible to disabled people for more than 10 years through its Inclusive Fitness Initiative ‘IFI Mark’ scheme.”

“Many more people classify their disability as simply ‘getting old’. So it’s likely the number that actually declare themselves as having a disability massively underestimates the true figures.

“What’s more, we know that seven in ten disabled people want to be more active, but feel facilities aren’t doing enough to highlight what’s on offer for them.”

Click Above to download the full article in Sports Management Magazine Issue 22

Access all areas

“But being equipped to deliver inclusive services isn’t just about the equipment, and employing a diverse workforce doesn’t guarantee your staff are fully prepared to meet and greet disabled guests or that they know how to engage with them.

“Only 5 per cent of people choose the word ‘confident’ as a top three term to describe how they feel when they meet a disabled person,” says Hughes. “It’s not that surprising, as many won’t knowingly have had day-to-day contact with anyone that has a disability or life-limiting illness.”

“Kevin Wright is manager of [EN]GAGE, Edinburgh Napier University’s sports and fitness facilities, which undertook IFI Mark accreditation as part of its Quest assessment, achieving the Excellent banding in the IFI module. His aim is to ensure their facilities are accessible in the broadest sense of the word, whether from an illness, disability or gender point of view.

Wright believes the answer lies in talking to people rather than making assumptions about what a person can and cannot do. “Treat them as you would anyone else, with dignity and respect. Don’t wrap them in cotton wool or walk on eggshells as they’ll see you’re uncomfortable. When we ask our customers what’s the best thing about [EN]GAGE they consistently say it’s the staff, because they don’t assume, they talk to them.”

Do you think about what you say……no, really think?

I recently had a piece of PD recommended to me by a friend, it is a book, it is by Don Miguel Ruiz. the book is the four agreements. one of these agreements stood out

“Be impeccable with the word”

He explains this with the following statement

“the word is a force; it is the power you have to communicate, to think and thereby to create the events in your life”.

this interested me as it linked to a journal article I read this week about a phenomenon known as trait transference. This is where people you communicate with identify the things you describe in others or events as being related to you.

This means if you are negative in your communication then those who read, listen or engage with this see this as relating to you. Furthermore, this links to what Plato noted that “likes tend towards likes.” so basically what you put out you get back.

There is also evidence to suggest that in relation to attention if you are focused on something you brain will naturally seek and look out for this. For example, have you noticed when you are hungry you see more restaurants or when you buy a new car you suddenly notice everyone has the same car? so think of what happens if you focus on rejection / or negativity and then think of what may be different if you focus on success and positivity.

Recovery and the Ying and Yang of sports preparation

Recovery and the Ying and Yang of Sports Preparation

Training to reach a specific goal consists of two opposite yet equally important components, these are practice/ training and recovery. Finding the balance between the two is essential to ensure you maximise your results or in the case of competition to enable you to perform optimaly at an event. This comes down to you juggling the constant interplay between fitness and fatigue.

However, most of us focus on only half of the picture and as a result may be hindering our bodies ability to reach its true potential. When you think about preparing for an event or fitness goal, what is the first the first thing you focus on? It will probably be the practice/ training element and how much you can do to maximise your effort, adherence and the time you can spend training.

As you move through your training cycles you will have noticed that there are times you will have felt ready, full of energy and excited about your training or competition. Equally, there will be those times you have felt tired, lethargic and indifferent. Most likely these are ignored and put down to having an “off day” being something that is out with your area of control. Fortunately, this is not always the case and with a few simple recovery steps, you can take control over your readiness to perform.

Before discussing the recovery steps it is important to understand some of the science behind the training process. Training is essentially adaptation due to stresses placed on the body. This occurs when you apply a stressor to your body this can be either a physical, emotional or mental stressor. The effect of this is an acute reaction normally resulting in some sort of damage or breakdown. After which, given sufficient fuel and recovery the system (your body) will then adapt to those stresses and then in classical Darwinian style evolve becoming better suited to meet the new environment and stresses. Concurrently without appropriate fueling and rest this damage will not fully repair and over time the body will become broken, ill and potentially lead to overtraining or burnout.

What is stress? stress can be either physical, mental, emotional or indeed a combination of all of these. It is a product of everything you have going on in your life, not just sport and exercise. Being aware of this is vital as your recovery need should take into account external stressors such as exams, emotions (did you fall out with someone?), do you have bills to pay, basically everything you do will have an effect on your stress levels. So in order to perform optimally, all of these stresses need to be taken into account as they have an accumulative effect.

To counteract these, you will need to take control over your recovery. This starts by forming a strategy. To get the most from your recovery you should target 3 broad areas; fuelling, physical recovery and mental recovery. You should formulate to have a short and long term plan for each of these and in this article for this article, we will focus on the short term strategy giving you steps you can take away and put into practice from your next session.

Your short term recovery window starts immediately you stop your session and lasts up to up to 2 hours following any training event or competition you take part in. Your primary focus here is to return your body to a rested state as quickly as possible. So that you are ready for your next session by allowing your body to build or repair muscle and replenish energy stores.

Fuelling or nutrition covers what you eat and drink following your training event. This should contain water for hydration, carbohydrate for energy and protein to help repair muscle damage. A simple way to look at hydration need is to weigh yourself before and after a session. The weight you have lost will mostly be down to fluid loss which you should replace at a ratio of 1litre for every 1kilogram; this should consist mostly of water, although the addition of a little-diluted sports drink may help. For your other macronutrients (protein & carbohydrate) a good tip is to try chocolate milk shake (no more than 500ml) as this will give you protein and carbohydrate and the perfect ratio. Otherwise, a small snack containing carbohydrate and protein, however, remember to match this to the intensity and duration of your activity.

Physiological recovery should involve a cool down in this you are looking to do moderate intensity exercise that tapers in intensity to near rest, for example, light jogging, walking or a swimming (dependant on your session). This should take no longer than 5min alternatively contrast bathing using hot and cold immersion. The idea here is that hot water increases blood flow and cold water reduces inflammation. As part of your physical recovery, you should be aware of your body and then focus on those areas where you are tight or sore then do some foam rolling and stretching for those areas. This will help to loosen you off, stimulate blood flow and allow you relax.

Psychological relaxation is probably the least thought of but can be the most important. It is also important to be aware of what constitutes recovery and what doesn’t. To help with this you must remember the aim for recovery, which as previously mentioned is to return your body to a rested state. To do this you must reduce or remove mental stress. This, in turn, will minimise the release chemicals into the blood that can prevent repair and complete rest. With this in mind, activities such as nights out, movies or video games are not true recovery as they can cause a degree stress, anxiety in themselves and therefore are counterproductive to the process. Instead, you could spend some time listening to relaxing music or find a quiet space where you can close your eyes and focus on your breathing working through some meditation. Possibly taking some time to reflect on your training and sessions and generating a plan for what you will focus on during your next session.

Having read this article you should spend some time to think about your recovery and then discuss this with your coach, team or family to generate a plan for your short term recovery then aim to put this into practice as soon as possible after your next session. Once you have started utilising your strategy take a little time to reflect on how different you feel having completed your recovery.

5 Things you can do to improve your mindset right now!

5 things you can do to improve your mindset right now!

Mindset is defined as “the established set of attitudes and beliefs held by someone” these attitudes will affect the way you approach and take action on challenges you are presented with and as such will have a major part to play in your success when undertaking a new task or setting a new goal. For example, if you believed that a person’s fitness and skill were set at birth, think of the potential effect of this on your progress when you hit a plateau. It is likely this would be attributed to not having the correct genetics or that you had reached your limits. You would become a victim of what is known as stereotype threat, where your beliefs will actually affect your performance.

This was shown in a recent paper looking at female soccer players (Herman and Vollmeyer, 2016). Whereby the simple act of reading an article that stated females were poor at soccer negatively affected their performance of a dribbling task. Stereotype threat has also been to affect the intent to exercise in the overweight females in a similar study (Seacat and Mickelson, 2009).

Renowned Stanford psychologist and researcher has investigated these effects in depth and postulates that your mindset can be placed at any given time on a continuum between “fixed” and “growth”.

A fixed mindset is one where you believe that your abilities are inherent and, therefore, a lack of success in a task can be blamed on you lacking that particular trait or ability. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one where you would attribute success on effort and that given enough time anything is possible. This is summed up perfectly in the famous maxim,

The harder I practice, the luckier I get, The more I practice, the luckier I get!”

So can you change your mindset? the answer is an unequivocal, Yes!! Dweck herself has shown this, By rewarding effort and focusing on the thought that “when you exert effort you can change the structure of your brain” Dweck showed that students could change their mindset and improve on grades. Below are 5 simple steps to changing your mindset

  • Be Aware.
    • First, of in order to change a thought, you first need to recognise that you are having it. This requires awareness and mindfulness practice is a good way to start being aware of your thoughts and how they affect you.
  • Accept there are options.
    • Recognise that when you encounter criticism or challenges that you have the ability to interpret these as an indication your talents are fixed and you are just not good enough or that this is feedback that as Tony Robbins would say “you need to change your approach” or “set a new standard”.
  • Change your approach.
    • Once you have started to notice your fixed mindset thoughts and self-talk answer the fixed mindset voice with your growth voice. For example, try some of the examples in the table below.

Fixed Mindset thoughts

Growth mindset replies

“Am I sure I can do it  maybe I don’t have the talent .”

“I’m not sure I can do it yet, but I know that I can learn with time and effort”

“What if I fail, I’ll be a failure”

“Michael Jordan said “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed” & he was pretty successful”

“If I don’t try 100% and I fail I can always protect myself and not look too bad”

“If I don’t try I will automatically fail and therefore look bad regardless”

“if I was talented and was meant to be fit this would have been easy”

“If it was easy it wouldn’t have challenged me and I wouldn’t get better”

“it’s not my fault, it was….. Or someone else’s fault

“If I don’t accept responsibility, I will never be able to change my approach, I will learn from this so I can do better next time”

  • Take action.
    • It is all well to internalise this challenge and to change the thought process however without action there will be no change in outcome. So it is vital that when you change your mindset and take the decision to change your thought pattern that you immediately take action on this. Over time this will lay the foundations of a new positive growth mindset as a habit.
  • Celebrate your effort
    • This final piece is the key to changing your behaviour pattern when you take positive action take the time to celebrate your success and have a moment of gratitude for the changes you have made. This will aid in cementing these moving forward as it is your own positive feedback and makes you feel good about your action and therefore you will be more likely to continue them.

Dweck, C (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books

Dweck, C.S. (2007). The perils and promises of praise. Early Intervention at Every Age, 65(2)

Hermann J.M., Vollmeyer, R. (2016),  “Girls should cook, rather than kick!” – Female soccer players under stereotype threat, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 26,  94-101,

Seacat, J.D. and Mickelson, K.D. (2009) Stereotype threat and the exercise/dietary health intentions of overweight women. Journal of Health Psychology 14: 556–567.

Compression gear

So aside from looking good does it actually work? Here are some things I have noticed from wearing compressions gear along with what the research says.

 

  1. Strength & Power
    1. I like to wear my compression gear when I lift as I feel like it gives me a little boost when switching from the lowering to lifting sections of an exercise so, for example, coming out of the bottom of my squats. Also, I find with teaching classes like INSANITY that has a lot of repeated jumping I feel I can work harder for longer
    2. What the research says: well there appears to be general agreement here that compression gear will aid in performance with strength and power-based activity one recent 2016 article in Physiology & Behaviour stated that there was Conclusive evidence increasing power and strength this backed up a previous review which highlighted effects on repeated sprint and jumps.

 

  1. Form
    1. Along with the feeling more ….springy in my compression gear I also feel that my form and technique is better and more coordinated in my gear I just feel like the tightness from the gear helps me know where I am, this is super important to me as I am obsessed with my form it is something I have always prided myself on.
    2. What the research says: Again, the research backs this up suggesting the increased feedback from the mechanoreceptors in the skin aids in sensory feedback which improves proprioception this has implications for injury prevention and efficiency.
  2. Recovery
    1. I love wearing compression gear following exercise and will even wear it to sleep at times. it’s like a giant hug for my aching muscles. Doing this I feel like I am more ready for my next session/workout. This was highlighted to me on a recent trip to LA where I was cast in the shoot for some of the new Beachbody Live workouts I had 3 days of back to back filming and then a Bootcamp for Transform live our latest program so needed to be on my A-game the whole time even with this gruelling schedule.
 

What the research says:  one recent meta-analysis found that there was evidence to suggest that compression gear will benefit exercise recovery but specifically strength and resistance exercise benefited most from this ergogenic boost suggesting that compression gear may reduce exercise-induced microdamage to the muscle.