Life Stuff with Laura Callen

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If you are fortunate enough to know Laura Lynn Callen, then you understand how deeply her smile penetrates your heart. Laura lives joyfully and selflessly. Ventura locals may recognize her as one of the energizing red carpet emcees at Mission Church’s annual “Night to Remember” prom for special needs guests. She also sings like a sparrow and composes ad lib melodies which she calls “Laura Lynn Callen Originals”.

In addition to her musical talents, Laura is an accomplished endurance athlete. When I first met Laura, she mentioned to me that (at the time) she had finished “one triathlon”. I pried a bit and found that this “one triathlon”, Laura’s first triathlon, had been at Ironman Louisville in 2013. Having competed in triathlon for over 10 years myself, and never having finished a race longer than 70.3 miles, I was astonished that a “beginner” would sign up for–and complete–140.6 miles in one go. Just last year, in October 2017, Laura finished her second ever triathlon–yes, it was another Ironman event. Laura recently took the time to share with me what endurance sport means to her: a therapeutic outlet when “life stuff” happens.

“When I was at the University of Kentucky, I worked with a man who became my good friend. He supported me as I moved from Kentucky to Ventura (to work for Mission Church) and our friendship continued to grow. After the move, I felt even more connected as friends. But then I learned that he had some unhealthy behaviors and was making unwise choices. It hurt me that he was making these choices, and I realized that if I kept being his friend it would impact me and I would end up being hurt even more. So I had to make one of the hardest decisions in my life: I had to cut him out. One night I Facetimed him and told him that although I cared so much for him but had to step away. He completely understood, which made it even more difficult for me to let go. So I ended that friendship and I was so, so sad. My heart was hurting. 

The next day, I was feeling very out of sorts– emotionally drained. I didn’t know what to do. I thought ‘you know what? I am gonna go on a long bike ride.’ I had no plans on where to go. I didn’t even bring food. I had a water bottle and my phone.

On the bike, I was pedaling and processing and talking to God and crying. I ended up biking for over 60 miles. I wasn’t even training before that. It was just a spontaneous ride. I let out all the burdens, all the hurt, and all the frustration. I felt like I was just pedaling it all out. At the end of the ride I felt so relieved. I felt lighter. I was a little tired, but I was so grateful to be able to process and release stress by moving my body. I was thankful that I had a bike, a place to ride, and a body with the ability to do so.

Training has been a huge outlet for me. Whenever I’m working out –running, swimming, biking–I find this is a space where I get to really unpack anything that I have pushed down deep and thought ‘I’ll get to that later’. The things I’ve been holding in, I can let them out. I feel like when I workout I am overall becoming more complete as a human–spiritually, physically, emotionally.”

Life Stuff with Chris Frias

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Well folks, it’s time for the second round of “Life Stuff”. If you haven’t read Donna’s story, it’s not too late! Prepare to smile 🙂 Today’s post features elite runner, Chris Frias. A 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials competitor and 2013 Big West cross country champion at Cal Poly, Chris can be found training, coaching, or selling shoes at Mile 26 Sports in Ventura, CA. Chris oozes deep humility, strength, and passion, as evidenced in his words below. Thanks for sharing this chapter of your story with us, Chris.

Life Stuff 2nd ed.

Chris Frias

 

The most difficult thing I’ve gone through (and still struggle to get through) just happened last year.  My mom passed away from pancreatic cancer. It was a 17 month battle which caused a rollercoaster of emotions.  Initially she responded really well to her chemo and her tumor marker number dropped significantly. However, the treatment started to take a toll on her health and she had to back off it for a bit.  Meanwhile her tumor marker number shot right back up. She eventually got back on chemo but it started to become less and less effective until the point where she had to stop it completely and go on hospice.  

Since her passing (Jan 2017) I’ve had very few good races, and it’s especially been evident during my current track season in which the times I’m running now I was running as a 2nd year in college. Training and competing have both been a struggle recently, but one of the many things I learned from my mom is to never give up.  She never gave up hope, remained faithful to God throughout, and kept fighting until the day she died. Her courageous battle with cancer made me realize that no matter how much pain I may feel in a race, it is nothing compared to the amount of pain and suffering she went through during those 17 months. She is my inspiration to run everyday and my motivation to get through races when things get tough.

Life Stuff with Donna Waltmann

By | Life Stuff, Meet the Athlete, Swimming | 3 Comments

Lately, I have been wanting to write/post about people in a different way than my usual Q&A “Meet the Athlete” format. I’ve been stirred by the stories of others, some of whom are very close to me personally, and others who have absolutely no idea who I am. I want to share some of their stories with you in hopes that you will take some encouragement or lessons from them. I believe that regardless of what our own “life stuff” is, we can grow in empathy by getting a sneak peek into others’ lives, and perhaps learn something valuable for ourselves in the process. I am so proud to share the story of a woman I met at the Ventura Aquatic Center nearly four years ago. I have the pleasure of seeing her everyday when I walk onto the pool deck at 5:50 a.m. (she is in the water at 5:30!). She has an aura of joy that those around her can’t help but notice. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Donna!

 

Life Stuff 1st ed.

Donna Waltmann

    

    Someone once gave me some very wise advice.  She said, “You didn’t gain weight overnight so you won’t lose it overnight either”.  My name is Donna and I have been overweight most of my adult life. I have tried almost every quick fix diet on the market.  I have tried “no fat”, “no carb”, and protein shakes. I even allowed myself to be hypnotized once!

    Nothing worked in the long run.  I would lose weight only to gain it back plus some extra.  In my research for the “magic cure” I soon realized there isn’t one.  Weight loss requires hard work and discipline if you want long term results.  

   I knew that exercise, along with dietary changes, were going to be what was necessary to achieve long term results.  In September 2014 I found BuenaVentura Swim Club and Ventura County Masters. I had been swimming by myself at a gym for a few months, but I was bored and not as consistent as I wanted to be.  A coworker was talking to me about how she was on a soccer team and I thought, “I want to be on a team!”.

   Swimming with people that are so accomplished in the sport has been very motivating.  To have someone that has achieved so much take an interest in my progress means so much.   I have also greatly benefited from coaches who have helped me set goals for myself in regards to swimming times.  I never played sports as a child and did not come to swimming with that mindset. Having people help me set goals turned swimming into a fun activity and not just an exercise program that can begin to feel like a chore.  It also doesn’t hurt that if I skip practice people notice and ask where I was.

   In the past 3 ½ years I have lost 126 pounds.  When people ask me how I did it I tell them swimming 6 mornings a week, but there is more to it than that.  Surrounding myself with people who are motivated to be healthy and active has translated into a desire for me to be healthy and active.  When my coaches and teammates started believing I could get faster in the pool I started believing it too. This translated into a belief that I could lose weight and become healthier.

   I have a ways to go to reach my goal weight, but I am confident that I will.  That person who ate whatever they wanted and never exercised isn’t me anymore.  With God’s help and my swim team I know I can achieve my goal.

 

Meet the Sport Psychologist

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Today’s interview takes a detour from the physical into the psychological component of sport. I went to school with Ray Santiago from age 5 to age 18. While Ray and I were merely acquaintances growing up, I have recently gotten to know him as an accomplished sport psychologist and friend. I am very excited to share a bit about his background, beliefs, and business. I believe that the lessons below are relevant to readers regardless of age, experience, ability, or sport of choice. Thanks for taking the time to answer my (many) questions, Ray!

Where do you hail from?

Born in Indio near Palm Springs, moved to upstate NY, then settled in Oxnard/Ventura area from 4-18 years old.

When and where did your athletic journey begin?

On Gorrion Ave in Ventura.  I played street ball (football, baseball, wiffle ball, basketball, street hockey) with guys who were about 5 years older than me throughout my childhood.  I started playing organized baseball at 12 when most start at 5. I made all-stars my first year and remained one of the best in the area for much of my career, thanks to learning toughness on the streets with older guys.

Explain your athletic progression throughout high school & college.

I played both basketball (freshman and sophomore years) and baseball in high school.  I made the sophomore team as a freshman in basketball and worked my way into a starter role. In baseball – my freshman year I made the JV team and I played shortstop for the next 3 years at the Varsity level.

College – I earned a scholarship to Mississippi Valley State but got injured within the first two months and never got to show them what I had.  I had surgery on my shoulder and moved home after one semester to rehab and play at the Junior College level. After Junior College I played at The College of Idaho for two years and finished my career there.

What were the biggest obstacles that you faced as an athlete?

My sophomore year in high school we had the best baseball team in Buena history at the time so it was awesome to taste that playoff environment.  But the next 2 years we were pretty bad. I had never been on a losing team and felt the pressure to be “the guy” those two years. Junior year was great but senior year was quite disappointing both due to the mental pressure I put on myself to earn a D1 scholarship and to help the team win. I also don’t think I was as prepared physically as I could’ve been and that may have lead to my injuries.  

In college at Mississippi Valley State I tore my labrum (shoulder) within two months.  Before the injury, morning workouts started at 5am and it was like jumping right into military boot camp.  That was the best shape of my life and tested me everyday. I didn’t have the money to buy athletic shoes so I wore regular shoes and I think that led to me tearing my hamstring.  So, two months into my freshman experience I had torn my labrum (surgery) and hamstring. Not fun.

Before my injury, I never drank at college.  I never felt peer pressured or the desire to drink because my focus was playing at the pro level.  After I got injured and couldn’t play for a year I drank occasionally as a way to still feel part of the team. I don’t recommend it.

At The College of Idaho I definitely worked hard but never got better as the coaches there weren’t great at teaching.  I also started partying more often and that definitely took a toll on my body and motivation.

The College of Idaho was the first time I ever had to fight for a position on the field.  It was definitely tough to see guys play over me that I knew I was better than but due to seniority they played.  I got my chance at 3rd base in our 5th game of the year (had never played there) after the regular third baseman began playing poorly.  I made some great plays right away and got a few hits. I played the majority of the rest of the year. Senior year started at short, 3rd, and 2nd.  

How have you navigated those obstacles and what have you learned from these experiences that have translated into other challenges in daily life?

Three obstacles I’ll address: Distractions, Injuries, Relationship with God

  1. Distractions:  If you know what you want you’ve got to start at the end and build a game plan backwards of how you will get there.  I never did that. Here are the things I ALLOWED to deter me from my desired end goal of playing professional baseball:
  • Girls: From my senior year in high school until after my career I was off and on with a girl and it was one of the biggest emotional roller coasters of my life.  It definitely took my mind off of baseball but not necessarily in a good way. I am thankful for the experience but learned that if, as an athlete, you are going to date – you’d better be able to give your significant other the time and attention they deserve.  If you believe you cannot commit that kind of attention – wait until after your career. It’ll spare two hearts a lot of heartache.
  • Partying/Self-defeating behaviors: In Mississippi I was so set on playing pro ball that nothing could deter me – except injuries. Then when I got to The College of Idaho I really got into the party scene (alcohol only) and it was fun but totally derailed me mentally and physically from making it to the pro level.  I never regained the kind of commitment necessary to become elite.
  • Not having a clear game plan: When it came to either the physical or mental side at the NAIA level – you were on your own. They didn’t have strength and conditioning coaches or Sport Psychology Consultants available. So, you either knew what you were doing or didn’t.  I didn’t. It was no excuse but at the time I just didn’t know any better. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

2. Dealing with Injury:

I had recurring hamstring issues at both the high school and college levels.  They not only hampered me physically but mentally I never had that freedom of mind to sprint all out as I thought I was always a stride away from a pulled hamstring.  I still can’t watch sprinters to this day. Hey, maybe I need a Sport Psychologist.

When I tore my labrum in Mississippi, it was the worst thing I’d ever experienced and I later realized it was one of the greatest things that ever happened in my career.  Let me explain as this segways into my final obstacle…

The injury helped me understand that baseball was not only what I did but it had become who I was.  Baseball had become my identity and when I lost it for a year I had an identity crisis where I felt worthless, unmotivated, and lost.  If you allow a sport to define you… you’ll ride the highs and lows with it. And in sport there are many more lows than highs.

I learned that I had to become more well rounded in other activities and hobbies.  I thought I would play baseball forever and of course that’s not true for anyone. So, I’m glad it happened when it did so I got a taste of what life without baseball looked like as well as it made me hungry to be the best when I was cleared to play.  It made me fall in love with the game all over again.

3. My Relationship with God:

It also caused me to realize that baseball had become my god.  I had a relationship with God and attended church regularly but it had always taken a backseat to baseball.  

In Mississippi, when I didn’t have baseball and all my coaches and teammates didn’t care about me much anymore, it was the first time I realized the importance of leaning on God as my sufficiency, my comfort, and my ultimate doctor that was going to heal me to full strength.

In MS, I learned that wherever I played baseball next I would make sure I had a great group of believers to fellowship with and that I would stay well-rounded in other life activities beyond baseball.  It was eye opening. There were times when I fell back into my baseball identity but in Idaho I had a great group of teammates that I’m close with to this day that we talked God’s Word a lot to keep us grounded.  

In what ways do you currently utilize your knowledge of sport psychology to improve the way you think as an athlete, psychologist, mentor, etc.?

Even today, we all still compete and could benefit from having an accountability partner, coach, or person to hold us accountable to being your best on a consistent basis.  Yes, I have a coach.

I read my Bible daily to combat all the input from the world that comes at us daily.  If we’re not getting a good dose of God’s Word we’ll fall back into the ways of the world.

The hardest part of my life is doing what I teach.  I’m constantly learning the best ways to think, speak, act, and invest my time – but I’d be lying if I said I did a great or even good job at it consistently.  

I have learned a few things: motivation and confidence are fragile – both in personal and professional life.  Everyday you have to find something to kick your butt out of bed and tackle the day that burns in your chest like an eagle trying to escape.  

Also, you might be confident in one category of life but very unconfident in others.  It’s about shoring up your strengths and improving the areas that need work.

As a business owner in charge of making my own paycheck – it is up to me to acknowledge my fears that cause me to be less confident and take fewer risks that could get me where I want to go. I like to write out the fears that I have, take a good hard look at them, and ask myself, “Are those things worth fearing and holding you back from greatness?” They never are.  

Do you have a favorite sport psychology book? (other than your own, and if you say “The Bible” then please pick 2)

Haha, yes – the Bible is the greatest book ever dealing with the mind.  After all, God created the mind and has taught us how it functions at its best.  

Baseball Specific: Harvey Dorfman’s The Mental Game of Baseball – Timeless.

Ken Ravizza/Tom Hanson: Heads Up Baseball 2.0. – this one deals with all the distractions and craziness that athletes deal with today.  

General Sport: Gary Mack’s Mind Gym.  Great toilet reader and has the power to change a career in a few seconds. Buy it!

Can you explain the meaning behind the name of your business, “Renewed Mind Performance”?

It’s based off of my favorite verse Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

To renew the mind means to replace something old with something new.  In the context of the verse, it’s telling the believer to no longer conform to the world but instead be transformed by God’s Word when you put it in your mind.  

With the name, I wanted to emphasize mental performance, and in particular, a new way of thinking.  Athletes come in seeing their sport the same way for years.  My goal is to change their perspective with the mental game so that they have a new way of thinking and seeing their performance and never approach it the same way again.

I also want to work with as many Christian athletes as possible so the name appeals to them but still can appeal to non-Christians who I love working with just as much.

How would you explain your personal approach to sport psychology/mentorship? What sets you apart in what you do and how you do it?

I always tell athletes in our first meeting that I am far more interested in the name on the back of their jersey than the number.  Who they are is far more important to me than what they do on a scoreboard.

I of course want them to succeed or I wouldn’t be in business for long.  But what I want them to succeed at is their process to winning rather than the winning itself.  I’m all about process over outcome.  Process is in our control – outcome is not.  I want my athletes focusing on what they can control and letting the rest play out.  

I don’t have much to compare to others in my field – but I’d say I’m different than most Sport Psych consultants when it comes to working with Christian athletes and incorporating their relationship with God into their careers more.  

Otherwise, I treat everyone similarly.  I love them up first and foremost. I make myself as approachable and open (non-judgemental) as possible.  I build rapport with athletes pretty quickly of all ages and sexes – which I think comes from loving them up with the love of God which is a rarity in the world today.  

I also hold them accountable to their goals which can come off as reproving – but hey – it would be unloving to let one of my clients stray too far from their goals and what they’re setting out to do.  Teach, reprove, correct.  Repeat. It leads to growth and maturity (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Everything I teach, do, or say, I’ve researched both against the Bible and Sport Psych literature.  If I’m on my own game by reading God’s Word daily – even if I don’t speak Scripture and verse – I’m still speaking principles based on God’s Word.

If there’s a concept in conflict between sport psych and the Bible – I throw it out as it won’t hold up in the heat of competition.  For example – I am not a believer in positive affirmations. Saying “I’m big, I’m confident” when you’re clearly not is not going to help.  It’s just wishful thinking at best.

But if you repeat and believe a Bible verse over and over like Isaiah 26:3 to calm yourself down “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee” will absolutely work.  I use it daily. It has the backing of the power of God. It works.

What do you hope that athletes take away from their time with you?

To learn to have as much fun playing their sport as possible.  Too many athletes arrive at a competition excited to play and leave defeated.  This shouldn’t be the case. That’s why setting a good definition of what success is and teaching that failure is truly our best friend can be so crucial to prolonged enjoyable sports careers and life careers.

I like to share that sport will be a very small part of their life compared to the rest of their life and that sport is the greatest low-consequence high reward proving ground for trying out the mental game concepts that will absolutely transfer to the classroom, relationships, careers, parenting and the rest of life.  

What is the most common mental hurdle that you help athletes to overcome?

I’d say confidence issues are the biggest hurdle I encounter.  I once heard that confidence can be very fragile. I didn’t believe it at first but it’s so true. Every play in a game is a mini drama.  Someone loses. Someone wins.  Your ability to play the game within the game of having a confident approach, a routine that brings you back to the present, and a mature definition of what success means to you will all help you in staying confident when all around you is telling you to fall apart.  

You recently published your first book “Playing on High Ground.” Can you share a little bit about your motivation for writing it? What can athletes hope to gain from reading it?

The response above from that Christian athlete was the reason I wrote the book – to teach athletes how to rely on God for comfort and peace on the biggest stages of sport when we often feel alone and helpless.

While reading this book I hope athletes develop a thirst for going to God more often and to the Scriptures for themselves to learn what they say rather than trust their spiritual life to someone standing on a stage no matter how sincere they might seem.  Sincerity is no guarantee for truth.

Similarly, I hope that athletes desire to take ownership of their career and mental game instead of waiting for a coach to tell them what to do, practice, eat, or when to breathe.

The book is all about finding stability in God in a sports world of instability.  Not only that, but it is a book that will lay a great foundation of the Christian faith in order to teach and share with others.  That’s our privilege as Christians… to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  

The book also lays a great foundation of the mental game in order to help athletes win the battle between the ears every time they perform.  

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I have a baseball and softball online mental skills training program I am launching to the public in March (feel free to check out the program at www.RenewedMindPerformance.com/21hmp and sample the first two hours at www.RenewedMindPerformance.com/21hmp/dashboard.  This program is up there as one of my greatest accomplishments as I’ve taken most of what I know to date and put it into an easy to navigate, self paced mental strength training program.  

I also fully expect to be done with the sequel to book one, called Playing on Higher Ground by June.  You could see it published and in your hands by September.

I might even get a girlfriend this year, too!  Who knows:)