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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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        Published on November 14, 2018

        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

        Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

        With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

        For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

        In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

        Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

        Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

        It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

        For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

        Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

        Symptoms of Fatigue

        Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

        • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
        • mental blocks
        • lack of motivation
        • headache
        • dizziness
        • muscle weakness
        • slowed reflexes and responses
        • impaired decision-making and judgement
        • moodiness, such as irritability
        • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
        • reduced immune system function
        • blurry vision
        • short-term memory problems
        • poor concentration
        • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

        Causes of Fatigue

        The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

        • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
        • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
        • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
        • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

        Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

        Medical Causes of Fatigue

        If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

        Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

        Anemia

        Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

        Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

        There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

        Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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        This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

        Diabetes

        Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

        Sleep Apnea

        Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

        Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

        Thyroid disease

        An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

        Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

        • Lack of sleep
        • Too much sleep 
        • Alcohol and drugs 
        • Sleep disturbances 
        • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
        • Poor diet 

        Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

        • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
        • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
        • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
        • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

        Psychological Causes of Fatigue

        Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

        • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
        • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
        • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

        How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

        Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

        1. Tell The Truth

        Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

        To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

        Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

        The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

        One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

        • How you feel
        • What time of day it is
        • What may have contributed to your fatigue
        • How your mind and body reacts

        This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

        2. Reduce Your Commitments

        When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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        If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

        When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

        Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

        3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

        If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

        Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

        If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

        Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

        Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

        4. Express More Gratitude

        Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

        It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

        Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

        5. Focus On Yourself

        Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

        There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

        But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

        We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

        6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

        Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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        Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

        The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

        Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

        7. Take a Power Nap

        When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

        Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

        This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

        8. Take More Exercise

        The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

        Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

        The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

        You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

        9. Get More Quality Sleep

        To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

        Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

        My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

        10. Improve Your Diet

        Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

        Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

        On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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        To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

        Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

        Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

        11. Manage Your Stress Levels

        Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

        When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

        Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

        My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

        12. Get Hydrated

        Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

        Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

        If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

        The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

        The Bottom Line

        These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

        If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

        Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
        [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
        [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
        [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
        [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
        [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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