Sea Otter Recap

Last week I was lucky enough to head down to the 2016 Sea Otter Classic.  I felt like this was my initiation into the mtb community.  I honestly had no idea what to expect.  Luckily I had Amanda Cordell and Joey Foresta showing me the ropes and I don’t think I could have been in better company.  Both of these riders were doing firsts this weekend.   This was also Amanda’s first Sea Otter trip so I wasn’t alone there.  She went down to race Dual Slalom, her first time ever, and Downhill.  Joey went down to make his Pro Debut in Dual Slalom at 14 years old, race downhill, and the pump track invitational.  To say the weekend was a success would be a massive understatement.  But not just because of how well these riders did, it was who they were that was the most refreshing part of the whole experience.

One thing I always tell people about Joey Foresta is that he always takes good care of me.  The first time he took me riding he always stayed right behind me to make sure I was ALIVE and to give me pointers.  I have never once felt like I was an inconvenience to him no matter what the situation.  That’s all fine and good at home where we train, but honestly when we go to these events its all about the athletes at that point.  It is my hope to make sure that they have everything they need to feel as relaxed as possible the days leading up to and on race day.  This was a huge weekend for Joey and I would have completely understood him being laser focused on the task at hand. Nope this kid just had a blast and literally included me in everything.  Im old to him, 20 years older to be exact which is way worse when you say it out loud, but he doesnt care.  He let me feel way cooler than I should probably and experience this with him.  

He started off the weekend with blowing our minds in the pump track invitational with a 3rd place finish next to 2 of the best in the business.  The next day he heads over to his pro debut in dual slalom.  There was no pressure here, but of course like any great athlete he wanted to do well and push himself and see where he stacked up.  If he had qualified for the main event that would have been a massive victory.  Well he did that.  We were stoked, he was pumped and then the round of 16 starts, he rode steady, rode his race, the other racer made a mistake and Joey moves on.  Sweet, luck is a part of racing.  Sure we all know it, but then the next round comes and Joey is staying super cool and collected and just racing his race.  Round of 8, the other racer makes a mistake, Joey takes the win again.  At this point I have just kind of stepped back away from the fence and to me it was very easy to see that Joey had made these top ranked Pros in the world nervous.  He wasn’t letting all the hype get to him, he was just racing and kicking ass, while they had to deal with all the pressure.  He went onto the finals and battled for a 2nd place finish in his Pro Debut.  It was incredible to be in the crowd and have noone know my relationship with Joey because I just got to sit and listen to them all talk about how blown away they were this kid.  And man it was awesome. So awesome.

The ticket here was that Joey controlled his emotions and stuck to his plan.  This is an impressive feat for any high level athlete but especially for a young athlete stepping onto this level for the first time.  To often we see athletes and just people in general being lead to much by their emotions.  We see it in fighting all the time.  The head games start to try and get the other fighter to get emotionally involved bc then we don’t think clearly.  And WE MAKE MISTAKES.  Using your emotions to drive you to work harder is fine. But if your emotions pull you off your game plan then its not so helpful.  This is a very tough lesson to learn and many don’t.  You can be passionate about what you do without be emotional.  Find your focus to win and do it.

The other rider I was there with was Amanda Cordell.  I had been working with Amanda for a few months now and knew that she was a driven chick that loved riding her bike and has some serious goals.  She was always fun to work with and it was very easy to see that she had a deep rooted passion in what she was doing.  Well, after 16 hrs in a car with me and getting to know her better I quickly became more and more impressed with this girl and was even more stoked to work with her moving forward.  Not only was she just a badass amazing person to get to know, she too took me under her wing and let me experience this weekend with her and actually introduced me to people.  I think I only embarrassed her about 15 times.  Anyone that knows me, knows that I just kind of say what I think whether or not you want to hear it.  I always tell an athlete that I work with that my job is to tell them what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.  So Im sure I drove Amanda a little crazy.

One of my favorite parts of being at this festival with her was that I got to watch this girl that to me was “famous” and a “big deal” walk around and just be in awe of the people she got to meet and talk too.  You want to feel good, just go to a bike event with Amanda and you will watch her light up and love every second of it.  This is a girl that is definitely not taking anything that she has worked so hard to get for granted.  She is only working harder.  The only thing that I really told her throughout the weekend was that she belonged there.  This is one of the most independent women I have ever met and man she has no fear to go after it on a bike.  She had never raced dual slalom before and after some heckling she got after and finished 8th among many of the women that she looks up to as a racer.  I was incredibly proud to get to be there with her to support her and watch her chase her dreams.

She also really challenged me to grow in my own confidence as a coach.  She helped me to see how very often I am limiting myself by my own insecurities. Having athletes that are also family is why we have one of the coolest programs out there.  I strongly believe that.  After we celebrated Saturdays success we finally got to sleep to get up early for her to race downhill.  Amanda killed it. She finished 12th and took away some massive confidence knowing that she does belong on the world stage with these other ladies and man I can’t wait to be racing with her again soon.  We have stepped up her training and she is not even close to her peak.  Stoked to watch this journey with her.  She taught me so much and made me laugh a lot.  Will never forget this weekend.

All in all this weekend really solidified to me how lucky I am to work with the athletes that I do and how much we truly are like a family.  We celebrate together, we struggle together, and we pick each other up.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  We have some other big trips planned this summer to travel with all our amazing athletes and I can’t wait.

See you guys at the tracks.

Give and Take

We see it all the time.

Aspiring athletes see their heroes doing something in training and think “the only way to beat him/her is to do more than he/she is doing.” It’s a natural reaction – we all think that more is better. If you want to be better, work harder, right? Yes and no – we covered some of that in our last post.

If “work harder” means make your performance a priority and do whatever it takes to improve it (including managing recovery), then YES. If “work harder” means pile on additional training every day until you turn yourself into a quivering pile of overtrained goo, then NO.

In training, there should always be a give and take. The more time our athletes get to be on the bike, the less high intensity training we do in the gym. We don’t just keep adding additional work. If you’re trying to burn the candle at both ends, it won’t last long. Some athletes get this and some don’t. The ones that don’t get it now will get it eventually, when their bodies force them to stop.

One of the laws of athletic performance is that you don’t get stronger/faster/better-conditioned in the gym. Those things develop during your recovery periods, as your body adapts and responds to the training that you did in the gym. If you constantly interrupt your recovery periods with additional training, you never give yourself the chance to fully realize the gainz from your training sessions.

That’s where the give and take comes in. To get the most out of training, we have to strike the right balance between work and recovery. That balance is different for each individual athlete, but once we find that balance, we have to maintain it. If we put in more work somewhere, we need to take some away somewhere else.

That’s why, as coaches, we have to make it a priority to know our athletes. Training is not an event, it’s a process that keeps on going whether you’re in the gym, on your bike, eating dinner, or sleeping in your bed. If we just focus on what happens during the few hours our athletes are with us, we miss the big picture.

So, when we ask you “how are you feeling?” or “did you ride this weekend?”, it’s not just small talk. We genuinely want to know so we can adapt your training (if necessary) to account for that additional work/stress. Technology is now taking this to the next level, as Heart Rate Variability monitors are able to tell us more and more about athlete’s recovery and baseline stress levels before they even step foot in the gym…more on that in a later post!

Does Hard Work Pay Off?

“Well before you freak out on me and think that I am going to tell you that success in any area of your life has nothing to do with hard work, I PROMISE you that’s not what I am saying.  One thing I will say is that sometimes we may miss the mark on what we decide is hard work and leave it as something that is purely a physical state of exhaustion and miss the important part of the mind.

Last week we got to sit in on a Panel with some of the most innovative minds of Human Performance that are around today.  The Thin Air Park City event was mind blowing.  To hear what some of these incredible people are doing to push human performance beyond all realms thought possible was tough to even wrap my head around.  I was just hoping that they would randomly come up and ask me to be a guinea pig and see if we can get this ole noggin back in line. Im still holding out for that.

One of the interesting things though was that none of these incredible scientists left out the idea that understanding our athletes as coaches is still and will always be one of the most incredible tools we have as a coach.  One thing that is for sure though is that if we aren’t innovating we are doing a disservice to our athletes and that is unacceptable.  So I promise you that we are and will always be improving our methods at Sisu Strong Training Facility.

Back to my initial point though.

We’ve all said it.  We have looked over at what someone else was doing to prepare and said I am going to work “harder” than that person.  If they are riding for 2 hrs a day, I am going to ride for 3.  I don’t care how much it sucks, I am going to push my body to the limit and have no regrets because I know that I gave it my all.  I gave 110%!  

Well, my argument is that going about it like this may leave you short of your goals.  Your “HARD WORK” didnt pay off like you had hoped.  What’s even worse is that what if because you never took the time to get your mind right, you were never able to get your body to where you believed it could be.  

I 100% believe that the greatest athletes in the world are the ones that are willing to do what the others aren’t.  But we have to stop believing that means we  look at what others are doing and do more.  The greatest in the world are the ones that are doing exactly what they need to do.  They are not worried about what the person next to them is doing, they are completely focused on what it is that they need to do to get the job done.  They are setting the standard. They are the one that everyone else is trying to copy,  and I say let them try and copy you.  

So for me, “Hard Work” and athletes that are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed means just that.  They will do whatever it takes. Nowhere in that statement does it say you must run yourself into the ground until you can’t anymore.  That is much easier than having the mental fortitude to be able to not go 100% all the time.  It is being mentally strong enough to do the boring tedious things that not everyone is willing to do.  Working hard physically is easy on your mind.  Train your mind and then your body.

Man I messed this up as a kid.  I just didn’t quite get it.  I never had the right coach that could really get thru to me to understand this.  But I am glad I have learned it now because I still have a lot ahead of me.  Whether it is in athletics, business, relationships, just life.  Being able to take risks and push through when its necessary and dial it back in and say not today are incredibly valuable traits.  There needs to be a healthy combination of the two though to make greatness happen.
Are you ready to put in the “Hard Work?”  For most of us the “hard” part is about truly being accountable to ourselves for what we really have to do to be great.  Because those are never the most fun things to do. But man they sure are worth it when its all said and done.

Lessons Learned

Over the last 8 months as we began building Sisu Strong Training Facility out here in Utah it became very clear that this wasn’t going to be a normal deal.  I promised myself that I would stay true to where my passions were as a coach, but that I wasn’t going to try and fit it into any real particular mold.  The goal was to let SSTF turn into whatever it turned into because I knew it would be amazing.

I definitely never imagined how unique it would be though.  Our OG’s out here were Nick Thompson, Rich Larsen, Sophia Foresta, Joey Foresta, and Cody Kelley.  It pretty much came about by meeting them and asking if I could train them.  Why they said yes, I have no idea.  I can only assume that it was my amazing good looks and boyish charm.  

From there we slowly began to build an amazing team of athletes that we have been able to work with.  The one thing I didn’t see coming was that we would quickly become involved with some amazing adaptive athletes.  I also never imagined the impact these athletes would have on my personal issues of satisfaction with where I was physically.  I began finding it very hard to find time to consistently train and that was causing me to shrink about 20 lbs, lose a ton of strength, and fall into a spot of being pretty bummed with the way I looked.  I don’t have a huge self image issue, but for some reason this was getting to me quite a bit.  I would go train when I got the chance and then get bummed that I was so far off from where I was that I wouldn’t even finish my workout.  It was becoming a vicious cycle that was affecting me on all sorts of levels.  I knew that for me to feel better on my dirtbike being 20lbs lighter was a bonus, but that was still hard to wrap my head around because I liked being the big guy.  The more athletes we began to work with, the more I began to come to terms with my silly image issues because I also knew that I was helping them reach their goals.  No matter what, we will never look the way we want.  The people we see on TV and say “man, I wish I looked like that” go home every night and see flaws just like you and I do.  Probably even more so.  Then pop in Kolleen and Tyler.  These two quickly put stuff into perspective for me personally.  Kolleen is a below the knee amputee and Tyler is a parapalegic from T-6 down.  Here I had two athletes that I knew no matter what they said would always look in the mirror and just like me be unsatisfied with their physique, but they had way more reason to be than I did.  Neither of them accept that excuse either, which I love.  But these two athletes were jacked.  It was clear they loved the gym, but I could easily see the lack of carryover to performance in how they were training and I felt like I could help them.  What an arrogant jerk.  I had no two feet to stand on (sorry guys, had to) to justify that thought but I felt like I could and I told them that.  

I began working with Kolleen Conger, and was very nervous about it because who was I? What knowledge did I have of an amputee?  I went through lots of self doubt about whether or not I was qualified to work with an athlete without a leg, but worked hard to push those doubts aside and help her exactly how I would any other athlete.  There was and still is lots of troubleshooting to figure out how we get her to move as efficiently as possible with good movement patterns, but I can’t even begin to brag about her hard work enough.  She has gone from struggling to do a box squat to just the other day knocking out 100 goblet squats for time with 20% of her bodyweight.  Not just getting work done, but doing it with good mechanics.  She is on her bike out there racing in the desert and kicking some serious ass.

Kolleen has been tearing it up in the desert these last few months and came away with a first place finish.  Out there in the desert she has literally battled everything from bumps and bruises to her leg falling off, yet she got the job done.  Pretty badass person to be around.

Then came Tyler Kilmer.  I had been following Tyler on social media and new that he had been paralyzed for 4 years and was actually on a little bit of a downhill with some of the health and physical issues that come from his injury. I finally reached out to him after I saw a post that he wasn’t able to ride his dirtbike anymore because of spasms and other health issues.  Again I was putting myself in a situation where I had a lot of doubts on whether or not I was qualified to be working with an adaptive athlete like Tyler.  I mean, I’m basically just a self-taught strength and conditioning coach with lots of really smart friends that I reach out to all the time with questions.  We talked on the phone. I was very open that I wasn’t an expert in dealing with adaptive athletes but that I did think I could help him.  The only other reservation I had about working with Tyler was that his arms were way bigger than mine and it kind of annoyed me a little. But, I just reminded myself that I can out squat him and found a little self-respect again.  I do have to flex my quads at him sometimes still since we have begun training him for more performance than bodybuilding and he doesn’t like that all the time, but hey jerk, your arms are still bigger than mine. HAHA!

With both of these athletes we had to address some imbalances and movement patterns.  They had both fallen into the rut of “I’m gonna move this weight by whatever means necessary” instead of “I’m going to get stronger in the manner that will best carry over to performance on my bike and also just in life”.  With Kolleen we had to drastically change our training focus for her to get her backside more involved.  She was jacked, people looked at Kolleen and saw this strong badass mom, with one leg riding a dirtbike better than 90% of the riders out there with two legs.  But me, being the asshole that I am, saw a chick that was jacked everywhere except where she needed to be.  We tell all of our clients all the time that we don’t move for the sake of moving in the gym and we don’t just get strong to get strong.  We want to move right and get strong in the correct movement patterns that will benefit them and improve performance in life and sport.

So when Tyler came to us it was the same situation.  Here was a dude that was huge.  I am not joking when I tell you that I still get jealous of this dudes muscle development in his upper body.  But as we began going through some movements it was glaringly obvious that he had a shit ton of muscle that wasn’t serving him much purpose at all.  My only hope was that he would stick with me long enough through our boring ass workouts to see the benefits in his overall performance.  I knew this was going to be tough.  Because I myself had been struggling with the fact that I knew I had to give up some size and ways that I liked to train to be where I wanted to be on my dirtbike.  The first few days with Tyler we had to find ways to stabilize him because he would almost fall forward out of his chair just doing scapular retraction and protraction.  Basically, he had to reach out with one arm as far as he could and then retract his shoulder blade as far as he could.  Tyler has no feeling below his ribs, so there was no core stability to hold him up.  Starting out, we had to have him either be strapped into the chair with a belt or use one arm to brace on his leg so he didn’t fall forward.  I remember having the thought of “no wonder riding his dirtbike isn’t fun for him anymore.”  

After weeks of me grinding him through boring workout after boring workout, and very rarely ever letting him get a good swole session in (which we all love), we were progressing on to med ball throws, cable rows, band rows and tons of other exercises that were much more fun.  We used a squat belt to strap him to his chair to keep him from falling forward.  A few months in we had him doing med ball throws with my business partner and other coach, Acy Watson, who hadn’t worked with Tyler much and hadn’t watched the struggles we had at the very beginning with Tyler just being able to hold himself up.  As they were progressing through the series of throws I hear Acy ask him if he needed the belt fastened or not. I quickly looked up to realize that he had been doing the med ball throw with no belt holding him into the chair and he was sitting in perfect position and 100% stable.  We looked at each other and my excitement was actually even higher than his.  I had to actually walk out of the room because that was a huge deal and it made me pretty emotional.  It was a monumental step for someone who had quickly become like a brother to me and I knew that he also realized how big that was.  He just kept on with his workout and just like Tyler does, he worked.  We now having him doing cable rows without a belt, he was ripping through the desert on his dirtbike a few weeks ago with me and his dad. I was following way behind more than anything, and now we are onto bigger and radder things.

So I guess my point with this blog post is that we will never be satisfied with the way we look.  It’s always very easy to focus on the areas we can improve, but it’s about focusing on the things we can do.  I have been told so many times in the last few months how skinny I look, and man it drove me nuts.  I’m 230lbs of straight up sexy bearded ginger love, but definitely smaller than I used to be.  I may not get to spend the time in the gym getting swoled up all the time anymore, but as long as I can perform at the level I need to be able to train with our amazing athletes in and out of the gym, I’m good.  Hell yeah, I lose sight of that sometimes. But perspective on what is important to you is the most vital part of happiness and self-satisfaction. If I was back to 250lbs jacked and strong but not getting the chance to snowboard with my wife and daughter, ride mountain bikes with our MTB crew, rip through dirt with our MX racers and chase our BMX athletes around the track, and help them improve in the gym I would be way less happy with my life.  

It’s ok to lose focus here and there, but do not let it consume you.  Remember what it is that truly makes you happy in this life and get after it.

And always remember that your will to persevere through adversity will determine the level of greatness you achieve.