One Athlete's Mind
Well it's that time of year again. The time to scroll through social media and be envious of all those people who live in snowy areas of the world where they are already skiing... #ontarioproblems.. But anyway, back to the blog..
Today I started writing a new assignment for a Coaching course I am taking and I thought I'd share an excerpt from my notes that I thought could be useful to some athletes and coaches out there. The assignment has me coming up with my own coaching philosophy, so as you can imagine I've been doing a great deal of reflecting today on my own past experiences as an athlete in sport.
Maybe once the project is finished I will post the final product on here for people to check out, but for now I'll just share my thoughts on the importance of enjoying the process of being an athlete...
In competitive sport, it is easy and often encouraged to become extremely invested in your training. While the extensive training is necessary to reach a certain level of expertise in a sport, the emphasis on life balance becomes more and more important the more devoted an athlete becomes to their sport. Without the presence of social supports and non-sport related intellectual stimulation, the athlete’s risk of burnout will increase. It is important to be able to draw happiness and stimulation from a variety of sources in one’s life so that if one aspect of one’s life is going poorly, they can draw positive feelings from another avenue. This was a contributing factor to my own experience with burnout, having isolated myself so much to my training that when racing was not going well, I could not find happiness anywhere. It is from this experience that I will work towards promoting balance in the lives of all of the athletes with whom I work.
Being able to experience positive stimuli outside of sport is important, and so too is enjoying the process of all of the hours spent training. Having reasons for being involved in sport outside of winning is extremely important to ensuring you can enjoy the process. These reasons can be anything from loving the way engaging in the sport makes you feel, to using it as a means to see different parts of the world, to expanding networks and meeting new people. As a coach, I would encourage athletes to reflect on what their reasons are for being in their respective sport, and writing them down somewhere that they can come back to whenever they are feeling any sport related anxiety or stress.
That's all I've got for today, but I hope you found something in there to be useful, or at the very least, thought-provoking.
Until next time,
Happy October 23rd
As a young or new athlete, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a training program. And when we think about the athletes we see on TV winning Olympic medals, a lot of people just think about how much training it took for them to get there. Sure the training is a huge part of their success, but the little things that can easily go unnoticed are often what separate the good from the great. Here are a few quick tips for getting everything you can out of each workout you do:
This list could go on and on, but these are a few things I’ve found to be really helpful in being a successful athlete. And if I missed anything that you feel needs to be on this list, please comment below!
Until next time,
Last week I threw around some ideas to think about in regards to being in control of your nerves around races. Today I thought I’d share some more thoughts along the same lines, but with a bit of a different perspective.
Back in my NDC days I was lucky enough to travel to Europe for a 3 week training camp, with the first two weeks focused on big volume on snow, and the third week being more intensity based. By the middle of the third week I was exhausted, physically and mentally, and was having a hard time staying positive in the hard workouts. So in my downtime I decided to surf the web and do some reading in sport psychology, and what I learned turned my week right around, and I was able to finish out the camp strong.
I read about a lot of things that really sparked my interest, but the biggest takeaway for me was the idea of 'controlling the controllables'. This could be another way of describing what I wrote about last week, but with this broader wording I find it to be extremely useful both in sport and everyday life.
The idea is exactly what it sounds like; concern yourself with those things that are in your control, and you will always be prepared for whatever you are trying to do. As for the things that are not in your control, you have no power to influence them, so why bother worrying about them? Instead you can use that time and energy to enjoy what you are actually doing.
One of the things I have always loved about competitive sport is its ability to teach me lessons that will make me successful on and off the race course, and this is a perfect example of that for me. I’ll admit I still have hard times when I am letting myself stress out unnecessarily, but before I started reading about sport psychology, I had no control over my stress levels and things could get pretty ugly. So at least now if things are starting to go south in mind, I have the tools to reset and see whatever the situation may be in a more productive and enjoyable way. And if you’re someone who’s always feeling stressed, I hope this can be helpful for you too!
Until next week,
In sitting here prepping for some athlete meetings this afternoon, I had an idea. Obviously I enjoy skiing as an athlete, but I've been testing the waters of coaching for the past couple years now and thought I'd start sharing some ideas through this handy blog of mine.
In an individual sport like cross country skiing it's easy to let your nerves get the better of you before a race. Sometimes you're lucky to have teammates around you who can help keep you in a good head space, but the reality is once your race has started, you really need to be able to keep your mind in check on your own. So I devised this short list for athletes to keep in mind if they are ever starting to feel their nerves take over leading up to a race/event.
- Training: Everything you've done in your training season
- Equipment: Making sure your equipment is in the best shape possible
- Mindset: Embracing the enjoyment that your sport brings you
- Preparation: Giving your body adequate sleep and nutrition, and being ready on the start line
(I was hoping it would make a cooler acronym than "TEMP", but it'll have to do for now)
At a race, regardless of the level of competition or what the stakes are, we are always trying to do the same thing: make our way around the course as fast as we possibly can. And as intimidating as our opponents can be, or as high as the stakes may be, those things have absolutely no bearing on our own performance, unless we let them. So instead of stressing about all that scary stuff, if an athlete takes care of their TEMP (crappy acronym, but I'm going with it) and feels good about it, they can feel nothing but ease and excitement for the chance to see what they are really capable of.
With the frequency that ski/running racing and coaching cross my mind these days (as an athlete/coach/student in a coaching course), I'm hopeful that this will be the first of many athlete tip posts!
Until next time,
Wow how the time flies! These past 5 days have just soared by here in Almaty, though come to think of it it feels like only yesterday I was being handed my accreditation when I first arrived at the Athletes Village. But nevertheless, time for an update!
Racing continued on Thursday with the Individual Classic Sprint. Those who have seen my post race video on Facebook have a good idea of how that went down, but long story short, I was happy with how I skied my qualifier, but with the changing snow conditions just before my race, I had some technical problems which had me left wanting, finishing in 50th place. We (Team Canada) did qualify 5 athletes through to the heats however, 4 women and 1 man, who fought hard in their quarter-finals but came up just short of advancing through to the semis.
Team Canada's Laval U women starting their quarter-final (left) and Alexis Morin representing our Men's team in his quarter (right).
The following day came my second rest day since arriving in Almaty. While some of our team went up to the race site to pre-ski for their upcoming races, I opted to spend a relatively quiet day here in the AV. Though I did manage to leave for a few hours that afternoon to take in some of the culture and events going on outside the AV compound, doing a bit of souvenir shopping and checking out some curling and figure skating events taking place next door at the Almaty Arena.
Figure Skating in a PACKED Almaty Arena.
Canadian Men's Curling team warming up before their game against Czech Republic.
The next day brought the Mixed Team Sprint event back up at Alatau, so following a brief pre-ski of my race course for Monday, I rigged up my giant Canada Flag and planted myself on the race course where I cheered on our two Canadian teams (the team sprints only allowed for four of our athletes to compete, 2 male and 2 female, so the rest of us cheered them on as best we could). Despite some hard efforts, our teams came up just seconds outside of qualifying for the final.
Canadian Gavin Shields blazing the trails today with the fastest first lap of anyone!
Today was another rest day for the team as we gear up for our final three days of racing. We took advantage of our day off by going on a mini tour of the city of Almaty, getting to take in a bit more of the sights and the culture than we have so far. Our tour guide provided us with really interesting history about the city as we drove to our destinations (I mean interesting, I even took notes so I'd remember it!), and we wrapped up the tour by spending some time in the local market. Apparently I wasn't supposed to take pictures, but being the oblivious tourist that I was, voila :).
They say a picture's worth a thousand words, so here's my 3,000 word recap of our tour today!
Tomorrow we're back to races with the Team Relay events. Just like back in Italy at the 2013 Universiade, I've been given the lead leg of our 4 x 7.5km relay, so I'm looking forward to starting us off on a strong note. Back in 2013 we raced to a 16th place finish, so I'm hopeful we can improve on that!
Things will get fairly busy for the rest of the Games once tomorrow hits, so I won't make any promises about more blogging before I return to Canada on Friday. But I'll keep the videos coming via Facebook for anyone who wants updates!
Until next time,
This trip has been one adventure after another so far, and the first two days of racing continued to keep things interesting. The conditions here had been fairly steady up to that point, and the weather for the first day of racing turned out to be perfect! Blue skies, above the smog here in Almaty so the air was clear, and a fairly hard packed track made for a great day for racing.
Monday saw our first race here in Almaty, with the individual start classic event (men 10km, women 5km). Having known the format of all the races here since the summer, I knew this race would be one of best shots at having a strong result, being a bit more confident and comfortable with my classic technique than my skate these days. The start list had me as the third starter, chasing down a Norwegian starting 30 seconds ahead of me, and an American 1 minute ahead. My game plan was to start out quite hard, trying to put some time into those guys, and then stay strong and fluid once the pain really started to settle in. So I went for it off the start, and to my surprise managed to catch both the Norwegian and the American before the 2km marker, dropping the American right away, and pulling the Norwegian along behind me for a couple kilometers before he cracked just after the 5km mark. It was a lonely race for me after that being at the front of the race, but I managed to keep the pressure on and come in to the finish with a strong final kick. And a perk to having such an early start along with a strong race, I was even at the top of the leader board for a few minutes!
I was on TV!
At the end of the day after all the racers had come through, I ended up finishing 49th. While it would have been nice to be a little higher up in the results, that was my best ever result in an international distance race, and being the top Canadian man on the day made it that much better!
The next day came the 10km Skate Pursuit. I knew from the time I got to the race site that morning that I was not feeling like I had been the day before, and despite getting a good warm up and doing my best to wake myself up and stay positive, it was just not my day. I tried to hang on to the guys who went by me during the race, but with my fatigue coupled with the super soft conditions, I was not skiing well enough to match their speeds.
Fortunately I have a day off racing here to try to recover and get ready for the individual classic sprint event coming up tomorrow (Thursday). I'm very happy to be switching back to classic for the rest of these Games, and I'm looking forward to putting myself into a world of pain and speed in the hopes of qualifying for the heats tomorrow. Over the next few days following that race there will be a couple of relay type races which the coaches will decide who will get to compete. So I'll do another post following tomorrow's race and hopefully by then I'll find out whether or not I'll be racing in the relays!
Sorry about the monotone read today, apparently my writing skills take a bit of a hit when I'm this wiped...
Until next time,
What a rush! This trip hasn’t slowed down since it began… 3 days ago? 4 days ago? Ah who knows, it’s all a blur when you’re playing with time zones.
After a smooth and exhausting 30 hours or so of traveling, we made it to the Athletes Village here in Almaty Kazakhstan. The highlight of the journey was definitely our 7 hour layover in Amsterdam (not being sarcastic). Shelby (Nipissing), Gavin (Lakehead) and I hopped on a train from the airport which took us into Amsterdam Centraal (that’s what is was called, no idea if it was actually the main city center) where we got to take in the AMAZING city of Amsterdam! After wandering around for a while, dodging glass bottles and pigeons in the red light district, and sampling a mighty fine chocolate croissant (the simple things), we decided to rent some commuter bikes and we joined in the CRAZY amount of bike traffic in that city and finished off our tourist-ing in style.
Loving life on my rental commuter bike
The next flight went by pretty quickly, finally getting a few hours of sleep, and we landed in Almaty around 4am local time. The Universiade volunteers did an amazing job of welcoming us at the airport and guiding us to the event shuttles, where we convoyed with other athletes and a police escort for the 40 minute drive to the Athletes Village.
I won’t try to describe the impressiveness that is this Athletes Village, I’ll do my best to post photos to capture the coolest parts (likely in a massive album on Facebook following the trip). But suffice it to say that this has been possibly the coolest experience of my athletic career. With the Olympics always having been my dream, this is absolutely feeling like an mini-Olympic experience for me, so I am loving every minute of it!
The Opening Ceremonies took place last night, and the city of Almaty held nothing back in giving us an experience of a lifetime. I may have been in an extremely jetlagged state, but it didn’t take away from the impressiveness of the show and the amazing feeling watching them raise the FISU flag and light the flame for the Games. And not to mention in the hour or so waiting to be called in, I kinda cleaned up in the pin trading department :p (Games goal: get as many international pins on my accreditation lanyard as I can before Closing Ceremonies).
Today will mark day one of competition for me with the 10km Classic Individual Start race. I’ve been looking forward to this race for many months now, so with my start time in just under 6 hours now, it’s safe to say I’m getting pretty excited! The race venue here is absolutely gorgeous, with the trails in great shape and what looks to be a very fast course.
I could go on and on with everything that’s been going on but I’ll wrap it up here. There is very little down time so far so I’m not sure when my next update will be, but feel free to follow along my social media as I’ll be posting pictures whenever I can!
Let's start this one off with a theme of the week: The limits you place on yourself are a direct reflection of the outcome that is to come. In other words, if you can convince yourself that you can do something, with enough practice and dedication, it can happen. And conversely, if you convince yourself that something is just too far out of reach, there's no way you could get there, then there's a good chance you'll be right, and you won't get there. There's a great quote about this and I can't remember it exactly off the top of my head, but essentially it goes something like this:
Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right.
I'm going to delve into something I've never really put into words before now, because like a lot of people I never used to like admitting when I did something wrong or made a mistake. In 2011 I was 1 of 5 Junior Men who were selected to compete for Canada at the World Junior Championships in Otepaa Estonia (it's south of Finland) for cross country skiing. I had dreamed of making this team for years; words really can't express how excited I was to go over there and represent my country for the first time! The only problem was, I spent so much time and energy thinking about just QUALIFYING for this event, that I had gotten the idea in my head that MAYBE I'd be fast enough to make the team, but medal? Place in the top 10? Absolutely not! Somehow without really thinking about it, I had convinced myself that I wasn't fast enough to compete with the best in the world. And because of this, my focus wasn't where it should have been during my races. Instead I was literally taking in the sights around the race course, DURING MY RACE! My coach called me out on it afterwards. I'm not sure that I'll ever forget that. Talk about the feeling of missed opportunities. But, while it is a bit of a sore spot for me and I'm sure will always be, it taught me the power of confidence and how whatever you think of yourself will likely be displayed in what you do.
So that was a big lesson that took me a while to uncover from that experience, but now let's look at the other side of the coin. Two years later I ran my second half marathon to date. It was a small fundraiser race in my hometown that just happened to take place while I was visiting my parents on my rest month, so I figured why not jump in and have some fun. Despite my plan of just running with the front group and then seeing what happened 10km or so into the race, I started it like it was a 5km. Literally 30 seconds after discussing my chill race plan with my Dad, I was sprinting (somewhat figuratively) away from the start line. Not even 1km into that race I thought to myself 'how could you possibly think you could hold this pace? You don't even run this fast in short distance races.' But then I thought 'hey, why not? Let's see how long I can keep this up for.' I ended up holding that pace for the next 21km, and CRUSHING my old half marathon PB by over 5 and a half minutes!
It's been since this race in April 2013 that I've stopped putting limits on my potential, both in sports and in life. Today I had a one mile repeat workout, and after literally letting out a chuckle at how fast I started my first mile, thinking I was an idiot, I just kept the hammer down and ran a 5:01, probably one of the fastest miles I've ever ran off a track. Then on the next one, I ran 4:58... It's safe to say I'm excited for race season!
Before I wrap this post up I want to tie this into what's become more important to me recently than any of my own personal athletic goals, and that's being healthy and fit. For some people these are things we take for granted, but for others these are things we feel like we can only dream about. So for anyone reading this who has made countless New Year's resolutions to get in shape, or feels that running 5km is an insurmountable feat, or maybe even that just being happy with yourself doesn't seem possible (trust me I've been there) please keep this in mind. Nothing is beyond your reach if you want it bad enough, and there are always people out there who want to help. As soon as you stop telling yourself you can't do something, it'll be like someone flipped a switch and anything can be possible!
I've picked up a few things in my years of pretty extensive endurance training and racing, but this has got to be one the most significant lessons I've learned, and continue to learn along the way. There's another quote I once heard from one of the best ski coaches out there, Jack Sasseville, that sums this all up perfectly, so I'll wrap this up with that.
"Allow yourself to surprise yourself."
Well, it's happening. Summer is winding down, and classes will be starting up in a couple weeks. I am SUPER excited to be starting off my third year at Nipissing U, I'll be taking an exercise physiology course this Fall that I've been looking forward to since Day 1 Year 1, so I can't wait! I've heard it'll likely be the the hardest course I've ever taken, but hey, it's not work when it's fun, right?
With the coming of Fall comes the arrival of cross country running season, and this is what I'm REALLY pumped for! 2 months jam packed with racing against the best runners in the province, and because Ontario is the BOMB, they also end up being some of the fastest in the country! So I'm looking forward to setting some new PB's and getting good and humbled along the way haha.
I may have touched on this in my post from last week, but with what I was dealing with this summer with my change of direction and lack of moitvation to get out and do my usual 2-4 hour runs/rollerski workouts everyday, I've been a little worried I wouldn't have the fitness I'd need in order to achieve my goals for the season. But yet again, BEACHBODY for the win!! I had my first legit hardcore interval session in over 6 weeks this morning (ski striding, 3x3min on, 3min off hill repeats at the local downhill ski hill, then repeat!), and really wasn't sure what was in store for me. All I've been doing the past few weeks are my daily, 30 minute workouts, and not only did I feel way better than I expected, I was even moving faster than I ever have before! So bring it running season, let's do this!!
Okay I'm getting too fired up, I should move on. But it's hard though! When I'm working out and living healthy and feeling this awesome, all I want to do is get more people on the positivity train (I'm coining this term, let's make it a thing) and share it with people! It's so easy to fall off this great feeling, and it doesn't even take a significantly negative event for it to happen. Let's take this week for example, I was feeling awesome last Monday, super motivated to workout, eat well, and help other people do the same as best I could, things were going great! But then on Wednesday, all of the sudden I was super down, no motivation to do anything overly productive, and I think all it took was missing a meal. But that led me to make some not so healthy food choices (admittedly a few of them), and I felt TERRIBLE afterwards, almost sick. And it wasn't until my workout the next day that I started feeling a little better again. So I just kept that up until this morning, then had a KILLER workout and I've been back on the train ever since! This is even the second time I'm writing this post because the internet crapped out and I lost it lol, but I'm still fired up about it!!
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK:
Doing little things for yourself and your own enjoyment is fun, and definitely necessary sometimes, but there is no better feeling for me than helping someone out who needs it. But the worst part is, most people don't like asking others for help! I've always been this way, and my reason for it was because I didn't want to impose on anybody or make them do anything they didn't want to do. But it wasn't until VERY recently that I realized that asking someone for help isn't always an imposition, and to a lot of people it can make their day! Whether it's the amazing feeling someone like me gets when I help others live healthier lives, or just the opportunity to share their knowledge, people WANT to be involved in other people's lives, so don't be afraid to take advantage of that!
This brings me back to a quote that I like to read every once in a while, so I thought I'd finish this post by sharing it with you guys. So until next time, think like a proton and stay positive!
Marianne Williamson quote:
"...Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do... It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconciously give others permission to do the same. As we are all liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
What do I take from this? The next time I feel stuck and don't know what to do, I am going to ask someone for help. This will be the first step towards allowing my own light to continue to shine, and it will give someone else the opportunity to allow theirs to shine as well.
It's been a long time since this blog of mine has seen any action, but with some renewed (or possibly new entirely?) motivation behind me, I'm back!
Over that past several weeks (months? Maybe months) I've been taking a hard look at where my life is going, and I realized that I didn't have a clear idea of where I even wanted it to be going, let alone it's actual trajectory. So after over 10 years of daily training for cross country skiing, I decided I would take a little break, just to see what would happen. And the result was amazing.
In my step back from my usual endurance training, I realized that fitness and health is more than just a hobby to be, but a passion that I want to pursue for the rest of my life. Over the past decade, that passion was ski racing and I loved it (and still do!). The amazing sport, the breath-taking places that it took me around the world, the fantastic people, all of it. But what I've realized this past month is what was missing from that, and that was my other passion of helping people. From a young age I've always taken an immense amount of pride in helping others in any way I can (some might even say annoyingly so :p). The feeling of enabling someone to do something they either otherwise coudn't do, or just thought they couldn't do, is quite frankly the best feeling in the world to me. So this past month, with the help of an amazing team of coaches, I've found a community that I can be a part of and combine my passion for fitness and health with my passion for helping others!
But before I can help others with any healthy lifestyle and fitness goals of theirs, I needed to address some of my own so that I can be a as inspirational for others as I can, not to mention improving my own health and well-being. So a couple weeks ago I got my hands on a new workout and nutrition plan that would help me get my energy levels up to where I want them to be, keep me as fit and lean as I want to be, and most importantly, TAKE PRIDE IN BEING ME! And I am almost overwhelmed by the difference this had made in my life. I'm back to getting up early, being productive throughout my whole day, and doing these things that I've always liked to do! If I've learned anything from this experience so far, it's that your health is worth investing in. I've seen a lot of quotes over the years saying things like 'You only get one life, so you might as well make the best of it,' but it's taken until now for me to really understand the gravity of that statement. If there is something you want to do, more than what you're doing now, why wait? Just find a path that could lead you there, and starting running! (I mean that figuratively, for the most part :p).
That's about all I've got for now, but I can't wait to see where this journey of mine takes me, and to share it all with those who want to join me!
Healthy body -> Healthy mind -> Happy life!
Jordan Cascagnette, Student-Athlete, Ski Coach