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Learning Personal Development from Elite Athletes

Learning Personal Development from Elite Athletes

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    Working With Athletes

    Over the last twenty five years I have (amongst other things) worked with many athletes at all levels of development and competition; boxers, aerial skiers, runners, throwers, swimmers, footballers (Australian Rules Football, Soccer and Gridiron), basketballers, netballers, bodybuilders, power-lifters, martial artists and lots more. From complete novices through to experienced Olympians, I have worked with them all. I have been employed by four professional sporting teams as a conditioning coach and this year I am working with the Melbourne Vixens; a professional netball team playing in the Trans-Tasman, Australia-New Zealand competition. I am involved in both the physical stuff (conditioning work) and also the head stuff (personal and professional development sessions). The girls are great to work with and I love that part of my professional life. Although looking up (literally) to twelve girls when you’re coaching them is somewhat strange when you’re a 5’10” bloke. Most of the girls are six foot plus but fortunately for insecure me, I have bigger guns. Just.

    * You can see two of the girls in action: 1. Natasha Chokljat just below.

    choklat

      Years of working with elite athletes has taught me much about the mechanics, process and psychology of creating desirable outcomes (improvement, success, winning) and much of what we learn with athletes can be transferred to the ‘non-sporting’ world. Desirable outcomes for an athlete (depending on their sport) would be things like: improved skill, fitness, strength, speed, power, flexibility, muscular endurance, recovery time, reaction time, more game time, improved performance in their sport and of course, winning gold medals and finals. Having this background and experience has helped me enormously with the personal and professional development work I now do with individuals and organisations. We all want ‘better’, we just need to know what that means and how to create it.

      Training and Competition

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      In sport we have two distinct components – training and competition – and naturally it makes sense to say that, as a rule, the better we train and prepare for our sport, the better we will perform on game day. We coaches find that athletes who train poorly, typically perform poorly (or not up to their potential) when it counts; in competition.

      Training Intensity.

      Being able to deal with physical, emotional and psychological pressure is a non-negotiable for the would-be champion. Some very talented people never succeed simply because they won’t do what needs to be done to maximise their potential. That is, get uncomfortable when they train and do it consistently. As a rule, competition is uncomfortable, even painful, but at the same time, it can be incredibly rewarding, exhilarating and enjoyable. We know that sport can be very demanding on not only the bodies, but also the minds of the athletes. We also know that athletes who spend the majority of their training time in their ‘comfort zone’ will invariably fail or under-perform at their chosen sport, because they are not prepared (physically or emotionally) for the reality and the demands of elite competition. Playing regular tennis with a ten year-old (even a lot of it) won’t prepare you for competitive tennis against highly-tuned adults of comparable ability to you. Comparable ability plus much better preparation equals much better performance.

      Train as You Intend to Play

      boxer

        We coaches regularly put athletes under enormous pressure in training because that’s where high level sport is played; in the ‘discomfort zone’.

        “If you wanna play like a freak, train like a freak.”

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        If athletes don’t hurt in training, they won’t develop the necessary skills, qualities and attributes to do what needs to be done when it matters; game time. As much as possible, coaches will simulate the type of intensity and pressure that game day brings because only that will truly condition an athlete for what he/she needs to do when it matters. I don’t care how well you can kick, throw, catch, pass, or side-step when you’re under no pressure and you’re physically fresh, I care how well you can perform those skills when it’s the last quarter, you’re down by two points, you’re physically exhausted, you’ve got people screaming at you, you’re stressed and you’ve got five opposition players doing their best to kill you. That’s when it matters.

        An Analogy

        Now, let’s take that thinking, understanding (it makes sense right?) and training approach, and apply it to the world of Personal Development; becoming a better version of us. Are we really developing (that is, changing in a real, practical and measurable way) or are we merely down-loading more and more self-help information that we don’t actually use? For this discussion, let’s say that coming here and reading articles such as this one is part (not the entirety) of your ‘training’ for your sport; your sport being… life.

        The Application

        Now, if we were going to take the above training approach and apply it to our personal growth journey, we would listen to the coach (in this instance, me), take the information and strategically, practically and consistently apply what we learn here over the course of our journey. That is, consciously put ourselves into situations where we are forced to step out of our predictable, safe, familiar, comfortable little box (oh yes, you know the one) and put ourselves into a simulated game situation; the place where we are forced to grow, learn, adapt and develop – like we say we want to. Let’s train like we wanna play. The truth is that when many ‘self-helpers’ are thrown into the game (that is, they are confronted with a real challenge in their world) they fall apart because they haven’t trained for it. Sure, they’ve read about it… if only reading was doing.

        Food For thought

        Q. How can the United States and Australia be two of the most educated countries in the world (in terms of health, diet, exercise, lifestyle etc.), while also being amongst the fattest (and still growing)?

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        A. Because we know what to do, but we don’t do what we know. Too manyof us are great at the theoretical and complete crap at the practical.

        We continue to destroy ourselves despite our knowledge. We want the results without the work. We want the pill, the powder, the potion, the shortcut. When will we stop looking for answers in the wrong places? When will we be honest? When will we stop wasting our time and potential?

        Soon I hope.

        Not a Theory

        Personal growth and genuine transformation isn’t about the theoretical, it’s about the practical – and the practical is all about YOU. If you read, understand and remember every single word I ever write, but never apply any of it, you will see absolutely zero benefit or positive change in your world. So apply it. Do it. Consistently. And get uncomfortable. Consistently. There are far too many personal development junkies who are great at talking the talk – they even use all the self-help jargon (I know, I talk to them) – but in reality they are full of crap because they don’t actually live any of it. They tell others what to do, while not actually doing it themselves. The Pseudo Gurus, I call them. Reading does not equal transformation. Reading equals reading. Even knowing doesn’t equal transformation. There is an abundance of educated and knowledgable failures.

        A Little Tough Love

        I’m not trying to be offensive here, just honest. The time for being precious and politically correct is not now; now is the time to be realistic and practical about our behaviours, our habits, our mindset and the type of results we produce in our world. Sure I could dance around the real issues and do my best to protect some people’s fragile emotional states, but the truth is that we all need a big fat reality check from time to time and to be honest, I don’t care if I offend people when I’m speaking the truth. Some people will get offended no matter what I say or how I say it, because they are victims. While others choose to get real, they choose to get hurt. That’s their miserable prerogative. I won’t waste my time or energy on people who are not prepared to help themselves or be honest. When we take the emotion out of it and be completely practical and realistic (about creating better results), we discover that many (many, many) people – even the self-help types – have been going around in circles for years. Lots of hot air, talk and hype but no results. Harsh? Perhaps. Honest? Yep.

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        When the S**t Hits the Fan

        When the s**t hits the fan – (this would be game time for an athlete) – and it always does, many people capitulate because they haven’t prepared for competition. They have the potential, the knowledge and the resources, but they didn’t have the courage, the focus or the work ethic to do what needed to be done; they didn’t ‘train’ the way they wanted to ‘play’. Some didn’t train at all.

        Decision Time?

        For some of you, it’s decision time. You know it and you’ve known for a long time. Of course you can find more reasons not to change and more ways to rationalise what you’re not doing, being and creating… or you can simply stop with the excuses and explanations… and change. Once and for all. You can train like you wanna play. You can be the change in your world. Today can be ‘just another day’ and this post can simply be ‘just another one of my articles’ that you don’t act on – or it can be the start of the most incredible journey you’ve ever had.

        I made my choice long ago.

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        12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

        12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

        Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

        But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

        I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

        Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

        1. Nuts

        The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

        Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

        Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

        Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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        2. Blueberries

        Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

        When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

        3. Tomatoes

        Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

        4. Broccoli

        While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

        Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

        Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

        5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

        Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

        The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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        Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

        6. Soy

        Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

        Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

        Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

        7. Dark chocolate

        When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

        Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

        15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

        8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

        Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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        B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

        Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

        Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

        To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

        9. Foods Rich in Zinc

        Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

        Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

        Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

        10. Gingko biloba

        This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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        It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

        However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

        11. Green and black tea

        Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

        Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

        Find out more about green tea here:

        11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

        12. Sage and Rosemary

        Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

        Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

        When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

        Reference

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