What do the following have in common:
- Mastering form
- Deep breathing
- Leafy greens
They are fundamentals and they are not sexy. What is sexy to us are performance enhancing supplements, junk food, gym gear, a bikini body training plan, 6-Week Shred…you get the picture.
We often neglect the important things, or forget they are even there. I mean, who sleeps a full 8 hours anymore? You probably have a full time job, a family, you’re studying a course, and you’re training for competition. There is not enough time as it is to do everything you need to do.
I get it. But prioritize the important stuff. Neglecting any one of the above for too long is going to be worse for you in the long run. It’s a balancing act for me too, and some days are really hard but know what your priorities are and make sure you make the best decisions you can to get you closer to your most important goals. Learn the difference between important vs urgent and you will always have enough time to do what’s important.
Let’s dive into each one of these very unsexy things in more detail and talk about why giving them more effort will lead to a more happy and awesome life.
For those of you engaged in high volume or heavy training, please don’t neglect stretching/mobility/proper warm up and cool down. The effect will culminate slowly until you realize you have tendinosis and you’re out of the gym for 5 months waiting for it to heal. Our bodies are amazing machines and very resilient, but without proper care in priming and softening you will not be as strong as you could be.
Action Task: Start by incorporating just 15 minutes either before or after your workout. If it is impossible, do this in between each exercise.
Everybody has their own optimal sleep level. Some people can function very well on 6 hours, others need 9 hours. Experiment and find what works for you. Train your circadian clock to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and you may be surprised that in a couple weeks your body will be waking itself up without an alarm. Let your own body be the alarm clock. When this happens, you are fully charged and primed to take on the day.
Your body releases growth hormone (HGH) when you sleep so if you’re training hard, sleep is critical to recovery. Sleeping is one of the most powerful natural ways to increase performance in and out of the gym.
Here are some successful (and busy) individuals who prioritize sleep:
Action Task: For the next 30 days, make a commitment and go to bed at the same time every night, weekends included. And wake up at the same time. Not only will you feel more refreshed but you will be more productive in the morning.
A huge thing keeping you from being as successful as you could be, is your ego!! Haha, this applied to me too. I took two steps back multiple times to focus on the fundamentals of good form. I tweaked my foot stance, bar positioning, and load over and over until it became second nature. A tip is to visualize yourself doing your lifts in your head. This mental practice can be just as powerful as actually doing it. This form is practice has been used to rehab a patient, and musicians use it constantly.
Action Task: Ask a personal trainer at our gym to provide her/his opinion on your form. Even if you do not agree, be open to the feedback and ask a lot of questions. Remember, just because s/he is a trainer does not always mean you should take their word for it.
If you don’t like meditation or yoga, here’s something you can do anywhere for as long or short as you’d like. Deep belly breathing is the single best relaxation technique, and being relaxed heightens your performance no matter what you’re doing.
Action Task: Stop reading this and take a moment to consider how you’re breathing. Is it shallow? Forced? Perform 10 slow breathes, taking in as much air as you can into your belly, then sloowwwwwly release it all, contracting your stomach to let all the air out. Do this sloowwwwwly.
Have you ever seen cow’s bone? Of course you have. It’s thick and strong, with a shit ton of nutrients, and what do they eat?? GRASS! That’s it! Combine this with sunlight (Vitamin D) and boom you are stronger than 90% of the population of North America. Those of you with long winters, MEGADOSE on vitamin D. It is crucial.
Salads aren’t just for a diet, people. Leafy greens is crucial for better health and the nitrates in them boosts athletic performance, so incorporate it on the daily. Popeye didn’t eat cans of spinach just because there was nothing else around the house to eat.
Action Task: Pick 1-2 leafy greens that you enjoy eating and incorporate a few servings each day.
If you’re doing everything right…you’re sleeping enough, you’re eating well, you’re training hard, CONSISTENTLY…then all that is left is patience. The more success you achieve, the harder you have to work to continue along that path.. A great example is plateaus… many people who hit plateaus give up. Why?! Yes, it will be a mental battle and a huge challenge but that is the whole point right? As the saying goes, if it was easy everybody would be doing it.
Action Task: Keep going because if you give up you will never know just how great you could have been.
Is there anything I’m missing from this list that has helped you perform better? Leave a comment below!
Yours in Strength,