Directing Energy to Maximize Recovery
By Pete Siegel
C'mon, pull it up Platz!" I exclaim. "Fry those lats, brother -PUT THE HAMMER DOWN NOW. . .GO!!!" Tom Platz is hunched over the T-bar about to pull six forty-five pound plates.
We've been pushing and challenging each other on every exercise, and Tom's upper body looks HUGE at this point. With wrist straps locking his hands upon the bar, his white-knuckle vice-like grip pulls the weight up, and, as if possessed, ten grueling reps are blasted out. Victory has been achieved!
After the set Tom keeps a stern look on his face for about 45 seconds. Then, a different look appears, one of ease and relief. The workout is now complete and our sought after results were more than achieved.
" Phew," he exhorts. "Man, that was a great workout, Pete!" We shake hands and both sit comfortably now upon the gym floor. A much different demeanor and state of mind animates Tom now. From his facial expression, to the words he uses, a distinct attitude change characterizes his presence. Calmly and matter-of-factly he says, "Let's go get some lunch and relax. All I feel like doin' is kickin' back!"
Exertion followed by relaxation. Intensity followed by calmness. A force of dominance followed by force of peacefulness. Every pro (in EVERY sport) I've ever worked or trained with has a l ways made a deliberate transition to ease and calmness after their magnitude exertion workouts - WITHOUT EXCEPTION! This practice was as automatic for them as was getting monumentally psyched for their workouts. And they always were energized, motivated, and kept growing and improving every single workout!
True bodybuilding success demands continuous intensity and emotional discipline be generated with every set. With every workout you must commit the full extent of your passion and power toward forging new growth.
These periods of mental and physical intensity MUST be balanced with recuperative periods if you're to command the energy necessary for consistent performance and improvement. If this vital recovery time is ignored, as it sometimes is (even by experienced bodybuilders), muscular gains come very slowly, negative emotions quickly amplify, and the potential for injury and burn out is considerably magnified.
So important is this recuperative time in the overall spectrum of muscular gain, the following will enable you to master the two factors most essential to promoting full recovery which are relaxation and sleep.
MAKING RECUPERATIVE TIME OFF SERVE YOUR PURPOSE
If you're one who pushes yourself to the limit while training, you must then make the time to rest and recoup at some point after your workout. The following tips will greatly help you in using relaxation to replenish your energies:
- After your workout, take an indulging, leisurely shower. Don't rush it. Let your body calm down and your pulse rate gradually normalize.
- If possible, plan your activities so you won't have to engage in mentally or physically taxing endeavors for at least one hour after you've finished training. Take it slow and allow yourself necessary time to recover.
- When you're done exercising, you should feel the refreshed euphoric alertness of increased endorphin flow. If you can, take it easy for the next hour or so and just enjoy those healthful feelings your workout produced. You may want to:
* Lounge peacefully and listen to relaxing music.
* Meditate with self-hypnosis relaxation programming (see the calm inducing process that follows).
* Sip a savory, relaxing herb tea. There are many blends on the market to choose from. Most contain mixtures of chamomile, hops, valerian, and passion flower, which have a soothing, mellowing effect on the nervous system. Sip your tea slowly and just enjoy the feeling of inner peace as you unwind. (During these times, avoid all caffeine beverages - cola, regular tea, coffee, cocoa - as these have a stimulating effect on the nervous system.)
* Or, just do nothing at all. There is a definite therapeutic effect to be gained from occasional periods of complete non-involvement.
CALM INDUCING PROGRAMMING
If, for a relaxation strategy, you choose to engage in some type of meditation, calmness programming, or guided imagery, the following technique I think is one of the best: Lay comfortably on your back (in an area where you won't be disturbed). Fix your eyes on a point on the ceiling above you. Take three l-o-n-g, deep breaths in through your nostrils and slowly exhale through your mouth. As you exhale on the third breath, gently close your eyelids. For the next ten breaths, mentally repeat the word "calm" as you exhale. If any unrelated thoughts interrupt or distract you, or if your mind drifts, just gently bring your attention back to mentally repeating the word "calm" as you exhale.
After the ten slow, easy breaths, begin to focus on sequentially relaxing the muscles of each part of your body. Start with your toes, go up through the calves, thighs, stomach, chest, back, arms, neck, all the way up to the scalp and into the facial muscles. As you focus on each part of the body, let the muscles of that body part completely relax. Visualize them slackening like loose rubber bands, and f-e-e-l the deep, soothing relaxation flowing into the muscles with each easy breath. Do not force it; just allow the muscles to become loose while focusing upon them, and allow yourself to go totally limp and relaxed. You'll soon experience the serene sensations of total physical release and deep muscular relaxation.
Next, while you're relaxing deeply, in your imagination clearly envision a scene that represents to you total peace and serenity; the sort of personal tranquil sanctuary where you feel completely carefree and at ease.
For example, you might choose to visualize one of the following natural environments:
* An isolated beach with beautiful white sand, swaying palm trees, sparkling aquamarine water with gentle, rolling waves, and a warm golden sun shining in a crystal clear blue sky.
* A beautiful mountain scene with fleecy white clouds against an azure sky; the air smells clean and fresh, with beautiful greenery surrounding you, and so quiet you can "hear" the silence.
* A forest scene with the sunlight traversing through the treetops and falling to the forest floor in shafts of cool gold; the gentle gurgling sounds of a stream; birds softly chirping; a gentle sigh as the wind whispers through the trees.
If you already have a place you think of as the most relaxing for you, by all means use it. The idea is to mentally picture -clearly and vividly - the environment or situation you feel to be the most relaxing and pleasurable for you.
Next, project yourself into the environment you're visualizing. Position yourself so you're in a comfortable, resting position, lying comfortably upon the ground or sitting peacefully against a tree.
Then, allow all your senses to become totally absorbed in the calmness, beauty, and serene splendor of your relaxing environment. Hear the sounds, see the sights, smell the smells, feel the warmth of the sun, etc. Just sit or lie at rest and enjoy your refreshing, imaginary haven. Be there in your mind, as if you were there in real life. Just let go, take it all in, and ENJOY!
Spend about 8 to 15 minutes in this relaxing environment, and then imagine you're slowly walking up a staircase of five steps. And when you reach the fifth step, slowly open your eyelids, inhale deeply, and have a long invigorating stretch.
After you've returned to your full awareness, don't get up just yet. Lay still for at least 30 more seconds, and during that time, become aware of how you feel. Your body should feel extremely relaxed, and your mind peaceful and refreshed. Arise and continue with your day.
SLEEPING DEEPLY AND SOUNDLY
Feeling alert, rejuvenated, and energized upon awakening enables you to tackle the demands of your day with maximum effectiveness, and to generate peak contraction intensity when you train. To experience this refreshed feeling of power, and to ensure you fully recuperate, it's essential you enjoy a deep, soothing quality of sleep all night long.
The following sleep enhancement tips will help you to slumber soundly throughout the entire night, and use your sleep period to promote strengthening and development of your muscularity.
A ) Make your Bedroom as relaxing of an environment as possible. A firm mattress, comfortable pillow and comforter, fresh clean sheets and pillowcases, all can make you feel soothed and at ease. You might want to hang pictures of relaxing, natural environments on your wall too; ocean scenes, lush green mountains, a sunset, waterfall, rolling meadow s, snow capped peaks, etc. Images like these help suggest peace and serenity to your subconscious mind. If at all possible, keep your business paperwork and any other work requiring intense concentrated effort outside the room where you sleep. To as great a degree as possible, allow your mind to associate your bedroom solely with rest, relaxation, peaceful sleep, and sex .
B ) When sleeping, try to have your bedroom dark, quiet, and keep the temperature at a moderately cool setting (60 - 70°)
C ) -- but be sure to keep yourself warm and cozy. If necessary use eye shades, ear plugs, or extra blankets.
D ) Get into bed to sleep only when you can't stay awake any longer. Don't force yourself into bed merely because it's getting late.
E ) Awaken at the same time every day no matter how little sleep you may have had.
F ) One half hour before you get into bed to sleep, ingest liquids which sooth and relax your nervous system. A cup of warm herb tea mixture such as Celestial Seasonings "Sleepy time" (or other containing valerian, hops, chamomile, and passion flower) will help you wind down and feel at ease and mellow -- a state which allows you to fall asleep much more quickly and easily.
G) Avoid all caffeine beverages at least three full hours before your bedtime -- cola, coffee, regular tea, and chocolate drinks are laced with caffeine which is a stimulant and will promote feeling "wired," quite the opposite sensation from the sleep inducing serenity you desire.
H ) One hour before bed, indulge in a luxuriating hot shower or bath to relax muscles and dissipate tension.
I ) As much as possible, prepare for tomorrow the night before. Organize the following day so you eliminate the feeling of unfinished business, and get a "jump" on tomorrow's demands.
J ) Never procrastinate. Delayed tasks are rarely easier and lay " heavy" on your mind; which is the reason procrastination has been linked with sleep problems.
K ) At bedtime, write down anything you want to or need to remember. This frees the mind and lets you "drift off" easily and peacefully.
L ) Practice emotional clearing -- forgive and release the hurts, frustrations, and stumbling blocks of your day before they sink down into subconscious levels and come back to "haunt" you. Throw your emotional garbage out by choosing to mentally release every discomforting, frustrating aspect of your day.
M) Repeat, slowly and quietly, the following progressive relaxation just prior to getting into bed (it will help you to relax yourself so natural slumber comes easily):
"My toes are relaxed, my ankles are relaxed, my abdominal muscles are relaxed, my heart and lungs are relaxed, my hands and arms are relaxed, my neck is relaxed, my brain is relaxed, my facial muscles are relaxed, my eyes are relaxed -- my whole mind, body and spirit is relaxed, soothed, and serene." Following this relaxation technique, you may also want to say a mental cleansing affirmation:
"I am at peace, I am poised, serene, still, and at ease. I rest in security and in easy calmness. A great wave of soothing comfort rolls over me, and a great calm deeply quiets my mind and my soul. I expect the best and know that I have the right to all good things in life. I sleep in peace and awake in joy. Everything is okay because I'm okay. I now let go and drift into easy, restful slumber."
Sleeping deeply is a natural, important part of continued bodybuilding success. So use the sections presented above to promote restful sleep; you'll perform at FULL power, and will ensure you command energy levels which fuel peak training impact!
Peter C. Siegel is America's leading peak performance hypnotherapist. A prolific author, seminar leader, and clinician, his personal power programs have enabled thousands to break free of destructive self-programming, and go on to lead masterfully successful, triumphant lives.
For 20 years now he's personally worked with professional athletes (NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, PGA) on the mental part of their game, helping them to achieve peak performance and shatter their all-time personal bests. He and his work have been featured in the L.A. Times, Newsday, Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Shape, Sport, Runners World, Sports illustrated, The Daily New s, Golf Illustrated, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He has personally worked with pro bodybuilders who went on to win Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and Mr. Olympia titles. And he's worked with players on the N.Y. Mets, L.A. Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Anaheim Angels, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Dallas Cow boys, L.A. Raiders, K.C. Chiefs, L.A. Kings, N.Y. Rangers, N.J. Devils, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks professional sports teams. His newest project, Building Super Confidence, a life-transforming book and audio program, is now available from Power Mind, Marina del Rey, California, ($64.95). To order, Call (310) 280-3269