Focus On Recovery To Improve

There is a simple process at work in training that is the key to getting better. In their book Peak Performance authors Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg lay it out as follows: Stress + Rest + Growth.  

It doesn’t maker what the quality; strength, speed, agility, or endurance. When we challenge ourselves with a hard workout or training block and then take care of our recovery we adapt, we get better.  

Both elements of the formula are necessary if we’re going to improve. We tend to emphasize one and neglect the other. We often assume that if we aren’t seeing the improvement we want it’s because we aren’t working hard enough or long enough. So, we ramp it up, add more reps, more practices, go longer hoping it will get us closer to our goal. It rarely occurs to take care of the recovery side of the process.  

Without recovery not only do we not improve, we plateau or sometimes even get worse. Over time, under-recovery can lead to illness, injury and burnout. 

APPROACH RECOVERY LIKE TRAINING – BE INTENTIONAL  

Ask yourself what are the things you need  to take care of on a daily basis? Start building practices and habits around those. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, stretching, and mental practices like meditation all have a huge impact on how well we respond to training and how good we feel.  

Look beyond the day to day for larger patterns. Each week I have athletes fill out a weekly schedule that shows not only their training and competition schedule along with school, work and social commitments as well. Then I have them review it the next week and make any changes so that it reflects what actually happened. Together if we need to make adjustments we can and we can look at where recovery is or isn’t getting taken care of.  

Take inventory and get to know your body. Every day we have athletes fill out a paper and pencil journal to capture things like sleep and energy levels as well as what’s going on that day. It’s information for me and more importantly a chance for them to pause, assess, and over time get more in tune with themselves.  

There are a lot of ways we can tend to the recovery side of the formula. In their book Magness and Stulberg offer resources and practices that are a great place to start. Like anything else though the most important thing is to start. Pick one practice you want to work on and make it a habit. This is where coaching can help. Working with someone who understands the process and can help you find a focus and provide encouragement and learning is worth it. Once you’ve grooved in one habit move on to the next. Over time you will begin to see a difference and really take advantage of the hard work you’re putting in.   


Creating A Better Pattern


Trying to change a habit can be hard work – even when we know its not good for us or that it’s keeping us from being who we want to be or doing what we want to do. New patterns take time to establish and they often feel awkward and mechanical at the start. They just don’t feel natural.   

You can see it in something simple like running mechanics. Even small adjustments like foot placement or hand position take time to become part of us. We need to repeat them over and over again, paying attention and continuing to adjust before they take hold.  

I worked with an athlete a few years ago who resisted small changes in her form because in her words, “I don’t like it, it feels too easy.” Then one day at the end of a workout I put her on the watch and asked her to run a 40. It was her second fastest ever – even though it came at the end a fitness and conditioning session. She ran two more and they were just as fast. She started to see that maybe there was something to the new mechanics. Slowly it became her preferred pattern, the new normal.  

In his book, Job’s Body, A Handbook For Bodywork, Deane Juhan writes, “You have to behave in a reality before you can perceive in that reality.  For personal change, for pattern change, for template change it is necessary to act, to voluntarily, willfully engage in the process of self-observation and self-regulation and to stay with it over time …”  

I’m getting coached right now, working on my nutrition and eating habits. It’s slow work but it’s good. Paying attention ( in a non-judgmental way ) and making adjustments isn’t as simple or easy as it sounds. It is frustrating at times and then there are small breakthroughs.

Part of good coaching is engaging the athlete or client in a relationship and environment that helps us make those uncomfortable changes and meet the challenges slowly, at our own pace in a way that makes sense to us and makes them intrinsic. A new pattern that’s stable. Creating a space that is both challenging and safe, where we can practice doing it differently, paying attention in a non-judgmental way and keep adjusting until we create a new path that takes us closer to where we want to go.  



Structure Sets Us Free

“The road to freedom is a beautiful system.” – Phil Jackson.

Boy Basketball Large A

Every game has it’s rules.  

– Put the ball in the basket.

– You have to dribble or pass, you can’t carry it.

– And, you have to do it between these lines.

Within that space we’re invited to play with what’s possible.

Setting rules and boundaries is tricky business. Too big, too loose and the structure disappears . There’s activity but no game. Too small, too rigid and creativity is lost. There’s nothing to explore, no room to expand, no place to play.

Once the athlete knows the rules we create structure to explore that space; an offensive system to try to score and a defense to stop our opponent. You find creative ways to accomplish your goal, to meet the challenge. Your opponent responds and you adjust with something new finding more and more possibilities within the space  – between the lines.

You put structure to your training, setting limits on what you will and won’t do, work with your coach, surround yourself with the right teammates and partners;  over time creating a system to help you develop your potential, finding a balance that helps you focus in and open up at the same time. One that keeps you safe and challenges you to go further.  In a wonderful paradox the structure sets you free.

Dr. Lenna Liucaptures it beautifully inher blog post on children, nutrition and health at On Being. ” As a yogi and an acrobat we practice the paradox of holding strength and softness at the same time. When we have structure we also have the capacity to expand and flow.” 

Committing ourselves to a structure can feel confining but, when you’re ready its the structure and commitment that sets you free. What structures do you want to create, what people do you need to connect with in order to make room to discover your potential – to play your game? Love to help you put it together.


Coaching: The Art Of Imagination

In an era dominated by big data, analytics and technology it’s easy to focus on the numbers, to look for the formula or the hack that will guarantee the results we want. Coaching can become more about diagnosis and prescription, and less about exploring potential and possibility.  

Counting, measuring, ranking and analyzing give us a sense of control. Drawing conclusions about the data creates the illusion of certainty. But what if the most important thing a coach can do is not to nail things down but open them up?  What if the main role of the coach is to bring imagination to the athlete and the process?   

The Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue offers a wonderful description of role of imagination in his book Beauty, The Invisible Embrace. “ The imagination offers revelation. It never blasts with information or numbs us with description. It coaxes us into a new situation. As the scene unfolds we find ourselves engaged in its possibilities, and new revelation dawns… the knowing is always emerging.”   

So, I can ask myself, am I blasting my athletes with information and numbing them with description or am I offering opportunities for exploration, revelation, coaxing them into new situations? Is the athlete trying to remember my thinking or am I helping them create new thinking for themselves? Am I engaging them in new possibilities or asking them to perfect the same old drills and skills?

We don’t need to give up our measurement or our technology. They can be helpful tools. But we do better when they serve the process instead of guiding it. Let’s play with letting imagination be our guide and enjoy being surprised by what we discover.


Finding Happy Again

 

 

“We play because we have an exuberance spirts and energy … but, we also are exuberant because we play”  Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance, The Passion For Life

 

What happens when we loose that exuberance of spirits and energy? What happens when something that starts as play turns into an experience that leaves us “broken” ? And, can we find our way back to a place of joy and vitality?

 

UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi showed us you can with her performance this past weekend in the Bruins’ opening meet. She scored a perfect 10 but … as Washington Post writer Allyson Chiu wrote this week, ” The most notable feature of Ohashi’s performance was the sheer joy she exuded, which starkly contrasted the revelations she made this August about her decision to step back from her Olympic dreams several years ago after the sport left her “broken”.

 

At the time she left she had been competing with a fractured back and two torn shoulders.  She shared her story in a video on The Players Tribune

Stuart Brown, M.D. Psychiatrist, Clinical Researcher and Director of the National Institute of Play offers some properties of play in his book Play, How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.

1. Apparent Purposelessness – we don’t do it for it’s practical value, we do it for it’s own sake. Some people might even think it’s a waste of time.

2. It’s voluntary – nobody’s making you do it.

3. Inherent attraction – It’s just plain  fun. It make you feel good.

4. Freedom from time – When we’re really into it we lose a sense of time.

5. Diminished consciousness of self – We stop thinking about thinking. We stop worrying about how we look. We’re just doing it.

6. Improvisational potential – We aren’t locked in to one way of doing things. We’re open to trying different approaches, messing about, making it up as we go.

7. Continuation desire – It’s fun and when we’re done we want to do it again.

When those things are lost we risk losing that wonderful “exuberance of spirits” that is our reason to play.  Watching Katelyn’s performance, number seven really stands out – it’s fun and when were done we want to do it again.  If it’s not – it might be time to pause and pay attention.


Focus on Growth Not Trophies

Here is a clip from a recent video by the people at What Drives Winning. In this short 10:00 interview Brad Stevens, Coach of the Boston Celtics highlights some key elements in his coaching philosophy. They are simple things we often pay lip service to but, following them has helped him take his teams at Butler to the final four and resurrect the Boston Celtics over the last two years.

Coach Stevens says, “The longer I’ve been into it, its’ become ever more obvious it’s about what you can control and to stay focused on those things you can control. “

He talks about:

Learning to focus on growth and not on trophies.

Encouraging a mindset that focuses on consistency of effort, desire to improve, coachabililty.

Learning to analyze a game based on “How we played” not the result or score.

It’s worth taking the time to listen for athletes, coaches, and parents. Success and excellence come from that blend of focusing on the process and staying in the moment.  The opening minute of the clip from the Butler v Georgetown game is amazing!


Sleep and Nutrition are Effective Tools to Reduce Injury

When we think of reducing injuries we often think of pre-hab routines, ACL prevention programs or things like stretching and foam rollers. Done correctly,consistently and  with qualified coaching those things have been proven to be helpful in reducing the likelihood of injury.  But two recent studies point in another direction, to things we can do outside the gym or workout that appear to have at least as great an impact on brining injury rates down.

A study published in the  Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports followed 340 students at elite level sports high schools in Sweden over a school year. The athletes came from a variety of sports. During the second semester the researchers found that athletes who reported sleeping at least eight hours per night during the first semester were 61 percent less likely to report and injury ( a physical complaint that produced pain, reduced their performance or caused them to miss training) during the second semester.

61 percent is a big number but, a  study at Harvard-Westlake high school in California found a similar relationship between sleep and injury. Student athletes who slept fewer than eight hours a night were almost 70 percent more likely to get injured.   

The Swedish study also found that student athletes who reported eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables and fish were 64 percent less likely to report an injury.

We talk with athletes we coach about the stress and recovery cycle; about matching the hard work of training or competition with the things we need to adapt and grow. We ask, “ What do you need to put in the recovery bucket to help you play well, stay healthy and get the most out of your sport?” Sleep and nutrition are always near the top of the list. The next step of course is to change behaviors.

This doesn’t mean that eating your vegetables and going to bed will make you bullet proof. But, combined with a good training program those things appear to have a significant impact on keeping you healthy.

If you would like to find out more about the research you can follow the links or check out this article by Alex Hutchinson in Outside Magazine.

You can also check out the research by Cheri Mah with collegiate athletes at Stanford University.