What drives your life energy?

In my previous blog relating to diet and exercise, I ended with a handful of questions that I will start to address in this blog. The first question is a rhetorical question that really is asking what drives us every day to get out of bed and live life?

To answer this question, there are two sets of factors one external and the other internal. Externally, there is your job, relationships and the basic need for food. Internally, there are your personal goals and aspirations. Satisfying either of these two factors takes a conscious effort. For example, you must get up and buy food if you want food or you must call your friends if you want to have friends. If you have a personal goal, you must do the work to reach that goal. If these are the things that drive your life energy, then what are you doing to improve your chances of success?

I will suggest that the basis for your life energy goes one step deeper and that is your health. It is not just the things that you must do or that you would like to do that drives you through life, but it is your daily approach to your physical fitness. What are you doing on a daily basis to ensure that you have the energy to live your life and pursue your goals? If you are like most Americans, you are not doing enough for your health, yet you push your body to the limits to satisfy your daily needs and to reach your personal goals.

When you are young, it is easy to get away with less focus on your health and more focus on your life needs and pursuits. What happens if you reach your goals and you no longer have your health? The answer is simple, you have nothing, unless health does not matter and the satisfaction of reaching your goals is your only pursuit. The irony is that you could have had both and you could have perhaps even achieved higher goals, if you had balanced your health along with the desire to achieve.

Taking care of your health will drive your life energy. The results are both immediate and long term. It will make it possible for you to strive for all of your life goals and ambitions and then enjoy that for which you worked so hard to achieve.

Exercise & Weight Loss

In 1979, my exercise physiology professor told me that, under normal circumstances, weight loss was a matter of calories in versus calories out. Fast forward 31 years; things have not changed.

This basic equation still governs weight gain and loss in otherwise healthy individuals. What has changed or evolved over these years are the many books touting special diets and exercise techniques along with different sorts of things to ingest including the latest pills that influence what your body absorbs.

The common thread with the many specialized weight loss techniques is the commitment to some kind of program. With such programs you commit your wallet and time to the latest fad or pill. Purchase the literature. Purchase the goods and take your chances that someday longitudinal scientific studies will not come out and say that those special pills and the diet du jour are the causes of an awful disease or condition.

You could also commit yourself to a simple program of regular exercise and eating less. This straight forward approach requires a physical commitment and mental commitment. Physically, one must make the time to start exercising and stop lifting copious amounts of healthy or unhealthy food into their mouths. Mentally, one must decide that living and striving for a healthy and comfortable life is worth the effort. If one were truly committed to their personal well being, it should be relatively easy to wake up one morning and change eating habits and start doing regular exercise.

Regular exercise and diet is an interactive system. On the surface a very simple system. It may or may not cost extra money. It requires a basic knowledge of how to exercise and what to eat. You could start with the simple mantra: Eat less - Move more! You could write this phrase on the back of your hand or on your kitchen table for a reminder. You are in control of bringing your hand to your mouth. You are in control of standing up and putting one foot in front of the other and moving. So why not take charge?

As far as what to eat, many books have been written on the amounts of proteins versus fats and carbohydrates that you should eat. Books have been written on the content of different foods, from natural to man made. All of this information is helpful as we do need a balanced and safe diet. However, in the end you could eat 3000 calories of meals containing the proper balance and types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins along with free range everything, hormone free, certified organic and healthy and do nothing for exercise and still gain weight because you did not use more calories than you ate.

Nevertheless, given everything we know about simple exercise and diet, fad diets, pills and special programs the statistics still suggest many people are failing in their attempts to lose weight. Healthy, highly intelligent and driven individuals capable of performing super human feats of hard work and effort to build successful companies are failing along with those individuals with less drive and motivation. Why are so many people failing in their attempts to lose weight?

Is it the industry? Everyday the industry is coming up with new fitness routines and fun programs to get people motivated. We tell you that strength and endurance training along with a healthy and balanced diet and 8 hours of sleep will help you to live longer and have more productive lives. We translate this into things like more time with your kids and loved ones. We tell you things like greater mobility and perhaps no need for assistance as you age. We tell you that the science says you are less likely to get the diseases that no one wants to get at any time in life. Yet all of this is still not enough.

Is it the fact that as a society we are getting soft....not just around the mid-section, but in our life energy? Have we all fallen into the trap of being so over worked and coddled and catered to, that we really just do not want to or cannot put out the effort. Is it that we would rather entertain ourselves and listen to our ipods? Is it the expectation that everything in life is supposed to be easy and when it is hard we give up? Why does everything have to be fun? Why does everything have to feel good in order for us to take part in an activity or to achieve a goal? Are there no longer things that we do just because we should? Perhaps this is the disease that needs to be cured.

Champions

In order to start writing about champions and winning, it is necessary to have an understanding of the terms that I will use throughout these blogs. I have found and observed that words associated with sport, like other words and such in our society have taken on shades of gray.

With this muting and nuancing of words and their meanings comes confusion. Borders and parameters go away and virtually any meaning for a particular word becomes acceptable. With respect to sport, this hinders individual progress, dulls the outcomes and perhaps robs us of future great champions.

A sporting contest, implies a competition between individuals or teams where the performance is measured and scored. This means at the end of any single, completed contest there are only three possible results, a tie(no decision), a win or a loss. The individual or team who has the best score or time is the winner. Unless otherwise noted in a particular blog, winning is defined as first place.

The word champion has various meanings in sport. In the Olympics, there is the Olympic champion also known as the gold medal winner. This well earned title lasts a life time, but after 4 years there is a new Olympic champion replacing the victor from the previous Olympiad. For some, Olympic victory is the single biggest victory and potentially the only big victory in their careers and for others it is one of many victories. Similarly, for example, golf and tennis have their US Open Champions and defending champions and multiple champions.

There are end of season champions at virtually every level of team or individual sports. These champions are given such titles as club champions, league champions, city champions or NCAA champions. In general, the title champion is conferred on the winner of an end of season event or a single contest deemed worthy of producing a champion versus a winner. For the purpose of these blogs and unless otherwise noted, the definition of a champion goes one step further than the winner of a single event or season ending event as described above.

Champions are those individuals who win and win and win. They win throughout the season, they win the playoffs, season ending titles, Olympic gold medals, world championship gold medals and any major event that defines their sport. Further, they seem to do this on a regular basis, more than once. The champions are regularly on the top of their sport. They are on the top because they win. They are the athletes to beat.

The research for this book was based on individual sports versus team sports as individual actions were easier to measure. For example, we can look at the Los Angeles Lakers or the Chicago Bulls over certain periods and call them champions. When we start to pull those teams apart individually, we find Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. These are and were the individuals on their respective teams who represent the champion mentality that I found in my research. Yet, Kobe had Shaq and Jordan had Scottie Pippen. These two great champions were surrounded by teammates whose presence and skills made winning championships possible. In the case of Kobe, some have argued that it was Shaq and not Kobe who led the Lakers to victory. With team sports the one caveat is that winning and losing is dependent on an entire team.

Losing is a term that defines the other side of winning. Losing has nothing to do with one’s humanity. It is a result of a contest on any given day that presumably could even change after the next competition. After losing a competition, an individual or team then become the losers. Any reference to losing or loser is simply a definition of the other side of winning. With every winner there is a loser.

We can say that time just ran out for the losing team. We can say that it was a hard fought competition in which there are no losers. There are a variety of ways to describe the results of a competition, but for the purposes of these blogs the definitions will be kept simple.

Winners are the individuals who win a specific competition. Losers are the individuals on the other side of that victory. Champions are the athletes who win and win and win. They win at every level and they do so consistently over a period of time.

The Champion's Way

The Champion's Way is a book that was written based on my doctoral dissertation. The idea for this research came after leaving a coaching job with the US Ski Team to pursue a doctoral degree at Boston University. I went back to school for personal interests and to have an impact on how athletes are coached and developed.

At the time of my research, there was a dearth of information about winning in the educational, scientific and general literature data bases. In fact, at that time most sport psychology books rarely even used the word winning let alone defined winning as first place. Thus, I decided to focus directly on the concept of winning. I wanted to learn how and why some people win, while other seemingly very talented athletes never win.< /p>

Through this research much was revealed about athletes who win. In fact, I was able to differentiate between champion athletes and athletes who win occasionally or athletes who never win. Champions are defined as the multiple - expected winners. They are the athletes who win regularly at every level, including the highest levels of their sport.  There are differences between career champions and champions for a day. 

Understanding winning and defining winning are critical to discovering and staying on the path one must take in order to become a champion.  After reading The Champion's Way coaches of youth sport, beginners, elite and professional athletes will be able to better serve the individuals and teams that they are coaching. Parents of young and aspiring athletes may also benefit from this knowledge. Athletes themselves will have a better understanding of what it takes to win and to become a champion in their particular sport.

Lastly, understanding the path to becoming a champion can also help those in search of general fitness and potentially those who have high aspirations completely outside of the sports and/or fitness worlds. In the following blogs you will learn about champion athletes and the path one must take in order to become a champion. These blogs will be based on my original dissertation research and my continued research and interest in human potential. These blogs will give you a glimpse of The Champion's Way

Steve

Champions are comfortable with themselves

Looking back on his career, Miller spoke to Hicks about how he wanted to be remembered. "I hope people see truth when I ski," said Miller. "I don't have an agenda when I'm out there. I don't try to cover things up or look cool. Skiing is such a raw sport and people pick out what they want to see.

"That's would be something I would hope would stand out - the honesty of my skiing."

These comments made during an interview with Universal Sport's Dan Hicks, give a window into the mind of a champion athlete.

Champions are not trying to look like or be like anything or anyone, but themselves.

This means, that every time Bodie steps into a starting gate he has the absolute freedom to ski exactly the way he wants and the way he feels is best. The ability to be yourself and to act without hesitation or question is very powerful.

The moment an athlete leaves this mindset and try's to create a persona the distractions begin and the winning stops.

Shiffrin on pressure

"I truly believe that pressure is what you make it," Shiffrin said after coming from behind to win the slalom. "And if you work hard enough and you prepare well enough, no matter how much pressure you feel, you can still perform."
Quote taken from ESPN W. Feb 21, 2015. Mikaela Shiffrin talking about her gold medal in the World Championships in Beaver Creek Colorado.

The simplest approach to high level performance and in this case winning is to prepare better than any of your competitors. Through my research of champion athletes, a differentiating factor between those who win regularly and those who win on occasion or not at all, was their level of preparation.

There is a nuance here because "sweating" and time on task is not enough to qualify as being prepared better than the competition. The champion finishes a training session as tired mentally as physically. The champion finishes every training session having learned and/or perfected a desired skill. Each practice session has a distinct purpose.

It is this daily attention to detail which gives a champion the ability to stand at the top of the race course and be in control. For the well prepared athlete, it is just another race.

For a champion, every race is the same

"I try to win as many races as I can. Every time I'm in the starting gate I'm trying to win, whether it's 60, 61, 62 or whatever it is, I just try to ski my best. So it was more frustrating just talking about this record in the media. But for me mentally it was the same as any other race. Now I'm happy we can stop talking about it."
Lindsey Vonn, as quoted on the FIS-Ski.com website, January 18th, 2015

As Lindsey Vonn talked about win number 62, what stood out in this quote was her line: "But for me mentally it was the same as any other race."

Champions do not differentiate between races. In every race, they are competing with the same purpose, which is to win. This consistency of approach is a critical component of their mental strength. It helps to reduce or eliminate pressure, as it makes every race the same.

Give the water a try!

Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA's all time greats is experiencing what most athletes go through at the twilight of their careers, injury and physical breakdown fighting against the desire and ability to still compete at the highest level.

As things go, the aging body always wins this battle. Of the many questions one could ask, the questions - Could this have been delayed? If so, how? - seem appropriate.

Many years ago, I was giving a well known NBA player a series of pool workouts. The countless hours spent running and jumping had made his knees sore and like Bryant, he was doing everything possible to stay on the court. During one of our pool sessions, he exclaimed: "I wish that I had been doing these kinds of workouts earlier in my career. If I did, my knees would still be working."

While I have no idea what any professional basketball team is doing for their physical conditioning, I would bet that water training is not a regular part of their off season or in season program.

Whether you are a high school athlete, a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, the pool should play a major role in your conditioning and sports preparation routine. It will take a highly tuned body to the next level and it will reduce the inevitable wear and tear to your joints. It may even prolong your career.

I hope that Kobe Bryant has discovered the power of water. With a properly developed pool program, he will be able to stay in shape with the least amount of stress on his aging body and joints. Most importantly, he may just get another productive year or two added on to his already illustrious career.

Full steam or nothing

"If I don't have a sense everything is basically full steam, I'm not going to run,"
Bode Miller, US Ski Team January 2nd, 2015 AP article published on ESPN.

These are the words of a champion. Individuals who are the very best will not compete unless they believe they are capable of winning. "Full steam" for Bode means being able to compete at the level which makes winning possible.

This is a strong message for any junior skier or any other athlete who thinks that competing through injury is the way to winning gold medals. While champions may certainly compete with aches and pains, they will not enter the starting gate unless they know they can go 100%, which at Bode's level means competing to win.

The take home message for any injured junior skier or any other athlete, unless you can get into the starting gate knowing that you can give 100%, you are not yet ready for competition. You will not get your desired result and more importantly you run the added risk of further injury.

Senator Graham - Not the right approach

Senator Lindsey Graham's suggestion that we consider an Olympic boycott because of the Edward Snowden affair is wrong. Using athletes and sport to make a point on the stage of world politics is not the right approach.

Apparently, Graham is not a student of history or has forgotten that the 1980 Olympic boycott did not go so well. Going back a few more years, Senator Graham seems to have also forgotten that Republican President Richard Nixon used the sport of ping pong to thaw relations with China. Further, he even uses the 1936 Olympics as an example. Perhaps Lindsey Graham has never heard of Jesse Owens?

To educate Senator Lindsey Graham, Jesse Owen's was an American athlete who won 4 gold medals and was the most successful athlete at those 1936 games. Further, Jesse Owens was an African American athlete. Hitler's disgusting attempt at showcasing the strength of his aryan race was turned upside down at those games. In fact, one might argue that if the world had put Hitler in his place as did Jesse Owens during those Olympics perhaps the most horrific period in the 20th century history might never have occurred.

Using sport as a tool to separate and divide is antithetical to the entire concept of sport. Sport always has and always will be about bringing opponents together in a fair competition. It allows adversaries to meet on a level playing field and play a game. A game that in most instances builds friendships between the opponents off of the playing field. Friendships bring people together which is generally considered something positive.

Senator Graham should stick with politics and leave sport and Olympic competition to the athletes.

Sergio and Tiger

Sergio Garcia is an extremely talented golfer with a colorful personality, but perhaps he should stop talking.

While outspokenness may be part of his personality, it is distracting him from playing his best golf. This is not to say that he should stop being himself, but it is time to let his golf do the talking.

His back and forth with Tiger Woods has gone well past the limits of social decorum or acceptable behavior. The fact is that Garcia missed the shot on the par 5 second hole while playing with Tiger at the 2013 Players Championship. It was not Tiger who missed the shot and it certainly was not Tiger's fault. Garcia allowed himself to be distracted. I would suggest to Sergio that he go out and practice playing golf with a designated noise maker in the background.

Champions are in control of their actions and must be ready for any possible distraction that can occur within their sporting environment. A golfer hoping to win and especially wanting to become a champion (one who wins regularly in all events on the Tour) must be able to perform under less than ideal circumstances. In golf, noise during during the back swing is possibly the most challenging to overcome and most obvious to occur. Clearly Sergio needs more practice for this and other distractions. Not only does he need to learn how to perform under any condition, he needs to learn how to move on from mistakes.

It is time for Sergio to stop talking and start playing golf.

Tiger Woods - Uncomfortable for most

In a recent critique of Tiger Woods, Rick Reilly of ESPN takes aim at the Nike ad with the caption: "Winning Takes Care of Everything." For a champion like Tiger Woods, winning is the reason to compete.

It is what drives every aspect of his life. Great competition and beautiful surroundings add to the excitement and challenge of a match coming down to the final holes, but it is ultimately the battle within the body and mind of a champion which matters most.

For an athlete/competitor like Tiger Woods to regain control over his body and mind and thus his ability to win in any condition or environment is the ultimate state. However, reaching this level is extremely rare as the impediments are so great. From injury to distraction, physical to mental, there are countless ways to miss the final putt.

In his column, Rick Reilly criticizes Tiger from a perspective that has nothing to do with winning. He brings up Tiger's affairs and calls them the worst sex scandal in pro sports history. To begin, Reilly's critique could have said the "worst 'known' sex scandal....". Whatever the case this line of attack has nothing to do with golf and everything to do with Reilly's perception of how Tiger should live his life.

Next he talks about Wood's temper and apparently "filthy mouth". Again, these are all personal critiques and opinion. What comes out of Tiger Wood's mouth at any given moment during a competition, pleasant or unpleasant is part of the environment. If Rick Reilly does not like this aspect of Tiger Woods then he should wear ear plugs.

To become the very best and perhaps the best ever in a particular sport, requires an approach that may or may not be comfortable for most other people. The path to the very top is singular and one sided, yet while much support is required it is still a personal battle. Some people call this selfishness or narcissism. Others would call it an absolute focus on a specific goal and doing everything possible to reach the goal.

Anyone who is in this rare world is still human and capable of making mistakes. Unfortunately, for the person at the very top it also means that any personal error or transgression will become public. It means that every action will be judged and analyzed by the many fans and bloggers who have their opinions and own set of facts.

Tiger Woods had his past, but now this is the present. He is back at number 1 in the golfing world and hopefully will thrill us with more victories and great competitions. As for the negative commentary by Rick Reilley and others, I would argue that Tiger never asked to be worshiped. Tiger Woods did not ask everyone to assume he was a perfect human being. As champions and truly successful people believe, the past is past. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Do not dwell on the past.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy walked off the course during the 2013 Honda classic. Apparently, he was frustrated and suffering from tooth pain. For an athlete of his caliber, the decision to stop for pain that, in most cases is a very uncomfortable irritant is questionable.

Performing consistently at the highest level of sport is extremely difficult and it often requires competing when not feeling 100%.

McIlroy is a very talented golfer who has 10 professional wins including 2 majors and a list of other achievements. He is currently ranked number 1 in the golfing world. A ranking that adds even more pressure to an already highly competitive environment. Rory McIlroy is now learning what it takes to be a champion. It is not easy to be number one.

If McIlroy is to reach the heights of a Tiger Woods he must quickly put this event in the past. It was clearly a poor decision with the real answer found in the opposite scenario. What if he were playing a round filled with birdies and an eagle or two? The answer is virtually certain that he would not have noticed any tooth pain. More to the point, playing through tooth pain does not significantly increase the risk of sustaining a serious muscular-skeletal injury.

Whatever the case, let's hope that McIlroy learned from this experience and that we will continue seeing him competing against Tiger Woods and others for the top spot in golf. Rory is a fun golfer to watch and he certainly should not be judged negatively or harshly for his decision to leave the tournament.

Armstrong admits guilt

Lance Armstrong, the winningest cyclist from the era of cycling where everyone involved in the sport seemed to be doping has admitted guilt. Now what?

I was one of those hopeful to the end holdouts that he was riding clean. Yet, his admission did not come as a surprise. There was simply too much evidence to suggest that he broke the rules along with the rest of the team and apparently most of the elite cycling world.

After listening to the Oprah interviews, I was struck, but not surprised by the depth of his competitive nature. Consider that he had the ability to hold an entire organization together. An organization that supported the purchase and distribution of illegal performance enhancing drugs and also aggressively kept the use of these substances essentially private - All of this and still doing the physical and technical preparation necessary to win the Tour de France.

It cannot be forgotten that performance enhancing drugs alone do not put an elite cyclist on top of the podium. Lance Armstrong knows how to win. He is clearly an individual who leaves nothing to chance. Everything that he does and says is tightly controlled. His answers to Oprah were precise. No words were wasted. This is how champions operate.

Armstrong operates at a competitive level that is unfathomable to the average observer. Many of the critiques that I read from the Oprah Winfrey interviews attacked the competitor. If Armstrong had been anything other than what we saw on the Oprah Winfrey show, this would never have happened. Lance Armstrong, the 7 time Tour de France winner would not have existed - performance enhancing drugs or no performance enhancing drugs.

For his role, Armstrong deserves his fate as do his former teammates. They all broke the rules and should be penalized. Because Lance Armstrong held out to the very end, he is still no better and no worse than the guys who have been coming clean over the past decade. The cycling organizations should also do some soul searching along with some objective analysis as they somehow missed this enormous doping scandal. More to the point, it would seem that the cycling organizations did not have the trust of the riders who might have wanted to report the problem.

Sadly, if the entire top tier of the tour, including Armstrong had ridden clean I bet that Armstrong would still have been a great cycling champion.

Mikaela Schiffrin

"It's not going to change anything for me. There will be more interest from the sponsors maybe and media, but I'm still going to be doing the same thing."
US Ski Team member Mikaela Schiffrin talking about her record setting second World Cup slalom victory.

With her victory in Zagreb, Croatia, Schiffrin became the youngest US Ski Team athlete to win twice in a single season. She also became the youngest woman to win two slalom races on the World Cup circuit since 1977.

Champions maintain their focus, even with the excitement that surrounds their success. At the young age of 17, Schiffrin's comment on her victories suggests an understanding of this critical component to winning. If Mikaela Schiffrin can mange to hold off the increasing distractions that come with winning, especially record setting victories, the door will remain wide open for her future.

Ted Ligety: Equipment and Winning

Prior to the start of the 2012/13 World Cup, US skiing superstar Ted Ligety was not happy with the rule changes regarding GS skis.

In fact, he wrote a long opinion on this issue and other problems he had with FIS policy. (the FIS is the ruling organization for World Cup ski racing) Go here for a full read.

So far this season Ted has dominated the World Cup GS races. During the Summer months he obviously put his questions aside and did everything possible to prepare using the new ski design. This is a testament to his immense skill and ability to only focus on what he can control. He cannot control the FIS, but he can control his preparation.

While Ted may still have issues with the FIS and the new ski design, his performance this year tells a different story. His winning margins are some of the widest in 30 years. Should this continue he is on his way to another World Cup GS title and affirming his place amongst the greatest all-time giant slalom skiers.

The messages for all young ski racers are clear. Equipment is important, but what matters most is your preparation and your ability to adapt. Ted Ligety is proof that with proper training, winning is possible regardless of the ski shape.

Armstrong - Still in the news

Lance Armstrong is once again in the news. This time Tufts University, in Massachusetts, rescinded an honorary degree. At some point, I hope that this insanity comes to an end. The attacks on Lance Armstrong by sponsors, institutions, organizations and individuals have gone too far.

Maybe we should look a little deeper into the cycling world during the Armstrong years. Given that most podium finishers during the days of Armstrong were caught doping, why can't we accept that for better or worse that during those years doping was the norm? This means that Armstrong either doped or did not dope. If he did dope, there was an enormous conspiracy that went further and deeper than Armstrong or his team.

It is impossible to have so many accusers and participants for doping not to have been widespread and known to everyone. It must have been pervasive at every level and potentially even known to the organizers. As the accusations go, Armstrong and his teammates were the best.

Breaking the rules of a competition is wrong, but singling out the one at the very top and giving the rest a break because they came clean and apologized is also wrong. What if when Armstrong joined the tour, he saw the writing on the wall? What if he saw the doping and the success that came by combining doping, extreme effort and a burning desire to win? What if at that point he had two decisions - fight the ingrained culture and be ostracized and never have the chance to compete or make the decision to do everything better than anyone else?

Again, I am not condoning breaking the rules. I also feel let down by the apparent culture of doping that enabled those athletes to perform super human feats of strength. However, we must remember that champions do not compete for anyone else, but themselves and victory. Oddly, with Lance Armstrong he had something more than himself. He had a charity and a cause that made his victories and success even more important.

How many people reading this blog have ever in their lives felt so driven by a cause that they would do anything and everything to win?

Back to the sponsors, organizations, institutions and individuals who profited massively by their association with Lance Armstrong. If you believe so strongly in your decisions to let Armstrong go, then go all the way! Estimate how many millions your association with Armstrong brought in to your businesses or institutions and divest yourselves of those profits. Do the right thing! Do it 100% or not at all!



The Champion's Way

The Champion's Way is a must read for parents, coaches, young athletes and for anyone interested in how champion athletes win over and over again

Available on Amazon