Wednesday, February 8, 2017

#431 The Life Athlete (Yes, that means YOU)

 When most people look at me, they immediately think I’m an athlete.  And usually, they ask me if I play basketball/volleyball/softball/ or have rowed (yes, that happened once).  I’m tall and I suppose, fairly athletic-looking. 

In all my years of playing on teams, my coaches pushed my teammates and me to go harder, faster and give 110 percent.  No pain, no gain, right?  You have to break yourself down to build yourself up. 

After almost 20 years of Go! Go! Go! I was introduced to someone who had a completely different outlook on training.  His name is Peter Shmock. 

Peter was the strength and conditioning coach for the Seattle Reign, a team in the short-lived American Basketball League.  I was drafted in the inaugural 1996-97 year of the ABL and played with the Reign for two seasons. 

At the time, I had never heard of Peter.  Later, I learned he was a two-time Olympian in the shot put and an NCAA track and field All-American at the University of Oregon.  He had also worked with the Seattle Mariners and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Not too shabby!

My teammates and I came from high-caliber college teams and were used to high-intensity training.  We were surprised when Peter took a different approach.  Oh we still worked hard.  We just worked differently.  And he took a more individualized approach. 

The best example I have is when we ran outside on a track.  We started together and were told to run one lap.  After one lap, we were to wait until our heart rate reached a certain level, then we were to run another lap (and another, and so on).  We didn’t all stay together.  We wore heart-rate monitors and ran when we were really ready. 

He led us in yoga and meditation.  Others rolled their eyes or complained after practice.  Me, being somewhat lazy in nature, appreciated the “less is more” approach.  I was up for that! 

One of the funniest (and actually “funnest”) days was when we met Peter in a park.  He told us to follow him and do what he did.  Picture a group of 20-something women in sports bras and shorts chasing a man around a public park.  He ran for a while, then stopped and did pushups.  Ran again, then did dips on a bench.  We did side jumps up a hill.  We did all kinds of crazy things.  I loved it! 

Peter was also the only person in my life who succeeded in getting me to gain weight.  My college coaches tried for four years – weights, Ensure, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before I went to bed.  No luck.  How did Peter do it?  He tapped into my competitive nature and threw in a tall, good-looking guy. (See Post No. 415)  I went from 165 to 172 in a few months.  

For the next year or so I fought to hold on to that weight and continued doing the same weight-lifting workouts.  I slowly returned to my fighting weight of 165.  I didn’t return to the Reign for the next season and mid-way through the league went bankrupt.  I eventually got a real job and didn’t have time for daily two-hour workouts. 

My philosophy now is that any amount of time spent “working out” is better than nothing.  My gym is next to my office, so that is very helpful.  I work out in the mornings during the week and do strength training at least two days a week and cardio the other days, which consists of either a stationary bike, walking (I gave up running for good last year), swimming or tennis.  In the warmer months, I also bike 30-40 miles on the weekends.  I stretch and do core exercises.  Sometimes I get up when the alarm goes off, sometimes I don’t.  When I don’t and I get to the gym with 20 or 30 minutes to do something, I do 20 or 30 minutes. 

So back to Peter.  Last year I started following him on his website and got regular motivational emails.  Right before Christmas I heard he had written a book, The Way of the Life Athlete, so I bought it.  I just finished it this week and highly recommend it.  He also has a website: http://lifeathlete.com/.  

You may think, “I’m not an athlete, so this doesn’t pertain to me.”  One of the quotes in Peter’s book sums it up.  Bill Bowerman, Peter’s track coach at Oregon, and one of the co-founders of Nike, said, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”  We are meant to move and be active.  We want to feel good and be healthy. You can reap benefits at any level.  Go for a walk.  Cut the grass.  Blow the dust off that bicycle sitting in your garage.  You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel.

And speaking of how you feel, pay attention to how your mind and body feels.  A recent email I received from Peter had another awesome quote from a friend of his.  “Exhaustion is not a status symbol.”  Our energy levels vary from day-to-day.  Pay attention!  You don’t have to power through to impress anyone.  Take it easy when you’re having a low energy day or not feeling your best.  And then ramp it up when you’re more energized.  Now, if you have low energy for a long period, maybe see a doctor.  But you’ll have those days now and then. 

Many thanks to Peter for his insight and wisdom in helping me, and many others, keep our minds and bodies moving in a positive direction. 

Ok, now get out there and live your best life as a life athlete.  And buy Peter’s book!  

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