What an incredible example of our mind's default setting! Distraction. This video portraying the kids succumbed (distracted) by the music rather than lining up and getting mentally engaged for the play happens all the time! It is typically not as blatant as this example - we might be thinking of the previous play or about our task list for the evening - we might be day-dreaming about our lover or gripped by the opponent in our head. This distraction results in limited performance potential rather than optimal performance. Those who perform optimally are deeply connected to task at hand. They are laser-focused. Peak performers quiet the mind so that their attention and energy is skillfully applied to the present moment. Here are two critical ways to quiet the mind from distractions:
A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools. -Spanish Proverb
As we enter the Fall season and the weather cools down a bit (especially for those of us up north), it becomes more difficult to take care of our bodies. Cold-weather laziness settles in. This Spanish proverb, though, is an important reminder. As athletes, our tools are our bodies! If we're too busy to take care of our bodies, our athletic skills are going to be softer than their potential. In order to reach our athletic peaks it is vital to maintain healthy minds and bodies. Physical and mental wellness are at the very root of what it takes to achieve at an elite level on any stage - on sports or in other aspects of society. So, what do we need to be conscious of to live well? We believe it is a combination of: rest/sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, and the ability to manage stress. Here are some questions to consider for each pillar.
- Are you sleeping sound at night?
- Are you taking a power-nap during the day to recharge?
- Are you eating a balanced diet?
- Are you eating multiple meals throughout the day in order to fuel your body right?
- Are you practicing a mindfulness activity such as yoga or meditation?
- Are you balancing all of your action (e.g., practice or competition) with down time (e.g. reflective reading)
- What are you most stressed about?
- Do you have a community of people who challenge and support you to work through your stressors?
*(Thanks to tilt's Director of Community Engagement Cameron Dwyer for drafting this blog!)
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” – Special Olympics Athlete Oath
Between July 25th and August 2nd, 6,500 athletes will take center stage and show the world what they are capable of. What makes these events stand out is the fact that all the competing athletes have some form of an intellectual disability. Notwithstanding, like their Olympic brothers and sisters, these athletes strive to become world champions. From gymnastics competitions to the triathlon these special Olympians embrace and exemplify the mental toughness capacities that are critical to shining during competition.
The Special Olympics is an environment that excels in mental toughness. Not only are these athletes competing to win gold, silver, and bronze medals, they are also competing against the odds stacked against them. Through rigorous physical and mental toughness training, these athletes prepare themselves for the plentitude of competitions with which they engage. These athletes define what it is to be mentally prepared, not only for competition, but for life’s many challenges. Through competing in events like these, Special Olympians create the foundation to become more active individuals in their communities, making the world a better place.
(A blog post written by Helena Hernandez)
Ever tried working on a team that lacks leadership? Yes? How did that go? (I’m guessing it did not go too well!)
Every team needs leadership. Every team needs leaders. However, this notion of leadership is not intended to put someone on a pedestal. Leadership is a tool and skill utilized to guide and unify the team towards goal accomplishment.
In popular culture and the media, athletes are often portrayed as dumb jocks – physically fit and mentally incapable. We want to change this narrative. Athletes, especially those performing at the highest levels are not only physically fit, they are mentally fit. Their mental fitness manifests as both resiliency and exceptional leadership skills. Both of which are necessary to gain the trust of their teammates and to mobilize their teammates towards success.
(Helena is a rising junior at Babson College. She is pursuing a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and Information Systems. Helena is presently interning in the marketing team of the legal department operations section of Argopoint - a boutique, legal management consulting firm in Beacon Hill, MA.)
As a follow-up to last week's nutrition and body type post, we thought we would write a little something on nutritional supplements. As you've seen, nutritional supplements are flooding the performance enhancement field. Everyone and anyone interested in enhancing sport performance from high school wrestlers to the current women's world cup superstars are thinking about it. Some performance enhancers are legal—others are not. What’s more, the FDA does not regulate this stuff. There are hundreds of books and articles written about supplements. For right now let this post be a simple why, how, and what in regards to supplements. Furthermore, it offers some reference guides towards those companies and third party researchers we believe to be reputable.
Why - Before you start wasting an extraordinary amount of time and money trying to find what supplements work for you there is a little work that should be done. First, answer a couple questions:
What are the chances that you are deficient in the essential nutrient that you believe is worth you supplementing?
First ensure that you are getting enough calories from great whole food, ensure that your diet and your lifestyle is diverse, and that fruits and vegetable are a staple at every meal. Supplements aren’t always needed if you are eating appropriately for your life and activity level. Parts of the year when you might be doing some intense training or competing might be one example when supplementation might be the way to go.
What physiological system am I hoping to target with this supplement?
For example, creatine targets the fast/explosive (ATP-PCr) physiological system so if your exercise includes high intensity and heavy training. This might be a useful supplement. As with anything, consult a nutritionist or doctor about what supplements help and when the yare most beneficial.
What does the research say?
Do some research on your own. It is best to find peer-reviewed studies. Set up a conversation with your coach or a nutritionist. Or find a reputable online resource (they’re out there if you look hard enough). More on this below...
How - Nutrients aren’t always necessary if you are practicing a solid diet regimen (this doesn’t mean a perfect diet, that is only necessary for certain athletes at certain points in the competitive year for a short duration). However, there might be times when supplements are appropriate and very useful. When choosing supplements, here are some good online resources that can confirm the efficacy (or lack there of) and the safety of what you choose: www.pubmed.com, www.nsf.com, www.hfl.co.uk, www.consumerlab.com, and www.dietarysupplementu.com.
Additionally we find it best to:
· Chose large reputable distributors
· Choose supplements with small ingredient lists
· Make sure there are no crazy interactions with other medications you may be taking.
· For supplements that are directly related to performance, protein (in some cases) creatine, beta-alanine strongly consider the timing and always follow appropriate dosing suggestions.
What - Here are the essentials for supporting health and performance: Protein, Fish oil and greens supplements should be the staples.
Although some what controversial the research states pretty clearly that a high-protein diet is perfectly safe in healthy active individuals. Furthermore, it is important in regards to performance and body composition. A reasonable dosage guide is 20-30 grams for women and 40-60 grams for men per meal. Or Approx. 1g/lb of body weight per day (150lb athlete= 150grams per day)
The research supporting the health benefits of fish oil is rather extensive. Among other benefits it plays a huge role in the body’s inflammation pathways which can in form heart heart and joint health, obesity and arthritis. With the standard North American Diet the consumption of unhealthy trans fats, highly processed foods and sugar; supplementing with fish oil can bring omega 6: omega 3 ratio within balance. Which generally means a 3:1 ratio. Consider checking out- http://www.nutrasource.ca/ifos/ for reputable, safe products and for dosing recommendations. as fish oil can become oxidized very quickly and much of our fish supply is laden with toxic heavy metals. A general dosage recommendation is 2-3 grams per day.
It’s true! Veggies should predominate your diet. A green supplement is fruits, veggies, grasses turned to powder form. Try for 8-12 servings a day. As an FYI, a serving equals about: one medium sized fruit, ½ cup raw,chopped fruit or veggies or 1cup of leafy greens equals one serving.
Most Americans consume 2-4 servings. If you are getting about 10servings than supplementing is not necessary. To up your servings throw a handful of spinach in your morning or post workout shake. Green supplements are exactly that, a supplement. And should not replace your intake of god whole fruits and veggies. Just because you take a green supplement or two a day does not mean you are free to remove them from each meal. They can help with energy, ph balance in the body, recovery and a host of cardio vascular benefits.
Peter Athans the author of this post is a Level 1 certified nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition. He is not a nutritionist or a dietician - simply a coach who provides nutrition advice. The contents of this article are never meant to treat or cure illness or disease. For advance dietary guidance consult your physician or we would be happy to refer you to a nutritional professional in your area.
Little did you know that that there are three different body types - ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs! This blog will explore the difference between the three. First, though, let’s discuss what we mean by body type.
Body types refer to the way our bodies are structured with regard to the distribution of fat and muscle. Lifestyle, eating, and training habits can certainly inform what category we fall into, but for the most part, we got what we got. Beyond what our bodies looks like, our body type can also be described by how we respond to metabolizing food in general and how well we tolerate carbs, in particular. As usual, this post is just as much a reflection in self-awareness and mindfulness as it is on nutrition. When we become aware of how our body responds internally (e.g., blood chemistry and concentration) and externally (e.g., body composition and performance) than we can begin to eat foods that our bodies want and need. More so, we can begin creating eating and living habits that are guided by mindful and informed decisions not simply by sugar cravings and circumstance.
Let’s get into eating for our body types-
Think Marathon runner. Small bones and thin limbs. These are the skinny guys and gals that seemingly can eat whatever they want and their metabolism goes to work. The end result is zero weight gain. Although these athletes have a predisposition to be lean that doesn’t necessarily mean that their bodies are healthy and ready for optimal performance. These individuals are sympathetically dominant and tend to have a lot of energy…always. Most ectomorphs respond well to carbs. Generally healthy, active ectomorphs can break their macronutrients down like this:
(Think high carbs low fat.)
This is the other side of the spectrum from ectomorphs. Endomorphs generally have a more round body shape. They store fat more easily have wider waists and larger bones, compared to the other body types. Naturally, they have a slower metabolic rate, a less engaged sympathetic nervous system, and less of a tolerance for carbohydrates. Generally, endomorphs have the goal of losing body fat, these body types can break their macronutrient down like this:
A useful strategy for endomorphs who are trying to lose abdominal fat is to time up the intake of their carbohydrates around their workout. Meaning, take in the majority (or in some cases all) of the carbs following the workout. They are likely to be predisposed to Absolute strength exercising- strongman or powerlifting athletes.
Think Bo Jackson or the Williams Sisters (Venus and Serena) These are the body types that are athletic and V-Shaped. Skinny waist, broad shoulders, muscular legs. Naturally, testosterone and growth hormone dominant, they have a moderate-high level of sympathetic activity. A Mesomorph typically would eat to maintain or build muscle to support athletic performance. They might break their macronutrient down like this
Great coaches know that strong bodies are born out of strong minds—and vice versa—strong minds are born out of strong bodies. We know that mental strength is tied intimately with physical training. For example, the simple (or not-so-simple) act of waking up at 6am to get after your push-ups and wall-sits will result in mental toughness gains. This act of determination also increases in your discipline and focus. The same is true if after a long day of work, you dedicate time on the track or elliptical or to engage in interval training.
As a mental conditioning coach for elite soldiers and athletes, Pete, one of tilt's cofounders, spent countless hours teaching individuals and teams ways in which to enhance their mental toughness. Most often these teaching moments were in the context of a physical workout. This is the most optimal place for mental toughness to develop—a mental toughness learning laboratory!
To be clear though, mental toughness is not merely a byproduct of a challenging workout. Mental toughness training needs to be facilitated by a skilled mental toughness coach. Leaving our mental skills to be trained by a strength coach, for example, is like asking a sport psychology consultant to develop an off-season physical strength and conditioning training program.
The mental skills that a mental conditioning coach brings to any system of training can be a force-multiplier for all aspects of training and rehab. Meaning that the skills can be applied during a workout, on a training table, on the practice field, or during competition. This makes the mental conditioning coach an intermediary through which all coaches, trainers, and players communicate. The enhanced synergy and cohesion on and off the field will make for a more fruitful playing/working experience.
Interested in mental toughness training this summer? tilt offers mental toughness training with certified coaches.
Contact us for more details.
We’ve all experienced being “in the zone.” When in the zone (or as it is called in the research literature—“flow”), we are deeply connected to the moment, and time seems to stop. There is a sense of euphoria and effortlessness. There is no thinking or attachment to the experience and there certainly isn’t any fear. It is a powerful experience! When tapping into the zone, we are amazingly present and dialed into the experience at hand. Unfortunately, sports psychologists and others can’t get you into the zone. They can, however, help in setting conditions for it. To be clear, getting into the zone is a personal experience—one that can only happen by you. Sports psychologists assist athletes in developing the character traits that allow one to ease into flow as well as assist athletes in removing mental obstacles (e.g., fear, doubt, anger, frustration, unhealthy self-criticism) that prevent flow
Entering the zone is rare and happens differently for each individual. However there is an amazing body of research and literature that points to ways each of us can create the conditions for getting into the zone. One such author is Steven Kotler (The Rise of Superman). Kotler details flow triggers—psychological, environmental, social, and creative triggers that allow us to set the foundation for these peak performance experiences.
Below are a few factors that can assist us in entering the zone. These are all directly within our control:
#1- Articulate clearly defined goals. (Know what you are doing and why you are doing it!)
#2- Take risks. (Don’t shy away from that which you desire.)
#3- Narrow your focus. (Flow demands single-minded attention.)
#4- Engage in activities slightly above your skill level. (Our undertakings should be challenging—that is evenly situated between boredom and anxiety—see the diagram below.)
A forefather of flow research, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the book, Flow articulates that getting into the zone happens when our skills match the challenge. This is emphasized with the diagram below—highlighting the “flow channel”
“Everybody can get faster; but not everybody will be fast" (Lance Walker).
Building confidence mirrors Lance Walker's sentiment. Confidence is a skill that can be learned and cultivated through deliberate practice just like strength, speed, and endurance. We recognize that some performers are simply better prepared or genetically predisposed (probably a little of both) to be supremely confident (i.e., Muhammad Ali). When the pressure is on, elite performers seem to intrinsically know the outcome. This is confidence—the authentic belief that you can achieve success. At tilt, we've compiled some techniques that will help you foster a confident mindset--one that that expects greatness:
Reflect- This practice may be the starting point of every mental skill. Reflecting is the act of spending time with your Self. Ask pointed questions inward: What lights your fire or quenches your thirst? Where is home? Who provides deep-level support? When do you feel most alive? How are you measuring your goals and what is next to be accomplished? Why have you stumbled in…? Reflecting is a common theme for these who are striving for self-awareness. We encourage you to spend a minimum of 5 minutes a day (morning or night) purposefully pausing and reflecting on questions such as these—questions of depth and significance.
Set A Goal (and then set another one)- Confidence is consistent effective thinking…with an emphasis on consistent. But time in that reflective "thinking" space is not enough. Confidence is built upon setting and then achieving goals. Accomplishing even a seemingly inconsequential goal can give you reason to believe that you complete more complex goals. Your beliefs become grounded in these truths once you start achieving success.
Know Thyself- Bruce Lee never walked around looking for people to fight. He did not need to prove his skills by bullying others. Confident performers know that they need not explain or prove their skills. These skills shine when it matters most…
Do YOU! Be YOU!- Confidence is derived from being your best Self. Connecting with your values and acting from that place enhances ones sense of self and confidence. The most confident performers never try to imitate others.
Selective Perception- Confidence is not about what happens to you. It is about how you respond to what happens to you. It is our choice whether we approach each task with (or without) confidence. Just because you have a reason to doubt doesn’t give you the right too.
Our lives go as our breaths go. Literally. If our breathing is chaotic, panicked, and disjointed our performance—and to a greater extent—our lives will follow. Chaos. Panic. Disconnection. It begins with the breath.
When we breathe smoothly and rhythmically, our performance will follow. We will operate with efficiency, rhythm, and connection. Our breathe is our guide. Let’s take a step back and review breathing.
Breathing is one of only two functions of the autonomic nervous system that is both voluntary and involuntary—the other function is blinking. Because our breathing functions under our control as well as an automatic part of our bodies’ operation, it is remarkably important listen to—to be in tune with. When we learn to tap into and control our breathe, we are well on or way to performing—especially under pressure.
Let’s take a moment to practice. Take a moment to inhale deeply with poise and control. Three seconds inhale. (Pause for a moment). Three seconds exhale. Three seconds inhale. (Pause for a moment). Three seconds exhale. Three seconds inhale. (Pause for a moment). Three seconds exhale. Practicing with our breath in this poised and controlled manner can have far-reaching and long-lasting implications. Here are some reminders for your next breathing practice:
However, let’s not expect to focus all of our energy on our breathing during the heat of competition. If we are thinking about controlling our breathe while we are performing, our attention is not where it should be. That's why we practice and harness this strength during downtimes.
After intentional practice, our controlled breathe becomes our default. And when controlled breathing is the default, during the pressure situations of competition, we need not focus on our breathe—we’ve already mastered it and can naturally react with efficiency, rhythm, and connection—cornerstones of optimal performance.
We envision a world