South Sydney Recovery Session

As mentioned in a previous blog post (TWEAKS 2 MYC #21), sitting meditation, which involves sitting down quietly and focusing your full attention on your breath, while keeping a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts, can improve memory, “focus”, and overall brain efficiency as well as decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain (Sharma, 2015).

However, it can be hard for some people to sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes. If this is the case for you, try active meditation. Active meditation has the same principles as sitting meditation, but the only difference is that you perform an exercise/stretch while focusing on your breath, instead of sitting down in a chair.

For this post, we will use the “Air Squat”:

Below are the basic instructions on how to properly practice active meditation:

  • Practice this exercise every single day
  • Set your timer for 3 minutes
  • Do slow and steady air squats for 3 minutes
    • Your breathing rate and heart rate should not go up!
    • If it does, shorten the range of motion of your squat
  • The idea is to synchronize your air squat movement to your breath
    • Focus your full attention on your breath going in and out of your nostrils while performing the exercise
    • Start by inhaling fully through your nose (pushing your diaphragm out as far as possible) at the top of the position
    • As you go down, exhale slowly through your nose
    • Your exhalation should be continuous throughout the movement
    • At the bottom of your squat, you should be at the end of your exhalation
    • As you rise, inhale slowly through your nose
    • Your inhalation should be continuous throughout the movement
    • At the top of the position, you should be at the end of your inhalation
  • When you notice that your mind is wandering (e.g., you are thinking about the past or future, you feel anger or boredom, you label your sensations), simply recognize it and tell yourself “breath” to help you bring your full attention back to your breath
  • Keep a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts
    • Just view your thoughts as thoughts (don’t label them as good or bad)
    • Don’t try to stop your thoughts (let them come and go as they please)

You can also choose another exercise or stretch if you want. The idea is to time your breath to the movements you are performing (i.e., inhale when your body expands and exhale when your body contracts) and focusing all your attention on the air going in and out of your nostrils.

Once you feel comfortable doing this 3-minute active meditation exercise, you can add a few minutes to your total time, if you want.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.


Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chief

Quality sleep plays a crucial role in “mastering your craft” because this is when your body takes the time to restore its immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. Adults generally need 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night to function well during the day.

However, even if you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, it’s essential that you get “quality sleep”. Quality sleep is generally characterized by sleeping more time while in bed (85% of the time), falling asleep in 30 minutes or less, waking up no more than once per night, and being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep (Ohayon et al., 2017).

Researchers found that for subjects sleeping an average of 7 hours per night, sleep quality, compared to sleep quantity, was better related to measures of health, emotional balance, life satisfaction, and feelings of tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion (Pilcher, Ginter, & Sadowsky, 1997).

Although there are numerous lifestyle changes that you can make to improve the quality of your sleep (e.g., exercising, going to bed at the same time each night, not using electronics 30 minutes before bed, reducing the temperature in your room), a quick and easy way to do this is to sleep with an extra pillow!

Sleeping with an extra pillow will ensure that your spine is aligned and your lower back is not strained.

Below are the basic instructions on where to place your extra pillow based on your sleeping position:

  • Back sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow under your knees
  • Stomach sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow under your stomach/pelvic area
  • Side sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow between your knees

Picture Tweaks to MYC 26 (2)This small tweak should allow you to have a more restful sleep! Try it out!

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.


Ohayon, M., Wickwire, E. M., Hirshkowitz, M., Albert, S. M., Avidan, A., Daly, F. J., Dauvilliers, Y., … Vitiello, M. V. (2017). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep quality recommendations: First report. Sleep Health, 3, 6-19.

Pilcher, J. J., Ginter, D. R., & Sadowsky, B. (1997). Sleep quality versus sleep quantity: Relationships between sleep and measures of health, well-being and sleepiness in college students. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42, 583-596.


Picture tweaks 2 MYC 24

After going through the “basic imagery training” (refer to TWEAKS 2 MYC #23: Imagery), a great way to improve the complexity of your images and increase the overall effectiveness of your imagery practice is to create an imagery script. According to Williams and colleagues (2013), before writing an imagery script, you must go through a planning phase, which involves asking yourself the following set of questions:

  • Who will use the script?
    • Individual athlete or team?
      • If the script is for an individual athlete, then it should include more details about the individual’s characteristics
      • If the script is for a team, then it should include generic details to allow for personalization as well as more details about teammates
    • Young athlete or older athlete?
      • If the script is for a young athlete, then it should include more metaphors (e.g., “running fast like a cheetah”)
      • If the script is for an older athlete, then it should include more vivid descriptions of the image
    • Novice athlete or expert athlete?
      • If the script is for a novice athlete, then it should include simpler movements
      • If the script is for an expert athlete, then it should include more complex movements
    • Ego-oriented athlete (i.e., focuses on winning) or task-oriented athletes (i.e., focuses on mastery)?
      • If the script is for an ego-oriented athlete, then it should include comparisons with other people
      • If the script is for a task-oriented athlete, then it should include self-referenced comparisons
    • Athlete that prefers an internal perspective or athlete that prefers an external perspective?
    • Athlete with good imagery ability or athlete with poor imagery ability?
      • If the script is for an athlete with good imagery ability, then it should include more sensory modalities, more details, and be longer in length
      • If the script is for an athlete with poor imagery ability, then it should include less sensory modalities, fewer details, and be shorter in length (1-2 minutes)
    • Where and when will the script be used?
      • Home, practice, or competition?
        • An athlete should start by using the imagery script at home
        • Once they feel comfortable, they should use it before practice and then before competition (if they want to include imagery in their pre-performance routine)
      • Before, during, or after practice/competition?
    • Why will the script be used?
      • To improve a skill?
      • To improve a strategy?
      • To improve confidence?
      • To increase or decrease arousal?
      • To achieve a specific goal?
    • What content will be included in your imagery script?
      • Temporal cues? (e.g., during the last lap of the race)
      • Situational cues? (e.g., stepping on the ice)
      • Sensory modalities? (e.g., the smell of the swimming pool)
      • Thoughts? (e.g., I tell myself, “let’s go champ”, before the bell rings)
      • Feelings? (e.g., I feel relaxed and confident in front of the goaltender)
      • Music? (e.g., merge high tempo music with your imagery script to psych yourself up)

Once you’ve answered the questions outlined above, it’s time for you to create your own imagery script. Below are the basic guidelines on how to properly create an effective imagery script:

  • Tell the story
    • Select a competitive scenario or specific skills that you want to work on and break it down into smaller segments
      • Example for a 100m race
        • Entering the venue
        • Setting up in the starting blocks
        • Sound of the starter’s gun going off
        • Acceleration phase
        • Reaching maximum velocity
        • Maintaining maximum velocity
        • Crossing the finish line
        • Celebrating
      • Add the details
        • Add appropriate adjectives and descriptors to each segment
          • Entering the venue
            • Blue track with white lines
            • Crowd cheering
            • Opponents walking to the starting lines
          • Setting up in the starting blocks
            • Specific stretches
            • Spikes are firmly placed into the blocks
            • Your muscles feel strong and powerful
            • Focus only on the lane directly in front of you
            • Tell yourself, “this is my race to win”
        • Refine the script
          • Combine the story and details into a clear and easily readable script
          • Record the script onto your music device
          • Use the pronoun “You” or “I”
          • Your voice (clarity, tempo, tone, enunciation, and pronunciation) should allow you to focus on the imagery
          • If pauses are inserted into the script to allow you time to generate an image, these should not be so long that you lose focus

Once the imagery script is created, it’s important that you pilot test it before you use it on a regular basis. Furthermore, as you use the script, frequently evaluate your imagery ability. This will enable you to incorporate more senses and complex movements into your images as you become more skilled.

The last stage of imagery will involve practicing without a script. This will give you the flexibility to imagine different scenarios based on your needs and ultimately become familiar with a variety of situations (e.g., imagining different ways that a match can unfold).

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.


Williams, S. E., Cooley, S. J., Newell, E., Weibull, F., & Cumming, J. (2013). Seeing the difference: Developing effective imagery scripts for athletes. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 4, 109-121.


Athletics - Olympics: Day 10

As we grow older, we tend to stop using our vivid imagination and focus primarily on developing our rational mind to deal with life’s challenges. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake! Although thinking rationally is very important, as adults, we should also spend time fostering our imagination because it can help us perform better in sports and at work.

As a matter of fact, a very effective way to “master your craft” is to practice a technique called imagery. Imagery is defined as the creation or re-creation of an image in your mind that represents a real experience. It’s different from a dream in that you are awake and fully conscious when forming an image in your mind.

Unlike visualization, which only incorporates the sense of sight into the image, someone using imagery will try to integrate as many senses as possible, including sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and kinesthetic sense. The more senses you can incorporate into your image, the more real it becomes, and the more effective it will be in improving your performance.

Imagery can improve the retention and acquisition of new skills and strategies as well as decrease pre-performance anxiety symptoms and enhance confidence and mental toughness (Cumming & Williams, 2013).

There are 5 different types of imagery that you can use. “Cognitive specific imagery” refers to imaging the execution of specific skills such as a free-throw in basketball. “Cognitive general imagery” involves imaging strategies or sequences of movements such as a “fast break”. “Motivational specific imagery” pertains to imaging the achievement of a goal such as winning the game’s most valuable player. “Motivational general-arousal” refers to using imagery to decrease anxiety or increase energy levels. “Motivational general-mastery” involves imaging oneself being confident and in control.

Below are the basic guidelines on how to properly use imagery:

  • Physical
    • Determine whether relaxation or increased arousal is helpful prior to imaging
    • Decide whether you want your eyes to be opened or closed when imaging
    • You should use relevant sporting equipment when imaging (e.g., having a hockey stick in your hands when imaging scoring a goal in ice hockey)
  • Environment
    • Your images should be as real or as close to the actual environment as possible
    • You should look at videos and/or pictures of the training and/or competition venue to become familiar with it
  • Task
    • Depending on the task, your imagery perspective may vary
      • If you perform skills that do not rely on form (e.g., football), then use an internal perspective (looking through your eyes)
      • If you perform skills that rely on form (e.g., gymnastics), then use an external perspective (looking from someone else’s point of view)
  • Timing
    • Timing of the image should be equal to that of your physical performance (e.g., if your race takes 2 minutes to complete, so too should your imagery)
    • Use slow-motion imagery when learning a new skill or strategy
  • Learning
    • Your images should evolve as you learn new skills and refine them (e.g., the content of your image, when you first learn how to throw a new Muay Thai kick, should be different from when you have mastered the skill)
  • Emotion
    • Attach meaning and/or emotions to your images (e.g., if you imagine winning a gold medal, then incorporate the feeling of excitement into your image)
  • Perspective
    • When imaging, consider both perspectives, internal and external

Basic imagery training:

  • Start with progression #1
  • When your images become sufficiently vivid and controllable, go to progression #2, and then progression #3
    • Progression #1
      • When falling asleep every night, visualize (sight only) a familiar place (e.g., your room) and try to manipulate objects present in the environment (e.g., move your bed to the other side of the room)
    • Progression #2
      • When falling asleep every night, imagine yourself (sight+kinesthetic) performing a simple skill or strategy
    • Progression #3
      • When falling asleep every night, imagine yourself (sight+kinesthetic) going through a top performance you had in the past

Once you feel comfortable with the 3 progressions outlined above, you will need to increase the complexity of your images, so the technique can become even more effective. Therefore, my next post will focus on how to create a detailed and personalized imagery script!

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.


Crocker, P. R. E. (2015). Sport and exercise psychology: A Canadian perspective. Toronto: Pearson.

Cummings, T. J., & Williams, S. (2013). Introducing the revised applied model of deliberate imagery use for sport, dance, exercise, and rehabilitation. Movement and Sport Sciences, 82, 69-82.


Picture Tweaks to MYC 22

Would you agree that receiving a smile from a total stranger can brighten up your day? Consider the following scenario. You’re walking down the street with your head down after a terrible day at work. You feel angry and can’t wait to get back home. A bunch of negative thoughts are swirling around in your head and you can’t make them stop. When crossing the intersection, you lift your head and notice a person walking towards you. For a brief moment, they look at you and smile. You instantly feel better and realize that your problems are not that bad after all. Life is good!

Now, you can get the same types of benefits if you take the time to smile when you’re feeling down! Researchers have discovered that the simple act of smiling can increase positive mood (Yamamoto, Sugimori, & Shimada, 2010) and lower heart rate (Kraft & Pressman, 2012). Moreover, smiling can predict longevity! Abel and Kruger (2010) found that smile intensity (i.e., no smile, partial smile, full smile) is positively correlated with longevity.

Listen to Ron Gutman talk about “the hidden power of smiling” in his 2011 TED talk:

So, if you ever feel sad, stressed, or angry, STOP, TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and SMILE! It might not solve all your problems, but it’s going to help you take a step in the right direction.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.


Abel, E. L., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21, 542-4.

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science, 23, 1372-8.

Yamamoto, T., Sugimori, S., & Shimada, H. (2010). Effects of smiling manipulation on negative cognitive process during self-focused attention. The Japanese Journal of Psychology, 81, 17-25.