There is something I, we, believe here at Athlete On Fire. The idea that EVERYONE is an athlete. Bring us your lazy, your overweight, your elite, your depressed and broken, your everyday and fairly normal, your adaptive, and please, bring us the non-believers. The ones that do not believe that everyone is an athlete because of their own definition and the ones that do not believe because they don’t believe that they could ever be.
If we are all athletes, then, what should we be asking of ourselves.
There are really two parts to this.
- How do we want our bodies to serve us?
- How do we want our minds to serve us?
As athletes. No, as people, these are the only resources we truly have. The third some would argue is our soul but I am of the mind that if we take care of as much of the conscious as we can, the subconscious, or soul, ends up being pretty well taken care of. I am writing this based on how I try to see things so although my exercise science is fairly sound ( I can refer to text and research), my thoughts on the things we can’t see are simply that, thoughts. Take ’em or leave ’em.
Now for the things we can and should take care of as athletes.
How do we want our bodies to serve us?
This is a question I ask myself when working with and training athletes that pay for guidance.
Okay, this is a runner that wants to PR in the 5k. She needs to knock off a minute from her time. She needs to get faster, duh. How can we prep her body to serve this goal? Insert training plan and 15 years of experience and a M.S. in the field and boom, we serve that body.
What if you don’t have a specific goal?
- Does your body need to look good?
- Does it need to feel good?
- Does it need to get you somewhere on foot in the mountains?
- Does it need to bend and twist and pick up your kids?
- Does it need to be ready for a Spartan Race?
- Does it need to be strong?
There is no right answer and as you go through the seasons of your life these needs will change. It’s important to be honest on how you want your body to serve you. If you think you want to run 30 miles but you find yourself lifting heavy on a whim, you’re likely to get hurt.
Start to decide how you want your body to serve you for the next 13 months. Take the whole month of December to really think about it so you don’t default to “look good” and “weight loss” come January. Find meaning in how you use this gift (our body) we all have and lastly, make sure it lines up with the second thing we ask of ourselves…
How do we want our minds to serve us?
I’d say this is fairly simple. We should want our minds to serve us as the most positive influencer in the world. If we can find a way to make what we think our best source of inspiration, motivation, compassion, and love (of ourselves and of others) then we truly don’t need much else. And no, this isn’t easy but it is a muscle we can train.
A good example. We have a project called Becoming Ultra. It is all about coaching a couple ultra running first timers in 6 months to their first ultra, usually 50 miles. We have world class ultra runners coaching them on the show and every season we cover the training of your mind.
There are a few themes:
- Plan your thoughts when certain things happen.
- Find a positive mantra
- Be flexible
If you can plan what you will think about before it happens and make sure that thing is positive then you are ensuring that a default negative thought won’t be allowed to creep in. Those negatives ones are notorious on 15 hour runs.
If you have a simple one or two word mantra to fall back on it serves a similar function except it is more proactive. You are deciding to think positive things all the time instead of just when it gets tough.
The concept of flexibility is that nothing can really shake you. My family recently lost my dad. We weren’t flexible to this idea of loss and it has hurt that much more. And you probably shouldn’t be flexible when it comes to love but when it comes to the mind of an athlete, realizing that failure and success, pain and suffering, joy and despair, can all come from somewhere different and often unexpectedly. Be open to rapid change when it comes to your mind and your physical feats.
Decide how you want your mind to serve you. If it serves you well, your body will follow. Yogi Berra had it right when he said…
Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.
What are you going to ask of your body and mind in 2017, for the rest of your life? Continue to update what you ask of it often. Good coaches and trainers have the uncanny to ask this of their athletes all the time. You should be the foremost expert on yourself from now on!
Scott Jones, M.S. is the founder of Athlete On Fire. While sitting on the river bank the days after losing his dad he noticed that the river never stopped and it never would. So, if that is going to flow no matter what we face in life, let’s get clear about what we have and what we should ask of ourselves. It inspired this article. He trains and coaches athletes in Colorado and on the internets.