So, the first month of the year is almost over. I know I know!
Its going a lot faster than you anticipated and you are far more hectic than you remember from last year. Racing season is upon us and with this new economic freak out the world is having, your work load seems to be twice it was last year.
The `ol Urban Ninja has a trick up his sleeve for you this week. I call it the 7 day mental detox, and has a lot to do with clearing your mental junk food, and rigging your mind for the rest of the year. We plan a lot at the start of the year but its easy to set the path that the rest of the year is just going to go by without a hitch. This will help you on your way.
Now, for the athletes who read this blog to relate (we need numbers and athletic terms for it to make sense right?), its about the same as going through the mental process of: what kind of workout can I do to improve leg strength and leg speed, increase my threshold power and VO2 max and lose 5 kilograms in just one week?
That takes a while longer than a few days. The body takes time to adapt, but luckily, the mind is a incredible tool, our most powerful took. It can see huge gains in just seven days. You can significantly improve performance, motivation, focus and confidence; not just in your cycling pursuits, but in every aspect your life.
A disclaimer: this is not something I invented. During my years, I’ve come across this concept several times in a variety of incarnations. I’ve heard Deepak Chopra, Ekhardt Tolle & various other smart people I know talk about it. All religions speak of it too. It’s a simple program in the sense that it doesn’t require intervals, meditation or hypnosis. In fact, you don’t even have to set aside five minutes a day to work on it. Nonetheless, it takes a great deal of concentration and a larger than life motivation to want to improve your life by making the right choices moment to moment.
I cant admit to getting this right all the time or that its easy, but the point is that we make the effort. Experts are overrated, its all about passion and people who want to be involved, right? I’ve started it a few times, but I’ve never seen it through to the end. However, right now as I write this, I am making a vow to start it again on Monday next week, and want to start a group to keep each other motivated. So, if you`re keen after reading the article – let me know and we can start a group. I’m hoping the knowledge that some of you reading this will come along for the journey will give me that added incentive to see it through to the end. Afterwards, I look forward to hearing your stories of success and, let’s not say failure, but abandoned attempts. Let’s face it, if it were easy, everyone would do it. But to know this and not do it, is not to know it at all.
This program is so simple that I can give the instructions it in just one sentence.
Only think positive thoughts for one week.
Restricting thoughts to those with only positive connotations for seven days will permanently change the deep-seeded thought patterns in your brain and the brain chemistry that has developed around them to keep them in place. Negative, self-deprecating thoughts are like an old worn out pair of sneakers. They’re bad for your arches, the hurt your knees when you run and they look like your dog’s been using them as a chew toy, but they are comfortable and you are used to them so you keep them around.
These thoughts, though negative, are comforting and reassuring, not just because we’ve cuddled up to them for so long but because, let’s face it, they give us an excuse to fail:
– You get dropped on the group ride = I’m too old to keep up with these guys.
– You have to walk the last few hills on your long run = I’ve always been a terrible climber, i`m too fat and I will never be a fast runner..
– You cant get your 1500m swim time under 25minutes, no matter how much you train = I suck at swimming. Full stop. I will never ever improve.
These thoughts take the sting out of failure, but they don’t help us move forward. In fact, they allow us to sink deeper into our own negative misconceptions about ourselves and prevent any chance of achieving success in these areas. It’s time to change all that!
The comfort we find in these negative patterns has a lot to do with the 3000 odd marketing messages we receive a day that tell us “you are not enough”. Without that make-up, those high heels, that expensive whiskey, you will never be enough. How is that motivational? Lets think of a new set of trainers. We all have to go through this process, triathlete or not. Almost everyone buys new training shoes at some point. They look great right, but your first few wears are a disaster. Blisters, stiff and a grave fear of mud all have you scared, but you tread lightly and within a week they are almost like slippers (dusty slippers). Most of the fears are gone and a quick wash can solve the rest.
The feelings you will experience when you begin the withdrawal process are similar to those you might feel in the first few days wearing new sneakers. You may even relate it to the feelings of withdrawing from an addictive drug like nicotine. Your ego has actually become physically addicted to those thoughts and needs them to function. They’ve worn comfortable tracks into your mind like the groove in a record. You will actually become physically uncomfortable as you enter the mental detox. This is the ego dying off and I don’t know anything that likes to die, so it will fight you.. You will feel a desperate pull to return to those negative thoughts like an alcoholic might feel when he walks past a liquor store. Its like the woman who goes back to a wife beater husband time after time. The fear of starting fresh and alone is bigger than the fear of being hit.
The first few days will be the hardest. After that, the positive thoughts will begin to flow more freely and the pull of the old habit of doubtful, negative thinking will dissipate. After a week, the new positive thoughts you’ve been filling your mind with will have scratched out the old grooves that the negative thoughts created and worn their own, new grooves. Now, the positive, hopeful, optimistic thoughts will be the ones that pull you in – your new, healthy addiction.
This is what you must do. For one week, you can not say or do anything negative. You must immediately banish negative thoughts as they come into your head. You must do this not just with sports, but with all aspects of your life. Not only should you avoid thinking about what a bad climber you are or worrying that you might crash or get hit by a car, you also must not worry that you might lose your job, worry that your girlfriend will dump you or even get angry when you see suffering and injustice on the nightly news.
Do everything possible to avoid any negative thoughts. Unfortunately this will also mean a opening of the eyes to who and what you surround yourself with. You might find that your friends are actually overly negative, that your work environment only deals with bad news or negative ways of doing things. I can only promise a long term benefit with more time, less illness and far more energy.
And trust me, you will want to. Perhaps some of you are thinking, I’m a pretty positive person, this should be no problem for me, but consider the following emotions that must be completely avoided in the week. Anger, sadness, irritation, impatience, doubt, worry, insecurity, resentment, hatred, bitterness, dislike, nervousness, disgust, worry, depression, dejection, despair, unhappiness, anguish, misery, anxiety, angst, dislike. You can’t be too hot, too cold, itchy, hungry, uncomfortable, tired, sore, or bored. You can’t get angry at the driver who cuts you off in traffic or the rider in front of you who forgets to call out a pot hole on a group ride. Don’t get upset at the guy who touches your feet in the swim, or who skips the queue at the supermarket. You also can’t get angry when you ride into that pothole and get a double flat and you can’t get upset when no one stops for you and you have to shell out R100 for lunch for your buddy who came to pick you up in the middle of nowhere. Doesn’t sound so easy now, does it?
So how is it done? How is it possible to simply banish negative thoughts with the snap of a finger? Although it is a difficult process, the technique for doing it is actually quite simple. First of all, do not try not to think of negative thoughts. Try this exercise. For the next 10 seconds, whatever you do, don’t think about purple polar bears. How did it go? Not so well I’d imagine. This time, for the next 10 seconds, instead of trying not to think about purple polar bears, instead try to think of something else like yellow panda bears. How did it work out this time? Better, right?
The technique for adhering to this mental cleansing is just as simple. Instead of trying NOT to think something negative, try TO think of something positive. In one word… affirmations. Every time a negative thought of any kind starts to sneak into your mind, you must IMMEDIATELY cancel it out with a positive thought or affirmation. You must have this affirmation ready at all times, somewhere in your mind where you can quickly and easily pull it out like a gunfighter with his six shooter. The affirmation can be any positive phrase. Anything with any positive connotation whatsoever.
There is quite a bit of stuff which works for different people, but lately, because I am aiming for this goalpost to be a great guy, in all spheres of life, I find that telling myself that indeed, I am a great guy, works well to calm me.
The words themselves don’t necessarily mean anything. What counts is the function that they serve, which is to block the negative thought before it takes root in your mind. Try to come up with a few affirmations that are unique to you, that trigger a positive feeling in your mind. Think of the feeling or thought that you wish to banish the most. Then think of the inverse, positive version of that doubt or fear and make that your affirmation.
Now that you have an understanding of the monumental task ahead of you, you are ready to embark on your journey. Before you begin, you must decide if this is really something you are ready to do. You may even want to think it over for a few days before you start (hence the start next Monday). It’s a huge commitment and it’s not something you can casually approach. Prepare yourself for the possibility that it will be harder than you’d imagined and that you may, at many points, want to quit. Once you’ve purposefully determined your intention to complete this task, approach it like you’d approach a new goal on the bike, in the pool, or out on the road. Love the challenge and even the pain and always keep your eye on the end goal of crossing the finish line, winning the race and having your best day ever.
Conquer that ego, one decision at a time.