Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wake up.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Getting In Shape (Sans Movement)

Have you ever had a goal, but it seemed like your situation made it impossible to pursue it?

I firmly believe that no matter what your predicament, you can move closer to your goals. You can always do something right now, with whatever you have, no matter how SOL you seem in the moment.

Well, this belief was put to the test recently. I just had a major surgery (on my upper jaw), and found myself unable to exercise or work for the next few weeks/months. Improving my body and becoming financially free are two of my highest priorities, so this definitely wasn't something I was happy about - a prescription of Declining fitness and No income for three months. A certain crazy Scientologist's voice popped into my head just then, "you gotta roll with it, adapt, e-ching!" (plus two points if you know what that's from)

For money I've been pursuing some business ideas, and I sat down and figured out how to auction on eBay (a skill I've procrastinated on learning). And I've been selling as much as I can, turning all the junk laying around into savings (and capital for future investments).

But what do about staying in shape? I mean if you can't move, you can't workout.
Thinking on solutions, I came across a pretty fascinating article:

"Now research is suggesting that visualization can actually strengthen muscles. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio investigated the strength benefits of imagining exercising a muscle. They reported that just thinking about exercise helped maintain muscle strength in a group of subjects.

They split 30 healthy young adults into 3 groups. For 15 minutes a day, five days a week for 12 week, Group #1 imagined exercising their little finger muscle. Group #2 imagined exercising their biceps muscle and Group #3 acted as a control group and did no imaginary exercise. Those in the first two groups were asked to think as strongly as they could about moving the muscle being tested, to make the imaginary movement as real as possible. The researchers measured muscle strength before, during and after the training sessions.

Group #1 (the finger exercisers) increased their strength 53 percent, wand Group #2 (the biceps group) increased strength by 13.4 percent.

Sounds unbelievable, but consider that measurements of the brain activity during visualization sessions suggest that these strength gains were due to improvements in the brain's ability to signal muscle activity. Suddenly the benefit of visualization is clear.

Researchers hope these results will assist in the therapy of stroke and spinal cord injury patients, and possibly injured athletes. The researchers believe that anyone who has difficulty doing physical exercises can use mental training methods to improve the muscle strength they have lost or maintain the muscle strength they have."

13.4 percent strength increase from sitting on your arse! Mindblowing.

Now, keep in mind - as the article suggests at it's close, sports/fitness visualization should normally supplement, not replace, traditional exercise. But if you're injured or unable to train then this is a fantastic option to avoid atrophy and keep making gains. This is something everyone can do, because everyone has (or can make) at least 10-15 minutes in their day, especially for something as important as your health.

Now, for some actionable steps:

1. Sit up somewhere comfy without distractions (except any music you might listen to while you workout, I've found this helps keep my mind focused).

2. Relax yourself, and take a few long, slow breaths.

3. Get in a positive state of mind, and make sure your visualizations are pictured brightly not dimly, if you need to, imagine you're working out on a sunny day, no matter what season it happens to be at the moment. Remember, the human mind cannot tell the difference between something vividly imagined and reality.

4. Use all your senses when imagining; the feels, the smells, the (positive) emotions and thoughts you'd normally have working out, the taste of drinking from your water bottle, the feel of sweating, your mouthguard, and the clothes you normally wear to train. Notice the little details of your surroundings, feel everything - the more real it is, the more effective it will be.

5. If your mind wanders, just acknowledge the thought, let it go, and move your mind back to exercising.

6. End the session on a positive note, and be proud you trained hard and pushed yourself.

I'd also recommend alternating the days you workout muscle groups, just as you would normally. The muscles are growing, and they still need days off to tear down and rebuild - not to mention that 15 minutes goes fast, and it's hard to fit everything in. I typically alternate between punching bag-speed bag-situps on one day, and roadwork-hillsprints-jump rope the next.

You should adjust the session to your personal time constraints, 15 minutes per specific exercise would be ideal. But if you're as pressed for time (or as ADD) as I am, then I'd say stick to the 15 for everything, and perhaps increase it as you improve at sitting still and focusing, and finding ways to adjust your schedule.