Embrace Change

from Atlas Peak Performance

Change is a love/hate relationship for me. I’m a creature of habit, routine is huge for me. I like to eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, hang out with same people. Life is more manageable when I have a system in place. If I can run the majority of my life on autopilot, then I can focus on the things that really matter; throwing, and creating happiness. Less time worrying about the little things means less stress overall.

This summer I had the opportunity of a lifetime to compete at the Olympic Trials, alongside over 600 of the nation’s best athletes. And damn, I was one of them. What a surreal experience it was to walk around see athletes like Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin, and all the different throwers I looked up to for years. It was hard to take it all in honestly. I was there for business, to try to set a lifetime best and earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. That didn’t quite pan out, but it was an experience I’ll never forget, an experience I can look back on and smile.

Since then, my entire world has been flipped upside down. My usual routines have become a thing of the past. For the ten months leading up to the trials, I lived and breathed hammer throw. I based my entire day around training, which wasn’t a hard thing to do when you’re still an NCAA athlete, let alone when you’re a graduate student taking the bare minimum, 6 credit hours. I had on average four hours of class a week, and maybe an hour or two of homework. I was living the dream. No responsibilities outside of training and school work, a fairly stress-free life, if you ignore the fact that I spent the first six months just getting accustomed to moving halfway across the country. Nevertheless, my objectives were clear. Throw hard, lift hard, recover hard. One track mind, aimed at throwing a sixteen-pound ball as far as possible.

It worked out well because now I can consider continuing on with this passion of slinging heavy metal hundreds of feet, and maybe make money for it one day, an added bonus to competing in the sport I love. Unfortunately, that “maybe” is a very soft maybe. I don’t know what exactly drives me to throw farther, but all I know is that I feel it very strongly. It’s an addiction, almost. The feeling you get when every single movement of a throw comes together is… well… indescribable. Every single training rep, every weight lifted, every moment of struggle is forgotten. In that single moment, it comes full circle, it was all worth it. I will always be in search of that feeling.

It’ll be an uphill battle to get to where I want to be for quite some time, but I look forward to the challenge. That’s why I love change. It’s never easy. The struggle associated with change forces you to adapt, to become stronger, smarter, more efficient, a better version of yourself. Without change, without stress, without the struggle, there is no growth.

Like I was saying, since the trials, I’ve had to switch gears in my life. Throwing is still the focus, but now the entire game has changed.

I moved from my quiet, comfy, and spacious two-bedroom apartment into a rambunctious eight-bedroom, three story house with my friends. The house is old. Really old. We have mice. Our heat barely works. The floor creaks with every step you take. I’ve been here for three months now, and every week seems to bring a new adventure.

Oh, and remember how I said my old apartment was spacious? You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. I never measured my old bedroom’s square-footage, but I did when I moved into this house. Take a guess. 63 square feet. Nine feet by seven feet. I can almost touch wall to wall. The doorway is so small, I can’t even walk through the door straight on, and I definitely don’t have the broadest shoulders. I agreed to take the room without even seeing it beforehand. Stupid on my part? Maybe. But it’s what I had to do. I needed to save money. I had to cut back. I traded in my queen size bed for the cheapest twin mattress I could find. It’s definitely not as comfortable. But I’m making it work. It’s taken time, but I’ve adjusted.

That’s what my life has been about. Minimalism. Cutting back on everything. Trying to be as efficient as possible, both in training and outside of training. Being a professional hammer thrower is a game of longevity, a marathon if you will. They say the physical peak of a hammer thrower is anywhere from 28-32 years old. Half the battle is just sticking around long enough to see that out. To do so, I’ve had to make some uncomfortable changes in my lifestyle. But it’s what I need to do. Most people will never understand why I feel so strongly about my sport and my goals. But that’s okay, they don’t need to. They’ll never understand why I upended my entire life and moved across the country, just to get better at a sport only a percent of the entire country recognizes. They’ll never understand why I’ll pass up a night out at the bar just because I’m thinking about how it’ll impact my training over the next week. I’ve had relationships end because of my dedication to my craft. I’ve sacrificed a lot to get to where I am. Enduring this kind of drastic change is what will make me great. I know that if I can get through this, I can get through anything.

So, step one, new living situation. Step two, new coach.

Since the beginning of this season, I’ve been working with an old friend, Sean Denard. Even with the distance between us, he has been extremely helpful. Sean taught me a lot about throwing while we were teammates at Mount Union, helping shape how I think about training for throwing, so it’s no wonder training has been going well so far. I’ve cut back volume nearly 50% in the ring, and 60% in the weight room, and I’m still making incredible progress. That’s one of the perks of knowing how to train smart. More bang for your buck.

Sean has also been very accommodating. He knows the level of trust that I instill in my strength coach, Cal Dietz, and he is willing to work with what Cal and I plan out. This is a rare quality in many coaches nowadays, I believe, this level of open-mindedness. That’s why when trying to find a new coach, as soon as Sean reached out to me, I said yes. Most other coaches would want to control what I did in the weight room, and rightfully so, they go hand in hand. Call me stubborn or hard-headed, but I’ve been writing my training more or less for the majority of track and field career, and I’ve done the research and I understand how my body reacts. I didn’t want to make any huge changes in my training, and Sean understood. I am grateful to have him on my side.

And speaking of grateful, Cal continues to be the foundation of my support system while still living in Minneapolis. No longer being part of the team here at Minnesota, I’ve lost access to the athletic training room and massage therapist, along with all the other awesome perks of being a division I student-athlete. Besides being my strength coach, Cal does a lot for me in terms of injury prevention through the use of RPR, which I think is honestly the biggest secret in sports performance right now. The combination of triphasic training and RPR has been incredible. I’ve felt the healthiest I have in years, I move better, I’m faster, stronger, more resilient, you name it.

Plus, besides that, Cal is just a great guy. Incredibly supportive of me, and always there to help. If it wasn’t for him and Sean, I don’t think I’d be handling this post-collegiate training thing as well as I am.

I also owe a lot to Matt Conly and the rest of the Minnesota coaching staff. They have been very helpful as well, allowing me to still use the facilities that make Minnesota one of the best throwing programs in the country.

So, that takes care of my living and training situations. Different, but adjustment has gone well. The hardest part of my life as a post-collegiate athlete has been my financial situation. I train full time, but I get no support from USATF. I’m making essentially zero income. I didn’t want to get a real job, I still needed to make training my first priority if I’m going to get to where I want to be as an athlete. I’ve made it work thus far, but over the next few months, I’m sure there will come a time when I’m not sure how I am going to feed myself or pay the next month’s rent. That’s currently the biggest stress in my life. I know that the only thing standing between me and my goals is the work, and the time. I can handle the work, my parents instilled a blue collar work ethic in me. I enjoy the grind; I enjoy the hustle. Once again, the hard part is going to be sustaining this training lifestyle long enough to see my hard work pay off.

Rather than take a normal job, I’ve taken the alternative route. I’ve started my own business. I knew that it’d be tough to get off the ground, and it has been, but I know in the long run it’ll pay off. The end goal is to be able to fund my training with my earnings as a private strength and throws coach. I control my own hours. I enjoy my work. I saw this as the best opportunity for me. I haven’t made very much, but what small business does in the first few months? Luckily there’s very little overhead involved with setting up an online training business. The only thing standing between me and reaching my end goal with this business is a bunch of work. I look forward to it.

To supplement my income, I’ve also taken a throws coach position at a nearby NCAA DII school, Concordia St. Paul. I was wary to take a job as a throws coach or strength coach, because I know the long hours they can spend working with their athletes. It just so happened I found the perfect job for my situation. It’s a part-time position, my training group is small, and the head coach is supportive of my goals as an athlete. While yes, I won’t have that many opportunities to travel to big meets, I’m not concerned. I don’t have the funds to make those trips anyways. Indoor and Outdoor USA’s are the only things that matter to me right now.

This is just the start of a new journey for me. A long, tough journey. Why would I want to put myself in financial peril and continue to beat my body up just to throw a little bit farther? Because of one word. Regret. I knew if I gave up throwing, I’d have to deal with the pain of regret for the rest of my life. I know I have the potential to throw farther. I was so close to my goal of making an Olympic team and earning the opportunity to represent the greatest country in the world. I couldn’t let the dream die just because of a little hardship. If anything, this hardship will just make the victories that much sweeter.

Click here to shop Sean’s store; any purchase supports his journey!

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