Sunday, February 1, 2009

Visualize Whirled Peas

For a very long time, I've been stuck in the middle.

I looked back at the past with regrets, disappointment, remorse and guilt.

I looked forward, to the future, with dread, anxiety, and fear.

Not really a good way to live, but I embraced cynicism with both hands and took a perverse sort of pride in it.

Never once, not in twenty-five years, has anything I've dreaded actually happened.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Mary Schmich, Advice, like Youth, Probably Wasted on the Young

Despite that, I've been hearing a lot about visualization. That I should visualize my weight loss, or visualize what I'll say and do at a party where I have to navigate dangerous snacks...

I've been rolling my eyes a little bit about it. It sounds a little crystal twinkie, don't ya think?

And yet, I've been a little worried this week. Not about anything earth shattering, but about my push up challenge.

I've been doing the 100 push up challenge with a group of twitterati... the idea is to do 100 push ups after a 6 (or 8, or 10) week regime. When I started, I did three push ups. Three. Ah well, I thought. No place to go but up, right?

Anyway, I just finished week 4, and let me tell ya, the regime is pretty tough. (I've been complaining that it never seems to get any easier, but I guess that's the point, right? To get more and more push ups out of the same, or slightly greater, effort...)

Every two weeks, we have an assessment that places you for the following week's push ups. Technically, it's supposed to tell you what rank you're in, so you can move on. On the down side, it also means if you can't do the push up minimums for the next week, you are supposed to go back and repeat two weeks worth of sets.

As I usually do, I've been looking at what I have left to do (and ignoring, for the most part, what I've already DONE...) and saw that to move forward for Week 5, I needed to do at least 31 pushups in a single set to move on.

I didn't think I was going to make it. The final sets in my weekly plan have been Do as Many as You Can, Minimum 16, 18, and 20. And those were killing me. How in the world was I going to manage 31?

So, just for something to try, Tuesday I started working on visualization. I would sit someplace quietly and clear my head and then imagine I was doing my push up assessment test. I went through the whole thing, starting with changing my shirt (I find I absolutely have to be wearing a sports bra while I do the pushups or... well, it just wasn't working for me, otherwise...), laying my towel out on the carpet (the carpet's pretty coarse and I find that my hands get sore if I don't have a towel down.)

And then, I'd mentally work through each pushup. Imagine the burn in my arm, the strain along the bicep and shoulder. I'd feel my breathing, pace myself. Count along. Up, down, one, two. I imagined the brief pauses at sixteen, and again at 25, where I hold myself in the up position and gather my wits and energy. I pretended to feel the shaking in my arms as I neared thirty, the ache along my wrist.

In my visualizing, I concentrated grimly on getting to thirty, then thirty one, and in a fit of adreniline and triumph, would bust out two more push ups before collapsing on the floor.

And my mental self would lay on the floor for a bit, then get up, pick up my towel, and go along with my day.

I rehearsed this exact scenario again on Wednesday and Thursday. Twice on Friday. And once, Saturday night right as I was falling asleep.

And then, this morning, when I was doing my assessment...

I did exactly thirty-three push ups.

Kinda cool, don't ya think?


Jennifer Newman said...

That is pretty cool! I have never been able to buy-into the whole visualization thing..I am more of a "have to actually see it" person. I am glad you let yourself let it work! and how freakin' cool is it that you did 33 pushups?!? Keep up the good work! I have been slacking on pushups ~they were hard and they I got sick and I really have not been motivated to do them. Reading your post has made me rethink my lack of motivation. I think I am going to restart the challenge! Thanks Lynne!! You have inspired me!

Anonymous said...

Whoohoo! First, congrats on bridging the gap. I can't find it now (of course), but I read a study a few months ago that talked about the benefits of *visualizing* exercise... something about a group who sat in a chair quietly and pictured themselves exercizing, vs. a group who pictured something unrelated to exercise, actually improved their muscle tone over time. (Yet again, we prove the brain is the most powerful "muscle" of all! ;) )

Anonymous said...

AHA! Found it, or something similar to it (I think mine talked about visualizing sit-ups), at least: Visualization and Muscle Strength.

And while I'm on the subject of intriguing articles, this is probably a dangerous one to give you, but: Caffeine after exercise benefits. Not quite sure how it would relate to how we process food in terms of *dieting* and exercise (if we had a post-exercise snack, would we burn it more efficiently?), but it's something to think about for when we overdo it, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Blogger ate my comment. :-( And I'm so tired I'm not sure if I can duplicate it...

It basically said "Oh my God, way to go, I'm seriously impressed cause push-ups are HARD, and I'm going to start visualizing right now for when I start the PUC in April." It sounded better than that though. But that's the gist. :-)


Hanlie said...

WTG! Can't even do one push-up. Yet!

Visualization has worked for me in the past, and I'm currently using it in Pilates, where form and control is very important.