Archive for May, 2011

Fighting Fit: The Mental Game of MMA

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Building endurance-based fitness is a very precise and scientific process, typically associated with building lean efficient muscle fibre and effective cardiovascular fitness – mechanically designed to not only withstand long periods of output but to sustain it at the consistently high levels required.

However, a sport you may not immediately associate as endurance-based is the hugely popular MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). MMA has become one of the fastest growing martial arts disciplines globally – in no small part due to the massive publicity and production machine that is the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships), where competitors from varied martial arts backgrounds compete for 2 – 3, 5 minute rounds.

I worked with a Mixed Martial Artist prior to his entry into the UFC in 2008 and became engrossed in the grueling physical preparation, training these athletes endure and the psychology of the sport.

Something that became immediately obvious to me was their outstanding level of fitness. These athletes work exceptionally hard on both their technical fitness on each of the martial art modalities, and also their overall general fitness, consistently training at an output way beyond the 10-15 minutes they spend in the octagon (the cage) on fight night.

However, the thing that was not immediately obvious, when I watched in competing in their fight environment: their sustainable fitness was often (on the surface at least) questionable. So I started looking at what was the contributing factors to their apparent fitness depletion.

I believe it’s their pre-fight levels of anxiety. Their emotions are not only unpredictable but not as controlled as they like to think (irrespective of what they may outwardly say) – they demonstrated dichotomic swings between being outwardly aggressive to inwardly reflective and nervous pre-fight behaviour. And this rollercoaster can begin days before the fight.

We know from a psychological and neurological perspective that those deep emotional peaks and troughs are just as physically, mentally and emotionally fatiguing than pure, physical exercise alone. So it appears these peak performance athletes were essentially knobbling their own results by not controlling these emotional highs and lows before and during the fight. They were effectively wearing themselves out before stepping foot inside the octagon.

Armed with this observation we implemented a pre-fight strategy that carefully crafted a specific and replicable order and sequence into the preparation. This mental preparation is initiated during the training phase and steps up its intensity days prior to the fight.

This process involves specific stage and point to point visualisation, observational mechanics (mental triage™), specific breathing techniques, hypnosis and an ‘internal time’ process. Using these key skills lowered anxiety levels, gave clarity and perspective to thoughts, pragmatic NPR (neurological points of reference) and allowed instant focus and the ability to be smarter with both physical and psychological expenditure.

Using these techniques has had a massive positive impact on performance results, especially in lowering fatigue-based injuries.

What do you do to impact your performance?

Using Your Most Innate Skill to Deliver Peak Performance

Monday, May 16th, 2011

 

Delivering Powerful Presentations is a Breathe…

 

No, that’s not a lisp. We all breathe, right?

If you, like me, are a professional speaker, maybe you are a coach, a coaches coach, a teacher, lecturer, trainer, DJ or someone who just communicates for a living then you will know it is as much about the delivery of content as it is about the content itself.

When getting your message across the aim is to get key information in to the minds of our audience in an efficient manner and get it to stick.

Received, retained and recalled when required.

I would like to share with you some my favourite techniques for training and conditioning yourself to speak more effectively and in a clear and controlled manner – every time.

 

It’s all in the breath.

 

I was once told by a professional voiceover for the BBC that a quality delivery is all about controlling your breathing and breath delivery in every situation and in every context.

Let’s face it, no one wants to hear a speaker who sounds like a Puffing Billy steam train, huffing and puffing up a hill as they deliver their content – nor do we want to listen to Speedy Gonzales, Monotone Mike or Wobbly Wilma. It detracts from the content and the experience.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the quality of a speaker’s delivery has not met your expectations and found yourself disengaging from their message? Intellectually, your brain is reluctantly clinging to the vocal thread, grasping to weave the pieces together into something meaningful… but emotionally it’s meandering downwards into ‘sleep mode’. As recipients of information, our five senses have high expectations and if they are not met, we tend to simply shut off and mentally ‘sit it out’ for the duration.

So controlled breathing is paramount when making sure the recipients of your information are engaged and able to receive, retain and recall your message right through to the end.

 

Changing this Habit of a Lifetime Provides 4 Major Benefits.

An exercise I practise frequently is reciting my lecture or keynote speech whilst I am exercising. I do this often whilst running through 12km of punishing sand hills – if you are not that sadistic – any kind of physical exertion will do the job.

Practise these 4 simple techniques to improve your voice control and ensure your presentations pack a powerful punch:

1. When you physically push your body to it’s limits and utilise all available oxygen, train yourself to deliver your content as clearly and concisely as possible. Be very conscious of your oxygen intake, distribution and controlled exhale. This will train you to think hard about timing, clarity and the delivery and control of word annunciation.

2. A secondary benefit to this sort of physical activity is that our cognitive filtration system is otherwise engaged and therefore partly disengaged from the incoming information. It pays less attention to the relevance of content, choosing not to spend as much time filtering it. This means less emotional attachment to the content and to the event (delivery). So if you are a nervous speaker or highly emotional speaker then having less emotional attachment will lower the anxiety levels and enable you to deliver clear, concise ‘content’ rather than a mumble or jumble.

We simulate a similar technique with athletes who wish to overcome a situation or play they are anxious about using the Smart Mind Institute™ Bounce and GridBall Exercises – very effective at removing any negative emotion from their game.

3. Another key benefit to less filtration of the information you are reciting is it allows better imprinting of key information into our memory, as well as increasing rhythmical patterning to the information, which increases accuracy of recall.

4. The fourth benefit is the physical increase in oxygen required to speak and exercise, so this over time increases your overall cardiovascular fitness.

If you don’t have a current training programme, lecture, speech, or presentation to deliver then select lyric-heavy songs and sing those whilst running/exercising. This will have the same effect on your breathing awareness, word clarity and also train your general fitness.

 

Remember Your 3 Qs.

Something to keep in mind is the 3-Qs process – when breathing the 3-Qs refers to Quantity – Quantity – Quality breathing.

Basically take 2 deep breaths to every 1 through your nose, this allows the lungs to fill and absorb enough oxygen and also allows the nitric oxide to be collected when passing through our nasal cavity and act as a vessel dilator – increasing oxygen absorption into the blood steam.

As with everything, it takes practise (and you may get some fellow exercisers look at you funny) – but hey it is worth it.