fitness and nutrition

Keeping Pace

When I was growing up, July was all about the Tour de France. It was on TV for hours a day at my house. Before TiVO, my Dad would get up in what seemed like the middle of the night to watch. For the most part, I found it completely boring. Hours and hours of rolling along. The scenery was nice…French towns and the occasional sunflower field. I was mainly irritated that the TV was occupied for so many hours a day.

Inevitably, my Dad would try to explain some of the strategy to me. How the teams worked, drafting, and so on. After many years of boredom, I became sort of fascinated with the many roles on these teams. Most of the athletes were not there to win for themselves. No, most of the guys had specific jobs that served to ensure the team’s leading rider came out wearing the maillot jaune.

Imagine it: you’ve been chugging over kilometers by the hundreds, even the thousands. You’ve summited mountains, taken treacherous downhill curves at high speeds. You’ve churned your legs day after day, through training and trials, and it all comes down to the final mile of the day. It’s a sprint finish. Your team sets up, a few of you lurking toward the front of the pack, staying out of trouble and in good position. Watching…watching…as so many other teams are doing the exact same thing….then….

BOOM. Almost imperceptibly, there’s a nod and someone flies off the front of the pack, his trailing teammates sprinting to stay in a cluster. Over a few hundred yards the tip of the spear, then his right hand man eventually peel off, their work done, their legs spent. If all goes as it should, the team leader comes out the winner of the day. Wears the yellow. The leadout men, who did the heavy sprint lifting, are left to come in 18th, 20th, 40th, who cares. Wherever their spent legs will coast them in.

After years and years of watching, I came to appreciate the pacers and their role. The dedication to a leader. The special craft in that support. All the teams working and split second strategy did make it an exciting few seconds of sports.

Sometimes pacing isn’t so hectic. We ran a half marathon a little over a year ago. One of the surprises at the pre-race expo was learning about the pacers. There would be people in the race running while holding up signs with times. Fifteen minute increments…2:00, 2:15, 2:30 and so on. If you were trying to meet one of those finish times for your race, you could hang with that pacer. In my case, I found a pacer and kept them in my sight. She had a flock of people running with her. Interestingly, she would stop and walk every once in a while, I guess to be sure she was hitting her goal on the nose. I passed the pacer a few miles in and in my mind I knew if she was behind me I was doing ok. I later wondered, was she a professional pacer? Her whole job was to make sure people made that goal?

I’ve noticed this in other contexts. Hearing my daughter tell stories of running alongside her teammates to help them make their benchmarks. People in health and fitness challenges jumping in to pace others over their personal finish line. And then there are people I pace off of, in the gym and in other areas of life, who may not even know they’re playing that role for me. People who just work hard naturally and I use their example as a model to keep in my sights.

It’s not really keeping up with the Joneses. There will be people who have habits and lifestyles I admire but pacing off them doesn’t make sense. It’s more about knowing the path I am on…sometimes the path I want to or need to be on, and finding partners or examples to pace off of. They’re moving along that path, ideally a little bit faster than me. Hopefully they’re willing to let me draft off of them for a while to make the path easier. At some point, like in the Tour, it may be my turn to take the headwinds at the front.

I am a helper. Maybe that’s why the idea of pacing people to their goals fascinates and resonates with me. Being a part of them moving along. Helping on the way. I’m not often the leader but I like being on the team that helps a leader succeed.

Who is pacing you out in life? Who is on your team, explicitly or implicitly? Who is on your path, smoothing the way or lighting the direction? Lifting your cadence?

On the flip side, are you pacing someone else out? Maybe without even knowing it? What does that mean for the choices you make? What direction are you leading in?

Another little something to think about.

business, perspective

The Driver’s Seat

What does the driver’s seat look like from the helm/cockpit of a vehicle? What does it look like from the passenger side, also known as the co-pilot seat? What about the view from the back seat or third-row seat?

Do those viewpoints change if you are driving in your best friend’s ride or your spouse’s car, riding with Grandma or maybe you are on a motorcycle? I suppose all passenger seats should look different than the driver’s seat! Maybe the music is different. Maybe the conversation is different. Maybe the aroma in the vehicle is different. Maybe the volume level is different. Maybe the stress level is different. The driver may alter their norm to adjust to the passengers and/or environment. Similarly the view from the passenger vantage point could vary based on occupants or length of time in said seat.

The driver is the captain. The boss. The big cheese. The controlling party. The leader. The responsibility starts and ends with that one person. Making sure one gets from point A to point B responsibly. The critical decisions, the pinpoint turns, the accurate lane changes, and the head-on-a-swivel-at-all-times mentality. I mean if you slack in any of those areas an accident could happen on the roadway. In the blink of an eye.

Could life mirror the driver’s seat if you are the CEO of a company, the branch manager of a bank, the operations manager of a warehouse, and so on? Why yes, it could. Sitting in the passenger side is fun. It comes with no pressure: no gas money needed, no insurance required, and no car payment.  

In business the boss is less likely to call out sick in comparison to a team member or passenger. Anyone can fill the passenger role but in most cases the business driver has a specific skill set. One which is harder to replace in an instant. For instance, the business owner has to make critical decisions that may impact others while a passenger can just provide commentary in most instances. The driver’s decisions must be strategic and sensible.

I know first hand many young adults don’t have their own car because they don’t want the responsibility of a car note, insurance or gas money. It’s far easier in this day and age to ride share with say Uber or bum a ride from a friend who has reliable transportation. Why lead and take responsibility when you can coast as a passenger in life?

In the business world life can be tough for a decision maker. A leader. A driver of any business. The one who has to set the tone. Find the path. Chart the course or route. Engage the resources/passengers. Make decisions on staying open or closed in tough times. This can be hard and a delicate balance at times. Those who never walk in these shoes would find it hard to understand the challenge but be quick to pass a judgement.

A passenger in business could be a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.  An unassuming threat. A slacker of sorts. A clock watcher for both the beginning and ending of their shift. Waiting to prey on the driver/leader etc. to solve their issues. I know other intertwined scenarios where a passenger could struggle with the driver or vice versa. Or maybe a driver is erroneously in a passenger seat; would they attempt to distract or sabotage the driver? Is that a possible outcome?

Is life about compromise? Do we really want natural leaders to compromise or do we want them to do what they do best, lead? Can a passenger grow to lead? Who do you want to be your driver in the car or in life? Are there risks and rewards to each scenario? So many questions.

Just another food for thought post.

coaching

Kindness Note

I received a note of kindness or gratitude a couple of weeks ago from a previous person I coached. It was unexpected and full of sweetness from a young lady. I was over the moon excited that day because I was happy I made an impact.

Then just a few days ago I received another note of thanks but this one was a little different. This was from a player who didn’t make my team but worked hard as an alternate and continued to work on themselves to grow. They didn’t make my team but they made the next team they tried out for. They were appreciative of the coaching, development plan provided, and belief instilled in them despite my short interactions. I was literally swept away by a second young person.

I was again over the moon excited that whole day because I made an impact. It got me thinking about the depth of our relations, impacts and so much more. Many of the kids I coached have reached seniors in high school. Some will go on to play in college while others will enjoy their last years at the high school level.

Whatever their path I’m still cheering for them from afar. Who knew when I coached first graders, fifth graders, or high schoolers how deep my impact would go? I was doing a volunteer job. One I took pride in and invested not only my time but my everything in. It seemed thankless on some days yet it was all worth it when I look back.

There are days I miss coaching. There are also days I’m glad to not be coaching due to politics. At the end of the day I have years of coaching to look back on and I have years ahead to cheer for those I coached as they grow even more. This is the fun part or the added benefit of being a coach. The gift that keeps on giving.

As college commitment times are upon us, I am looking forward to seeing who gets invited to play at the next level, aka college. Not all may desire this path and that is okay. I will just cheer for them when they reach their own milestone, whatever they set in their mind as their next big thing.

I am forever grateful for my coaching time, families that have become friends, kids who have grown to adults and everything that goes along with coaching. The smiles, high fives, tears, wardrobe malfunctions, silly stories, etc.

If you have a chance to mentor or coach a person at any stage in life, go for it. You will receive an abundance of pride in helping another reach their potential that they may not see in themselves.

inspire

Daydreaming

I love it when I find somebody or something that inspires me. Today it was Spanx. Not the pants, although they are amazing it was their founder.

The one, the only Sara Blakely. A bad ass boss woman who supports others with her posts, her generosity, her wisdom, her experience and so much more.

I saw this first hand this year when she hired an up-and-coming local college graduate at her firm. Next time was when COVID hit and she directed funds to her Red Backpack grant program. I saw it again today with the post above on LinkedIn. What an influencer. What a shining example for women in business.

In today’s world when so much is crazy and uncertain she points to herself. She uses herself as an example. She talks about the non-traditional path she traveled to get where she is today.

She talks about hard work, challenging times and starting with her own daydream. She chipped away at her daydream until she could sustain herself and others.

What a beautiful thing. Success is a great but those who share their successes, experience and know-how with others is equally beautiful.

Keeping with the name of the post, what is your daydream? What are you doing to make that dream a reality?

Don’t have a daydream? Starting dreaming know. You will at least enjoy the dreaming process even if you are not ready to take flight yourself.

Dream big.

fitness and nutrition

Follow My Lead

I’d been on this mountain many times. I grew up in its shadow. One summer I worked at a restaurant near the foot of it and climbed it every afternoon when I got out off my shift. In peak shape I would scramble up then jog down. My fastest round trip was 28 minutes back then.

I don’t do it nearly as often or as quickly these days. I live 30 minutes away and my life practically never sends me in that direction. But I try to do a long bike ride every Sunday, so I pegged Stone Mountain for today’s ride.

There’s a hilly 5-mile loop popular with bikers that circles the bottom of the mountain. I pushed through that loop more than once before my legs begged me to stop, or at least to make a change.

IMG_2076 2

I still had time, so then, in a crazy last-second heat-addled decision, I decided to climb just like old times. I had my AirPods in, I was in the zone. A bit slower than I wanted, but I already had some miles on those legs so I wasn’t too mad. Just one foot in front of the other.

It’s not too bad a climb until you hit StairMaster hill. Suddenly the granite just kicks up from manageably rocky to sheer and steep. Like lean-forward-at-a-45-degree-angle-while-you-shuffle-up steep. I passed several people on the hill, taking breaks. My steps were small but I just kept going.

IMG_2078 2

Maybe 20 yards after the hill I needed a minute to catch my breath. I don’t usually need breaks on the mountain, but I listened to my body and stepped aside well off the trail under some trees for a quick breather.

I turned to look back at the view and was stunned when, instead of hazy skyline, I see 4 people walking directly behind me. They all stopped suddenly and looked up at me. I had never seen any of these people in my life. Two men, two women, staring. But from their pull off the trail and stunned looks, it was clear they had been following my lead. After about 10 seconds of awkwardness, they moved back into the path and continued toward the top of the mountain in two separate pairs.

It’s not surprising that I was oblivious to the people hot on my heels. Music on, mind adrift, solo exercise is my zone-out time. What I couldn’t understand is why? Why follow me? It’s a clear path with dozens of people on it. I do have that nerdy, friendly librarian look where people ask me questions all the time in all kinds of contexts. But this was a no brainer. Just keep going up.

Maybe it was my pace, I thought. Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing. I will never know.

What stayed with me is that there are times when we are leading but we may not know it.  We may not ask for it.  We may not see ourselves as leaders.  But, at times we are leading nonetheless.  

Maybe it’s not a literal mountain.  Instead, it might be going public with struggles, with triumphs, with progress, with challenges. Just living your life on purpose is leadership. No title needed. A neighbor stopped me the other day to tell me I inspired her to get moving because she sees me out walking the neighborhood. My daughter’s childhood youth group leader recently messaged me from out if the blue to ask about CrossFit, after watching my changes.

The people following you may not know your whole story.  They probably have their own goals, even agendas.  It could be they just like your pace.  Or you look like you know what you’re doing.  

You’re leading even if people don’t tell you. Near and far, people are watching. Think for a moment. What are you leading them to?