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Michael Phelps set another record recently as the first male swimmer to make five Olympics, but life has not always been easy for Phelps.

Below are three takeaways we can glean from Phelps’ journey to achieve personal success.

1. Leverage Obstacles into Opportunities
Despite early athletic promise, Phelps struggled with concentration in the classroom. Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of nine, as his parents’ divorce was finalizing.

His mother Debbie did not let being a single parent and Michael’s ADHD challenges faze her. When Michael’s teachers informed her that he could not concentrate on anything, Debbie, an educator herself, worked with Michael on various solutions in and out of the classroom to prove them wrong. Debbie instilled structure into his life, nurturing swimming into a focus he could own. Swimming provided Michael with self-discipline and the needed structure for him to come off of his ADHD medication without adverse consequences during his teen years.

Michael continued the resilient spirit that Debbie demonstrated and instilled in him. When Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe said in an interview that it was unlikely for Phelps to win eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, Michael taped the quote to his locker and used it as fuel to further motivate him. After Phelps won his eighth medal, Thorpe responded, “Never in my life have I been so happy to be proven wrong.”

2. Practice Relaxation When Faced with Unexpected Challenges and Intense Pressure
Phelps’ coaches claim they have never seen him nervous before races. U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Psychologist Sean McCann breaks mental strength into two components. The first is an offensive mental aptitude: an unyielding desire for victory, no matter the pressure. he second is a defensive resilience that allows athletes to roll with the punches through unpredictable situations like watering goggles or head-to-head collisions. Very few people possess both.

Swim coach Bob Bowman has prided Phelps on his ability to be incredibly relaxed before intense meets. He has never seen Phelps “choke,” despite losses faced in past meets. Phelps said, “...the only thing you can control is yourself. If I have a bad race, I can put that behind me and I know I have another one coming up.”

Fortunately, relaxation is a learned skill that can be developed. When Phelps was a teenager, Debbie taught him progressive muscle relaxation, which he used daily before bed. Another approach he employed is visualizing different scenarios before they happen. Coach Bowman contends that Phelps has one of the best programmed mental visualization techniques. Phelps mentally runs through different scenarios before a race. So when he races, he has programmed his nervous system to react to any one of them automatically.

3. Strive for Mental, Relational, and Physical Balance Outside Your Sport
Phelps’ passion for swimming dwindled in the months before the London Olympics. He argued with his coach, skipped practice, and withdrew from his family. His downward spiral led to a DUI arrest in 2014, prompting him to check into rehab. Phelps realized his motivation waned because he had not taken the time to gain knowledge and self-acceptance of his identity outside of his facade as a successful swimmer.

Rehab also forced him to process issues from his past, including his lifelong estrangement from his father. He and his father are now “closer friends.” Coming into his final Olympics, Phelps’ motivation is no longer simply getting more medals. He sets out to try his hardest yet at Rio, and has recently become a father.

Conditioning coach Keenan Robinson credits Phelps’ multi-faceted athletic approach as a lacrosse and baseball player growing up for reducing risk of the postural imbalances and injuries that plague swimmers who specialize early. Since swimmers should stay lean for speed, most of Phelps’ dry land strength training involves using his own body weight, including dips and pull-ups.

Robinson cites a focus on clean, efficient postural lines in Phelps’ strength training and core drills involving stabilization and rotational movements as instrumental toward his success. You can check out some of these core exercises from Faster Swimming and HASfit. Remember to incorporate Core Flytes to build enhanced stability and postural awareness in your circuit training.

We’d love to hear from you. What is a lesson you learned from an inspirational athlete? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Dai Zhang
Contributing Writer, Flyte Fitness

P.S. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR FITNESS UPDATES! CLICK THE BOX AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!

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Michael Phelps set another record recently as the first male swimmer to make five Olympics, but life has not always been easy for Phelps.

Below are three takeaways we can glean from Phelps’ journey to achieve personal success.

1. Leverage Obstacles into Opportunities
Despite early athletic promise, Phelps struggled with concentration in the classroom. Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of nine, as his parents’ divorce was finalizing.

His mother Debbie did not let being a single parent and Michael’s ADHD challenges faze her. When Michael’s teachers informed her that he could not concentrate on anything, Debbie, an educator herself, worked with Michael on various solutions in and out of the classroom to prove them wrong. Debbie instilled structure into his life, nurturing swimming into a focus he could own. Swimming provided Michael with self-discipline and the needed structure for him to come off of his ADHD medication without adverse consequences during his teen years.

Michael continued the resilient spirit that Debbie demonstrated and instilled in him. When Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe said in an interview that it was unlikely for Phelps to win eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, Michael taped the quote to his locker and used it as fuel to further motivate him. After Phelps won his eighth medal, Thorpe responded, “Never in my life have I been so happy to be proven wrong.”

2. Practice Relaxation When Faced with Unexpected Challenges and Intense Pressure
Phelps’ coaches claim they have never seen him nervous before races. U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Psychologist Sean McCann breaks mental strength into two components. The first is an offensive mental aptitude: an unyielding desire for victory, no matter the pressure. he second is a defensive resilience that allows athletes to roll with the punches through unpredictable situations like watering goggles or head-to-head collisions. Very few people possess both.

Swim coach Bob Bowman has prided Phelps on his ability to be incredibly relaxed before intense meets. He has never seen Phelps “choke,” despite losses faced in past meets. Phelps said, “...the only thing you can control is yourself. If I have a bad race, I can put that behind me and I know I have another one coming up.”

Fortunately, relaxation is a learned skill that can be developed. When Phelps was a teenager, Debbie taught him progressive muscle relaxation, which he used daily before bed. Another approach he employed is visualizing different scenarios before they happen. Coach Bowman contends that Phelps has one of the best programmed mental visualization techniques. Phelps mentally runs through different scenarios before a race. So when he races, he has programmed his nervous system to react to any one of them automatically.

3. Strive for Mental, Relational, and Physical Balance Outside Your Sport
Phelps’ passion for swimming dwindled in the months before the London Olympics. He argued with his coach, skipped practice, and withdrew from his family. His downward spiral led to a DUI arrest in 2014, prompting him to check into rehab. Phelps realized his motivation waned because he had not taken the time to gain knowledge and self-acceptance of his identity outside of his facade as a successful swimmer.

Rehab also forced him to process issues from his past, including his lifelong estrangement from his father. He and his father are now “closer friends.” Coming into his final Olympics, Phelps’ motivation is no longer simply getting more medals. He sets out to try his hardest yet at Rio, and has recently become a father.

Conditioning coach Keenan Robinson credits Phelps’ multi-faceted athletic approach as a lacrosse and baseball player growing up for reducing risk of the postural imbalances and injuries that plague swimmers who specialize early. Since swimmers should stay lean for speed, most of Phelps’ dry land strength training involves using his own body weight, including dips and pull-ups.

Robinson cites a focus on clean, efficient postural lines in Phelps’ strength training and core drills involving stabilization and rotational movements as instrumental toward his success. You can check out some of these core exercises from Faster Swimming and HASfit. Remember to incorporate Core Flytes to build enhanced stability and postural awareness in your circuit training.

We’d love to hear from you. What is a lesson you learned from an inspirational athlete? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Dai Zhang
Contributing Writer, Flyte Fitness

P.S. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR FITNESS UPDATES! CLICK THE BOX AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!

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"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." - Arthur Ashe

Today, I’m writing the second article in our monthly series, “Taking Flyte," showcasing friend and partner Steve Weatherford’s advice on topics relating to health, fitness, and wellness. Last month, Steve reflected on the ups and downs of 2015. Today, Steve shares his thoughts on how he prepares to perform at his best: before, during, and after a big event.

There’s no bigger event for a professional football player than the Super Bowl. Steve shared how he mentally prepared throughout his experience with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The Giants won 21-17 over the New England Patriots and Steve played a pivotal role, pinning three punts within the Patriots' 20-yard line (two within the 10-yard line) which created field position havoc for the opposition. So, how did he mentally prepare for the biggest event of his life? We asked him.

Entering the Super Bowl, how did you mentally prepare for the big event?
Weatherford: “You treat it like anything else. I draw my confidence from knowing that I did every single possible thing up to that point to prepare myself for that one moment to be the greatest in the world. It's not that I had to go do yoga and find my Zen. For me, hard, hard, hard freaking work in the off-season is where I get my confidence.”

I’ve seen this hard work first-hand myself. We discussed how he prepared for the Super Bowl while we worked out in a marathon session that included an intense Core Flyte workout and what he calls “ARMageddon,” an all-out assault on every area of the tricep and bicep muscles. My arms felt like jelly for a couple of days after!

You’re playing in the Super Bowl. The stakes are high. How did you stay mentally focused?
Weatherford: “Nobody was having more fun in that game than I did. I was celebrating. I was hopping around. I was having fun. I was giggling. I know that you're only as good as your next play. For me, my first punt at the Super Bowl led to two points for us [a safety on Pats superstar Tom Brady]. That's as good as it gets for a punter. It's about being excited that you did well and then letting that go and focusing on the next play. Same thing if you had a bad one. If you have a bad one you let that go… short-term memory is key.”

Steve reminds those of us who know him that you can perform at a high level and have fun at the same time: they are not mutually exclusive. The important thing is to focus on your role and execute well each step of the way. In fact, for many people, having fun helps them stay loose – especially in a high-pressure situation – which can improve performance.

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You won the Super Bowl. How did you mentally absorb such a big win?
Weatherford: “It’s important to celebrate. If you asked me before the game, ‘How many beers would have after you won the Super Bowl?’ I would have told you ‘all of them!’ But after the Super Bowl, I’m not kidding you, I went to the Super Bowl post-party and there were celebrities everywhere and everyone is partying and having a good time… but I had one drink, a Jack and Coke. I drank that drink and I looked at my wife and said, ‘I don’t want to feel any different. I’m not drinking anymore.’ With the euphoria that came from a lifetime of preparation to achieve a lifetime goal, I didn’t want to feel any different. I didn’t need alcohol to feel any different. I had just one drink. I enjoyed the celebration for about three hours with my mom, my dad, my in-laws, my son, and my daughter. I ended up going to bed around two in the morning. That was earlier than every single one of my teammates.”

Steve is a fun guy. His energy is insane. At the Super Bowl, he was as excited as anyone. At the end of the day, however, he was able to keep the achievement in perspective and enjoy it for what it was: the pinnacle of athletic accomplishment. And he did it with his family, which now includes two more children. And who knows… maybe while he was celebrating he was secretly thinking about his next workout!

We’d love to hear from you. How do you mentally prepare for a big event? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg
Co-Founder & CEO
Flyte Fitness

P.S. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR FITNESS UPDATES! CLICK THE BOX AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!

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