Month: March 2013

Mental rehearsal…….

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So as I have been recovering for the few weeks I didn’t want to totally miss out on my training, as last time it took about three months before I was back on the mats.  Obviously I can’t physically train but I can look at visualisation or mental practise  as a kinda substitute for whilst I’m physically limited.  For those of you that aren’t aware of the process of visualisation, it’s been used in sports psychology and NLP for some time now.

Mental practise has also been called guided imagery, mental rehearsal, mediation, and a variety of other things it does not really matter what you call it, the basic techniques, concepts and the desired outcome are the same. Mental practise is the process of creating a mental image of what you want to happen or in my case practice.  It’s kind of like a mental rehearsal or “drilling” in your mind.

So you can can use this technique to ‘drill’ a technique or training session. By imagining a drill, complete with how you are supposed to interact with your partner/opponent. While imagining the drills, you should try to imagine the detail and the way it feels to perform in the desired way.  This is by using all of your senses, visual images and pictures so see yourself drilling or see your partner’s reactions. Kinaesthetic how the body feels, the weight of your partner’s body or the feel of the gi. Auditory the sound of partner stressing under your pressure or your bodies on the mat.  You could even imagine the smell of your gym. Effectively trying to make it as “real” as possible for your brain.  This means using the mind,  I can drill techniques with these images over and over, enhancing the skill through repetition, similar to physical practice.  Yes this all sounds a lot like The Matrix but this is for real.

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With mental practise, your brain creates the neuromuscular pathways to help your body become trained to actually perform the skill imagined. This is obviously not as good as actually performing the physical activity/skill as well, when you are starting from scratch.  It’s like learning to swim on dry land, it’s not going to work.  BUT I’m not looking to learn BJJ without ever having experienced it this way, just keep my mind sharp.  If you review most mental practise literature they have arrived at the conclusion that mental practise is more effective following initial physical practise. So the fact that I all ready practise BJJ obviously supports this process and makes it a practical option.

In the book Essential Reading in Sports & Exercise Psychology page 224 it states, “prior task experience may aid performers in internalizing a very clear model of what good performance of the task is like, even though they cannot perform it this way.”(Richardson 1967b).  This just reiterates that already knowing BJJ gives me the opportunity to understand what I should be doing properly and incorporate this into my mental practise.  I’m not expecting to become a purple belt doing this but whilst I am physically limited it should like I already said keep me mentally sharp. It is also good habit to create to support future learning on the mat. I definitely think it’s worth doing.

One interesting little comment, Mrs Munki was at a sports conference the other week and was speaking to an Olympic Rowing Coach.  She explained my predicament and what I was doing, the videos I have been watching.  His response straight away was, “ahh mental rehearsal good for him”. Yes, if a coach that got one of our athletes to achieve gold goes with this, thats another thumbs up in my book.

If anyone else does this currently or goes ahead and gives it a try I would be interested to hear from you.

Imagery in Sports – This a good paper that explains it all well, but it is sciencey.

Mental Imagery – This is a good balanced article on the subject.

Using Mental Rehearsal – A nice little how to by the Australian Sports Commission

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The Chimp Paradox

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This is not actually a humourous title from the Old Munki, nor is it a reference to a relative.  It is actually the title of a book by Dr Steve Peters.  The book really intrigued me as the Chimp Principle is used by a number of very high profile athletes, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton to name a couple.  The psychological support has been adopted by British Cycling, GB Weightlifting and UK Athletics for their athletes.

A brief explanation of the principles are that we essentially have three basic “parts” to our brain.  The Chimp, the Human and the Computer.  The Chimp reacts quicker than the Human part and shouts down the logical Human part.  So when you want to go training and your Chimp Brain starts to convince you that, “it’s too cold, you’re too tired or you really do need to stay at work”.  Your Human Brain does not get a chance and you end up missing out.  Where as if you follow the processes in the book, your Human will get a chance to convince the Chimp that despite the cold, you get so many positives from training.  “Enjoyment, meeting friends, learning something new, a sense of achievement etc”.  Enabling you not to miss out on training and allowing you to stay motivated.

This is just one very small part of the book poorly explained by me. I do have to say though that the book goes into much greater detail and explanation about the issues and the benefits the Chimp part of the brain provides.  Along with how to handle them and let your Human part of the brain exercise and box the Chimp so it can get a word in. One of the key points from the book states,”Managing your impulsive, emotional Chimp as an adult will be one of the biggest factors determining how successful you are in life” Page 41 The Chimp Paradox. After reading the book I can see why this is definitely a powerful statement.

There are many other aspects to the book that cover lots of things like your general health, happiness, relationships etc.  One thing I would say is this is not a quirky self help book.  It is a book that has some significant psychological principles that have been given easily applicable ways of putting them into practice.  Looking at the Olympians who have used these principles, it would suggest that they have a very positive impact on performance and as I always say as an Old Munki every little helps.

P.S. Having already put some of the principles into use over the past week, I can definitely see where the Chimp and the Human are in conflict in my own day to day life.  The Chimp has cropped up with my diet and bits of my recovery. I did not recognise it straight away but, when I have looked back on the day I have seen where I have not been managing my Chimp and it has been detrimental to me.  It looks like managing my Chimp is going to have some definite positives.

The Chimp Paradox – The Mind Management Programme on Amazon

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Supplementary recovery support for the Old Munki.

So as an Old Munki going through some fun shoulder surgery, I have lined up some additional dietary supplements.  A number of these are generally pretty good for all round health for munkis old and young alike.  But a number of them that I will be taking during my recovery have been recommended to me, by someone else who has been through the same surgery but appeared to recover a lot quicker than I did from my first operation.

So the first supplement I have that I have been taking for a while is Vitamin D.  We produce Vitamin D naturally from our skin being exposed to sunlight.  However as I live in Manchester in the UK, producing adequate Vitamin D from sun exposure is highly unlikely. Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and supports the immune the system. This is just for general wellness and not actually specific to my recovery.  I have to admit I have felt better since I have started taking this a number of months ago and would definitely recommend it.

So now on to the more specific supplements. I’ll start with HMB or Beta-Hydroxy Beta-methylbutyrate (yeah thats why its called HMB) is a byproduct of the normal breakdown of the amino acid Leucine. HMB is produced in our body from the proteins in our diet and is also consumed in small amounts from the foods we eat. Foods like catfish and alfalfa (yeah I eat a lot of those) contain small amounts of HMB.  The main reasons for taking this are that HMB is supposed to prevent muscle catabolism and speeds up tissue repair.  Obviously having been stitched back together speeding up tissue repair would be a benefit. But also as I’m not exercising, last time the shoulder that had been operated on looked like I’d borrowed it from Mr Bean, after the six weeks in the sling.  So hopefully I can reduce this impact this time around.

Now onto Glucosamine Sulphate.  Glucosamine is a naturally occurring element in the body that plays a crucial role in building of cartilage.  It is needed by cartilage because it plays a role into the incorporation of sulfur into cartilage, which is required to make and repair it.  Strong evidence does exist from many trials that can indicate that glucosamine sulfate can play a role in treating osteoarthritis,  yeah the “raging arthritis” I have. Generally, the findings from these studies show that perhaps glucosamine provides benefits for individuals with osteoarthritis in the form of reduction of pain, at the moment for me this isn’t an issue.  But it also helps improve mobility and function, that one however is a big plus for me at this time.

Next is Krill Oil. This oil comes from krill, tiny shrimp-like creatures that live in very cold ocean waters. A study found that krill oil, like omega-3s in general, could improve osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and functional impairment. Once again it seems like a winner, in getting this Old Munki’s shoulders functioning as good as possible.

Oh I also have some collagen tablets. The claim that collagen can stimulate the growth of new cartilage in joints is borne out by recent medical studies which say that patients with arthritic or damaged joints showed improvement in mobility and pain relief when taking the supplement.  I thought this may help with the repair to the damage to the joints that has already taken place.  I know I could make bone broth and have that instead, but that is a lot of messing about and I have to find some suitable bones on a weekly basis. So for now the tablets are the way forward. Also a side effect is they might also improve my wrinkly old munki skin too. Bonus!

The final supplement is Coconut Oil.  Once again this is not a specific supplement for the operation, but one that I take generally.  Coconut oil is one of those saturated fats that is actually good for you.  It is a medium chain fatty acid which means your body can digest it easily.  It supports you immune system and cellular health.

I also intend to stick to my clean diet (paleo) throughout the recovery.  Hopefully all of these little extras will boost the overall recovery process for me. I am aware that for every report stating the positive influence a supplement can have there will be another that will state it has no impact at all.  However if they do help ME in anyway with the initial speed of recovery from the operation and get me back on the mat quicker.  Also if the help with my longer term physical condition, including the “raging arthritis” I’ll take it.  So to see if they work I’ll try them for myself and base continuing use on my own experiences and probably cycling of the non oil supplements.

Two and a half weeks into the recovery and the additional supplements and I have very little pain in my shoulder post operation. Comparing this to how I recovered last year.  Also based on the amount of pain relief medicine and the number of warnings about the pain, the anaesthesiologist gave me.  I am really surprised by this, so I can only put this down to my diet and supplements.  Oh and the quality of the surgeon.  I have also been to see the physiotherapist this morning to see how I’m healing and they have told me to start easing out of the sling and have given me some “exercises” to do.  I’m really pleased with how this is going this time around.

If you have any specific questions about the supplements I’ve used or the operation I’ve been through, feel free to ask them.

Krill Oil & Inflammation – An interesting blog post by Dr M. Eades

Coconut Oil Benefits – An article by Dr J. Mercola

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