Episode 38 – Alan Heary- Priming for Performance Mental Strength for Cyclists & Triathletes

The strong savvy cyclist & triathlete podcast

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech and much more, to help you get fitter, faster and stronger, in and out of your sport. Giving you expert insights, talking with other leading experts. And now, your host, world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

Hi everyone and welcome to this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast. Today, we’re going to talk with mental skills coach and world class professional, Alan Heary and Alan’s worked in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years and has worked with Olympians professional and amateur cyclists, and also works with large companies, such as Heineken to help improve performance. Now, before we jump into today’s podcast, first and foremost, I would like to thank each of you for subscribing and sharing the podcast. We’ve seen a nice growth in the listenership, even though we’ve taken a little bit of a break here of about six weeks, and also quite a number of you wrote emails well-wishing, letting me know how excited you were for us to pick back up and also recommending guests. So thank you for that and I’m looking forward to continuing to serve you and to your help in growing this podcast, to help more cyclists, triathletes and runners from around the world to get more out of their training.

Today’s podcast is a great place to pick up where we left off, where we talked about not stretching yourself too thin or burning the candle at both ends or with a flame thrower, if you will. So Alan and I are going to talk a bit about the mental skills and tools that we need. We’re constantly inundated right now with well, meaning coaches and trainers are saying that, “You need to work out more. You need to do more intensity, more time on the bike, more time out on the road. You can’t swim anymore, so you should triple or quadruple or 10X.” Well, that’s not necessarily going to be the best answer for everybody as per our first episode’s title. It depends on you, your needs and what you want and need to get out of your training. If you’re a little bit burned from cycling or triathlon training, or you’re just not sure where to go, because your peak race has been canceled or postponed, I am taking five more athletes or riders or triathletes, however you’d like to call yourself, to join and help work out some of the kinks for my brand new upcoming 60 day program.

This 60 day program is built around or built for home strength training without traditional strength training equipment. And what I mean without traditional strength training equipment, no barbells, no dumbbells, no kettlebells, no bands, no T-Rex. It doesn’t mean that if you have these things, you can’t join us. It’s just that this program is built off the work I’ve done previously with athletes who travel, surgeons, lawyers, as well as professional athletes who didn’t have access to equipment. This 60 day program is going to have a group of 10 foundational clients come through, where we’re going to work very closely together and you’re going to help work out some of the kinks in the program, as well as give some of the first testimonials.

And we will have video calls every 10 to 14 [inaudible 00:03:24] individually as well as in the group. So there’s a lots to be gained here. This program is incredibly powerful and athletes in the past who have done this or riders or triathletes in the past who have done programs similar to this, which were the inspiration for this program, have seen increases in their 32nd power, repeatable 32nd power between, 4 and 6% in the 60 days. And that’s a low range. So if you’re interested in this, this podcast is being posted on April 9th. We have until midnight, Saturday, April 11th, Eastern Standard Time to message me because the program is going to start Monday, April 13th. So if you’re interested, go ahead and send me an email Brodie, B as in boy, R-O, D as in dog, I-E @humanvortextraining.com and let me know that you’re interested.

That’s it for our little run-up here, I’m very excited to bring in Alan Heary. He he has a bevy of experience and he is a fountain of knowledge and just a joy to talk to as you will hear. Alan and I covered quite a bit of ground in this podcast. I found myself going back and listening to it over and over again and pulling out some diamonds. And as you’ll hear, he has quite the experience going from a traditional gym owner to endurance cycling, and when I say endurance, we’re talking Race Across America, and he’s also the founder of the Race Across Ireland, one of the most challenging races in the cycling world. So without further ado, let’s get into today’s podcast with Alan Heary. Alan, thank you for joining us today.

Alan Heary:

I’m so delighted to be here, thank you so much for [inaudible 00:05:05] me.

Menachem Brodie:

Well we had a great conversation, I think it was at this point about three months ago, you had just gotten ready to soft launch your course. But you’ve been around for quite some time and you have so much experience with many different athletes. Can you share with the audience a little bit about who you are and what you’ve done so far in your career?

Alan Heary:

So basically what you’re saying is I’m old. Is that what [crosstalk 00:05:29]?

Menachem Brodie:

No. Not at all. Not at all.

Alan Heary:

All right, well. No, it doesn’t give you an idea of how old are you, really. I started working in the fitness industry in 1989, that certainly wasn’t yesterday.I started working in the fitness industry, I just was always into training, my sport at the time was athletics. Loved sport and to be honest, my school came second to my understanding of training and how you can improve. And I actually went on to do courses and fitness training and working in different gyms and then I owned my own gym. So I set up my own gym. I’m just always fascinated by performance, so in the mid 90s, I’d gone to a stage show in hypnosis, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen anybody on any of these stage shows where they bring people up and they have these people who think they’re chasing chickens on the stage, leprechauns and all that [inaudible 00:06:26]. I love it.

So I’d gone to this stage show, and there was a guy who hypnotized and told, “When you hear this piece of music, you’ll take your Rocky Balboa.” [inaudible 00:06:36] the tiger came on, and the guy who started shadow boxing and we’re all laughing. And then he got down and he started doing one arm press-ups and then he started switching from one arm to the other and back. And I started talking to myself, “Oh my God. If I learn this and I do this with my athletes, can I make them believe that they are the Rocky Balboas? Can I make them believe that this almost like the superheroes [inaudible 00:06:59] top athletes?” And the answer is [inaudible 00:07:02], “Yes, you can. But you need to have the [inaudible 00:07:04].” In other words, I can definitely [inaudible 00:07:05]. I can make her beliefs, she is Rocky Balboa, but if I put her in the ring against Mike Tyson, there’s still a good chance she’s going to lose.

So for me, I became fascinated then about the psychology of it because, I was coaching a lot of athletics at the time as well, and different [inaudible 00:07:23] sports. And you were seeing athletes who were prepared physically. We couldn’t get them any better if we tried. And then they were coming into big competitions, and they’re in a football game, for example, they might be halfway through the game, they’re leading and then mid way through the second half, it was like somebody flipped a switch and their brilliance had completely gone. And so for me, [inaudible 00:07:47] fascinated [inaudible 00:07:48] the psychology, how does it actually work from a mindset point of view? So I started to study a lot more into it. I actually studied things like hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming, which is all about the nervous system. Linguistic is the language that we use and probably how we can reprogram the mind to get better performance.

And I actually ended up late 90 setting up a software company in the States, in Boston, when the idea was, we were looking at how your computer could tell how stressed you were, by the way you were using your [inaudible 00:08:21]. And we were developing programs on how we could reduce stress and increase performance. And then the bubble burst when it came into the early 2000s, 2001, 2001, the bubble burst and so I’m back at my gym and I decided then to sell my gym.

And sell the [inaudible 00:08:39] and go back into college full-time. So at the age of 32, I went back and studied sports science and health. Best decision I ever made. I ended up going over to Australia, working with the Australian Institute of Sport Athletes. Was doing a lot of work on that and then coming back and working, not just with sports now, but also with business. But the first world champion I ever worked for was actually back in the late 90s, and that was in boxing. And so standing in a ring, with a boxer, having spent six weeks in a training camp with them, and in front of millions of people on screen I was a hell of a lot more nervous than he was, I think, at the time. So, yeah, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve gone to work with many Olympic athletes over the years, many world champions and people [inaudible 00:09:29].

Menachem Brodie:

Well, I find it interesting [crosstalk 00:09:33]-

Alan Heary:

People in on the first challenge is whether it’s to the first one [inaudible 00:09:33].

Menachem Brodie:

I find it interesting that you made that jump from fitness to software and then back to fitness.

Alan Heary:

Yeah, well, I was always into  fitness. So we had the gym going but at the same time, I was really getting into how the mind was affecting performance. And so that’s where we looked at the software. How can we make it much bigger? How can we make it that more people have the ability to actually do it? [inaudible 00:10:00] more people have the ability to train. And that’s why we ended up going over and back to Boston and setting up the company over there. And then going back into the fitness, I don’t think I’d ever really left it. What I did was I wanted to bring it to the next level. So I had all the fitness courses done, I’d studied some of the psychology work, but I really wanted to bring it to another level. And the way to do that then was to go and get my degree. And I was lucky enough to be able to sell my gym, so I could go back to college for four years and do it full-Time.

Menachem Brodie:

And what about when you came back from the Australian Institute of Sport, was that a hard switch when you came back from there or that was while you were going through the program as well?

Alan Heary:

Well, [inaudible 00:10:48] when I started the course, one of the things I really wanted to do was to study how Australia were working on developing with our athletes because at the time the Australian Institute [inaudible 00:11:00] probably seen as one of the top institutes in the world. And I had applied to the Institute of Sport, but I also applied to the Sunshine Coast University who were associated with [inaudible 00:11:12] Institute which meant a lot of their athletes were sent off. And so I managed to get over there and spend 10 months learning and working with those [inaudible 00:11:22]. And it completely changed how I was doing things back in [inaudible 00:11:28], so I’m from originally, I’m living in Dublin at the moment. But it completely changed how I was developing athletes.

There’s two teams that came out from this, number one on a Monday morning, we would sit down and work in college, and within the room, you had the biomech person, you had the psychologist, [inaudible 00:11:49] coach, you had the physiologist. And so I think we were sitting around this room, and you would be told it was a different athletes coming in injured the week or different teams coming injured in the week. And then the biomech guy would [inaudible 00:12:02] and say, “Well, what we’re going to do is say a cyclist or a triathlete, we’re going to bring them in and we’re going to pop them on the bike and we’re going to measure up the bike for them. We’re going to make the changes [inaudible 00:12:12] dynamic. Physiologist, what are you going to do?” “We’re going to bring them in and we’re going to test the [inaudible 00:12:20] lactic acid.” “Psychologist what are you going to do?” “We’re going to have a chat with them about goal setting. We’re going to look at their profile and then we’re going to build on that.”

And so they were exceptionally good at building teams around individuals and teams. And I think this is something that we can all learn. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. [inaudible 00:12:35] I’m a cyclist. I wouldn’t be particularly good cyclist but I’m a cyclist, but I still have a coach. I’m a chooser which like in Ireland [inaudible 00:12:44], but I still have the coach who works with me because you know yourself, you need people there on a weekly basis, coming back to you and giving you some feedback on how you’re doing it. And so for me, I still have my coach, I’ve got my physio there, I even have someone that I go to the psychological end of things, I have fitness trainer who will work on my strength conditioning, even though I know the stuff.

It’s nice to have that team around. And so that was one part, was understanding that when you build a good team around you, you become far better. The other thing was the sharing of information, surprise me. When I said the sharing of information, when you spend some time in the Queensland Academy of Sport, what you realize was they had a floor and it was just dedicated to coaches. So we had the cycling coach, the rugby coach, the football coach, athletics coaches, gymnastics coach, all on the same level, all on the same floor. Which meant that if the rugby coach was looking to develop something in flexibility, they could easily turn around to the gymnastics coach and say, “What are you guys doing at the moment? What program are you using?” And so there was a great ability to not just work within your own sport, but look at what other sports are doing [inaudible 00:13:53]. I can just give you a little quick story on this.

In terms of the team, I wanted to prove that building teams around individuals and teams can create great success. So what I actually did was when I got back to Ireland, after working over there, I put together four leisure cyclists and the idea was that we would train them professionally for six months, and we would enter Race Across America, which for anybody who doesn’t know what Race Across America is, it’s a 5,000 kilometer [inaudible 00:14:25] from Oceanside in California, all the way over to Annapolis, the other inside of the country and it goes 24 hours a day nonstop. It’s why it’s considered one of the toughest bike races in the world.

So my goal was to take four leisure cyclists, guys who never raced before and we would build a team around them. The top psychologists, trainers, coaches, we even brought a chef on board, see what a difference we could make to these four people. And we ended up making a documentary on them. And we almost [inaudible 00:14:54], we finished second. So the process works, is really what I’m saying about that, but that’s how I became fascinated in, it’s not just about getting physically better, it’s not just about getting mentally better, and it’s not just about working on your nutrition, it’s a bit about holistic approach to be able to take and bring everything together to make you better.

Menachem Brodie:

You said something really interesting and I want to point out, you took four leisure cyclists, we’re talking about ‘weekend warriors’, people who weren’t professionals and you worked on them with the team and you finished second for Race Across America. Did I hear that correctly?

Alan Heary:

That’s absolutely right. And so the goal was to take four guys who never race before. There was one guy who was just [inaudible 00:15:45], basically what I did was I put an ad in the newspaper and said, “Look, we’re going to do this thing, if anybody would like to show up and try out for this team, you’re more than welcome.” And we had like 45 people show up and we did some fitness tests and on a Friday night we did some interviews with them. I brought in the top, a cycling coach, the President of Cycling Ireland, a guy called PJ Nolan, I got PJ on board. PJ is actually on the Olympic Council of Ireland. And we did interviews, I was on the panel. We did some interviews with people, got them down to 12 people, actually get to 13. We got them down to 12 and we decided we’re going to try out for this team.

And within that 12, then we were going to pick four. And one guy hadn’t made it through the interview process because the other two guys on the panel didn’t think they would put in the time or the effort. But I knew this person from before and I actually put them in as the 13th person. And the reason why that 13th person becomes really important… the guy called [Adrian 00:16:47], reason why he becomes really important, is because I actually wanted to be on the team. So the idea was that I would race as [inaudible 00:16:54] in Race Across America because I was absolutely obsessed with it, I just thought this is an amazing event. And unfortunately, [inaudible 00:17:03]was, unless I’m good enough to be part of the four, because at the time I was just a leisure cyclist as well, unless I’m good enough to be part of that four I’m not going to cycle.

And so I became one of the [inaudible 00:17:17] to try out for the final four, and it really came down to between myself and Adrian. And I remember sitting in the car with PJ and [inaudible 00:17:27], who was the coach at the time, and they said to me, “Look, if you want to flex it’s yours, you put this thing together.” I said, “No, no, we’ll keep going the way it is.” [inaudible 00:17:35] said, “Right, we can pick five at the moment and in another couple of weeks, we will do another test to see who’s going to get on the team.” And they picked five. But I spoke to a couple of friends of mine, I set up this thing on a Saturday morning and it’s [inaudible 00:17:53] script culture, as I mentioned earlier on about the Queensland Academy of Sport where if you can get all these coaches from different sports, what we can all learn from one another.

So we set this thing up on the Saturday morning with all these coaches sitting around a table, having breakfast, talking about what’s going on in your sport at the moment? Who’s doing what? What training are people doing? And how we might learn from one sport and bring it into another. And somebody asked me if I had made it onto the final four, and I said, “No, I wasn’t good enough. I was kicked off the team,” jokingly. And a couple of the guys turned around and says, “Oh gosh, that’s [inaudible 00:18:24] news.” Asked, “What do you mean? Well, how can you manage it and actually cycle it at the same time?”

Oh my God, they’re right, so I ended up stepping down, and it was the best decision I ever made because Adrian [inaudible 00:18:36] was actually much stronger than I would have then probably in [inaudible 00:18:39]. But we took these four leisure boys and put them in this thing. And the reason why it sounds like a really tough thing to do, it’s actually easier sometimes to go for people who’ve never done something like this before, leisure and tournament racers than it is to take pro cyclists.

Because the bodies we took on for this, well, we would tell them that they needed to be up at five o’clock in the morning to ride out for three hours, they just did it. They didn’t know any difference, so we had to teach them an awful lot, everything from how to ride in groups, how to do time tracking, how to get into position and be able to hold it. It was just incredible what they actually pulled off. And again, one of the reasons why they’re able to do that is because they had no preconceived ideas going in. They knew [inaudible 00:19:26] that’s one of the reasons why it works so well.

Menachem Brodie:

Well, let me ask you this, because I think that there’s a lot here. All new coaches or the vast majority, in my own experiences and my mentors as well, we all like to think, ” Oh, we’re going to work with performance cyclists. The top athletes and we want to work with the professionals.” And it seems like the… and I say this with a grain of salt, of course, but it seems like a lot of the best coaches wind up working with a very small handful of truly top performers for that sport for some type of competition, but there are extremely impactful for what you termed the leisure cyclist or the weekend warrior, is that a large part of the psychology, because the coach, they understand the process and it’s easier to apply to those who aren’t. Putting that pressure on themselves to perform. What is it that makes it that the leisure or weekend warrior get so much out of that psychological and coaching aspect?

Alan Heary:

I think it’s because we all have this built in, I would say, not all, but most people have this built in idea that we just want to be better. We want to improve. So what we did for those leisure guys was, we gave them the opportunity [inaudible 00:20:51] feel what it’s like to be professional athletes, six months. And so they grabbed it with both hands. Where other people might look into it and they think, “I [inaudible 00:21:02], this isn’t my daily thing. So you get an opportunity to feel what it’s actually like. The other aspect of it from the coach’s point of view, coaches loved working with these guys, absolutely loved working with them, because they were like sponges. They absorbed whatever information they were given and that’s not to say that these guys didn’t put the same amount of pressure on themselves [inaudible 00:21:23] athletes, it’s just that they had a system in place that even a lot of the top athletes don’t have.

I’m working with a pro cycling team at the moment, continental team called Ava Pro. But a lot of professional teams don’t even have somebody like me who is working on the mental fitness aspects. These guys had that, they had everything from the top nutritionist, as I say, they would bring in a chef on board and the coaches. But I think if you have a choice as a coach, it’s brilliant to work with high performers, it is. But when you’re working with a high performer, you were talking about doing a huge amount of work to possibly get 1% gain.

So does a huge amount of work to get 1% gain and where they [inaudible 00:22:10], because they are coming to you at a high level. However, when you’re working with someone who’s just starting off, you don’t know what the potential is yet. So that’s even more interesting as a coach, I think to work somebody who’s just starting out or who has an idea of a weekend warrior who wants to do something a little different or a new type of challenge, we don’t know what their potential is. And so a little bit of work with them over a few weeks can actually make a massive difference at what you can accomplish. And I think as a coach, that’s really exciting.

Menachem Brodie:

That true. There seems to be a little bit more life work balance where those who don’t see themselves as athletes… I have a program every now and again that I start that I have people in and I say, “I’m looking for athletes.” And number one message that I get is from individuals who are very serious riders, putting in some very big training stress. And they say, “Well, I’m not an athlete. I’m not a racer.” And they have some of the best results from the program, in part because their potential has never been tested, but also they seem to understand better because they only have so much time to ride. They’re more willing to do the things like the nutrition, the sleep, the stress management, that someone who is a newfound pro will neglect because they feel like they have to get more riding time in.

Alan Heary:

I love what you’ve just said. It makes so much sense. So you take it back to the four leisure cyclists on this team. All of them were working full time jobs. So they weren’t just cycling. They were working full-time jobs, having to get into work at 8:00, which meant having to right on the road, maybe at 5:00 in the morning for two and a half hours, before they change and went to work. But all of them appreciated, like when we went to America to do this, we all said, “[inaudible 00:24:06] great. [inaudible 00:24:07] going to be amazing to be able to get over here, you’re not working every day. All you are asked to do is ride your bike.” And so we broke it down for them that their job was to ride bike, ride, and eat and sleep. That’s it, that’s all you have to do, we do everything else as crew. That’s our job. So I think you’re right on that. The pressure is off because of the work life balance [inaudible 00:24:26].

When you are a professional athlete, it’s all you do sometimes. So you’re in that whole environment and it gives you nearly too much time to think, where these guys didn’t have time to think. And it meant that the hours that they were using, they were using it right. There was no junk miles anywhere, we couldn’t afford any junk miles. So the training sessions were all designed specifically for the goal, but then the process had to be put in place and the schedules are fairly tight. But then you had to stick to them. So yeah, I think you are right, it is a different mindset. But people are so competitive, they just want to improve themselves. But a lot of people don’t have the structure to be able to do it. When you bring in the coaches and psychologists or whatever [inaudible 00:25:13] to build that team, you make it for the people who are signed up to do it.

Menachem Brodie:

So let’s, let’s use that as a pivot now because we’re in unprecedented times for our lifetimes, 1918, although it’s completely different in that the connectivity and everything that was going on, I can’t even imagine being in quarantine and lockdown in the early 90s, when we had dial up internet, let alone in the 1910s. But a lot of individuals now, looking at the pathetic triathletes group on Facebook, looking at the Swift group in Facebook, even trainer road, there’s a lot of leisure athletes or weekend warriors who are now having a lot more time available to them. But what are the effects of being in isolation or quarantine right now and have all this time? How do we as endurance athletes use this to get stronger and come out better versus like what you just said with the professional or people have too much time where they’re going too far or they’re not balancing things well?

Alan Heary:

Yeah, We’re into a different routine really, or we have to develop a new routine. But I think [inaudible 00:26:28] at the start, you will have some people will look at this as an opportunity in order to look at it as a loss. And if you look at it only as a loss, you will only see the things that you’re not able to do. And, and it makes it very hard where opportunities… it’s an opportunity to get better or stronger in different areas. For example, it’s almost like an injury. So when people come to me and they’ve got an injury and they’re finding it difficult from a psychological perspective, one of the things to focus on is what you’ve been actually doing now. So rather than saying, “Well, I can’t quit the road, I can’t ride.” Well, if you have the equipment in the house, you can do that. If you don’t, you can do things like work on your core, which a lot of people don’t do.

A lot of people don’t work on flexibility. So it’s actually an opportunity to work on areas that might be a weakness. It’s also an opportunity to learn new things. So there’s two parts of it. If you find that you’re isolated at home, get into some type of routine. So if you normally go to work at 9:00 in the morning, you normally finish at 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening, then [inaudible 00:27:34] the way that you would normally do going to work. Make sure that you have an area only for your work and you do your work within that. Make sure you’ve taken your breaks, or it’s the same with your training. Keep training schedule the same. So if you normally train in the evening at 7:00 in the evening, let’s say, we’ll keep that schedule the same, there’s no reason why you can’t keep it the same.

You might get adapt what you’re doing instead of going out and riding the bike out. Or you may decide that you’re going to ride on Swift or you’re going to use the technology. So for me it’s looking at the opportunities rather than the losses. That’s the first thing that we’re going to start to focus on. What can you get out of this? A lot of people are putting their lives on hold until after. [inaudible 00:28:14], especially the weekend warriors just thinking, “Well, I might not do any training until we can actually get back out and start our training.” That’s the wrong approach on this.

Because if you look at it and you decide that you’re going to actually work on areas that you might find a week at the moment, to strengthen those, by the time you get back [inaudible 00:28:32], you’re going to be flying. It’s only going to take you a week to get back on your bike outdoors and all of a sudden this one feel great. So it’s constantly focusing on that. And that’s where it comes down to the process, but setting the weekly goals, looking to put together a schedule as well of what you’re going to be doing during the week, I think is is really key to this, that you still have your weekly goals, what you want to achieve, having a schedule, that’s really important as well.

Menachem Brodie:

So, let’s talk a little bit about that because cyclists and triathletes, even though the last eight to 10 years, we’ve really seen finally, a 180 degree about face in the approach to, and the thoughts to strength training, which by the way, a lot of people don’t know, but American football have the exact same excuses as to why strength training was bad back in the 1940s and 50s. You’ll be too muscle bound, then you won’t be able to run or express athleticism. And then basketball, it was the same thing, in baseball it was the same thing. And finally it’s fallen here in cycling, but most riders, we have two obstacles that seems like, one, when they’re given more time, they just want to ride.

So there’s a number of posts in the Swift group about, “Now I need decedent and Vaseline and Shammy butter, and Neosporin because I have these awful saddle sores because they’re just sitting on the trainer for four or five hours. And the second obstacle is that they don’t know or aren’t familiar with how to properly add the strength training. They have that, we’re going to pick on it a little bit, but that CrossFit, “Go hard, go hard,” mentality where they just blow up. We’re barely a week in and we’re starting to see people drop like flies. That’s going to lead them down to exactly what you said to avoid. So how would we find that balance? What are some ways to look at the training and this time? So one is, having the nice schedule and keeping that, what would the second stage look like as far as finding that balance?

Alan Heary:

Okay. Well, I think you’re absolutely right when it comes to the strength training, because for many years we didn’t see it as important, but it actually is. And this brings me back to when I’m talking about the injury a moment ago, where somebody had an injury. I had a client many years ago who in football strength training, wasn’t really seen as really important. And yet when they had a knee injury, we built up their upper body within three months over the time they come back into the field, they couldn’t believe. I strongly [inaudible 00:31:04] and I think that’s one of the [inaudible 00:31:07]. However, people sometimes when they get something new to do, decide to overdo it. And I think this comes down to the knowledge and coaches have greatly with this. When you train, people have to understand that the whole idea of getting stronger and better, even faster on the bike is that when you train, you break down muscles fiber, that’s what you do.

The body is designed to do that. So when you put it in a training session, you break down the muscle fiber, but unless you give it time to recover, you just keep on breaking it down, and that’s where the injuries [inaudible 00:31:43]. So I think there has to be a platform where first of all, knowing what exercises you’re going to do, and if you’re new to it, that’s not going to mental. But I think a good coach has worked with these people, following a structure and putting it in a couple of days a week, rather than five or six days a week. I think it’s all going to come back down to the knowledge and where you get that knowledge from, but you and I both know that they use is part of our job is to make people do more.

That’s the easiest part of our job. The hardest part of our job is to make people do less sometimes. So I think the balance comes in with going back as well as to how you feel. If you wake up after doing a session the day before, and you’re sore that day, it’s going back to how you’re feeling. You may need to take a day off and understanding that, rather than pushing forward. So I think that’s where the balance comes in, is understanding your body a little bit more. So for me, it’s getting good coaching or good knowledge before you start anything new.

Menachem Brodie:

And that’s an excellent point because it seems like now is the time and, and this makes sense. I can sit here and say that my portfolio is down at 60% right now, my retirement portfolio. So I feel the pain and I understand the mentality of I need to cut back expenses, and I think triathlon coaches… I had done a post for training peaks on how to not only keep your clients, but to grow your roster through this time. And a lot of it is connecting with people and giving value and just asking what they need. It seems like a lot of people, however, don’t see, especially triathletes that value in a coach, where the mentality is, “Oh, well, I don’t have a goal event now it’s canceled or postponed, so I’m just going to drop my coach and just go out either not do anything at all, or ride or swim or bike as I please.”

And that’s a big obstacle that people need to overcome because it drops you out of what you had said is step number one, which is the routine, and it takes away that objectivity of how do you feel? So how would you suggest the listeners look at their coaching relationship and how would they build on that routine step to be able to continue their progress here, if they are not able to keep a coach?

Alan Heary:

Okay. So there’s three things that I always walk out when we’re talking about something along these lines. The first is people tend to be outcomes [inaudible 00:34:14]. So they look at events and they think, “Okay, I have to get ready for this event.” And so their outcome is getting in and doing the best they can with that. The problem is that when your outcome [inaudible 00:34:29] driven, it’s a very momentary thing. So the example I often use is, some of these rooms is untidy and you suddenly decided how we need to make it neat, you spend hours working on it and your room is suddenly perfect now, but is your room going to stay perfect for long? Probably not. And the reason why it’s not going to stay perfect for long is because you haven’t changed the process or the habits you have in place.

So in other words, you’ve had this outcome and you done well on it, but your habits are still pretty poor. The process you’ve put in place are poor, so that the room will go back to the way it was. So that’s why the focus on process and habits are really, really important. This is the best time to build that. Coaches help with processes and habits. So people think that the coaches are there to help you get outcomes, in a sense they are, but that’s not really the true focus. The true focus is to set you up with a process, a plan, and a system in place that makes you into a better cyclist, or a better triathlete, or a better athlete. And so that’s what your people need to focus on now. And so if you focus only on outcomes, you will have that drop off, right?

People would suddenly go, “There’s no point.” If you’re focused on process and habits, then you’re going to be more successful. And the layer below that, again, is your identity. How do you see yourself? And if you see yourself as the type of person that gives up quickly and you give up easily, then all your habits and processes will tell you that that’s what you’re doing. So for me, it’s about process and habits. And for me, that’s what great coaches do. They give you a process, a system, or a plan, a place, to help you become better athletes. And when you become a better athlete, then when all of this ends and you’ve come up through [inaudible 00:36:25], then you start to achieve your outcomes a lot more easily. So for me, it’s all about process and habits, so that’s where the coaches come into play.

Menachem Brodie:

So let’s talk about that. Now, let’s say someone is being coached by you… and I believe you’re still doing that, correct? You’re doing coaching?

Alan Heary:

No, I’m doing not as much physical coaching, but I’m doing mostly the performance coaching. So mental fitness coaching.

Menachem Brodie:

Correct, [crosstalk 00:36:52].

Alan Heary:

Yes, sorry. Absolutely, 100%, yeah. That’s my job.

Menachem Brodie:

So you had mentioned then, we need the routine to stay the same and that we need someone to have a process or a guideline. What would someone at home, what would the process look like? Or what would the habit that they should form look like right now? And how would that be laid out for them to be able to make the most out of this? What are the important steps or stages that they need to?

Alan Heary:

Okay. So first of all, it’s deciding what you want to achieve, obviously, so the outcome. So I always look at what you want and that becomes your outcome. That’s fine. You hear people talking about goal setting all the time, goal setting is really important. The smart goal setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic time bound, and pretty much [inaudible 00:37:41]. So the goal setting [inaudible 00:37:43] all you do is more along the lines of the what, the why, the when and the how. What do you want to achieve? And so you might say, “Well, I want to be stronger. I want to be able to cycle faster,” or whatever that is [inaudible 00:37:56] achievement. Why, what is it going to give you? Be very clear about what you want or why you’re aiming to do that. But then the other thing is the why not? The obstacles, what are the challenges in your way?

And so people say, “Well, motivation is a big obstacle for me at the moment.” Well, motivation only gets you started, habits actually creates success. So we’re all motivated and stuff, but actually it’s the habit and the process [inaudible 00:38:18] success. So what are those obstacles? Well, “I might not have enough time.” “Well, you certainly have more time now than you normally would. So let’s put down time, let’s put down don’t have a plan, let’s put down lack of knowledge. Let’s down family members, let’s put down I don’t have my gym, let’s put down we can’t get outside. So these are the obstacles or challenges that you have.” Then you start to look at the process and habits, what actions you put in place to overcome those challenges? So if you say, “I can’t get outside. [inaudible 00:38:51] and I’m going to do the [inaudible 00:38:56] four days a week or five days a week, I’m going to do that.”

“Well, when are you going to do it?” “I’m going to do it in the morning time. First thing out of bed.” [inaudible 00:39:04]. “What’s the obstacles for that?” “Well, having to get up and get ready.” So we want to reduce the friction on any habit we have. If you want to reduce the friction on getting up early in the morning, ride your bike, it means your gear has to be ready. So for me, I’ve got my gear beside me in the side of the bed, so that when I’m working out early in the morning, it’s there, I don’t have to go looking [inaudible 00:39:28], the bike the night before, so I don’t have to do anything, I don’t have to find anything, it’s right there. So my point is that you have to look at the actions that you want to put in place to overcome many of the obstacles that you might have, we might decide we’re going to do my work out five days a week.

[inaudible 00:39:47] your schedule into your plan, but use the friction as much as possible by making sure that you’re ready for it and then entice someone else to get on board as well. So I always look at not just the coaches, but also the group mentality. We become the people we hang around with. If you hang around with people or you only look at people who are not training, who are not exercising who are complaining all the time, we become those. So you have to align yourself with people who are positive, who do want to become better. So I’ve got a group of friends that we talk about our training on a weekly basis, or we might meet up in Swift. And so that’s what I would be saying on the group. But in terms of the habits and the process, looking at what your obstacles are, what habit would you put in place now, something simple. What would you do on a daily basis to get you to where you want to be, and then reduce the friction on that by looking to see how you can do it easier, if that makes sense.

Menachem Brodie:

Absolutely. And let’s go to that last point, you mentioned about the five people around you, thinking back, and actually I have two athletes right now that are living alone and the team or group rides or training sessions, are really their social life. Like that’s what they do. Being home, being stuck in an apartment, we’re talking about cyclists and triathletes, which means usually any ‘extra money’ goes towards your sport. So we’re talking about maybe even a two room apartment or a studio, what are some considerations that those who are living alone should be taking, not just for sport psychology, but for [inaudible 00:41:29] psychology, their health and wellbeing from a mental standpoint?

Alan Heary:

Yeah. So if you look at that pro cycling team that I’m working with at the moment, we have a cyclist who is in Italy at the moment, and just exactly what you’re talking about, two bedroom, sorry, single bedroom living [inaudible 00:41:47] alone. We have guys in New York, we’ve got guys all over [inaudible 00:41:51] as part of this team. It is difficult for people, but there are certainly things that you can put in place. Number one, what happens when we tend to get isolated is we go into ourselves rather than going out. So we tend to focus more in ourselves. What we’re looking to do, funny enough with this team, we actually have a team meeting every Friday. We never had that before the shutdown. We never had that before the isolation. So when we look at opportunities versus losses, I think that’s actually something that we will connect you with besides being more positive about it.

You had this big team that half might be competing in Australia, and then the other half will be competing in New York at the same time. And they might not ever see each other or talk to each other. This has actually become an advantage for us to get the team together on a weekly basis. So what I would be saying to somebody who is in isolation, number one, make sure you still become part of the group. You can still go on to likes of Swift, that’s what you’re doing. And some people say, “Well, you gotta pay a monthly thing for Swift.” That’s fine. “How much money are you actually saving on coffee at the moment because you’re not going out and [inaudible 00:43:00] your coffee breaks?” So the first thing is to make sure that you’re still part of that group, that environment is making those calls.

And I would be putting that into the schedule. When we talk about the habits and the processes, I’ve put into my schedule, the same way to you, [inaudible 00:43:15] your clients when you’re going to contact them. But I do the same for my friends. So I still have in my diary, who I’m going to contact today, my mates, to see how people are doing. So that’s the first thing I’d say is to make sure that you maintain contact with the rest of your group. The second thing is to learn something new or to focus on something new, rather than on just what you’ve been doing. I think you’re 100% right when you say we… Sometimes we focus only on the sport. I work with a lot of junior athletes, 14, 15, 16, years of age, when I’m asking them now about what books are they reading outside of the sport that they’re doing?

What would they like to do in the future? What would you like to work out? What’s going on in their life? Because quite often we only become [inaudible 00:44:05] a whole identity is seen as the cyclist or a triathlete, that’s your identity. So you actually have to now look at other aspects. And that was a fantastic time for people to go online and learn a new language, learn a piece of music, learn how to set up your own business in the future. So I would be saying to people to start looking at things outside of your sport, that will take us away from just what we’ve lost and put our minds on the other things. The reason why we get anxious a lot of the time is because the lack of control, we feel we’ve lost control. And so it always comes down to controlling the controllables.

What can you control on a daily basis? And you can control the habits you have. You can control the phone calls that you make to other people, and you can certainly control what you want to learn at this point or what you want to come up with on the other side. So it’s important, yes, to look to the future and see what that looks like. One of the things I ask my clients all the time when we have these conversations is, “If we’re sitting down a year from now, and you said to me, you know what? The last year has been amazing, I’ve gotten so much out of it. What’s changed. What’s happened in that year.”

So it’s important for salient future, but it’s just important for us to focus on the, day-to-day just the process that we have on a daily basis. So as I say, opportunity to talk to people, not just your group in terms of the sports you do, but also get in contact with your friends and family even if they’re not in the same group and an opportunity to learn something new, but always that point controlling the controllables.

Menachem Brodie:

Now, this might be a ‘it depends’ answer, and it always is really [inaudible 00:45:52]. But what are some red flags that we should notice for ourselves? Because that’s a concern, especially endurance athletes. I’d be interested to hear your take on this. It seems like we have a lot of addictive personalities or people who are coming from addiction. So what are some red flags that we should be aware of because of that personality type, or maybe it’s how we’re wiring ourselves, that we’re living alone, X and Y is happening. What would those things be and how can we get help?

Alan Heary:

Yeah. Okay. So that’s a really good point. And as you said, it does depend and the individuals, but a couple of things to watch out for, if you find that your motivation is way down, it’s on the floor, if you find that your energy is way down, you find that all you’re doing a sitting down and watching Netflix all day. You’re starting to cut off people around you, and you’re not communicating as much as you were, [inaudible 00:46:50] all the red flags. And that’s the same for anyone, so if you’re part of the team or part of the club, stay in contact with your team, stay in contact with your club. Focus on others rather than yourself. Because what happens sometimes as we go in and we start to focus on how we feel, what way is it affecting us? But actually the science and the psychology behind it shows that once we start to shift the focus on, rather than just looking at how it’s affecting us, [inaudible 00:47:22], we start to look out to other people and how we can help other people that helps us.

So I think that’s something that if you’re starting to isolate yourself as in go into yourself, if you feel that your motivation is on the floor, if you feel that your energy is low, it’s [inaudible 00:47:41] for people and how you can help others and start to talk to people on a daily basis. Then the other thing as well, it’s funny, when we’re talking about getting out there and talking to people on a Sunday now, like I shut off all communication. You’ll notice like you sent me a message yesterday [inaudible 00:47:58] you got this morning, because I shut off everything, I don’t have any social media on a Sunday, I don’t check emails, I do nothing. It is a complete and [inaudible 00:48:06] free day.

It is a day that I said to myself, it’s literally like a Netflix, wander around, I don’t do any work whatsoever on it, but it means is that by the time Monday comes around, Monday morning, I’m back into work. And so that’s what I would do for me as a habit. So I am saying to people, “Yes, communicate with others,” I’m also saying to people, “There are times where you need just to break.” But I would still talk to your friends if you need to, if that makes sense.

Menachem Brodie:

It does. And you raise an interesting point and having that data shut off I try and do Saturdays. I started the almost daily coaching vlog with the whole point of it being almost daily as it’s imperfect, but it’s a start. And on the first one I just said, “I’m not going to upload on Saturday,” and I took the big Lebowski and [inaudible 00:48:58] this clip. But I think that’s lots and lot of people and having now a little bit more worldly experience, and traveled more and work with athletes more international, it seems that Americans in particular are very focused on being productive to an unhealthy point.

I had an athlete messaged me… what’s today? Today’s Monday, so about a week ago saying, “Hey, I just spent yesterday laying around watching Netflix and I didn’t do anything productive. How can I fix this?” And I just sent him a meme that said, “Can I get a hallelujah”? And he’s like, “What?”: I’m like, “This is great. You let your body and your mind relax.” How do we… if you’re struggling with that, and it sounds like there are a number of athletes where they feel like every day they have to do something, how can we start to understand the mentality that it’s not healthy and that we do need that day to shut down and just do other things.

Alan Heary:

Okay. So I always look at these as recovery days and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in business or in sport. The way that we get stronger, is a mix of productivity or performance and recovery. And so if you find that you’re every day trying to be more productive and more productive and more productive, it works against you. So you actually have to ask yourself, the question, “Is helping my performance or hindering my performance?” And if it’s hindering your performance in the amount of work that you’re doing, in other words, you’re not getting the recovery, then you have to take that time to recover. So you’re absolutely right somebody calls and says, “I took the day off. Oh my God, this is terrible.” This was the point I mentioned earlier on, the easiest part of my job is make people do more, easiest part [inaudible 00:50:45].

The hardest part of my job is to actually get them to back off and to do a little bit less. And that requires training. Even for me, I understand now I take some days off, it took me a long time to be able to do that, to actually switch off for a day. Oh my God have you any idea how difficult it is to sit there and watch Netflix and the time ticking. I wonder [inaudible 00:51:07], I wonder did they email me or wonder my clients [inaudible 00:51:10] need the time? And that requires training. But, one point they make just on the isolation is interesting. [inaudible 00:51:17] talk about athletes, with the meeting that we had last week with the pro-cyclist, the manager brought up a good point.

He says, “Look, we’re all athletes. We are used to being isolated, that’s what we do. We isolate ourselves all the time. We don’t go out drinking because it can go against the performance. We don’t socialize as much because it goes against our performance. We isolate ourselves anyway, this is nothing new to us. It’s just, now you’ve been told you’ve got to stay indoors. That’s the only difference at the moment. So, you can still train and you can still get your habits and process in place.” And I just thought that was interesting, when I actually looked at it, I went, “God, he’s right. We do sometimes live in an isolated world.”

Menachem Brodie:

Well, let’s dive into that a little bit deeper. We have a couple of minutes here and specifically, I’d like to dive into the recovery aspect of that. So professional cyclists, I think get to the point where they don’t want to do anything because their legs are so heavy. How about mental recovery? Because especially triathletes, and I’m going to pick on Half Ironman and Ironman distance in particular, their recovery days, they’re doing so much or their brain is running, and they just can’t shut it off. So what would be some things that you would suggest to help people get that mental recovery? Where they’re not sitting on a sofa going, “I should be doing X. I should be doing Y. Why am I not doing X?” Because that just ramps up the hormonal system and then the endocrine system and then you just see that slow decline and that slow decay.

Alan Heary:

Yeah. Okay. So from the psychological aspect of it, because this is really what I work with, in terms of the recovery side. From sports psychology or mental fitness coaching for sport, I look at it as being identical to physical training. So, somebody comes to you as a coach and they want to improve their physical fitness, you look at the 5S’s, strength, speed, suppleness, stamina and skill. You test them in those areas to see where they are at the moment. So you might do VO2 or lactate tests, or you might do an FTP and then you design a training plan to work on each of those components. And that’s how we get fitter and stronger. You have building training days and you will say on a Monday, you’re going to do this, Tuesday it’s a recovery ride. And if the athlete comes back and says, “I know it was a recovery ride, but I felt great and I went out and I did six hours and I did five of them in the mountains.”

You’re going to turn to them and you’re going to say, “You’re an idiot. You need to start listening to me. Don’t be stupid.” And they’re going to have to learn that the recovery is just important as the training. Now, let’s take it from a mental side of things. So we mentioned the 5S’s, let’s look at the 5Cs, confidence, concentration, commitment, control, and courage. So my job is to look at those components. And so we test those areas to say, “Where are your strongest and weakest [inaudible 00:54:18] at the moment? What you need to improve.” And then I design a training plan for you, I work on something like your confidence or your concentration. And for me, it’s all about how we simplify it and integrate it.

How do I [inaudible 00:54:31] the mental side and how do I integrate it into your physical training? For example, they [inaudible 00:54:38] into the pain barrier, there are some simpler techniques and exercise we can do to break through the pain barrier. Now, if I have this athlete and he said to me, “I’m [inaudible 00:54:45] to the last hour, that’s very tough.” And I said, “Great, okay. So we’re going to work on the physiology. We’re going to work on things like breathing. We’re going to work on the tense relax, and we’re going to work on meditation and relaxation exercise to do that.” You have to come back to me and say, “I know what I was supposed to take a bit of time yesterday, not to do it, but I ended up and I just worrying all day.” And I said to them, “Did you do any [inaudible 00:55:08] exercises?”

“Oh no, I didn’t.” “You’re an idiot. You need to go in the same way that you are. You are an idiot. You need to go and [inaudible 00:55:14].” So sometimes people need to be reminded and they need to put it into training. So what I’m saying to you really is that the mental training is the same as physical training. And when people start to understand that when they do mental training or those recovery sessions, it will enhance the performance for the down the line, it makes it easier for them to understand [inaudible 00:55:36]. And do the other thing as well is that we get more of what we focus on. So when somebody says to me, “I’m worried because I’m not doing X.” You can only focus on one thing. If I tell you now not to think of an elephant, if I tell you not to think of its big floppy ears, if I tell you not to think, even me saying to you not to do that, we’ll put it into your minds.

We can’t focus on what we’re not and we can only focus on [inaudible 00:55:59]. So instead of focusing on what you’re missing out on, start to focus on what you are getting, and this is where the self-talk comes in, going into the space and opportunity. And this is the [inaudible 00:56:08]. Again, an opportunity to sit down today, to watch Netflix and let my body recover, my body will thank me for this. And so once you start to practice that more and more, it becomes natural. That’s how it works. That is a long answer, by the way, to a short question, but hopefully you got something from it.

Menachem Brodie:

No, there’s a ton there. I actually think that’s a good place for us to end because where the focus goes, energy flows, right? So right now we have a number of coaches. I know that you have online courses for coaches, I have mine as well. Now’s a great time for coaches who are busy to have that little bit of extra time or a lot, to be able to go through and improve and increase their knowledge. So where can the coaches or the athletes out there find some resources? I know you just did a webinar on Saturday. What type of resources do you have available for folks to continue learning about how to sharpen and improve their mental health?

Alan Heary:

Well, if you go onto alanheary.com you’ll see some blogs and posts up there. I also have cyclingpsychology.co.uk. And again, there’s a lot of posts up there for endurance athletes specifically, and some products up there. But my course, I spent over a year developing this, as you said, there’s been a soft launch on it. We’ve had over 150 people go through it. So we’re getting some amazing feedback on it. We’ll be doing a big launch [inaudible 00:57:40]. That’s just Alan Heary, H-E-A-R-Y courses.com. And if somebody goes on there, they can have a look at the course and see what it is and that they actually get to do some work with me as well on that. as I said, from my point of view, it’s great to have physical training. When you combine that with nutrition, you get better impact, when you combine it with the mental side of things, you get a better impact again. So it’s all about how we can improve the different aspects of our performance to make us better. That’s my goal, is to simplify it and integrated into your physical training.

Menachem Brodie:

Well, and we definitely need to have you back because I have about three pages of questions here that we didn’t have a chance to go through [crosstalk 00:58:23].

Alan Heary:

I’d love to. I really would.

Menachem Brodie:

I think you had mentioned that you have… Do you have another webinar planned in the upcoming weeks or that will [inaudible 00:58:32] later?

Alan Heary:

It’ll be released, but we’re doing one in two weeks time on the Saturday. So Saturday, two weeks, 10:00 AM EST. So, it will be 10:00 AM EST on Saturday week. I’m not sure the date on that yet, but that’s what we’re looking at doing at the moment. And yeah, I’m looking forward to it. We did one on Saturday, a great response from it, people loved it. And we’ve had people sign up to the online [inaudible 00:58:58]. I think now is a great time for people who, as you say, to sign up to something like this, because they’re learning a new aspect that they can bring in to the competition [inaudible 00:59:07] and events, when we get back into doing that.

Menachem Brodie:

And where can people find you on social media?

Alan Heary:

Oh, I’m on the Facebook, as everybody is these days, so you’ve got Alan Heary on that. Twitter is Alan Heary [BSC 00:59:23] and I’m on Instagram as well. Gosh, I’m on them all, if you just put in Alan Heary, H-E-A-R-Y and [inaudible 00:59:31] you will find me on that. I’m also on LinkedIn as well. So the other thing I’d say is, look, we’re all in this together. We’re all looking to make ourselves better. Don’t hesitate to send me a message or an email if you’ve got any questions on anything, anyone who’s listening to this, I’m always there to help out and I’d love to [inaudible 00:59:51] have another chat with you [inaudible 00:59:52].

Menachem Brodie:

Thank you, Alan. And I’m looking forward, as soon as we’re done here, we’ll look at scheduling that and thank you for taking the time today. Really informative, a lot of great information here. And I’m looking forward to having you back on in the near future.

Alan Heary:

Thanks. Thanks very much.

Speaker 1:

That’s it for this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, with world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie. Don’t miss an episode, hit that subscribe button and give us a review. For more exclusive content, visit humanvortextraining.com or get the latest expert videos from Coach Brodie on the HVT YouTube channel at HV Training. Until next time, remember to train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you.

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Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.

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Transcript Speaker 1: Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast, where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech, and much more to help you

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