Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Discipline: The desire to achieve is rooted in discipline.

Motivation will wane moment by moment, it is the consistent action of doing the work towards your goal that will help determine your success.

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White belt to black belt mastery:  Process and building the foundation of success.

When it is our desire to learn we do so as a beginner. Through our studies and with a patient and disciplined approach we continue our growth. This takes us to new levels as represented in the color of our belts. But deep within the levels or belt colors lies lessons beyond what we see or experience or for that matter what the belt color might tell us or others. The true mastery is going beyond the lesson of the belt and observing and learning the deeper lessons being offered.

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Teachers and being a student: The best teachers are students.

The best teachers have teachers. Even the master has a teacher. Yes it is possible to learn something from anyone, any situation. But learning from a master provides a level of understanding that goes far beyond learning in random situations and circumstances of daily life. Teachers have a wisdom that can help convey and teach lessons that go beyond the experience. Teachers can help to understand what is beyond say the movement or sport. Learning from an experienced teacher and being open minded like that of the white belt mentality will provide more wisdom than can ever be obtained otherwise.

Preparation: 

When setting a goal it is important to be clear what it is you wish to achieve. To broad a goal and it will be difficult to set in place a plan and properly prepare. As the great coach John Wooden once said, ‘failing to prepare is preparing for failure’. Additionally preparation provides a number of other potential benefits when it comes time to achieve your goal. In cases of performance it can help alleviate many of the stressors aka much of the noise that potentially will hamper or hinder you potential. Understanding what lies in hand and ahead is a powerful way to set your minds potential and adjust your attitude to a place/vision of success.

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Know your limitations:  We all have them regardless of what you may believe.

These limitations are an opportunity to empower oneself. They offer us a deep insight and understanding of who we are and what it is we need to be our best self. Respect the limits, know the limits, understand the limits and move within and beyond.

Become your best self, there’s nothing to achieve: 

Contrary to popular believe there is nothing to achieve other than that in which you have determined worth achieving. If you allow others to determine what is important you will not be living your truth but theirs. While we may see something another is doing or has done as a source of motivation it is important that it aligns with our true self, our true nature. In a world where everyones ‘achievements’ are easily shared it is easier to be distracted and become derailed. It is difficult to ignore what are some amazing human feats and the potential that exists, but it is crucial that we understand how these relate to us before allowing them to impact our direction and choices.

Practice: 

To be good we must learn, we must study, we must observe, we must listen and by all means we must take this into a daily practice. Practice must be clear and directed. One must practice with attention to detail and an open and critical mindset. Practice should not be taken lightly, it is the foundation of success. “All practice takes hard work but not all-hard work is practice.” Practice helps not only develop the skill but also the mindset of success.

It’s not always fun: 

Truth be told, training, practice, preparation and the process is not always enjoyable and it should not be. The essence is the moment, being present and be challenged. Moving the body and mind in a healthy way requires learning how to do so. Most skills take time and have a significant learning curve. Many of the tasks along this curve will be less than enjoyable and leave you wondering if its worth it. I can say that if it is important enough then yes its worth it. Its not always the goal that we are chasing but we don’t often understand this until we are deep into the process and training. As Bruce Lee famously said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

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3 Aspects of Human Being Worthy of Daily Cultivation

There are 3 aspects of the Human Being worthy of daily cultivation; Body, Mind, & Breath. I will go one step further and state that these are a necessity.

Body: Movement is the key. Moving in a variety of ways is crucial, whether you do yoga, martial arts, Crossfit, run, climb, bike, hike, dance, etc. The key is move and keep learning new ways to do so. This will not only benefit the body, but the mind/brain as well.

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Mind: I will sum this up purely from my personal perspective. Mind is attitude, perception, thought process, mindfulness, ones ability to see things beyond the social norms. Mind is and may be the most challenging of all. For me it is an understanding of life and what is happening in and around me at all times. It is being compassionate and remaining calm in the present moment. It is being mindful of those whom I am communicating with, relating too and thus not holding judgment. It is a practice cultivated through meditation, reading, body movement practices, interactions with others, and reflection. Consistency in this area is by far the most challenging as I have so many social norms, environmental norms that I developed at a young age when I had no concept of this aspect of life and how crucial it would become. I feel that for the past 20+ years I have been working to change patterns of my mind and through this time I have progressed far but as would be the truth, I am only at the beginning. 🙂 For this reason and many more I am placing more emphasis on this aspect of my being. For myself, for my wife, for my family, client/patients, friends and general encounters with strangers. I feel this part of me needs more attention to detail and more practice and time developing. I feel I have great strides to make and I am excited for this.

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Breath: Breath is the essence of life, without it we will cease to exist. Breath is something we spend little time thinking of and we need to spend more time developing. Meditation and movement are to excellent practices which offer us a chance to develop our breath. And, these practices offer us 2 unique ways to do so. I believe meditation is the key practice as this teaches us how to calm the mind and body. Once learned one can then learn how to apply in different situations where a strong foundation and breath practice will serve. Examples include movement, stressful experiences and beyond. Yoga is an excellent practice for cultivating breath and breath within movement.

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Why Yoga is The Best & Most Complete System of Movement

When we think about the human body and movement we must simply look at anatomy and biomechanics. The body is able to only do so much in terms of these 2 biological mechanisms. All movement systems have these things in common, some focus more on special aspects of the bodies mechanical system and therefore anatomy which is completely logical. This does not mean to denigrate any specific system over another. However, in terms of physical therapy, body awareness, body balance structurally and mechanically, and simple body harmony nothing compares to Yoga. Now, one caveat, not all yoga systems under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga are created equally. Again, this is not meant to denigrate any particular style.

First lets take a deeper look into why Yoga is the best for the aforementioned reasons.

One, Yoga can be and in best learned in a slow manner that focuses on awareness of how the body moves into and within a particular posture known as an Asana.

Two, Yoga is a combination of multiple movement factors including, flexibliity, strength, neuromuscular coordination, balance, mobility and breath.

Three, Yoga is moves the body through and within multiple planes and in various manners of movement. This high level of coordination requires one to have the strength to obtain the position, the ability to coordinate multiple muscles to make the movement happen and this create the mobility and flexibility required to obtain the end result.

Four, Yoga requires coordination of multiple high level elements of human movement done with 100% attention to detail and held in place for time all while controlling heart rate and respiration to a well below other traditional movements.

Five, building off of 4, Yoga was designed as a breathing practice with movement following breath. This means the breath drives the movement. It is to be done in a controlled manner through the nostrils. It should follow the edicts of steadiness and ease as then should the movement. Therefore, all students move at a different pace which makes the Mysore practice so brilliant in its ability to have all students do the same practice taking into consideration their personal breath and their personal ability within the posture.

Six, it is a moving meditation practice and that is a prime focus of Yoga. Meditation in action and in stillness.

I can go on but I believe this is a great start to the conversation. I know personally Yoga has helped improve my other movement system practices not only physically but mentally as I am better able to control my breath and mind. While we often associate Yoga with stretching and flexibility that is a very short sided view to a much more complex and highly evolved system.

The best place to start is with the Iyengar method. The student is taught about the postures in a slow, controlled and supportive manner. Practicing in this light will help students evolve into other forms if so they choose and thereby enhance their awareness and ability to perform the postures as asked by the system or more playful methods which give freedom to the teacher to sequence.

Why Iyengar Yoga is Perfect for Athletes

What is Iyengar Yoga

In short Iyengar yoga focuses on proper form and alignment of the body in yoga Postures. It incorporates tools such as blocks, straps, blankets and more to help people find their optimal position. In addition, more advanced practitioners of the practice are further instructed on breathing principles which are keys to deeper effects within the practice.

What you need to Know

Think of this a deep and prolonged stretching series that focuses on increasing flexibility, range of motion and overall muscular balance to the body. Most athletes suffer in some form or another in all 3 of the above. The Iyengar practice is an active practice where the athlete uses the bodies innate kinesthetic, anatomical and bio-mechanical principles to effectively stretch the body. While the postures make appear to be static they are far from. Using the concept of reciprocal inhibition and contract/relax such as in PNF techniques, the individual is meant to pay attention to the finer details and actively create the posture.

Athletes Do Not Need Another Workout

Athletes do not need more workouts therefore practices such as Vinyasa, Power or Bikram Yoga are not suited for their needs. All athletes have specific needs and it is important to provide them with the postures that suit. In the Iyengar system, the Teacher can pick the appropriate postures to address the needs. In addition, the deeper and more prolonged stretching will help to active the parasympathetic nervous system creating a relaxing feel and a gentle active recovery.

Conclusion

Athletes in general need far more specific work, much greater attention to detail within the work and generally simpler not more complex movements and instruction. We as Coaches and Sports Medicine Practitioners do not need to step beyond the basics to effectively address the challenges 95% of the Athletes and People we treat face in the Orthopedic side. Any movement provides the opportunity to be therapeutic, it is our ability to effectively teach and translate to the individual and their ability to do as asked that often determine the success. Iyengar Yoga is a system that allows us Practitioners to put our Athletes in positions that address common issues.

Why I Train, A 40 year olds Shifting Perspective

I suppose this is an honest question worth asking myself, especially at 40. Maybe even more so why do I train the way I do which includes following a structured plan (albeit with room for play and learning new things), with a focus and intensity aimed at improving, and as an integral part of my existence.

First things first: At 40 structure is important.
This does not mean I cannot go out and have fun and play around because that is included in my structure. Meaning that my training helps me to be ready to do just about anything or activity. But mostly I train structured because of the need to stay healthy physically in terms of joints, muscle aches and the like, the need to minimize stress on my body and my mind, and to continue to adapt and improve. So, recovery and performance are the dictators of my strategy, structure and plan.
The simple truth is at 40, with a lifetime of sports under my belt I am more conscious of the long term prospects. I feel fit, strong, flexible and capable. I am consistent, dedicated and enjoying the process. And I feel healthy mentally and physically. I have no need to be a pro athlete, a super athlete, etc. if anything I am now focused on helping others get to their goals.
Intensity and Focus:
I have a choice on any given day to train or not. Too me training is a microcosm of life. I am in the gym not just to exercise but as a deeper look into my spirit, my humanity, my person. To me sport is a microcosm of the life we live. I feel professionally it is best to lead by example. I would not ask of others (unless pro athletes) what I would not ask of myself. I have been fortunate to personally experience many realms of sport and I believe this helps me to better understand how to coach others.
Training is also a deep meditation for me. My intensity and focus are an opportunity in that moment to be one with myself. My mind quiets and I take all those years of moving into that moment to get the best and most of that moment and myself. This ties into structure and the idea of practice makes perfect. Indeed it does or at least brings one closer to perfection. It is evident in factors such as weight, sets, reps, time, technique, etc. For example when I roll out my mat to do yoga I know the poses, I have been there countless times so I am able to actually flow and dig into a deeper awareness and state of consciousness within the pose both mentally and physically. This is also no different with lifting weights, and other sports. Practice brings about an ease and that intensity and focus is part of being skilled and able to embrace the moment and feel at one with it and that activity at hand. Nothing seems separate and all seems connected.
Integral Part of Life:
As elluded to above, training is an opportunity for me to enhance my being not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. It is in these times as an athlete or during my training and practice that I learn so much about myself and others. It is a way to exert energy, exercise away stress, spend quality time with friends, have fun with your partner, share a platform with your buddies, spend time with your dog, etc. So much of my life personally and professionally revolves around training, sport, exercise, health, wellness, etc. I have chosen this path and I love it. I met my wife and best friend as a result of being part of this world. I have numerous quality people in my life as a result. And I am fortunate to make a living and be able to afford to live and have time to do  what I enjoy as a result. As I said above, training is a microcosm of life.
Another facet which cannot be ignored is the fact that I have as long as I can remember been a curious person with an adventurous personality. I enjoy learning and experiencing life in all facets and means. As a result I have been fortunate to walk many varied path and experience many a varied thing. I have travelled the world, accomplished 3 degrees including 2 Masters and all in different topics; I have studied and learned professionally with and from some of the top names and the list goes on. It is not this list or the list itself that matters. What the list shows is again how everything is a microcosm of my self, the person I be. This helps explain in large part why I chose the life I have and continue to do.
Of course a key aspect of my life is marriage. I must always consult and take into consideration my wife, where as earlier on in my life this was not the case. I have found my wife by in large to be supportive but also keep a healthy perspective on us and our larger goals. The best part is I can satisfy my curiosity and adventurous spirit in my everyday existence and part of this is training. I certainly desire to rekindle my love affair with nature which means more hiking, trail runs and mountain biking versus time in the gym. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient and the Sun and being in nature certainly fulfills this.
At 40 I feel healthy, fit, flexible and free to just enjoy the process. I do not feel the need to prove, accomplish, win, compete, etc. I am more curious to dig deep within and continue to explore the depths of my being. I hope to be a father and as so be able to lead by example. I suppose I would be lying if I did not say that I hope our kids have a similar love as my wife and I do for fitness, sport, and health.
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Principles of Corrective Movement & Therapeutic Exercise

Principles of Corrective Movement & Therapeutic Exercise: It’s all about Anatomy and Biomechanics 

The human body does not lie, it is up to us, the clinician to discover and see the truth.

1. It’s all about relationships

It comes back to anatomy and biomechanics. The body is an interlinked system aka connected albeit joints, tendons, muscles, organs, etc. understand the relationships, understand the movement mechanics and you have begun to solve the puzzle.

2. It’s all linked.

Yes we are made up of connnective tissue and thus must understand a connective tissue disorder in one area is bound to reach beyond to a much larger area. Again biomechanics, anatomy and relationships.

The picture below is a great example of the interconnected dynamics of the body. I use the plank as a tool to teach and understand how the body integrates and then further apply to other movements. The cues for example are looking at how the shoulder girdle connects to the hip girdle including the role of the navel; how the hips girdle connects to the knees and how the action of squeezing the legs ever so slightly together enhances this; and how the knees connect to the ankles. This is only a small sample and goes much further but sets the tone for a deeper understanding of the body in action.

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3. Use the best method and tool for the job to produce the result. 

The better ones understanding the better equipped to successful do the job. More is not better, better is better.

4. There is no magic & no tricks.

The body is logical and works accordingly. Understand the anatomy, biomechanics, relationships and modalities application as such as you are that much closer to getting the results.

5. Make it applicable.

Understand what it is the person does in sport, work, sleep, and daily life. Besides history which helps provide framework, I want to put them in position, teach them the position and cue them within the position. I do not just release the pain & rehab I also teach in particular the how to of what it takes to do the movement aka anatomy and biomechanics. A educated patient and client means they are more likely to succeed and never return because they are healthy movers.

The Anti-Sit Plan for Better Posture and Pain Relief

Sitting is and leads to problems with pain by encouraging bad posture. There has been a movement toward standing desks and the like which presents a list of other problems. However, moving between sitting and standing throughout a traditional work day will help. But, we must embrace the truth, you need to reset your body and one of the best ways is through postural training using yoga and stretching methods. Regardless of what you might read on the internet, in my 20 years I have seen personally and know a number of other professionals whom have been at this game longer than I see tremendous success in using and applying yoga and stretching principles.

Here is a guide to some great postures and a great start. Most important is to do them and do them daily. Do not stress over time, etc. just practice and all will come especially if you stay consistent.

The Anti Sit Plan

Motivation

Motivation

Inspired by a conversation with friends I decide to look within myself to better understand what motivates me to train my body and mind.

I think back to my younger days as a youth into college and my early 20’s to 30’s and it was clear, I was an athlete competing in sports. This made motivation easy. But, truth be told I never understood when I was competing what it took to be my best. Because of this I never achieved anywhere near my potential. Today, through years of competing, coaching and training I have a much different understanding of what it takes to achieve ones personal best as an athlete.

First, I do not consider myself a competitive athlete in terms of competing in a sport. What I am is competitive within myself. I am interested in learning, exploring and experiencing all sorts of different fitness and athletic endeavors. Currently I am learning the sport of Weightlifting and have put a focus on these particular movements. Highly technical and skilled movements they take a tremendous amount of energy, time and focus which I am glad to dedicate. Because I am not competing in a meet anytime soon I continue to practice my yoga and others forms of movements.

One thing I have embraced is the idea of enjoying the process. As a friend said to me, we are healthy and fit and it is a privilege to be so, therefore we should train and explore. I could not agree more, it is a privilege to be of sound mind and healthy body.

Another aspect comes to be a role model for my patients, clients and students. I am a firm believer in actions more so than words. We are inundated with words these days with ample forms of content available. I, personally cherish forming relationships and the direct contact I have with people both as a student and a teacher/practitioner/coach. Therefore, as a student I reach out and do my best to learn from others in all forms of movement.

But I understand my true motivation is intrinsic. I do this for me, myself as I value and appreciate  the internal effects I receive from being disciplined, studied, and consistent. I value exploring the depths of my person inside and out. I value that I will one day be a role model for my wife Sara and I’s children. I value my wife and want to be healthy physically, emotionally and mentally in order to be the best friend, husband, father, partner possible. Movement not only keeps my physical body healthy but also my mental and emotional states of being. This is why yoga and meditation are so crucial for my well being.

Note, I am of the meditation concept along the lines of Vipassana. To quote Gil Forsdal “Insight meditation aka Vipassana is nothing more mysterious than developing our ability to pay attention to our immediate experience.” This is the idea of mindfulness or concentration/focus on the moment and the task at hand. For those of who train or have competed you most likely know of this feeling even if never described as such or understood in this manner. When I move I feel very connected to the moment and use it as a way to build my meditation practice.

This is why when I train I enjoy distractions. These distractions challenge me to stay in the present moment and focused on the task. I believe this is a valuable tool for any athlete to develop as 99% of the time you will compete in an foreign environment surrounded by all sorts of distractions. The athlete must not allow these to interfere with their task at hand.

It is conceivable that I will one day compete in a game, on a platform or in a race. Maybe it will be for fun or maybe it will be because of a higher goal of testing myself, whatever it is, it is the process and journey to the depths of myself that interest me most. Sure, I love seeing big numbers, feeling more fit, getting better, etc. these are absolutely wonderful experiences and things I believe that should naturally come with right action aka consistency, health, discipline and a good program design. Nothing beats the feeling of inner peace for me and the love I have for my family, my clients/patients/students and my simple peace that I am of a sound mind and healthy body.

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