Training Like Olympians

The Olympics have been over for about a week, but they’re definitely not out of mind. After spending hours watching different athletes in different sports compete at the highest level, I started to think a little bit about how I could accelerate my progress and how I could advance my level of skill, specifically in powerlifting. And what I learned most was something I think we can all learn from and use to help us all progress and become stronger, healthier, and happier.

There’s a reason why Olympic athletes become Olympic athletes. And while genetic predisposition plays a large part in this, what also makes them Olympians is the amount of time that each competitor spends perfecting their craft and skill.

And while we may not have 3 hours a day to dedicate to lifting weights, running, or any physical activity, what we must make time to craft our skill, to perfect our movements so that we don’t become injured and therefor incapable of performing them in the first place. And a huge part of achieving this this is by the proper use of warmups and stretches.

On and off camera before an Olympic event, athletes are taking their time warming up, stretching, and getting themselves physically and mentally prepared to compete. This may last for an hour leading up to their event. But these routines allow them to run faster and lift more weight than anyone in the world.

Now we all aren’t going to be breaking any world records (or maybe we will), but we can train like Olympians. In order to stay healthy and compete at the highest level, Olympic athletes understand the importance of warming up and cooling down. When we only have maybe an hour a day to exercise, we often skip this step and jump right into exercise to save time and get straight to work.

But why would we do this if we know that the most elite athletes all around the world would never skip their warm up routine because it is so crucial to injury prevention and exercise preparedness?

If this step is crucial to any Olympic athlete who has been able to achieve amazing athletic feats, that must mean that it is even more important to the every day gym goer, since we are far less skilled and practiced as these athletes are. 

Olympians train nearly every day in some capacity. And every day they warm up and take care of their bodies so they don’t become injured. For those of us who don’t train every day of our lives, we are even more susceptible to injury because we don’t have the time to perfect our form and to practice tirelessly to perfection. Which is why the warm up is even more important to us regular athletes.

Most of us will never be the fastest runner in the world, or the heaviest lifter, but no matter how fast we can run or how much we can lift, taking the time to warm up and stretch like an Olympian will allow you to continue training and keep yourself injury free so that you will continue to grow stronger, instead of rushing into things, trying to go too hard, and then injuring yourself every 6 months and setting back your progress because you didn’t take your warm up seriously and with the mindset of a world class athlete.

Warm up like an Olympian, because they know the important role it has in keeping them healthy. And if you only have an hour to exercise, prioritize warming up and stretching before you touch a single weight because in the long term, a healthy and more mobile body will get you much farther (literally and metaphorically) than an injured and broken one. This will allow you to live a strong, healthy, and happy life for the longest you possibly can.

Don’t Stand Up Straight

The spine: the backbone (literally) of your entire body and being. Sending hundreds of conscious and subconscious nervous impulses every second to every part of your body allowing you to move, breathe, pump blood through your heart, LIVE. It’s no wonder why people care so much about having a healthy spine. Which is why I know that most of us have been told, or have thought for ourselves, that we should sit or stand up straight. But I’m here to tell you today that standing up straight is bad.

Why?

Because we shouldn’t be standing up straight, we should be standing up TALL. 

Standing up straight typically has the connotation of standing with a neutral spine. Neutral spine means supporting your spine to rest with its natural curvatures (lordotic or convex curve of the cervical spine, kyphotic or concave curve of the thoracic spine, and a lordotic and kyphotic curve of the lumbar and sacral spine respectively).

But this only paints a half, two dimensional picture. So usually when you’re standing, you think to stand up straight by pinching your shoulders back so you’re not hunching. But there’s so much more to posture than that.

Standing up TALL allows you to start your posture from the ground up, in all planes of motion. 

Having just neutral spine doesn’t mean from a side angle only. It means from the front, side, back, and every angle in between. And the only way to accomplish this is to stand tall.

Your feet are firmly planted on the ground about hip width apart, toes pointed forward or at an angle no greater than 30 degrees, your knees are slightly bent just so that they aren’t locked, your hips are even and space is created in your lumbar spine with tight glutes and core, your thoracic spine is promoted into a healthy position by a conscious contraction of your posterior chain (behind/back of your body) bringing your shoulders down and back forcing you to puff your chest out, your arms are resting to your side and palms facing inward toward your body, your head is rested directly on top of your body so a straight line can be drawn from the top of your head, through your neck, and down in between your feet.

Now you are standing straight, but you’re not quite there yet.

How to do stand TALL?

Well in this correct postural position, pretend that line running from the top of your head to your feet is actually a string. And imagine that the string is attached to a pulley above you. Now, slowly pretend as if someone is pulling that string, forcing you to be lifted up off of the ground, while remaining in this posture. 

Stand up and do this with me right now as you read this.

Do you feel the SPACE that has been created in all of your joints and each and every vertebrae? Do you feel the energy that is harnessed through a firm rooting in the floor? Seriously. Actively do this right now.

But here’s the catch, you’re still not quite standing tall.

Because the final component to good posture and standing tall is the way you will now carry yourself in this position. To truly stand tall each must now feel empowered with this postural vitality to carry on with your life and command your presence wherever you walk or sit.

When you stand up straight, you’re simply straightening your spine.

But posture is power. When you stand TALL you become confident – your character changes. You’re in charge and you are a presence, a force, and someone that people notice as you stand, or walk by.

Good posture allows your nervous system to be more efficient, promotes good health and increased vitality as you age, and can be significant in reducing injury.

Standing TALL allows you to become confident. A force that will drive you through your journey to become the strongest, healthiest, and happiest you can be. 

[YouTube] Sticking to Your Priorities

New video out on YouTube now! Just some quick thoughts on being able to communicate to others your priorities and what makes you happy, in an effort to make yourself and those you care about less stressed, stronger, healthier, and ultimately happier.

[YouTube] Getting a Little Heavier | Week 5

New video on YouTube out now! Week 5 of the “Reset Button” workout plan. Starting to get a little heavier, working that nervous system to get back into low volume! (1-3 reps)

Check it out:

[The Path Mag] How to Meditate and Lift Weights at the Same Time

Another featured article on The Path Mag by yours truly! This is a part of their cognitive issue, and my article focuses on how lifting can have extremely meditative powers, if you follow some simple steps!

Check it out here or by clicking on the screen shot below!

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Empathetic Compassion and New Experiences

For those of you who don’t know, I love yoga and new experiences that force me to step outside of my comfort zone. So it’s only logical that I combine these two ideologies to try a new form of yoga.

Last week myself and a friend went to an Aerial Yoga class. If you’re not familiar with this type of yoga, imagine a fabric hammock that’s attached to a single point on the ceiling. So it looks like just a loop of silk but you can unroll it to be a fairly long tube.

The idea of Aerial Yoga (or at least what was communicated to us) was that the connection to the ground and the hammock creates a new challenge as well as deeper stretches with the help of gravity. And this most definitely was the case.

From aerial downward dogs to complete inversions without using your hands, you really got to stretch very deeply. But it did hurt. The hammock at times (depending on the position and execution) really dug into your skin. So I definitely recommend wearing tight clothes that cover most of your skin, and maybe even an extra layer.

As everyone started to get the basics down, we stared to get into more complex movements. And throughout the class, myself and the other members of the class found themselves giggling from the awkwardness and challenge of it all.

At first I thought this was annoying, and that myself and my own laughing was taking away from the whole “experience”, but midway through the class and after reflecting on it now, I really came to appreciate it.

It was very clear that there were some Aerial veterans in the room, and it was also VERY clear that most of us weren’t. And because most yoga styles are performed in silence, I felt bad for those going to the class who were there to really work. But as everyone continued to giggle quietly by themselves or with a friend, I looked around and could see the people who were clearly very experienced, and they themselves were smiling.

Sometimes for a very tough pose to set up and get into, the pros would just continue on themselves, locked deep in focus and minded their own business. Sometimes they would smile on and giggle. And it wasn’t a giggle that was making fun someone, it was a contagious giggle from others who were as well.

What I took away from this was not only that Aerial Yoga is hard and that I want to do it again, but that there is a great quality within us, the Mind & Matter community, that strives for new experiences. Being uncomfortable doesn’t scare us if we know it will lead to more strength, health, and happiness.

It also demonstrated an even greater quality within us, that everyone in this class had: empathetic compassion.

We should never laugh in the face of others for stepping outside of their comfort zone or attempting to become a stronger, healthier, and happier self. Recognizing that people are making the effort, no matter how much they are struggling, is something that should be commended, not made fun of or scoffed.

We have all been in uncomfortable and new situations, so we can all relate. We all have the ability to embrace empathetic compassion, and especially because this example relates to health and wellness, it is no laughing matter.

The strong character and will of people even stepping into that room to try something new right beside those who can float gracefully over the mat with ease demonstrates their own strength and confidence within themselves. No matter how hard or ugly it may look. They’re there, working just as hard, if not harder, than the more experienced acquaintance beside them.

So continue to try new things and to not be afraid of failure. Let that be the fire that ignites your drive and focus to achieve the highest form of what success means to you.

If you’re afraid of failure, that means you want to succeed. If you aren’t afraid of failure, it means that whatever you’re doing doesn’t mean enough to you that you could quit at any time and not give a damn that you DIDN’T succeed. 

And practice empathetic compassion for others that are in new situations or environments and who are ready and willing to learn from your own experiences. Laugh, embrace, and have fun together because we are all on our way to a stronger, healthier, and happier life, and we can’t do it alone.