Archive for compassion

From Olivia: Why Self-Shaming May Be Hurting Your Performance

Pursuit Functional Well-being coach, Olivia Syptak

Now that we’re more than half way through the racing season in North America, I’m seeing tons lots of updates via Facebook, email and the Team Pursuit forums highlighting early and mid-season race experiences. There are the thrills of testing fitness built over the long cold winter and spring, the excitement of crossing the first finish lines of 2015, and more often than not, a personal, self-inflicted public shaming.

That’s right. Shaming. You know what I’m talking about. It tends to show up as something like this:

“It wasn’t the time that I was looking for….” or

“I really blew my run…” or “For all the training I did I should be faster on the bike.”

Every time I read or hear statements like this in someone’s race recap I wonder, what constructive and positive purpose is this serving? I also wonder how much more joy and even how much better we might perform if we could be more supportive of ourselves.

For all that we do as athletes, the long training days, time away from family and friends, the strength training, the soreness, the mental and physical fatigue we carry from week to week, not to mention the sheer logistical puzzle of juggling our athletic lives with our work and family commitments, we need to be supportive and acknowledging of ourselves. Disparaging and judgmental comments detract from that.

Think what statements like the above could be cultivating within your mind and body. What you might be hearing yourself say, over and over, could actually be “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have what it takes,” or worse, “people are going to judge me anyway, so I better put the judgement on myself first.” Yikes! It would be hard to get up in the morning with that going on, much less rock your best race!

You know that saying that if you want to be loved by others you have to love yourself first? What would your training and racing experience be like if you could apply that idea here?

Try making some simple changes in how you think and talk about the work you put in and your performances. Consider replacing thoughts like “I’m not ready for this race,” or “that run is going to suck” with “I deserve to have a great time out there on course and to enjoy testing my fitness.” Look at opportunities to replace insecurities with confidence in your abilities and will. Rather than thinking things like, “I’m nowhere near as fast as I want to be” opt for something like “I’ve trained thoroughly and with focus to the best of my abilities and I will race to my fullest potential today.”

After races, consider how you might document and share your experience in ways that don’t contain a judgement about yourself. Even if you had a not so great race, simply affirming “I can learn a lot from how the day went” rather than, “it wasn’t the time I wanted” stays focused on your continued development as an athlete instead of creating a judgement about yourself

How you think and talk about your training and racing for yourself and in conversation with others can shape what you experience in the future. This is not dissimilar from how you would deliver praise to a child, student, or employee. Focusing on the behavior and the way you have prepared and on your experience of the event could be much more supportive toward your improvement and continued love of sport.

Adopting a mindset and shifting how you evaluate, think about and talk about yourself as an athlete that is honest, non-judgmental, is not minimizing of the effort you put in could be could just be your performance (and enjoyment!) advantage.

~Olivia

From Olivia: Stop. Rebuild. Reclaim.

Pursuit Functional Well-being coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Well-Being coach, Olivia Syptak

It has been quite a long while since I’ve posted here. A few months of significant overscheduling of work, the holidays, more overscheduling, on-going rehab from surgery a year ago, work related research, and hours of business development work. It completely took me away. It not only took me away from this inspired Team Pursuit world, in reality, it took me away from my “baseline standard” of living.

All that busy-ness, could have been observed (by me or by others) as discipline, dedication, or drive. It could have been labeled as sacrifice for building my dream. What I came to realize was that, in addition to making me really tired, this pattern of living was actually depleting me. It became obvious that by making the choices I was making I was draining myself of perspective and creativity. It was actually life and energy denying rather than life affirming. I was closing myself off from possibility, isolating myself from community, limiting my opportunity to recharge and maintain not only my strength by feeding my needs for connection, support, and collaboration, but also the needs of others. Bottom line:  I was diminishing my potential for fulfillment and success.

In Team Pursuit parlance, I was moving poorly and piling more and more on top of an unstable foundation. More “miles” was not going to make me perform better. Something had to stop.

So, just like what Team Pursuit athletes do when they commit to rebuilding from the ground up, I looked honestly and critically at what needed to change. I looked squarely at that compulsion from outside forces that said, “if you slow down people are going to think you’re not committed.” It was clear that a period of getting back to the fundamentals of effective and efficient “movement” in my life was essential to rebuilding my strength and stability, and to restoring my potential for optimal performance and happiness.

I cut back on the areas of my work that were sapping huge chunks of my time and energy. I reconnected with my friends and family. I recommitted to overcoming the post-hip surgery complications. I got back into my creative energy building space in the kitchen. I got outside. I spent time re-connecting with my vision for success in business, sport, and live at large. All of this was analogous to a break from running piles of miles on a broken body, and a time to rebuild foundational patterns of movement.

So now I’ve emerged! I like to think of this as my figurative “return to running.” In addition to feeling energized, and strong of heart, mind and spirit, I am “moving” so well now that even though I’m again fully busy I am doing so with a new level of consciousness and connection with how easily things can get out of whack if I don’t remain vigilant and committed to my “core.” I can now add “miles” or load knowing that I’m better able to absorb what I throw in. Work is rocking again, my body is running again, my connections are reforming. I am what might be described as “getting’ my groove back!”

We are all susceptible to this kind of thing. The allure of working harder, doing more, and driving ourselves further can get the best of any of us in any aspect of our lives, especially triathlon. But if we’re aware and notice when added stress—physical, mental, emotional—becomes counterproductive, even detrimental to our goals we have the option to stop. We can stop that trajectory, renew our strength and stability, and reclaim our future success.

Who’s with me?!

~Olivia

From Olivia: How Will You Commit Yourself This Year?

Pursuit Functional Well-being coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Well-Being coach, Olivia Syptak

As the start of the new year draws ever closer bringing with it the promise of achieving the goals we’ve set and for living according to the vision we’ve created, it becomes more important that we commit fully to those goals and that vision.

What I’m talking about here, is the agreement you make with yourself to make everything that you think, feel, do, or say, support not undermine your vision and your goals.

During Team Pursuit Reset camp in early November we talked about how committing fully to your goals is really about being completely engaged in the endeavor of reaching your goals. It’s being “all in” even in ways that you might not have previously considered to be important.

So if you’ve completed your visioning and goal setting for the coming year, the turn of the calendar year is a great time to set those intentions for what you will do, who you will be, and how you will think and feel as you navigate through your year in pursuit of those goals.

 You may know of an athlete who has a particular time goal in a race who consistently cuts all of her planned training rides short. Or you may know that athlete who plans an “A” race for the year and then decides to jump into all manner of other races leading up to the “A” race, diverting his or her focus and wearing out their body for what the race he or she says is really important. There might also be that athlete in your life who has said they want to dial back training and racing for the year so they can be more available for family, yet they continue to prioritize evening runs with training partners over helping the kids with homework and who at family and social gatherings still only talks about training and racing.

These examples may or may not resonate with anything that you’ve seen or experienced in your life, but they do show where actions, thought processes, and the way the athlete “shows up” can be incongruent with our defined goals. These examples are great illustrations of where disconnects exist between a defined goal and where some degree of commitment to those goals is lacking. As long as the dissimilar actions, decisions, and conversation persist the likelihood of athletes like these achieving their goals will be compromised.

Now let me clarify one thing. The commitment I’m talking about here is not meant to suggest that there is no place for making plans and consciously deciding to diverge from them in a manner that is responsive to your vision. Corrections and adjustments on the path are often necessary to keep us appropriately focused on and moving toward the goals we set and to ensuring that we’re reinforcing our vision. Frankly, as circumstances change as we learn and grow along the way refinement of our vision often makes adjustments to the plan and how we’re approaching the achievement necessary. The commitment in this case is to being open to course corrections and being able to assess them according to those values, what you most want and where you want to be ultimately.

So while it is important to have a clear vision of what you want as aligned with what you most value and to set goals that are truly aligned with that vision, committing to thinking, doing, talking, and feeling in ways that reinforce those values and vision is essential.

What will you commit to this year? How will you be “all in?” What does commitment and full engagement look, sound, and feel like for you? How will you keep track of how you’re doing and recommit when needed?

Happy New Year to one and all!

~Olivia

From Olivia: What Is Your Vision?

Is Visioning a Part of your 2015 Season Planning? It Should Be!

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

I hope everyone here in the US had a great Thanksgiving holiday last week, and that all of you in other lands nearer and farther had a good weekend!

Now that December is upon us and 2015 is drawing ever closer, we should all be getting really clear on what it is that is most important to us and that will drive our training and racing in the year ahead. At Reset camp last month we explored the importance of doing up-front visioning that would get us particularly focused on what it is that we want—in general and specifically from our athletic endeavors.

This visioning should be rooted in “the why” that drives us. This is that inner purpose behind what you do; that which is deeply important to you and which influences your decisions and choices daily, weekly, and monthly. It’s all in the name of living the way you want to, and achieving what you set out to achieve.

As you plan your next season, take the time to envision what you want, how you want to BE and how you want to FEEL as you make your way through the season. I mean really carve out some time to sit, thinking AND feeling about this. Write about it too!

Consider questions like:

  • How important is (are) the goal(s) that you want to achieve? Why?
  • What will it be like to achieve what you plan to achieve?
  • What will achieving your desired the result give you in your life?
  • Who will you be and/or what will you have when you reach your goal(s)?

Really and truly feel into these questions. Think about them, yes, but then sit with them. You know how they say that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well apply that to creating your vision. The stronger your emotional connection to what it is that you will pursue next year (and beyond) the more likely you are to get there.

So, what is the picture that you see yourself in? Bring that into sharp focus and use that as the basis for the tactical planning that you’ll do for both this off-season and next year’s training and racing season.

~Olivia

From Olivia: Do You Know How to Want?

Olivia Syptak leading the team on their journey to re-set mentally.

PAP Functional Well-Being coach Olivia Syptak, leading the team on their journey to "re-set" mentally.

We had a great Team Pursuit Reset Camp last week! What a great time to refocus and reconnect with the fundamentals of what makes us #pursuitstrong out there on the race course—physically and mentally!

We talked openly about our motivators and what drives us, and we honestly looked at what limitations we face externally or that we impose ourselves. And we considered why we do what we do.

Call it your “why,” call it motivation, or call it the fire that fuels you. Whatever you call it you should be able to identify a deeply personal reason for what you do and what you do should reflect and support what you want.

When was the last time you clarified for yourself what you want?

We are prone to spend a fairly significant portion of our lives in a state of what I call bounded wanting. By that I mean that we don’t freely let ourselves envision the life we want for ourselves. Often unconsciously, we apply limitations to ourselves when we think about what we want. And even that practice, the thinking about what we want versus feeling what we want is limiting us from really “knowing” what is most important to us—which is that force that will drive us.

Athletes who have worked with me on this have been stumped when we explore what they want. Sure they can state goals and some superficial desires, but when we try to dig deeper into what’s behind the goals they set it becomes clear that finding the really meaningful wants requires stepping into a whole new territory, one that they’re convinced is off limits! Maybe you’ve seen that place from afar too. It’s that place we all assume we’re either not allowed to enter at all, or that if we could it’s not practical, and even if we could  we won’t know exactly how we’re going to get around there so we’d better not even think about going in.

But holy cow! Once someone steps into that space, and walks around the wide open wild of unbounded wanting....amazing things happen!

It is in that openness and freedom that we get out of our heads, let go of expectations that come from others or ourselves, suspend tactical concerns, and let ourselves feel what is important. We let our hearts come out from the shadows of thinking and rationalizing and let them play. In the process our very personal “whys” come forward. We come to know what is really true for us but that we’ve held back or fully denied while we continue on a course based on the wants of some other compass.

Do you know how to want like that?

Do you know what it feels like when you do?

Do you know how confidently and deliberately you will make decisions and choices toward getting and achieving what you want when you’re clear on what that is?!

If you’re not sure, you don't.  There’s no “sort of,” or “maybe” on this. And if you don't, the foundation on which you’ll make commitments and choices may not be as firm as you think it is. That may impact your ability to get through the challenges that you’ll face in life, at work, in training, and in racing.

Team Pursuit members listen intently as Olivia Syptak guide them through the mental re-set process

Team Pursuit members listen intently as PAP Functional Well-Being coach, Olivia Syptak, guides them through the mental re-set process

Thanks to our time at camp last week, Team Pursuit athletes get the importance of being clear on their “why” as they plan next season, and as a guide for the choices they’ll make in the off season to set themselves up to achieve what they want next year. They entered that previously off limits territory.

So here I am, giving you explicit permission to enter that space, too. No matter how weird or uncomfortable it feels, stick with it. I promise you that as you get a feel for the place, you will become comfortable navigating and start to have fun with what you discover! Your intuition will guide you to where you need to be!

 

~Olivia

From Olivia: The Two Wolves of Ironman Lake Tahoe

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

All day yesterday I thought about what the cancellation of Ironman Lake Tahoe so close to the start, might have felt like for the athletes there. I obviously can’t know any of this for certain, but my heart imagines being at the swim start, suited up, expecting to race, and not knowing for sure what would happen. I can almost feel the mix of emotions. There would be that energizing surge of pre-race nerves and excitement for the day so long-awaited (and finally here!), and then with each minute of uncertainty having that enthusiasm get alternately muddled, intensified, or squashed by the confusion about the go or no-go decision.

This situation serves as a very real reminder of how full the range of emotions can be that any one person experiences in the heat of these kinds of moments. It also is worth thinking about how we can manage and come to some sort of peace with this range of emotions in the days that follow.

When the final decision was made on Sunday, when what was uncertain became certain, a whole new set of emotions likely piled onto those nerves. Among them may have been disappointment, anger, sadness, or rage. There also may have been feelings of injustice and unfairness and just maybe even hatred for the situation or for the authorities that made the decision.

With those feelings, though, there could also have been a sense of solidarity with other athletes, a shared empathy for the potential of the day that was lost in the decision. There may have been some peace in just knowing the decision and being able to move forward based on that certainty. Some athletes may have even felt relieved at the prospect of not having to deal with potentially dangerous conditions throughout the day.

As I imagine the athletes experienced those emotions in that moment, I also expect that they will continue to experience these and other emotions, in the days and weeks ahead. At any given time an athlete working through this might experience more the anger and sadness type emotions than the understanding and acceptance type emotions. Or (and?) vice versa. By experiencing each type of emotion and gaining perspective and comfort, each athlete will move forward.

Today as I continue to think about what the athletes (and the spectators and families and volunteers) will face to make sense of and come to their own level of peace with this decision, I can’t help but wonder if this old Cherokee legend might help folks get to a point of peace.

One evening an elderly Cherokee is teaching his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “...my son, the battle is between two wolves. One is negativity - it is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. He continued, “…the other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

May all of you who were impacted recognize both of the Ironman Lake Tahoe wolves within you. Respect the negative one for the fullness that it brings to your human experience, and then consider the option of letting it forage alone. How might that free you up to care fully for the other wolf?

And for the record, in my book, each of you was an Ironman yesterday!

 

~Olivia

From Olivia: Getting Over “Those Days.”

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

Pursuit Athletic Performance Functional Wellbeing Coach, Olivia Syptak

What is it with the scatter brained fidgetiness that seems to take hold on certain days? Those days when despite our inner desire to make things happen, we just don’t settle in. Those days when our ambition is overtaken by a gravitational pull toward pretty much everything except toward what we expect to accomplish.

Even if on the majority of our days we are fully engaged, and even if, overall, we live in a space of consistent and steady momentum toward our objectives and goals, that rudderless, floating, and meandering feeling on “those days” can be maddening and disheartening. What we may not realize is that the thoughts and feelings that we let arise on these days can also impact our overall belief in ourselves!

When we just can’t seem to focus, when we’re just not getting anything done, or when we are avoiding what we know we need to do, our goal-driven, achievement-oriented selves tend to default to super critical thoughts and internal commentary. We hand down harsh judgment upon ourselves for what we deem to be attentional and motivational failings.

As soon as we have categorized what is happening for us in that moment as bad, we feel bad. That thought we have that labels our inaction as a failing, breeds a host of other feelings and thoughts, some of which get pretty darned personal. It’s the proverbial spiral effect in action. When this happens we can become our own arch enemy.

But contrast how we treat ourselves in these situations to how we might approach them with a close friend or a dear teammate. Whereas with ourselves we are nit-picky and focused on every bump, crack, rut, and pothole on the road immediately ahead, with others we’re far more likely to show empathy, encouragement, and enthusiasm for the journey as a whole.

What if we could be more like that to ourselves? When you notice that you’re in a space of de-motivation, or having less than optimal focus in your day, can you reframe that experience? What would it be like to recognize what’s happening and accept it as real AND impermanent? How might things change if you were to label the experience as a natural lull, or a dip in your energy, and not a reflection of your character or your potential?

When we consciously notice low motivation or lack of focus as a legitimate part of our path, we can then be open to accepting it as part of our experience as human beings. Practicing the ability to face and acknowledge that with kindness, reassurance, and support toward ourselves could change the mental and emotional trajectory of those otherwise uneasy and days. You might even come to appreciate those days!

 

~Olivia