The Mental Side of Bodybuilding
In previous articles I have dealt extensively with physical aspects of serious bodybuilding, including exercise techniques, the role of nutrition in physical development and the importance of rest and recuperation in training.
But there are mental factors that can be just as important in the making of a champion. Much of our mental outlook is not given us by nature, but is a matter of habit. We develop mental habits just as easily as physical ones. Some of them are valuable and help us In dealing with life, and some are counterproductive and just get in our way.
Bodybuilders striving for ultimate development cannot afford anything but 100% effort, physical or mental. This means that they cannot allow discouragement, a bad mood or anything else to keep them from making the most of their training. To be certain of success, this involves being sure you can train yourself mentally just as you do physically. I'll go into that later when I talk about the Instinctive Principle and temperament.
Since much of what we think and feel comes from habit, it can to dealt with using standard behavioral modification techniques. Most temperament problems that keep bodybuilders from achieving their full potential are the result of "negative thinking," cases of the mind getting in its own way. We all make mental mistakes. create contusions and distortions that cloud our thinking. but I believe that the following 10 are among the most important:
1) The Either/Or Mistake — This is the error of expecting perfection. If you don't win the Mr. Universe. you're a total failure. If everything isn't exactly right, it's all wrong. The truth of the matter is that everything is a matter of degree, and all
measurements simply indicate how one thing rates relative to another, not to any absolute.
Learn to see things as matters of degree.
2) The Overgeneralization Mistake — This occurs when you jump to the conclusion that, because something didn't work out one time, that's the way things will always be Somebody insults you, so you decide nobody likes you. You don't win a contest, so you conclude you're a second-rate competitor and that you'll never win.
The truth is that not everything is part of a pattern. And even when things do indicate a general pattern, patterns can be altered and changed. The future is not inevitable.
Recognize that some events are isolated and unique, just as others are part of a general pattern.
3) The Negative Interpretation Mistake — We all see both good and bad around us practically all the time. When were depressed, we tend to ignore the good and focus on the bad. If you do this for a while, you have to come to the conclusion that everything in your life is negative, and that simply is not so.
Practice seeing the positive as well as the negative in life situations.
4) The Negative For Positive Mistake Some people just can't seem to accept compliments. They're the sort that have to twist any positive thing that happens to them so that it comes out negative.
Learn to accept and enjoy the positive aspects of life.
5) The Jumping To Conclusion Mistake — This is the mistake of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Because you believe something is going to happen, you actually help to bring it about. Suppose you're standing onstage in a contest and you find you're not called out for comparison often enough to suit you. So you assume that the judges don't think much of you, you get depressed, your energy level sinks. and you don't present yourself to your best advantage. By doing this, you make sure that you won't score high But, actually, you did not know for certain what the judges thought of you, and it shouldn't have mattered. You were supposed to be up there doing your best, no matter what they thought.
Stick with conclusions that you can square with the facts, and don't go out of your way to create problems for yourself.
6) The Distortion Mistake — This involves making too much of your mistakes and not enough of your good points. If you insist on doing this, you're always going to make yourself feel inferior, no matter how well you really are doing. If you foul things up from time to time, you're no different than anyone else. But mistakes aren't the end of the world.
Learn to see your strengths and weaknesses in their true perspective: don't exaggerate or minimize.
71 The Feeling/Thinking Mistake This is the error that happens when you assume that your feelings and emotions necessarily reflect reality. When you project your negative emotions onto the world around you, that world begins to seem negative. too. But, In fact, *hat you do or don't like. do or don't want, prefer or disdain. frequently tells you nothing about reality. If you get into the "I feel overwhelmed, things are hopeless" habit of thinking, every time the going gets tough, you will talk yourself into giving up.
Learn to distinguish between how things are and how you feel about them.
8) The Should Mistake — If you set your expectations too high, and convince yourself that there is some standard you have to live up to, some out-of-reach goal you have to attain, you are always going to see yourself as a failure. Perfection Is
simply not attainable . by anyone!
Learn to develop reasonable and
9) The Worst Possible Interpretation Mistake — This is a form of generalization and exaggeration in which you always end up assuming the worst. If you feel afraid, you assume that you're a coward; If you can't lift a certain weight. you assume that you're weak. In reality. we are all afraid sometimes, even the bravest of us, and weakness and strength are relative terms. You're stronger than some people, weaker than others. You're even stronger or weaker than yourself one day to the next.
Learn to recognize that you are not your mistakes. Don't label yourself automatically.
10) The Taking Blame Mistake Blame is the mother of guilt. If something goes wrong, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. If your workout partner doesn't do well in a contest, you shouldn't automatically assume that you didn't push him hard enough in the gym. Just remember, you may i)eve a lot of influence on events around you, but you don't necessarily have to take the responsibility for them. Atter all, who put you in charge anyway? Let people take responsibility for themselves, and get on with your own life.
Don't assume responsibility where you don't have any control.
Putting all these examples together, It should become pretty clear why some people make themselves suffer and become depressed when there's no justification for a.
It should also shed some light on the behavior of certain bodybuilders. When you hear about Frank Zane meditating every day or working to develop nothing but a positive outlook on his career, you can see why. Zane Is competing on a level where only a traction of a percentage point may separate him from a challenger. He needs to actualize every bit of potential that his mind and body possess — and that's why he stresses the mental outlook to such a degree.
Watching the movie Pumping Iron. you can see how Arnold worked to create doubts In the mind of Lou Ferrigno, and how Ken Waller tried to confuse Mike Katz. The movie distorted these events to some degree. but the statement It made Is true: the body cannot triumph if the mind is defeated.
Defeat more often comes from within rather than from outside ourselves. Some people learn to be very successful at failing. But those people do not become champions.
You don't develop a positive outlook just by willing it, however. You have to work at it, learn new habits. But all this shouldn't convince us that negativism is all in our heads. It Isn't, Sometimes negative information indicates what is really going on. tells us something very valuable about reality, and it shouldn't be ignored.
Pain is this kind of information. So, sometimes, is failure. When Arnold came to this country in 1968 to compete in the Mr. Universe contest, his defeat by Frank Zane served to spur him to even greater efforts, and he was never beaten again. Taking responsibility for the failure. admitting he wasn't perfect, was the first step toward making even greater progress.
Negative and positive feelings are a vital part of using the Instinctive Principle in your training. By learning to pay attention to your feelings, and looking to see what realities they might represent. you can fine-tune your intuition so that it becomes a valuable asset in your progress.
Sometimes you may feel bad about something because you are doing the wrong thing. Maybe you're using the wrong kind of training routine, or you have allowed your dedication to training to unbalance the priorities by which you're leading your life.
The trick is not to overreact. Be aware of the positive and negative influences in your life, but don't let them sway you unduly. Also check out some good thermogenics at http://thermogenic.co/. Life has ups and downs, but they have to be kept within limits. Otherwise. we lust lose track of where we're going
When you overreact, misinterpret. distort and jump to conclusions emotionally, you can't really listen to what your body and your mind are telling you The Instinctive Principle depends on your ability and willingness to pay careful attention, and not to make assumptions or self-fulfilling prophecies.
Reality is a potent force. By working to regulate the swings of your individual temperament, you can get reality on your side so that it works for you, rather than against you.