We all have experienced situations, circumstances, or even periods of time that we perceive to be terrible. Just absolutely, flat out, awful. Oftentimes, we allow these perceived situations to hold us back, while in reality they are the very things that can propel us forward.
The thing holding me back at this very moment, literally exists in my back. I have a herniated disc between my L5 and S1 vertebrae. As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, I realize that this is a byproduct of years moving incorrectly as a collegiate and professional basketball player, where abuse to joints through jarring repetitive movements, without correction, is the norm.
Truly, this is one of the most humbling obstacles I've ever dealt with. Yet, I don't embrace the vulnerability of writing this for you to feel sorry for me, quite the contrary actually. I write this because I know I'm not the only person out there who has or currently is struggling with something that feels debilitating, injury or otherwise.
The Objectivity of Pain
Pain is an interesting thing. Back in April when I hurt my back the first time, for apparently no particular reason, I became an empty shell of myself. I caught myself feeling sorry for myself as I would lie on the floor in excruciating pain, unable to stand up. Or when I would drop something on the floor and stare at it, because I knew there was really no forgiving way to bend down to pick it up. This, by the way, makes you very crafty with your toes and shimming things up walls.
At the worst points of my pain, I couldn't sleep. If you've ever experienced sciatic pain before, I am giving you a sad look through the computer, because it is NOT fun. If you've been so lucky as to not feel sciatic pain, let me describe: imagine someone takes a hot, grotesquely large knife to your butt and then slowly and continuously slices down your leg, sometimes all the way to your ankle. Great, right?
It was the simple things that we take for granted every day that became ridiculously difficult and painful. But with time, I healed. And I forgot about the pain.
I forgot what it was like to wake up every morning hunched over with hair disheveled like Golem from Lord of the Rings. I forgot what it was like to have to very carefully do a supported pistol squat into my car and hope no one heard my muffled screams of anguish as my spine temporarily bent to fit through the door. It's amazing how our minds forget. I suppose this is why women have more than one child. If childbirth was an overall positive experience, we forget the discomfort of what it's like to have a small human rip its way through our bodies into the world. I say that like I've had a kid, I have not. So kuddos to all you moms, and to my own mom, thanks for doing that for me, you kind bad ass, you.
Coming fresh off my injury, I swore I would never allow myself to injure myself to that degree again, whatever it took. But a few months later, after feeling back to my "invincable" self (that is my own false confidence speaking), and repeatedly slouching lazily in my chair, squatting heavier weights than I should have been, and just generally forgetting that my back had a dormant, but angry disc just waiting to get pissed off again, it decided to remind me.
Oh Yeah, That...
So here we are again. As I write this I have ice and e-stem on my spine, and of course I am sitting like a serial killer in my chair (you must have outstanding posture at all times if you've had a back injury).
The most interesting part about any hardship are the psychological impacts it can have. The physical pain of this injury definitely sucks, but I know at some point during the day it's going to dissipate and I'll be at least able to stand straight. It's wrestling with the mental gorillas along the way that has been challenging.
In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes:
Whatever we face, we have a choice: will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them? The world is constantly testing us. It asks, are you worthy? Can you get past the things that will inevitably fall in your way? Will you stand up and show us what you're made of?
Embracing a difficult circumstance or situation is not easy. What would be easy is complaining about it to any loving friend or family member who will listen, feeling sorry for oneself, making excuses, playing the victim, or allowing negative shoulder guy to tell us things will never improve, or at least not fast enough.
But what does that help?
You know as well as I do, that it helps nothing. Furthermore, people truly do not enjoy being around a whiner and complainer, unless they are stuck in the brain of a high school drama queen. And now that I think about it, I do know some energy vampires like that. I'll give you their number if you want to complain. You guys can build straw houses of negativity and banks of sadness together.
The overall resounding point I am trying to make, is that our vulnerabilities and shortcomings can actually give us incredible strength. My vulnerability to share this glaring weak point with you, is not for you to lose confidence in my ability as a coach and trainer; but, instead to share the silver-lining of this situation in that now I can coach and connect better with people dealing with injuries, specifically to their back, better than ever before.
Moreover, it's vital that kids learn how to properly move and cope with adversity at a young age, and that adults unlearn bad movement patterns and relearn how to do them properly. I do not think I would be dealing with this now had I learned at a younger age how to properly brace, hinge, and work prehab and mobility exercises into my workouts.
Of course, this is a huge motivator as to why I love what I do now. Yet sometimes I cannot believe how difficult it is for young athletes, even some coaches, and adults, to buy into the weight room and to put work into their bodies. I believe we have this perception of "strength and conditioning" as lifting heavy and running sprints. Folks, it's so much more than that.
And finally, perhaps one of the most unrecognized area of strength and conditioning, is the relationship and culture building piece that good coaches weave into their workouts. We are able to create environments where athletes must overcome obstacles, are made to struggle and suffer, which naturally spurs their ability to build life skills like leadership, responsibility, developing a positive and relentless mindset, pain management of any kind, and so much more.
There is no conclusion
In conclusion, there is no conclusion (heh). Life is a cyclical process of self-discovery and growth. If we aren't challenged to step outside of our comfort zone within this process then we will never grow to greater heights. So regardless of what you're going through, injury, loss, change, whatever... you've got this.
Read a Book Every Month Challenge
How Young is Too Young to Start Lifting?
What I Wish I Knew As a Young Athlete
When I discovered Audiobooks, the efficiency in which I learned was completely transformed. For many of us, we have to intentionally set aside time in the morning or before bed to read.
Usually, it's not for lack of desire to learn or read that we have to force ourselves to make time, it's just... life. Life has a tricky way of sucking our time away from us every day before we even bat an eye.
Yet, it doesn't take away the importance of daily learning and self-growth. The life hack that will allow you to reclaim your time for this is sharing learning not with just your visual sense, but your auditory sense as well.
Think about all the time during your day that your hands are busy, but your brain is idle. This could be in front of the mirror in the morning, commuting to and from work or school, on your lunch break, getting ready for bed, and so on. I bet you could scrape together at least 30 minutes out of your daily mundane tasks pretty easily.
It took a few months to master, but I feel that I've now gotten into a solid routine to maximize my time for learning throughout the day, every day. Typically, I physically read one to two books a year, which is a depressing statistic; however, in 2018 I listened to 19 books, and this does not count relistening to some of them.
Talk about an exponential increase in brain food consumption!
Every morning while getting ready, I listen to The Daily*, a podcast by the New York Times that updates me on major current events. It's usually 20 to 30 minutes, which is perfect.
Then, instead of listening to music, I spend my driving time (anywhere from an accumulated 30-90 minutes a day) listening to books. There's nothing better than being behind the wheel, turning up the volume up on an audiobook, closing your eyes... and... wait, okay don't close your eyes, but you get it.
Driving is a perfect time to learn. I'm fairly confident it has helped my road rage as well, but not the lead foot unfortunately.
I use Audible for my brain candy. They require a monthly subscription; however, that includes one "free" book, so typically the monthly fee costs less than the actual book, making it a great deal for the reader. They also offer various deals throughout the year.
Another option would be using your local library and checking out audiobooks for free. The only downfall to that is you won't have them forever, of course.
Regardless of how you read or listen, here are a few of my favorite listens from the past year that I recommend!
*I have no stake in the promotion of The Daily, Audible, or any of the following books.
Daring Greatly by Berne Brown
If you haven't heard of her, Berne Brown is a queen. She is a shame and vulnerability researcher, who has spent much of her adult life studying human connection. Her Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability has accrued 38 million views since she gave it in 2010.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is a game changer, and one of the books that I have listened to multiple times. It is no surprise that it became a #1 New York Times Best Seller.
"What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being, rather than knowing, requires showing up and allowing ourselves to be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable. The first step of that journey is understanding where we are, what we're up against, and where we need to go."
Relentless by Tim Grover
The full title of this book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, is what first drew me in. I thought, with a title like that, there's no way the content in this book won't be relatable to my mission as a coach and trainer, and spontaneously clicked the sample listen. I was immediately hooked.
I recommend this one mostly for athletes, particularly ones who find themselves consumed with the daily grind of getting better.
During my collegiate and professional basketball playing days, I was obsessed with improvement. Oftentimes to the demise of my social life, being the first person to arrive and the last person to leave practice, as well as the only person in the gym at odd hours of the morning or night.
My obsession felt lonely at the time, but there are many athletes and people out there with the relentless pursuit to improve at their passion.
Tim Grover really speaks to this misunderstood obsession of devoting oneself to improvement in the realm of athletics. He specifically talks about basketball, as he has trained greats like Kobe Bryant. Yet, I think if you find yourself so passionately committed to something to the point where people start to think you're weird, this book is for you.
"Excellence isn't only about hitting the gym and working up a sweat, that's the smallest part of what you have to do. Physical ability can only take you so far. The fact is, you can't train your body or excel at anything before you train your mind. You can't commit to excellence before your mind is ready to take you there. Teach the mind, train the body."
The 5 Second Rule By Mel Robbins
If you haven't heard of Mel Robbins, write her name down immediately. She is well known for giving one of the most motivational Ted Talks of all time, How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over.
She knows how to deeply connect with the human spirit, shamelessly sharing her own struggles and experiences and then giving us the science behind what makes us tick.
The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, will have you making actionable change in your life immediately.
After all, everyone can talk about the things they need to do and why, but doing it is another story, right? Robbins embraces this reality and gives the reader a kick in the butt to take action.
"Doing the work to improve your life is simple, you can do it. And it's work you want to do because it's the most important work there is, it's the work of learning how to love yourself and trust yourself enough to stop waiting and to start leaning into all the magic, opportunity, and joy that your life, work and relationships have to offer."
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The most striking aspect of The Alchemist, to me, is that Paulo Coelho could not sell more than a few copies in the first two years after publication. Now, over 35 million copies of the book has sold.
This allegorical novel follows the journey of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, as he seeks to find out why he keeps experiencing a recurring dream. This would be a fun book to read with a friend or group, as it is full of hidden meaning open to interpretation.
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it."
Get Smart! by Brian Tracy
When I first read the title of this book, I couldn't help but think it was a little cheesy. Yet, the content inside is anything but. Like Mel Robbins, Tracy implores the reader to move towards what they want.
He talks about things like the momentum principle of success, effective goal setting, developing clarity, building the discipline to concentrate, the 80/20 rule, eliminating negative emotions, and taking control of your life.
During a time in my life where I felt lost and like I had almost no control of anything, Tracy's words helped me get back into a good headspace. Get Smart! How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field in a way is a more modern rendition of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, both of which I highly recommend.
"There is a direct relationship between the amount of responsibility that you accept and the amount of control in your life. Because almost all stress and negative emotions come from feeling out of control in some way, as soon as you accept responsibility, you assert control over yourself and everything that happens to you."
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The flute intro for this audiobook is nearly as epic as the opening metaphor:
"Then something happened inside of him that transformed his life forever. He looked at this hands, he felt his body, and he heard his own voice say 'I am made of light. I am made of stars.' He looked at the stars again, and realized it's not the stars that create light, but rather light that creates the stars. 'Everything is made of light,' he said, 'and the space in between isn't empty.' And he knew that everything that exists, is one living being, and that light is the messenger of life, because it is alive and contains all information."
Navigating life is no easy task. We all experience highs and lows, and the need for answers and help during difficult times. This book is not only a comfort during those times, but a character builder and tool to cultivate self-compassion as well as understanding of others.
There is so much wisdom within the pages, it is simply a must read.
"Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be. They become very self-abusive and they use other people to abuse themselves as well. But, nobody abuses us more than we abuse ourselves."
This is me by Chrissy Metz
I tell you what, this book got me through a horrendous 16 hour Greyhound bus ride once. Before said bus ride, I have loved Chrissy Metz since her breakout role in This Is Us.
Her biography is real, touching, and all the things you'd expect from a young lady who has wrestled with being overweight her entire life while pursing spotlight roles in Hollywood and in front of the mic (she also has an incredible voice).
If a story like this doesn't make you laugh, shed a tear, and leave you inspired, Lawd help ya.
"When you're confident in your abilities, it lets other people be confident in there's too. And sometimes we have to teach each other. I know I'm still unlearning everything I learned as a kid. When I was down, people told me that is where I would stay. But, when you are so far down, the only way to go is up."
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Between Dale Carnegie's wisdom and the gentle drone of the narrator, Andrew MacMillan, every time I turned this audiobook on I felt like my grandfather was giving me advice on how to be a better person and more successful in life.
Carnegie takes on a beautiful, and what I feel some now would consider, old school approach, to building and maintaining relationships. As the title suggests, he covers ways to make people like you, to win people over to your way of thinking, and to change people without creating resentment.
It is truly a timeless read, and I highly recommend it!
"People would think they committed a crime by letting their families go six days without food. But, they will let them go for 6 days, or 6 weeks, and sometimes 6 years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave, almost as much as they crave food."
Legacy by James Kerr
Carnegie's book may have been on winning friends, but it's Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership that is about winning in general. Even if you don't like sports, or have an athletics background, this is a great book about how to be successful as individuals and in the work environment.
However, if you are an athlete or apart of a team environment now, this is a must read. Kerr dives into the legendary All Blacks rugby team, who are the winningest sports organization in the last 100 years, and shares over a dozen powerful lessons in leadership that originate from their legacy.
"Collective character is vital to success. Focus on getting the culture right, and the results will follow."
Heavy by Kiese Laymon
This American memoir caught my attention, as it received 2018 Audible Audiobook of the Year and a slew of other notable accolades such as Best Book of 2018 by the New York Times and is an Andrew Carnegie Medal and Kirkus Prize Finalist.
Laymon bravely shares his experiences with abuse, shame, joy, confusion, humiliation, and the physical and mental weight of growing up as a black man in the United States. It is powerful. Honest. And so real it makes your heart ache and question how we can let things get so bad in one of the world's "greatest" countries.
"I heard Grandma-ma. But, I saw and smelt what diabetes left of her right foot. Grandma-ma hadn't felt her foot, controlled her bowls, or really tasted her food in over a decade. This Sunday, like every Sunday before, grandma-ma wanted me to know it could all be so much worse. Like you, Grandma-ma beat the worst of white folk in the mean machinations of men every day she was alive. But ya'll taught me indirectly that unacknowledged scars accumulated in battles won, often hurt more than battles lost."
Reading doesn't always have to take a visual form. We are lucky to live in a day and age now where we can "read" with our ears. Take advantage of technology so you can sneak in some of these must reads throughout your day.
It was December 3rd, 2017 as Nick Bassett sat in front of his computer eagerly anticipating the announcement of the Western States Endurance Run (WSER) runners.
This 100 Mile race uses a lottery selection process due to the high number of entrants every year. Out of approximately 15,000 tickets, Nick's was the first drawn.
To you and I, that's pretty awesome. But what it meant to a man who just had his 73rd birthday, could hardly be articulated in words.
For many years, the historic Western States Trail served as a direct route for the '49ers to travel between the gold camps of California and the silver mines of Nevada. With exception of a scant three miles of pavement, the race follows these trails in their natural state starting in Squaw Valley and ending in Auburn, California.
The Western States Endurance Run (WSER) climbs approximately 18,090 feet of elevation and descends another 22,970 from start to finish. On this particular summer day of 2018, temperatures would flirt with 100 degrees as racers battled their way through the rugged terrain.
WSER also follows a strict list of performance rules that each runner must abide by, including:
Ready to run the WSER for the 14th time, these rules weren't new to Nick. Yet, what was new was how his body, now nine years older than the last time he ran the race, would handle 100 miles of grueling terrain, heat, and continuous movement.
The Value of Preparation
"Wars are won in the generals tent." - S. Covey
When it comes to running 100 miles all in one go, there are two, sometimes three, ways to prepare effectively:
At 73 years old, one has to be slightly more strategic with training than say, someone 50 years younger.
Nick runs or walks a bunch of volume on his own, and our training at the gym is completely geared to enhance his ability to move for longer, faster.
We work to strengthen his entire body and improve his mobility and stability.
Passion is in the process
The obvious question you would ask any ultra runner is, "why?". It's not for the recognition, not for Nick anyway. Being the oldest finisher in WSER history earned him an overwhelming amount of publicity, but it was the first time in his racing career that so many admirers flocked his way to get a comment, shake his hand, or snap a picture.
What makes endurance runners unique is their insatiable desire to push limits--for a long time. A 20 mile training run isn't something they dread, especially not when with friends. It's a social outing, a way to connect with others, themselves, and nature.
I would imagine we can all find some way to relate. The amateur musician who practices for hours on end to play in front of the local pub crowd. The parent who reads every book they can get their hands on to raise a happy and healthy child. The researcher who works late into the night bent over a microscope looking for the next discovery.
For me, I can only relate it to playing basketball or CrossFit, and using that passion as a way to escape from the daily stresses of life and grow the physical and mental.
The point is, we can all relate to passion, and no one has to understand our passion except ourselves.
This is why the great ones separate themselves from the rest, they are willing to do things others are not.
They are willing to grind, hustle, suffer, endure, and grow.
Not through short cuts.
Not by laying around waiting for something great to happen.
By going out and working damn hard for it.
"Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process."
Basketball was a game I loved the day I picked up a ball, and have been very fortunate that it has exposed me to many places, people, experiences, and opportunities.
However, the going was not easy, not by any measure of the word. As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach and Certified Personal Trainer, I look back at the days of my young ignorance and think about all the things I could have done differently to be more successful.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but this is a big reason I love what I do now! Here's a bit about my story, and five lessons learned. My advice? Learn them and start actively working on them now, they make a tremendous impact not only as an athlete, but in your life.
The Imperfectly Perfect Journey
High school: Kodiak, Alaska
I was a long, lanky, average athlete, with no formal training to improve my athleticism, zero knowledge or experience with lifting weights, didn't have cable TV and YouTube wasn't a thing yet, so I didn't watch much basketball.
The one saving grace, is I was fortunate to come from a community (and state) that LOVES basketball and an outstanding high school coach who had played in college and professionally.
Not knowing how I was going to get recruited to college, I picked my best game, made a bunch of copies, packaged them up and mailed them off to coaches with personal letters.
Out of desperation, I also got on board with a recruiting service who helped get my name out to coaches. I thought I was D1 caliber, hilarious.
I fundraised to travel with my summer team, the Alaska Stars, and stayed with a family in Anchorage for the summer so I could practice with them. Now playing with some of the best talent in the state, I realized I was still a decent player, but had a ton to improve on.
I also still knew nothing about what it would really take to play at the next level, and would soon learn the hard way...
College: The University of Alaska Anchorage
I was fortunate to get picked up by my home state college, the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), who at the time was (and still is) a Division II powerhouse.
I soon learned that the jump from high school to college was substantial. Every practice felt like trying to scramble up that super steep wall on America Ninja Warrior.
For two years the top of that wall was unattainable, and some days it felt like my coaches were at the top pointing and laughing, telling me to just give up already.
I slowly began to believe that maybe that was the best option, that the weight and dread I felt with the mere thought of going to practice was stronger than my love for the game and desire to represent my hometown.
It was a merciless, daily battle. No one cared if you were sick, unless it was highly contagious.
No one cared if you were hurt, I specifically remember our coaches telling us we were not to go to the training room unless something was torn or broken.
And no one cared why you didn't do something the way it was asked of you, if it wasn't done right, you were getting yelled at.
I was put in my place real quick, ultimately spending that first year as a redshirt, meaning I was able to practice with the team, but not play in games and still have four years of eligibility.
It was not pretty, as oftentimes things worth fighting for aren't, and a lesson in what collegiate athleticism and expectation looked like and would cost to attain.
The Fuel That Sparked The Rise
At the end of my (second) freshman year, the assistant coach who had made my life hell for the last two years blatantly looked me in the eye and said "Alysa, you stay where you are right now and you're not going to play more than 5 minutes next year."
I was crushed.
I had worked every day as hard as I could in practice, spent extra time, usually at 6am or 10pm (the only time the gym was free), and did everything that was asked of me without complaint and silent anguish, oftentimes surfacing alone in tears of frustration.
As I drove to my dorm after hearing the most blunt, honest, and what felt unfair words I'd heard in my life, I became increasingly angry.
I took 3 days off. Enough time to pack up my stuff to head home for the summer and let that brutal statement really sink in.
Then it was time to get to work.
I ordered a weighted basketball and started googling drills to improve my athleticism and skills.
For that entire summer I was obsessed with improving, and more importantly, still angry. It was my fuel.
Everyday I didn't want to wake up to go play with a bunch of guys at 6am, I remembered what my coach had said, and got out of bed.
Everyday I felt too sore to get in another workout, I remembered how crappy it felt to sit at the end of the bench, and went to the gym.
Everyday I wanted to go to a party with my boyfriend and friends, I remembered getting last in sprints, and went to bed so I could wake up early for a track workout instead.
I'm not exaggerating, I was as all in as a player in a high stakes game of poker. It was so important to me I was willing to sacrifice things other people were not, and if it didn't work out this time, it wasn't meant to be. #NoSocialLife
The Pressure that led to the Fall
The next year was completely different. Suddenly I found myself starting, scoring more points in my first game than I had the entire last season combined.
I had finally made it to the top of that seemingly impossible Ninja wall.
Yet, this wasn't even close to the start of a happy ending as I would soon learn there is a price with success and it's adversity's distant cousin, pressure.
My junior year I didn't know how to handle the pressure, I was at risk of losing my starting spot to a junior college transfer and literally made myself sick with stress, missing our first road trip because I was stuck in the Emergency Room with painful abdominal cramping. I was ashamed and shocked that my body had quit on me.
I never reclaimed my starting spot that entire year, but we went on to Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament, a trade off I would make every time! #TeamFirst, baby.
Adversity strikes again
Another high led to another low, and soon after our NCAA Tournament run we found out that our coach had been up to some shady things and was forcibly resigning.
The immediate disappointment shook all of us, so much so that many of the better players didn't return and we had NO recruiting class going into my senior year.
The stress was starting to come back, but this time I was thankfully more prepared.
Our new coach, who remains as the current coach for the UAA women's team, had to go to intramural games to find us a couple more players so we could even practice 5 on 5.
Expectations were drastically different than the year prior to preform, as we were so young and undermanned that if either the Point Guard or myself had a bad game, we would not win, and that's not to sound cocky at all, it was the unfortunate truth.
Thus, with every game came a family reunion of pressure and adversity, because winning was and will always be more important - regardless of who you are or if you actually think this - than individual success or accolades.
Against all odds, we somehow managed to have a winning season (17-10), which was a record I felt more proud of than any year previous because it required excellence on every level from many people. A true team effort, and perhaps another story for another time!
Professional Career: Germany And Australia
Finally, after years of dreaming, setting goals, and working relentlessly towards them, I was fortunate enough to finally live my ultimate dream of playing professional basketball.
My journey after college took me overseas to Germany, where I played one year for a club called TSV Viernheim and then returned the following year to play for another club, the GiroLive Panthers of Osnabrück.
After nine months abroad my second year, I immediately flew 16 hours from Germany to Australia and played out the last four months of my career for the Logan Thunder in Brisbane.
Five Key Lessons Learned
This is one of thousands of student athlete experiences in one sport, and it is my only wish by sharing my story that it helps young student athletes overcome their own Ninja Warrior walls in sports and in life.
I will tell you right now, those experiences were hard at the time, but have had immense impact on how I handle things in my now, daily "adulting" life.
There are five major take aways from this story:
Choose your circle wisely
Who you surround yourself with has a tremendous influence on who you will become and is reflective of who you are.
These will be the people who are either going to the gym with you to get up extra shots or the ones egging you on to come to a party with them. They'll be the ones who are skipping class or getting an extra hour of study hall with you.
Bottom line: do they make you better or do they bring you down?
Seek the Truth
It takes a person of high character to actively seek out information (particularly about themselves) that they may not want to hear, but need to hear.
This is where your circle comes in to play. Surround yourself with people who care about you so much they are willing to tell you something you need to hear in order to help you, and are willing to say it even if it makes you mad or upset.
Remember, it's never easy to hear those types of things. After all, the saying "the truth hurts" exists for a reason, but it will ultimately make you better.
No matter how much or how little success you are having at this moment, do not stop working. You have to believe in your ability to reach your goals and that hard work will pay off, it always does.
Now, there is a massive difference between believing in yourself and being entitled to an outcome because you think you've worked hard for it. This goes back to having solid people you trust to be honest with you.
Here's the kicker though, you must be receptive to what they say and at all costs avoid shooting the messenger!
You are enlisting the help of someone to give you a different perception than your own, which is absolutely critical for your growth as a player and person.
Have Selective Hearing
The one voice you need to be listening to, even if you are not religious, is the voice of faith. Faith, or believing in yourself, is the voice that will tell the critiques and fans to be silent, because they don't know your process.
They don't know the sweat, blood, and tears that you put in; they don't know what you are working towards; and really, they don't know you.
Trust the process
If you haven't noticed already, the four lessons before this are all interwoven in some way.
Ultimately, these all constitute your process, and when you are confident that you are doing things the right way, which is in accordance with your values and vision, then you must trust that with persistent action and work, you will get to where you want to go.
There will undoubtedly be times you are tested on this, and your tests may come at times when you aren't ready for them, that's why it is so important to have good people in your circle you can lean on and to help you through.
They are there not only to tell you what you need to hear, but to be positive with you when you are having a hard time doing that for yourself.
"Excuse me sir, I think you forgot your shorts in the locker-room," a passerby said to Nick as he climbed the stairs up to the YMCA weight room.
His shorts were their normal length, well of course, by Nick standards, but his shirt was a little longer than normal so it hung past the bottoms of his shorts giving off the appearance that he did indeed leave his shorts behind.
On that particular day, Nick was trying his hand at resistance training for the first time. I had been training his long-term (of 15 years) girlfriend, Barb, for the past year, and the addition of weight training had really improved her running, so Nick decided it was time to join the party.
So you want to be a bad ass
When Barb first called me up last January inquiring about personal training, I knew from that first conversation that we were going to get along great.
I asked her what her goals and expectations were from hiring a trainer, and though I don't quite remember her response, I do remember saying in return "so you want to be a bad ass."
Of course this was a slightly superfluous comment, because little did I know, she already was.
For Barb, "running ultra-marathons is kind of like life, you know there are going to be times that you feel good, times that are hard, times that you just have to put your head down and keep going, and times you feel like you could run forever."
She knows within the first mile of a race if that particular day is going to be rough or not and admits, "there's no guarantee, regardless of your training, of what you're going to feel like once you get to the start line."
For Nick, who probably has more miles on his odometer than a well traveled car (by the way, at 73, Nick still runs like a new car), says, "usually you start out and think 'I feel well, I've trained well' and for whatever reason your body is just in sync, but somedays it's just off. You could be 20-30 miles into a race and just know, this isn't going to be pretty."
"Running ultra-marathons is kind of like life, you know there are going to be times that you feel good, times that are hard, times that you just have to put your head down and keep going, and times you feel like you could run forever." - Barb Elias
But, when that last 30 miles hit, his body no longer wanted to keep the "red-line" pace and he began throwing up the rest of the way.
Can you imagine, at this very moment you start throwing up, and someone tells you to go run 30 miles?! That is resolve people, in the most raw, pure form possible!
Barb's resolve is just as impressive as Nick's, as she has her share of horror stories as well. One in particular will leave you wondering how no one has noticed the Wonder Woman suit under her scrubs (she is a Physician's Assistant).
There is a 135 mile, yes.. 135 mile.. race from Death Valley up to Mt. Whitney, CA called Badwater (or) The World's Toughest Race.
This particular race covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 feet up and a 6,100 feet down. Go big, or go home.
Anyway, you can only imagine the bad mental monkey that starts talking when you are even contemplating signing up for such a race (mine is laughing right now), let alone showing up and running the thing.
Alternatively, there is a mental muscle unbeknownst to most people that allows one to come back from the dead mid-race and keep going. About 40 miles in, Barb was essentially crawling through the desert because she was so cramped up from dehydration that she couldn't walk.
She looked, and (though she would never admit it) felt like a zombie. Like Nick, she was throwing up more than she ever had in her life, combined.
One of the race aides gave her a liter of Oral Rehydration Solution, which she drank up like a sponge. Nick was amazed to see the life start returning to her and asked the aide what Barb was drinking.
"Try a sip," he said. Nick took a sip and immediately almost threw up due the extreme salt content, containing twice the amount as sea water if you can imagine that!
Two liters of double strength sea water magic potion later, Barb started to feel human again and looked Nick in the eye and asked, "Can you run?"
He looked back at her with bewilderment thinking "Uh, yeah.. I wasn't the one who was just throwing up an hour ago," and they trotted off for Barb to finish the remaining 95 miles, which as I type this is almost comical.
The amount of toughness that would take is completely mind boggling. "Most people don't think I'm my age, which is fun," says Barb, while casually sipping wine and laughing about these intense experiences like they were nothing.
"Can you run?"
Never too late to start
At 39 years old, Nick ran his first 50 mile race on a dare. Within that same year, he ran his first 100 mile race, the Western States, and never looked back.
His goal was to beat his buddy, a fellow Wyoming native, who claimed to have the fastest time in the state. Now, 34 years later, Nick has raced the Western States 14 times and is the oldest finisher in the history of the race.
After nearly being intimidated off the course by his own fear the day before the race, Nick ran into a 67 year old who also would be running the following day.
Convincingly, the "older man" told him that with the training he had put in, he was more than capable of finishing. He returned the next day to not only finish, but to beat his buddy's time.
During the interview, it came to light that this ultra-couple had won several races in the Master's division, with Barb coming in as a top female runner multiple times.
Alas, you would never know. Even talking about it, they shrugged off the accomplishments and laughed at how the trophies were still packed in moving boxes.
It has been an honor to get to train these two incredible people who define good health, resilience, strong character, and so many other beautiful qualities.
When asked what advice they would give to someone considering running an ultra, or even a normal marathon, they said "get off your butt and do it (laugh)."
Still going strong
Clearly their sense of humor is one reason we get along so well, but on a serious note they advise that if you're considering it, just do it, because that one experience and accomplishment will be something you remember the rest of your life!
Even if you're not the running type (like myself), Barb summed up the importance of being active better than I've ever heard, "Your health is not a right, it's a privilege and you have to work at it. It's what you put into it, you can't just expect to be healthy, you have to do the work. It's like being fit, there's no magic pill, you just have to do the work."
"Your health is not a right, it's a privilege and you have to work it. It's what you put into it, you can't just expect to be healthy, you have to do the work. It's like being fit, there's no magic pill, you just have to do the work."