Archive for Ask Coach Al

Would You Benefit From More Hip Mobility?

“If your mobility is compromised enough to make you compensate, the sensory input that you have to your reflexive behavior is askew—you have an overload of information or an underload of information. Either way, you’re not receiving the information you need. If sensory information is not converted to perception and perception is not converted to action, you’re not going to get better without embracing the idea of changing mobility.”
          – Gray Cook, from his presentation entitled Continuums

Hi Everyone!  Coach Al here. As a coach who works with runners and triathletes of every ability level, all who want to be stronger, better, and faster, I KNOW for them to be their best, mobility must come first. It must come before strength work, before speed work or interval work, and before very long runs. 

Without appropriate mobility in the right places in the body, an athlete will be at much higher risk of injury AND won’t perform to their true potential.

Restricted mobility in the hips and ankles means that athlete can’t attentuate gravity or ground reaction forces. As a result, their calves or legs or low-back must step in and compensate, often resulting in pain, injury, and frustration. There’s also the issue of poor economy or efficiency resulting from that restricted freedom of movement. To put it another way, that athlete simply has to work harder (higher heart rate, more effort, and thus more fatigue and less endurance) at any effort level to produce the same relative speed or power.

IF YOU are short on mobility in the right places, you’re very likely much closer to injury than you realize, AND you’re slower and less efficient than you could be also.

Here’s a short 2-minute video that I hope helps you get a bit more freedom of movement from your hips and ankles. Enjoy!

~Coach Al

 

 

 

 

3 TIPS to Jumpstart YOUR Running This Fall!

Deb-Trails For A Cure

Team Pursuit Ultra-Runner Deb Livingston, at the start of the “Trails To A Cure” trail race!

Now that FALL is officially here in the northern hemisphere (or so it seems based upon those early morning temps!), its time to talk RUNNING! Fall is truly running weather!  There’s so many great running events and races in the fall, and we get the benefit of having trained all summer, so the cool temps instantly make us more fit and fast!  The fall is also a great time to improve your speed and strength. Train smart this fall and watch out, you may arrive in the spring better and faster than ever. Here’s 3 tips to jumpstart your running this fall:

1. Get your STRIDE RATE UP!  A higher overall stride rate isn’t a magical elixir that will turn you into a faster runner, but it is one element that, especially if you’re striding slowly (plodding?), is key for improving.  One reason is that running is a neural activity. That is, if you are plodding along at 85 or fewer stride cycles per minute, you’re training your nervous system to essentially react slowly, and thus not building some of the foundational skills (remember: nervous system = skills) that will ultimately lead to faster running. ​Striding more quickly will also help you land more under your body and maintain better balance if you run on trails, two important and basic elements to improving as a runner.

(If you haven’t listened to our podcast with running expert and coach, Owen Anderson, Ph D, we discuss this aspect in great detail. Check it out!)

Virtually every runner should have at least a 90 stride-cycles-per-minute rate, which = 180 strides per minute.  ​How do you easily check to see where you are? There’s many ways to do it, but here is one simple way:

While gazing at your watch, count how many times your right foot hits the ground in 30 seconds. Multiply by two, and you have your stride rate cycle for 1 minute.  Multiply that times two and you have the total number of strides you are taking in a minute. The goal is 90 stride cycles per minute, or roughly 180 strides per minute.

2. Get into the HILLS! Flat roads are “fun” and “relaxing” to run on, but unless you are working VERY hard, they aren’t going to help you get faster. (Unless that “flat” is a track, in which case you might be building the things you need there to help you improve. Notice I said “might.”) The way to TRANSFER over the stability and strength you’re developing in your supplemental strength training (you ARE working on your strength, aren’t you?) is to RUN IN THE HILLS!

When I am running in very hilly terrain, I don’t moniter speed or pace as I might on the flats. Assuming you’re not doing hill intervals, the smart approach is to just run, staying near the middle to top of your aerobic zone most of the time, working with the terrain. This fall, challenge yourself to run hills, climbing and descending relentlessly.  You’ll be super glad you did!

One IMPORTANT caveat: If you aren’t moving well or building strength and stability in a smart way, the hills can break you. An injury that comes from running on hilly terrain is a red flag that some OTHER element in your training is lacking, e.g. flexibility, mobility, or basic stability/strength.

One last thing: Practice good form when running UP and DOWN. Tall chest and long spine, stiffen the ankle when climbing very steep grades, keep your arm carriage tight when going up (use elbow drive back for power and speed), and use your arms for balancing when descending steep hills.

3. Get OFF road and ONTO the Trail!: We talked about trail running in a recent podcast; how running on the trail vs. the road can really give your running ability a serious BOOST. Of course, there’s much more to be gained by someone who always runs on the road, vs. someone who is already doing some trail running. If you’re a road runner 80-90% of the time, then it IS TIME to get OFF ROAD! So, what are the ways that trail running can positively impact your running ability?

  1. Resistance to injury: The trail is always changing (depending upon how technical it is), so you’re not constantly pounding the same movements or muscles with every stride. Udulating terrain, rocks and roots, etc., force you to constantly adapt and footstrike patterns and balance change and improve. The ground is softer and because of every step being slightly different, your risk of injury from repetitive stress goes down.
  2. Transferring strength: One other fantastic way to improve and transfer that strength you’re building on the floor is to get off road, because dealing with the undulations in terrain as well as the steep UPS and DOWNS, builds incredible strength in the feet, legs and trunk! Take a close look at a true trail runner and what you’ll see is a very strong runner. When you combine the trail with climbing and descending, you have the MAGIC that will build an incredibly resilient and strong runner, who could THEN head out onto the road or track with much better chances of building speed in a powerful way.

Enjoy your running this fall even more by incorporating some of the above suggestions into your program. Get faster and stronger and have more fun!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al 

Are You Addicted To Sugar?

Americans on average consume an incredible amount of sugar.  Studies suggest that the average person consumes over 130 pounds of added sugar (much of it hidden) annually!  Believe it or not, the average endurance athlete isn’t any different when it comes to eating (and relying upon) too much sugar. Yes, it is true that sugar stored as glycogen in your muscles is your body’s preferred first source of fuel for training and racing. And yes, that stored glycogen also DOES fuel higher intensity efforts comparatively speaking.  However, if you want to go FASTER over LONGER distances, while being LEANER and HEALTHIER, your ultimate preferred fuel should be STORED BODY FAT, not sugar. Before you can become that lean and mean, superb fat burning machine you want to be, you need to first reduce how much sugar you’re eating on a daily basis. It really is that simple. The million dollar question becomes, how do you GET OFF the sugar drip, and TURN ON fat burning? Let’s start with some questions first. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Are you “hungry” first thing in the morning when you wake? (You shouldn’t necessarily be hungry upon wakening, but if you ate late or eat too much sugar, you are sure to wake feeling hungry!)
  • Do you experience cravings throughout the day for sugary foods (or mood swings)?  (A craving isn’t true hunger!)
  • Do you have a hard time stopping once you start eating sweets?
  • Do you find yourself needing something sweet as a “pick me up” during the day? (Blood sugar fluctuations mean your energy ebbs and flows, up and down. The need for a “pick me up” is common as a result).
  • Do you find you need some “calories” during training if you’ve been out for an hour or more? (True endurance is defined as your body’s ability to burn fat as a fuel. You ought to be able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours before “needing” additional calories!)

If you answered yes to any of these, you are NOT alone. If you want to get LEANER and stay HEALTHIER (and who doesn’t?), and become a BETTER fat burner, there are two things you MUST do:

1. Get off the sugar drip now: Your health AND your performance would greatly benefit from a firm commitment to completely QUIT sugar for at least two weeks (if not more).  It isn’t just the processed foods containing sugar (soda for example), it is also those natural forms of sugar (honey and maple syrup as an example), as well as all starches which are easily and rapidly converted into sugar.

2. Train to burn fat, not sugar: master your endurance nutrition: Learning how to become a better FAT burner isn’t JUST about reducing your intake of sugar. How you approach your training nutrition and training also plays a role.

To learn what steps you need to take, watch our very popular Spreecast (webinar) called Master Your Endurance Nutrition, where we teach you step by step, everything you need to train better, blast bodyfat and improve your true endurance.

Also, consider our 14-day detox program: The easiest path to getting OFF the sugar drip is to have the nutritional and motivational support we provide with our own 14-day Detox program! Back by popular demand, this unique program from Designs for Health, has been hugely successful for hundreds of athletes just like you! We’re launching it on the 29th.

NOW IS THE TIME to make the changes you need, to be better than ever.

Listen, we all have a love/hate relationship with sugar.  What most people don’t know is that human beings are hard wired (evolution) to eat it.  After all, while sugary foods were in short supply and hard to come by at one time (picture yourself foraging through impossibly thick brush to get some berries or climbing a tree to get to a bee’s nest), sugar is now obviously easily accessible and ubiquitous. Detoxing from sugar and adopting a long-term, low-sugar lifestyle isn’t just important to get leaner and go further and faster, it’s absolutely essential to prevent chronic disease and stay healthy. A high sugar diet…

  • Makes you fat.
  • Promotes inflammation throughout the body.
  • Is closely correlated with every single chronic disease.
  • Speeds up the aging process.
  • Increases your risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • Limits your true endurance and speed.

If you want to be faster, stronger, leaner and feel younger, you need to get OFF the sugar drip right now.   Get in touch if we can help in any way. And don’t forget our detox program, which could be just the thing you need to break old bad habits and make the permanent changes that will set you on the path that will make 2015 and beyond, the best years of your life!

~Coach Al 

Ps:

How about a DETOX BONUS!? **The first 10 people who read this and sign up for our detox  will get a FREE 20 minute consultation with me, Coach Al, to discuss any training or nutrition related topic they would like! SIGN UP NOW, and get YOUR FREE consult!  Let’s talk training and nutrition!

How to get this special bonus? Easy! 1. Sign up for the detox! 2. Send me an email at info@pursuitathleticperformance.com.  If you’re among the first 10, we’ll schedule our appointment!

DETOX DOUBLE BONUS: **Any one who reads this and sends me an email, we will send you a LINK to our special spreecast entitled LOW CARB, HIGH FAT FUELING: A Better Way?  We did this webinar for our team – it can be yours to view NOW.  Just email!

Runners: Are You Injured? Here’s the Secret Solution You Need!

Don't train through injury and don't think wishing it away will solve your problem!

Don’t train through injury and don’t think wishing it away will solve your problem!

And what IS that secret solution?

(Drum Roll Please………)

The “secret solution” is THE TRUTH….

…..which is something you probably don’t want to hear.  I get it.

Listen up: if you’re injured, you’ve got a real problem.  No, it isn’t life or death…..but because you love to run, it’s a real problem.

And the solution to your problem ISN’T as easy as just “resting and letting it heal.” 

Yes, the words, “I’ll just rest it and let it heal” is, without a doubt, the most common strategic response I hear from injured runners, on how they will solve their injury woes.

Allowing time for your body to rest and heal is hardly ever a bad idea, but it is foolish to believe (or hope, or pray) that simply resting and taking time away from running is all you need to overcome your injury.  Hardly ever works that way, I’m sorry to say.

There is only one way that works, based on my over 30 years of experience as a runner, triathlete, coach, and running biomechanics expert who’s performed hundreds of gait analysis on injured athletes:

Until you determine the reasons WHY the injury occured, and then address that cause at its root level, your injury will likely return once you resume running. 

The choice is always yours. You can keep beating your head against a wall and living with some level of pain on a daily basis. You can keep throwing money away on race entry fees for races you never end up actually doing. The choice is always yours.

Doc and I are here to help, when you’re finally ready to SOLVE your problem and enjoy running for the rest of your life.

Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

ps:  The 2nd most common response I hear from injured runners is that they’ll go to see their orthopedic doctor. Really?  Remember my friends, while there are many good orthopedists out there, their primary gig is using sharp toys to cut you.  For many, it isn’t on helping you to address the movement oriented issues that are very likely the cause of the injury.  Think about it!

051: Talent, Training and Exploding Your Potential [Podcast]

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Searching For Talents - Recruitment ConceptWhere does talent, in all its many forms, come from? Are we born with our own unique talents or can we develop them over time? And if we can “grow” and develop talent, how does that happen?

Thinking about it a bit differently, does intelligence measured through aptitude tests always correlate with success? Certainly, we all know world-class athletic or musical talent when we see it in another person, don’t we?

If you’re the inquisitive type like we are, you’ve thought about these questions more than once. It is the old “nature vs. nurture” discussion made even more interesting as we learn more from science about how our brains function, and how skills are developed.  Hot best-selling books like Dan Coyle’s “The Talent Code,” and Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” offer even more interesting clues.

It isn’t uncommon for endurance athletes to wonder about talent.  When we show up at the local group workout or race, it is hard to avoid comparing ourselves to others and wondering just how much talent we have and what our limits truly are.

Are you one of those who was “fast and strong” from the get-go, OR is it taking more time for you to develop and reach your goals than you would really like it to?

What does it REALLY take to develop a high level of skill, proficiency, and ultimately speed?

What are the true limits of our own potential? Is that potential limited by our innate talent or are our limits, truly “limitless,” IF we are willing to work harder and longer?  How much does stick-to-it-iveness and relentless drive determine our ultimate success?  How good can we really be?

In today’s podcast, we discuss all of those questions and more, including:

  • Different forms of talent; what is nature vs. nurture and its impact on your own growth and development as an athlete.
  • What the latest scientific research says about whether you must be “born with it,” or whether you can develop it.
  • What is the single biggest talent-related factor that prevents most people from realizing their true potential?
  • What is deliberate practice and how might it impact your own talent and development?
  • How YOU might be able to develop your own talent to explode your true potential!
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us on today’s podcast. We hope you’ll share your reaction after listening to our discussion. Let us know what you think.  Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker 


Make it happen! Believe in you!

If you’re going to MAKE IT HAPPEN, you can’t give in or give up too soon! When it gets hard, buckle down and get to work!

Addendum from Coach Al: I have a strong personal belief that MOST people give up too soon, or become complacent at the first sign of a plateau in their quest to improve, and achieve.  And I think that “giving up” is sometimes due to boredom and much of the time, might simply be due to the idea that we’ve reached some level of acceptable skill and then “settle” at that point.

I think writer Mikhail Klassen, said it best in his own take on where talent comes from:

Suppose you wanted to learn how to play the piano. You know that practice is involved. You might practice for a little bit each day, getting better and better. Your initial progress will start to plateau, however, after you’ve reached a modest degree of skill. At this point, you have to make a choice: either continue to “practice” each day, playing the same pieces over and over again, polishing things up a little here and there, doing the same exercises that you’ve already mastered…

-or-

…you can begin deliberate practice. You were probably already doing deliberate practice right when you started. Learning new pieces was hard! Learning difficult scales was boring. Getting the mood and dynamics of a piece right took time. You stopped doing these things once you got reasonably good at them. You stopped practising deliberately.”

 More: In a research paper published in 2009 by K. Anders Ericsson et al, in describing deliberate practice, they say (and I concur):

“In contrast to play, deliberate practice is a highly structured activity, the explicit goal of which is to improve performance. Specific tasks are invented to overcome weaknesses, and performance is carefully monitored to provide cues for ways to improve it further.”

Note the emphasis on “tasks being invented to overcome weaknesses,” or that performance is “carefully monitored.”

These are facets which were an important part of my own development as a musician AND as an athlete and coach. And they are a integral part of our philosophy and mission here at Pursuit Athletic Performance.

My personal “take home” message for all of you who truly want to be the best you can?

  • Never stop learning!
  • Avoid gathering more “information” (especially from internet experts or frauds), but instead, work with true experts who can give you the objective feedback you need, and help you avoid needless trial and error.
  • Never give in or give up, especially when it gets particularly hard!  When you’re bored, or feel you’ve done “enough,” that’s just the time to dig in deeper and keep at it.
  • Keep tweaking, keep challenging, keep reviewing and assessing. Look for ways to blast plateaus and progress to the next level!
  • Surround yourself with like-minded friends and training partners.
  • Be creative and develop ways to keep the fire burning! Motivation and inspiration, in part, comes from digging deeper and learning more. Keep the fire alive!
  • Believe it’s possible, and then do the work that will continually reinforce the belief!

 

Breaking News: Pursuit Athletic Performance to Open New Training Facility!

Breaking News:

Pursuit Athletic Performance to open a NEW State-Of-The-Art Training Facility! 

 

Here it is, the exciting news we have been anxiously waiting to share with all of you: Pursuit Athletic Performance is moving into a NEW larger, state-of-the-art training facility! We are growing and expanding!  We are super-psyched and we hope you are too!!

Centrally located in Chester, Connecticut at the top of Inspiration Lane (no, we are not making that up!), this facility (much larger than our present space at nearly 8000 sq ft) will provide more than enough space for:

  • group and individual adult and youth classes and personal training
  • triathlon, running, cycling, AND field sport (soccer, lacrosse) camps and workshops
  • a computrainer bike studio (aka the Pain Cave)
  • an expanded state-of-the-art gait analysis lab
  • treatment areas for chiropractic, massage, and more
  • a kitchen (which will evolve into a cool, fun and relaxing hang out space)
  • and much more!

We are also excited to announce we will be sharing space in our new facility with TrueForm Runner treadmills. We’ll have up to 8 of those amazing non-powered treadmills lining the front glass wall!

Situated so that as you run on them, you’ll be looking out into “inspiration” woods, the TrueForms are a fantastic training tool to enhance your running technique and strength and will be here for you, ready to help you improve and stay motivated with your runnnig during the cold winter months!

Plans are in place to offer a wide array classes for both adults AND kids (think yoga, adult bootcamp/strength and fitness, youth bootcamps, and more), and even winter long weekly INDOOR triathlons! With computrainers for cycling, TrueForm treadmills for running, and Vasa Ergometers for swimming, it’ll be easy!

The pictures below are just a tiny SNEAK PEAK of what is to come.  Construction is ongoing: the lights are still being worked on (which is why you see the glass from the lights hanging), inspirational and motivational “fathead” wall art and photos are being added daily, and much more. Each of the training spaces including mirrors and floors are still to be added. As for the computrainer studio (aka Pain Cave), it is just about ready to go!  We are just a few weeks away from being ready to rock!

We HOPE you’re as excited as we are!  PLEASE tell your friends and EVERYONE you know!

More information and news, including the OFFICIAL GRAND OPENING, will be coming soon!

Make it a great day everyone!  We can’t wait to see you in Chester!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

MORE On Running Biomechanics and Footstrike Patterns…

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM

We recently had Dr. Kevin Kirby, DPM on our podcast (episode 47) to discuss all things running!

Biomechanics, foot strike patterns, running shoe design and use, barefoot running, and much more are topics we covered. If you missed that podcast you definitely want to check it out. Go here.

Dr. Kirby gave a new lecture on July 30th 2014 entitled: “Running Footstrike: Rearfoot, Midfoot or Forefoot, Which is Best?” 

One of our passions here at Pursuit Athletic Performance is dispelling training MYTHS, especially those that are hurtful to those who don’t know any better. For example, one of our most read blog posts from the past was one we did on the MYTHS associated with “gait analysis,” especially the kind you’ll get in a running shoe store (hint: it isn’t gait analysis at all!). Didn’t read that one? You can find it here.

We also believe it is important to highlight science-based information from true experts when it becomes available. This very recent lecture by Dr. Kirby helps us achieve both.

To view the lecture go here:

Thank you Dr. Kirby.

Make it a great day everyone!

~Coach Al 

049: Coach Al visits with Triathlete Rachel Beckmann, Ironman Coeur d’Alene 30-34 Age Group Winner [Podcast]

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Rachel on the run in Kona!

Rachel on the run in Kona 2013, sporting her signature trucker hat!

Today I’m really pleased to welcome on to our podcast the winner of the women’s 30-34 Age-Group at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Rachel Beckmann.

Rachel is an active duty commisioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard presently stationed in Alexandria Virginia. Amazingly, I managed to catch her not moving for a few minutes while she was out in Las Vegas on vacation visiting family (AND training for the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona).  This woman doesn’t stop and sit still for too long so I feel really fortunate to get her on our podcast.

Rachel and I go way back to her days as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. (I was also at the Academy playing percussion as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Band).

In the time we spent together as coach/athlete, I really learned so much from her. Honestly, I still had so much to learn about coaching (and still do) and I think she was too young to really see it!  :)  I also learned about her relentless work ethic and inner drive to succeed, and that she is truly as intelligent, fun-loving, kind hearted and just wonderful to be around, as anyone you will ever meet.

Rachel has blossomed from that enthusiastic young collegiate newbie into a full-blown Ironman age-group champion, who has certainly learned a thing or three on her path to multiple Ironman finishes and numerous overall race wins.

In today’s podcast, she looks back on the journey and shares some thoughts on the fun she’s had, the difficulties, what she’s learned, and what it’s like to live life as a young female officer serving our country while also pursuing her “personal-best” in the sport.

Among the topics we discuss on today’s podcast:

  • How did her childhood, as well as her experiences as a female cadet at a military academy impact her development as a triathlete?
  • How does she balance her career as a Coast Guard officer with her triathlon lifestyle? What has she learned that could help YOU?
"Rach" knows how to keep it FUN and can rock the mountain bike too!

Rachel knows how to keep training FUN, and can really rock the mountain bike too!

 

  • What are her most important training, racing, and life “secrets to success?”
  • What about the challenges she faced during this year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene. How did she respond that ultimately lead to her age-group win?
  • What are the two or three things she thinks are the most important, to both have more fun and achieve greater success? (You won’t want to miss these!)
  • And so much more!
Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Thanks for joining me Rachel, I enjoyed our chat!  Make it a great day everybody!

~Coach Al

048: Listener Questions: Becoming a Better Runner, Swim Training and More! [Podcast]

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Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Today we dig into some great questions sent in to us from listeners.  The first has to do with becoming a BETTER runner, something nearly every triathlete and pure runner has thought about at one time or another (or a few thousand times!) :)

Whether it’s right here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance lab during a gait analysis, or out on the trail or road OR over a beer at the local pub, we always relish the opportunity to talk to anyone about running.  (Anyone who knows Coach, KNOWS how much he can talk, talk, and talk some more about this topic!). No apologies necessary though – running has been a passion of Coach Al’s since first running “Boston” in 1983.

Every so often though, a conversation with a frustrated triathlete turns to a sort of self depricating exchange where they end up telling us (trying to convince us, or themselves, perhaps?) why they CAN’T be as good a runner as they really would “like” to be.  Whether this self-doubt stems from a long period of training struggle or chronic running-related injury, the bottom line is that most triathletes have much more running ability inside of them waiting to get out than they realize! They just don’t know how to GET it out!  In the podcast, we offer some real and practical suggestions to take your running to a new level.

In case you’re one of those who is impatient and curious and can’t wait to listen, here are some hints:

  1. No! It isn’t necessarily about planking, more of it, or doing it differently.
  2. No, it won’t necessarily be “easy.”  While we offer some practical suggestions that you CAN implement tomorrow in your training, the truth is that it generally takes a long time to “get good” as a runner, all things being equal.

Also, we jump in on some questions about all things swim training for the triathlete.

  • Is it REALLY worthwhile to spend time doing kicking sets if I am racing in a wetsuit and generally never kick in a race?
  • Why is the coach writing “hypoxic” sets for us anyway? Is it really valuable, and if so, why?
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us! Make it a great day!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

Don’t Whine. Don’t Complain. Don’t Make Excuses: Life Lessons From Two Great Coaches.

An old cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, greed, jealousy, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope,  humility, kindness, emptathy, and truth.”  The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”  The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” ~author unknown

Your complaints, your whining, your victim mentality, your drama, and all of your excuses, have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your dreams or goals. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of your DELUSION that you DESERVE better, and go EARN it. ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli

I’m going to make a change, for once in my life. Its gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right…That’s why I want you to know, I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message coulda been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, then look at yourself and make a change. ~  Singer Michael Jackson, from “The Man In The Mirror.

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”  ~Walter Anderson 


Advice John Wooden's dad gave to him upon graduation from grade school.

Advice John Wooden’s dad gave to him upon graduation from grade school.

Its been one of those weeks when it seems that its just a little harder to “fight the good fight.” Hey, I know we all have our own pile, right? I’m not alone.

Sometimes life’s challenges step right up and hit us in the gut.  Sometimes people you trust and care for end up striking back at you, and what results is a struggle to regain your belief in the inherent goodness in people. Sometimes it seems that every time you look around, bad things are happening to good people.  My dad once told me that “life ISN’T fair, and not to expect it to be.” The ole man was right!  :)

 

I was watching a taped ESPYS show on the sports network ESPN the other night.  It was being replayed from 2009. Just when I least expected to be inspired and pulled out of a little doldrum I was in, up to the microphone steps now deceased Northern State basketball head coach, Don Meyer.   Meyer was being presented with the “Jimmy V Perseverence Award.”   Coach Meyer was the recipient of many other awards while he was still alive, and is the subject of a book, “How Lucky You Can Be” written by ESPN’s Buster Olney.  (If you don’t know who “Jimmy V” is, google his name right now and read).

Coach Meyer’s personal story is well known among college basketball fans and sports fans alike.  He retired in 2010 as the winningest men’s college basketball coach ever, compiling a record of 923 wins, and 324 losses. (The record was later surpassed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in 2011). But coach Meyer’s record of basketball excellence doesn’t tell the story of this man, who never coached above the Division II level, yet had an impact on the his sport and the people in it, on a truly global scale.

As coach Meyer walked to the microphone, his personal saga played out on the big projection screen behind him.

It is September 5, 2008.  He is involved in a terrible car crash in which he suffers terrible injuries, including one that ended in a loss of one of his legs.  But that’s not the worst of it. During the emergency surgery after the crash, doctors discovered cancer in his liver and intestines.  Amazingly, in an interview during his recovery from surgery, he said “”What’s great about this is I would not have known about the cancer had I not had the wreck. God has blessed me with the one thing we all need, which is truth. I can now fight with all of my ability.”

The very next day after being released from the hospital, he was at school coaching from his wheelchair.

As I sat there listening to his speech upon accepting the Jimmy V award, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a jerk, for how I was feeling at the moment I turned on the TV. I thought I had had a rough time – personal and business difficulties, and other things, seemed almost overwhelming.

537280e611665.imageAs Coach Meyer spoke straight from the heart, looking with gut-wrenching honesty into the eyes of every person in the room, he recalled visiting with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden after the crash. Coach Wooden shared with him a card that had some advice HIS father had given to him upon his graduation from grade school.

It has stuck with me virtually every minute since.

It said, “dont whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.”

Coach Meyer went on to tell the story of him showing up every day for rehab in the clinic, looking around the room at all of the people struggling and suffering, trying to heal and improve, and all the while, remembering and reiterating those powerful words to himself: Don’t whine-don’t complain-don’t make excuses.

Coach Meyer’s words really hit me hard; they shocked me back into that reality that often happens when we hear of someone else having what seems like such hard luck or bad fortune.

When bad things happen to good people, it often helps us realize what WE have to be grateful for – the blessings in our life – it helps us to prioritize and remember what is TRULY important – and helps us see that while life ISN’T always fair, it is good.  

Yes, its easy to allow a feeling of entitlement to occasionally creep into our mindset or to feel sorry for ourselves when something “bad” happens, when the harsh reality is, any discomfort or difficulty we find ourselves staring at is usually brought on by our own choices and decisions, however hard that might be to accept sometimes.

Can we learn from the mistakes we have made so we don’t repeat them?  Can we truly be grateful for the blessings in our life and share that attitude of gratitude with the world on a daily basis? Can we wake up every day ready to re-commit to living the ideals put forth by John Wooden and his dad?

As I look at the man in the mirror and re-examine my own life and my attitude toward it, what am I trying to say with this blog today?

  • If you’re an athlete and have made the choice to walk into a gym, or to train and race, don’t whine or complain about how hard the training is or how tough the race may be. You are choosing to do this. Getting out of your comfort zone and “suffering” on some level to achieve is what it takes to GROW and to reach your ultimate potential.
  • More to the point, I can say with total confidence that suffering through any pain or discomfort is a privilege and a blessing… that so many who aren’t so fortunate, only wish they could do.  To be able to train and race is not something we’re all entitled to! Cherish the opportunities!  Make the most of them, every day, and in every way.
  • Be HONEST with yourself and be willing to accept honesty from others. If someone IS being truly honest with you, it means they care about you. Its the liars you have to worry about.
  • If you, like me, have made mistakes in your life be it personal or in business, suck it up and stop whining and realize that sometimes life teaches us hard lessons. We need to LEARN from those lessons and soldier on!  Don’t give up or give in.
  • Have the courage and strength to accept that the choices you’ve made and don’t look back. Look forward.
  • Please join me and starting today, strive each and every day to be thankful for every blessing in your life; commit to doing the most you can with every minute of your life!
  • Don’t stop learning, don’t stop growing, don’t stop reaching, don’t stop challenging yourself, and don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.

As Charles R. Swindoll said, “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”  Make it a great day!

~Coach Al