At some point in our lives we all will likely struggle with feelings of helplessness, the sense that we are not as in control of events in our lives as we would wish to be.
If this is something you have never experienced before the current global crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic then you can count yourself lucky. However, I would wager that there are very few people now who are not going through some emotional turmoil at their perceived lack of control (well, maybe not Jeff Besoz…)
Sadness and anxiety are totally normal and rational responses to such adversity, and for most of us a Tony Robbins pep talk isn’t going to ease the burden of what we’re going through. The reality is that we are not in control of all the circumstances of our lives, and that is a frightening concept.
Before digressing fully into a community college philosophy lecture I would like to point out that there is a silver lining to this rather alarming concept: we can choose, to some extent, how we respond to the challenges we face.
Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations writes “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” You don’t have to wake up with fist pumps and motivational speeches in the mirror every morning.
Instead try to simply focus on the most critical tasks facing you and give your attention to these. It is fine to fail, waver or lose confidence, but try to avoid the pitfall of feeling like a victim and you will be taking the first steps towards developing the skills you need to face adversity. Practising some form of mindfulness meditation or other practice can be enormously beneficial in this endeavor. Something as simple as focusing on your breathing as you go through 10 deep breaths a few times a day, or when you’re feeling especially stressed, would be a great place to start.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with building muscle?
For a start, cutting down on distractions and developing more focus is a very simple way to improve the quality of your workouts. Instead of scrolling through IG in your rest periods , you could be focusing on what it is you need to do on your next set, practising some posing techniques and developing an improved mind-muscle connection. Think about all the times when you’ve lost count of the number of reps you’ve done, or allowed form to become sloppy while you distractedly thought about a meme you want to send a friend, or a work email that you need to send. By focusing on the task at hand you can be more productive and efficient with your time, and hopefully get better results.
Right now, building muscle is probably not your top priority and that is fine. In fact, if it is you may need to re-assess some things.
However, taking a few minutes a few times a day to slowly and mindfully do a bodyweight squat for example, focusing on your hip position, your foot’s contact with the ground, how your centre of mass is moving etc. could set you up for better gains when your gym does re-open. More importantly, it will give you something tangible to focus on, and right now that is what we should all be trying to do.
Win the day that’s in front of you, and stay as positive as you can: we are all in this together!