Older Athlete Blog:  What Keeps You Motivated?

How to stay motivated

 

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” ― Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov

 

This too was a requested topic. This topic might apply to athletes of all ages. For an older athlete there are two parts to it. First, what motivates you and second what keeps you motivated.

 

Since motivation is unique to an individual, I can really only speak to what motivates me.  That said, as always I invite feedback, comments and topic ideas.

 

For me motivation is painfully simplistic:  THE LOVE OF THE SPORT.  As readers of this blog you have heard me say, “I fell in love with the ice.”  This is true.  There is a visceral heartfelt tug that I long for when I am not with the ice – hate the cold – love the ice.

 

A friend said to me this week, “Gee Prata, have not heard from you in months. You get married?”  I replied, “Well, I am already married to the Ice and my partner is Gabriel my sled.”  Yes.  As internally focused as it seems, when you drive a sled at 90 MPH in a tunnel of ice you must be one with your sled.

 

I have done sports of some kind my entire life.  There is a mental side to this sport which can beat you in a second.   Literally, I rely on my love of the sport, the ice and amazing opportunity I have to do this. Basically if you are motivated by the love of the sport then everything will be ok.  Yet is so difficult under extreme competition pressure to remember why you are there.

 

Now the hard part, WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED?  Many things play a role here and it is easy to say love of the sport, but there has to be more in the summer when one is miles from ice, Gabriel is sleeping without runners and my training is on a track and in a gym.  I am committed 100% of my day – this can be exhausting day after day.   To train you need sleep and the right food all the time.  So that is a commitment that means you give up other things when there is no one to remind you for the LOVE OF THE SPORT.  There are times that you dig deep for those things that drive and motivate you.  For me, in addition to the love of the sport, I have some grief issues.  My mother would love that I am doing this – My brother Patrick, no longer on earth, is the poster child for the USA 1996 Summer Games – there are many other losses including a brother of whom I am immensely proud and was an Army Ranger.  But when I stand on the ice behind Gabriel and I get ready to go, Mama and Patrick are there. Grief is an interesting motivator.  They watch and guide, I know it; they also understand “for the love of the sport.”

 

When asked what motivates me or any athlete sometimes, some might think, “Fame and glory.”  If it is for fame and glory, those are the wrong reasons.   Dreaming of fame and glory is fine and might serve as a motivator for some.  Personally I strongly caution against it.  The view of slamming your body into an emotional train wreck can often be the result.  I propose that as an older professional athlete I have the wisdom to know that my sport and role in it remains a hat I take on and off.  Ever met an attorney or a doctor who have forgotten that they were a human on earth first, then they got a degree and it is not who they are but a role they play for part of their human life on earth?  It is not what defines me as a person.  If a person is defined by any singular role or hat in their life, they often set themselves up for disappointment.

 

Finding something to live for is NOT the same as being defined by it.

 

So at the end of the day – there are days I would rather not go to the gym – those are days I still do something.  I do something every day.  Some days that is mental training or spiritual training.  Being motivated to do a sport that is 85% mental requires balance and motivational factors that may not be typical.

 

And there are days where I have gone to the gym and after six minutes turned around and walked out. This is life and humanity.  You dig deep and power through what others can not imagine. That does not mean although I think I am super human, I am not invincible.

 

I think this bone bruise deep in my elbow acquired a few weeks ago in a Calgary competition is a good reminder that even a concrete wall with no ice on it is still a bit stronger than me –SOMETIMES – maybe perhaps but not really…. The LOVE OF THE SPORT IS THE BEST CURE FOR ANY PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL PAIN THAT COMES WITH THE JOURNEY!!!

 

I LOVE BEING ON THE ICE AND SLIDING…IT IS FOR ME THE MOST UNDESCRIBABLE EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE THAT BRINGS TEARS TO MY EYES …. SOOO WHAT MOTIVATES ME IS TRULY THE LOVE OF THE SPORT.

 

Guest post by Anna Prata, an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day. In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround. Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR. Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical or psychological advice.

 

 




Things I Never Thought I Would do Again, If Ever – The Rear View Mirror

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The musician Meat Loaf has a line in one of his songs, “Objects in the rear view mirror often appear closer than they are.”

 

Well, I live both with intention and intensely; thus leaving a lot in the rear view mirror to be just that….clearly in the rear view, never to be revisited.  Then life changed as I decided to pursue professionally the sport of Skeleton and aim for the Olympics.

 

Our prior topics embraced topics whereby choices as older athletes are made that impact others close to us;  we also make choices that impact us.  Let’s face it.  Doing any sport at a professional level does require a financial & time commitment.  Nobody can walk in blindly not knowing that.

 

That said, what I was not ready for, and blind I was indeed, was the other choices I would make and continue to make, that I thought were very much in my rear view mirror of life.

 

At a certain age there are  things in life we simply no longer need to do, want to do or would never consider doing based on who we are and our own personal DNA.  YET as an athlete pursuing an elite status, all of these rules kinda need to go out the window.  Here is a brief list of some of those things.

 

THINGS I NO LONGER NEED or WANT TO DO but have done and will continue to:

 

·  Living in an athlete dorm that smells like lip-gloss, bubblegum, testosterone (males and females have plenty of testosterone in elite sports), AXE for men and sweaty compression gear.

 

·  Sleeping three feet away with three twin beds in one room and sharing a bathroom with these two other athletes who I compete against at night.

 

·  The dorm environment is not the party it once was.  I was never a dorm person or a party person but 20 years old in a coed dorm is one thing; it definitely is not a party if you are older. Instinct is Run as far as I can… But nope, not an option.  Made a choice, this comes with it.  The noise and the smell alone hit me hard and fast.  Within a minute I made the decision to put all of who I thought I was and liked regarding privacy, hygiene and personal space on hold for some indefinite period of time. This is not easy to do for someone who has never liked sharing a bathroom since I was 5 years old.

 

·  What to do in a coed dorm?  Thank Goodness for technology and texting… we all sit on our bed most always in silence except for the occasional outburst of laughter from a personal joke in a text. We are all texting anyone – anyone that is NOT in that room!   There are some public spaces to get away but everyone there is doing the same thing.  There is down time between cafeteria feedings and workouts in the gym or at the track.

 

 

THINGS I JUST NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD DO:  

·  Once I had a really cool roommate.  She is an outstanding athlete 25 yrs. younger than me but we never thought about it.  In fact this athlete I call a friend, although a competitor.  We shared a room at an Olympic Training center.   Cafeteria opens at 5:00AM, I was usually in there early, working and coffee time.  Consequently I would see what the breakfast forage was early.  If there was bacon I would text her.  Athletes in explosive sports often love bacon… even if someone denies it—we all grab as much as we can when the chef makes bacon.  (NOT turkey bacon.)  We who love bacon and slide in the cold will hoard it.  When bacon is served I have seen groggy athletes from other sports run into the cafeteria barely out of bed with Ziplocs and fill them up with bacon.  Having texted my roommate one word, “bacon”, she texts back “turkey?”  I text “no, pig”.   Into the cafeteria would come my roommate, half asleep, grab a water glass, go get the bacon and go back to bed.

 

SO here it is:  Something I never thought I would do…. Fill a plastic 20oz red water glass with bacon as stuffed as we could… this water glass of cold, congealed greased bacon would sit on our nightstands until foraged- whacked!  Licking the grease off of cold bacon at 10PM after sliding actually tastes really good!

 

I never thought I would actually contemplate let alone like having a red water glass of congealed bacon next to the bed. Yup, never thought I would do that.  Never thought I would admit it and never thought I would put it in print!

 

·  I never have been a “girly girl”whatever that means, but let’s just stipulate to the fact that most woman at any age, let alone 50, do not have a makeup drawer that looks like mine.  One day in Nov 2014 when I was getting ready for a meeting, it dawned on me as I was looking for an eye shadow color, that my makeup color pots were surrounded by superglue to fix a shoe, a zip tie for my sled crate, a track spike wrench for my shoes and a bungee cord.  My makeup basket looks like a “where’s Waldo”.

 

·  Athletes in sports often have certain similar traits from physicality being similar to personality disorders for lack of a better way to frame it.  I am only speaking for myself but I have heard plenty of skeleton athletes and coaches in the sport of skeleton admit to being OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  I had no idea when I started this and yet it suits me just fine as I have my glorious share of OCD tendencies.  It is not a weakness, it seemingly makes us who we are and somehow a lot of us who slide head first at 90MPH have some OCD – go figure.

 

I mention the OCD purely for context because often with OCD can come order, precision and a bit of a bent for extremes and hygiene cleanliness.

 

I never thought I would be chuckling with another human so like me in a kitchen, not using other people’s silverware, having food allergies and eating the exact same things and being built exactly alike.  It is kinda fun!

 

Some things that I have done and I never thought I would do.  No, it is not that I “thought” I would never do it; these things are so afoul to my DNA that it is safe to say I would NEVER do this.

 

And then came skeleton… and I have.  If I don’t gross my self out telling you, I will just laugh!

 

·  We wear bite guards and we all tuck them somewhere after a run- in the front of our speedo, up a sleeve, hanging 50% out of our mouth, etc.  It is pure habit, helmet off, bite guard out and tuck it.  For me it is the top of my speedo.

 

  • Now I have to use the ladies room – got to take off the speedo to do that and bite guard falls on the floor of the athlete start house bathroom, which has likely not been cleaned in months.  Well, I am sliding next and I simply have said, oh well, picked it up, rinsed it and put it back in my mouth, immediately blocking the experience from my brain.  Unfortunately this happened again this week… gross!

 

·  I never thought I would have chocolate stuck in my hair in the morning, skittle indentions in my thighs in the morning or found popcorn under my pillow… disgusting!  Eating in bed but I was still hungry and so tired.

 

Quote of the week:  “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”   -Joseph Campbell

 

Perhaps it is as simple as once I chose this path I had to be willing subconsciously and otherwise, to do what Joseph Campbell says.

 

I encourage all readers of this blog to think about that quote.  If you think you want to try something but think for any reason you should not… think again… it might just be the life you were supposed to have.

 

Yours in Ice

Prata

 

Guest post by Anna Prata, an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day. In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround. Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR. Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical or psychological advice.

 

 




What do older professional athletes eat?

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I eat pretty much only what I personally cook.   I consume, as do all athletes in explosive sports, what might seem like a significant amount of protein – I never seem to get enough.   In addition, my supplement regimen is absolutely non-trivial.    

 

Note:  As light as I try to make this blog;  be sure of one thing – YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.  How I choose to forage is strict, but for me, it is worth it. 

 

First, nutritional knowledge has come a long way!   Proper nutrition and making big sacrifices to eat extremely clean does play a role in increased performance.   I have a severe MSG allergy, so cooking everything I eat from scratch and from fresh is my default behavior.   We really are what we eat – eggs, plant protein, animal protein, what quality of animal protein and what time of day protein is consumed, all matters.   I also believe that our own food supply is increasingly contaminated.   All the more reason to eat not farmed fish but line caught. Then you add an explosive, fast twitch, winter sport and…..

 

I am 50 years old and consume 6000+ calories a day minimum during winter months.

 

The winter training is usually “2 a day workouts” and obviously the second one is on the ice in the cold.  The human body burns more fuel to stay warm.  How much salmon can I eat in one sitting…. A lot!  Smothered in honey and ginger and as raw as possible.   Some people will say, “Oh the mercury”, so do what works for you!

 

None of us are perfect and we all have cravings but when you consume 6000+ calories a day, it can happen that it is not all ideal calories every time,  every day.  I am strict as possible but not perfect!    That said,  I do calculate when I am not going to be perfect or know that the impact of my choice is not going to cost me in a way that I will regret it.  Additionally, I also measure the “guaranteed negative” impact the next day in a workout, eg. documenting what caused me to lift 20% less.

 

By now you all know we (Skeleton and Bobsled sliders) train at night,  in the cold at temperatures as cold as -10 degrees and less, in an ice tunnel, traveling at 90+ MPR, in a paper thin speedo.   We sweat, we get cold, we get on a truck and go back up the pass  and do it again.   There are times  on that truck you hear an athlete say, “I cannot slide again; I am too hungry.”   I have watched male bobsledders warming up in the start house with a “to go tub” of numerous steaks,  gnawing on them between runs.

 

I keep liquid Wellesse Protein in the car – fast absorbing and down the hatch!   I don’t go anywhere without a baggie of about 50 + supplements for the day, they go everywhere.

 

One of my friends who is an MD and a recreational slider said to me, “Prata, really, all you have is expensive urine!”   I beg to differ;  I do significant research on whatever I ingest.   I  even  go so far as to  mix my own protein powders from scratch.   One friend said, regarding my baggie of supplements, “The vitamin dust is all touching each other how do you even know what does what?”    Well, as an athlete you do know exactly why you are taking, what you taking and when you are taking it.

 

Due to the high levels of protein consumed,  sometimes I have too little carbohydrates in me and I can feel my energy level drop.  I am relatively gluten free except when this happens… and I will get something as insane as a croissant and soak it in butter!  I realize it is already made with copious amounts of butter but I need 6000 calories remember!   And frankly there are times when a gluten free 113 calorie slice of bread just is not going to cut it.  Yup –strict as heck –But not perfect!  Always,  if I indulge like this,  it will be a day where I know the next day is not a lifting day and thus either the sugar or the wheat intake and negative impact of my choice is mitigated- sort of. ..But not really – damage is still done.

 

ANOTHER CRAVING:   Burning fuel in the cold and doing explosive training, I sometimes crave fat.  Cravings can come in different varieties, like for things you are actually allergic to and should stay away from, what your body is potentially saying is you need something else.   Or sometimes your body is depleted in something and it makes sense to feed the craving.  When the latter is the case – the next question is how do you choose to feed the craving?  So if I am craving fat I will find good quality fat in Bison, avocados, and the right nuts and berries.   That said, I have eaten more than 50% of a box of cheese nips in less than 30 minutes and then I can usually polish off another quarter of the same box in the next 15 minutes.  Strict  but not perfect! Not to mention the migraine I just caused with the MSG!!!

 

What I eat in the morning is a process of a protein shake, or oatmeal, a pre-workout drink, lots of water, some supplements.  Then training, eat more protein, chicken, shrimp, and tuna, and liquid Wellesse protein is always handy for me.  I can always take a swig out of the bottle and grab 10 grams.  Quick and easy!

 

Eating before I go to the track is tricky for me.  I do not like to feel full and have my tummy in the way when sliding.  My sled, Gabriel hates it too and yet it is usually dinner time right about the same time I am warming up or starting that first run.   I am always trying to find the perfect amount of nutrition and yet not too heavy.  As I mentioned, I mix my own protein powders and am currently trying one that is not working.  That said, I am in Whistler and have a lot of it, so will use it up and switch back to my own concoction.   Protein bars – find the one that works for you. Protein bars are tricky. There is everything from gluten free to low glycemic index bars.  My choice is what works for me, does not make me sick, provides the right amount of protein and without stupid amounts of sugar; yet I really am done eating stuff I will only try once and spit out- so it might not taste AWESOME but it cannot be heinous.

 

Eating when Home at 11:00 PM from training:  This food can be an approximately  ½ lb. or more of salmon, broccoli or sweet potatoes or up to ¾ of a lb. of shrimp.  Yup, I can eat a lot of shrimp in one sitting too. While I am fixing food I am usually eating something else already cooked.  Hard boiled eggs are a no brainer.  I can pop a couple of those on my way to the shower and while I am still getting out of wet clothes.

 

Sometimes I mix canned line caught salmon or tuna.  Often I am still hungry and love popcorn.  I can put away 2 large bowls with approx. ¾ of a stick of butter on it or I have a special nut and berry mix. It is d-doublicious!   I make it not low calorie but organic and high value calories. This can be a constant feeding frenzy while I work on my sled, trying to get warm or mentally wind down.

 

Yes the lack of perfection is evidenced by the fact that I have woken up with M&Ms melted in my hair,  Cheetos dust so thick on my phone I cannot swipe it.  I am sleeping on a piece of plywood to help heal and I woke up and thought, “What are these divots in my thighs? How did little pebbles get under me?”   I get out of bed and I found 8 skittles stuck to the plywood— Strict as heck but not perfect…

 

One liner this week is:   Don’t eat skittles in bed!  

 

More importantly be mindful, intentional and educate yourself on what you are eating!   IT MATTERS!   

 

Guest post by Anna Prata, an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day.   In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround.  Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR.  Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical  or psychological advice.