PM: I am just curious how did you get started in Strength and Conditioning and how did you get started at Quinnipiac?
BP: I knew I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach when I was a senior at High School. I attended the University of Connecticut and volunteered and gained experience during my undergraduate career in the varsity weight room. This led to a graduate assistant position there and then an opportunity opened up at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester MA. I was there for 4.5 years and then had the unique opportunity to start a strength and conditioning program from scratch at Quinnipiac University. I’ve been here since 2008 and it’s been a great journey so far.
PM: You have such a positive attitude, open mind, and are always seeking to learn. I am curious what helped mold/develop this in yourself?
BP: I believe my parents pushing me to become better and never being satisfied with my current grades, or status helped develop this quality. I didn’t appreciate it when I was younger but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is to have your passion drive your motivation and my passion is to improve and gain a greater understand of health and performance so I can better help the student-athletes that I work with daily.
PM: How did you first get introduced to Be Activated/RPR? What was your 'aha' moment with the system?
BP: A friend of mine, Steve Volek, shared the system with me and first opened my eyes to it. I started to implement bits and pieces with my student athletes and starting seeing some incredible changes, namely how quickly we could create firing pattern changes to improve performance. That was my “aha” moment and soon realized I needed to learn more. I become RPR level 1 certified in November of 2016 and just recently received my level 2.
PM: Sometimes the results with Be Activated/RPR can seem almost too good to be true. Did you have any doubts/skepticism about any aspects of this system.
BP: I actually didn’t have any doubts because we saw the changes daily and with a number of athletes. We were fortunate enough to experiment and be able to have a large sample size instantly, so we could really see the power in the system.
PM: How has incorporating Be Activated/RPR into your program change how you run it and coach?
BP: It’s given me a greater appreciation of movement quality, firing patterns and ensuring that our athletes are ready to go for whatever it is we ask of them. It’s given me another set of lenses to view movement and performance. This has made me a better coach because my toolbox has dramatically improved.
PM: You are in a unique position to answer this since you train so many NCAA D1 athletes. What would be your biggest piece of advice to a young athlete who has aspirations in competing in his/her sport at the NCAA D1 level?
BP: My biggest advice is to be the hardest working person you can be. This means on the field of play and off the field. You cannot choose when you want to be disciplined and work hard. It has to be part of your fabric and something that you do all the time.
If you are as hyped and inspired by this interview as I am and would like to learn more about Brijesh, make sure to follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and check out his interview on the Useful Coach Podcast, where he delves more deeply into his philosophies about coaching,a dn applying the Be Activated/RPR system.
If you have no idea what Be Activated/RPR watch the video above, and try the self activation sequence. The results speak for themselves! Be Activated/RPR is a great tool, but it is just that a tool. In the interview above we can see why Brijesh was able to use this tool so well, and achieve such great results. All true success, starts from the inside out, and how you come to your work/sport/ or school every day. Are you always giving your best? How you do anything is how you do everything.
If you can't sustain it's not worth it,
PM: May you please elaborate some more on your story about how you got interested in studying the therapeutic role of our microbiota in our health? You briefly mention it in the book, but I think the shift your research has taken from understanding the biological mechanisms of pathological bacteria (ex. salmonella) to understanding the complex but mostly beneficial relationship the many bacteria in our gut have with our own health is fascinating .
BF: We were working on diarrhea, and had a lab retreat on Galiano, and during a brain storming session someone started asking 'what about all those other microbes in the gut?". This was really early days, so we came home and designed some experiments to see if enteric pathogens, and the rest is history.
PM: You state in the book that one of the primary dietary assaults on our microbiota is excess refined sugar which feed the 'bad' bacteria. However, sometimes you briefly mention in your book about avoiding dietary fat. It is now known that Ancel Keys's work linking saturated fatty acids (SFA) with poor health outcomes was inherently flawed and the data was manipulated to strengthen the desired relationship. However, there is increasing research coming out showing that there really is no association between SFA and negative health outcomes. Recently there was a meta analysis in the BMJ (see article here) showing no reliable association between SFA and all cause mortality or CVD mortality, and the incidence of CHD, ischemic stroke, and type 2 Diabetes. However, there is a positive relationship between all the aforementioned events and the consumption of trans fat. I am not very well versed with the literature examining dietary consumption and the microbiota, but is their relationship between fat consumption and the microbiota's health similar to what is found in other fields (such as the BMJ meta analysis above)?
BF: I don't know this field well. Read "the big fat surprise" if you really want to get the scoop on fats and carbs. My take on it is that fats are not the problem (Americans have cut 12% of their fat from their diet, yet look at what has happened), and it is the simple carbs (white flour, white sugar) that are predigested, get absorbed in the small intestine, thereby starving the microbes lower down.
PM: You mention the benefits of probiotics throughout the book. However, as you mentioned, there is a huge market and therefore a lot of selection. Are there any specific pointers or things you would recommend someone look out for when picking a probiotic? I imagine like most unregulated industries, there are some really good products and some really bad products.
BF: Go to "letthemeatdirt.com" and click on "probiotics". (Here is the link if you want to go check it out now) There is a link to a meta study that lists all the probiotics that have been tested in western medicine standards (double blind, placebo, controls…), and rates the strength of evidence and references. A few (post antibiotic diarrhea for example) actually work.
PM: All the evidence surrounding the microbiota seems to point towards a "critical" period early in life for its optimal development. Unfortunately, all of us have very little control to our antimicrobial exposure, access to outdoors, and diet during this period in our lives. Therefore, if someone felt like their microbiota was lacking, would you still recommend someone follow the core principles in your book you laid out to optimize the development of the microbiota in children?
BF: Yes, varied diet low on red meat, such as mediterranean, and don't be scared of getting dirty.
PM: You recommended the "5210" diet (5 servings of vegetables and/or fruit, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of physical activity, and zero sweetened drinks) for children, but I’m sure most adults would benefit from this diet as well. As a full fledged academic, do you have any advice to reducing screen time? I do my best to minimize screen time but as a medical student, I find I am spending much more time on the screens than I would like. Is it less avoiding screen time, and consciously making time to spend outdoors?
BF: I wish, as we are all glued to our screen. Schedule exercise time, and screen free time, and stick to it. Read a book, go for a run…
PM: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to an up and coming academic?
BF: Work hard and play hard. Publish as much as possible. And enjoy the ride.
B. Brett Finlay, PhD, is professor of microbiology at the University of British Columbia and a world leader in how bacterial infections work. He has been studying microbes for over thirty years and has published over four hundred and fifty articles. Also a founder of the biotech companies Inimex, Vedanta, and Microbiome Insights, Brett is Officer of the Order of Canada—the highest Canadian civilian recognition. He lives in Vancouver, BC, with his wife, who is a paediatrician, and has two grown-up kids. If you are interested in learning more about what research is going on check here. If you want to learn more about Let Them Eat Dirt make sure to check out their website, facebook page, and twitter.
Let Them Eat Dirt was one of the most enjoyable books I have read recently. I devoured it in two days. One of the challenges with writing such a book is to make it accessible to a general audience without simplifying and losing the essence of the science. The authors of this book did the perfect job of walking on this fine line. If you are interested in what YOU can do to take control of your health by taking care of your gut microbiota, then this book is for you!
If you can’t sustain it’s not worth it,
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I am nearing the end of my first year of medical school, which seems as if it has gone by in a flash. However, earlier in the semester, I had got a nasty bout of the flu. I think it was exacerbated by the heavy workload, and lack of sleep. I was not feeling very well and was not in the state of mind to study so I took the opportunity and space to think, and reflect. While I was doing so, I came across Oli Doyle's excellent book Mindfulness Plain and Simple.
I have always been fascinated with the power of the human mind and therefore I began exploring meditation/mindfulness quite early in my life as a means to improve my performance. However, I soon realized that they were many other benefits I did not expect. I have read countless books regarding meditation/mindfulness from authors such as the Dali Lama, Swami Rama, and Eckart Tolle. While their work is insightful and filled with wisdom, I found it difficult at times to apply what they said in my own life. That is why I appreciated Oli Doyle's book so much. It inspired me to restart my meditation practice which was something I leaned on heavily during my undergraduate and graduate studies but I let slip when I began medical school.
As I delved deeper into meditation/mindfulness, I became increasingly cynical and despondent by the slew of "gurus" who had the "solution" to all of life's ills. They would claim that you could enjoy everlasting peace and happiness BUT only if you signed up for their next course. Once you did, there was always another technique, retreat, etc. to go on or learn.
Initially as I devoured through these books (and thankfully I was able to loan a lot of them from the Boston Public Library), I became excited at the potential to reach this "enlightened" state in which all my problems would be insignificant and that I would no longer feel "negative" emotions or pain. However, I soon realized that no matter how many books I read about this topic that would not occur. It was one of the biggest mistakes I made once I began this journey - something Oli Doyle does an excellent job discussing in his book. This book does a wonderful job of bringing these concepts back to earth in an easy to understand format. This is a quote directly from the back cover from his book:
I have the privilege of sharing my interview with author Oli Doyle below:
PM: What got you interested in learning more about mindfulness and integrating it into your life?
OD: I first got interested in meditation because life was going well, but I still wasn't happy. I tried everything I could find to relieve that suffering, but nothing else worked.
PM: What motivated you to write your excellent book, Mindfulness Plain and Simple? My first introduction to mindfulness-based practices was Echkart Tolle's book The Power of Now. I loved his book, but I found it hard to apply it in my life. However, I really enjoyed and appreciated your book for its practicality and pragmatism. I was able to apply the ideas in your book right away to my own life.
OD: The book came out of my own confusion when I was learning to meditate. When I discovered how simple it actually is, I wanted to make it quicker for others to learn, and I wanted to create something that would not alienate those who don't see themselves as 'spiritual '.
PM: One of the biggest struggles I have with integrating a mindfulness-based practice is to maintain that state of present moment attention while studying at school, playing sports, or spending time with friends. Would you have any advice to help transfer that state of presence one may experience when alone or while meditating into the activities of daily life?
OD: Welcome to the human race! In Zen, they do a mix of sitting and walking meditation to create a bridge between quiet awareness and active awareness, which I see as very skillful. Do some of your practice on the bus, in the car, during breaks at work and you can build that bridge too.
Also, I wrote The Mindful Living Series for just that purpose; to help turn life into mindfulness practice.
PM: Conflict is almost guaranteed to occur sometime in one's life. Whether it's avoiding conflict at all costs or being overly confrontational, it is an area that we all struggle with dealing. How would you recommend someone mindfully approach conflict?
OD: Watch your reactions (internal and external) closely. Listen to others fully, and allow them time and space to talk. And mostly, use conflict to learn more about yourself and to find the beliefs that are hiding within.
My books 'Mindful Relationships' and 'Mindfulness at Work ' have lots of conflict related practices too.
PM: For myself personally, meditation and mindfulness have played a huge role in allowing me to not only be more effective in every facet of my life, but also enjoy it more. Further, there continues to be more and more research elucidating the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation and mindfulness. However, there seems to still be some resistance from clinicians/high level athletes or working professionals to integrate this into their life for various reasons. Including, "I don't have time" or "Meditation is new age nonsense" or "I am already calm and do not need to meditate." What would you say to an individual or individual(s) who would say this about mindfulness/meditation.
OD: I wouldn't. Everyone has their own journey and their stories are none of my business.
PM:What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a young person who feels overwhelmed, and feels like everything is out of control? It may seem mindfulness may be the last thing that they need to start incorporating into their life. How would you coach them on beginning to integrate mindfulness into their life (without belittling their emotions)?
OD: If they asked me, I would show them the skills, if not, I would just listen. Everyone has the same wisdom.
As you can tell from this interview Oli does a masterful job of taking the complexities of mindfulness and presenting it in a manner that appeases our mind's clever questions without losing it's true essence. Oli is someone who embodies what he teaches with a goal to spread the message and benefits of mindfulness instead of hoarding and keeping his message to himself. There are many tidbits that I have already started to apply in my own life!
In 2003, Oli Doyle sat down in the lounge room of a share house in Bendigo, Australia and tried to meditate. He tried to quiet his mind. He failed miserably. Armed with nothing but stubbornness, ignorance, and a long standing refusal to read the manual, Oli blundered along the meditative path until he finally realized: you just have to pay attention to what’s happening now. After smacking himself in the back of the head several times for not grasping this earlier, Oli set to work, training himself to be present. What followed was a transformation that was both ordinary and incredible. Stress mostly vanished, anxiety disappeared and life became steadily more enjoyable. This journey continues today. Once Oli figured out how to meditate, he was struck by two things: the simplicity of the practice, and the complicated nature of much of the teachings. If you would like to learn more about Oli Doyle or check out some of his other books, make sure to check out his Website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
If you have not begun a meditation/mindfulness practice before, make sure to check out my video above where I provide a brief introduction to meditation. However, meditation/mindfulness is NOT something that needs to be rigorously studied but something that must be experienced and practiced. So get started! :) Please leave a comment about the most important take-away from this interview and any positive experiences you may have had with meditation/mindfulness.
If you can't sustain it's not worth it,
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This is the fifth part of my Pyramid of Successful Movement series (Read More: Pain-Free, Strength/Power, Skill, Conditioning). In this series, I will discuss each of the fundamentals in order of increasing complexity. At the end I will give a hypothetical case study and address the movement program design for this individual if he were my client. The next post in this series will be a hypothetical case study.
If you have made it to this level, serious congratulations are in order! You are either an elite athlete looking for that competitive edge to take your game to the next level or you are a fitness enthusiast that is seeking to become the best you can be. As you progress and gain competency at your craft, the mechanics of what you do become less important because everyone at your level will be proficient in them. The mental side therefore becomes increasingly important because that is where the greatest variability occurs. To continue making progress, you need to optimize your mental approach to what you are doing.
Typically, the term “mental toughness” is thrown around to describe an athlete or person who has understood how to master their psychology to produce remarkable results. However, I am not a big fan of that term. I prefer mental clarity because it does not imply a resistance and single minded focus, the hallmark of the fight or flight response. Instead, elite performance is characterized by an expansive intake of sensory information, which is the reason things seem to slow down and decision-making seems so effortless. You are simply more aware of your surroundings and pick up on cues that predict events much earlier than usual.
Think back to the last time that you were in a peak performance state. During my best performance at Boston University where I was competing in the last event of the meet, I was filled with this inner calm despite all the attention being directed towards me. Usually, I am quite self conscious but that day I was in the ‘zone’. All the noise and crowd was there but it just did not matter. To perform at your best the goal is NOT to quiet the mind to suppress thoughts of doubt and negativity, but instead be aware of as much as possible, resist nothing, and clearly focus on your goal at hand.
Being able to consistently enter this state of mental clarity is what separates the great from good athletes. How do you train yourself to enter this state? Meditation. Check out my video above for some meditation and breathing techniques that you can use right now. Make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel so you do not miss out on future content!
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Pain is both a blessing and a curse. It provides an absolutely essential role in ensuring our survival. However, when the processes that control pain become disregulated, it can be the source of the most intense suffering a human can experience. Pain itself is not the problem, but once it transitions to chronic pain, it becomes no longer useful. Check out the video below to better understand chronic pain.
Chronic pain can be a result of a many things. It can be caused by poor mechanics (aka musculoskeletal pain), traumatic injury, or pathology. While the vast majority of chronic pain is musculoskeletal or caused by a traumatic event, it is essential to understand the tell tale signs that point to pathological pain.
Recently in school, during our hematology week, we learned about a bone cancer called multiple myeloma. One of the classic ways it presents is with the patient coming into the clinic complaining of back pain that is not responding to physio/massage/acupuncture etc.
The point in sharing this clinical pearl is not to petrify you and have you think it will be bone cancer anytime you experience pain. I shared this clinical gem to help you understand that one of the many early signs of serious pathology in the human body can seem to mimic musculoskeletal pain. However, pain caused by serious illness versus a mechanical problem usually is accompanied with other more worrying symptoms. These include: unaccounted weight loss or gain, change in bladder or bowel function, or new night sweats, dizziness, fever, vomiting, or nausea. Pain accompanied by any of these symptoms means that you should visit a licensed physician ASAP.
I have any athlete that I work with see a doctor about their pain before I Be Activate them. As one of my clinical preceptors taught me, even if a diagnosis is unlikely (ex. bone cancer causing back pain), if the consequences of missing that diagnosis is dire, it is essential you do due diligence in ruling it out. This does NOT always mean do imaging or more tests. However, the take home message is that if you are in doubt, see a doctor!
I am a huge advocate for establishing a paradigm of self responsibility in the health care system. Yet, this does not mean being a "hero" and not seeking out any help if you need it. It does not make you weak or mean you are to blame if you need help in any way from a health care practitioner. But when we do interact with the healthcare system, we should aim to take an active role in the process. It is our health at the end of the day. Without our health nothing else works.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
I was watching the NBA three point contest during all-star weekend and it got me thinking. What is the 'secret’ to being a great shooter? Is it the follow-through? Is it having the ball on your fingertips? Is it having perfect alignment of your shoulders, elbow or wrists? Is it having the ‘perfect’ 45 degree arc to your shot? Is it the newest shooting development tool? Any ‘shooting coach’ or ‘professional basketball skills trainer’ will have you get lost in the minutiae of shooting.
However, Kenny ‘the Jet’ Smith infused some timeless wisdom during his hilarious broadcast of the competition filled with relentless trash talking and playful banter. He was explaining why him and Shaq predicted that Nick Young, aka Swaggy P, would come last in the three point competition. He said (I am paraphrasing based off my memory), “Nick young is a scorer and mainly hits three’s off the dribble and on the move in games. He has too much movement and variability”. Later on when commenting on Klay Thompson’s legendary shooting performance, he mentioned, “The key to great shooting is consistency. Thompson is so on balance and there is little extra movement”.
Let me repeat that again, CONSISTENCY is the key to being a great shooter. Do not get me wrong, optimizing your shooting mechanics will most definitely give you the best possible chance to be the best shooter you can be. However, if you are not consistently shooting in a particular way, it does not matter how ‘perfect’ your mechanics are! The reason focusing on mechanics is so important is because it limits the amount of extraneous movements, and therefore gives you the best chance of having a consistent shooting stroke.
Even though the mechanics and form of shooting is important, the current obsession on shooting mechanics tends to be to the detriment of many athletes. Even world class shooters like Steve Nash, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry will have shooting flaws according to ‘shooting coaches’. No one mentions the shooters whose shooting form may look quite great, but they are poor shooters.
This obsession on optimizing shooting mechanics and markers of shooting excellence (eg. angle of shot) tends to be especially detrimental to older and more experienced athletes. As long as you are consistent, you can still be a great shooter even if you have glaring flaws in your form (look at Reggie Miller’s shooting stroke!). Further, remaking your form at a latter stage in your career can be an extensive and frustrating process that many more experienced athletes will not be able to successfully make.
I know first hand because when I was in grade 9, despite having good feel and being quite a good player relative to my peers, my jump shoot was quite poor. In retrospect, it was more likely due to mental blocks and me not putting up enough shots, but I did have flaws in my shooting stroke.
While the results of my transformation have been extremely rewarding (see proof here), the process was quite frustrating. Paradoxically, at first you become worse at shooting because you need to develop new neural networks to get this technique to feel natural. The old adage, “it gets worse before it gets better,” is absolutely true. However, I can tell you this is an extremely difficult transition to go through. Only the most disciplined and dedicated athletes can successfully change their shooting form. This is because it is too easy to ‘cheat’ and revert to a previous form to get short term gains (ex. Winning a game of pick-up or a shooting contest) in deference to long term gains. This breaks the cardinal rule of excellent shooting, consistency. If you are constantly waffling between different variations of your shooting form, at very best, you will be a streaky shooter.
Right on que, during the contest, Nick Young perfectly displayed why he is such a streaky shooter, and why Shaq and Kenny had predicted him to come last. His follow-through seemed to change dramatically throughout his 25 shots. The problem is NOT a ‘flaw’ in his shooting mechanics, but inconsistency in his shooting. Nick Young has tremendous talent and a great shooting touch, so he is able to compensate for his inconsistency and can be a lethal offensive weapon when he is ‘feeling it.’ However, due to the inconsistencies in his shot, he will never be a dead-eye shooter like Klay or Steph.
This whole discussion reminds me of an interesting story about an amazing basketball player I got the opportunity to compete at many times during my high school career, Phil Scrubb. Phil Scrubb was not the most heralded player from my class (2010), but despite that he did receive some tepid interest from some NCAA D1 schools. Most notably a UCLA scout made an appearance at Argyle Secondary school during a local basketball tournament. Supposedly, UCLA quickly lost interest because of Phil's unorthodox shooting stroke and his unwillingness to change it.
Was this a good move by UCLA? In my opinion it was pure stupidity as I am 100% confident that Phil would have been a much bigger help to UCLA basketball than Steve Alford’s son. Phil had a legendary career at Carleton University and parlayed that into a promising career on Canada’s Sr. National team and playing professionally in Europe. However, this story epitomizes our obsession over shooting form. Funnily enough, Lonzo Ball, the current face of UCLA basketball, has an extremely unique shooting form. Yet, despite him being a seemingly can’t miss prospect, his shooting form is one of the first topics of discussion when scouts are predicting how well he will transition to the next level.
So if having the ‘perfect’ form is not the key to shooting success then what is? Repetition is, but there is an important caveat. You can’t just lazily go to the park and just ‘shoot around.’ When you are refining your shooting, you must be locked in and focused.
This is known as deliberate practice. If you are mindlessly shooting, you need to stop. One of the best shooters that coached me, Kevin Shaw, always reinforced that when he was working out and focusing on his skills he would never spend more than 45 minutes. He needed high intensity and focus to refine him taking game shots at game speed, and so that he could take the same shot every time. His ability to maintain the focus needed to be great was not sustainable for hours on hours. Simply, if you want to be a great shooter, you need to put the time and energy to mastering your craft.
Listen to what NBA 2017 3 Pt-Champion Eric Gordon has to say about shooting:
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Over the winter break I had the privlege to visit Chicago and shadow Dr.Tom Nelson. I have discussed the importance of mentors on a previous blog I used to contribute towards, but I would like to expand on that discussion in the context of my visit to Chicago.
Dr. Tom Nelson is one of the most chairasmatic, authentic and wise individuals I have ever had the great fortune to meet. He exudes a sense of calm and peace that instantly puts his patients at ease. He not only moves with a 1-2-3 seuquence but lives his life 1-2-3.
Dr.Tom learned the Be Activated Muscle Activation system directly from Douglas Heel and has been a leader for spreading the Be-Activated Muscle Activation philosophy and transferring the health care system from the inside out. He now helps Douglas Heel teach Be-Activated Muscle Activation workshops in Chicago, while running a Be-Activated Muscle Activation clinic combined with a "traditional western medical practice." Seeing the effectiveness of his combined practice up close and personally was truly inspiring (visit his website to learn more).
So why was learning and shadowing Dr.Tom such a tansformative process for me? Was it because of his experience and his clinical acumen? While they are impressive, what made my learning experience from him so enriching were his ardent desire to teach and mentor me. This is a lesson that you can take away from my experience so that you can be the best that you can be.
He should be better than me, otherwise that means I have not done my job."
I remember a patient had asked me if I was going to be as good as a doctor as Dr. Tom. Immediately he responded, "he should be better, otherwise that means I have not done my job." If you want to be an excellent athlete, dancer, musician, or anything else your heart desires it is absolutely essential that you find a mentor that has transceded their ego and is passionate about promotiong your learning. I have been absolutely blesed to have many mentors such as Dr. Tom help guide me throughout my life. If you are committed to being the best that you can be it is essential that you search out a mentor that is not seeking an ego boost but is dedicated to teaching you and your success.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
PM: You had a decorated high school basketball career and had your pickings of schools to play for. What made you decide on Portland State University (PSU)? It seems now that more and more players that have gone down south to play NCAA division 1 basketball are coming back quite unsatisfied with their experience. While others, most notably Phill Scrubb, who stayed in the CIS got more of an opportunity to develop their game and were able to parlay that into time on the national team and a professional career. How was your experience at PSU? Is there any advice you would give up and coming players to transverse this difficult transition?
TM: To answer this question it is important to know that beyond anything else in my life my passion is to develop my own leadership and influence capacity with the goal of continually having a positive impact on more and more people. I had 150 NCAA Division 1 schools recruit me and a couple dozen offer full scholarships including Cornell, Columbia, Stanford and UCLA. Yes, UCLA. Then there was little old Portland State University. I had to ask myself some really difficult questions and get incredibly clear on "Why" I wanted to play NCAA Division 1 and "What" I wanted out of the experience.
I spent months thinking about these questions and came out with the answer that I wanted to be a part of a program where I could have real impact. Where I could be looked to as a leader on my team, in the athletic department, and in the entire school. Basketball was in other words, a vehicle to growing as a leader - the glamor and glitz of sitting on the bench for 4 years at UCLA no longer appealed to me.
I look back and acknowledge that those 4 years were some of the most challenging of my life. But I also am grateful that I got to be team captain for 3 out of my 4 years, captain our team to our first 2 NCAA Conference Championships and NCAA tournaments, sit as President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and even sit on several University wide boards and initiatives.
PM: The transition from BC High school basketball to NCAA division 1 basketball is huge. What is something you learned throughout your career that you wish you knew before you started at PSU?
TM: I have learnt a lot in my years of business leadership and high performance athletics since Portland State - one of the most interesting learnings I wish I had going into my experience is the empathy of leadership. There would be times during my career where either with teammates or coaches I would butt heads and get frustrated with the lack of leadership or understanding that I saw demonstrated. My response to this back then was to put my head down and work harder and harder - I managed to get keys to our arena and would spend evenings until 10 or 11 PM training.
I wonder what would have happened if I had the leadership awareness to step back and ask myself some questions that let me see the world through the eyes of my teammates, or coaches. Perhaps I would have been brave enough to sit down and have that transparent, open conversation with them that would have spring boarded us back onto the same page. This happens everyday in our business lives and personal lives - the tough conversations are many times the right ones to have - but it takes the awareness of others, separate from our ego that tells us we're right, and courage to step into discomfort and have that conversation to make it happen.
This is a rare and subtle skill but profound in impact.
PM: Currently as a budding entrepreneur trying to qualify for the 2020 summer olympics, and previously as a college student-athlete, what are strategies and tips to complete everything you need to without feeling overwhelmed?
TM: It's all about energy and being incredible intentional about every single decision I make in my life.
On a weekly basis I ask myself what things are sucking energy out of me, what is dragging me down? Conversely I ask what am I absolutely loving in life right now, where am I thriving? Based on this equation I am able to more objectively acknowledge the things I need to say no to - that are sucking energy out of my life. We have said Yes to every single thing that makes up our lives, many times unknowingly, going back and saying No to the things that don't serve our greater goals and purpose is
The third question related to energy is "where am I spending energy on decisions that I can automate". Believe it or not there may be 100s of these decisions we're making everyday. Some examples of where I've removed all decision making energy:
PM: You come from a great athletic family with you and your brothers being elite level athletes at their respective sports. Obviously there is a genetic component to your success, but are there any daily habits or practices that you felt allowed you and your brothers to maximize your talent?
TM: I think a lot of the credit goes to our parents who did an incredible job of raising us in an environment that let us chase our goals. This included never forcing our hand into any given pursuit and also providing the right level of support through the hundreds of challenges and obstacles that are present in any goal we chase.
The combination of allowing us to own the path we were navigating, and struggle through all of the hard times allowed us to build toughness, resilience, and perseverance that we have been able to transcend to all other walks of life and future pursuits.
The formula that I have applied to my Olympic dream or leading high impact technology teams is very similar to the foundational lessons I learnt when pursuing those early big hairy audacious athletic dreams.
PM: Lastly, a question I always like to ask, what is the best piece of advice you would give to an up and coming athlete?
TM: Own your dream. I truly believe we are capable of anything - but it all starts with this relentless pursuit that we must own in the core of who we are. It is this relentless pursuit - deep down within our being - that we will lean on as we run into the devastating barriers and obstacles that will knock others down.
Leaning into this challenge, and unknown that comes with stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the most valuable experiences and skills we can learn in life.
Wow, what a powerful interview by Tyrel Mara. I agree 100% with him. Own your dream. We do not achieve our full potential because we do not stretch ourselves enough to discover our true potential. It is essential to critically analyze why we do things as much as we analyze what we are doing. To be the best that we can be, we need to reconnect and crystalize our inner mission statement. On the other hand it does not matter how inspiring and motivating your mission statement is if you do not put in the work and develop the habbits needed to turn that vision into a reality. The best way I can describe Tyrell is as a pragmatic dreamer that turns his dreams into realities. To learn more about him and to follow his olympic journey check out his website, and follow him on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
Today I have the absolute privilege of sharing my interview with Tyler Kepkay. He is arguably the best guard to come out of British Columbia since the two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. After an illustrious high school basketball career at Handsworth Secondary, Tyler moved onto the College of Eastern Utah. During his sophomore year, he led the entire country in Junior College scoring and was named 1st-team Junior College All-American. Tyler then moved onto the University of Utah, where in his senior season he led them to the NCAA tournament as a 5 seed. He was picked as the Chevrolet Player of the Game in his first round game against the University of Arizona. After Utah, Tyler played professional basketball in Germany, and represented Canada for 3 years. During his time he competed against the best basketball players in the world such as Team USA Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Chris Paul & Dwayne Wade, as well as European elites like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker & Dirk Nowitzki. Currently he is playing professional basketball in Hong Kong for Winling where he also has his own elite basketball academy. He is also one of Adidas' marquee sponsored basketball players. Impossible is truly nothing.
PM: British Columbia (BC) has had some great players come out that have gone on to star in the NCAA, and even the NBA (Rob Sacre and Kelly Olynk). However, the vast majority of these athletes are very tall (>6’10) or are freakishly athletic wings (6’4-6’7). What allowed you as an “undersized” guard to not only survive but thrive at the collegiate and professional level?
TK: What I believe has allowed me to compete at every level I think is my skill level. Every time I stepped onto the court, I knew I was the most skilled player there. This was at every level I played. When you can step onto the court and know you are the most skilled player there no matter what, it gives you the confidence to play against anyone. Secondly, my competitiveness. I have never played against anyone who was more competitive than me.
PM: During your high school career, the North Shore had one of the strongest basketball contingents probably ever. There were a few division 1 players, a handful of high level CIS players in the 3 years you played varsity at Handsworth. What intangible(s) do you think allowed you to separate from the pack and have the career you did?
TK: Well again, my competitiveness. I was just a lot more competitive than everyone else. Then my dedication to the game. There were three kinds of kids growing up, kids who thought they worked hard but didn't, kids who worked hard, and those who were obsessive and dedicated every minute of every day to the sport. I was the third one. I can probably count on one hand how many kids were like me in the whole province at the time I was in high school.
PM: Going through my high school basketball career you were the example that all the coaches used to demonstrate how we should conduct ourselves on/off the court. Coaches always mentioned your fierceness, but more importantly your confidence. You were playing on the U-17 BC team, and were one of the better players on the team despite being a year younger than everyone. What gave you that unshakable confidence to play your game no matter what people said or who you were playing against?
TK: Well the fact that I knew I put in more time than anyone else. Therefore being more skilled than anyone else. Confidence is gained through work ethic. Not only did I put in more time than everyone else, I believe I trained smarter than everyone else too. When you know not only did you put more time in, but the time spent was of better quality, it gives you supreme confidence. When you work hard and smart, you are going to improve your skill level. When you add all those up, there is no other way to be but extremely confident.
PM: Follow-up to the last question. Your work ethic was even more legendary than your competitive fire. Coaches would talk about how you would attend a 3 hour BC team practice and then afterwards go to Delbrook and shoot for hours. What fueled that drive? What allowed you to not burn out and remain healthy despite working so hard?
TK: What fueled me was two things. First was the fact I just loved the game that much. I loved to train and I loved to figure out new ways to challenge myself while I trained. It never felt hard or like work. It felt fun and rewarding. That is also why I believe I never burned out. Second was the drive to be the best. I wanted to flat out destroy everyone in high school. I never wanted it to be in question who the best player was.
PM: You have been able to sustain a high level of performance for a very long time, which in my opinion is the true hallmark of greatness. Do you have any specific regiments or strategies you use that allow you to be a “sustainable athlete” and bounce back from tough workouts?
TK: For me its always been about consistency. Being consistent in everything you do from skill work, weight room, conditioning, mobility, recovery/rehab. Its everyday doing one or some of these things at a high level so that your body is always in condition. I am never out of shape, I am always in game shape.
PM: Lastly a questions I always like to ask. What would you recommend a young baller should do to allow them to have the opportunity to continue play basketball at the university level and maybe beyond.
TK: I get asked this a lot, and its a tough question to answer. Lots of people say work hard, or follow your dreams. But honestly that really wont help much. I believe there is one question one must ask oneself first before they embark on that journey. They must ask themselves if they truly love the game. If yes, then make the vow to commit and dedicate their entire mind, body, and soul to the game. Once that commitment has been made, it is about consistency everyday in improving yourself. Never look too far forward. Enjoy the process and this will give you the BEST chance to play after high school. I say best chance, because that's all you can do as a player, is give yourself a chance, nothing is guaranteed.
Tyler Kepkay is truly an inspiration. He embodies the virtues of industriousness, passion and discipline, and how far they can take you. To come out of North Vancouver and to excel not only at the Junior College and NCAA level but also at the professional level is a testament to his dedication to his craft. During my basketball career, he inspired me to push myself further than I thought possible because he was an "undersized" guard that had not only made it to the NCAA level but was excelling there.
I was not able to achieve my goal of playing NCAA division one basketball but I know because of having the opportunity to coach with and learn from Tyler that I most definitely gave myself the BEST chance to play at that level. I really appreciate his humbleness and maturity to realize that nothing is guaranteed and you need to earn everything. For all you young ballers out there, do not take for granted the privilege you have to chase your dreams. The opportunities to turn your dreams into reality are fleeting. Make sure that you take these lessons Tyler has so graciously shared with us today and implement them! Knowledge is NOT power but only potential power. You need to apply what you learned today!
To continue to follow and learn from Tyler Kepkay's during his career make sure to like his Facebook Page and check out his Basketball Academy.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
This is part II of Sam Wuest's guest post. Make sure that you check out part I. He is now describing some theory and illustration of the Be Activated system. Sam competed for the University of Maryland's and Boston University's Track and Field teams after setting school and conference records in high school. Sam won all-conference awards in the America East and has competed internationally post-collegiately. Sam currently coaches collegiate Track & Field at a small college in Massachusetts.
Heel’s system is designed to uncover compensation patterns in the body. It revolves around posture, breathing and muscle recruitment, which all go hand-in-hand. Every movement must start in the center of the body and move outwards, effectively expanding the body, instead of starting at a distal (far from the center) area and moving inwards, which causes a collapse in the body. Heel divides the body into zones, pictured below. 1-2-3 is the ideal muscle sequencing pattern, anything else is a liability for injury or subpar performance.
Zone 1: The Diaphragm, Psoas and Glutes:
Hip flexion and extension is the body’s primary priority – it cannot move without it. The psoas and glutes are designed to flex and extend the hip – they are in the best position to do so. The psoas will not be working properly if the diaphragm is not working properly, because the fascia encasing the diaphragm also wraps around the psoas. If breathing is compromised, due to stress or bad posture, the functioning of the entire body will also be compromised. If the glute/psoas can’t do their job correctly, another set of muscles will take over in order to move. I say “set” because no single muscle can do the job of either glute or psoas.
The diaphragm is involved because the fascia holding it in place connects to the psoas. If the diaphragm shuts down due to stress, poor posture or other reasons the psoas cannot do its job. Due to reciprocal inhibition, the glutes cannot fire if the psoas cannot fire. If the glutes cannot fire, the hamstring will do its own job AND take over for the glutes. Because these muscles are supposed to fire first in any movement, if you can’t breathe deeply into your belly, you won’t sequence properly.
Sequencing should be 1-2-3. However, most athletes are firing zones two or three first – this means that they fire their quad and abdominals together to make up for a misfiring psoas (leaving those muscles unable to effectively do their own jobs) or firing their shin or even hand muscles first. I was surprised to see how many athletes cannot get their brain to fire a hip flexor without tensioning the ankle joint first – these athletes may have shin splints, Achilles problems, chronically tight calves or any other disfunction stemming from the way they compensate when their feet hit the ground. The predictive value of an athlete’s sequencing pattern has been pretty on point in my limited experience testing this in my athletes.
What does a 1-2-3 look like in action? Here is Irving Saladino, Olympic long jump champion from Panama. In this picture, notice the lack of tension immediately after takeoff – you can see it in this slow motion video as well, fingers lightly curled, jaw lightly closed, toe mildly up, but there is no excessive tension in these areas when he raises his free leg upon takeoff. His psoas muscle is able to do its own job, the hands and face (which cannot add anything to the jump) are able to relax because they are not called upon to work. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbLZKY2CRk4)
What does a malfunctioning pattern look like? Here I am, in two separate pictures. My pattern on the right is a 3-3-3 arm – this means that in order to flex my right hip, my brain sends tension to my left hand first. My psoas on that side cannot do its own job, so the brain tries to add tension in other areas to assist in hip flexion. This is why I make a strange claw with it as I jump. This need-for-tension in my hand explains how I could hit my head on the rim, but could not get anywhere near that high with a basketball in my hand – holding a ball forces my hand to open, and as a result, my brain cuts the amount of power it gives to my hip drive. This is a setup for injury as well, because my strength levels drop when I cannot/do not close my left hand. It also explains why I have injured my left thumb so often – my hand thinks it has to do hip flexion, so when it has to do its own job it is tired or out of position. My face is also holding a ton of tension, which is only hindering my ability to jump far. My mind-body connection had blown a fuse, it didn’t know which muscle to fire when. While I had some success this season, I also missed almost all of it because of injury.
The way we get it working again is first by working with the breath – if the diaphragm isn’t working nothing will work properly – and rubbing neurolymphatic reflex points that cause our brain to wake up muscles that it has stopped using, whether because of stress, bad movement patterns, or other reasons. The result is that there is a measurable difference in performance in controlled tests. That difference can be flexibility or strength, depending on the area. The pre/post test differences are often shocking – 45* to 90* range of motion in the hamstring, two fingers pushing down a raised knee to my full bodyweight on said knee. It can resolve pain and optimize performance. It’s pretty cool.
I hope you enjoyed these guest post from Sam Wuest detailing his experience with the Be-Activated system.Be Activated is super cool. It has completely changed how I view the human body and elite athletic performance. If you have any questions make sure to leave a comment. If you are interested in learning more about activations make sure to contact me and click here for more information.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.