Mental Toughness Training

This post has moved to my new website. Check it out at http://polecompete.com/2014/07/mental-toughness-training/

Will Power Isn’t Real

When people become pregnant, they start stocking up on specific products (that aren’t even baby related). Marketing gurus know this and predict the pregnancy (sometime in advance of the rest of the family.). Like the professional marketers that they are, they send the expecting couple direct mailers with lots of coupons for cribs, diapers, and other stuff that newly expecting parents might want or need.

 

Aside from being a tad creepy, this little bit of marketing knowledge is critical to your success with your nutrition, training, and health.

 

Consider for a moment the idea of will power. People who are trying to get healthier usually experience a gap between their knowledge of what will make them healthier and their ability to follow through and make those changes. Those folks then lament their lack of willpower.

 

Instad of being one of those people and beating your head against the proverbial brick wall, consider that will power isn’t real. Doesn’t exist. You made it up, probably because you watched too many Iron Will type movies when you were a kid.

 

Instead, be like Target and capitalize on disruptions to everyday life. The reason that the marketing works is because Target knows that people change their habits when routines change. When people have kids, they change their shopping patterns and Target makes sure that those new parents establish their new shopping routines at Target.

 

Getting knocked up is one way to knocked out of your routine, but you can capitalize on this idea on a much smaller scale. For example, if you grab a burger on the way home from work, try a different commute. If you snack on ice cream late at night, stop keeping it in the house. If you eat when you are stressed, make a point of going for a short walk to clear your mind instead. I once beat a habit of eating a brownie from the cafe at my work every morning by exiting the office from a different door for a few months.

 

Identify the specific actions that lead you unhealthy choices, and then change those actions. Remove the less desirable options. Remember that the secret to discipline is laziness. You will be much more successful when you realize that will power isn’t real.

Fins for toe point?

I promise that this will remain a pole blog and not become a swim blog… but I’m spending my time at the pool so bear with me for a little bit.

 

I think that wearing fins and grabbing a kickboard at the pool will help your toe point. It’s like resistance training for your feet! If you are kicking properly, you must keep your legs engaged so that the knees stay straight (just like dance!). It’s good practice and I think the gains will apply to the elusive straight leg and pointed toes that I so want for dance!

Stay in your own level!

I saw something several weeks ago as I was waiting for a class that made my stomach churn.

 

It was a girl asking for moves that were clearly out of her skill level, and it was an instructor obliging and (attempting to) teach them.

 

Teachers, coaches and instructors: Please grow a spine (if you have one already, please disregard. I love you all and you are fantastic.). It is OK to tell students no. It is OK to tell a person that they are not advanced enough yet. It is OK to refuse to teach things that you don’t know how to do.

 

There is a lot of buzz right now on safety, including this delightful blog on Spinning Love Story and a facebook post about safety from one of my favorite pole bloggers, Aerial Amy. As a dancer, please use common sense, and stay in your own level. Take the time to build up the strength, flexibility, and technique for more advanced moves. Follow the curriculum set by your instructors or studios and be patient.

 

As for teachers, my expectations are higher. If you are going to teach other people how to do something physical (particularly if it involves moving upside down, extreme flexibility, and all other aspects that make pole difficult and dangerous) you absolutely must be able to recognize the level a student is at and adjust accordingly. If you receive pushback, you must stand your ground and maintain control of the situation. It’s OK to be an asshole when people’s safety is at risk. That’s your job. As a student, I expect you to be in control.

 

Three Ways Curiosity Creates Better Pole Dance

Curiosity is one of the best values you can develop to help you excel at pole. Here’s why:

1. You learn new pole moves by figuring out where your body should be. If you are naturally a curious person, when you see someone dancing or teaching, you will always be trying to figure out what muscles are used in a pole move. You will also be trying to figure out the contact points, where their balance is, and how they get out of it. Actively working to figure that out while you are watching will help you learn the moves faster (and quite possibly safer).

curiosity does not kill cats

Curiosity does not actually kill cats. Thank goodness. In addition to not being harmful, curiosity can help you excel at pole dance.

2. Similarly, curiosity will help you be more creative about how you get into and out of different moves. Some of the things I have tried are so bad that they make me giggle, but if you try new things you’ll eventually find something you want to keep. The driving force behind stumbling onto these awesome transitions is the question of “what if….”

3. Curiosity drives you to seek knowledge. If you apply curiosity to pole, you’ll start to learn more about diet, conditioning, training, mental preparation, music, and every other aspect of pole. As you incorporate this knowledge into your dancing and training, you will get better.

Things just got real

As I wrote yesterday, I got into Elevated Art! I (painfully) wrote the requested bio and dredged up some photos from my archives.

The thing is, since I submitted my video (back in January) I’ve been acting like I do after I perform- taking it a little easier in class, being a little less strict about any gray areas in my diet, and not practicing so hard, which is counterintuitive since the performance is still upcoming.

I think that will change as of today. I got a second email with the performance details. Sometime while I was scratching my head and drawing a stage diagram on a sticky note, it became real that I am performing. On a real stage. With real lights and a real audience. Also, my elaborate sticky note diagram confirmed that I’ve been choreographing with the static and spin poles on the opposite sides of the stage as what they will be in real life.

Suddenly, performing seems very real. I feel the normal pre-performing intensity coming on. It’s exciting!

5 isn’t 6, and other training advice

I  heard this story from a friend about a great coach. The coach told the athlete to do 6 rope climbs. The athlete, eyeing the rope, replied that she might push it and do 5 climbs.

Here's a rope climbing picture I found in creative commons in an effort to not be so damn lazy about adding pictures to my posts!

Here’s a rope climbing picture I found in creative commons in an effort to not be so damn lazy about adding pictures to my posts!

The coach looked at the athlete for a moment. Then he said “Hmm. 5 isn’t 6.”

I love this story, because it demonstrates good coaching (and good self discipline in your own training). It’s easy to negotiate for something easier- but does doing the easier thing get you the results that you want?

Usually the easy way out doesn’t pay off. Half ass efforts don’t get half results-  they get no results.

Make sure that you don’t mistake 5 for 6.

Pole Isn’t Enough

Everyone who has ever tried pole knows that pole dance is a kick ass workout.

If you are only doing pole, you are making a mistake.

Your body needs conditioning.

Cross training helps correct muscular imbalances from doing the same poses over and over (and probably way more frequently on your “good” side). It can also help correct postural imbalances.

Cross training, particularly with weights or even body weight exercises, will help you reach your pole goals faster by making you stronger.

More importantly, having a strong body will help protect you from injury. The fitter you are, the less likely you are to get those nagging pole injuries, because your muscles help protect your body.

If you are not doing conditioning training, make a point of adding to your repertoire of pole training. You will be a better, more injury free dancer because of it.

Feedback- the Second Key to Pole Success

The best way to improve in any endeavor is to practice a lot, and get as much feedback as you can about your practice. Today’s post is about options for getting the feedback you need.

  • Be mindful of your practice. You can get a lot of self-feedback from slowing down, paying attention, and noticing what you do, how it feels, and where you are engaging your muscles. As you pole more and more, you will get a baseline for how things feel when done correctly.
  • Video (or even photograph) your practice. The camera doesn’t lie.
  • Learn the keys to taking feedback well. The main key is to not get defensive or angry when people tell you what you can improve, and to thank them for taking time to help you get better.
  • Ask your instructor. The instructor is there to help you. Ask them what you can do to make it better if they don’t offer feedback on their own, or if they just tell you it looks good. You have to ask for the things that you want. To get better, you need to want feedback.
  • Get a coach. Ditto your instructor- ask for the feedback you need.
  • Ask your friends. Have your friends watch your routine or your freestyle or whatever move or transition you happen to be working on, and ask them how to make it better.
  • Ask what makes your routine, freestyle, or pole move work too- a lot of great feedback comes from paying attention to what you are doing right.
  • Have your friends video you and then go over the video with them.

Hours –The First Key to Pole Success

The first and most important key to success in pole is hours.

 

So many people look at the women who’ve been dancing for years, get a starry gaze on their faces, and say “I wish I could dance like you.”

 

What they don’t realize is that often the only thing that separates them from the more advanced students in the number of hours they have spent in the studio.

 

Hours are the key to success in pole, and in anything else.

 

Put in the hours.

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