I have had superheroes on the brain lately. I had a conversation with a co-worker about a week ago who commended me for my performance at a recent series of presentations I did for work, as well as the commitment and discipline I display when it comes to competition prep (despite the business travel and myriad temptations that come with it). When I told him about also regularly writing this blog, his response was something along the lines of, “Wow! You are like a superhero!” Quite the compliment!
That comment stuck with me. I really liked the idea of seeing myself that way. It also reminded me of an article I read a while back called I Am Batman – How To Get 10% Stronger in 10 Minutes By Playing Dress-Up, which talks about how you can increase your performance in the gym by using superhero imagery. It may sound a little ridiculous, but it is based on one of the fundamental tools used in sport psychology. Mental imagery can significantly influence your physical performance.
While I was in graduate school, we did a mental imagery exercise in class. We each partnered up with someone who was approximately the same height and stood facing each other about an arm’s length apart. Person #1 places their palm face up on their partner’s shoulder with their arm extended. Person #2 then places both hands on Person #1’s arm just above the elbow. Person #1 is instructed to lock out their arm so that Person #2 cannot bend it when applying downward force. Then we switched and played the other role.
Here is where the imagery part comes in. The second time around, Person #1 was first instructed to close their eyes and visualize their arm as an iron bar. Once they had the image firmly in their mind, Person #2 attempted to push down on Person #1’s arm again…but this time, it was much harder to get the arm to bend! I was skeptical, but after experiencing it first hand, I have to say it’s pretty incredible.
I remember from back in the day that at least one superhero used a telephone booth to change out of his ordinary clothes into his costume. I am going to make the locker room my metaphorical telephone booth. When I walk through those doors, I am no longer Kayla the average, ordinary 27-year-old. I become Kayla with the superhero with amazing strength, focus, and power! I don’t think I’m ready to start wearing a cape to the gym yet, but hopefully the imagery alone will suffice! 🙂
Finally, you can’t talk about superheroes without talking about kryptonite. No superhero is perfect, and each has some fundamental flaw or weakness that can ultimately lead to his or her defeat. Being successful requires that you know what your weak points are so you can minimize or mitigate them. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but honey-roasted cashews are definitely one of mine. My will power crumbles in their presence. I used to have a lot of other foods that I would classify as kryptonite, like pizza, wine, chocolate, and chips with guacamole, but you know what? Most of those things have lost their power. I still absolutely love them, but when I am in competition mode, they aren’t even a blip on my radar. Besides the Evil Cashew (and his other honey-roasted nut accomplices), my biggest weakness is my fear.
At the end of my workout with my trainer on Saturday, he told me he wanted me to try doing barbell snatches. I’ve done dumbbell snatches before, and actually really like them, but there is something about a barbell snatch that scared the hell out of me, even with just an empty bar (35 lbs). Although my shoulder has been pain-free for the last month, any overhead movement, particularly one that requires a lot of power and momentum, makes me uneasy. He showed me how to do it several times, all while I was giving him this look that said, “Please don’t make me do this.” I stood there quietly with the empty bar, squared up my feet, and got a good grip. I reminded myself that I trust him and that every time he has told me I can do something I didn’t think I could, he has been right. I took a deep breath and went for it. Totally a piece of cake! I honestly could not believe I had been so apprehensive to try it.
So, my superhero imagery is not only going to help me to become stronger, but also to become more fearless. A couple of other “superhero” caliber exercises that I’ve added to my training? Drop push-ups and handstand push-ups!
I will do updated measurements and take progress pictures at the end of this week (I can’t believe it’s already been 4 weeks), so let’s hope my superhero training pays off! 10 weeks to go until the NC State Championships, 12 weeks to go until the Charlotte Cup!