Ray Lewis is probably one of the most iconic figures in football and among the best linebackers of all time. He is the backbone of the Baltimore Ravens and a Chief Motivating Officer to many.
Just this past week, I was presented with an opportunity to participate in a day of fitness and filming with Ray and other incredible athletes and staff. It was a fun and memorable experience to say the least.
To ride side by side with the King of Passion and Hard Work was one of the most grueling and enjoyable hours of fitness I have ever experienced. To my left was Ray Lewis, to my right was Greg Harrell — all I could see in my peripheral vision were two giants crushing the cadence and intensity on their bikes. I am not one to fall behind, so I pushed as hard as my body would follow. Again and again, it is confirmed, that top performance exceeds our body, it’s in our mind.
With the exception of the Airdyne Bike (which you all know I love) I haven’t trained on a spin or cycle bike in a long time (something I will change immediately). My game has been strength and power plus the conditioning I get from my beloved sprint work (hills, stairs or field sprints) or endurance runs. I knew going into this day that riding was going to be a completely different beast than running but it didn’t really concern me because I knew if all else failed, I would fall back on my mental game.
This also brings me back to what I highlighted in the Will Smith post - “If you always stay ready, you never have to get ready” — now when someone asks me why I wake up at 4:30am to train or do two-a-days.. It’s so that I can jump on opportunities to hang with the best of the best when it’s presented. I will never slack because I will never allow a missed opportunity because I am not prepared for it… afterall, I like being “lucky” :) (when preparation meets opportunity)
As I’ve said before, half of our ability is about being comfortable being uncomfortable. So many great lines were dropped yesterday during the Spinerval taping as well as throughout the day. Among a few, Ray said “nobody said work was easy” and “opportunity knocks every second of our life, its what u do with it!”
I recently read an article titled “Inside An Athlete’s Mind” by Andrea Poe. The following are a handful of great quotes that I jive with from high level athletes of various sports. Though the sport is different from athlete to athlete, the common denominator is their mental wiring. I hope you take something from this as you strive towards your own challenging and often “painful” training sessions or practices:
“When I get on that bike, I know I’m going to suffer. The question is how much I’m going to let it get to me and what I’m going to do to mitigate it” — Sam Schultz, 25, a member of the Subaru Trek Mountain Bike Team
(this seriously was a thought that ran through my head yesterday )
The article stated that “Like most pro athletes, Schultz has trained his body and mind to resist pain and sustain the kind of focus that enables him to compete at the highest level. The key to honing that focus is consistent, hard-core, year-round training”
(and in hearing Ray Lewis talk about his year-round practice, this is exactly what he lives.)
Megan Melgaard, a professional Extreme Athlete stated, “I have been doing this long enough to know that I’m capable of making my body do things it doesn’t think it can do”
(Another thing I am becoming confident in, knowing I am capable if I can push through the pain.)
Mid way through the cycling I had to get off my bike for 30 seconds of squat jumps followed by a hold for 30 seconds in a low squat (hands on head) — that was tough enough. Then I was told I had two more consecutive rounds. My legs were cramping SO badly it was a terrible feeling — but I said to myself “Alli, you’re legs are going to crumble beneath you before you give up on this squat mentally” — I knew the pain was temporary and if I just focused on the very second at hand and what I had to accomplish — I would get through it. Afterall, I had Ray Lewis behind me and I knew “giving in” was as acceptable in his presence as being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan ;) (which I am not a Steelers fan by the way!)
The article I read continued to say:
“If pro athletes sound like they operate a bit differently than the rest of us, that’s because they do. A slew of recent studies point to a marked difference in their brains. It turns out that while their physical prowess may start in their genes, the change in their brains derives from their practice.
In one recent study, researchers from the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the number of years an athlete competed predicted how thick the outermost layers of the brain would be in sections that link learning and movement.
Another study done at Sapienza University in Rome demonstrated how pro athletes emit stronger alpha waves than other people, which means they devote less brain activity to doing tasks and therefore act more instinctively.
These studies point to the fact that it takes practice — lots and lots of practice — to develop the athlete’s brain.
Practice may be the most important aspect of training, but it also can be lonely and tedious…Pushing oneself is especially challenging for athletes involved in individual sports, where there are no colleagues to practice with or turn to for motivation. It all has to come from within.”
Bobby Murphy, a skiing professional, states “my most intense days are during practice, because that’s where the groundwork is laid,” Murphy said. “I keep internal pressure stoked. I tell myself that I want to have the utmost confidence when the world’s eyes are watching me.”
Finally, the article says:
“During an event, as the pain increases, as an athlete’s body starts to flag, how does she push on? “I know what incredible power my body has, so I focus on that. I pray the entire event, saying things like, “Lord, give me the strength to remain upright. Keep me going. Don‘t let pain get in my way,” Melgaard said. “I simply focus on getting through.”
Ultimately, what motivates professional athletes is the sense of accomplishment and freedom that can be attained only when they are performing at the highest level.
Back to yesterday, I got all of this pro athlete intensity and more from Ray Lewis (and the others). It was an incredible experience to absorb his energy and drive. At times, he would speak to the group and you could feel what it might be like to be in the football huddle with him. I’m so glad I had a chance to witness this kind of greatness first hand and up close. I am also grateful for all the amazing athletes, energy and wonderful people who contributed to this day. A day and an experience that will be forever savored.
Finally, the video we filmed yesterday was with Ray Lewis and Coach Troy Jacobson of Spinervals. To say the least, the energy in the room was incredible. Video’s will be released in September.