The Mind and Peak Week
Once you’ve peaked hundreds of competitors for competitions, you start to notice familiar trends or patterns. You can even get to the point where you’re able to reasonably predict an anticipated sequence of events when you spot a few common elements. The one I’ll touch on in this post is the delicate relationship between your psychological system, the body’s physiology and how it can impact your physique on contest day. If you remember anything from this post, it should be that the mind has a direct influence on how the body looks and this becomes even more critical during a peak week. But don’t just take my word for it, I will explain.
If you’ve worked with Adam, myself or any of the T-Rex coaches, you’ve probably noticed that your peak week isn’t filled with too much witchcraft or bro-science cookie-cutter peaking strategies. That’s because most of them just don’t work. Things like extreme water cuts, overuse of diuretics, sodium restriction and excessive depletions have ruined more contest physiques then they’ve helped. Our approach to peaking is pretty simple – be ready to step on stage a week out so you don’t have to rely on any hit-or-miss magic tricks during your peak week.
One thing I’ve noticed is that in some cases, even when the client is in great shape a week out and follows a relatively conservative and planned-out peak week strategy, the physique can fade away if the client undergoes a mental breakdown in the final 24-48 hours before the show. They’re left scratching their heads, wondering why they looked better the night before the show, the morning as soon as they woke up and the next day (times when they weren’t stressed out). While there are always multiple variables that can play key roles in how you look, one of the most frequently overlooked ones is how stress, anxiety and worry can and will mess up your attempt to peak properly.
The Stress Reaction
When the body is stressed, an alarm signal is set off that travels to the brain.
The brain then puts other body systems on high alert including the hypothalamus, adrenals and CNS.
A hormonal cascade is then triggered to combat the threat.
Stress and fight-or-flight hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline, noradrenaline, CRH and other signaling chemicals are dumped into the body.
These hormones and signaling chemicals can then act on various sites and organs in the body as described below.
The Stress Reaction Has Powerful Effects on:
Body water regulation – Stress is a known cause of fluid retention. It’s related to the hormone aldosterone. When the fight or flight reaction is switched on and the stress hormones are circulating, this sends a signal to your kidneys to retain salt so you hold onto as much water as possible.
Inflammation – Stress is a trigger for inflammation in the body. When things are inflamed, they draw water to the site. At a time where you are doing everything you can to eliminate any excess subcutaneous water, you don’t need any inflammation.
Digestive system – The digestive process is relatively sensitive to the effects of stress. Our ability to digest, process and assimilate the foods coming in will be sub-optimal if your body’s alarm system is going off. That carb load you have planned may not go as well as you thought.
Muscles – In a stressed environment, blood flow is restricted due to arterial constriction. It’s usually these completely stressed out competitors backstage, doing endless reps and sets, wondering why they aren’t pumping up like they normally do in the gym.
Glycogen – Cortisol breaks down muscle glycogen to put glucose into the blood. Over time, this will cause you to go flat as your desnsely packed muscles slowly empty their carbohydrate contents.
Insulin Sensitivity – Stress hormones negatively affect insulin sensitivity and can make your carb load or day of show carb snack less effective.
Keep Calm and Enjoy Your Peak Week! The work is done. Chill out and relax until it’s time to dominate that stage like a true T-Rex.
Top 5 Ways to Stay Chill During Peak Week and Backstage
Positive self-talk. Don’t just eliminate any negative thought processes, but make a habit to say one positive thing about yourself and your physique each day. Everything starts by believing in yourself.
Regulate breathing. Once your breathing starts to get short, rapid and shallow, the full on stress reaction isn’t far behind. Catch yourself and slow down breathing, take deep, controlled breaths (or check out the box breathing technique).
Headphones / music. Load your phone or ipod with whatever tracks you need to A) keep you calm b) get you fired up and c) make you happy. It even helps to have a few different playlists for the mood you’re trying to switch on.
Meditate/nap. Recharge your body and mind with short meditation sessions or if you’re not into that, take a nap. A simple 15-20 minute recharge can lower cortisol, reduce blood pressure and clear your mind of negative thoughts.
Epsom salt baths. Toss on some relaxing music and soak in an epsom salt bath for 20 minutes during your peak week. Not only will it relax you, but the salts can help to dry and tighten up the skin for the show.