When on a Rollercoaster, Throw Your Hands in the Air.

Wow what a week. I was searching for a topic to write about that rang true and was having a hard time landing on one, but after all the ups and downs this week brought I think I finally have it. It’s a bit of a journal entry, however.

I attacked this preseason HARD. I was ready to take all of my experience and funnel it into scheduling the most awesome of awesome preseasons. My plan was to get after it in the weight room, be disciplined in the “kitchen”, give up alcohol, minimize social engagements, film every practice, watch video every night, keep notes on what I was working on and what was working, schedule with the best teams we could get for practice, and implement some double days which I’ve never really done before. Well, I did all that. But then life happened. I didn’t plan for that.

This week (and last actually) was a rollercoaster due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s important for us to be discreet so I can’t go into detail here, but we ended up having to cancel or modify a good amount of practices I had set up with international teams that had come over for training camps. I understand how much that sucks when you come all the way to California and don’t get the training you are counting on, and we feel really terrible about it, but at the same time we had no other option. Then there was some miscommunication and things got even worse, people got mad, and we felt even worse. It’s not a fun position to be in and I’ve never experienced it before, so I’m trying to figure out how to handle it. 

There’s a fine line between self-care, looking out for your best interests, and being considerate of other people who are affected by your decisions. Or not even decisions, but circumstances, even if you have no control over them. I feel like you still need to do your best to keep other people in mind, while not budging on what you MUST do for yourself, or your team.  There’s no way to be perfect at it. Most of the time someone is going to feel slighted, that’s just life. All we can do is learn from these situations and work to prevent them in the future, if possible. And we have to be ok with it at the end of the day. It’s really hard to avoid taking on responsibility for someone else’s feelings even after everything is said and done. Acceptance of ourselves is crucial in these situations, and we must understand that other people are responsible for their own reactions and feelings. The only thing we can really make sure of is that our intent is good, and if that’s the case we have to let circumstances outside of control go, send it with the wind on your exhale. 

It’s also really tempting to get mad and start pointing the finger at everyone else. But taking accountability for everything is a really key tenant in life and we can’t fall into that trap no matter how tempting. We focus on controlling everything we can control, view things objectively, don’t take criticism personally, simply look for the lesson, there’s always something you can take from a situation to make yourself better. 

We also had to pull out of a tournament we were really excited to go to in Brazil, which also means losing out on the $1,500 plane tickets. There were some overlaying emotional things going on for me personally this week that just exacerbated the ups and downs of the rollercoaster. I got mad, at really little things. I got really mad at the big things. I felt frustrated, annoyed, distressed at some points, I yelled at people who didn’t deserve it or have anything to do with what was going on, it was rough. The worst part was how out of character all of that felt, I didn’t like that version of myself at all. I’m glad I have a weekend ahead of me as I write this. To reflect and recover. 

Finally, the conclusion I came to while pushing the sled around the weight room for conditioning this afternoon (nothing like some leg crushing conditioning to get the brain going) is that I have been holding on way too tightly. I’ve touched on this concept before, and believe in it wholeheartedly, but it’s easy to forget and lose sight of when you want something so badly you’re willing to sacrifice so much and work harder than ever for it. That’s exactly what happened. 

I got too zealous, got way ahead of myself and my team, putting together such an ambitious schedule. I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of things that matter just as much or more than working hard. I forget that that’s a thing sometimes, lots of times actually.  I’ve lost balance in my personal life, which is by choice, but not smart. I need to work on getting that back. I haven’t allowed any room for flexibility or fun, I was becoming too serious. I firmly believe you can be too serious. I was pushing us too hard. The Universe, as it so often does, has stepped in and is making me take a step back, so that I can reevaluate and reassess and just take a breath. Time to put some joy back in the process and lighten things up a little. That doesn’t mean slack off, I don’t think that’s possible for me or Alix, but to realize that this is our life and we need to not kill ourselves in the process of chasing down this dream. So cheers to that this weekend! I hope you have a good one and thanks for reading!

Feeling the Burn(out)?

It’s becoming apparent it’s that time of year where our resolutions start to wane, even for the most fervent of self-motivators. I noticed last week that my yoga class wasn’t as jam-packed as it was at the beginning of the year (thankfully, to be honest) and I considered not going today until I thought better of it. I even considered not writing this blog, but here we are. 

Especially as things around us start to change, our commitments and responsibilities are not fixed and they will invariably change as life goes on and make it harder for us to keep those more daunting, yet good for us, healthy habits we all set on January 1st. Our interests change too and we can become bored with what was once novel ways to stay in shape or become healthier or increase our brain power. Regardless of how our mind or obligations wander and morph we need to stick true to what we committed ourselves to when we had our best selves in mind.

This applies to playing volleyball as well. We lose a match and come back to practice with renewed vigor and dedication to our improvement and determination to learn from our mistakes. But how long does that last? How far will that motivation carry before it starts to burn off and you resort to your old habits and mentality once again? It is cyclical and happens to everyone, however, I do believe that even through these natural cycles, if we get back on the wagon again and again and continue to strive for more knowledge and discipline in these areas we will get better at persevering through the lulls and distractions and boredom. 

The easiest way to stick to your guns when it comes to being your best self is to keep your priorities front and center and remind yourself of them often. I have a chalk board wall in my dining room where I often write motivational quotes to remind me of how I should be living and that help keep me on track. You can write messages on your bathroom mirror, put sticky notes on your fridge, or even set daily alarms on your phone to remind you during important times of why you believe it’s so important to take care of yourself or work towards accomplishing your goals. The more often you remind yourself of your true priorities the more natural it will become to simply defer to them when faced with tough choices and situations. I find a good tool to use to improve our choices when tasked with challenges in discipline is to image beforehand all the ways in which we will be tempted to fall off the wagon and constructive ways to get through these situations with success. Honoring our priorities will undoubtedly require sacrifice and we need to come to terms with those sacrifices before we are forced to make them. THIS will carry us FAR in keeping our commitments to ourselves and our dreams. 

Another huge tool to stay on track is to physically write things down. If you lose a match and are usually extremely motivated afterwards, take some time to write down how you feel in that moment. Or when you have any kind of “come to Jesus” moment and decided to make resolutions, record exactly what you’re feeling and why you are doing it so you can revisit it when your ambition starts to fade. I’m also a fan of checklists. Keep a checklist of things you need to do to be your best self as envisioned when you made these resolutions. Is it going to the gym three times a week? Is it reading one book a month? Is it meditating daily? Is it meal prepping every Sunday? Write them down.

Now, after you’ve done the aforementioned, the most impactful thing you can do for yourself is to buy a PAPER planner and physically write down your schedule for each day. Plan out everyday, down to the minute if necessary. Find time, beforehand, where you can squeeze in your workouts, mediation, or reading so that you can stay on track. I even schedule my showers and bed time.  Make sure you get your daily schedule down on paper and then plan your weeks and months in advance as well to best set yourself up for success. I swear my life took a sharp turn for the better once I discovered the power of the physical planner in college my junior year. I still depend on the one I use today and carry it with me EVERYWHERE, because plans always change and I know I need to work around the things that are really important and those are all written down in my planner. 

When we consistently schedule time for the activities and practices that are going to keep us on track we not only set ourselves up for success, but we also start creating a routine. ROUTINE is our best friend! Sometimes routine gets a bad wrap, as if it’s boring, but it is SO crucial to forming good habits! For me yoga has become my Sunday evening routine. I’ve wanted to consistently practice Bikram Yoga for it’s multitudes of health benefits, but I had a hard time carving out time consistently. I found a class I like on Sunday night and have scheduled it weekly. Everything else has to bend for this class. I make sure I’m ready mentally and physically to attend that class and it feels MUCH worse if I have to miss it because it’s something I do religiously now. Creating a routine frees up our mental space to take care of other things in life without burning out mentally on the things that are most important and that we really want to keep in our lives. Take out the discipline drain by making these things as routine as possible. The goal should to get to a point where we don’t have to think about doing what we know we should do to be our best selves and pursue our goals and dreams, we just do it.

If you have done all of the above and you still are feeling burnt out and have more excuses than reasons to get it done, I have one last resort.  When I KNOW what I need to do, I have previously made the decision to consistently do something for the betterment of myself, but it just seems too hard to make it happen, I use this trick that seems ridiculously simple, which is actually the key. If that couch is too comfy or you have the option to do something more enticing what you do is just MAKE THE DECISION according to your highest values. You’re supposed to go to the gym, but your friends are going out for happy hour ( and this next part is key-) WITHOUT THINKING, politely say no to your friends and go to the gym.  Don’t give yourself any other option. The more you think about it, the more you allow your inner selves to debate what you should do the more enticing the “fun” plans will become. Stop debating and go to the gym. It’s akin to ripping off a band-aid. There will be other opportunities to do fun things with your friends. It’s something that has served me well in my most unmotivated moments and, as with everything, the more I use it the more effective it gets. Give it a shot and let me know if it works as well for you!

Now go out there, revisit your resolutions, check in with your progress, and double down on your commitments to make yourself better, healthier, smarter, and achieve those goals!

My Argument for Exercise.

I really wish I could convince more people how awesome working out is once you get into a grove and it becomes imbedded in your routine. I cannot believe how many people I know absolutely hate working out and how few actually workout regularly. I find this tragic. Working out is the best!! Is it hard? Yes! But that’s what makes it great! Getting through a tough workout will not only increase your physical strength, it increases your mental strength as well! The more tough things over which you prevail, the more confidence you will have in the face of difficult situations, that you can get through them triumphantly. That to me makes up a large part of mental toughness. It’s not as though the mental strength you develop working out only pertains to working out, NO, it will transfer to other parts of your life as well. 

Another aspect of that mental toughness and confidence comes from actually getting stronger. Developing physical strength is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself, especially for women. Strength training is so important to support your joints and keep you from injury the older you get. If you can swing it, a personal trainer would be clutch, I can’t overstate how important it is to learn how to do lifts correctly. Plus, the stronger you are the less vulnerable you are and will feel, and, as a result, the less fear you have to carry around with you. I believe this translates into confidence and even assertiveness in all areas of life.

There are a ridiculous amount of health benefits you can gain from working out too! I know you know this, but if you really UNDERSTOOD this, you’d never miss a workout again. If you go at the right pace and have sound, safe instruction it can make your body feel so much better! Sore back? Achy knees? Stiff neck? All of these can be minimized by strengthening the correct, supporting muscles and, if there’s no structural damage, aches and pains can be completely cured. I really believe it is a small price to pay to physically feel better, which is scientifically proven to elevate your mental state on top of feeling better physically. If you’re in physical pain it is easier to feel gloomy and unmotivated, it can affect every aspect of your life, which is why I think properly taking care of your body (and as a result, mind) is one of the MOST important things to make time for in life. We all know it also produces serotonin, dopamine, and and causes your body to release endorphins which are all happy hormones.

Working out is obviously DIRECTLY correlated to good health, it is one of the easiest ways to boost your immune system and keep yourself healthy. Sweating detoxifies the body and increases your heart rate, flushing fresh oxygenated blood through your organs and limbs. It also regulates the hormones in your body and brain, which is HUGE. If you hate going to the doctor or paying for doctor’s bills or taking prescription meds, get outside (put sunscreen on first and wear a hat and glasses) and go for a mile run, or start with a mile brisk walk and increase from there.  Do body weight lunges, squats, sit ups, push-ups, tricep dips, bent over flys (with a full water bottle) afterwards, follow a do-it-at-home youtube workout video.  If you do this consistently and especially if you start while you’re still healthy, it’s a great way improve and/or strengthen your health. Obviously, there are many medical conditions that cannot be improved simply by working out and I am not suggesting otherwise, only promoting the idea that general health can be improved and immune systems strengthened by regular exercise.

If you can afford it, get a gym membership and utilize the classes, they’re usually super fun and a great way to get into the rhythm of consistently working out. Spin and yoga are two of my favorite ways to get a good workout in. My personal opinion is if you do nothing else and can consistently take yoga, do Bikram yoga. I believe it’s the best thing you can do for yourself physically and mentally. If you can find a friend to bring, make it a social thing, if not, it’s likely you will meet people in these classes, don’t be afraid to say hi and work your way into the community that usually develops around these disciplines. 

An hour a day is all you would need to follow an ideal program and really take care of everything to protect and strengthen your body. But if you don’t have an hour a day you can get A LOT done for yourself in a half an hour a few times a week. Think about how much time you spend watching TV or playing video games or staring at your phone. Consciously decide to dip into that time and use it for taking care of yourself! It’s really really really hard to convince yourself to do this sometimes. One tactic I’ve used before is to simply make the decision. Don’t give yourself the option to debate the decision, simply decide- I’m going on a run, then walk to your closet and put on your running shoes. It’s mindless. Get in your car and drive to the gym, don’t think about it, just decide and act. 

Another huge benefit of working out in my experience is that it makes you want to eat healthier! If I’m going to put in the effort to workout I’m not going to sabotage myself by eating crappy at the same time. Eating well in addition to working out makes you feel SOOOO good. Cutting sugar and simple carbs, and at least down on alcohol gets rid of so much brain fog and will give you increased, purer energy throughout the day and better sleep at night. 

I love how accomplished I feel when I get through a tough workout, and I am even prouder of myself when I’ve managed to eat clean all day as well. It’s a vicious cycle 😉 Working out makes you want to eat healthier, and eating healthier makes you feel better so you’re more likely to workout, plus you should feel better about yourself because you are setting loose a bunch of feel good chemicals in your brain and body which will encourage you to keep it up. The more you do it the easier and more rewarding it becomes, it’s spirals up. 

BUT, we all know, it is REALLY hard to start and stick with it. Create a plan, get really detailed with your schedule, down to the time and length of your showers and meal breaks, find that space ahead of time where you can get the workouts in and just make the decision to go and do it. You don’t have to PR (set a personal record) everyday, you just have to get through it. I believe in you! I used to hate working out and now I’m a convert for life, you can become one too! 

We Should All Be Feminists.

In honor of International Women’s Day I wanted to write my hope for women and girls today and in the future. I’ve learned so many lessons over the years that have made a really big difference for me; and I really just want to share what I believe based on my own experiences, take it or leave it. 

My biggest wish is simply for girls to grow up strong, and confident, and know they are capable of anything they set their minds to, and can follow whichever path sets their soul on fire AND have equal opportunity in the world throughout that journey! I hope that they will understand you don’t have to get married, you don’t have to have kids, there are alternative and just as satisfying life paths out there. It does not make you less of a woman or human to not want these things, or to choose something else besides marriage and kids. It also does not make you less strong or intelligent or driven if you do decide to get married and have kids, or get married and not have kids, or have kids and not get married. Just make sure YOU define your life.

If I could offer one piece of advice to young women growing up now it would be to start building a platform that will enable you to CREATE YOUR OWN INDEPENDENCE. You can do this by studying hard in school, keeping it a main focus in your life. Study instead of socialize, become obsessed with politics, and economics, and math and forget about boys or girls (for now). Work hard to keep your grades up for the best opportunity to get into a good college which would typically be the next step towards independence. Don’t forget to apply for every scholarship out there first though, and thoroughly weigh the benefit versus the risk before accepting financial aid, there are always other options.

Get into sports, it teaches you how to fight, fight for your team, for victory, for yourself. You learn how to overcome tough situations and develop perseverance, physical and mental strength in the process. Follow your passions, no matter how weird, the weirder they are the more unique you become and the more unique the skills you possess the more valuable you can be to the world. Start a business, start a club, organize a rally, run for school president, yeah it’s scary, but it’ll also be invaluable experience and exhilarating. 

Through pursuing these things you may encounter setbacks, but these challenges will only give you the invaluable opportunity to practice another skill I highly recommend for girls to master- positive self talk and reframing. If you get a poor grade on a test or play sub-par in a match, you may want to beat yourself up, which is a good sign, it means you have high standards for yourself. However, if you can recognize the ways in which your self talk is having a negative affect and work to change your phrasing, using verbiage that inspires hope and belief that you can and will improve and it’s all just a part of the process, and do that over and over and over again, it will pay huge dividends, I promise. 

Reframing is a skill I learned in high school that has been absolutely crucial to my career and life in general; it is so ingrained in my thinking at this point that I don’t even have to try. Reframing, in short, is the art of taking a situation that could easily be viewed as negative and changing your perspective so that you can see the positive in it. Maybe you didn’t make the varsity team when you had your heart SET on it. You can either be bitter and grumpy and act like you’re too good to be on JV, OR you can take the opportunity to be a leader, to take on the pressure of carrying your team sometimes and lifting the level of your teammates. You can be a positive force on JV and be determined to have the most successful season possible, which will probably get you the attention of the varsity coach and provide valuable opportunities in the future. OR you could mope around all season and count on making the varsity next season, which if that’s your attitude, who knows if it will even happen then? 

How you view situations, the “frame” in which you see things, can completely transform what you thought was negative into truly positive experiences.  And always remember lots of blessings are sent in disguise!! 

The more you encounter challenges and setbacks and refuse to give in, by reframing and talking yourself through it, by building yourself up, the more you will see how strong you are, how capable you are of anything. You will see how valuable you are to the endeavors to which you commit yourself, you won’t need anyone else to make you feel valuable, you will KNOW. That will in turn create confidence, the most blissful of all feelings- authentic confidence, when you become “unfuckwithable” (my favorite word). The key is to never give up on your dreams or yourself! Work, work, work, and feel the hurt when it doesn’t work out, then get up and go after it again, you will learn and grow and improve and one day you WILL accomplish your dreams.   

If you practice these things and stay focused on the areas that matter most, you will instill a deep sense of love for and security in yourself.  My hope in creating this is that girls will not want to look for validation of self worth in relationships or from coaches or teachers or even parents, that they will be self-motivated and feel empowered to pursue their careers, if that is what they truly want, and not feel pressured by society to follow a more traditional or “acceptable” path. The world needs more unapologetically driven and high powered women, we need more voices campaigning on our behalf at the highest boardroom tables and in the highest levels of government, not just here in the U.S., but around the world. 

Yes there are many women who have broken those glass ceilings and made it easier for those who followed and who will now follow them, and to them we should all be very thankful.  However, the inequality is still there, and I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault, but I do know that if girls and women set their minds to reaching the highest levels of their arena they can get there.  It takes a lot of sacrifice and belief in yourself which is why my advice for young women centers on creating a platform for independence and an authentic confidence in oneself, but the work is so worth it, will serve this world for the better, and should be a priority for all in our society. We should all be feminists.

It’s the Remix to Nutrition (not really.)

A lot of you asked me to talk about diet in my next blog, so voila! However, I must emphasize that I am not an expert on nutrition and what I talk about here is simply what I do and have tried in the past, I’m not suggesting you do any of the same stuff I do.  Everyone is different and has different nutritional needs.

That’s a good segue to my first point- calories! The amount of calories each person needs per day can be vastly different and, for me, it’s really important to monitor the amount of calories I’m getting, to make sure it’s not too many or too few. (A GREAT tool I use to help me keep track is the app ‘My Fitness Pal’). My goal from a physical standpoint is to be reasonably lean and as strong as possible. Sometimes when you lift a lot and workout a lot you want to eat more than you actually need, and don’t get me wrong, you do need a lot to take full advantage of the hard work you’re putting in, but it needs to be from the right sources. You can’t go crush a fatty burger and fries, or pig out on Mexican food just because you worked hard all day, first and foremost because doing that consistently is terrible for your general health and secondly, you’re just sabotaging possible gains.

This morning Alix and I went and did RMR testing, which I don’t fully comprehend, but I do know that it told me how many calories I burn a day at rest, not working out, just what I would burn if I sat on the couch and watched TV all day (which I NEVER do, btw). And I’m extremely happy to report that it hasn’t gone down since college! It actually went up a little bit; slowing metabolism, my ass. With this information I can more accurately determine the best amount of calories to consume per day. Obviously, if I have a beach practice and lifting session in a day I need a good amount more calories than on one one of my days off. And if I’m trying to lean out, and I can’t emphasize this enough, IT’S ALL ABOUT DISCIPLINE! No one wants to hear that, but I don’t believe there’s a safe or healthy way to lose fat quickly. I’ve tried it- intermediate fasting, juice cleanses, raw food diet, and it either left me feeling weak and unexplosive on the court, with no brain power, or so cranky and energy depleted I ended up losing it and binging shortly thereafter and defeating the purpose in the first place. It has to be done slowly and consistently over time.

I firmly believe the only diet worth adhering to is one consisting of whole natural foods that don’t come in plastic (where possible) and are mostly grown from the ground or from animals that eat that stuff that grows in the ground. When I’m really on a healthy eating bender, like I am now, a day typically looks something like this:

Breakfast

-1 or 2 slices of sourdough toast

-1/2 an avocado

-3 egg whites

-Trader Joe’s Dragon Sauce

Lunch

-1/2 c. brown rice

-1/2 c. black beans

-1/2 avocado

-Raw spinach, onion, cilantro, hot salsa

-6 oz. carnitas

OR

– Large salad with mixed greens and spinach

– All the veggies you want

– 4 to 6 oz of protein

– 2 oz. medium calorie dressing, I like balsamic vinaigrette.

Snack

Lifting day:

-Gatorade protein bar & shake

Non-lifting day:

-Greek yogurt, berries & honey

Dinner

-4 to 6 oz. of protein (salmon, chicken, beef, ground turkey)

-1/2 c. Carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, pasta)

-Unlimited veggies

If I feel like I need dessert, my go-to is a 70%(at least) dark chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt, yum!

Another big thing I focus on is the timing of my meals.  I want to make sure I’m eating the right things at the right time so my body has enough time to digest and process the nutrients before I need to use them. It’s important to get your protein within thirty minutes of completing your lift/workout. You also want to have some carbs post workout to help with full adaptation and recovery of your muscles.

Right now I’m not drinking any alcohol either, it’s hands down the worst thing you can put in your body when you are trying to lean out, or honestly, when you are trying to live your healthiest life. Instead I drink sparkling water with lime, I also drink lots of coffee and tea, a ton of regular water, and I’ll mix gatorade with my water at practice.

As a side note: I don’t use any supplements. USADA (United States Anti-Doping Association) scares the living daylights out of us when it comes to taking supplements and accidental cross contamination of banned substances to which you will be held fully accountable even if you were only honestly trying to make sure your iron and vitamin D stores aren’t depleted for your general health. (ok rant over.) But I do believe supplementation is important for a truly healthy diet.

Nutrition is one of my least favorite things to talk about because I find it so boring, I find it boring because it’s so simple. I believe most of you know the answers, it’s just about being disciplined long term to reap the benefits of eating purposefully and healthily.  Don’t do anything extreme; don’t cut out carbs, don’t try to exist in a state of ketosis, don’t refuse yourself your favorite foods, it’s ok to splurge every now and again to maintain your sanity. My biggest piece of advice would be to pay attention to your body, it will give you most of the information you need. How are your energy levels? How is your skin? How is your mental clarity? And what is happening to your body composition? You can feel and see and make the proper adjustments. You can also always hire a nutrition coach, which I am not, so again, please don’t take any of this as professional advice, it is my opinion based on MY experience in MY body. Happy fueling!