Defeat (or at least manage) Fatigue.

They say write what you need to read so I will be focusing on recovery in this blog, it’s literally ALL I’ve been thinking about for the past week. Alix and I just finished our first five-day practice week going full speed, plus it was our peak lifting week (where we lift the heaviest weight with more reps and are expected to lift it faster than during any other week of our program). USA Volleyball recently hired a new strength and conditioning coach for the beach program and he’s awesome, but I haven’t been this fatigued and sore in a long long time. And I’m really really excited about it! At the same time it means I have to step up my recovery game.

Physical and mental recovery is so important because it’s a compounding factor. If you don’t have a plan for it and don’t have a routine you can count on everyday you’re going to end up one day down the road feeling like crap, or worse, broken, and it’s going to take you longer to get out of that place than it took to get into it. Some practices are daily, some are depending on how I’m feeling, and some are once in a while because I know that if I don’t use them I’ll burn out. The most important thing about recovery, though, is that you have to make time for it, the time it takes does not magically appear everyday, so it’s usually a sacrifice, but a sacrifice well worth it. 

Take for example, this past Friday night, I was beyond fatigued, physically and mentally, and even emotionally. I had invites to go out, I had tasks I needed to check off my to-do list, I had books I wanted to read, but I couldn’t muster energy for any of it. I recognized how I was feeling (easy to do at that point) and just shut it all down, I literally laid in bed and stared at my phone for three hours then fell asleep. That was all I could do at that point, sacrifice those other things in the name of recovery because it was necessary after letting it get that far.  Then I got to thinking- what could I have done better throughout the week to ensure I didn’t end up feeling like this at the end of it?

I realized I need to create a daily check list of recovery methods. Even if I don’t feel fatigued that day it would be smart to get ahead of the curve (when I actually have the energy) because, like I said, fatigue is compounding. I know generally what I should be doing on the daily to feel most optimal, but I’ve found from experience, unless it’s written down on paper and there is some form of accountability, it’s pretty easy to skip a few steps. Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:

Physical recovery: (which actually starts before any physical activity)

Minimum Daily

  • Make sure I’m properly fueled- eat balanced portioned meals before, after, and in between workouts.
  • Roll out and warm up well
  • Warm down afterwards- a couple of minutes spinning on the bike and a good stretch.
  • Drink lots of water, always have a gatorade with me and electrolytes if I expect to be sweating a lot. 
  • Replenish muscles with a Gatorade protein bar or shake after workout.
  • Go to bed before 11, or with enough time to get 8 hours of sleep, whichever is earlier.

If Time Allows

  • Normatec- it’s those spacesuit looking pants that fill up with air starting from your feet going up to your hips that essentially push out lactic acid from your muscles.
  • Epsom salt bath- everyone is different, but I’m beyond sold on these for recovery and detoxification. If I have an ache or pain or I’m just sore, nothing is as effective for me as an epsom salt bath.
  • Savasana- or a form of it, for 10-15 minutes. You can lay with your legs up the wall, or with your spine lengthwise on a long roller letting all your limbs flail out to the sides, or just lay flat while completely relaxed.

Weekly

  • Bikram Yoga- nothing makes me feel better than this form of yoga.
  • Physical Therapy with Tony Poland (the BEST massage therapist EVER)

Monthly

Mental Recovery: (now this starts to get personal, there are some general practices good for everyone, but you’ll need to find what works for you in a lot of instances)

Minimum Daily

  • Coffee, as much of it as you want. (This one might be personal ;))
  • “Me time” to do something just for myself, whether it be write, read, put a face mask on, or take a nap (on a really good day)
  • Meditate for 6 minutes minimum (can be combined with ‘me time’)

If Time Allows

  • Watch a favorite movie or binge a little on Netflix
  • Bikram Yoga
  • Grab dinner with a friend

Yearly

  • Go on a non-volley vacation and don’t work out.

There’s definitely an emotional component to fatigue as well. If something is going on emotionally, it’s key to address it for full recovery, along with the mental and physical aspects. How each person deals with this part of fatigue is very personal so I won’t pretend to know how anyone else should go about it, but I wanted to share some of my own practices for defeating emotional fatigue.

Emotional Recovery

Daily

  • Take a moment to check in with yourself to see what you’re feeling and why, and how it’s manifesting in your life.
  • If you know why you are feeling a negative emotion or are just run down and you can do something about it, do one thing to help yourself move in the positive direction.
  • Be gentle with yourself and accept that sometimes you’re going to be hangry, apologize.
  • In moments of emotional discrepancy, check in with your grounding values, are you acting in line with them? You can feel however you feel and still treat people well.
  • “Me time” applies here as well, big time.

Weekly

  • Hang out with someone you can be completely honest with and share what might be going on that has you on edge, anxious, or sad, etc, if anything. If nothing, listen to them vent.
  • Bikram Yoga
  • Journal- explore the feeling surrounding what’s going on in your life, sometimes solutions appear just from this and more often than not just the clarity you gain is enough to help deal with emotional overload.

If Severe

  • Call a professional.

I encourage you to try out some of these methods for yourself and see if practicing them regularly has a positive effect on you like I know it does for me! Let me know if you have any suggestions for recovery in these areas in the comments, I would enjoy learning some new ones, thanks!

My Why.

photo 3Have you ever really thought about your ‘why’? What drives you in life? What is the motivation behind your dreams? What keeps you striving through thick and thin? I’ve always generally known my why, but I hadn’t thoroughly thought through it until writing this blog post and it kind of surprised me how extensive and powerful it is. I recommend everyone reading this take a few minutes to really think about it because that’s what you’ll need to refer to when things get hard and you wonder, why am I doing this? 

As soon as I started brainstorming about my ‘why’ I immediately realized my life mentality was  conceived when my mom passed away my sophomore year at USC. That period of my life was when it really hit home how short life can be and that if you want to make the most of it you better get started. 

I had a rough time dealing with the loss of my mom, I continued to play volleyball through the grief, I partied hard, and my grades suffered. The next couple of months were capped off with a severely sprained ankle and an early exit in the NCAA playoffs, extreme exhaustion, and sitting in front of the computer in study hall receiving my semester grades that almost disqualified me from competing in volleyball the following semester. As I sat there I reflected on the previous few months and thought two things- one, how disappointed my mom would be in me, and two, what the heck was I doing with my life? I was blowing it. 

The next moment is still so clear in my mind, I resolved right then, in the middle of study hall, to make the most of my life and live up to my potential, in a way that my mom would be proud of and that would maximize my time here on Earth. Mostly those things were compatible, sometimes not so much, but as long as I was living in accordance of one of those two rules, I could live with myself. I started to bring my grades up by committing to attend class regularly (duh.) and sit in the front. I set a schedule for myself where I was going to bed between 10 and 11pm and getting up at 7am everyday. I started making my own food, and staying in more often than not on weekends. I finished my career at USC with two National Championships and a 4.0 gpa my senior year.

The mindset I developed at USC after losing my mom has persisted throughout my life and, I like to think, has continued to grow steadily. I have had multitudinous amazing life experiences because of my commitment to live fully. Most of the time it’s a decision and often times it’s in the face of risk or embarrassment or possible failure, and occasionally it involves the rejection of societal norms, but I have found the stories you get to live out are so much more worthwhile than if you take the safe route. I’ve definitely gone off path here and there, but my guiding principles bring me back sooner or later, and sometimes they are painful to follow through on, but in the end I feel I am better for it. 

So here I am, in my fourteenth season playing professional beach volleyball and my seventeenth if you include professional indoor volleyball, so it’s a good thing my ‘why’ has been solidified. There are many reasons why I continue to play, but number one will always have to do with my mom and the impact her loss had on me.

My other whys:

My premier goal in life growing up was to travel. I just wanted to see the world, and I really really didn’t think I was ever going to be able to. It is a BIG reason I enjoy how much beach volleyball requires us to travel, even in it’s hardest moments I am grateful for it because there was a time when I thought I’d never get to see anything. I’ve gotten to see places around the globe from the likes of Thailand, to Russia, Spain, Brazil, Dubai, Argentina and many many others in between. That in itself makes me feel so fulfilled. The only places left on my travel bucket list are Africa and Antarctica, maybe Patagonia on my way to Antarctica ;). 

Another huge reason I do what I do is the lifestyle. Most everything is up to you: your schedule, your teammate, how hard you work, how often you work, etc. Your office is the beach; something I will never take for granted. The people are generally awesome and the community really supports it’s own. It is an honor to be apart of this great sport and I’m always working to earn my right to stay here.

Working hard towards a purpose makes me joyful. Nothing worthwhile in this life comes easy and I love putting in work to get results. I want to find out how much my mind, body, and spirit can do, I want to see how much I can accomplish with what I’ve been given. I’m obsessed with growth and improvement and this sport requires me to push myself in this regard hourly, monthly, and yearly.  You have to seek out new ways to grow, new ways to gain a competitive advantage, new tools to use on the court. It requires creativity. I know I’m working for my best life, and beach volleyball allows me to continue in that pursuit.

Being a professional female athlete allows me to reach young people, and hopefully add to the good influence in this world. I love attempting to inspire the next generation of women to be strong and independent, it is a huge mission of mine and it would be ideal if I could continue in that area even after I’m done playing.

It is such an honor to represent our country through this sport. One of the raddest experiences EVER is being at the Olympics with USA on your chest. Easily, one of the most emotional moments of my life was getting announced for our first match at the London Games, I had never felt pride like that before. I want more.

And most importantly, I want to be free. Volleyball has allowed me to be independent, probably the thing I value most in this life. I will continue to pursue excellence and work my ass off to preserve my freedom. Freedom to do what I want, when I want, freedom to choose if I want to be in a relationship or not, freedom to stay or to go, say yes or say no, and all the other ways you can think of to apply the feeling of freedom in this life. I never want to feel trapped or controlled by someone else, I want my life to always be my own, and I will claw tooth and nail to maintain my freedom. THIS is why I work so hard.

What is your why?

My Super Bowl Weekend.

When it came in the mail I was beyond excited, an invitation to the Super Bowl with Gatorade!! If anyone does anything right, Gatorade does the Super Bowl RIGHT. 

Last time I got to go to the Super Bowl I told my sister I would take her “next time”, but I decided to tell her that I didn’t actually get a plus one this time, and then I surprised her with the ticket on Christmas! She said yes 😉 So I picked her up at 5am on Friday and we flew out to Atlanta. The plane was hyped uimg_9284p with Rams decorations and the flight attendants handed out Rams towels to the passengers, little did we know that’s where the Rams fanship would pretty much end. Once we landed in ATL we were greeted by Gatorade logistics people and escorted to our personal car we would have for the weekend.

Our home base in the ATL was to be the Ritz-Carlton in downtown, a fifteen minute walk from the stadium.  Thankfully, Gatorade was also able to secure and build up a space for a legit gym so their guests could get in workouts around the festivities.  They also created a huge hospitality suite with an open bar, gifting booth, and full buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  And the food was goooooood. Super creative dessert bar, southern flair on traditional classics, lots of biscuits and waffles, and even a poke bowl bar for lunch one day, makes me hungry just writing about it. 

After we settled in, and indulged in a few local treats left for us in the room, my sister and I got ready for the big dinner Gatorade hosts every year. The attendees include a number of their athletes, strength and conditioning coaches, trainers, and a variety of others who have won awards from Gatorade for their work in the industry. Held at the Foundry, it had a super bluesy feel, complete with four grand, beautifully set tables that spanned from one wall to the other, a live band, and wall of human arms handing out flutes of champagne (you read that right, just arms sticking out of a wall).

After the lovely dinner, we enjoyed the band for a a little while and then took off to The Tabernacle to catch Imagine Dragons in concert! They are one of my favorite bands; they write their own music, are ridiculously talented musicians, champion important causes, and bring so much fire when they perform. I thought we were seeing them in some huge venue, but we got there and it turned out to be a really intimate setting and I was in heaven, probably my favorite music experience to date. (Thanks to my agent for hooking us up with that ticket!) 

Luckily, nothing was scheduled for the mornings, and being that we were out late and on pacific time, it was really nice to sleep in. Also lucky that Waffle House serves breakfast all day! I make it a point to visit Waffle House at least once whenever I’m in the south, and my sister had never been so it worked out perfectly. I have NEVER had better customer service than we received at this Waffle House, never with anything ever.

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After we stuffed ourselves with eggs, hash browns, and waffles, it was off to the SPA! Gatorade arranged for TWO spa treatments at the St. Regis Hotel for everyone! I mean, best gift ever! My sis and I both opted for massages and facials, and they were beyond blissful, but just as great was the quiet space to wait in beforehand and hang out in afterwards stocked with healthy snacks, and of course champagne! We felt very spoiled. 

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After being at the spa for over four hours we reluctantly left, but only because I still needed to get a workout in before getting ready for the Bruno Mars and Cardi B concert that night! I ended up in the gym with Adam Levine (lead singer of Maroon 5) and I didn’t bother him for a photo or anything, but I am going to go ahead and say we worked out together 😉 

That night we decided to walk to the concert at the State Farm Arena, also a fifteen minute walk, because the traffic was so insane, but WOW I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a city so crazy. People performing in the street, protesting, selling stuff, smoking stuff, preaching, lots and lots of preaching, motorcades, ticket scalping, and a good amount of police watching the madness, all shoulder to shoulder jam packed. But we made it and it was definitely worth the hassle.

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Ready for Cardi B and Bruno Mars!

Cardi B was Cardi B: funny, badass, unapologetic. Her performance was short, as she was the openner, but it was entertaining. I think a Cardi B headline tour would be spectacular and I would love to see her perform the full version of all her songs plus featured artists, but I was stoked to see her live in any capacity. Bruno killed it, like he always does. This was my second time seeing him and you just can’t go wrong with one of his concerts. He and his band are so talented. It was a BLAST dancing to his set late into the night and singing along to all of his songs. We decided to drive back. 

Super Bowl Sunday! First things first though, we went down to the hospitality suite, got a healthy breakfast in and then headed to the gym. I was able to get a great workout in, which always gives me energy and helps me feel prepped for the day. Then we hit up the incredible late brunch that was now laid out in the suite and visited the gifting booth to pick up some super bowl goodies, made personalized pressed t-shirts, and most importantly, picked up our tickets to the tailgate and the game! After we got ready we jumped in the car (big mistake) and headed to the tailgate. The stadium is less than a mile away and it took us an hour to get there, talk about frustration. But it was literally the only slightly negative part about the weekend. We made it to the tailgate party just in time to see Tim McGraw (we missed Aloe Blacc), and I’m not a country music lover, but how can you not enjoy a close up Tim McGraw concert?! 

After the concert, we snaked through the crowds of Brady jerseys in our nbrhd RAMILY hats and found our way to the pimped out Gatorade suite with open bar, TVs in the bathroom (and out), and of course a full spread of delicious food; I could have been watching snails race and had a good time up there. The game obviously wasn’t high scoring, or what people were expecting, but I found it very inspiring to be there and watch what these players had worked so hard for. To see how each team handled it, how individual players performed, and also how the coaches approached it strategically. You just know you’re in the presence of greatness and high stakes and that alone is thrilling and motivating. 

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After the Patriots won, we stuck around for a while because you HAVE to find out what color the Gatorade is! (Blue) And to watch the celebration and because our seats were just so comfy and, mainly, we just didn’t want the weekend to end. Eventually, we decided to head out, we walked back to the hotel this time, in the midst of thousands of celebratory Patriot fans, it was a fun atmosphere. Once back to the hotel we jumped into bed and got a few hours sleep before our 4am wake up call for our flight home and away from the best weekend ever. 

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I can’t explain how grateful I am to Gatorade for giving me the opportunity to experience stuff like this, the weekend was perfect, and we felt so spoiled the whole time. It wasn’t lost on me this past weekend, nor will it ever be, how cool experiences like this are.