Archive for Intention

You’re Surviving But Are You Thriving?

 

Some days I find myself having to defend my philosophy that we ought to move well and have a handle on some basic skills, first, before we load up on more miles or intensity, or sign-up for that first Ironman or ultra-run.  In those discussions I often say something like this: "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't make the rules, but I'm forced to follow them just like everyone else."

Now truthfully, movement quality doesn't have to be perfect. The human body IS amazing and the variability and capacity inherent in its ability to compensate in a good way, keeps many in the game.  The younger among us or those with a lot fewer miles on the chassis, have an even larger margin of error.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all template for how to develop as an athlete, but there are rules that can't be broken without consequences...

To start with, in ANY sport, we must have a balance of mobility and stability, and depending upon the activity we're engaged in, the price we have to pay if we don't possess that balance could be severe...

Have you ever stopped to think about how comfortable your life is today? As noted movement expert, Gray Cook says, "We've gotten way past our needs (as a society) and have been in our wants for (a long time)!"

We've got back problems because we can slouch any time we want to, especially when we sit and stare at our phones. We're only a few steps from anything we need at any time (including the remote), we never pick anything up unless it has a handle, and at the gym we've been taught to sit down on our butts to push and pull to get stronger.  Even some of the most "fit" among us would rather use that cho-pat strap or brace on our knee vs. actually owning our core stability.  And those are just for starters.

Why, in this day and age, have we become comfortable with the fact that the exercise and training we do to "get fit" or "finish that race" must come with negative side effects, just like the prescription drugs we take?

My inspiration for coaching and taking the time to write is that I want you to not just survive your training and racing, but actually thrive from it.

I want you to not only be able to go as fast or as far as you possibly can, but also age gracefully, maintaining or even improving your ability to have fun playing, until the day you leave this earth due to natural causes. (If you're too young to understand what I mean by that, trust me, it will become painfully more obvious as the miles and gray hairs, pile up).

The way I look at it is, if  I'm going to do something that is very important to me, I'm going to do it as well as I can - with integrity, beginning with the basics and fundamentals. It's that simple.

Perhaps the only difference between you and I is that I've exposed myself to a lot of opportunities to make mistakes, learning (often the hard way) the real difference between surviving and thriving.

So how about you - are you just surviving, or are you thriving?

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

Do You Ever Ask Yourself These Questions?

 

As a coach, people sometimes think I have all the answers...

I don't.

No one does.

The truth is, in order to be successful, sometimes the athlete needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves some questions...

...so let me ask YOU....have you asked yourself any of these questions?


* What can I do better?

* What "tools" do I need to have in my "toolbox" that I DON'T have right now, in order to have my best chance for success on race day?

* What specific challenges does my "A" priority race-course(s) present to me, that I am not yet ready to meet and conquer?

* Am I being honest with myself about my weaknesses and my strengths, and am I addressing them as honestly as I can?

* Am I taking time each day and each succeeding week, to learn and to master skills, accepting and understanding that until I become more skilled and smarter in my training, my opportunities for improvement will be limited?

* Am I remembering to think long term (vs short term) about my overall growth as an athlete and person, with respect to race planning and day to day training?

Am I relaxing when I need to, tensing when I need to, and prioritizing training as I need to?

* Am I staying in the moment, doing my best in each rep, set, and training session, knowing that this might be the single biggest factor to improving over the long term?

* And....most importantly...am I enjoying this journey as fully as I should be and need to be, in order to truly feel great about myself and the sacrifices I have made, when this season is behind me?


I've given you a lot to think about here. I believe these questions can have a powerful impact on your potential for future success.

As I said, I don't have all the answers. However, I am committed to doing my best to help YOU on your quest toward greatness. Onward!

Happy trails!

~Coach Al

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 Coach Susan Ford: End Of Year Statistics

Coach Susan Ford

Coach Susan Ford

If you have Facebook friends like mine, your newsfeed is filled with end of year stats on number of miles of swimming, biking and running done this year. It’s great! People are active and they are celebrating! There are some folks who target a number and go for it, and some who are squeezing in those last miles at the end of the year to get to a number.

I won’t be posting my totals. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with chasing miles or celebrating numbers. Chasing numbers can be very useful. They can be a carrot when motivation is low; I used them that way this year when I challenged myself to see how many miles I could walk, following a surgery that prevented me from being able to run.

But that being said, there are potential downfalls to chasing numbers:

  1. It can end up detracting from our goals. When you wrote your goals down at the beginning of the year, if you wrote “I will run x miles”, or “I will run more miles than last year”, or “I will start running regularly”, then congratulations! Your mileage reflects your goals! But if you wrote “I will improve my swimming technique”, “I will improve my pace over x distance”, or “I will achieve certain race results”, then purely chasing miles will not get you to your goal, and may hurt the process. How well you achieve your goals at the end of the year will affect how good you feel about your year.
  2. Chasing and posting mileage invites comparisons. I’m not worried about what others think, I’m worried about what goes on in my head. Guess what? I didn’t run as far as my pure runner friends, or bike as far as my pure cyclists friends, and I’m absolutely sure I didn’t swim as far as my pure swimming friends! Does that change how I feel about my year? No! I did what I needed to do to accomplish MY goals.
  3. Chasing miles can lead to injury. The same is true for streaks – running every day for x number of days. Both blunt my ability to respect and honor the needs of my body, and they do not allow for adaptation time that is required for me to reap the benefits of my work.
  4. Numbers do not reflect quality or the true pursose of the session. They are a very one dimensional view of training.

And yes, I totaled my miles this year, because I was curious. It was interesting and fun, and I’m amazed at what happens with the accumulation of daily effort. What do my miles represent? I hope they represent an honest effort every day to accomplish the intent of each workout. Did I do my recovery runs slowly? If not, I failed the workout. My workouts should reflect my goals, and if I have given every workout my best effort with attention to the intent of the workout, the results will lead me toward my dreams and goals.

So, go ahead and total those miles and post them! It’s a strange and amazing thing, the number of miles we cover in the time it takes the earth to circle the sun - both athletes and planets in motion. I like reading the posts and celebrating with you!

But if you didn’t accomplish your goals this year, make sure you aren’t chasing miles for mileage sake. If you did accomplish your goals, but reading all those posts make you wonder if you should do more mileage, remember – you accomplished YOUR goals! That’s worth far more!

~Susan 


Coach Susan Ford lives in Tennesee and coaches runners and triathletes as a Pursuit Athletic Performance coach, in addition to her work as a veterinarian. Her own inspiring journey from an always-injured and frustrated triathlete to one that is strong, durable (and always finishing at the top of her age-group in every race from 5k to ironman) is a remarkable one. To learn more about Susan and her coaching services, go here.

 

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 Coach Susan Ford: What DON’T You Want To Do?

Coach Susan Ford

Coach Susan Ford

I've noticed a trend in some people who SAY they want to run or bike faster, and say they are willing to do "anything necessary" to get there.

In their minds, "anything necessary" means doing training sessions that are harder than they've done before, making bigger sacrifices for their training than they had done before, or become "hard core" in some way. They are absolutely ready to do those things.

Yet despite their proclamations, there is a glaring obstacle in their path, which they don't see, and/or aren't willing to address.

For example, I've been approached by another athlete about "speedwork," who is carrying a significant excess of bodyfat. And another with a significant running form issue who wanted to do higher mileage. Neither are willing or able to see what was obvious, and neither are willing to do the one "anything" that IS necessary for them to improve. In their cases, the "hard core" work they needed to do was address diet and get on a true path of improving body composition, and in the other, take time off running to address imbalances and other movement related issues first.

Both continue their paths, doing "anything necessary" for their goals, except the one thing that they could not accept as an essential part of that process.

It makes me wonder if I have similar issues, and what I'm not willing to do.

What am I blind to? What is holding me back from my goals that requires work other than just "hard" training? What am I aware of, but not willing to do?

Food for thought....

~Susan 


Coach Susan Ford lives in Tennesee and coaches runners and triathletes as a Pursuit Athletic Performance coach, in addition to her work as a veterinarian. Her own inspiring journey from an always-injured and frustrated triathlete to one that is strong, durable (and always finishing at the top of her age-group in every race from 5k to ironman) is a remarkable one. To learn more about Susan and her coaching services, go here.

 

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: 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