The Life Athlete Tribe
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Traipsing around Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, during a charity softball game recently, I remembered something. It was long ago. My title back then – Strength and Conditioning Coach. My employer – The Mariners. Lucky me, I got to hang with some great players – Alvin Davis, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez.
Even better people today.
But I digress. What I remembered…
Post game, players were always interviewed. The stars of the game. Questions probed into their secrets of success. How did they do it? What was the one thing that they focused on while striking out the last batter or the hitting the go ahead home run?
And of course “how does it feel ?” ( always a stupid question reporters ask)
The players often answered in what I came to know their language – baseball jargon (each sport has it’s own jargon).
Their top answers:
“I just stayed within myself.”
Or as a team
“We just kept to our game plan”
One in the same.
I thought about those phrases back then off and on. Running them against my own experience but always letting it go at some point without further analyzing or dissecting them into a more easily understandable dialect. A translation is really what I wanted but, post-Mariner employment, I almost never thought of it again.
Until this softball ball game.
On a 70-degree, soft wind day and after the hand shakes and hugs with the players and buddies of the past (and some less than inspiring batting practice by me) – the translation came.
Keep the focus on you
You the individual or you the team
It’s staying relaxed. Trying and efforting without trying too hard – to the point of creating tension. A bit of an oxymoron. Not gripping the bat too hard – turning it into sawdust. No, just enough. Not trying to throw the ball too hard thus losing pin point accuracy. It’s also translated into staying in control of themselves – keeping the rhythm and ease within the swing or the throw. When they lose that, the lose everything including, possibly, the winning performance.
That’s their secret sauce
Relevance to you? Simple – keep the index of how you’re doing as you move: lift, stretch, run, climb, cycle, or engage in your body in any way – on you.
Not the external happenings around you.
Not on the clock you’re trying to beat.
Not on what you think you should be doing
and not on the competitor next to you.
Keep the focus on you = stay within yourself.
Other followers of the stay within yourself way are:
Apollo Ohno, Jamie Moyer, Jay, Dan, Edgar, Alvin from the Mariners and many more. Even Usain Bolt follows this path. They are the Pros – the athletes who had to make all the amateur mistakes before coming to learn that the best way and only way to perform better (and do it for a long time) was to stay within themselves and smartly in command of their willpower. The proof is in the pudding.
In contrast are the amateurs, who never stop making the same mistakes, become addicted to forcing their will on their bodies in a “go hard, go home” puerile way and suffer the consequences. Injuries, burnout, lack of sustainable progress and a short lived “fitness career” are born to those lacking of discernment. That’s why they’re called amateurs.
Why follow the way of the Pros?
Because there are a plethora of fitness regimes today, which in the guise of getting fit, clearly lead participants, at times unknowingly, down an amateurs path – at best. Steeped in ignorance and bordering on lunacy, their focus is working for the sake of working, pushing their bodies beyond any sense of grace, fluidity and technical acumen coupled with abject disregard for staying within themselves. The antithesis of the Pro. The signature of the amateur.
Translation complete – finally.
So, as I see it, there are two paths to choose from. Learning to stay within yourself or not.
Ultimately, it’s your call.
But since the Life Athlete Way is about finding the best, most efficient, most sustainable, quality over quantity way of being and performing in your body and life. My choice in translation is ….yep you guessed it.
There’s a Life Athlete in all of us.
Ok, ok, this title may be a little over the top. But maybe not. How about this – longevity NOT meaning how many years you get to brush your teeth or the length of time you’re on this planet. Rather, longevity defined how long can you hit golf balls further and play pain free, ski the bumps another million vertical feet or run your umpteenth marathon.
Hips, baby. It’s all in your hips. Power and strength to endure and keep your back and knees happy. Here’s one of best movements I know for stronger hips. Although a simple move – it’s not easy. But a little bit goes a long way. Quality over quantity. Start slow and build progressively – “The Life Athlete Way” to train.
If you feel a little soreness in your glutes next couple of days – bingo you got into your hips and now you know where they are.
Happy training and a toast to longevity in your hips.
When I first started working for the Seattle Mariner Baseball Team as their first strength and conditioning coach back in the 80s, I found a common view held among most players. The thought of doing anything other then hitting and throwing, like weight training, was about as important to them as learning to crochet. All they just wanted to do was play the game. Made sense to me and I couldn’t blame them.
What they didn’t know back then was that by training – strength training, mobility training, speed training, balance training, and breath training, just to mention a few – would enable them to play the game better, have longer careers and reduce the occurrence of nagging injuries. As I saw it, the end goal was to have a longer and more productive career…and make more money. Training properly for the needs and capacities of the sport = more money. Simple equation.
Of course, some players bought into weight lifting only. They went off on their own, did bicep curls and bench presses ad nauseam, and ended up barely being able to swing a bat without tearing something…but they were so proud of their new physique. A good idea gone bad with the old cliche, “if a little is good then a lot more is better”, rising up again.
But, thankfully, most trained wisely and thus gained an advantage over the other untrained players and bodybuilders on the team. DK’s true story is about another way to think about the definition of working out. Like a baseball player who trains to have a long productive career, DK is training for his career – the career of participating optimally in his life and the physical activities he’s passionate about. Just as with the players, his goal is to perform better longer.
Nothing’s wrong with working out – getting cut, pumping up, toning up, getting fit and or increasing the size of your bicep. All good. But also think about the idea of training your body/mind to improve how you perform in your physical life. The grace to move effortlessly, to balance on a rock while hiking, to have better posture while rowing, to recover faster from your runs and kayak better like DK.
The Life Athlete Way is about finding a better, easier, more efficient and sustainable way to perform in your body and live a quality life. Way to show the way, DK.
Wisdom of the Life Athlete - Paddling Like DK 8-15-14
Ah ha moments can be fleeting. Moments of clarity or understanding that brings relief, ease or sense of direction don’t come easy. But when they do, they can be awesome.
Listen to this brief account of one woman’s “Ah ha” moment that resulted in not only awesomeness but made her workouts a lot easier while staying just as fit.
This is the Life Athlete Way.
Wisdom of the Life Athlete - Seeking An Ah Ha Moment - Listen Up
There was an interesting and revealing study that came out in 2012. Dr Claudio Gil Araujo of Rio de Janeiro found there was a direct link between mortality and the ability to sit and stand off the ground. The harder it was for someone to stand up from a seated position off the ground, the greater the level of mortality. In other words, move or you lose.
In this video, I show you a movement you can practice to get up off the floor with ease and grace… and maybe even add a few years to your life. Honestly, whether you’ll live longer or not , I don’t know. But what I do know is that if you play with this move, you’ll feel more limber, build a stronger center and feel more capable in moving like a champ.
If case you’re interested, here’s the research about mortality rates and ability to rise from sit and stand:
Also, here’s a Youtube video showing techniques and how to rate your ability to go from sitting to standing from the doctor responsible for the study. Try these moves too and see how you rate. Challenging!
No matter what outdoor sport or activities you’re into this summer, you can’t warm up enough. That being said, 5 minutes is enough to prepare your body for the rigors ahead.
Now – The Best Way
- It is as important if not more so to think of mobility movements as warming up your joints as much as musculature. Joints take longer to warm up because there’s less blood in them than in your muscles.
- Alternate dynamic movement with a period of holding the stretch. Don’t just push thinking you’re loosening up. It doesn’t work.
- Progressively is the best way. A little tension in the stretch then release, and then little more tension, release again. Slowly but surely your body will relax into the movement and loosen up.
- Breathe with the rhythm of the stretch. Don’t hold your breathe and just push the shit out of the muscle or joint you’re focusing on.
- And lastly – if you feel ANY discomfort or the slightest bit of joint pain (discomfort IS low grade pain) while you’re riding, hiking, running, kayaking, etc…STOP and do not push though it. Try warming up some more, backing off your pace and see if the discomfort goes away. If not – head back to the barn.
You won’t like the results next day if you push though it. I tell can you dozens of stories of folks who have push through – and they aren’t pretty.
Be good to yourself. take time to warm up. You’ll be glad you did.
Now go have some fun outdoors! Yee ha!!
Who’d have thought that during a charity softball game there could be a significant conversation much beyond whose playing second base and what time does batting practice start.
Much to my surprise that’s what happened.
While putting on our jerseys in the locker room, co-ed so you play in the shorts you came in, I introduced myself to one of the co-players at the locker near mine. I was on my close friend Dan Wilson’s Blue team, and he was on the lowly Red team led by my other old friend Jay Buhner. Both Jay and Dan were iconic Seattle Mariners’ players I worked with during the era when I was the strength and condition coach for the team years ago.
Garth Stein was playing with his 5-6 ish son when I said hello and that I really enjoyed his book. For those that don’t recognize his name, he’s the best selling author of “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. It’s a great read. I told the Seattleite how much I enjoyed his book – the humor, the memorable zen-like quotes and the observation of humanity by of the main character, a dog named Enzo.
Of course, I had to mention I too was writing a book – it sounded so sophomoric when I said it, like an adult male who proudly tells Jay or Dan that he plays weekend softball games with his coworkers. Geez – really?
Oh well, I did it anyway.
After mentioning my struggles with being disciplined in writing daily – ok, 3x a week – he shared a little about his own struggles and how he works around and through those writer dilemmas. First thing he said was yes, it was a discipline. It takes time to develop it and like everything, it’s a slow, plodding daily routine. Time and practice. Simple words but not easy.
He was reassuring like a coach after his player goes 0 for 4 and fails to drive in the winning run. I was that player, in my mind. Yes – I kind of figured that, reminiscing on my Olympic days. If you want something bad enough you need to practice and practice being disciplined as well. Always good to hear again and again from another’s life story though.
But the next tidbit he shared was really a nuance that resonated even more with me. He said that the key in writing was not getting caught in the trying to be perfect. Expecting to write perfect words, sentences and paragraphs every time you sit in front of that blank screen. Ah ha, now he was speaking to my inner, off-times, defeated writer. Wanting to be perfect is the locked door in the jail cell. You’re imprisoned. I’m imprisoned. And I was the one who locked that door and threw away the key. At least, that’s how I defined it from my experience.
He said that if he writes for 3 hours in the morning he may only get 20 minutes worth of good, useable lines for his efforts. He’s ok with that and knows by virtue of his practice that that’s what it takes. But the real heart of his message was this. When you stop trying to be perfect and just “be” and allow and write – magical things happen. He literally said that when in that state of just writing without the mental dialogue about perfection or lack thereof and be in the moment, he’ll write something, come back hours later to reread it and go “ wow , where did that come from”?
“No mind = better writing”, I thought.
He likened it to Michael Jordan effortlessly floating thru the air, closing in high above the rim, tongue hanging out, and next thing you know it’s a spectacular slam dunk of epic – how in the fuck did he do that – proportions. Michael doesn’t know how he did it and on top of that he absolutely didn’t think ahead of all the steps he needed to take, where he needed to slip by defenders, when to jump. No sirree, he was just in that moment and that moment alone with all thoughts gone silent. The mind was still and the magic happened.
What’s so fascinating is that the more you practice anything (I pondered this with him ) the more it seems like the physical and mental planes wane and the process and results begins to dip into the spiritual realm . Now, I dislike the word “spiritual” (I won’t go into that now) but I don’t have another word to replace it.
What we both nodded our heads in unison about was “that thing” which inexplicably happens. The magical stuff – when we get out of the way and get out of our head – becomes more and more an assured and valuable practice in dealing with our life’s goals. It’s a mystical ally, a force of nature – call it what you like – which happens if we are open to it. This “no mind” state, can produce clear and profound results. It just happens. Glory be.
The conversation ended as the call to hit the field was announced by Dan. Time for softball and the practice of “ no mind”. I was 1 for 3 (elusive perfection) and think Garth had a couple of hits for his losing Red team.
Good day, perfect weather, good guy and I recommend reading his book.
I asked him if I could get together with him for coffee. He said sure. Got lots more questions. If I do, I’ll be back with another blog about it.
Oh yeah – he’s got a new book coming out in September.
Take good care of yourselves,
We all have minds that are busy with a myriad of thoughts. So many things to do. So many things to think about. At times we feel stressed out by these thoughts as if we’re getting bombarded endlessly. But I have good news – there’s a practical and easy way to escape these thoughts, become calmer, less stressed and feel a moment of peace.
This meditation – called the mini meditation – was taught to me by one of the most profound teachers I have had the pleasure of learning from, Ken Russell. This meditation takes only a few moments during your day. Sit in your chair or if possible lay down somewhere relatively quiet…if this is possible. If not , no problem, you can do this anywhere anytime. Shut your eyes, if you can, and take three long, full breaths, putting your full attention on the physical sensation of breathing. Breathe thru your nose as it’s more calming to your mind and body. You can focus on the air going in and out of your nostrils or your chest as it lifts up and goes back down with each breath. The only thing that matters is that you put your full attention on each of the three breaths.
If you get distracted by thoughts – no problem – just bring your attention back to your breath.
If you have a luxury of sitting or laying down for a few moments afterwards, great! Indulge yourself and sink into the peace that you may experience. Like everything, it’s a practice and it will become easier with time.
But remember this – even if your subjective experience is that you weren’t able to keep your full focus on all three breaths, you will still benefit. Don’t stress about it.
Once a day is a good start. Multiple times is even better. Think of this meditation as being what Ken called “a wedge that serves to distance you momentarily from your busy mind and it’s thought”.
Be calmer, be clearer of mind and feel less stressed – all by taking just three breaths. It has profound effects.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. If you’re like me remembering to remember may be the biggest hurdle in doing this. My suggestion is to set an alarm on your smartphone to help you remember. Hope that helps.
Let me know how it goes for you!
And take good care of yourselves. You’re the best person to do it!
There are two ways to take a walk in the park (applicable to any type of physical activity).
One way is to be fully engaged: Talking on your cell phone, texting, thinking about the dirty laundry you left behind, the toe nails you forgot to clip, what’s for dinner (spaghetti), etc. Maybe even listening to some fav tunes with your headset on.
Another way to be fully engaged: Feel your feet, notice your breath, notice the colors of the leaves, smell the air, breathe in for two steps, out for two. Maybe just be present to what’s happening in that moment.
Two suggestions :
- If you’re used to one kind of being fully engaged, try the other for a change. How does that suit you?
- If what you experience isn’t the result you wanted or the result leaves you further from the goal of feeling more exhilarated or relaxed or calm or….?, then maybe your definition of being fully engaged isn’t working. Just a thought.
Ps. Here’s a PSA (public service announcement) for you:
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had an idea of creating and launching a campaign to build a mighty community around a simple way to get fit, leaner, having a goal and sharing the experience – run a PR (personal record) mile time.
Drum roll please……. and here it is.
Using the cool online website, “Haiku deck“, I’ve created a simple program for bettering your best mile time. It doesn’t matter whether you walk or run or walk and run these workouts and timed mile. Just follow the plan and you’ll get better fast – BOOM!
No workout is more than 24 minutes. 3 workouts a week ( you could do 2 and still improve). Sometimes at your local track and sometimes not. Join me – I’m doing it too – and let’s take the next 3 months and run a PR.
Check it out. Ask questions if you don’t understand something. And by all means send me an email if you’re opting in. I’ll then keep you posted with track runs I’ll organize in Seattle and videos that will give you tips on how to walk or run faster.
Live a PR-infused life and let me know what you think.
Check out Haiku Deck here.