Deep water running with Bill Rodgers at Swymfit®

Swymfit SteveBill 2017 10 1

I have known Bill Rodgers for the last 12 years. He is a member of my health club and a regular participant in the Swymfit® deep water, movement based exercise program as well as lap swimming. When Bill and I first met, he was recovering from a leg injury and was working to overcome a gait imbalance. The deep water program I developed helped him to recover from this injury, improve his gait and continue running.

Bill has always been a proponent of cross training and adjusting his fitness program as he ages. However, what is the definition of cross traning and how does water exercise help runners?

As I hear the phrase "cross training", it suggests an exercise program that is secondary or an adjunct to the required training program. For example, in Bill's case as with other runners that I have known and trained, swimming laps would be a "cross training" routine for aerobic fitness. Whereas, a properly designed deep water running routine is sport specific exercise for runners and should be built in to every runner's training program.

In the water, a runner is constantly working against resistance to improve total body strength, hip flexor strength, arm/shoulder and core strength. Better hip flexor strength increases thigh lifting capacity, stronger arms allow for a faster and more consistent arm swing which translate into better leg turnover, longer strides and ultimately improved running speed and performance. Core strength improves running effieicency, enabling the arms and legs to focus on propeling the body forward with speed and power.

A Swymfit® deep water exercie training program will put less stress on your joints, help you to recover faster while also improving your running fitness, range of motion and flexibility.


ASCM 2013

This past week, I attended the American College of Sports Medicine annual conference. This is where much of the high level scientific research is disseminated in the health and fitness field. The presenters are generally MD's, PhD's and MD/PhD's. It is from this research and organization that the exercise guidelines are created for the health and fitness industry.

I attended numerous presentations, but the one which stood out most related to weight loss. For years, I have have worked with clients that wanted to lose weight. In fact, most people want to lose a few pounds and that is why they start an exercise program. Yet, very few people ever lose the weight that they desire. If they do lose the weight, it eventually returns.

To summarize some of the key points:

  1. Most people who lose significant weight in a short period of time gain it all back within 5 years.
  2. It is unhealthy to continually gain and lose weight.
  3. Individuals with BMI scores of 25 - 30 have a lower mortality rate than individuals with lower BMI scores.
  4. A person who is considered fat, but exercises regularly and eats well is healthier than a lean person who does not exercise regularly.
  5. DNA plays a role in your ability to lose weight.
  6. Focusing on pounds lost is not the best approach to a healthier life and a lower weight. Better to focus on eating well and regular exercise.
  7. Muscle weighs more than fat and an exercise program that adds muscle (as most programs do) will increase your weight.

While these concepts are not new, the perspective is different and there is more research. Focusing on pounds lost is not the best approach for weight loss and achieving a healthier life. In fact, it can be detrimental as most people will fail to reach their desired weight and quit. It is best to focus on a healthy and balanced diet along with regular exercise.

If you are exercising 4-5 days per week doing a minimum of 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise you are receiving basic health benefits. Even better, if you are combining strength training with your workouts. A healthy and balanced diet means eating the right foods and in the right amounts.

There comes a point where the health benefits of extreme exercise are not significantly better than exercising 4-5 days per week at a moderate level.

Worn Out Knees

For the aging athlete or the active baby boomer, the words total knee replacement are words that no one wants to hear. Unfortunately, they are becoming all to common for many adults over 50. The following two links will give you some insight as to the current state of affairs with medical intervention.

Why Use Water?

"You can work hard and feel good, while still getting yourself strong and healthy"

Water exercise is versatile. You can work in deep or shallow water: non-weight bearing to moderate weight bearing. You can use the water for injury recovery, pre or post joint surgery exercise and a variety of other medical conditions as well as general health and fitness. Water exercise can and should be used to help prepare your body for every level of sport and athletic endeavor.

Deep water exercise puts your body in a state of suspension, allowing you complete freedom of movement. Deep water exercise is relaxing and helps to reduce stress throughout your body.

Shallow water exercise is the perfect environment to develop power and strength without excessive joint stress or balance and coordination without the fear of falling.

Adding a properly designed water exercise program to your regular land routine will help you to reach higher levels of health and fitness than land training alone.

Benefits of Water Exercise

  • Improved circulation and heart function
  • Improved respiratory system efficiency (stronger lungs)
  • Low to no impact on your joints
  • Increased blood flow to your muscles
  • Pain free range of motion for joints and muscles
  • Develop confidence and movement after having a stroke
  • Move without fear of falling with MS and other neurological conditions
  • An alternative environment for the development of:
    • Balance
    • Coordination
    • Flexibility or Range of Motion
    • Strength
    • Endurance
    • Power
    • Speed
  • Faster return to sport or full activity after being injured
  • Efficient - Recover faster from aggressive land training sessions
  • Weight Loss
  • Muscle toning

From the injured to the non-injured, to those with a physical impairment or movement limiting illness, to those in search of general fitness or the highest levels of sport, a properly designed water program will improve the outcome.

Getting Started: You're in Charge

Starting an exercise program is easier than ever. There are health clubs and personal trainers opening up businesses in every town. The vast majority of trainers are well-trained, certified fitness experts dedicating to helping you improve your health. Do a web search or check the local yellow pages for a club or trainer. Ask your friends where they go for fitness and if they are using a local fitness expert to guide them through their routines. Then go out and start interviewing the local experts. Ask about their ages, certifications, education and experience. Do not wait: the fitness industry is here to help you live a better life.

Many universities offer degrees in the exercise sciences in fields such as Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology, Biomechanics, Exercise Science, etc. For those of us who have been around a bit longer, our undergraduate and masters degrees are in Physical Education. An individual with a BS or MS in physical education will have completed the same science courses as those students with the aforementioned degrees. Again, ask questions and do not assume that anyone, even the holder of a degree, should have carte blanche with your body and your life.

There are a plethora of certifications that exist in this field. Some are better than others, just like some college degrees are better than others. However, everyone who holds a degree in the exercise sciences commands a base level of knowledge and understanding of how the body responds to stress. With certifications, you can assume that in most cases, the individual has at least read about the body and its various systems and their responses to stress and has passed a test - some more rigorous than others. It is hard to compare a college degree to a certification course. Years of reflection, debate and practice can't be taught or condensed in a weekend or even a week-long course, although the higher-level certification workshops and courses featured the latest, most refined findings and practices in everything from nutrition to stretching routines to new methods and tools.

Thus the importance of asking questions. Make no assumptions. There is no guarantee that an individual with a college degree is any better at guiding you through an exercise program than an individual with a degree in Political Science, an athletic background, and a handful of certifications.

About 10 years ago, the field as a whole begin to shift towards a fitness approach called "Functional Training." Functional training gets you moving and physically fit without using machines. They are movement based. An example, yoga, is the oldest in the book - 5,000 years. A small number of us had been using that aptly named approach to fitness and sports conditioning for years prior, some even for decades and were getting fantastic results, but we were a clear minority among the many practicing fitness and coaching professionals.

Fortunately for the field and all of its customers, a well-known conditioning coach, Vern Gambetta, and a physical therapist, Juan Carlos Santana (not to be confused with the legendary guitarist), teamed up and started giving seminars on this concept of functional training. I developed my functional training knowledge under Igor Burdenko, PhD.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the general personal training customer or health club member finally started to receive a product that more closely mirrored the needs of daily life. Even athletes finally started to receive better and more appropriate training programs. Yet, even with the field making this full-scale shift in its approach to fitness, do not assume that every professional understands this concept of functional training and how to lead an exercise class.

In general, the tendency with many trainers is to focus on frequency, intensity and duration of exercise - all critical for administering an effective and safe exercise program. These three areas are backed up and thoroughly researched in the exercise sciences. Any fitness professional must understand these concepts. The problem, which too often occurs, relates to how they are calibrated within a specific exercise program. For example, if you are riding a bike, it is very easy to design a program based on these concepts, but what if you are getting a "Functional" or movement-based program and your fitness professional wants to increase your exercise intensity before you understand the movement and before your body is capable of making the movement safely? The answer is simple: A greater likelihood of injury.

It is very hard to get injured riding a bike, but while standing and moving your body with either a directive to increase your speed or to add resistance (small hand weights), you open yourself to injury. It is very important that your exercise teacher understand that crawling before standing, crawling and standing before walking, and finally walking before running are all critical concepts for a safe and effective exercise program. Does you trainer or gym specialist understand that until your movement skills have been developed and improved that you should not attempt to increase the intensity of your workout? For example, the addition of small hand weights might seem like nothing, but as soon as you push your arms straight out in front of your body, the stress on your lower back increases threefold. The stress on your shoulders also increases. Best to not add intensity to your Functional program until you can move your body in a fully coordinated fashion. Does your trainer have a test or understanding of when to increase the intensity of a functional or movement based fitness program?

In addition to learning about the background of your potential personal trainer or gym specialist, it is incumbent on you to fully understand your goals. Are you after weight loss? Weight gain? Improving your blood profile and your cardiovascular fitness? Do you want to prepare for a sport or some weekend activity that is taking place in 6 months?

Walk into a gym or the office of a personal trainer understanding your goals. Then ask numerous questions about the background, education and experience of the personal trainer, get a feel of his or her personality. Ask if they have ever been injured - Why? How? What was his or her recovery period like?

I cannot say that you should only choose an individual with at least an undergraduate degree in the field. There are many good and talented trainers and fitness experts with diverse backgrounds.

Body Quest

The insatiable search and hunger for the perfect body is perhaps the most unfortunate outcome of the fitness boom. We all have the image of that perfect body that we see on magazine covers, in fashion or cosmetic advertisements, walking down model or red carpet runways and walking down the street on any given day. With a lot of work, a select few of us might even be able to achieve that look. However, for the majority of individuals exercising regularly or just starting a new exercise program, achieving an exact replica of that look is impossible.

What is the perfect body? Without sounding glib, the perfect body is individual and it really does come from within. It is a feeling and a look that comes from being in shape and taking care of your body. It is not the magical transformation of a body that is born short and wide into a body that is tall and lean. Bone density, fat retention and genetics play large roles in how our bodies are shaped. Thus, "perfect" is truly unique to each of us. Our definition should never be more than, "The ideal combination of fitness and physique for my body type." Because if it is, you risk health problems.

Fifteen years ago, the parent of a young athlete came and asked me to make her daughter's legs and muscles long and lean. I took one look at the girl and saw a two-fold problem. The daughter was in a sport that required lots of power and strength, hence strong thighs and gluteal muscles (e.g. big thighs and hips). This, along with family genetics that assured she would never stand much more than 5 feet tall, led me to one conclusion: she would never have long muscles or long legs.

More troubling, and the basis for a different conversation, this mother made this request with her daughter in the room.

Such desires and requests for a total body transformation are not rare. Further, some exercise practitioners even suggest that their approach can make your muscles longer, thereby giving you that sleek fashion model or dancer look.

Imagine an exercise program that will lengthen your muscles. Do you know that the origin (starting point of your muscles) is fixed for life? Do you know that the insertion (the ending point of your muscles) is fixed for life? This means that your muscles are permanently attached in two places by tendons to your bones. How can your muscles get longer with an exercise program?

The simple answer: they can't. What happens with movement is that your muscles contract and lengthen within their given and permanent length. The muscle fibers slide back and forth, causing movement. Certain routines (power and strength) make your muscles bigger. Other routines, such as endurance training, make your muscles smaller, not longer. While either of these two routines can influence the size of your muscles, if you can still open your joints to normal full extension, then your muscles did not grow shorter. Nor did they get any longer.

People who have long and lean bodies have been given the DNA for longer bones and the corresponding longer muscles. Within this basic body structure, they can develop their fitness and muscle tone and corresponding appearance. Their workout routines did not give them long muscles. They are lean because their body fat is low and their muscles are long because their bones are long. If they choose to exercise regularly, they can build up their muscles to various degrees of thickness (hypertrophy). How big their muscles get depends on diet, type of exercise and DNA.

Fitness and health is good for everyone and for every body. Within each body, it is possible to develop muscle tone, lose body fat, look good and feel good. The glowing, healthy look that one exudes when walking into the room comes from being committed to exercise and living a healthy lifestyle. In order to achieve the look and feeling that you want, focus only on yourself and your personal health and fitness. Do not compare your body to those found in any magazine or on any poster. Your quest should be a distinctly personal undertaking, beginning with the body and focusing on an exercise program that leaves you feeling good - and healthy.

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 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 Bode 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 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!