Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Healthy Eating

I have recently decided to go on a healthy eating binge. I know what you're thinking… I thought all professional athletes eat healthy! Well, some do. People ask me all the time what my diet is like and I pretty much confess to eating whatever I like for the most part. This makes a lot of people green with envy, but you must realize that there is a ton of work going in on the other side of that equation. So, of course I don't count calories because I know I will burn off all that I need to in training. But, while my diet is generally decent, I was interested to see what some real dedication in that area would amount to in terms of how I feel during workouts and competitions, how I recover from workouts, and if I could be leaner and meaner than I already am. As of now, here are some of the general guidelines…

*NO sugar. This will not always be an abandonment of all things delicious, but I am going to detox for two weeks just to see what it feels like.

*Get more complex. With my carbs that is. Where I fall short in this area is my vegetable consumption. I just don't really like them all that much. But I'm trying to make them a significant part of my diet.

*Remember that I'm lactose intolerant. My body specifically tells me not to eat certain foods and I do anyway. A cheeseburger is better than a hamburger. Pizza is yummy. I couldn't really imagine life without it. But we're going to do some cutbacks in that area and see what happens.

There is more to it than that, but I don't want to bore you to death with percentage breakdowns and the like. To be honest with you, the hardest part of the new way I've been eating is still trying to consume enough calories. I know, I know--you're turning a darker shade of green. But seriously, do you realize how lacking in oomph spinach is? I put all these newfound veggies into my calorie counter and I see my calories just dwindling before my eyes. I need to make sure I keep my curves!

Like I said, this is not about how I look, it's about how I feel and how I perform. My body is my Lamborghini, I can't really justify putting cheap gas in it. After a few weeks I'll let you know if I notice anything different. Then I'll slowly add back in my fries and gummy bears. On occasion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Video Interview

I didn't do much of an update after my meet this weekend because I was busy turning old and all, but yesterday I ran across this video (read: was emailed this video by my mother who has google alerts set up to inform her of anything posted on the web about me), and figured I would share it with you all so you can get my thoughts on the meet and the upcoming season in a talking format. After watching it myself I noticed a few things...

* My teeth are huge. I mean, I know I have large teeth, but it seems that they aren't so obvious in pictures as they are when I am watching myself talk on video. Whoa.

* I can be incredibly corny. What was that sing-song at the beginning?!! It's obvious I don't work at trying to be cool.

* I talk faaaast and I talk a lot. Give me a camera to talk to and I will ensure there is no awkward silence or weird pauses.

* I have an Oakley contract... or I should at least. Who is the cool girl in the glasses? Well that would be me. Normally I would think to take them off but it is really easy to forget I have these glasses on, which is another reason I think they're so awesome. (Still working on that contract...)

* I may- or may not- make up words. Is "comfortability" a word? When I hear myself say it I question the validity of it and that's not such a good thing for someone who prides themselves on being a word person.

**I was interviewed by Joanna Hayes for Womentalksports

Monday, April 18, 2011

Birthday Girl

Today is my birthday.

I wanted to write a big, long post about how fabulous today is and pat myself on the back for being born but I just wasn't really feeling it. There is no need for a bunch of fanfare and celebration, because even though I still feel young at heart, 31 is not the new 21. I get no new privileges and that extra year has no monumental importance in my life, except to remind me that official adulthood is something I have to embrace completely. But all in all, life is good. I am still doing what I love, and I'm getting better and better at it. This weekend I had my last competition as a 30 year old. It was also my first competition of the 2011 season and from the looks of it, I believe I am going to be a very successful 31 year old athlete. Say what you want, but I know I'm getting better with age.

I also have the most amazing people in my life who love and appreciate me. I have everything I need, and thanks to amazing friends, I also have something I realllllly wanted!...


Best. Gift. Ever.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trying Harder and Doing Worse

Have you ever done something and found yourself catching on and improving so rapidly that it shocked you a little? And then, because it was almost effortless you amp it up and really go and you just know the results are going to be out of this world!

But… instead you get worse.

I can't tell you how many times in my career I've faced this problem. I do something in practice or in a competition not expecting much or not really thinking it's the time or place to produce great results and I shock myself with where I'm at. I've literally jumped a personal best at a meet and walked away from the sandpit without looking at the mark, thinking it was an average jump, and had people yelling me from the stands to turn around and look at the results board. But as soon as I go in to make it happen mode, I lose it. Me actively trying to try harder, almost never gets me better results. Implicitly I know this, yet it has yet to stop me from repeating the cycle. The very idea of trying too hard is something that may seem counterintuitive in athletics but if you're an athlete then you probably know exactly what i'm talking about. You run a sprint and the time on the stopwatch is blazing. "Wow", you tell yourself, "that felt so easy, almost like I wasn't even trying that hard." So, you head back to the line thinking to yourself that this time you're going to bring it. You huff and you puff and 9 times out of 10, you will run slower.

After indoor season I took a moment to recompose and then started doing some heavy training to build me back up and get ready for outdoors. My legs felt like two cement blocks and I didn't think speed knew my name. But I got on the runway for my first couple long jump sessions and I was flying. My jump sessions were phenomenal and it surprised me a little bit. After a few weeks, I started adding in some good speed work and I thought to myself, "if things were going this well and I wasn't even expecting it or ready for those kinds of results, I'm more than likely going to start jumping world records in practice now that I'm really going to go after it."

And I'm sure we all see where this is going. I have been a frustrated fool these last couple of weeks as my intense desire to muscle and strain my way to phenomenal jumping and running has given me anything but. I was trying to force it, and you simply can't do that. Letting yourself be amazing is different than making yourself be amazing and more often than not, all you will end up doing is tripping yourself up by trying to try. Once you know how to do something, be confident in that. All you need to do now is let it come out. If you (or anyone you know) is a superb practice athlete but never does as well in competitions, I assure you this is your problem. You have to relax and get back to that calm confidence where you allow yourself to just let it happen.

So, this will be lesson #872 of the exact same lesson, but the good thing is it takes me less and less time to recognize the problem and address it. Early on in my career I spent entire seasons dealing with this exact same problem, but didn't know what was really going on. Now I do. And I can assure you that if I'm doing well one week and then all of the sudden I seem to lose it even though my body feels fine, I didn't all the sudden become untalented. I just started thinking too much and I have to remind myself in essence to dumb it down a little and stop trying so hard. And it works.

Friday, April 8, 2011

America got it WRONG

My sport is decided on the field of competition. We all gather at the oval office, slip on our spikes, and put our best against the best of our competitors. At the end of the day, whoever performed the best is the winner. It's that simple. It is a talent competition and the most talented person gets to take home the biggest prize. Three cheers for objectivity.

Not so much with American Idol. Last night, my favorite female singer in the competition (and arguably the prettiest, nicest, and most unlikely to have morning breath) got voted off. And it made me angry. Why? Because this is a talent competition and in a competition that should be in large part about who sings the best, the best singer should not be going home with 8 others left standing. To me, that's like Usain Bolt running the fastest time in the semi-finals but not being able to compete in the final. It's simply unacceptable.

I know people like me are likely to blame. I watch the show every week but never bother to pick up my phone and vote. I figure something so obvious is seen by everyone and so there really won't be much discrepancy as to who the best competitors are. But leaving this in the hands of the 14 year olds who are more interested in who looks the most like Taylor Lautner, or Grandma Betty who has hearing problems and could have quite possibly had her hearing aid go out that night, is obviously a grave mistake.

I love competition. It's a relief to know that all the hard work and sacrifice I put in every day to get better is not going to be compromised by Grandma Betty's dislike of my landing technique or my choice of gold shorts. Unfortunately for Pia, she will not be the American Idol and she's going to have to watch the final go on without her, knowing she is better than most of them. It might make her want to give Track and Field a try.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Obsession

Everyone around me knows it… I'm pretty much addicted to Words With Friends. I'm good at spelling, I love my Ipad, and I'm fiercely competitive--this game was pretty much made specifically for me. In case you are unfamiliar, words with friends is basically scrabble played against opponents on your Iphone or Ipad. You can play multiple people at a time and people play their turn at their leisure. I try to keep around 20 games going at a time so that I will always have a turn to play when i feel like it. A lot of times I have to search for new opponents because it seems like people get tired of playing me. What can I say… losing sucks. I rarely get beat. It does happen on occasion but it doesn't happen often and if my memory serves me correctly, never twice in a row.

People often ask me how I got to be so dominant at this game (I'm kidding…nobody has really asked me such a thing, but play along anyway), and so I figured I would share a few of my tips and tricks on how I came to be so successful. I don't mind if the people I play read this -- I have that much confidence in my ability -- but a few of these tips might help to make your games more competitive and give me some more worthy opponents in the process.

Play Everyone: I don't care what your skill level is, I'll play you. If it's obvious I'm way better than you, I just use it as a game for speed and test my ability on coming up with a good word fast. I love to play people who challenge me because it makes me better and I also usually learn words I didn't know before.

Figure out a good offense/defense combo: I don't always play my best word because I'm constantly thinking ahead to what my opponent might play as well as what I want to do with my letters and what I'd like to keep/get rid of. I weigh my options and look at the big picture. Everyone is different, but make sure you're not just considering your one play.

Don't waste big tiles: The Q, J, X, and Z are your steak and lobster. Don't play them for some McDonalds sized points unless it's the end of the game and you just need to get rid of tiles. It's also very helpful to know all the kinds of words you can spell with these tiles. For example, how many words can you spell with a Q, without having a U?!!

Know when to swap: Sometimes you have a crap hand and you need to know when it's best to fold. If I have all vowels or all consonants or I simply can't play anything worthwhile, I either skip my turn or swap tiles. In the long run, it will be better because more often than not, you're going to have a few bad hands in a row if you don't do something about it.

The S is the most important 1 point tile: You shouldn't just throw it on the end of the word because you have it, if it isn't gaining you significant bonus points.

Look for Bingo opportunities: You get 30 extra points if you use all 7 of your tiles. I don't constantly look to do this, but the times I do take some extra time thinking about it is when I have an obvious help in the form of the following combos of letters that can be prefixes or suffixes and make it that much easier, like, ER(RE), ED(DE), ING, etc.

Know all your two letter word combinations: I pretty much know all of them by heart. Now, I'm not going to lie and say I know what they mean or how to use them in a sentence, but I do know they exist and can be your best friend in this game if you know where you can hook words on. There are only two letters that have no two letter words, C and V. You're welcome.

Read more: I know a lot of words because I like to read and I come across all different sorts of words all the time. However, even I sometimes admit to playing words I don't actually know are words. Most of the time though, I do know that combining certain letters a specific way has the better chance of actually being a word.

Don't cheat: It's so lame to cheat and it's also pretty obvious, unless you are a linguistics major or something. I can still beat a cheater from time to time because I think strategy still plays a part rather than always playing your best word at the time, but it takes a lot of the fun out of competition when someone uses a computer to generate a word for them.

If anyone else would like to add to my list, feel free. Sharing is caring.