A Weekend of Firsts!

Champions train, endure pain, and never complain.

– Shalane Flanigan

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of cheering on two family members, Emma Watanabe and Joy Kawaoka, my cousin and mother-in-law. Both women, on separate occasions, decided to run the races they signed up for a year ago: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon and the Maple Valley Half Ironman (a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run completed in one day). They planned and plotted how to train for the courses and execute the massive distances completely self-supported. They were successful.

My mother in law, Joy, has survived cancer twice. At 60 years-old, she’s battled broken bones, early onset osteoporosis, and the development of unique food allergies, all likely results of chemotherapy. Joy has been at almost every full Ironman and half Ironman for her son (my husband) and began training as a lifestyle change post-cancer. She never thought she would be able to do a distance like a half ironman without getting hurt, and certainly not within the 8-hour time cut off required by the race organization. I began coaching her almost a year ago to help her prepare for the grueling triathlon. As part of her training Elliot and I would join her for swims every Sunday evening, before having a family dinner, and on virtual bike workouts via Zwift. Incorporating family and socially distant outdoor workouts with her friends has helped her during quarantine, as she’s very high risk with her low immune system and age demographic. Every time I checked in on her regarding the training I gave her, she responded “I really like the training. It gives me energy, and helps me feel strong and accomplished every day.”

She feels the consistent, smart training got her to the finish line injury-free and well within sanctioned race time cut offs. In terms of a race plan, we focused on a good swim (where she is the strongest of the three), fueling on the bike with enough fluid and calories, and getting through the run. I’ve never seen her smile so bright! My father-in-law, Daryl, recorded much of the day as he offered words of motivation and encouragement, such as “You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you?” 🙂

Her results: 42 minute swim. 3hr32min bike. 2hr45min run.

Cumulative time: 6hrs59minutes. Mission accomplished! She reflected: “I’m glad I pushed to finish. I really thought about quitting….I thought of Elliot in a wheelchair at the [Ironman] finish line. Got me to the finish.”

My cousin, Emma, is part of an active family. Her father Derek, a competitive cyclist, inspired my husband to get into running and triathlon racing. He ran the marathon that brought us together in 2017, Phoenix Marathon, and has been an integral part of our relationship. Emma and her sister, Clare, have cheered Elliot and me on to many finish lines, yelling splits and positions to us while sharing root beer floats afterwards. We were beyond excited to thank Emma in a small way by joining her for her first marathon attempt.  She consistently trained through the pandemic and a crazy work schedule (she’s an accountant for Costco), putting in big miles, often with a face covering, wherever her work required her to be. Inspirational.

Derek offered to ride his mountain bike to carry the water bottles, cell phones, throw-away clothing, gels, and bars that were required for the three of us (Elliot, Emma, and myself) to successfully finish the distance. It was one heavy bike! Our Auntie Anne dropped the four of us off at the start line, snapped a photo, and wished us good luck before heading to the finish line, 26.2 miles away.

The route is incredible. We started early, so the first several miles were in crisp, foggy mountain air. The famous railway tunnel, 2 miles long, felt like running through a scene from Lord of the Rings. A small dot of light and Derek’s bike light guided us through the dark, wet tunnel before opening up to breathtaking mountains covered in evergreens. We continued on the trail, a gentle -1%  gradient, running under a canopy of trees, over fascinating bridges, and past abandoned railway buildings. Mountain streams trickled by, a constant soothing sound echoed by the constant shuffling of feet. We slowly shed layers and handed them off to Derek, who was careful to keep us hydrated and fueled. The temperature rose from mid 50’s to low 80’s by the end.

Emma never wavered. She started cautious, building her effort throughout the run. By the final miles, she was hard to keep up with! Determined to make the experience race-like, she didn’t stop at any point in the run. She did, however, smile and make excellent conversation while soaking in the views. There were no time goals in place, but she managed to crush Elliot’s first marathon time by almost 20 minutes and negative split the distance (meaning she ended faster than she started, which most first-time marathoners struggle to do!) As promised, Anne was there at the finish with cowbells, old medals to place around our necks, signs, and shouts of joy to bring Emma home!

Emma reflected: “I definitely feel accomplished! It would have been fun to beat random strangers (in an actual race setting) but I think I also proved that I could motivate and push myself even without competition.” She was also happy she didn’t have to deal with long lines to the bathroom before the start!

Hats off to these ladies, who proved that with the right mindset, consistent training, and a little determination, anything is possible. It seems both Emma and Joy surprised themselves, finishing faster than they imagined they would have in an actual race. I was humbled to be a small part of the day, running next to Emma for 4 hours before heading over to Mama’s house to cheer her on to finish her grueling 7 hour triathlon. Well – deserved burgers, fries, shakes and beers were had by all, but even more importantly we banded together as a family to conquer mentally and physically challenging distances. Thankful, humbled, happy, and sore, we haven’t stopped messaging each other since we stopped moving. Love you guys!

 I encourage you to find a community, whether its fellow family members or like-minded friends, to join you in a challenge. It doesn’t have to be a half ironman or marathon, perhaps a 5K, group bike ride or open water swim is more appropriate. Don’t wait around for “real races.” Make a plan, find someone who will join you in training and execution, and just DO IT. If not now, when?  I promise you won’t regret it!

         


Finding Joy

By Rebecca Kawaoka and Hannah Levy

In late March, when America was struck hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the pleasure of virtually meeting a bright, ambitious doctoral student in clinical psychology, Ms. Hannah Levy. A young talent with a few triathlons under her belt, Hannah approached me about coaching her to gain a competitive edge in her swim-bike-run. A Stanford alum with four years of successful collegiate rowing, she is no stranger to the challenges in competitive sport. In the past six months she has built a strong, smart base despite an uncertain racing future, and with each passing week I realize how talented, hard-working, and self-aware this young woman is. I am excited, to say the least, to have the privilege of working with such a gifted yet grounded competitor. 

Recently, I reached out to Hannah for her expertise: athletes and mental health (specifically student athletes). After a candid conversation, I felt enlightened, renewed, and ready to dig deeper into my own mental health journey. Even more so, I felt the responsibility to share our discussion with you in hopes that you may enrich your movement experience. This applies to all types of fitness enthusiast – whether you’re a mall walker, home exerciser, recreational jogger, collegiate rower, powerlifter, competitive cyclist, or aspiring triathlete! 

Our primary objective is to find what brings an individual joy. Hannah specifically encourages her clients to engage in a practice I found particularly insightful. If you were to strip away all evidence of exercise would the activity still bring you joy?  As in, no data logs from a watch or timing device, no coach watching practice, no trainer during a workout, refraining from posting via online platforms like Strava, Facebook, or Instagram. If you were to take all the proof of something away, would you still feel happy and accomplished? If you responded yes, good on you for being in a self-aware and confident space. If you responded “Well…. maybe but probably not.” or simply “I don’t know” we invite you to reflect further on this thought. So, how do we emotionally evaluate our responses?

Hannah went on to explain that the idea “if no one sees this or notices, it won’t matter” is what may contribute to athletes feeling jaded after workouts and competitions. I was immediately reminded of my first-year racing triathlons. I was very consumed with what my husband thought of all my workouts and race results. My purpose was very tied into his reactions, which was not healthy or sustainable. It took a month of self-reflection, grumpy workouts, and some personal, emotional breakthroughs for me to realize my purpose in training and racing was far deeper than impressing my husband. My purpose is to challenge myself so I can constantly grow into a better version of myself. This means failing just as much as I succeed, so to lean on someone’s responses to my workouts and races is not a fair representation of my purpose, nor does it bring me long term, sustainable, daily joy. I am passionate about sharing this journey so others may experience the happiness I have found in changing my lifestyle and discovering new things about myself. This is why I write blogs, in fact it’s why I started a YouTube channel, coaching endurance athletes, and personal training in the first place!

Hannah affirmed that this experience is common for athletes. There seems to be an addiction to sacrificing things we want to do “because we have to train.” She explained there’s an unhealthy idea many of us have that if we can just suffer through this practice, workout or session, we will be happy later – after we win nationals, after we make the time cut, or qualify for the championship race. Unfortunately, as her studies confirm and as most of us can agree from personal experience, these experiences often leave us desiring another national title, another more aggressive time cut, or another qualification- leaving many individuals feeling empty and unfulfilled. 

While it’s not wrong to desire or train towards these things, our mindset has to shift from the very beginning. The mindset of success being tied to an outcome seems to be associated with a cycle of training towards said outcome, competing followed feelings of loss or depression once the outcome is reached or not reached, and searching for another outcome. Instead, what if we shifted our mindset to process-based goals and emotions? For example, one might start a training block by stripping away all data and feedback and identifying how a particular movement or sport brings them joy. From there, one can progress to more objective goals with a proper emotionally healthy and balanced mind. How might this shift in mindset help prevent the hopeless “now what?” feeling at the end of a big competition, weight in, or even a key session?

Hannah proceeded to touch on another striking point. Many athletes use verbiage like “I can’t, I have training.” This builds a negative mindset, sending a message that we are choosing a sport at the expense of activities that bring us joy. She suggests that we should avoid the mindset of limiting joy for “joy” or the glamour of giving up social/personal experiences for sport. I can’t tell you how powerful this was for me. After admitting my own experiences using phrases like this, namely when I was a college student playing soccer, Hannah comforted me by suggesting the use of private responses like “and yes/no” over “but yes/no.” She explained when offered the chance to do an activity outside of sport to listen to my inner voice responding. For example: Do you want to go to brunch and find a way to get your training/workout in, or do you want to go to brunch, but you have to train? Intrinsically, if I feel the urge to forego a training session for something, I enjoy I should identify that and make a decision based on what will bring me long term joy, which will likely bring my athletics long term success.

 This doesn’t mean I’m clear to skip every swim practice for drinks with my husband. This means I should identify what I enjoy doing outside of sport, like baking, crafts, and playing games with my spouse, and limit the instances where I sacrifice doing them for my sport. There are obviously varying degrees of appropriateness based on the degree of competition for sport, but I truly believe with proper time management, even the most competitive athletes (and/or busy parents looking to stay in shape) should be able to make time for hobbies, social interaction AND their sport. Yes, there will be times calling for sacrifice of time, comfort, and finances. Saying no to one activity is a silent yes to something else, and vice versa. The most powerful tool during these times is self-awareness and knowledge that these sacrifices will bring an outcome-based goal to fruition with the awareness we need to take care of our emotional wants and needs in return. This is especially powerful now, during a global crisis that leaves us emotionally strained and drained. Check in on yourself regularly by communicating with loved ones, coaches, and friends about how you feel. 

This led us to our final key point. We discussed the trendy obsession of pushing through emotional and/or physical pain. Often times, Hannah noted, athletes are glamorized for pushing through injuries. She has found athletes fear being perceived as weak, as sports are often associated with tones of masculinity and power. This leads to failure to communicate about nagging injuries and, in some cases, emotional disparity. It is critical to a both an athlete’s success and longevity in sport to effectively communicate about your physical and emotional status. Refrain from praising teammates or colleagues for pushing through pain or niggles. Acknowledge when you feel beat up or worn down. Openly share an accurate depiction of your training journey with people instead of a glamorized Instagram version of what you think people want to see. Tuning into your body on deeper levels while building the self-confidence to share honestly with the people you care about should help enrich your experience rather than burden you. 

PSA: Sport and fitness should never be about how many people follow or like you online, as those people will not be the ones to rush to your side when you retire and find a life outside your sport, or when the outcome doesn’t go the way you wanted it to. There is wisdom in guarding your heart by building a trusted circle to share your most intimate experiences with

I found it humorously fitting when Shania Twains “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here” came on the radio immediately following my discussion with Hannah. The lyrics are quite applicable, despite being written for romance: 

“Let me make it clear
To you my dear

If you’re not
In it for love
If you’re not
Willin’ to give it all you got
If you’re not in it for life
If you’re not in it for love
Let me make it clear
To you my dear
If you’re not in it for love
I’m outta here!”

All jokes aside, I’ll leave you with this final thought: if you had one day left to live, what would you spend it doing? I hope your response leads to you find gratitude every time you get the opportunity to do the things you list. Try to strip away the data, limit the pressure to sacrifice things you love doing, minimize the noise of social media and cheap verbiage, engage in valuable conversation about emotional and physical health, and improve your knowledge of yourself. I could summarize it by stealing some of Shania’s lyrics and say: do what you love, with all ya got, or get outta there!

Cheers, 

Becca Kawaoka

*A special thanks to Hannah Levy for her insight and time. I cherish our common goal of improving fellow athlete’s quality of life, and feel empowered when we unite to reach that goal. You bring me joy – an invaluable gift! If you are a Washington resident and would like to work with Hannah via Telehealth (video therapy), please contact the WSU Psychology Clinic (509)335-3587. Please note this is a training clinic for graduate students in clinical psychology and all of the clinicians work under the supervision of licensed psychologists. 


Do Hard Things

Shut up legs!

Jens Voigt, a professional cyclist, once famously exclaimed.

I think we can all relate. Whether you’re doing a wall sit for the first time, picking up running, doing your first squat post-partum, or gunning for something like an hour record, your legs are bound to start talking to you…and chances are they’re not saying nice things! That’s what makes sticking to an exercise regimen so challenging. Exercise is hard. Workouts almost always have a painful moment, indicating failure due to fatigue is near. Then there’s the haunting knowledge that there will always be a something harder left to try, and someone stronger, faster, leaner. Why would we expose ourselves to that? Isn’t settling for the way we are easier, more comfortable?

You’re absolutely correct. Life would be easier without competitions, goals, and structure to worry about. No comparisons, no falling short, no failure. How great would that be…or would it? Call me old school, but I firmly believe the best way to grow is to experience the pain produced from doing hard things. Said pain can be emotional or physical, but it’s often both. Let me explain in two brief stories, both of which happened in the same weekend.

Like many (if not all) of you, I’ve had my share of conflicts with my parents. We don’t always see eye to eye, but nothing soothes the heart like a call home to Mama. Just 48 hours before I was set to lace up for one of the most physically painful events, my mom and I had a difficult conversation. Something inside me said, “Time’s up. Be honest and forthright without burning bridges.” I swallowed the lump in my throat and confronted my mother about the pains of the past. I noted how I’ve matured enough to finely match the right words to the feelings I had without lashing out. It was emotional, for both of us. She was able to apologize for the past, and I was able to effectively communicate about why I had shut her and my father out for the several years following his affair. It was painful to discuss, but not more painful than carrying it with me. It took courage, honesty, and thoughtful words on both my part and my mother’s. We listened to each other, which made it an effective conversation. While we acknowledged we have different world views, we were able to share emotional pains we’ve suffered, which honestly unites all of us. Hard things aren’t always physical.

Fast forward 48 hours. I nervously gulped an orange, caffeinated gel and tightened my cycling cleats for the 5th time. It was time. Time to take on the most painful, lonely event that exists: The Hour. The Hour is 60 minutes on a sloped track, on a fixed gear track bike, with no metrics, fuel, or hydration. Once the gun goes off, you are alone until you quit or reach 60 minutes. The pain is immediate. Fixed gear bikes are unique in that there is no rest within the pedal stroke, no ability to change gears, coast, or rest even for a fraction of a second. You are restricted to one position (referred to as aero or time trial position) hunched over your machine, praying for the end to come as soon as you start. An ominous black line guides you around the curved velodrome until your vision becomes blurry from a sustained maximal effort. I’ve done it once before, exactly one year ago when I set the elite women’s record at my local velodrome, and with Covid-19 decimating all other race venues this was the only opportunity to compete in 2020. I wasn’t prepared in the slightest. I had barely ridden my fixed gear bike and knew my muscles were going to ache sooner. I had forgotten all I’d learned in the previous year about gearing and cadence required to be successful on the track. So why did I agree to try and break my own record when it had every chance of standing another year?

I beat last year’s record by just over 1.6 km’s

The same reason I called my mother to confront her about the past: we cannot grow without experiencing hardships. Without pain, we cannot change. You may disagree upon first reading that, but spend some time reminiscing. Did you grow from the walk you took across the stage at your graduation, smiling while being celebrated? No. You grew while sacrificing time and sleep to study for challenging exams. I bet you learned from tearful and hurtful break up you went through, or perhaps you grew during the unexpected loss of your family member. Maybe you made the team but felt the stab of failure when you didn’t get put in, or added time to your event. Perhaps you are the great Jan Frodeno, the reigning Ironman Hawaii World Champion, who earned his ticket back to the great race only to walk the marathon in defeat. We don’t learn and grow from the happy moments. We learn and grow from the hard ones.

The takeaway: Expose yourself to hard things if you want to grow.

Enter the race. Call the relative or estranged friend. Start the workout. Sacrifice a few precious weekend hours to volunteer. Try the new recipe. Attempt the challenging hike. Pick up the weights. Set verbal boundaries with people that steal your energy. Take a new yoga class.

Even if you “fail”… you’ve won. You’ve grown.

Becca Kawaoka

It’s not possible to compare the hour with a time trial on the road…Here it’s not possible to ease up, to change gears or the rhythm. The hour record demands a total effort, permanent and intense, one that’s not possible to compare to any other. I will never try it again. (and he never did!)

– Eddy Merckx, the most decorated professional cyclist in history.

Consistency is King

Success isn’t always about ‘Greatness’, it’s about consistencyConsistent, hard work gains success. Greatness will come.

– Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this is my primary talking point as a coach. My objective when designing training programs for individuals and team sports centers always begins with the question: How can he/she/they stick with this consistently? The sports science stuff and progressive overload yada yada yada is the fun part. The trick lies in finding the right type of training style and method to keep an individual motivated. Motivation = consistency.

Let’s identify some ways you can be more consistent with your health, fitness, and hobbies. Review, ponder, and respond to the following questions:

  1. What are you good at?

Example: I’m really good at drawing, baking, and back in the day I was great at basketball!

2. What do you enjoy doing?

Example: I look forward to hiking, traveling, and cooking. I wish I could do it more often!

3. What is something you yearn to be better at?

Example: I really wish I could swim better. I’m afraid of drowning, which has kept me from trying it. I think I could be good if I knew how.

4. Who is your role model? Do they do the same thing(s) you mentioned previously?

Example: The Rock. He’s successful, athletic, and funny! He’s really into strength training, which I also enjoy.

5. How can you find ways to do things your good at and enjoy doing EVERY DAY?

Example: I could spend 30 minutes drawing or cooking instead of scrolling through social media. OR I could do yoga instead of watching a show.

6. Does your family, significant other, or roommate participate in the same thing(s) you mentioned previously? Do they have similar role models, goals, and passions?

Example: My parents aren’t active, but my siblings enjoy outdoor recreational activity. People I’ve dated in the past haven’t been as enthusiastic about exercise as me, which has caused me to fall off the wagon.

Take some time to write out your responses. There is no right or wrong response. These questions should help you understand your environment and passions. By exploring these responses, you may become more consistent! Let’s break it down.

Questions 1 & 2:

Why is it important to do things we are good at AND enjoy doing? I thought I was supposed to do things I don’t like to improve on my weaknesses. While there is truth to correcting things like imbalances and muscular weaknesses, it’s important to do it in ways we enjoy and gain confidence through. Life is simply too short to force yourself to do something you don’t like or really suck at. If you don’t enjoy running, don’t do it. If you do enjoy playing basketball, get a hoop, ball, and a family member to get some fun cardio in! It’s a simple shift in mentality that is so crucial. Instead of “having to go for a walk or run” you “get to play ball.” Simply put, if you enjoy the activity, you’re more likely to do it 5-7xs/week rather than once or twice before eventually quitting. I want you to think about things you can show off a bit in, that you smile while doing, and can engage with those you love through said activity.

Question 3

What is something you yearn to be better at? I believe humans are naturally competitive. Even if you don’t consider yourself competitive deep down if there is something, you’d like to be better at, chances are you’re willing to spend a little time sorting it out. Most of us have something we’ve always wanted to try but don’t make the time for (quilting, cooking, gardening, hiking, swimming, cycling, fishing, shooting a bow and arrow, etc.) There is no better time than now. Quarantine has left most of us with more time to try the things we’ve been putting off. While a few of things may not be accessible due to restrictions, perhaps you can try to adapt at home. If that’s not an option, perhaps this helps open your eyes to the opportunities you took for granted pre-Covid19. An old dog can learn new tricks, and I hope you get to try your hand at something you’ve always desired to be better at! The desire to improve is a powerful motivator. Bonus if what you enjoy doing/are good at is something you also desire to be better at! Win-win-win!

Question 4

Who is your role model? Typically, we idolize people we want to be like, whether it’s because they are attractive in ways, we wish we were, good at things we want to be good at, or passionate about similar things. If you have someone to look up to within your hobby, activity, sport, etc. it can be empowering to do the same things as them! I encourage you to write a letter to your role model on how and why they inspire you. If you don’t have a role model, look around for those who have been successful doing things you like or want to improve on. You certainly don’t have to BE them but having someone’s footsteps to follow in can sure be helpful on harder days. If you have a role model but they don’t do your sport or hobby, that’s ok. You’re more than welcome to have more than one role model. 🙂

Question 5

How can you find ways to do things you’re good at and enjoy doing EVERY DAY? This is important! Often times I hear the phrase “I just didn’t have time today.” The response should be “I just didn’t make time today.” If you check social media, watched a show, sat around and texted a friend, or played video games then you simply didn’t make your passion, hobby, sport, or craft a priority. While all the things I mentioned previously are fine things to do, they are some of the most common time-suckers. If you really want to be consistent about doing things you enjoy and make you happy, especially if you desire to improve at it, then you need to CONSISTENTLY make it a priority. No ifs, ands, or buts. Ponder ways to open up 10-30 minutes each day to pursue the items previously mentioned. Your kids, significant other, friends and/or family will benefit from you improving your physical and mental health during this time.

Question 6

Does your family, significant other, or roommate participate in the same thing(s) you mentioned previously? Do they have similar role models, goals, and passions? It’s ok if you responded no. Opposites attract after all! Your environment is essential to your success. If your coworkers are overweight and inactive, you may be tempted to eat fast food instead of packing a lunch and exercising on your lunch break, for example. On the flip side, if your coworkers encourage you to eat well and you can exchange recipes, you’re much more likely to eat well and look forward to that experience. Environment is essential. If you live alone and don’t have a strong community, look for one. Running, cycling, hiking, open water swim groups, kitting clubs, cooking clubs, book clubs, etc. offer great group chats, Zoom calls and forums for you to actively engage at a distance. If your spouse and/or kids are not into the same things you are, you need a community that understands the obstacles you face. If you are in a healthy environment with like-minded people, I applaud you and challenge you to bring more people into that environment. Sharing your success, failures, etc. builds character while helping others that may be going through something similar. I’ll say it one more time: Environment is essential.

I hope these 6 questions helped turn the focus inward to identify things you want to make time for, get better at, and enjoy with others. I hope your confidence grows by doing things you excel at, while growing through challenging activities you desire to improve at. Lastly, I hope you find role models to inspire you while building a healthy, growth-minded environment so you find consistency, balance, and happiness.

Be well.


Emotional, Mental and Physical Balance

This write up will come as no surprise to many of you. In fact, I’m sure you’ve told yourself and others close to you that you need to work on balance. How do you incorporate balance training into EACH day, and why? How do you train to be mentally, physically, and emotionally balanced? Read on.

            It would be hypocritical for anyone to claim to be a master of balance, so let me start off by transparently admitting this article is as much for me as it is for you. My primary goal in writing and publishing this is to tangibly simplify balance so that we may find it each day. I’ll start with my thoughts, tips, tricks, and personal goals regarding internal balance and end with the same point regarding physical balance.

Emotional & Mental Balance 

            Do you consider yourself functioning at a satisfactory mental and behavioral level?

If you answered YES, skip this section and jump to physical balance. Namaste to you, my friend. If you answered NO, then carefully review the following three questions and responses! 

            How do I improve my emotional/spiritual/mental balance?

  1. Talk to someone. Communicating about your feelings is essential, especially if you feel isolated during these trying times. Deep conversations will not only bring value to your relationships, but also provide stimulating brain activity. According to a fascinating article in Psychology Today, communication impacts hormone release! If you are living in state of stress, with chronic high levels of cortisol, it’s a natural response to shut down. Opening up, sharing, listening, and engaging are effective ways to combat chronic stress. (Nicklas Balboa, Richard D. Glaser, Ph.D.)

Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conversational-intelligence/201905/the-neuroscience-conversations

  • Eat and hydrate well; exercise (more details in physical section)
  • Journal, Mediate, and/or Pray. Self-reflection may be intimidating, and that’s ok. You don’t have to do it each day, perhaps make it a habit on Fridays (more on that, too). Yoga is an excellent form of both physical and emotional balance training. If you are religious, spending time reading the history of your religion, following key leaders within your religion, and prayer are all things you may try to find both inner peace and balance.
  • Take a break to do something you are good at. Whether its doodling on a piece of paper for 5 minutes or spending a weekend day immersing yourself in an old hobby you stopped making time for, it’s important to build our self-confidence with things we love and are successful at!
  • Complete an act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be a grand act, or a massive, time-consuming ordeal. For example, I challenged myself to encourage someone new each day for a month by texting, calling, emailing, or writing a letter to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while. It took all of 3 minutes to complete each day, and hopefully started a chain reaction of positivity.

            What realistic, daily practices can I put into place?

You may be rearing back internally with the ever-common excuse “Well all that sounds great, but I just don’t have the time!” You do. Simply put. If you don’t have the time now, it’s because you’re not making the time. Here are simple ways to put the previous segment into action:

  1. Swap out your social media scrolling for 5 minutes of journaling, or an act of kindness.
  2. Wake up 3 minutes earlier to do a simple yoga flow before heading to work so you feel centered, awake, and BALANCED.
  3. Drink at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day, and eat fresh, colorful meals. For more tips on this, visit my Meal Prep 101 blog, a streamlined guide to quick meal prepping for beginners.
  4. When looking at your day, insert moments for you to pray or meditate or stretch.
  5.  On your lunch break, do something you’re good at! Choose one day a week, or a month, to journal.
  6. Commit to calling a friend or relative once a week to emotionally connect and decompress.

            Why should I sacrifice time and energy on improving internal balance?

If you answered “No” to my opening question (Do you consider yourself functioning at a satisfactory mental and behavioral level) then its apparent something is missing in your life. I’m guessing you’re “doing ok, but not great” or “really struggling, but afraid to admit it / show weakness.” You’re not alone. Take the steps listed in the previous segment. Do not settle for anything less than real happiness. It may not be easy to pursue internal, personal growth, but the alternative is staying stuck.

Physical Balance

            How do I improve my physical balance?

As a movement specialist for over a decade, this is my favorite question to answer! The answer is to start at the bottom (your feet and ankles) and from the inside (deep core stability). From there, we work up and out. This means we train each joint, starting at the toes and ankles up to the knees and hips, spine and shoulders, to be stable. This will allow the joints to move more effectively.

            What realistic, daily practices can I put into place?

Balance training is rewarding. If you spend just 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times a week focused on it, you will improve. Plus, the exercises aren’t strenuous. I challenge you to stand on one leg while brushing your teeth each day. Too easy? Try 10 single leg balance reaches on each leg, 10 single leg calf raises each day for a week, and 10 kneeling or full plank shoulder taps.(hold a plank, and touch the opposite shoulder with one hand before switching) That’s 3 exercises, 10 reps of each, every day for a week. It should take less than 5 minutes! If you would like more help with balance sequences, check out my YouTube page. I have several beginner sessions you can try! 

            Why should I sacrifice time and energy into improving external/physical balance?

Why, I’m so glad you asked! If you don’t’ take time to build your core and joint stability, your body adapts in a negative way. Movement will be limited, as your brain subconsciously knows a joint isn’t stable enough to allow a full range of motion. Eventually, these adapted and limited movements lead to an injury, typically one that seems like a silly, everyday type of movement. In order to move at your best, and feel your best, spending 5 minutes a few times a week to build your stability from the bottom to the top, and the inside out, will reap lasting physical benefits, both in injury prevention and athletic performance.

I hope this article inspires you to move with intention, reflect, communicate, and treat your body with kindness. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and balanced. ❤


Basic TRX Workout with Becca (Full Length)

Learn how to adjust your TRX straps, and complete a total body, functional workout that’s perfect for anyone new to TRX training or interested in foundational exercises and technique! Just under 20 minutes for one round, but it’s a great session to repeat for a full 40 minute workout. Tune in next time for a progressive workout that builds on the basic movements taught in this session.


Periodization: What’s Your Purpose

Whether you’re a member of Curves, Orange Theory, a small group, a private client, or just working out on your own…are you training with a purpose? In other words, are there various forms of intensity incorporated in your routine to prevent a plateau? If the answer is no, then read on to learn how to optimize your training. If the answer is yes, are you training progressively in the right order? Read on to learn where to start, and how to progress safely with results.

Step 1: Baselines

In order to figure out where to start, there needs to be a baseline. This should be done during an assessment with a coach or trainer. Typically, we look at posture (where are you imbalanced?), flexibility, and movement with a few screens. The FMS movement screening process (my go-to’s are: Hurdle step, Overhead Squat, Stork Balance Test, Straight Leg Raise, Sit to Stand) can determine A LOT about a person. If you haven’t gone through this process, start there. You’ll need a set of eyes to determine your score. Seek a trainer for this if you don’t have one!

After determining your posture and movement “starting point,” a performance test or two is encouraged. This can be a 12 minute Cooper Test (go as far as you can in 12 minutes after a good warm up), a VO2 ramp test, FTP bike test, a 1-3 rep maximum test out on bench, squat, or deadlift; a maximal pushup, plank, or pull up test, a one mile or 5K test, or a 40 meter dash test. The list goes on, but the idea is each individual is tested based on their training goal. I try to pick a test relative to a client’s goal, and one that is appropriate for them based on an assessment. Someone who is fairly imbalanced or de-conditioned, for example, should not be doing a maximal test.

VO2 Max Testing (Anaerobic)
Sub-Maximal 5 Rep Testing

Once you’ve done an assessment and established some baselines, you’re ready to begin some structured training.

Step 2: Periodization

Let me be clear: Fitness is not about cool new exercises that make you sore. Fitness is programmed stimuli that encourages neuromuscular adaptations to take place. In other words, without new intensities, modalities (various equipment), variable rest and reps, how can we experience growth? Soreness is not a measure of how successful a workout is, though it can be a bi-product of a hard session. Take your assessment and baseline test, and work through the following stages:

  1. Stability: Focus on balance training and “fixing” some of those mechanical issues that showed up in your assessment. It’s ok to incorporate this stage into later training phases!
  2. Endurance: Focus on building your endurance, now that you’ve got a stable base! Reps are higher, rest is shorter.
  3. Muscular Hypertrophy: After building a stable base, and a formidable platform of stamina, begin pushing. This means some overload sets: strong intensity with fairly short rest.
  4. Maximal Strength: This is an advanced stage of training. Reps are LOW, intensity is HIGH, and rest is long. In order to be successful in this stage, you’ll need an excellent foundation of form, technique, stability, mobility, endurance, and strength or you will most likely suffer an injury. Try not to stay in this stage for an extended amount of time: decompression/ rest weeks are key in preventing injuries and overtraining.
  5. Power (if applicable): During the power phase, an individual is focused on producing the greatest amount of maximal strength in the shortest amount of time. Basically, after going through maximal strength training, the idea is to increase the rate of force produced. (NASM) Athletic movements that involve a lot of force are incorporated into training, and rest, volume, reps, and sets vary based on the complexity of the movement and the athlete/client.

Training Phase Chart:

*Typically each phase of training lasts 2-4 weeks, but varies based on the individual and his/her goals. It is also common to go back to phase or two before moving forward. It’s all about the individual!!!

Step 3: Decompression/ Re-Test

Foam Rolling = Decompressing. Can/Should be done in ANY phase of training! 

After going through a cycle of training (typically 12-20 weeks) an individual should go through decompression phase. This looks different for everyone. A cycle of training can lead to a race, strength test out (1-3 RPM), competition, etc. It is a good idea to take 2-4 weeks of decompression and active recovery, before going through another training cycle. Depending on the individuals goals, the baseline test completed at the beginning of training can be repeated, either before the decompression stage, or after the time rest and recovery. This is then used to program and build the next training cycle.

The recovery and decompression phase is a perfect time to go back to step one and work on imbalances created during a training phase. General movements patterns that work across the body, on one leg, etc. will help your mind and body be more efficient as you work towards a new goal. Training in phases prevent plateau’s, injuries (if done well), and increases retention and results. If you’re not training in phases, start. Why not?

Lastly, I encourage you to be humble and patient. It’s easy to get excited about progress and jump ahead, or stay at high intensities. It’s not super sexy and cool to work on balance and stability, but we all need it. Sometimes this means staying in an early phase of training a bit longer, or recycling to a stability phase before moving on. Please reach out if you have questions regarding phases of training and program design!

Best,

BK

Be FIERCE!