San Diego Fitness Psychology – Are You Mentally Tough?
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
It’s been said, “Great attitude, great results. Good attitude, good results. Average attitude average results. Poor attitude, poor results.” When it comes to athletic performance and fitness training, it’s what makes the difference in your results.
Let’s take a look at a few key points to remember in going from good to great in your attitude. As Winston Churchill, not especially the fittest guy in the gym, once noted, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” When it comes to mental toughness, the psychological edge that helps you cope better than your opponent (or hit your number of reps), attitude is all there is. Remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient and in control under internal or external pressure—that’s what mental toughness, great attitude can do for you.
Among the elite, truly world-class, athletes that I’ve been privileged to work with and help develop mental toughness, I’ve found that self-belief, motivation, focus, thinking confidently, overcoming self-critical negativity and personal composure are critical components in any performance improvement plan.
So how can you get in that cool-headed zone that allows you to perform optimally in the gym or in competition? Be like the finest athletes and train your brain while you train your body as follows:
Positivity: If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. You can program yourself to stay positive. Oscar Wilde once noted, “If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.” Make this your focus when it comes to performance. Everyone talks to him/herself so do so in an affirming manner. Use confident goal oriented statements, such as “You will, You can, You are going to…” The second person sounds like a coach talking with you.
Visualization: See your set done before you begin. What steps are you going to take to lift, lunge, pull, push? Once it’s done in your mind, it’s easier to have your body repeat it. Visualization in any sport is a given in practice today. Picturing yourself overcoming anticipated obstacles, imagining the great feeling of success, the looks on the faces of others who celebrate your accomplishment, how you will look in the mirror, maybe even the shame you’ll feel in giving up, all help move you through the actual event. It may be a form of meditation, mental calmness, rehearsing composure, a “if plan A doesn’t work, I already know what plan B is,” approach that will take you through a tough workout. In other words, “nothing new on race day.” Visualize yourself performing the way you want to with energy, confidence and success.
Control: Staying on top of your attitude means seeing the connection between your goals and your thoughts. Is your attitude helping you feel the way you want to feel? It is helping you engage in your workout the way you want to? Is your thinking bringing you closer to your goals and dreams or further away? Are you expecting the best from yourself? If you are not moving yourself into the direction you want, try a technique called thought stopping: immediately STOP any negative thoughts by screaming to yourself as loudly as you can STOP! Once you see the red light in your head, move to a healthier set of beliefs. Ask yourself “what are the positives I see” or “how can I gain an advantage here”? It’s just a picture frame you need to change to see the picture totally different. It’s not the situation, it’s how you think about it.
Mental toughness is the key ingredient in not letting anything or anyone break you. It’s not letting anything external affect you.
Now, go hit the treadmill, resistance training, Body Pump group ex, Zumba or whatever your physical challenge is…mentally tougher than you ever thought you could be.
(ARA) – Susan Fishelberg grew up on processed food packaged for speed and convenience, so it’s no wonder she quickly developed a weight problem as a child. She spent her adult years trying to shake those pounds, falling time and again for the quick fix and “miracle” cure.
Fishelberg counted points, ate premade, portion-controlled meals and gobbled up 100 calorie snacks that were passed off as “healthy” and “natural,” though she had no idea what exactly was in them.
She kept her calories as low as 1,000 per day. She hit the gym with reckless abandon.
It all worked — for awhile.
When the pounds inevitably began to creep back, she worked out harder.
“I would get up every day and work my butt off, figuring that’s the way you lose weight,” says Fishelberg, of Plainview, N.Y. She attacked the elliptical trainer with a vengeance, pushing her heart rate until she felt nauseous.
Fishelberg finally decided to talk to a personal trainer and nutritionist at Life Time Fitness. Their advice shocked her: She needed to slow down, and eat.
Metabolic testing showed that Fishelberg, who is petite but about 17 pounds over her desired weight, needed to increase her calorie intake and decrease the pace of her exercise. She was starving herself fat on diet food.
Fishelberg is not alone. Almost one-third of U.S. adults are overweight, another third are obese. Americans spent an estimated $46 billion on diet products, much of it wasted on prepackaged food and fads. Forbes Magazine examined menus from the most popular diets and discovered dieters also spent 50 percent more per week on food, but 97 percent gained all the weight back in five years.
Now Fishelberg thinks she’s found the key. Working with her Life Time trainer and nutritionist, Fishelberg underwent an assessment that measures a person’s resting oxygen rate to help them tailor their exercise to fit their body. With help, Fishelberg received a personal program – she won’t call it a diet, it’s a new healthy lifestyle – and in 13 weeks has lost 11 pounds and, more importantly, 5 percent of her body fat.
Fishelberg replaced packaged foods with organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish. She takes herbal supplements to help with stress. A typical day’s menu might include a protein shake for breakfast, a snack of organic beef jerky and pistachios, a lunch of tuna, avocado, salad and a tortilla, another snack and salmon and broccoli for dinner.
Now on her new program, Fishelberg has learned that “I don’t have to kill myself. My trainer sends me emails telling me what kind of cardio to do every week, and how many minutes I should work in each zone. Sometimes she says, ‘I don’t want to see you in the gym on Monday, and Tuesday I only want you doing yoga.’ I feel happy.”
Stories like Fishelberg’s are common according to Tom Nikkola, director of nutrition and weight management for Life Time Fitness.
“The misconception is that it’s just about counting calories,” says Nikkola. “When people rely on processed foods, such as frozen or packaged meals, as the foundation of their diet, it’s pretty hard to make a conscious decision to improve consumption habits because most of those foods are designed to keep you eating them – and craving more.
“There is also the outdated concept that a healthy diet is a low-fat diet,” he adds. “When people are eating a lot of low-fat foods, their blood sugars are going to be up and down all day, and that’s going to contribute to cravings. Instead, if they would just focus on eating quality foods, they would be a lot more satisfied.”
San Diego Fitness Psychology – Do You Have Anorexia Athletica?
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Heidi Montag may need a fitness psychologist. She reportedly spent the last two months exercising an insane fourteen hours a day in the gym! Let’s say she only really exercised half that, seven hours a day. Still, it’s a fitness psychology emergency for sure.
Madonna reportedly has also been described in the past as an “exercise addict.” Sexy title, attention grabbing headlines, and like all addictions, this one leads to life-sapping, health-eroding, social stumbling consequences as well.
The fact that so many compulsive exercisers also have an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, has led to the more official sounding title of this unhealthy behavior, “anorexia athletica.” Dr. William Glasser first described this exercise addiction in 1976.
How do you know if you or your workout chums have anorexia athletica and are not simply overdoing the gym scene or are just great athletes? Compulsive exercisers have poor self-image and they compulsively exercise for all the wrong reasons—principal among these is to control their body image. The exercise addicts among us have stress, anxiety, depression, and are likely to have some form of an eating disorder. They may be preoccupied with what they eat (or don’t eat), their (inadequate) caloric intake, and especially their (inaccurate) idea of what they think their bodies look like (which only serves to prove my favorite adage: “Don’t believe everything you…think.”).
+ Are you constantly preoccupied with exercise throughout your day? + Do you feel anxious or guilty if you miss an exercise session and believe it “must be made up? + Do you avoid taking a day off even if you are injured or ill? + Do you take time off from work or school to exercise? + Lie about the amount of exercise you are doing to family and friends? + Are you in conflict with others over the amount you exercise? + Does your self-esteem depend on the amount you exercise? + Have you lost 5% or greater of normal body weight? + Are you ever satisfied with the exercise you did?
Sure athletes exercise a great deal. Compulsive exercise addicts don’t stop due to injuries while athletes do. Athletes rest when they’ve reached a goal. Not so with compulsive exercisers. Athletes, unlike those with anorexia athletic, focus on the win. Those with obligatory exercise focus on more exercise and body image control.
It’s an addiction, and like all addiction can be harmful to one’s health. If you know someone who has these signs and behaviors, draw them out in a collaborative, non-judgmental, non-authoritative, understanding, supportive way—and help them make up their own mind to get professional help.
(ARA) – As families have gotten busier, traditional mealtimes have become more of a novelty than a necessity. While careers and activities keep many away from the family dinner, missing those meals is leaving more of an impact than many suspect.
While many acknowledge that sitting down to eat creates family bonds and opens lines of communication, many don’t realize that missing those meals can contribute to childhood obesity.
The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that more than a third of U.S. adults are obese. Perhaps more alarming is that the number of obese children has tripled in the past 30 years, to 17 percent. Because of all of the associated health risks of obesity, it is possible that the current generation of children may be the first generation whose life expectancy will not be greater than their parents.
“In terms of healthy eating habits, family meals are one of the most powerful tools available. Research has consistently shown that children and adolescents who eat more family meals are less likely to be overweight or obese. In addition, children who eat dinner with their families consume more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t,” says Sherry Rieder, Ph.D., an obesity expert and assistant professor in Argosy University’s College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences online programs. “If children learn about realistic food portions and healthy food options from a young age at family dinnertime, they are more likely to carry these habits with them into adulthood.”
In addition, regular and routine family meals add needed structure to a child’s day. “In my family, we have a designated dinner time,” says Victoria Hooker, assistant director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Dallas, a branch of South University. “There’s no snacking before dinner, which means I know my family will be ready to fill up on a good meal as opposed to eating junk food. Family meal time is something parents can do now to fight childhood obesity. What’s best is that they can do it without any outside advice or help.”
Rieder agrees and adds, “Getting kids involved in preparing food is a great way to teach them about healthy and balanced eating. Children are far more likely to eat food that they helped prepare – so get them to help prepare vegetables. Focus on consuming fruits and vegetables whenever possible and avoid sweetened drinks like sodas and juices.”
For busy families who may not have much time to cook, a little planning can go a long way. “Even if the whole family cannot sit down at one time, eating home made meals is often a better alternative than eating take out food,” says Rieder. “One trick is to try to stock up on some easy-to-prepare meals at home for those evenings when everyone is running late and feeling the stress of a long day. Another alternative is to prepare extra portions when cooking meals and freeze half.”
When you simply can’t be home for dinner, Hooker advises families to plan and pack food ahead of time. “With today’s busy lifestyles, it is almost impossible to eat at home seven days a week, but families can make it a priority to eat at home five nights a week. When you do have to eat on the run, make healthy choices. Institute family rules like fried food only once a week,” she says.
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Is it possible that the very substance that leaves you high from running and working out is also getting you fat? No, I’m not talking about endorphins. I’m talking about what seems to be a form of the body’s self-created, cannabis. Read on before you get the wrong idea!
I’m not endorsing drugs, cannabis, a k a marijuana, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, let alone our gym.
One test of what’s healthy and not healthy is simple: if I do this long-term, will it leave me feeling better or not? Exercise, eating healthy, thinking rationally, maintaining good relationships, accomplishing positive things, being engaged in life, finding meaning in the world—the more you do these things, the better you feel, right?
So what’s with the cannabis? Well, without complicating this with a bunch of science, researchers have found that the “body’s home-brewed opiates,” endorphins, are composed of large molecules which, according the one researcher at New York’s Rockefeller University, means endorphins are unable to pass the blood-brain barrier. Finding endorphins in our blood then, doesn’t mean they have an effect on our brain. Of course, the large molecules may be metabolized into smaller compounds that do cross the blood-brain barrier and there may be more than one mechanism involved. And it’s possible that endorphins can be produced directly in the central nervous system. We definitely need more science. Or there may be something else.
Enter endocannabinoids, based in an altogether-different neurochemical system in the mind/body connection. A study done at the Georgia Institute of Technology found endocannabinoid molecules in a group of subjects after they spent 50 minutes running or on a stationary bicycle. These cannabinoids are made up of lipids that do cross the blood-brain barrier, thus possibly explaining why cannabinoids could affect the brain, unlike what scientists are now positing about endorphins.
When mice, who love to run, were bred with no functioning endocannabinoid receptors, guess what happened to these lovely little creatures? They didn’t show up at their gym—er, their running wheels. Well, they used them only half as much as they ordinarily do.
Here’s where the bowl of chips and plate of fries comes into the equation. While these endocannibinoids may be the responsible for feeling so, well, high after a great cardio session, they also are the culprit in making those foods so darned irresistible—bye, bye carbohydrates as the culprit. Seems that the fats in chips and fries drives gluttonous eating behavior. UC Irvine scientists, along with researchers at New York’s Yeshiva University (supported by the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disease and the National Institute on Drug Abuse)) found that tasting something fatty leads to cells in the upper part of the intestines producing…you got it…endocannabinoids.
These endocannabinoids act as a signal to eat, eat, eat more and more. But this finding, in turn, also drives researchers to better understand the role that obstructing endocannabinoid activity can play in better control of dieting.
It’s a complicated system this endocannabinoid system. For example, lack of endocannabinoids are implicated in migraines and irritable bowel syndrome. Scientists are just getting a better understanding of this system and the role it plays in our health and fitness.
So there you have it. Maybe it’s not your endorphins after all that kick in after a good spin class or run on the treadmill. And those “munchies” you feel for chips and fries? It’s possibly the same culprit, the body’s very own endocannabinoids. Mother nature is a mad scientist, indeed!
Live and learn.
(ARA) – If your arm goes numb and your speech is slurred, you know you need to seek immediate medical attention. When you nick yourself shaving, you know you can deal with it yourself. But for the vast number of maladies in between, it can be difficult to know when to go to the doctor and when to deal with it on your own.
One of the most difficult situations in which you need to make the “home care vs. professional care” decision may be when something affects your joints. The joints do some important work for the human body, and figuring out when things will get better on their own and when you may have a more serious problem is not easy.
When to seek help William Ungureit, clinical director of the physician assistant training program at South University in Tampa, Fla., says there are some important signs that will tell you when to seek professional care.
“If the joint is warm to the touch and swollen, seek immediate help,” Ungureit says. “Those are signs of a possible infection, something that won’t get better on its own.”
Likewise, if you know that the joint pain is the result of an injury such as a fall, put an ice pack on the injury and seek help right away. This type of injury will usually be accompanied by swelling and the inability to bear weight.
Otherwise, painful joints often can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. And what about ice and heat?
“Cold therapy (ice) can be used for chronic injuries, such as pain after running,” says Ungureit. “Heat therapy is recommended for injuries that have no inflammation or swelling. Heat is ideal for sore, stiff, nagging muscle or joint pain.”
If you decide to treat the pain at home, you still need to see your primary care physician if the pain lasts more than two weeks. Your physician may offer prescription pain relievers or other treatment.
Chronic joint pain Treatment for chronic joint pain may be more involved, Ungureit says. “Non-inflammatory joint pain usually signifies osteoarthritis, which is caused by trauma to the joint or degeneration of the joint tissue in weight-bearing joints.” That means the knee, hip and spinal joints.
According to the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative, a movement sanctioned by the World Health Organization, one in five Americans has some form of arthritis. And contrary to the perception that arthritis is a disease of the elderly, more than half of those with arthritis are under the age of 65.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but it can be managed with pain killers, physical therapy, steroid injections such as cortisone, or other injections to help lubricate the joint. As a last resort, surgery to realign or completely replace a joint may be an option. Complete joint replacement is now available for the knee, shoulder, hip and ankle.
Motion is lotion Although you can’t prevent osteoarthritis, you can do things to help lessen its onset and its painful effects. “Losing weight and exercising regularly are great ways to combat osteoarthritis,” says Ungureit. “When it comes to joints, we say that ‘motion is lotion.’ Dropping five or 10 pounds may not seem like much, but five pounds per step adds up fairly quickly on your joints.”
What about herbal supplements and other alternative treatments for joint pain? Ungureit says there’s nothing wrong with trying them, but make sure you tell your doctor which ones you are thinking about taking, since some supplements can interfere with other medications.
So while you may not need to consult your doctor for every ache, there are some serious signs to look for, and some effective steps that both you and your doctor can take to help relieve those painful joints.