Thursday, February 28, 2013

Good Press from The Houston Chronicle

In lieu of the upcoming The Woodlands Marathon and Half Marathon, I had the pleasure of talking with the Houston Chronicle Running Notebook's columnist Roberta MacInnis on some of the psychological aspects of race day. Thank you, Roberta. Enjoy!

Link to article is here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mental Skills Seminar Announcement: Open Water Swimming Help

"Developing an Open Water Mentality"

New to or struggling with anxiety regarding the discipline of open-water swimming? You are not alone. You’ve done your swim training, now come join us for a very helpful seminar addressing tips and strategies and how to break through mental barriers, or just perform more consistently in open water.

Adrienne Langelier, MA-sport psychology consultant and triathlete and Liz Baugher, Professional Triathlete and coach will be speaking and facilitating discussion.

Date & Location Thursday, March 21st. Northshore Park Pavillion A (it doesn’t get more realistic thatn that!)

Time: 6:30 PM. We will roughly go 60-90 minutes, depending on questions, etc.

Cost: $25 per attendee. You can register early for 10% off before 3/18. Go to  and click on Paypal widget in sidebar.  Early registration is encouraged to ensure seating.  Useful handouts and materials will be included.

Adrienne Langelier, MA LPC is a Woodlands-based sport psychology consultant and competitive Runner/Triathlete. Adrienne has worked with several area top teams in Texas and has consulted with olympic-level and professional athletesshe is also a multi-time qualifier for the Boston Marathon and USAT Age Group National Championships. She is also a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and holds sponsorships from PowerBar and Brooks.

Liz Baugher is a first-year Professional Triathlete from Houston, TX specializing in the Olympic and Half distance. She currently coaches age-group triathletes for OutRival Racing and also helps out with the Junior Elite team.  Liz holds a current USAT Level 1 Coaching Certifications, as well as USAT Swim Analysis Certified. Her PR in the 1 mile Open water swim is 20:40, and she is sponsored by TYR, Boundless Nutrition, Xsics Software, Third Coast Training, and Cobb Cycles. 

For More Information contact: 830-237-4822/

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review of 'Maggie Vaults Over the Moon' By Grant Overstake

Before I even began  Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, I gave author/fellow Brooks ID teammate Grant Overstake my word that I would review his uplifting fictional story of loss, family, meaning-making and of course-track and field.

Per usual I tend to read through a psychological lens. This time I read through an inquisitive one as well as this distance runner knows very little about the discipline of pole-vaulting. All I knew before reading is that it looks both scary and really cool at the same time! I have always secretly admired the grace and grit of a pole vault athlete as well.

In the spirit of not giving too much away, Overstake's tale takes us to the plains of rural Kansas, a town called Grain Valley to be exact, and tells the story of Maggie Steele, an adolescent who loses her brother to a car accident early in the story. Maggie is then faced with the difficulty of  helping her father run his farm while simultaneously coping with the loss of her brother and forming her identity and struggling to find her true ambitions and identity.

Overstake's novel takes the reader on an oftentimes emotional 211-page journey of Maggie's senior year of high school as she comes to terms with the loss of her admired (who also happens to be a star football player) brother while trying to find her own identity and passion. The reader gets a glimpse of the isolating effects of loss, family conflict and  resolution, and finding your voice through athletics. Throughout the book, we see Maggie retreat to the barn where she is taught pole-vaulting by her brother's voice working through her.

I liked  'Maggie Vaults' central theme of the transformative power of sport; although I have been fortunate to this point to not have experienced such tremendous hardship, I too have found meaning in life by my participation in sports as the protagonist heals through training to be a pole vaulter and forming a new identity as an athlete. While some parts of the story draw more on fantasy-as Maggie's brother Alex "speaks to her" frequently, the central messages from the story ring true in the form of faith, family, risk-taking and the gradual process of  what therapists call "restorying" (or changing their personal narrative from negative to positive) their lives. We see a young lady adrift and grieving at the beginning of the book transform to a well-adjusted, bound-for-success young woman. I almost cheered for this fictional character more than once while reading.

Psychologically speaking, the notion of restorying is featured as this young woman struggles to determine her identity and find meaning in adversity. We often see her becoming more open with taking risks (as she became the only female pole vaulter on Grain Valley High's track team),  and display good-old-fashioned resilience. I also picked up underpinnings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' stages of grief model as Maggie processes from denial to acceptance of her brother's death. One of the most uplifting themes of Overstake's work is that of believing in one's self and going "against the grain" (no pun intended) as the reader watches an "average farm girl" turn into a top athlete through her work ethic and trust in things she didn't understand (and I'm sure wearing Brooks running shoes helped too!).

Despite a considerable fantasy element in Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, the principles and message are solid and clear: life is messy and unpredictable, however we choose whether to be the victim or the victor over circumstance. It appears that Maggie's idea of keeping her brother's memory alive was expressed in her athletic training.

I would recommend this book to any young person interested in an uplifting and slightly sobering story. I did finish this book with a positive feeling. From a professional standpoint this would be a good resource for those coping with loss or difficult circumstances, especially adolescents and young adults. It is clear that Overstake understands the experience of a young person, especially an athlete.  Professionals in sport or helping areas-including coaches and teachers- may also be interested in this often-entertaining and easy-read-text. I would also recommend this book to many of my high school athletes in my practice to help provide a clear example of the notion that circumstances are temporary and don't have to define you.

I guess Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is another good example of what can happen if you stay the course.

Overstake, Grant. Maggie Vaults Over the Moon. (2012) GO Team! Enterprises, North Charleston, SC

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Small Things, Big Effects

This post is as much about managing life a much as it i abouts managing pre-and-between-performance stress. Actually, stress is stress, no matter how you slice it. Today with my students I gave the first half of my lecture on stress and anxiety and it got the wheels turning for this installment. While Chapter 7 focused mostly on major stressors, we'll look at some of the more overlooked ones.

The bottom line is this: stress is a nonspecific reaction to demands placed on the physical and emotional systems.Sometimes it's mostly positive (such as in the case of playing in a championship game, committing to a scholarship), sometimes there's nothing good about it at all (fear of an upcoming event because of possibility of failure). The previous examples are typically what people think of when the dreaded 's-word' comes up. Something typically big, often pressing, and overwhelming. Often, it is the big stuff that puts us over the edge, or "overflows the glass" so to speak. But what if there wasn't the stuff in the periphery? Would it be easier to deal with?

I'm always challenging athletes I work with professionally to monitor their daily stress loads in addition to the demands of training and competing. What are the things that make us feel just-off? A handful of examples that we too-often overlook: our busy schedules, saying 'yes' to things we should say 'no' to, tasks at home, relationships, bills and deadlines, and this one hits close to home for yours truly: electronics. This can be a covert drain on your energy and attention. Yes, I'll admit to a constant attachment to my iPhone and email and have recently realized its detrimental effects not just on my daily routine and mood; but you know it's getting to a new level when you are out on a run or on the bike and you hear the familiar "whoosh" email alert and are tempted to check it-while going 20 mph! Focused on my training ride? Apparently not! There's only so much I and you all can fit in your 'glass' without overflow.

In taking a step back and serving as my own case study, I have decided to make little changes dealing with life's little stressors that contribute to our overall load (or properly termed 'allostatic load') For the time being, I have simply started leaving the phone hidden in the car while working out and silencing at a decent hour on weeknights. Amazingly, the benefits were immediate. I had one of my best swims to date, just because I wasn't thinking of what lies in by gym locker when I finish. Think of it as removing an unwanted ice cube from a full glass. Suddenly there's more space.

I also emphasize these small changes because they are sustainable. Taking back a little more time to refresh and focus completely on what your doing is actually powerful. The other week I read a Facebook post about somebody putting 'quiet time' in their calendars. Great idea! In this fast paced, competitive environment we athletes exist in, it helps to be mindful of the things that tend to set you off on a negative spin, and start lowering your stress load by taking some things that may displace your proverbial "glass".

There are endless possibilities to make life a little easier and more focused. Try and cut out some small things that lead to unnecessary stress and energy cost- chances the effect will be proportionately greater than imagined.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reprocessing Pressure Points

So very often athletes come into my office telling me that they're feeling "pressure”. Upon hearing the dreaded and often nebulous 'p' word, I usually promptly ask: "from who and where is it coming from?". What I still find surprising is that they struggle to find origins of these negative feelings, at least at first. Typically, when an athlete seeks outside support, pressure to perform has been present for an extended period of time and regularly interferes with their performances and in some cases-their relationships and daily lives. 
The good news is, while there is some stress associated with being an athlete, managing pressure feelings is a skill that can be learned. 
First, an athlete must search to identify what induces or 'triggers' feeling of pressure. Is it self-induced, from a coach, parent, significant other? Knowing the source is important. What directions is the pressure coming from?
Next, what does being "under pressure" look and feel like to the individual? This response is different depending on who you ask. Does the athlete fret over mistakes? Are there exchanges with content of heightened or unrealistic expectations with others? Are the athlete and/or or coach's standards unrealistic? How does the stress manifest: inhibited concentration, somatic (bodily), or in general enjoyment of the sport? How do the feelings of pressure affect mood? 
Also, what does the athlete say to themselves that perpetuates this negative cycle? "Don't mess up", "I don't know if I can do this", or "coach/mom/dad will be mad if I don't succeed" are common negative internalized messages that hinder performance.
Once some possible triggers and awareness have been identified and sorted out, the athlete can start to counter these negative thinking patterns. A simple exercise is to "check in" with their thought patterns during a game or practice with what their thinking of, and insert a positive message when they usually are   and negative.  Use of deep breathing and a few minutes of relaxation is also recommended, especially before competition and when the athlete begins to feel most stressed. 
Over time and with practice, these techniques help a great deal with athlete perspective and creates a greater sense of control of a situation. 
Use of the cue ‘Identify, Reframe, Relax’ or related mantra is often helpful.
Enjoy the process!