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 to MYC 25

Nowadays, going to the grocery store and walking down its numerous food aisles can be quite overwhelming. Even if you just want to buy a box of cereals, you must choose from a dozen of brands and flavours. There are just too many options out there for our own good! Nevertheless, learning how to effectively read food labels can be a great way to make sense of all these options and pick the healthiest ones!

Increased use of food labels has been linked to healthier dietary patterns (Kim, Nayga, & Capps, 2001) as well as improved nutrient intake (Neuhouser, Kristal, & Patterson, 1999; Ollberding, Wolf, & Contento, 2011). Therefore, it’s well worth taking a few extra seconds to read food labels when buying your groceries!

Below are the basic instructions on how to properly use food labels:

  • Look at the serving size
  • Look at the total amount of calories for that serving size
  • Use the daily values (%) to find out if this food is high or low in a certain nutrient
    • 15% or more is HIGH
    • 5% or less is LOW
  • Healthy foods are generally
    • Low in Trans Fat (5% or less)
    • Low in Sodium (5% or less)
    • High in Fiber (15% or more)
    • Low in Sugar (5% or less)
    • High in Protein (3 grams or more)
    • High in different vitamins (15% or more)
    • High in different minerals (15% or more)
  • If you want to compare 2 food products, make sure that the serving sizes are equal
    • Food product #1: Nutritional values based on 50 grams
    • Food product #2: Nutritional values based on 100 grams
    • Divide the daily values (%) by 2 for food product #2
    • Compare!

However, it’s extremely important to know what your health goals are when using food labels. For instance, if you want to lose weight, then pay close attention to the total amount of calories. On the other hand, if you want to build muscle, then make sure to look at the amounts of protein as well as vitamins and minerals. Just make sure that your health goals are clear to you so you can make the right decisions!

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


Kim, S.-Y., Nayga, J. R. M., & Capps, J. O. (2001). Food label use, self-selectivity, and diet quality. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 35, 346-363.

Neuhouser, M. L., Kristal, A. R., & Patterson, R. E. (1999). Use of food nutrition labels is associated with lower fat intake. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99, 45-53.

Ollberding, N. J., Wolf, R. L., & Contento, I. (2011). Food label use and its relation to dietary intake among US adults. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110, 1233-1237.


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.


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.


Picture Tweaks to MYC 21

As mentioned in last week’s blog post (TWEAKS 2 MYC #20), “focus” can be improved not only during a performance, but also at home by practicing sitting meditation. Sitting meditation, which should not be confused with the Western idea of yoga (i.e., exercise in which you move your body and hold various positions), involves sitting down quietly and focusing your full attention on your breath, while keeping a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts.

Research has consistently demonstrated that sitting meditation is associated with a variety of health benefits. More specifically, sitting meditation can improve memory, “focus”, and overall brain efficiency as well as decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain (Sharma, 2015).

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

  • Practice this exercise every single day
  • Set your timer for 5 minutes
  • Sit down in an armless chair
  • Place your feet firmly on the ground with your knees at 90 degrees
  • Keep your back straight
  • Place your hands on your thighs
  • Relax your arms, shoulders, neck, and jaw
  • Close your eyes
  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Focus your full attention on your breath going in and out of your nostrils
  • Let your breathing flow freely
    • Don’t try to force anything
  • If your mind wanders (e.g., you are thinking about the past or future, you feel anger or boredom, you label your sensations), simply recognize it and then bring your full attention back to your breath
  • Think of this as a “repetition” (just like when you lift weights at the gym)
    • Your “focus” should increase if you repeatedly work on bringing your full attention back to your breath every time your mind wanders
  • When you notice that your mind is wandering, you can 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)

Here’s a metaphor that I like to share with my clients to help them gain a deeper understanding of what sitting meditation is all about. Begin by visualizing your mind as a clear-blue sky and your thoughts as clouds floating by. If you decide to entertain your thoughts and/or try to stop them, then they will turn into menacing dark clouds and eventually create a storm, leaving you uncomfortable and anxious. However, if you take a “mental step back” and simply observe your thoughts, then they will become small clouds that float by less frequently, leaving you with a clear-blue sky and a feeling of peace and focus.

Once you feel comfortable doing this 5-minute sitting meditation exercise, you can add 2 minutes to your total time, if you desire. However, if increasing your total time means increasing your chances of not doing it, then keep your sessions short (around 5 minutes). If you have the time and enjoy sitting meditation, then try going all the way up to 20 minutes!

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


Sharma, H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36, 3.