Category: Articles and Resources
This summer, I decided it was time to learn how to tap dance. I love to dance, and I’m not sure whether it was watching Singing in the Rain or a Michael Jackson documentary, but I got it in my head, and I set out to do it. It seemed like it would be fun and pretty easy to get started. After all, I had a taken a few classes when I was…… maybe 6?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tap dancing is brutally difficult and often feels like you are trying to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time. It requires a crazy amount of coordination and mental focus. Needless to say, my first 3 lessons were disasters. I felt like I should get a courage award for having to perform some improv tap in front of my whole class. I actually laughed so hard I was practically crying when I showed my family what that “improv” looked like. Truly, if you have seen the Peanuts characters dance, that is what I did.
Do you remember the last time you had a real tantrum? The kind that threw you way off center and made you feel like smoke was coming out of your ears? Maybe this happened many years ago, and maybe it was last week. Either way, strong feeling happens to everybody, and truly, there is no way around that. For this reason, one of my favorite tools in mindfulness practice is the TIME OUT chair. No, not an actual chair, but a figurative place where feelings go to take a chill, catch their breath, and wait it out until morning.
Being intense, focused and driven is a goal for many athletes. This is often called being in the “zone”. There are lots of exercises that I use to help people build “zone time”, such as meditation, mindfulness practice, and breathing techniques. However, something I came upon recently, while speaking to several of my fabulous skaters, is how easy it is to cross the line past intensity, focus and drive and end up in a place I have termed “the heavy”.
When you put “the heavy” on your sport, things change rapidly. Rather than being calm and centered, you become anxious and worried. This worry often centers on future outcomes. With energy in future time, it is impossible to have all of your energy in present time, where it is greatly needed. The present moment is where all our power lies, and therefore, this is the place to be in order to soar, on and off the playing field.
Imagination is a huge part of training. Without the ability to see a dream, to distinguish the path, to feel the gate of the journey, there is no way to climb to the heights of one’s passions. “Manifest” is something that I very much believe in. We need to breathe life into experiences, and actually feel their truth, before we can walk our way to our destination.
I ran the Chicago Marathon in October 2002. At the end of my training, I consulted with a dear friend and brilliant healer, Kurt Hill, about whether actually running this race after so many miles of training would be healthy and productive for my body, as I felt like it was really taking a lot out of me. Kurt’s response was this: “Julie, you have already run that race a million times. You are standing on the finish line right now, waiting for the rest of you to get there!” I think of what Kurt said to me that day every time I talk to an athlete, take a long run, practice skating, or set out to reach any goal that I set out to reach. Dream big and dream fully! Let your imagination SOAR!!!!!!
The National Alliance For Youth Sports included Julie Learner’s thoughts on competition when it comes to parents and their child athletes. Click the link to read the article.
- Is Your Comtetitive Spirit Getting The Best Of You?
4/29/2015 – NAYS.org
The National Alliance For Youth Sports invited Julie Learner for a Q&A about how good character among teammates helps to create a positive and productive team dynamic. Click the link to read the article.
I felt the rain starting at mile 6, trickling down my forehead and into my eyes. My body, while more than ready to do its job and complete this half marathon, felt cold and wet, a scenario I had not anticipated. I had trained long and hard that year, harder than ever before, and now the rain promised to change my time, keeping me from attaining the faster mile pace I had strove for over the past six months. As I adjusted to the new normal of this particular race, I found my way into my zone of the moment, and breathed into the day. I tried to remember that the only thing that was really important was that I had awoke that morning and put on my running shoes.
My daughter, Marlee, and I ran the half marathon together this year. I really didn’t think she could do it. She told me she had trained this year at college, which is many miles away from where I live. I didn’t believe her.
I know she has a tough spirit, and that she works exceptionally hard in college, both as a gifted actor and an academic student. Still, honestly, I wasn’t sure she could really complete 13.1 miles. I had trained hard and run these races every summer. Marlee normally cheered for me when I woke her up after I got home from the race. She would yawn and smile her sweet smile. But this year was different. Marlee surprised me.
Have you ever thought, I will try! Of course you have. Everyone thinks that sometimes. You will do your best, right? Give it a spin and see what happens. But what does this word TRY really mean? To try seems to me to be an opportunity to give yourself a way out. Trying means that you are open to the possibility of giving up. I would like to suggest a different way to think about this.
I am not talking about winning. Winning is great! But in actuality, the part of the process that truly enables you to shine is the hard work you put in. I am talking about the commitment to real effort, regardless of the outcome. Your journey will have days when things are headed upward and days when it is dark. The path will always have those dips and turns. It is the attention to moving forward that makes you a winner. The real hero is the one who can get up after a fall and keep going.
Mental training???? As if the physical training isn’t enough, why do you need to do more?! After hours of grueling training, cross training, yoga, stretching, icing sore muscles and all the other physical stuff necessary to be the athlete you want to be, it turns out that the part of your body you may be neglecting is your mind. Training consciously, watching your thoughts and feelings as you move, will change the game entirely. And as it turns out, mental training will just make it all easier.