Yes, I Will Open Your Bottle For You – How Support Can Help an Athlete’s State of Mind

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One of the things that I remind people who are dealing with athletes is, that when athletes are stressed, not only are their brains not working, but neither are their little sausage fingers…AT ALL!

Trying to open something that requires grip strength, or a little package, is just insanely impossible. For the athlete, not only are they going to spill it, but it’s just a reminder that their body is NOT working the way it normally does.

Messages of “what is not working” is something that we never want to induce or even allow to come through that athlete’s thought process while they are refueling. They are battling a complete boardroom of ideas that the brain turns on to already stop the madness. The brain turns itself into a diligent reporter on bad news when you get to testing your body to its fullest, and it will find a million ways to tell you that you should stop, that this is going poorly, and that you aren’t strong enough to do this.

And then you pull over to the roadside and your stupid hands don’t work either… damn.

I try to remind those athletes about where their head should be during this time on the trail, and what they should be thinking about.  I will have them notice that their gait is strong, or their form is firm.

Trail Drivers can also help them notice things they DO HAVE power over.

How’s your annoyance, do you think you need some salt? Is your stomach queasy, do you need something to get it to stop rumbling? Try this Papaya it is a super-specific tool to help tummies that feel upset gain calmness. I have used it in every country I have been in. Are you having tension on your shoulders, we can ice that down for immediate relief. The fact is that failure IS part of the endurance training, but it can usually be hacked while on the course.

So, let me open that bottle for you so you can keep your focus on what is our next hack to keep you going.  Trail Drivers can be a superpower to have as a partner.

Trail well.

Headphones

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Here’s why I don’t appreciate headphones for athletes and events.

One of the items that we have as conversations a lot is about athletes who are wearing headphones while doing an event. Now, I will preface this that it is completely determined on the event that you are Trail Driving as to whether leniency can be brought on. But overall, I just say no.

My biggest reason is safety. While an athlete is doing especially difficult physical things, 100% of their attention needs to be on what they are doing.

Endurance athletes are frequently in challenging circumstances. If that environment has any deadly predators in it like rattlesnakes or pumas, I really need them to pay attention because it could cost them their life. No, I am not being overly dramatic.

Tiny rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous, because they do not have any way to put their venom out in a single bite, they will release as much venom as they can until their fangs are pulled out from your leg. They will also leap from rocks if those rocks are in a descending format, so they can bite at your hand or your face. You are never going to hear that warning rattle with a set of headphones on.

There are many things that can bite that you’re not going to enjoy if you’re an athlete on a mission.

While I understand the power of music as a soundtrack that allows performance, I always invite that athlete to check the box in their head about safety and the safety of those around them. I have had athletes not hear a call for assistance from another athlete because they had headphones on. Part of saving the life of another athlete who is in degradation may be that you actually hear them puking or in a convulsion on the side of the route before you actually SEE them.

So when you’re thinking about headphones on an event that has lots of other people who are trying to do amazing feats, you may want to keep your head on and your headphones off.

Trail well.

Distance for a Cause – The Spiritually Driven Athlete – Part 1

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THANK YOU to all of you who are supporting athletes in their courageous efforts. The world is definitely a healthier and more spirited place because of you.

Many people across the country are choosing to do amazing feats to bring attention to cause, or create a piece of change in the world that they want to see. Many of these are athletes who would not normally take on gigantic physical challenges regularly, but are feeling called to action.

Supporting those I call “spiritually driven athletes” is uniquely different than supporting an athlete who is training every day for a specific distance. Those longer duration athletes are usually participating in multi-day experiences and they are packing rucksack gear on themselves so they can be alone for long periods of time. They will have to be a modern-day MacGyver and medic.

I will break this into a few entries so that I can cover a few different parts of this unique individual path. The first is just a quick list of some backpack items that your athlete will want to add that they may have not thought of, and I did save the weirdest one for the very last, so read them all.

  1. Smart phone and two emergency quick chargers. Phones and chargers do not like extreme weather conditions, be sure to not to store these where they’re going to have the sun beating down on them directly.
  2. Plastic rain poncho that’s really small, really light, and completely effective. It is also a great tool to be able to sit down on something when it’s wet out and be able to keep dry, they look like a giant garbage bag. If you have the space it’s worth having more than one.
  3. Mini umbrella. It is the best thing to make sure you have shade no matter where you are and it can cover your entire body. It is so fantastic to just sit in the shade and have that ability no matter where you are. It will change the temperature around that body by 10° within a few seconds.
  4. Giant safety pins. Things break and you need them to keep working. Nothing works faster than pinning things together. They can also hold little parts that may have fallen off, and they are amazing at picking out thorns, stingers and glass, plus they can even fix a pair of eyeglasses.
  5. Ziploc bag – quart size. You just won’t believe how many things you’ll use that bag for. It can be a trash bag, it can hold wet gear, it can hold rations, it can also be the Holy Grail of keeping clothes dry in torrential rain.
  6. A tiny bottle of high-quality dish soap. It is amazing how much a drop of Dawn dishwashing soap will clean. It’s perfect in a sink at a rest stop to quickly wash up, wash the clothes out in it, tidy up actual dishes, get germs out of water bottles, and it keeps your hair squeaky clean with just two drops.
  7. Extra pens and sticky notes. Everyone is going to need to write something down at some point and a huge notebook is cumbersome, most of the time it’s leaving somebody a piece of information or jotting something down for later.
  8. Hard candy. Many times those athletes will be going on extra long durations but have no access to new water or food, so just having a hard candy can help keep thirst down. Minty is always better than sour, but my recommendation is a wide variety of flavors (but keep the minty ones separate because they will taint all the other flavors). Also it is extremely helpful when you’re going to go a long time without eating or have a nagging cough that won’t let you sleep.
  9. Durable toenail clipper. This can also be used as a scissors in an emergency, it can get packages open, and it’ll actually trim your talons. We prefer the kind that has the tiny nail file that pulls out so you can also use it to dig things out like a stinger, or cut out thorns. It should be able to easily cut through a common kitchen match to be worthy.
  10. Hard box of waxed dental floss, the old-fashioned kind that comes with a cutter built-in. Waxed dental floss can do a multitude of things, like floss your teeth, but it can tie things together, be braided and turned into a stronger rope, it will keep things attached to your bag, and it’s amazing how often you’ll need string. It’s cheap, so get the longest footage.
  11. Portable knife, something that folds up. You can use it to do all sorts of things, but there will be a time when something needs to be cut like a sandwich, stupid things that won’t open when your fingers don’t work, or to alter a piece of clothing because it’s not working. Always opt for a knife over scissors.
  12. Emergency lighter (not for what you think). Emergency lighters are far better than a box of matches because it’s like having 10 boxes of matches. It’s incredibly helpful because they fix frayed ends. A quick light with a small torch will fix all fraying shoelaces, burn wood-ticks, light prayer candles, or they could start an actual fire. Get the full-size.
  13. Small jar of Vaseline. Things rub and it’s a pisser. If you are going to be in a high heat situation make sure you put that in a plastic Ziploc and keep it out of the direct sunlight or it will melt. That said, Vaseline can melt 1000 times and still be good.
  14. Fat piece of sidewalk chalk. It is helpful so that in dry climates you can leave a mark to know that you’ve been on that trail, or to be able to write for help, and to be able to just send a fun message. You can also use this as a way to mark the terrain so that someone in a car can have a clue that you were on that path. Random tip – when leaving a chalk mark for someone to find, also leave the time that you left it. I personally draw a heart with the time in it.
  15. A small compact mirror. Yes you do want to see how pretty you are (I softly imagine that you look into the mirror expecting to see Rapunzel and out comes Rumplestiltskin), but it is extremely helpful to get a vantage point view of places that you can’t normally see (like where the sun doesn’t shine), to get dust or rock out of your eye, but it is also a safety item for someone to be able to find you as you create a lightbeam to show where you are located. So very MacGyver-ish.
  16. Triple antibiotic ointment with pain killer. Things are going to get irritated and the tiny bit of painkiller in there is just enough to stop the mental aggravation. Store with your Vaseline, that way even if they both melt and leak into each other you still have a usable item.
  17. Handkerchief. What an all-around fantastic tool. It will be great for covering nose and mouth when gnats are particularly awful, it also carries things, is a reusable wipe, covers a scrape so that it will stop bleeding (so it won’t attract biting flies), and keeps sun off a specific area like the back of your neck. Plus it can keep your hair from matting down on your forehead.
  18. A teeny tiny spatula for cookies on the trail! That actually was just a lie, but you do need the spatula. It is a crazy thing to have, but you can use it to spread things, put ointment on a large scrape without really touching it a lot, or getting something that is stuck out, like Vaseline. It acts like a stick if you have to get something out of a crevice like the (stupid Apple earbuds), and can also double as an eating utensil.
  19. Something that amplifies sound, like a bell, whistle, or other tool that can help with location identification. But it is also a great tool to keep a dog back (or something else that is bothering or annoying them). Country roads all have dogs who have never seen a leash. Keep it near and easily available.
  20. I did save the weirdest one for the last…polyester pillow batting. It is available in every fabric store, but it can pad a shoe very differently than cheesecloth. It is very helpful to keep some things lifted and away (prevents chafing), so having a little bit of batting will do that. It’s also reusable day after day, and you can wash it out and let it dry and it will fluff up.

Trail Well.

Humor on the Trail

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This is a personal requirement, because sometimes it’s really tense for the athletes and humor is a delicate but helpful tool.

I remind people the reason I use humor is because it’s going to give them a shot of dopamine to laugh. A little bit of laughter on that trail can give them a punch that can help them get through times that are strenuous or mentally challenging. I will frequently add this in my night-before Trail Driver meeting. I also invite them to make me laugh.

I also remind them about how to use humor on the course. Nothing can be more irritating than a clown when you are crashing mentally, so I remind people to use humor in ways that are thoughtful and not demeaning.

Just sending a smile to someone who is crashing will sometimes force them to smile back at you. Even that smile will help them come out of what may be depression on the trail.

A kind word and a big smile can go a long way, but a fairly awful joke that makes you laugh can stick with you for miles.

Laughter is medicine and it’s also a fabulous painkilling drug.

Trail well.

The Mind is Medicine

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I was talking to an athlete and asking him how they get through extreme events when suffering with pain.

What I got back was something I hadn’t expected – the use of imaginary medicine!

The athlete had a mind technique that is really quite good, and I’m going to share it with all of you. They prepare an imaginary stash of mental painkiller that is located in their body and that does not run out. When they feel pain they start to identify if they need their body to send pain killer to that area. And then they just start imagining pain killer from their body being sent to that area.

Sometimes they imagine a few drops, sometimes it’s multiple doses over miles.

“Does that work?” I ask in astonishment. The response I got back was a gigantic smile and a YES head shake.

What I love about this technique is it gives the mind a chance to check in with the body and work together to get through extreme circumstances. It also helps the body know that this pain does not have to stay, it’s been noticed and it should settle down because much more will be required.

Using mind techniques to manage pain has been used for millennia. Using the power of the body and mind connection is a quick tool that every athlete can take with them, wherever they go.

When you are pushing your body to new limits it IS a brain game, and having as many tools as you can to use when you need them is not just a good idea,  it is sometimes the only way to finish.

Plus in this case there’s no prescription refill needed, it never runs out!

If you have other mind tricks to manage pain while on the trail please leave them in the comments section so everyone can pick them up.

Trail well.

Scratches and Brush Bites

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If your team is moving through a terrain that has a lot of vegetation you will sometimes have to manage brush bites. 

That is when the vegetation itself sticks to or bites the athlete themselves. I see this a lot when an athlete is in a hurry to go to the restroom and gets a little too focused on relieving themselves, ignoring or being oblivious to their real surroundings.

Brush bites can be from anything, they can be poisonous, they can bleed and swell, they can also be a gourmet invitation for every biting fly known to mankind. 

As soon as I see that there is going to be biting brush on a terrain I will remind people of the importance of not letting vegetation touch them. Falling or getting scraped up from the terrain in an area where there are flies can make for a miserable existence when the trail is going slow. 

Your basic first aid will be extremely helpful for brush bites, look to see if anything has punctured or entered the skin and remove it, washing the area, covering it from further exposure. If there’s no cover available for the scrape then a topical ointment with petroleum base may be your only bandage (Neosporin, Vaseline).

Continue to check brush bites for swelling and itching. That will let you know if you’re going to need to use some Benadryl. 

If itching is going to make that athlete crazy you will want to give them a tool to divert their thoughts away from the itching. A simple mind tool where they focus on something else will help make the itch go away.  

So far I have seen no one who has thrown their time or had to quit from a brush bite but it sure has annoyed them. 

Trail well.

The Brain Game of Catchy Tunes

heissenstein ghettoblaster-1225920A trail driver has many unique roles on the trail and one of them is being an infectious DJ.

And I mean that word infectious. Arm yourself with a diverse playlist that is filled with songs that will roll around in those athletes’ heads for miles and miles. If you’ve ever tried to get “Eye of the Tiger” or “We are the Champions” out of your head, you know that sometimes it stays for days.

A great song at a rest stop can invite that athlete to go further. I will often drive up next to the team with the windows down and music blazing to let them know how far up the trail I will be. Music that’s catchy can give them some mental bonus points while they are refreshing, and it will infect them with positive brain chatter for the miles to come.

Now I will warn you upfront that the gender of the athlete will decide whether or not your playlist is great.  Men have a very different playlist than women do. Know your team and know their favorites. You’re always looking for songs that have a hook that will keep replaying in their mind with positive anthems i.e. “We are the Champions,” “I’m a MF Beast,” “I’m Too Sexy,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me”… You know the list.

Rock on Trail Driver.

Trail well.