Tag Archives: Relax

The Champions Mind by Jim Afremow, PhD

win

So writing book reviews are hard even when you enjoy the book…. especially when you enjoy the book. I have had to do a few different book reviews over my time as a university student but never was it this hard to keep it short. I have so many good things to say about this book and there were so many sections that helped me, I just want to basically rewrite the book. But I’m not going to because that would not be a REVIEW and it would be super long, and this post is already….not short.

This book has completely changed how I think and act when it comes to sports and even life in general. It has helped me to set goals, see the positives in every situation, not beat myself before I even start, and taught me many other things that have made my training and, more importantly, my life more enjoyable.

After reading this book and now reviewing it, it seems to me that the first seven chapters give you mental tools and small examples of those tools. It is the first two chapters that I found most interesting and helpful, especially the second. Then they have a chapter all on Olympic level athletes and how they used the tools to get to that level. These stories were interesting and helped me to see how others put the tools into play. The last three chapters talk about taking all the tools you were introduced to in the first seven chapters, and read about other people using for Olympic level training, and how you take those skills and mold them into your own game plan and mental training. This section was much easier to get through as it again had some information that I found quite valuable. So what parts of the book did I find the most helpful? In the following paragraphs I am going to touch on my favourite three chapters and how they each made an impact on my life.

The first chapter; Be Your Own Champion has a lot of good questions and thought provoking statements throughout it. The section The Champion Question has one of the best questions. It will get you thinking about what you need to do, and stop doing in order to be the best version of yourself. The question? “What will your life look like when you have become your own champion?” So think about what your day, work, and/or training session would look like when you are a champion. What things would you do differently, what would you add into your life, and what things would you not do because they affect you negatively?  Other questions from this chapter that really got me thinking were “How will I be a champion today?” and “How was I a champion today?” You would ask these of yourself when you wake in the morning and when you go to bed at night, respectively. I found that asking myself how I will be a champion today helps me to prioritize and focus my day ahead.

A couple other sections of this first chapter that I really liked are called The Champion’s Will-Do-Now List and Lead By Creed and Deed. They both list ideas that will help keep you on task, stay positive, and motivate others. So for me, being a lists guy, these two sections were very attractive to me. The Champions Will-Do-Now List has some really good points to ward off procrastination. Things like scheduling out your day, and making sure that it is a realistic schedule. Setting priorities and being organized help tremendously as well. If I have my meals planned out and figure out which project I am going to work on at what time throughout the day I get way more done. If I just ‘let it happen”, there is a lot of nothing that ends up happening. The other point that is brought up is to keep your work area clean. The less clutter at your work desk, or station, the less stress you will have. Lead By Creed and Deed had some really good points about leadership. These are the ones I found hit me the most:

1. Develop a vision for success and stay enthusiastic pursuing it.

2. Great leaders invite feedback from others as opposed to blocking criticism. Always share credit and accept blame.

4. Care, really care, about others. Take an interest in the person wearing the uniform, not just that person’s performance.

6. Realize that your impact goes beyond your performance; lead by example, on and off the field.

9. Share in all of the sacrifices and hardships of the team, never asking others to do what you are unwilling to do.

This first chapter also goes on to talk more about working within a team, whether that is in sport or outside of sport, as well as how to deal with change and disappointment.

My favourite chapter in this book is chapter two; Master The Mental Skills. This chapter explains mental skills and drills that will help you attain a champion’s mindset so you can achieve your full potential. Goal Setting is the first section in this chapter and rightfully so I think. I think it is one of the most crucial parts of becoming the best you you can be, hence why I wrote a whole post just on goal setting (Goals. Of the hockey sort, or maybe not) and why I will probably write more eventually. Without goals there is little direction for your action. Another section I really liked in this chapter was Self-Talk. This section has a very interesting story “Feed the Good Wolf”, which was some of the inspiration behind my post Why Not Be Positive. If you have not heard this story or legend (I prefer to call it a legend because to me that makes it more powerful) you are missing out. For those of you who have not heard of “Feed the Good Wolf” here is the LEGEND:

A grandfather explains to his warrior grandson that there are two wolves within each of us: One wolf is positive and beneficial, while the other wolf is negative and destructive. These two wolves fight for control over us. The grandson is curious and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

BOOM. There it is. Short. Sweet. To the Point. How you talk and think to yourself will effect how you perform, live, and feel. Make sure your thoughts and words feed the good wolf.

There was a lot of good information in all the other chapters but the one other chapter that I found helpfull was chapter seven: Zen in The Zone. Chapter seven is another very interesting chapter and one I found very useful. It has different stories about teaching Zen along with how it can be connected to sports and a self-reflection question to further your thinking. Below are the sections I found most helpful.

Maybe – The story that goes with this one is that a farmer keeps saying maybe to things. It starts out the farmer had a horse run away and his friends came over and said “such bad luck”. The farmer said ‘maybe”. then the next day the horse came back with four more wild horses. “Such good luck”, the farmers’ friends said. “Maybe”, said the farmer. The next day the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses and fell off and broke his leg. “Such bad luck” said the farmer’s friends. “Maybe” said the farmer. The next day military officers came to draft young men into the army and seeing the son’s broken leg, passed him by. Not judging an outcome until later when it has had time to play itself out to its entirety will help you to keep calm and relax. This section was also part of the reason I wrote the blog Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Learn, Because There is a Reason. which has to do with not judging things right away. Sometimes “bad” things happen but then days, weeks, or sometimes years later you are thankful for that “bad” thing because it taught you something or allowed you to do something you otherwise would not have done. Self-reflection question: Do I stay calm and centered when the sport gods hurl hardships my way?

Working Very Hard – The story for this one is slightly confusing and it isn’t until after they explain it that I understood what it meant. Basically it means that you need to be focusing on what you are doing in the moment, day-to-day, rather than worrying so much about the end result you want. If you are always looking where you want to end up then you are not giving the attention to detail that your day-to-day activities require and thus will not get to your end goal. Take care of the process and the results will take care of themselves. Self-reflection Question: Am I just mindlessly working hard, or am I aware of what I am doing?

The King and the Peace Contest – This story is kind of weird and long but basically it gets at that real peace comes from inside yourself. Staying calm mentally in a big game or situation is very crucial to the success of that game or situation. The only way external factors can affect your mental calmness is if you let it. Self-refection question: Do I keep cool and composed in the heat of competition?

Breathing – Practicing deep breathing will ease stress and bring about a state of relaxation. When you breath shallow oxygen intake decreases and muscle tension increases. So you want to relax? Deep breaths! Self-reflection question: Do I breathe easily and deeply throughout my day?

Destiny – You control your own destiny. You can only accomplish what you profoundly believe you can accomplish. Therefore believe that you are destined for great things in your sport and work hard in your daily tasks to achieve your dreams. Self-reflection question: How great could I play if I thought and acted as if it were impossible to fail?

Chasing Two Rabbits – This one is really simple. He who chases two rabbits catches neither. Pick one thing to work on and really go for it. Self-reflection question: Do I place all of my energy and effort on doing one good thing at a time?

These simple zen stories, along with others, really helped me to get myself into “the zone” for training sessions, gave me inspiration for other blog posts, and help me perform my job to the best of my ability. Like I said earlier these three chapters were my favourite but I did learn a lot from the other chapters as well.

Chapter three: Be In It To Win It contains sections like coming up with a slogan, what music you listen to, staying within yourself, and trusting your abilities. Chapter four; The Wisdom of A Champion speaks to mistakes, failures, knowing your why, and controlling what you can. Chapter five; Exercise, Nutrition, Pain, Injuries, and Regeneration is about exactly what it says it is about. The difference with this one is that each section has points and steps to help you work through injuries, nutrition, etc.

Chapter six: Take Control of Your Personal Destiny has psychological studies that will give you information on tools like meditation, how performing sports in a group can help or hinder your performance, and the benefits of a gratitude journal.

Chapter eight: Golden Reflections is the chapter that has all the stories of the Olympic athletes. Chapter nine: Your World-Class Game Plan starts with a mental game scorecard where you rate yourself on the different aspects of your mental game. This chapter then goes on to talk about how to prepare for a game, practice, big event, change, etc. Chapter ten: Long-Term Survival of The Most Mentally Fit has many examples within it of athletes who were or have been very successful in their respective sports for a long time and how they did it. Things like setting golden priorities, being resilient, or not overextending yourself. There is then a very short Epilogue: The Ultimate Victory is Yours and two very important lists in the Appendixes. The first is Be a Champion Student-Athlete and the second is Be a Champion Sleeper.

This book also had tons of great quotes, so last but not least I leave you with some of my favourite quotes out of this book. There are many to choose from but these are the ones that really hit home for me.

QUOTES:

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” – Muhammad Ali

“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching.” – Anson Dorrance

“The time is now, the place is here.” – Dan Millman

“Every survival kit should include a sense of humour.” – Anonymous

“Warriors don’t slouch into battle.” Anonymous

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

As always Stay Positive, Be Better, and Go Get It!

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Squat Every Day: Week 6


Hello everyone, and welcome to Squat Every Day: Week 6 – The Finale.

As you might have guessed this is the last week of Squat Every Day for me for a while. There are a few reasons why I am taking a break from this program:

1. It was a good week to end on. I didn’t set any new PR’s but I did do exactly what I wanted to do. I hit around 95-97% of all my PR’s on every day. They all felt hard but good and I am confident that I could hit those numbers on any given day now.

2. In my last post I had said I was going to go for another week, but I forgot that I have a CrossFit competition this weekend. So I am going back into doing our regular classes at the gym. Hopefully I will get into a few classes so I don’t have to do them all on my own and can feel some competition heading into the weekend.

3. As someone who does CrossFit I feel this is a good plan for building strength but it is more tailored to the offseason type of training or if you are into Powerlifting. For me this is the middle of my “competition” season so I need to be doing CrossFit, not Powerlifting. I think this would be a better program for me to do in the offseason which would be somewhere from October to February. So there may be more Squat Every Day coming later this year.

4. I achieved one goal and almost got another. I wanted to get my overhead squat to 225lbs and I got that. I wanted to get my back squat to 350lbs and I got it to 345lbs. With a little rest and recovery I think I can hit 350lbs in the next 2-3 weeks. This program has a ton of volume to it. Every squat works up in the rep scheme of 10-10-5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1 which equals out to 42 total reps per day and over 5,000lbs per day. Then you add in lunges and deadlift days and you have yourself a lot of work! Doing that for 40 days with virtually no rest is going to eventually wear a guy out. So I think if I rest and lower the volume I could increase the end load…Hopefully.

5. Mentally I checked out at least a week ago. It stopped being fun and just became work. I can only do that for so long then I need to change things up and get to the next project. I think if I knew what to expect that might have helped me stick with it a bit longer mentally, but having never done a true strict strength type program (very technical name for the program) before I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

6. Members in the gym are starting to ask when I am coming back to classes to workout. I miss working out with people in a class setting and having that friendly competition. So I am excited to get back into that this week!

I am sure there are a few other reasons why I felt this is a good time to stop and change gears but those are the main ones. This 40 days of squats has also taught me a few things.

1. I like squatting ALOT. I knew I liked squatting before but now after seeing how I feel after all these squats and how I felt during the squats, I like them even more. There were many days where I felt like crap coming into the gym, but I did my squats anyway, and could feel my body getting tired, obviously, but also felt better as the session progressed. I really think there is something magical about squatting. Lets just say that in the future if I am having a bad day I am going to come in and play around with some squats.

2. My body reacts fairly well to high volume, for a certain amount of time. The first 3 weeks of this program were great! My numbers increased every day and I felt great. Then in week 4 somewhere I started to run into the wall. At this point I think I was correct in pushing through for that week, but the next week I should have decreased the volume of the training. Instead of doing sets of 10-10-5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1 I should have bumped it down to something like 10-5-3-3-1-1. Or I could have inserted a full day of rest earlier than I did so I could maintain that intensity and volume longer. Which brings me to my next point.

3. I need more rest days. I need to pick a day every week or so to take the whole day and do nothing. Spend the day doing stuff I enjoy and not worrying about the time it took, or how much I lifted. Just sit back relax and read a book or go for a walk or something like that. Having said that, I need to keep it interesting because….

4. I get bored easily. If I have too many days where I am not doing anything it will actually make me stress more. I enjoy life more when I have things to do, places to be, and people to see. I enjoy having a “ToDo List” and scratching those items off. One. At. A. Time. There is no feeling like scratching something off your “ToDo List”. Sometimes when I do something and I feel like it was a good use of my time, I will add it to my “ToDo List” just so I can scratch it out.

5. I enjoy doing lots of different stuff as opposed to the same thing every day. I have always been a busy person. From the day I was born my parents said I never sat still. Then once I could play sports, well, I played them all of course. I have played, baseball, football, hockey, volleyball, basketball, badminton, track and field, ultimate frizbee, and inline hockey. Some times I would be playing a few sports at the same time like hockey and football. Then have a few weeks off before I would start into track and field. Then a few weeks off and back to football and eventually hockey as well. These days I play in a couple different hockey leagues while playing ultimate frizbee as well in the winter. Then over the summer things slow down a bit but still playing slow pitch and then doing a CrossFit competition every month or so. Then its back to hockey and frizbee. I like doing stuff.

So there you have it folks. That is a wrap on the first attempt through Squat Every Day.

Links to the other weeks of Squat Every Day:

Squat Every Day: Week 1

Squat Every Day: Week 2

Squat Every Day: Week 3

Squat Every Day: Week 4

Squat Every Day: Week 5

Stay Positive, Be Better, and Go Get It!

Squat Every Day: Week 4

Relax

Day 31. The one day hiatus.

Week 4 continued to be difficult both mentally and physically. Mentally it was less to do with being bored and more to do with just being tired and run down. In the last 50 days I took 4 days off of work. One of those days we still came in for a team meeting. Another one of those days was a slow-pitch tournament in some of the hottest weather so far this year. The remaining two days were a CrossFit competition.  In all of those 50 days I also trained all but three days. So I didn’t really have any days off. Add onto that I have two big projects for work I am currently working on outside of work hours (creating a gymnastics program, and creating movement standards for the gym) and I am working towards getting my OPEX Certification (the biggest demand of the all). So needless to say I have officially packed my schedule full and maxed out my brain usage. As long as I can schedule things in and keep up with each day’s “ToDo list” I am usually good to go, (I like having things to do to keep me from getting bored) but over the last monthish I have struggled to do that. Starting today that is changing though. I have learned a lot about myself over the last month and have already crossed quite a few items off my “ToDo List” today that have been on there far too long.

Sitting back and looking at it all I am happy with the progress of my squats and with how much I have learned about myself.

Recap of GAINS in 30 days:

-Back Squat 1RM: 310 -> 345

-Front Squat 1RM: 270 -> 295

-Deadlift 1RM: 400 -> 418

-Back Squat 10sec Pause: 255

-Walking Lunges: 200m X 3, 4 days/week

-Close Grip Bench Press stayed at 270

-No Sore Joints

I figure I can max out for about a month straight before I absolutely have to take a day off. I am not totally sure how much my work-load has influenced that but I hope to figure that out in the next couple weeks to a month. The plan is to take today and crush out some work I need to get done over the next two days, then take tomorrow and have some time for myself. I still work in the morning and the evening tomorrow but I can sleep in an extra hour or so (till about 6:30) and over lunch I am not going to concern myself with work at all. Tomorrow is a day that when I am not at work I will be simply relaxing and hopefully reading a book which has nothing to do with work at all. It will most likely be Game of Thrones so I can let my mind go to the fantasy world and check out from this one for a few hours. That is something else I have learned about myself. I need to take an hour each day or a couple hours every 3 or 4 days and mentally check out. It comes with physically checking out to a certain degree as well. In a perfect world it is just me and my book for a solid two hours. No people, no work, no fitness, no noise, and no caring about what I eat (if it is in the middle of the day). Once I get through these two days I plan to get back on the Squat Every Day wagon and the “ToDo List” wagon as well.

To the squats and what I did in week 4. This week I ended up taking out the serious gymnastics training and one of the CrossFit classes I added last week. I kept in some fun and unstructured gymnastics work which ended up being lots of handstand hold and handstand walking practice as well as some core work like hollow and arch rocks. I also kept the competition team training in on Saturdays. I have managed to keep almost all of my different variations of squats at the same number over the last week but Day 29 and 30 of Squat Every Day brought along some misses at numbers I had achieved before. That was the final alarm going off as to how much my body can handle. Thus the reason for my rest day tomorrow.

Hopefully after a day off and getting work sorted out over the next couple weeks I can continue to see results. One new thing I am going to introduce is to have a “fun squat day” every Friday (Funsquat Friday). Last Friday I did back squat @275 in the following pattern:

1 Back Squat every :30s for 2 min (5 reps)

rest 2 min

1 Back Squat every :30s for 1:30 (4 reps)

rest 2 min

1 Back Squat every :30 sec for 1min (3 reps)

This week another coach wants to do the “3 bars of death” so I’ll do that with her. It incorporates deadlift, back squat, and press. You load the bars with whatever weight you want. Once you declare a weight for an exercise you have to stay with it. You can only do 1 rep of each exercise per round. You accumulate 10,000lbs as fast as you can in however many rounds it takes you. Sounds like fun right?

Links for the previous weeks:

Squat Every Day: Week 1

Squat Every Day: Week 2

Squat Every Day: Week 3

Till next week (I’ll let you know how “3 bars of death” goes), Stay Positive, Be Better, and Go Get It!