In our current situation, dealing with the pandemic of Corona Virus and Covid19, this couldn’t be more relevant. Everything has shut down. Since my last post about seeking growth and my awesome visit to a MLB training site, the world seems to be shutting down. Here in California, nearly all schools and businesses are closed with exceptions being those tied to health, well-being, and daily necessities (food, building, etc.). But for the vast majority of us, things have come to a grinding halt. Like many of you, my social media activity has grown as I seek information, “visit” with friends, and get lost in all the other BS it provides. And one theme has been consistent on my feeds. I see professionals addressing the need for self-care as we work through the difficulties of adapting to partially isolating ourselves from life’s daily routine and interactions. And it is this theme that has motivated today’s entry.
While getting my home workout in today, I was listening to a favorite podcast, “Wrestling Changed My Life” (https://wrestlingchangedmylife.com/). The talk was about Dan Gable, and if you know anything about wrestling in America, Gable is the fabled wrestler and coach who set the modern standard for training and intensity. But what many forget is that the man who beat him in the NCAA finals of his senior year (Gable’s only collegiate loss), did so by declaring he would at the outset. Larry Owings boldly declared “I’m not just here to win a championship, I’m here to beat Dan Gable (sic).” That’s ATTITUDE. It wasn’t bravado (he was 33-1 going into the tournament). It was a declaration of intent and purpose. And I think it is a great reminder to athletes that difficulties present fantastic opportunities for growth & resilience while devoting ourselves to our purpose.
This story also reminds me of an old axiom I use to give my athletes when I was a head coach, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it to get better.” I always said this with a smile and a simple reminder that I had asked them to set their own goals, and I was motivated as a coach to lead them along their path. And in a way, that is where we are now. Restricted to being at home, without access to our gyms, mats, courts, and fields is tough. Not being able to interact with our teammates and coaches is isolating. And many of you are going through similar symptoms of sudden loss just as severely injured athletes do. But this is where your attitude will be tested, and you have an opportunity to get mentally tougher through it all.
Earlier this week I put out a short video on Instagram (sportpsycoach.pspc) about the importance of maintaining a fitness routine at home. My statement was, “This is down time, not done time.” And this is the type of attitude I’m encouraging you to have right now. It isn’t about “feeling good”, being “happy”, or any of that other over-the-top positivity. Instead, it is about having an attitude that increases your motivation. By having a “get it done” attitude, you sign yourself up for an intent attached to purpose and meaning. In a way, you are making a contract with yourself. Your actions are a commitment to what is important to you, and there is a purposeful intent to overcome the challenges in front of you. Whether your goal is for a championship in the next season, or simply to maintain a level of fitness, the attitude you have will provide an up-tick in your level of optimism. This then becomes an upward spiral of thought, intentions, and actions. In short, you are more motivated by the attitude you project.
With an increase in motivation, you also experience an increase in your energy levels. This isn’t the “act positive, feel positive” mumbo jumbo. Instead it is a change in brain chemistry. We know for a fact now that how we think influences the neurological pathways and neurotransmitters in our brain. And by having the right attitude, we are converting negative thinking into focus combined with physical effort. Some types of negative thinking can bog us down, make us feel stuck, and essentially become unmotivated as we ruminate about the uncomfortable. But having an attitude about getting something done because it is important to the self positively influences these “brain mechanics” in a way that leads to greater energy. In part this is because we expect to reach the end result of a goal we have set for ourselves. For example, if you expect to be ready to play when the season resumes, having an attitude about staying fit and limber provides greater motivation, and thus energy about getting your workout in today.
So where can you begin? Start with the little things you can control. Engage in an activity that elevates your cardiovascular system to a level that keeps you fit. For example, I can’t run anymore because of injuries to my knee, but I can get on my stationary bike and ride while hitting the right heartrate. And you may not have a great weight set at home, but you can do isometrics (push-ups, crunchies, broad jumps, ladder work, etc.). Get creative and start. But also take into account James Clear’s advice in starting with “Atomic Habits”. Set goals for today and tomorrow that are within your range. Develop a pattern to prove your attitude is accurate, and build some momentum for the next few days. Right now isn’t about volume or intensity, but instead about developing good habits, supported with the right attitude, to keep yourself focused on your long term goals. Remember, you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it to get better. Should you find yourself needing more help in this area, why wait? Make the call, bring in an expert.