In the Elite Action Series, we explore proven strategies elite athletes have used to reach the pinnacle of their sports and how we can apply them to our lives beyond the playing field. Last time, we explored the strategy of treating our injuries. In this last installment, it’s about finding access to peak performance.
Strategy 5. Find Your Access Point
Photo by Rupert Ganzer
Whether it’s the warm-up routine of a MLB pitcher, a tennis player bouncing a ball exactly eleven times before each serve, a swimming slapping his chest on the starting blocks or a skateboarder listening to the song that taps him into the courage and creativity of an epic halfpipe run, elite athletes all know what they need to reach “the zone” – a mindset of nearly unconscious peak performance. It’s a flow where we do what we need to do, where we exist in an elite level of performance with minimal noise in our heads.
Continue reading “Elite Action Plan Part 5: The Zone Issue”
In the Elite Action Series, we explore proven strategies elite athletes have used to reach the pinnacle of their sports and how we can apply them to our lives beyond the playing field. Last time, we explored the strategy of focus. This time, it’s about healing’s role in elite performance.
Strategy 4. Treat Your Injuries
Photo by ClintJCL
Treating our injuries is part of the plan. It’s not the fun part. It sucks to be in pain. And yet we don’t heal if we bail on our treatment. We stay in pain longer and risk bigger setbacks.
When we push our limits in sports, setbacks are inevitable. We plateau. We get injured.
Continue reading “Elite Action Series Part 4: The Ouch Issue”
Photo by Arthur Coddington
In the Elite Action Series, we explore proven strategies elite athletes have used to reach the pinnacle of their sports and how we can apply them to our lives beyond the playing field. Last time, we explored the strategy of assembling your team. This time, it’s about focus.
Strategy 3: Focus
Your systematic plan needs commitment. It needs our belief, the force of your will. There are lots of excuses right now for being unfocused. Few of them matter. We’re either on our plan or choosing not to be.
Focus may demand tradeoffs. As I prepared for this year’s world championships, I re-prioritized my life. Focusing on being the best teammate possible demanded that I step up my physical training, improve my diet and invest time in visualizing our performances. Lots of excuses here: anaerobic interval training hurts, repetitive catching practice is boring, desserts are delicious. All of them lure me away from my focus.
Those tradeoffs were worth it. Both my teams won the world championships. And yet even if we didn’t win, that focus allowed me to show up at the world championships more confident, knowing I had invested in my team. Interestingly, that focus bred more focus. By not worrying about physical condition or remembering our competition routine, I was more likely to play my best by staying in the moment.
Tradeoffs can take different forms. Performance is so important to tennis superstar Novak Djokovic that he’s willing to go more than a year without treating himself to a single piece of chocolate. People at the top of their fields like Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs have famously taken distraction out of unimportant areas of their lives. For Obama, he trades off variety in his wardrobe for the focus that comes from not answering the unimportant question “what will I wear today?” Each removed decision allows focus to remain on the highest priorities.
What distracts you from tapping into your full potential? What’s holding you back from focusing? How hard are your competitors training? What tradeoffs are you willing to make to match their focus?
In the Elite Action Series, we explore elite athlete strategies you can apply to your life. I’ve used them all as I’ve accumulated 15 world championship titles in my sport. Last time, we explored the strategy of being systematic. This time, it’s about who is around us.
Strategy 2: Assemble Your Team
Photo by Arthur Coddington
Pro teams have legions of staff to handle all the details, freeing the players to focus on their training. The best individual athletes have the same thing. The fortunate ones with sponsorships and prize money build an entourage of coaches, physical therapists, practice partners and assistants to keep them focused, healthy and sharp. The rest of us without budgets need to be more scrappy to apply the same strategy. We invest in the best professional support possible and improvise when needed.
My sport thrives without big budgets and lucrative endorsement contracts. We play for the love of the game. Our friends are our support network.
I never had a formal freestyle coach, but I’ve received masterful coaching from my teammates. They had a vision for where I could take my game. They gave me feedback on what was working and what wasn’t, and they gave me ideas for new things to try.
When I trained with my competition team, we didn’t have choreographers. We invented our routines then relied on our critical eye – and the critical eyes of our friends and family to achieve excellence. When we felt the limitations of our bodies, we invested in yoga or dance classes. When we practiced, we didn’t have a team of assistants marking the field, keeping time and collecting video. Our friends were sometimes kind enough to run the video camera, and when they weren’t around we put the camera on the tripod and tried to stay in frame. After workouts, we didn’t have fancy cryotherapy chambers to help our recovery. We had bags of supermarket ice.
We weren’t stopped by the absence of structure. We assembled the team we could. We made it happen. Whatever it takes.
It’s the same beyond sports. The support that comes with our jobs may not be enough to support the elite level performance we want. Who’s on your support team? What’s missing between you and achieving greatness? What will keep you focused on the essential? Where are you willing to invest money for support? Who are you willing to ask for help?
Photo by Lynne Hand
Elite athletes continually push their limits. They find new gears or fall behind. Pushing limits has been the key to me competing at the elite level for two decades and winning 15 world championship titles. In this Elite Action Series, I’ll share strategies from elite athletes that can shake up your performance and push your limits. Let’s start with the plan that comes from inspiration.
Continue reading “Elite Action Series Part 1: The Doughnut Issue”