Monday, May 21, 2012

Turning Breathing Into An Applicable Training Tool

Here's a follow up to a video I made that had awful sound.  This should explain my thoughts without an echo.
“Remember to breathe.”  It sounds like the end to a good dumb blonde joke.

Last time I checked breathing is a survival mechanism.  It’s reflexive and shouldn’t have to have an external background voice reminding your brain to stay alive. 

Yoga folks have always told us to breathe and strength coaches usually responded with, “I know because if I don’t, I will die. Thanks for the tip. Namaste.”  

1 of 2 yogi's I trust.  The other being Yogi Berra, of course.
I was apart of this mindset and didn’t really see the value in coaching breathing.  Then I learned a little about DNS and developmental kinesiology.  Dr. Mike Rintala was kind enough to allow me to watch him and some other DNS practitioners workshop the methods and even use me as a guinea pig. 

Listening to them explain how our breathing can control so much, and how it can become dysfunctional, really made me appreciate what those Yogi’s were saying.  Then I got a hold of Charlie Weingroff’s DVD, Training=Rehab, Rehab=Training, and it put everything together.  Charlie connected the dots for me, using simple movements and exercises and combining the principles from DNS into training.   

What really stuck with me is using the breath to prevent high threshold strategies.  When someone is in a high threshold strategy, they are in a survival mode, where the perception is threat.  Training is about creating improvement in a thrive mode.  Allowing the body to look for a little bit more, and the breath is key to allow the brain to relay that message.

You can always tell if someone is high threshold by looking at their face.  Constipation is the first word that comes to mind… Here's my best rendition of the "face."

For a while I gave up on how to incorporate these breathing ideas into training.  It really didn’t have much place.  I can’t do what the DNS people do, and I’m pretty sure all my athlete’s were breathing because they hadn’t passed out yet.  However I noticed during stretching, mobility, stability, and core work, I was often cuing to breathe or relax. 

After watching Charlie’s DVD, he was going over planks and used head turns instead of timed reps. It hit me, why don’t I just have them count breaths instead of using stop watches?  Anything previously timed would immediately use a set number of breaths instead. In a group setting, the quality of work improves instantly.  I work with high school athletes, and ‘taking your time’ isn’t in their vocabulary yet.  So, let me build into the structure a little bit and have them use 10 breaths instead of 30 seconds.  This way they can’t be in a high threshold strategy, and will naturally take their time through very important mobility and stability drills. 

A solid deep breath is usually between 2.5-3 seconds so I typically use 5, 8, 10, or 15 "b's" depending on what they’re doing.  I use this for anything I previously timed including.

Plank variations
All Stretches
Mobility drills (goblet squat holds, spiderman’s)

Below is a quick video demonstrating each for 3 breaths (notice around 8 seconds for each)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hardest Part of Coaching

The hardest part of coaching young athletes, in my mind, is teaching consistency and commitment.  I need them to value training and value punching in the clock day after day.  In the days of instant gratification through the internet and technology, it becomes harder and harder to value the process as we rely more and more on material devices. 

Fortunately, athletics can never become instant gratification, as it relies on your body and brains ability to stress and adapt.  I say fortunately because you will not find anything worth while in life that you don't have to put in a significant amount of time and effort. Athletics CAN BE a tremendous tool that teaches and ingrains these principles.

How do we teach this? Here are my suggestions.

Connect- Show them that you truly care and will not judge.
Ignite- Make it an enjoyable experience through your environment
Educate- Teach them how the body and brain learn.
Relate- Find stories that ingrain your message
Progress not Perfect- Should be at the heart of your program.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

100th post! Podcast With David Love

So I have a special treat for my 100th post. I was invited to talk with shooting coach Dave Love on his podcast "The Love of the Game" on iTunes.  We talk about developing talent, training basketball players, youth basketball, and much more.  I had a lot of fun doing this and Dave does a great job with the podcast.  Send me some feedback!

Listen here!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brain Highways Sports

Recently, my friend Jeremy Frisch re-posted the Brain Highways Sports promo video on Facebook.  I realized that I have yet to share this video on my blog.  We have now had 2 groups participate in the clinic and have seen some incredible results.  We educate the athletes on how the brain will efficiently develop movement and sports skills through mindful, myelin practice.  Thanks to Jim for doing all of the film and editing work! Enjoy the video!

I also felt compelled to share this video.  It's 30 minutes long but well worth every second.  Kony 2012. Spread the word.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3 Power Words of Coaching

Do you remember a coach who would say a certain phrase or word that completely symbolized everything about them?  It might have been positive or negative but each coach has distinct phrases or words that either ignited your brain or turned it off.

I recently have been mindful of some power words that positively engage athletes when training.  If you don't already use them, please give them a try.  If you already do, pay very close attention to your athlete's eyes and facial expression, it's quite amazing.

1.  "Own it." Gray Cook and the FMS team have been using this for years.  I have been using it more and more over the past year or two, and it has worked absolute wonders.  High school athletes want to skip over the basic stability exercises and go right for the big lifts.  When the basics become sloppy, especially position and posture, I add the phrase "own it," and watch how the brain becomes engaged.  It creates a sense of individualization for the athlete to work on an area of weakness.  The hardest part is not overusing the phrase so it keeps it's integrity.  To show how powerful it can be, yesterday an athlete reminded me of an exercise we did last week where she said, "I held this position and you told me to own it." 

2. "That's Beast."- It will usually follow when and athlete "owns it." I use this primarily with boys, although I will use with certain girls if I'm working in a 1-on1 setting.  It really struck a chord with me when watching Charlie Weingroff's DVD.  He had experienced trainers doing basic planks and push ups, but had them focus on areas that often compensate.  He forced them to own these positions and when they did, he complemented by saying "That's beast."  The next week I went back and started using this phrase sparingly when I wanted to compliment the basics, posture, positioning, technique, focusing on the details, etc.  The last time I would ever use "That's beast," is when a kid performs a PR in a big lift with poor technique.  Thanks Dr. Weingroff.

3.  "Battle."  Again primarily used with boys in a team setting.  I have the opportunity to go to our practices and be apart of coaching some drills.  Whenever there is a paired drill and it's competitive, I love to throw in phrases like "I want to see a battle."  It permeates a sense of respect for your opponent but also claims that "I am giving everything this next play, you better do the same." After the drill, I saw the players tired but when they finished a sign of respect by a pound or tap on the helmet.

The hardest part with these power words is not overusing them.  You will see how well it engages the brain and leads to improvement.

What are your power words?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yoda and Trying

Yoda, or shall I say George Lucas, has simplicity taught a mindset of perseverance and commitment in one phrase that coaches search their entire careers to teach.   Coaches dream of athletes who just commit without a fear of "failure or mistakes."

Since I've been working at Brain Highways, I've had the opportunity to learn how the brain connects, becomes more efficient, and creates maps.  One thing that Brain Highways teaches to their champions is that the words failure and mistake don't really exist.  If you think about what happens in the brain when a so called 'mistake' happens, you wrap myelin and create highways one way or another.  It's up to you to decide how the myelin or highways are connected.  From that point on, I had a massive paradigm shift in my thoughts regarding how the brain and skill can improve.  When I think about this concept,Yoda immediately popped in my head.

This past month I've been also critical of any filler words that I use when coaching.  Check out a recent post about my struggles with the word "good." I recently picked up on how I say the word try. I immediately thought of that funny looking bald man with big ears.  When I say something simple as "let's just try it," it seems positive and harmless.  However, saying "try" gives permission for athlete to perform without a deliberate practice mindset.  There is no focus or areas in which to be mindful.  There is no awareness instead just an overall sense of "try."

When your in a training session there should always be purpose.  There should be something you are consistently trying to improve.  "Trying" just leads to people becoming general practitioners, wasting their time at a broad concept.  It also allows for your brain to find reasons that it didn't work out as you envisioned.  The connection you make in your brain never is solidified when you have a "try it," mindset.  I now allow my athletes to give me 20 push ups if I use the word 'try.'

Throw out "try" from your vocabulary.  Instead make a decision whether or not you're going to do it.  Substitute the actual verb your are going to accomplish.  Maybe Hollywood can teach us something after all....

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why the Resistance?

In the sports performance and athletic development world, resistance is everything.  We use resistance for gaining strength and developing power by using dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, cable systems and anything with mass.

However the resistance I am talking about is one within our own brain.  When someone says something you disagree with or say in your head "Oh no freakin' way!"  What is that resistance?  Have you ever paused and asked yourself where it comes from and why?

I have debated numerous times about whether talent is developed or are you just born with or without gifts.  While sometimes I sway people towards the development idea, I still get the feeling of, "lets be real, some people are born with natural gifts for certain skills." Recently, I've pondered on why is there such extreme resistance to the debate of genetics vs. hard work for those who are deemed successful?  Isn't it to our favor that we have the ability to drastically improve any skill we so desire?

So I ask, why the resistance?

I think a major reason is that we only see the end result instead of the process.  Would you rather watch pre-season training camp or the playoffs?  The end result is fun and exciting, where the process is a struggle and not inherently enjoyable.  Unfortunately we only see these amazing athletes, musicians, etc at the end of the process, usually for 10 years, 10,000 hours (A. Ericsson). 

Another argument is the factor of the unknown.  We still don't know a lot about how we develop as athletes.  I believe primitive reflexes that deal with how we develop as babies have a lot to do with athleticism as we get older.  Also hitting the windows of opportunities for speed, strength, and motor skills are starting to be proven a major determinate of future potential.  This is just not completely proven, yet. So in the mean time I think many just feel it must be genetics.

One last point I want to make is that there are many factors that are just uncontrollable as genetics that people label as innate.  If you were born at high altitude, as the younger sibling, or live by the ocean or mountains (surfing and snowboarding), this is just as uncontrollable as how tall you will be but is NOT genetics. 

If you still don't believe me, that's fine but ask yourself why are you so resistant to this idea of talent is not innate? Have an open mind and read one of the 'talent' books that I posted in My Bookshelf at the top of the page.  It may just open up a part of your brain that will lead to new opportunities.

Also check out this website for a man who is trying the 10,000 hour rule with Golf at age 30. Check out his progress.

The Dan Plan

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rules of Training, Lifting, and More.

Nurtitionist and author Michael Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules, has a great rule he suggests we use in regards to health.

The rule is...
Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the supplements"

Having the passion and awareness to take care of your body, but instead of filling it with manufactured pills and powders, find it with real food instead.  A simple, yet succinct way of describing a positive relationship between oneself and their body.

I wanted to take a couple stabs at these rules in regards to training, athletics, youth sports, and coaching.

"Be the person who will go until failure- then do 80% of that."

"Be the person "who will die on a treadmill' (see video below)-then prepare and adapt."

Practicing a skill
"Be the person who will go the extra mile- then use deliberate practice constantly."

Youth Sports (more for parents)
"Be the parent who will do anything to see their kid succeed- then allow them enjoy their childhood."

"Be the coach that knows every detail of your craft- then focus on the relationship to your athletes."

And lastly
"Be the person who finds the positive in everything- then attack your weaknesses."

What ones would you come up with?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Workout at Max Shank's gym

The past couple Saturday's I've had the opportunity to workout at Ambition Athletics with Max Shank and his crew in Encinitas, CA.  Max is stupid strong and it pushes me to try new things and see what I can improve to somewhat keep up with him.  Below is a video of some fun stuff he has at his gym that I get to mess around on.  Max also knows more about the body than most anatomy teachers and is a great coach.  He gives me some great feedback and see's my compensations.  I'm already looking forward to next Saturday's workout. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Highlights of 2011

2011 was one of the best years of my life.  I've completely grown in every aspect of my life from coaching to my internal relationship with myself.  I feel more confident, happy, and fortunate than ever before. Below are some of the major highlights that I wanted to share because researching or taking part in these will only benefit you. 

1.  Brain Highways
This hands down was and still is the most interesting program I've ever come across.  I was fortunate enough to join their team and be apart of something truly special.  This program is years ahead of its time looking at neuroplasticity and brain reorganization.  The brain can most certainly change. Do yourself a favor and just go through the website. 

2. Dr. Rintala and DNS
A close second has been learning about Dynamic Neuromuscular Stablization (DNS) from Dr. Mike Rintala.  I came across DNS through some contacts and Dr. Rintala happened to be located 5 minutes from my house.  Since I am not a physical therapist, ATC, or chiropractor I am not allowed to practice DNS, but being aware of developmental kinesiology and it's role in movement has been an eye opener.  Seeing the changes and improvements with myself and a couple of athletes has been jaw dropping.  It is a first cousin of Brain Highways in my opinion.

3. Seattle Sounders Mentorship
I met some "wicked smhaaaat" people at this event.  Dave Tenney and his old sidekick, Jordan Webb, did an outstanding job bringing in some of the brightest coaches, nutritionists, and researchers around for a weekend that made me realize I will never have time to learn enough.  Along with Tenney and Webb, speakers Patrick Ward, Joel Jameison, Darcy Norman, Tim Monaco, and Michael Orendurff provided some outstanding insight into energy systems, sports specific training, and stress.  These events also leave you with some great friendships and contacts.  I'm sure Dave is putting it on again this year, so sign up.

4.  Long Beach Perform Better Summit-
As always Perform Better puts on a great educational event.  Read about my favorite presenters here.  More than anything you get to make more contacts and I personally enjoyed meeting the attendees that I know through and Facebook.

5. Working out with Dan John
Dan John is a mix of Rodney Dangerfield and Obi-Wan Kenobi, entertaining and so very wise.   He's been coaching for 20+ years and still has the passion of an intern.  The best part is I email him out of the blue, he has no idea who I am, and invited me to workout with him the next morning.  Kind of a good guy..... 

6. Connecting with some great minds....
This year I had the chance to meet or talk on the phone with Brian McCormick, Charlie Weingroff, Chris Dubois, Dewey Neilson, Elsbeth Vaino, Tim Vagen, Dave Jack, Jeremy Frisch, Anthony Renna, Lee Taft, all the attendees at Sounders FC mentorship, Ray Lokar, and probably a handful of others.  One of my favorite characteristics of our industry is that the great coaches do nothing but help younger coaches like myself.  They make time to email, call or meet even when their schedules are packed. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Good" is Not Enough

2012.  Since we only have another year left before the Mayan's said the world will end, might as well make it a good one. 

Along with the new year comes all the resolutions.  I'm not the biggest fan of new years resolutions because if it's that important, you would already be doing it.  However, I like that it's a time of year to reflect on what you want to progress or change.  As always, write it down. 

One resolution I have made this year is to stop saying a word that is vague, labeling, and a waste of noise. 


At first it looks positive but it's been my achilles heal for a while now.  Since I first started as an intern, I had the habit of saying "good" all the time.  No matter if the athlete was efficient or inefficient, the first word out of my mouth always was good.  How vague and aimless is that?  The athlete's had no idea what was good, and furthermore I feel it makes them complacent of improving because I just labeled them.

Who knows why I automatically say it, could be some sort of insecurity, nervous habit, or I just like to hear my own voice.  Whatever the reason is, I am going to break the habit.  I have already started, by consciously saying what I liked or want to improve instead of "good."  For instance, "That's how you get your hips back," or "nice job adjusting your position." Even better when it's not what I was looking for, I get to ask them the question on what they think could improve.

I still fight it though, this habit is not easy for me to break.  I use my athlete's as a nicotine patch.  Their job is to give me 20 push-ups every time I say "good," "nice," or any other vague word that they feel wasn't productive instruction.  They love nothing more to dish these out, and it makes me a better coach. 

My words are now more concise, purposeful, instructive, and it keeps the atmosphere light when the coach has to drop and give them 20.  

What ways could you improve your communication this year?  Do you have a common phrase that only creates more noise?  Let me know!