Wednesday, June 8, 2016

If Deadpool was an Athlete (A Fun Twist on Sport Psych)

The other night my neighbor and I watched the movie ‘Deadpool’. I’ll have to admit-as much as I like Ryan Reynolds and all-this was a bit rough to watch; lots of blood and even more vulgarity (that and comics have never really been my thing), but it was oddly impossible to look away from once the story got going and at times it was freakin’ hilarious. For those who haven’t seen it (spoiler warning*), the protagonist Wade Wilson becomes ‘Deadpool’ by being subjected to intensely stressful situations over and over again until he finally mutated and gained his powers. You’re probably starting to wonder “now what does this have to do with endurance sports?”….read on and you’ll see.

A little background first: So I’ve been struggling with this lower leg thing for a bit and have been running in the pool almost every day (wishing I had Deadpool’s healing powers). Running around in small little circles with bad music playing in the background gives me a lot of time to think. The other day I was deep in a Pfitzinger’s Pool run workout and I began thinking how the aforementioned film related to the psychology of endurance. I told you I have had a lot of time to think!

So to give more of the movie away, Wade Wilson undergoes underground testing and basically torture with the goal of gaining super powers. Of course, like any Marvel Hollywood creation, it’s never that simple, but as athletes, there’s some fun analogies we can take from America’s favorite anti-hero, because, let’s face it: we all want to become stronger and more powerful. Luckily, there’s no evil intentions behind our transformations and we’re in charge of how much we want to “mutate”: NOTE play nice and keep it nonviolent and non extreme…it’s Hollywood after all! Okay, now that I’ve given my little disclaimer, let’s get to the topic at hand-


-In order for mutations to take place, chatty Wade gets put in a number of very stressful situations-all of which he cracks jokes and pokes fun at the situation. In the end with another fight scene that grossed me out, he comes out on the other side really strong. We don’t get mentally tougher without being subjected to (controlled) stressors.

-Speaking of cracking jokes and laughing through situations, perhaps that’s helpful when we’re wanting to quit to make light of even the most trying of situations. Take the recent Ironman Texas race for example- these athletes were subjected to heat, humidity, rain, wind, thunder, and hail. Many I saw on the course while getting the beat down from the storm were smiling and laughing at the absurdity of it all. You make it through that, you bet you’re a tougher athlete for it! Staying positive is always a good idea when in a stressful situation.

-Perseverance. So Deadpool’s intentions were deviant to say the least, the dude never quit until he got what he wanted~you know, revenge and his girlfriend back. As athletes, we can become our super-selves by using adversity to our advantage and not giving up. Forces outside of us will try to impede our progress but just keep going. Just don’t resort to violence in getting what you want ;).

-Healing an injury. It’s a bummer and a challenge, but like a superhero, you can use the time off to make some mutations of your own. Get really freaking strong, build an unshakable core, fine tune you form, etc. I’m trying to do this right now and am experiencing little apprehension upon returning to terra firma.

So there you have it, using comic book characters as examples for athletes! Bottom line is this: we can’t turn away from challenges and stressors if we expect to become the best version of ourselves, so why not try and use situations to be ‘super’?! Go be your own hero:) 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mental Strength: What it looks like and how to get it!

The following post was originally featured on the Team Green Running blog, a local elite and developmental track program I am proudly partnered with and wanted to share it with you as well. Hope you like it and have a takeaway or two! 

If you are unshakable at the starting line and never struggle with doubts, negative thoughts, or feeling like you underperformed, then you may skip right over this post…. BUT if you fall within the majority of athletes out there-and chances are this is the case at least some of the time, I encourage you to read on.
So you want to increase your mental game? Below I’ll list some characteristics of mentally strong runners-many of these are things I’ve seen in some amazing runners I’ve encountered in my work as a consultant and as a runner myself. Check it out:

* Mentally strong athletes are able to consistently pull positives out of any workout or race experience. Say you didn’t run your goal time for a given race…you can still pull some positives about your performance or learning experiences-which leads me to my next point…

* These athletes are constantly learning. Learning about the sport, learning about strategy, learning about themselves. These athletes are also excited about the process of learning more and improving.

* Mentally strong athletes have developed that “extra gear” when they really need it. I see this extra gear as being the ability to persist through the discomfort of running for just a bit longer or the ability to get just ‘a little’ more out of themselves than what is expected. Be advised, this takes some time and guts, but is very worth developing in yourself.

* Mentally strong runners enjoy challenging themselves and don’t feel threatened by difficult tasks.

* Mentally strong athletes are self-referenced. Comparison to others? Nah! Not these individuals. See the top two bullet points for pointers on how to develop a more self-referenced perspective. If you take a more self-referenced perspective, chances are your enjoyment of the sport will increase as well.
Think you have what it takes to get stronger?

Also, best of luck to Team Green Elite as they prep for the upcoming Olympic Trials! #rethinkingperformance 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring Season in Review: Making Progress

Despite my calves still feeling slightly tattered from Wednesday night's race, I'm left with a fairly satisfied feeling as I'm now in a short break from running to recharge. *Yes, a break, and no it's not currently causing any twitching, weird cravings, sleeplessness, or anxiety that I can tell ;)

It's a healthy thing both physically and mentally to just let your body absorb everything you did to it in months prior and you can reflect on what you did an plan for what's next.

Wednesday night I ran the unorthodox and oddly fun LP Run at the Rice University track in Houston, just like I did the year before. It was so humid you could see it in the air- just like the year before, and the track was still blue, just like the year before. Unlike the year before, I came in fit and in one piece and able to run well. I did review beforehand my last year's results and this was one of the first events I did after....ahem... of course another injury; this year it was basically the last one on my list after putting in a couple races prior. I had to smile when I saw my average pace and knew how much faster I was going to go that evening-not in an arrogant way, but I was pretty confident and relaxed-much different from the self-induced struggle bus ride at my last race.

The event was timed for distance around a track and I ended up 2+ laps further than last year and about 45-50 seconds per mile quicker. I won my AG and ended up 3rd overall to some very fast ladies out there. While talking about running 20 laps around a track would be boring, I will say that mentally this was one of my better runs of the year. I came in just focused on running strong, relaxed, and consistent, and I managed to make that happen. The first mile I smiled a lot until the humidity hit, but once it did I handled that much better too this time around. Obviously, I walked away encouraged and Coach Doug also seemed that way too! How sore my tired calves were after that long on a track is not very encouraging-but hey, that's running.

While I only raced 3 times this Spring-a XC 5k, a 10k, and LP, training was overall the best it has been in years. I was able to put consistent mileage in, and I could see that pay off in racing for the most part. I don't recall having to move or skip a workout, I don't recall worrying about anything being especially off.

As much good training that came out of Spring '16, there were some obstacles and times where I struggled considerably. At least once I wanted to walk off the track because I initially thought I "just couldn't do this anymore"; only to get right back on and battle through to the end. When you're training by yourself early in the morning in SE Texas, it's easy to just scrap and wait until a better day, but I think I got more resilient by pushing myself. This seemed to carry over into other areas beyond running-I gained some confidence back after it was all said and done. Trust me, guys- if you just try and go a little further than you think you can, the result is almost always worth it and creates an experience you can pull out of your 'back pocket' when needed.

Mentally, I found I was most successful when I was racing or training in the present-meaning not concerned about the next mile, how I am going to feel, the result, or anyone else around me. Honestly, this is a fairly difficult skill to adopt for a lot of us, but when you tap into the here and now, the results take care of themselves because you're operating within your ability and not sabotaging yourself along the way.

So, now the proverbial and sometimes irritating question of "what's next" for those who care...

It's a few more days of downtime/crosstraining when I feel like it and then working on a little speed for a possible open track meet in June. Very different than I'm used to but new things are good. After that, I plan on training like a college athlete over the summer and prepping for some fall XC. Of course things can change, but gotta put some goals out there.

In short, progress was the theme of this year's racing-focusing on simply what I'm doing and current improvement in this ongoing process that is distance running.

Myself, Justin B., and Coach post-race.