Monday, 7 November 2011

Give your mind power and your body strength.

Fluffy Oakes is a trained killer. An expert in MMA, he is at the peak of his physical fitness and assures me he is “a fearless bastard.” Who better to ask for training advice than this Manchester martial arts legend? Today, Power is a State of Mind hands over to Fluffy. We're giving him a month to whip us into shape.


There is physical strength, and there is mental strength. Mental strength is required if you work in a difficult job, like social work or nursing. Jobs such as these require emotional stability- working with people who have injuries, whether physical or mental, will test you. But it will also build you. To get through a day without letting sympathy distract you from the task at hand is something that only a few are suited to, but people can become mentally and emotionally tough through these testing experiences.

Physical strength is much easier to develop, achieved usually through the repetitive action of lifting weights. The more times you lift, the more weight you can lift. But there will be times when you will get stuck. No matter how many times you do a certain movement, it seems, you just can't get over it. You'll reach a plateau, and it will feel like trying to climb over a wall that's just a tad too high for your fingers to reach.

So what do you do if you're stuck on a particular movement? My advice will buck the trend- leave it.

If you hit a plateau, don't try the weight again for a few weeks. Bear with me here. It helps if you bring a pocket notebook to the gym, along with a pen. Put the name of each movement on its own sheet, at the top. Put the weight you've lifted on the left, and the date you lifted it on the right. Each time you make a new personal best, mark it on underneath in a column. This is your achievement. No matter how small you think the weight is- no matter how many meathead units are in the gym alongside you, lifting three times as much- feel good about it. This is your personal best. If you work out properly and regularly, and you eat and sleep well, it can only go up from here.

Do this with as many movements as you like. Watch your records break and your body improve. If you're reaching plateaus already, it's fair to say you're a regular gym goer and you know what you can and can't do. Make a note of the date of the attempt and skip that movement. Here's why.

Each time you attempt to beat a personal best and you fail, you start a mental conversation with your “inner critic.” 

Everybody has their own inner critic. It's a part of your psyche that tells you- No. You can't do that.

On that weight movement at that time, your inner parent speaks to you. “Stop trying to lift that weight,” the parent says. “You are a scrawny, stupid weakling and the whole gym is watching you struggle. Give up.”

Your inner parent is an arse, but you must still listen. If you return to that weight movement for the next five days, you could fail to improve every time. Meanwhile, you could have been improving on other exercises you perform in your gym routine. In a 45-minute gym session, you aren't going to stick to one machine, unless you want a bizarrely disproportioned body, or you want to injure yourself. So skip it, and move on to a machine you feel you can improve on. A new personal best on one machine could well allow for an improvement on a machine that uses some of the same muscle set. Or, throughout training, your cardio may improve through the "shock" your body gets from the break of routine- not just from the cardio machines.

Here's what's important- whenever you exercise, you release endorphins into your bloodstream. This makes you feel good. Couple this with the feeling you get when you know you've improved yourself, and you'll feel extra good.

I recently ran through around half of the exercises I practice, one after the other, in a series of 45 minute sessions. It took a full month. So I'm in no danger of running out of exercises even if I hit loads of plateaus.

The only machine you should be going back to, regardless of how many times you fail to improve on it, is the cross trainer. This machine is perfect for warming up all the muscles in your body and great for improving cardio. Do a ten minute blast of this right at the start of your session. To improve on it, you might find doing it twice per session for a week or so will yield sudden improvements.

Matt Tuckey claims he's going to do this for a month. He'd better do, otherwise I'll beat his bitch ass. And he knows it. I will be more lenient on you, but you can do just as well as him. Now switch off your computer... and go to the gym.


M.J. Nicholls said...

Wise advice. Esp re the shutting up your inner critic. I have a whole Times Literary Supplement in there. I have to drown them out with music. Cure this insecurity! (Good post!)

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