5 Ways to Mindfulness
By Amelia Ricci
Your mind is a very powerful tool on your fitness journey and can be your undoing just as much as it can guide you on the path to success. Changing the way you think and transforming your mind to be more positive is a simple concept in sports performance, but is also one of the most difficult to master.
But what if you could master your thoughts and change the way you speak to yourself on a daily basis to be more positive. What could you achieve?
If you sit down and listen to your internal self-talk, you would wonder how you get anything done in your day. All day long you are in a running dialogue with yourself and you may find that you mentally rehearse every possible outcome, before a situation has even occurred. This not only leads to stress but also unnecessary overthinking which can be unproductive.
Whether you want to compete in a fitness competition or just get fitter, mastering your thoughts can help your daily training progress. For example, if you are on a five-kilometre run and someone runs past you, does your inner voice motivate you to keep going or tell you you’re not good enough?
Research supports the theory that an athlete who continually practices positive self-talk will improve her sports performance. Succumbing to negative mental self-talk is a sure way to reduce performance and sports success.1
5 ways to transform your thoughts for mindfulness
So how do we think more positively? It starts with mindfulness but also replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. It is also important that the messages you tell yourself are believable. For example, telling yourself that you will step on stage being your personal best, is much more realistic for a first-time fitness competitor, rather than telling yourself you will win your pro card at your very first show.
Whether you are preparing for a competition or training to achieve your best body, here are the tools you need.
- Clearer goal setting
Goal setting goes without saying as one of the most important things we do, but what if we are too ambitious and set too many goals? It is important to prioritise one goal and channel your focus and energy on this goal first. Therefore, if you have three goals you want to achieve, choose one to focus on first. This is far more realistic and achievable and will lead to a higher success rate. Break it into mini-goals you can accomplish this month and then choose daily and weekly actions that will contribute to moving towards the goal.
When you can focus on measureable outcomes, you will keep your motivation. It is a good idea to measure your progress with training intensity and strength personal bests, as well as body composition over time. Once you start achieving weekly and monthly targets you will be more motivated to keep going. For example, the statement “this week I increased my weighted squats by 5kg and my body-fat measurements are down 2mm” is very motivating and will help you to stay on your path to success.
- Create a mantra
A mantra is a phrase unique and meaningful to you, that you can repeat over and over when needed. This affirmation can guide you through your training program to achieve your goal. I personally have used these affirmations when training to successfully win fitness model competitions and attest to their effectiveness, but remember to use a mantra incorporating specific words that mean something to you. An example of a positive mantra is “there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going” or “I feel strong”.
- Practise multiple scenarios
In addition to your positive mantra, you need to expand your internal dialogue to include phrases that are true to you. For example, when driving to the gym you could say to yourself, “every session I complete brings me one step closer to my goal” or if you are doing outdoor cardio, “I have run this hill before, I can do it again”.
A way to implement the tools mentioned above is when your alarm goes off at 5am to get up for training. You have your mantra “there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going” and when you get to the gym, you have your positive internal dialogue during training, for example, “every session I complete brings me one step closer to my goal.”
- Visualisation and positive mental imagery
Visualisation is imagining yourself achieving the goal and seeing yourself in your mind’s eye succeeding. Those who can visualise their success will be very likely to achieve their goal and are also able to better establish positive self-talk.2 Positive self-talk is not only creating positive thoughts, but the ability to replace doubts that you won’t achieve your goal with reasons why you will be successful. Visualisation may also be incorporated into a meditation practise, which can be very powerful if you make it a regular part of your day.
By combining positive mental imagery with your chosen mantras, you will soon have a clear picture of what you want to achieve; you will believe you can succeed and see yourself doing it. It is also helpful when the going gets tough to repeat your positive words and phrases. These will help you overcome obstacles that are common on the path to achieve any goal.
- Create routine
Having a routine is important for your fitness lifestyle. The best routines, I’ve found, come at the start and end of the day, both your workday and your day in general. Develop a routine for when you awake, for when you first start working, for when you finish your workday, and for the end of your evening. This will help you get a great start to your day, and finish your day by preparing for the next day. It can also help you get more done as you will focus on what’s important, not just what comes up.
Routines make a difference to your lifestyle but also in the days and hours that lead into your sports event or competition. For example, you may approach your competition day with less emphasis on training and more recovery such as walking, stretching and meditation. Then on the day of the competition, your routine may include listening to your favourite music and being surrounded by positive people, such as your coach and a friend who would help you backstage.
Little habits to feel good fast
Sometimes we all need a little boost, to feel good fast and snap out of a bad mood. Here are my fail-safe tips that are fast and effective:
Read over your goals: Each day take small steps to work towards your goals never aiming for perfection but small steps of continuous improvement. This could be a simple as losing the baby weight half a kilo each week, and increasing your morning walk by five minutes each day. It could also be preparing for a competition by increasing muscle mass and practising posing to give the best stage presence in a competition.
Create your own opportunities: If you have a driving passion for something, volunteer for work experience or help out with an extra project at work. This enthusiasm can lead to amazing things and help you on your path to success.
Listen to your favourite music: Music helps produce dopamine, the mood-boosting chemical in your brain that’s released when you experience pleasure or reward. Plus, your favourite tunes can turn a workout routine into a pumping success!
Laugh with friends: Laughing sends a rush of endorphins into the body and these are so powerful that they can reduce cortisol and decrease stress.
Do something different: Try a new workout or do an outdoor activity you have never done before. Change is the easiest way to find appreciation for the things around you that you may have never noticed.
By feeling good you will be much more likely to establish positive thinking as your new way of life! Feeling inspired to continue moving towards your goals is a matter of practise and a conscious decision to work on your mind (just as much as you work on your body). You are your own greatest asset and you can unlock your power by practising positive thinking, and it is very likely that you will inspire others too.
- Hatzigeorgiadis, A., et al. Self-Talk and Sports Performance A Meta-Analysis. Perspectives on Psychological Science July 2011 vol. 6 no. 4 348-356
- Laura M Miele Ph.D. (2015) The Effects of Psychology on Athletic Performance, Psychology Today.
Amelia is a personal trainer, Pilates instructor and yoga teacher with 20 years’ experience. Certified with Fitness Australia, her mission is to educate and inspire women to achieve their best body ever, with a simple approach: no fads, no gimmicks. Amelia’s qualifications include personal training and group fitness accreditation and Master of Business and Bachelor of Business degrees. Amelia believes perfection is boring and the way to feel great is to eat fresh, clean foods, train hard, love yourself and never stop learning. As a two-time Fitness Model Champion and mentor to Australia’s successful fitness and bikini models, Amelia enjoys working in her business, Living Beauty Fitness. Amelia has launched a new e-book, which contains all of her health and fitness principles in one handy guide, at www.4weekbikinibody.com
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