Archive for Olivia Syptak – Page 2

From Olivia: I’ll Have What She’s Having


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Passion has always moved me. Sure, I haven't always known to call it that, but I have always been drawn to the outward expressions of people living passion driven lives. Whether it's through something they produce or create, what they say, or what they do with their time, there is just something there that has always attracted my curiosity and my admiration.

As a child, I was enthralled by my grandfather's dual life. He was a farmer, but he also had a television and appliance business. I didn't understand what I was observing then, but I remember being shown around his store one steamy summer Illinois day. I remember feeling a very alive and excited energy in him as he talked about the features and benefits of the products on the floor. He was captivating! Thinking back on it now, what I responded to was pure joy, pride, and a genuine fascination and enthusiasm coming from not just his voice, but his whole demeanor. It was a real aliveness.

Then in high school there was the English teacher who, frankly, I was afraid of. Her reputation for high standards and relentlessly challenging students was well known in the halls. I thought she must be evil or have it out for students if what I'd heard was true. Over the course of my first semester with her, as I continued to work my tail off to meet her expectations I stopped thinking about the reputation. All of that fear was gone. I had entered into some unnamed space that she had created in the classroom and her class became something I looked forward to. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I know that at the root of her reputation was a force driven by passion. She was relentless and held high standards because in addition to her unquestionable love for her subject matter, she wholly believed in the capacity and potential that we all had for outstanding academic performance.

Now, as an adult, I continue to be moved by the ways that people discover, play with, cultivate, and ultimately live a passion driven life.

People close to me are doing it. My childhood friend who is now doing well funded scientific research on migratory song birds in California; the photographer I'm working with for our family portraits who is scaling back her nearly 20 year career in the corporate world to focus on building her creative business. There's my friend and grad school classmate who bravely resigned her highly visible role in corporate finance to travel the world for a year. And then there's my friend who leaped out of her day job into the startup world to create a non-profit athletic team to raise funds for local charities. Even our very own Coach Al and Doc Strecker show me every day that Pursuit Athletic Performance is great not because of what they know or their credentials, but their energy and authentic passion for deep and real excellence. Amazing!!

People that I admire from afar are doing it. At a recent screening of Half the Road ( writer and director Kathryn Bertine was ablaze with her passion, and she should be. As a professional cyclist who had never made a film before, she created and launched a relevant and renowned documentary about the inequity of pay and opportunity in women's professional cycling that is selling out in cities across the globe. And then there's the drive in James Balog, which I've followed for years now. James founded Extreme Ice Survey ( seven years ago and has been unrelentingly photographing glacial melt in remote regions of the planet and producing them in still and time lapse images so that we in our homes can see the impact of climate change. I could go on and on! The examples are innumerable!

To me, these are all expressions of real, authentic living! These people are doing what they are meant to do because they can't not do it! In all of these cases the energy that these people give off is infectious. I'm helplessly drawn in! It's one of those, “I want what she's having” situations.

Do you know or admire people like that? People whose vocation expresses, reflects, and is driven by something that matters so deeply? Maybe you're that person, that inspiration to someone else! Or maybe you dream about that kind of life.

What would it take for you to take a step, however small, toward becoming that person? What do you stand to lose and what could you gain? What if you made a choice that would inspire someone else?



From Olivia: Purposeful Life = Longer Life with More Positive Relationships


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the May issue of the Journal of Psychological Science…

“An analysis of data provided by over 6000 people reveals that if individuals feel they have a purposeful life, then they typically live longer and have more positive relationships. Lead researcher Dr. Patrick Hill explains: Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and settling overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose. So, the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.”

Sweet, right?

More time to do what you’re meant to do? And better relationships in the process? Ok, yeah, sign me up!  


From Olivia: Functional Skills for the Mind and Spirit


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

I'm one month into recovery from my second hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum and to resolve the impingement caused by the not-perfectly-round shape of my femur head. With the benefit of prior experience (this is the other hip....thankfully I only have two!) I came into this procedure with a solid understanding of the short and long term progression of recovery. I expected the initial two weeks of discomfort and pain killers, limited movement, and dependence on other people for all manner of tasks. The small things like getting a glass of water or a cup of tea, the big things like getting groceries, and the insane things like putting on clean underwear. I also knew that around three to four weeks post-op, as I began to taste independence again, urges and emotions would begin to stir, that I'd be pulled to the edge of control and that as an athlete that edge could represent danger if I wasn't prepared to enlist the important self-management skills of mindfulness, presence, and acceptance, while simultaneously caring enough about myself to cut myself some slack.

This edge of control during injury recovery, is where we athletes can fall into a pressured mental and emotional state that can lead to us to do things aren't in the ultimate best interest of our body and our being. This sort of thing can be fueled by feelings of low self-worth, sadness, and even grief and loss which are natural when we're not able to do the things we normally do. It can also be triggered by a taste, no matter how small, of those endorphins that are so comfortingly familiar. Just a small taste can remind us of the joy we're missing and can lead to just a little more, then a little more after that, and so on. When athletes' brains and feelings go on like this unmonitored and unregulated they can lead them to do myriad things with their bodies that may serve an immediate need but that may have significant consequences for the future.

Mindfulness and presence, two concepts that we on Team Pursuit frequently discuss, become really important during these times, as does acceptance.

Mindfulness or awareness of the feelings and thoughts that have come up for me during my recovery has allowed me to recognize when my spirits are low, when I am thinking about what I would be doing if I wasn't in this situation, or if I start to lament some possible future event that I might not get to do. The ability to see and feel those things happening and then noting what they are—thoughts and feelings, underlying fear, maybe a little boredom—gives me the chance to let go of them. Thanks to my meditation practice I know that I have the ability to let thoughts and feelings go as easily as they arise. That's not to say that it is easy to actually do this...but I have the foundation of practice to know that it will happen if I let it.

In combination with letting thoughts and feelings come and go, I am actively practicing acceptance of my present situation. It does not serve me to fight where I am, to deny that my body was broken and that I underwent a not insignificant procedure to get fixed, or to be angry and mopey because instead of going out running on these beautiful pre-summer mornings I'm spinning with no resistance on a wide-saddled stationary bike. Accepting and even embracing where I am and what is true for me right now does not mean that I am giving up on my future athlete self, that I'm giving into laziness, or that my prior accomplishments have been erased. Instead I accept that I need to heal, and I am giving myself unconditional permission (even if that happens several times a day) to do so while truly living in the reality of recovery with all of its ups and downs, occasional frustrations, and the opportunity to rebuild myself stronger, and with care and kindness.

While I can't say that I'm perfectly present, mindful and accepting at all times I can say that I give it my best shot every day. I firmly believe that allowing this process to be what it will be and to let my body progress as it will, is the best thing I can do for my future athlete self. I have come to see these as core functional skills that are critical to the recovery process. And just like we practice our functional physical movement so that our bodies draw upon them naturally in training and racing, practicing these mental and emotional skills regularly strengthens them so they'll fire when we need them.

So, even if you aren't in recovery from injury, think for a minute. Are there areas in your life where you could practice additional mindfulness, presence, and acceptance? Areas where your thoughts and emotions might be pushing you toward something that might be risky to your general wellbeing? What would be the worst thing that could happen if you tried letting some of that go?



From Olivia: Relax Into The Rushing



Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

In her teens, on a multi-day river rafting trip with a school group, my sister-in-law was thrown from the boat she was paddling with a team of seven others. It happened as their small fleet of six rafts was navigating a section of Class IV rapids. For those unfamiliar with rafting, rapids are classified as one of six classes as defined by the International Scale of River Difficulty. Class I are the calmest, least risky waters, and Class VI are extremely dangerous. The description of Class IV rapids, like the one Kim was on, says that these are “long, difficult rapids with constricted passages that often require complex maneuvering in turbulent water.”

The boats ahead of Kim's had successfully made their way through. Her boat was next. As they entered the rushing and roiling the boat was smacked, tossed, and bent in places. Everyone was tossed around as expected. The continued paddling, as they knew they must, to steer as best they could around hazards, while holding on intently. The boat continued to pitch and bounce. With one strong downward plunge and a forceful upward heave, Kim was hurled into the into the torrent.

As most of us would have, she struggled and fought. Kicking her legs, reaching and floundering with her arms. Craning her neck in the direction she thought was up. She was struck against rock, held seemingly in place by the force of nature. No amount of effort or will helped. She battled, yet the clobbering and thrashing persisted. The panic and fear about getting to the surface, about taking the next breath, and the adrenaline flooded her body. She kept fighting and grasping to regain control.

And then she relaxed.

Whether from exhaustion or will, fear or acceptance; she just relaxed. She stopped struggling, fighting and forcing. She stopped the frenzy and the panic. The water did as it was going to do. It tossed and swelled and it took her along. In no more than a moment though, the water popped her head out. She rose to the surface and could see the boats ahead of and behind her. And despite being frightened, exhausted, and cold, she knew she would be pulled from the water into safety and would continue the journey.

I love this story. Not just because Kim was okay in the end, but because of what it stands to teach us about struggle and force versus letting go. We mostly default to the former in our lives. If we're not pushing through, grappling, resisting, exerting strength, or demonstrating tirelessness in the face of challenge we don't feel successful or valid. That makes life hard.

When already too-busy days become more frantic because of tough interactions with co-workers, sick kids, car trouble, and missed workouts we resist, kick, and flounder to try to gain control. When we get to the pool to find no available lane space, when our Garmin's don't link to satellites, or a fierce thunderstorm makes us change our planned bike sessions we respond with charged emotion. Wielding anger, frustration, disappointment, even aggression, we expect to change the circumstances. No matter what we do, though, nothing really changes with force. A countereffect often sets in instead. The more we fight what's really happening, the more fatigued we get. This often leads us to become fearful, worried, and defensive. We turn inward, feeling like everyone and everything else is against us. But we keep fighting. We expect that because we're not “giving up” or letting things get to us that we'll prevail in the end.

But what if we just accepted the rushing rapids that we get pitched into, Class IV and higher, as we navigate our lives and our training seasons? What if instead of struggling and fighting and responding with draining emotions, we trusted the possibility of “letting go” of the imperative to control, to “go with the flow” so to speak? Like Kim, we might rise to the surface to find that, despite the challenge and exhaustion, we are not only safe, but still moving and making our way.



Ready. Set Intention. Goal!


“Setting your intention is like drawing an arrow from the quiver of your heart” - Bruce Black



Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak


We set goals. We strive to meet them. It's how we live.

Going back to school, a house on a hill, the corner office, fitting into those skinny jeans, a racing personal best, or saving money. We create challenges and drive toward them, keenly seeking achievement. We feel pride when we accomplish what we set out to do. We are disappointed when we don't.

After setting a goal, we willingly undertake the effort to reach it. While we expect to work hard and know the path won't be smooth, we often face unexpected hurdles, speed-bumps and delays, or even straight-up roadblocks on our path to an expected outcome. Those can make our effort more difficult, leading to struggle, doubt, re-evaluation, sometimes re-commitment, sometimes abandonment. (Note: all of these may be valid responses—neither positive or negative—depending on the situation) Even the most goal oriented and focused among us can grow weary when it seems like, despite our best effort, we don't hit our targets, or, if we got something or somewhere near our target but that doesn't look or feel like what we expected. How we feel about and respond to this situation depends on the intentions that underlie our goals. It depends on our awareness of our intentions, how aligned our goals are with those intentions, our understanding of what our intentions mean to us, and about the long range power of those intentions to commit us to our goals.

During our training camp a few weeks ago, Pursuit AP team members explored the notion that our pursuit of goals is done in he service of our intentions. This is an important concept that I wanted to share here, beyond the team. If we understand the power of intentions and consciously set, and then remain aware of them, we are more likely to set truly meaningful and fulfilling goals. We will face obstacles with greater resolve, resilience, and understanding, and we'll be more likely to accept the unexpected and handle it resourcefully. Most importantly, when our goals are intention based, our focus and energy are channeled in such a way that achievement is certain.

So what does intention mean? Definitions of “intention” are many, they range from clinical to spiritual. I like to think of intention as simply a higher purpose or aim that drives our lives; a foundational personal truth that is aligned with our core values. According to Phillip Moffitt, founder of the Life Balance Institute, we set “intentions based on understanding what matters most...and make a commitment to align [our] worldly actions with [our] inner values.”

You can see therefore, why knowing and setting our intentions is prerequisite to setting meaningful goals. As we undertake the work toward our goals then, an on-going awareness of our intentions impacts our engagement with the effort required to achieve our goals. This critical connection with “what matters most” enables us to face head on, the inevitable challenges that arise in pursuit of our goals and to manage them with a more regulated and understanding attitude. Just as we would a consult a compass as we travel along a wooded trail, we can check in with our intentions on the path toward a goal to validate that we are on course to a life lived according to our own truths.

Contrast this with a life lived pursuing goals set based on popular opinion, trends, bets with co-workers, or pressure (real or assumed) from friends and family. Sure, meeting goals like this will feel good inside, and will garner attention from outside. But at what cost? Can achievements reached and celebrated, but that are disconnected from our foundational truths really be a good use of our energy and other resources? How many “out-of-true” goals like this can we stand to endure before our happiness and fulfillment are impacted? The truth is, goals that are disconnected from intention are about as meaningful as a checklist or an inventory. Things get crossed off and you feel a sense of accomplishment, but in a sort of high-calorie low nutrient value kind of way.

So take some time to consider your goals for the upcoming racing season, for this quarter at work, for the coming summer with your family. Confirm that you can see and articulate how your foundational truths are aligned to those goals. Be able to say with confidence that you are directing your energy and focus toward goals that will nourish those intentions. Feel the excitement in your gut and in your heart! Then get ready! Now that you're set, you'll work, you'll fight, you'll re-assess and re-focus as required. Ultimately you'll reach those goals. How can you not, when they are so important to the very core of who you are?! And when you do, raise your arms in victory and happiness! Congratulate yourself! You're achieving the life you intend!


You Are Not The Judge Of Me


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak


In sport and in life we are compelled to be remarkable. That drive keeps us striving and reaching for new growth. We set goals; we achieve them. We seek challenges; we meet them. We enrich our lives with experience, knowledge, and people that support our quest to be the best that we can be in whatever we endeavor to do. Along this path—somewhere, somehow—judgment creeps in. We start to question if we are remarkable enough. We start letting external parameters and stories that we tell ourselves define what it means to be remarkable.

In racing we have time clocks that give us precise and real feedback about how fast we covered the distance of the course; the time we post is documented, indisputable FACT. There's no judgment in the fact of a 2:30 or 1:30 half marathon time. Both are facts. So, how is it that if we find ourselves thinking or talking about our own personal effort in our own personal quests to be remarkable that we say things like, “I PR'd my last half marathon with a 2:30. Nowhere near as fast as you, but I finished. I'm just glad I finished. I really didn't have a lot of time to train like I wanted to, my job, and…,” and so on.

Do you see where the judgments start to creep in? Can you tell where the judgments are twisting a fact into a whole bunch of feelings, assessment, and conclusions about your individual effort as related to someone or something else?


Whenever I hear athletes talking amongst themselves I hear numerous instances of this kind of self-imposed judgment. Sometimes it is more camouflaged than others, but it is there. It is time we start to recognize when we are doing this and understand the impact that it might have on our quest for our own remarkable.

Out loud, to another person, talking like this discounts the effort we put into training, the discipline we impose upon our schedules, the patterns we shifted in our lives to do something remarkable. Somewhere in the words we choose we are telling ourselves stories about all that we give and do not being good enough. While it may seem like innocuous, self-effacing banter, there is something deeper going on. At the same time we are imposing these judgments on ourselves, we are unknowingly creating, rehearsing and affirming limitations on our potential.

It is almost as if we are afraid to really step into the spotlight beam shining on our own personal remarkableness. Certainly the facts of these two half marathon times clearly show that the 1:30 runner ran faster than the 2:30 runner. But that says nothing about one being more or less an achievement, or more or less remarkable for each of those runners. There is no limit on remarkable, and there is certainly no scale against which remarkable is graded.

Remarkable, like happiness and contentment in life, is fluid and stretchy and deeply personal. It is not a destination and it is not one-size fits all. Let's not let the stories we tell ourselves and the judgments we bring upon us constrain the enjoyment of the process of our growth and development our quest for those achievements. When you notice that your inner self might be telling the rest of yourself limiting stories and judging yourself unfairly here’s something to try:

Stand up. Then, firmly exclaim to that inner self, “YOU ARE NOT THE JUDGE OF ME!”

…and proceed with focus and confidence in the direction of remarkable.


Your Future Self is Depending on You!


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Over the last couple of months, the Pursuit Athletic Performance team has grappled with and explored motivation. Coach Al and members of the team have shared guidance and wisdom on where motivation comes from, how we must cultivate it daily, ways we can harness and channel it, etc.

Last week, I attended a teleconference with research psychologist Tim Pychyl, Ph.D. (pronounced pike-ull), associate professor of psychology at Carlton University in Ottawa, Canada, and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. Interestingly, this session revealed to me a few additional nuggets related to the motivation conundrum. Questions like why we put things off, why we avoid certain tasks or activities that we fully intend to do, and why we do this over and over again, are as much about procrastination as they are about motivation. So thinking about the answers to these questions was, for me, a different way of looking at motivation.

According to Dr. Pychyl, that voice inside that says “I don’t feel like it” or “I don’t want to do it” tends to govern what we choose do because of the gap that exists between our present self and our future self.  Because we don’t have a strong association with our future selves or the pain that our actions today might bring upon them, we act according to that acute, immediate association with the comfort that our present selves stand to gain today.  We fall into the habit of what Pychyl calls “play now, pay later.” That well-worn approach to managing deadlines at work, or with how we approach the stretching component of our training plans are examples. The problem is that when we put stuff off to benefit the present self, our future self bears the consequences. By so often placating that present self, seeker of comfort, gratification, and ease, we are really throwing a wrench in the works for our future self!

So what can we do about it?

Dr. Pychyl highlighted a few helpful strategies. One, quite simply, is to “just get started.” He was careful to point out the important difference between this and Nike’s “Just Do It.” Because we have a tendency “to make tasks more aversive than they are,” thinking about “doing” an entire endeavor could make the whole thing just too big to even contemplate thus perpetuating the very delay we are trying to overcome. The point is we don’t have to take on or finish the whole task! Just starting a task, just getting it going can make a big difference in how we perceive and approach the effort ahead. If you’ve ever not felt like running, but headed out with a commitment to just go for one mile only to find that you return home having completed your whole workout knows exactly why this works.

Another strategy that he highlighted is a mindfulness practice. Developing our ability to be aware of those “I don’t feel like it” emotions that are begging us to take it easy or nudging us ever closer to putting off something that we mean to do, sets us up to intervene and to act rather than to avoid, or as he puts it “giving in to feel good.” This self-regulation capability can be critical to maintaining the link, and dare I say it—the trust, between our present and future selves.

Think about your present self. Think about your future self. Contemplate the space between and how your choices may be narrowing or widening that gap.

In the near term, does your future self expect more quality sleep to allow you to be your best at work and in training? In the longer term, can you picture your future self out on the race course at mile 7 of your Ironman marathon? What does your future self expect from you today to ensure that you’re feeling strong and good at that point? What would your future self tell your present self about the choices you are making today?  What effort can you start on today rather than put off until tomorrow that will lend a hand to your future self? What feelings are you feeling about the tasks you face today that might be limiting your future self? How might your answers to these questions help improve your motivation?

Consider using questions like this to develop a list of intentions for your “selves” to work together on to unlock your potential! Your future self will thank you!

(For more reading on these and similar topics visit Tim Pychyl’s blog “Don’t Delay”)


Are You Listening? Olivia Syptak is.

 Introducing Olivia Syptak as Pursuit Athletic Performance's

Functional Wellness Coach!


Hey Everyone! 

Coach Al here.  With today's blog post, Doc and I would like to formally introduce Olivia Syptak to you as a new contributing member of our team of coaches here at Pursuit Athletic Performance.  Olivia's focus with our team will be on Functional Wellness.  Some of you may remember the Podcast we did with Olivia a couple of weeks ago on Training and Life Balance. We are SUPER excited to welcome Olivia and know you all are going to really enjoy and benefit from her contributions moving forward. At Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are passionate about training for the betterment of the body, not to its detriment. Spiritual, emotional, and mental health and fitness are as important as physical health and fitness. With Olivia by our side, we hope to share even more valuable information that will help you create the life that you truly deserve. Welcome Olivia, and thank you for joining us!

Are You Listening?

By Olivia Syptak


Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellness Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellness Coach, Olivia Syptak

For today, I'd like to have some fun so let's do a quick puzzle! It’s a simple jumble. Unscramble the letters below and see what you get. 


What word did you come up with? Or did you find two words?

There are, in fact, two words that are spelled with these letters: SILENT and LISTEN. Cool, right? It's even cooler if we dig into each word and look at how linked they are in terms of maintaining our forward progress in life, as athletes and otherwise, in a balanced way.

Let's start with silent. First, let me be clear that this isn’t necessarily about a complete lack of sound, or stark library quiet in our physical environment—although that has its merits. I am talking about a silence derived from stillness, openness, and space in our hearts and minds.

Contrasted to a chattering mind, a defensive and fearful heart, and a cluttered perspective, a still mind, an open heart, and an expansive perspective represent states of being silent that set up the possibility for “hearing.” It is in hearing that we gain the opportunity for listening.

To listen is to attend to, or give focused attention to, that which we hear. Again, this goes beyond what we hear or listen to through our ears. This is about awareness of the things that we may know deeply, but haven’t yet attended to on a surface level. It is about that feeling that something is right (or isn’t). It is about a “wide lens” point of view that doesn’t jump to conclusions or limit options.

As busy athletes with children, significant others, parents, siblings, co-workers, demanding projects, traffic jams, injuries, doubts, hopes, and dreams, developing our ability to listen is critical to our ability to be as great as possible in all of these areas.

We need be in honest touch with our strengths and weaknesses in racing to determine where more training time might be spent to increase that balance in our programs that Coach Al and Doc Strecker have recently discussed. We need to know when training or racing may need to be set aside in order to free us up literally and emotionally to spend a whole weekend with our families. We need to trust that feeling that resting today, rather than getting on the bike is right, and that doing so does not mean we are weak or giving up on our goals. Or maybe, we might feel in our bodies that we are capable of pushing our run pace in training but hold back out of comfortable habit.

There may be things that you know deeply but that you haven’t yet acted upon; something you know in your heart that is right but that you’re not listening to. To really be able listen to the cues or signals that may come rationally, emotionally, or perceptively we may need to carve out some silence in our lives.

What are some potential sources of “noise” in your life that may be limiting what you hear and listen to? Would it be possible to take a minute today to be silent and think about things you may be aware of but not yet be listening to?

You may just find that in these two solutions to this little puzzle, you may unlock some incredible opportunities for growth and performance. Think of the opportunities that you may be missing!