Dr. Tim: Hello, everyone. Welcome back for another edition of The In with Dr. Tim. And I’m so excited tonight to have such a – just an all-star cast with us tonight to really kind of dive into some of the mental health challenges that our athletes have been facing. And as Dr. Shane Murphy and I have had some recent discussion on, they are fairly immense. They’re not only immense for us as individuals, but they’re even more amplified for those who participate in sport. So, let me start off with Toni. Toni Moore is a professional 100-meter hurdler. She is represented by Agogi. Is that correct?
Dr. Tim: Agogi, Tawnee, yes. She’s currently pursuing the 2024 Olympic trials. She is a 2019 NCAA all-American performer, four-time Big Sky Conference champion, 100-meter hurdle Big Sky Conference record holder, Weber State University 60 meter and 100-meter hurdle record holder with a 100-meter hurdle PR of 13.03. So, please don’t try to catch her you’re gonna hurt yourself. Tawnee has 14 years of track and field experience and enjoys working with youth athletes in developmental skills and mechanics. During the day, she works as a marketing professional. And when not training or working, you can find her working on hand burn designs with wood projects of all natures.
And then also she’s very much into outdoor photography. So, thank you, Tawnee, for being here tonight and taking the time.
Tawnee: Thank you.
Dr. Tim: Now Ben, Ben is more on the sort of recreational but super competitive side of sport. He is a competitive sport, strength sport, athlete, and weight loss transformation success story. Born in obstacle course racing after sustaining career-ending injuries in firefighting, and emergency medical services. Now, while not preparing for his next strongman competition or Spartan trifecta, Ben coaches those wanting to change their lifestyle by removing common barriers in getting active mentally and physically. And really, that’s what we’re gonna talk about tonight, guys, is these barriers to being active and physical, and what COVID has done to that and creating those barriers, but how do we overcome them?
And how have we done it? And with that, Dr. Shane Murphy is going to be joining us tonight. And he’s gonna help us kinda navigate those challenges and obstacles and how best to overcome them with our athletes and maybe ourselves as athletes too. So, Dr. Shane Murphy is a professor of psychology at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut, where he teaches clinical sport and health psychology. He is a graduate coordinator of the Masters of Science program and addiction studies, a program to train drug and alcohol counselors which he spent five years developing.
Shane was formerly head of the United States Olympic Committee’s sports psychology department and worked with the USA team at the 1998, 1992, and 1996 Olympics. Shane is a past president of the Society of sport, exercise and performance psychology at the American Psychological Association and received their Bruce Ogilvie Career Achievement Award in applied sports psychology in 2008. He is a fellow of the APA, not easy to do people. And he received the distinguished professional practice award in sports psychology in 2000 from the association of applied sport psychology, the AASP.
His books include The Oxford Handbook of sport and performance psychology, sports psychology interventions, the sport psych handbook, the achievement zone, which is amazingly what got me cooked into Dr. Shane Murphy. And he’s also written the cheers and the tears. He has given invited addresses in more than 10 countries including Japan, Belgium, Australia, Portugal, Ireland, and South Korea. His research focuses on the use of imagery in sport, burnout in gamers, and the assessment of psychological performance scales. And this was a short bio.
So, we are so psyched to have Dr. Shane Murphy with us tonight, and really, really appreciative for the athletes joining us to really just talk about their experiences. And so with that, Dr. Murphy, I’m gonna turn the floor to you a little bit to speak with our athletes and really kick off this episode of The In.
Dr. Murphy: Well, thanks, Tim. And thanks for inviting us and it’s really nice to meet Ben and Tawnee. So, when Tim and I were thinking about this, one of the questions that jumps out of this immediately is how did the pandemic affect us in terms of training, and competition. And the thing I think about in talking with a lot of the folks that I work with is this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. None of us that are born today ever had a worldwide pandemic, to deal with, right? The last time was 1917 to 1920. So, a little bit before all our times, so maybe just a general question, what do you think were some of the big impacts that it had on you?
Ben: I think one of the big thing was, there’s both physical, physiological, and certainly mental blocks and barriers that I experienced, as well as the people in my community and who I work with. And so it was extremely difficult because I mean, a lot of these places shut down. The common public that aren’t professional athletes didn’t have facilities to train in. We saw a surge in home gym equipment go up, you couldn’t buy anything. And even then, they lost a sense of community and purpose that they had before. I think a lot of us if we’re not working toward a goal, or an event, or a number it’s kind of like, “Well, what’s the point in doing it?”
I’m not just gonna go to the gym to go to the gym. And so when those events and these goals got canceled, and we’re no longer on the agenda, I think it hit a lot of people square in the face and they’re like, “Okay, well, what’s the point? I can train at home, but if I’m not working toward anything, mentally and physiologically,” like – I think it was a little bit deflating.
Tawnee: I agree with that. Sorry.
Dr. Murphy: No, no, those are really important factors. I’d like to come back to that. But Tawnee, what have you – Did you see it impacting your life?
Tawnee: So, for me, it was a lot of the same things that Ben was saying. I graduated college in 2019. And the 2020 Olympic trials were that following year. So, my original plan was just to go straight from my collegiate training right into the trials in June. And it was kinda funny, ‘cause I spent that fall, the fall of 2019, just really focused and more dedicated than ever. I was on the first brink of getting my first sponsorship, and so I was really focused, really dedicated. And then the – I mean, the pandemic hit, and everything just kind of just stopped my whole world was just put to – the brakes were just put on for everything.
And it was kind of weird, because for the last six years I had been in college, and it was just, go, go, go all the time. I was competing every single weekend, and school, everything, all the homework, all the reading, everything that came along with it. Everything was just done because I had graduated college as well. So, it was like, “Okay, I’m done with school. I’m done with competing, I guess. What do I do?” I had to get into the real world at this point – and it was like, “Okay, how do you get into the real world when everything’s shut down?” So, it was very hard to figure out, “Okay, how do I – how am I gonna navigate this? What am I gonna do next?”
Dr. Murphy: One of the things that it makes me think of is like, it’s been, I think perceived by most of us as a really negative thing, the pandemic, right? In many ways, it’s affected us very negatively. But from crisis comes opportunity. Right? So, how can we learn from that? What lessons do we take from it? And a couple of things that I’m really hearing really important for both of you, Ben, and Tawnee is one is just the importance of routine and structure and when that’s suddenly all taken away how do you replace that? Who replaces that? Is that my responsibility? How do I come up with that?
Like, how do I structure something when everything that I’ve sort of relied upon in the past is just suddenly shut down for a while? And I wonder if you learned some lessons from that in sort of taking care of yourself and taking control of things for yourself.
Ben: Yeah, I think there is –
Tawnee: I I was just gonna say along with the self-care component of this whole thing, I had to learn that I was not all track and field, that my identity was not placed in just the track and field. Even though that was a big challenge, that was also a really positive thing for me to see ‘cause for six years, well actually, at that point, it was longer than six years, 10 years that’s all I did.
And for me like finding, “Okay, now I need to find a job, now I need to get into my career, now I need to find – Okay. Rediscover my love for photography or my love for artistic endeavors, other things like that. Seeing those things outside of what I was pursuing, as far as track went, that really helped me find a way to express and get that frustration out, but also find the new light and develop a new understanding of how I train and why I train.
Dr. Murphy: Yeah, boy, that’s really powerful. Again, I’m gonna make a note of that and come back to that in just a second. But I wanna let Ben also jump in there.
Ben: For me, like I’m at a different point in my life. I mean, I just turned 39 years old. I started my weight loss transition and my journey from going from a 380-pound person with a busted body and a lack of purpose in my early 30s. So, I’m about six years into this now. And for me not having access to those routines, and those goals and those objectives was deflating for me. I couldn’t realign to another thing. I’m at a point where I have a day career, I have financial security, I have purpose outside of that.
But my physical fitness and my strength and strong man and my ability to take care of myself is something that has become so ingrained in my purpose and in my psyche, that for me to lose that was almost like losing part of my identity. And so for me, Dr. Murphy, it was really like, what can I do to keep that going? I wasn’t really able to go venture in other things, but it was like, “Okay, what can I do in my home? Is there a private facility that I could find that I could work within guidelines of making sure I felt safe and those around me were safe? Is there things I can do mentally with my game and visualization as an athlete to see if that could propel me?
So, for me, it was a lot of finding a private facility. And fortunately, I do have a – for those of us that are strong men or powerlifters, a lot of us don’t fit into commercial gyms, we’d get kicked out ‘cause we’re loud and have chalk and can be intimidating and noisy. And so – and they don’t have the equipment we use. So, luckily, I had a private place that I could go to where I’d be the only one in there, we’d have to have a certain time we’d schedule to come in. And so that gave me I guess you could say a life vest to keep moving.
And number two, I really focused on my mental game, my meditation, my athlete visualization, going through lifts, going through competitions in my head, and just having hope that, “Okay, eventually we’re gonna get back to this. And when it does, I don’t wanna be behind the power curve, I want to be ahead of the power curve.”
Dr. Murphy: I love – Yeah, go ahead Tim.
Dr. Tim: I just wanted to key in on something real quick. And it’s something I read in your writing Dr. Murphy, and it’s something that typically I guess we’re aware of that happens to athletes, when say the Olympics are over, or their training is over, or let’s say they have a career-ending injury per se. That they go through an identity crisis, or like an identity foreclosure, right, in that – I think about the NFL and the professional players and – they built up their whole life for it, and then they something happens and it’s over, right? Then like what Tawnee says, “What do I do now?” And so I think, for athletes who I’ve dealt with, I have seen that be something that they’re not quite ready for.
And maybe what you’re driving at is like, “Okay, so did COVID maybe prepare us for the future of what potentially is gonna be our new reality?” But I can hear some of that angst, and even from Ben, who is like, “Well, this affects like, my identity when I was heavy. Like now that’s kind of being transposed to the future.” So, I just wanted to interject there to say it almost sounds like a housing crisis. Like it was identity foreclosure that COVID brought down on us.
Ben: That happens at the micro-level as well. I think after every competition, I get depressed. And I finally went to my coach, and I’m like, “I had a really good competition. I placed where I wanted to, I hit all my goals. I’m driving home from wherever it’s from or flying home, and I feel horrible, I feel depressed, I feel down.” And a lot of times we even get physically sick. And obviously, there’s some CNS issues and some physiological issues that make us. But I think I always end up with a cold or I get sick for a few days after and I think mentally I’m just drained.
And I don’t know if I just squeezed all the oxytocin and serotonin and dopamine out of my brain, and I’m trying to recover from that. But I think even outside of a career, I just think on the event level. And I don’t know how it is for Tawnee, but I know in strength sports – I mean, typically we don’t go like five, six, seven, eight a year, you prepare for one, two, three, or four competitions a year and that’s it. And so, after each one, I think it’s a little bit more substantial as the impact that Tim highlighted. So, food for thought on that.
Tawnee: Yeah, for me – for us, typically the track season, we’re just like nonstop from basically the end of February all the way up until June. And it’s – I mean, you have maybe one or two weekends that you’re not traveling. And I can kind of relate to that feeling of like, “Okay, I competed well. I placed where I wanted to, or I meddled or whatever it is.” And then you go home, and you’re like, “Okay, why am I sad? I’ve competed to the best of my abilities.” But it’s almost like you don’t know where to go next until you can settle into that groove of training for the next thing. That’s just kind of my take on it.
Dr. Murphy: Well, I think, as Tim said something that really strikes me and I’ve actually heard this from a lot of athletes over the last year. I’ve done some workshops here in Connecticut for high school athletes that lost all their senior year of sports. And I tell you, for them, it was almost like the grief process, right? Because like, they’re not gonna get that back. There’s nothing in their future that will replace being a high school senior. But the whole identity thing, as you said, Tim, it’s very reminiscent for me of when I used to work with Olympic athletes. And I was very lucky, I helped develop a program called the career assistance program for athletes way back in the 1990s.
I sound like my grandfather now, “Way back in my day.” But some wonderful sports psychologists by the name of Albert Petitpas and Steven Danish, and Bob McElveen, assisted me and we work with hundreds and hundreds of athletes. And this was an issue that we heard from all of them was like, once the Olympic career was over, it really triggered this like, “Who am I now?” Olympic gold medalists that were like, famous people were like, “I don’t know what to do with the next step in my career. Should I start selling used cars? Some businessman came and made me that offer.” Does that – and it’s all about really finding what you really wanna do.
And so in a strange way, the COVID crisis, the pandemic has sort of, I think, maybe helped us a little bit with that. I think what Tawnee’s saying is like, she’s already confronted some of these issues now. She didn’t have to wait till the end of her career.
Tawnee: Yeah, yeah, that is a good way to look at it. And I am – even though the pandemic was very, very difficult, for many reasons, it really did help me open my eyes to just see that one day, even though the track endeavors are still gonna continue, for me, at least right now, at this point in my life, but someday they will come to an end. And having the opportunity to have a year where it was completely – everything was just completely stopped, and I wasn’t pursuing track, for one reason or another, having that opportunity really did help me a lot. And it will help me in the future too for when that time comes when it is time to quit – to stop running. So, I am grateful for the opportunity even though it was very difficult.
Dr. Murphy: Do you think it’s helped put things a little bit in perspective too when you compete? Or is that too much to ask?
Tawnee: I think it has now because the – Okay, let me – So, when I was starting to train back before 2020 hit. I was so focused on just this goal of training, conditioning, that’s it. That’s all I slept, breathed, eat, everything was track. And then having that ability to see that this is not all that’s important in my life, it’s given me opportunity to see that even though this meet, this track meet doesn’t go well, it’s not the end of the world. And I’ve given myself the opportunity to say confidently that even if the goals that I have for my endeavors in track and field – if that doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world for me.
When five years ago, 10 years ago, people would have asked me the same question, I would have been distraught and would not have been able to answer with a mature answer like this now. But being able to see that there are other things in my life that are just as important as track is, that seeing those things and being able to have the opportunity to pursue them now has given me different directions in my life that I’ll one day be able to be okay walking away from it and that kind of thing.
Dr. Tim: Can I kind of just kind of note something really quick. I’ve heard both Ben and Tawnee kind of reference that the pandemic is kind of in the past. And so I think we’re still in this pandemic era, right? I’m fully aware there’s events starting to happen and people are starting to track and things of that nature. But I’m wondering, and I could be jumping in here, Dr. Murphy, are you guys anxious at all? Are you kind of – do you have some anxiety that things are gonna shut down again? Because if you watch what’s happening in Europe, it doesn’t look good, right?
And so there’s that kind of question. And then I got another sort of fireball to throw at you, Tawnee, I’m gonna be – I’m gonna play like I’m a coach. Like I don’t care about mental health, I’m just a coach. No, coaches care about mental health. But I’m saying like, coaches are hard-driving, and they want the last little piece out of your turnip, right? They want the last little juice out of you. Right? So, some might say, because now you don’t have this ultra singular focus of track or nothing, that you might not train as hard, you might not perform as hard.
So, two-part question. One, how are you feeling about maybe – and just recognizing we’re still in the pandemic era, right, it’s still going on, that things could happen. And then number two, even though you’ve had this amazing, positive mental health experience, which Dr. Murphy is pointing out, which I think is amazing and it’s awesome. I don’t think all athletes had that, by the way. Has it affected your training? Has it affected your mental mindset?
Tawnee: Yeah, this is a question that I have to bounce back and forth with myself often. And it comes down again, to the like, what’s important for me? And what do I see myself pursuing? Yes, I do have anxiety about the upcoming season. And just the things that come along with the meets and getting to those track meets, and the traveling and the, what the COVID restrictions or regulations, all those things that are gonna come along with all these track meets now. There is anxiety with that.
And yes, there are times where the training is almost impossible to get to just because it’s hard to – because of the results of the last – all of the things that happened that have accumulated over the last year, it’s hard to – it’s sometimes hard to see, okay, where this next step in my pursuit, we’ll just call it that. That next step, I am nervous because of the – not lack of training, but because of how much I’ve had to adjust over the last two years, how it’s going to affect me for the next three because I have been so nonstop, go, go, go all the time when I was in college, to now to this point where I’ve worked a full-time career for a year now.
And it’s kind of adjusting to those different things. But I would say that, even though there is anxieties and there’s fear about it, I am driven by those things, especially the fear component. I perform my best when I am at the most, like the heightened level I guess, is what you want to call it. Like, for example, when I’m at a track meet that’s really prestigious, high importance you could win money, those kinds of things, those are usually when my best races come out.
And for the training component, having that fear having that anxiety kind of be behind the scenes of that has given me a lot of – a lot more clarity for my dedication. Because if I had fears that were gonna stop me, then I would have already stopped training by now. But my fear, for the season for the anxiety, all the things that kind of have accumulated over the last year, it’s given me a lot of – a lot more perspective and my fire for my sport has grown even bigger than it ever has.
And, sure, there’s still times where my training, maybe one day, maybe one week isn’t as intense as it should have been. But I don’t look at it as cut and dry anymore. If I don’t – if one week, let’s say my lifting doesn’t go as well as I want it to, I don’t look at it as, “You failed. You need to do better. You need to be a better athlete. You need to do this better.” I’ve looked at it as, “Okay, let’s address what’s happening. What’s going on? Let’s see the world around you. Let’s focus on the things that are maybe hindering your performance at lifting, at running whatever those things are.
Let’s take a look at those things, those outside factors, and let’s rein it in, bring it back and see what we can do to fix it, make it better and move forward with it.” Instead of punishing myself, it’s moved into a, “Okay, I’m recognizing these things. Let’s see what’s going on and let’s address it as we go.”
Dr. Tim: Ben, did you wanna comment on I guess how you have kind of broached those areas as well?
Ben: Yeah, I think it’s – in strength sports, it can be a little different, especially in strongman, because for those that don’t know strongman, there’s probably some of those listening that aren’t aware of what it is. Strongman is a strength sport where you either are pushing, pulling or pressing or walking very large weights that are very awkward in shape and size. And every event and competition is going to be a little different. And so when you sign up for a competition, or you get ready for a competition, you are preparing for those events specifically.
And so a competition might be three months or six months out. So, you will start a training cycle to prepare to do those events. Now, there’s a lot of things you can work on accessories, and basic push, pull, press, walk movements, endurance movements to prepare your body. But it’s been really difficult because if that event gets canceled, everything you just prepared for is now out the window. Right? And so I think what the problem has been in the strength community is that a lot of these people are on the fence about even signing up for something ‘cause they’re not sure if it’s gonna be canceled.
So, I’ve seen a lot of peers, and people just kind of say, “You know what, I’m gonna shut down for a bit and just take a hiatus and take a physical and mental break, and wait ‘til maybe competitions and events are a sure thing.” And there’s people like myself that where it’s part of my identity, I get extremely grumpy and unhappy and depressed if I’m not in a gym six days a week pushing, pushing hard for something. And I think a lot of us, at least, even in the amateur athlete, those outside, or just gonna the gym to stay in shape, like we have to have a goal and event a purpose or a number that we’re going for.
If I don’t have that number, or that event, or that time that I’m shooting for, I don’t have the motivation and the willpower to keep going. And I think that played a vital – had a vital negative impact on myself, as well as some of my peers in the strength community. So, we’ve had to kinda rally and be like, “All right, well, how do we broach this? What do we do differently?” So, we just have to go at it and say, “Well, the event’s gonna happen, or it’s not, we’re still gonna prepare for it like we would if it’s gonna happen.” And we’ve had a lot of events get canceled since the pandemic, we’ve also had a few that have happened.
Dr. Murphy: Ben, one thing that really excited me and struck me was you talking about how you’ve used mental strategies visualization and thinking it through in your mind. How did you come across those? How did you develop those strategies? And it sounds like you’ve also made it part of your life’s work to sort of help other people along those lines. Do you find that they’re receptive to what you’re teaching them in that area?
Ben: Some people think it’s woo-woo. They really do. My coach David, he’s a renowned strongman and powerlifter. Probably one of the frontiersmen of modern-day power sports and even in bodybuilding. He is one of those that really started working on my mental game and saying, “You need – if a movement’s difficult or hard and I’m having to think about it, we have to get a program so it becomes a reflex.” Like Tawnee, I’m sure when she starts off the block, she’s not even thinking about that. She knows her first step, right, she knows her turn up.
I have to program each move I do so when I go into it, I know exactly what I’m doing. I don’t even have to think about that movement. That motor neural pattern is such a reflex that I’m not even worried about it anymore. And so a lot of that, going to your point Dr. Murphy, comes down to visualization. For me, in an event, it starts in the hotel room. I wake up in the morning before an event. And I have a very, very strategic specific cycle that I go through that starts with meditation, how I put on my outfit or whatever, whatever is required for the event, driving into the event.
And even some, like NLP programming that I’ve used to even trigger flight or fight circumstances. And so that visualization’s there. I mean, you look at the heaviest deadlift in the world was Eddie Hall, he pulled a 500-kilogram lift. He had a hypnotherapist work with him, to literally program him to put him in a flight or fight stage so he could pull that. And it was a very negative scenario that he won’t even share in public. But basically, it was something where his kids were in a certain situation and he had to do something to do it.
And if anyone goes and looks at that lift and type in Eddie Hall, 500 kilogram, you will see him basically blackout as he does that. He doesn’t even remember doing it. And so he would play – I have songs I will play, I have sounds I play and that will literally program a trigger in me so I can actually fire what I want to enact on reflex. So, the counter to that is okay when I can’t do the physical – I don’t have access to a gym, I’ve also programmed myself mentally when I’m not doing that when I have to stay home or I have to rehab an injury. So, it works on both fronts for me. I hope that answers your question a little bit.
Dr. Murphy: Well you and I and Tawnee and Tim could probably spend like another couple of hours just talking about that topic, visualization, and the links with the mind. That’s where I first got started in sports psychology. I was doing my doctorate in clinical psychology at Rutgers University. And the clinical study I was researching failed. And I was scanning around for something else to do, and I ended up doing this study on visualization and the use of motor imagery. And I’ve just spent my whole career, that being one of my main research areas.
And, to your point, Ben one of the exciting things that we’ve discovered just in the last 10 years, is that the psychomotor neurons from the brain to the peripheral nervous system that are activated when you’re using imagery, it’s the same system as when you’re actually performing. So, when you’re rehearsing in imagination, as far as your brain and body is concerned, you’re getting a lot of benefit from rehearsing that as well.
Ben: I literally just spiked I started shaking, ‘cause I just heard it in my head, and my heart just jumped to 115, just by talking about it. So, if I play a certain song, I have a song for different events. Oh, boy, like I have one, it literally can turn on that flight or fight, that nervous system will fire and it’s there. And it’s so crazy to be able to program that to where I tell people don’t play that song unless I’m gonna be doing this. If that comes on in a car something, uh-oh.
So, I think it’s really powerful, Dr. Murphy, and I don’t think a lot of athletes or people and kind of in my role of kind of the amateur competitive level haven’t really looked at that yet, or they haven’t realized the power of that. It’s like even smells. Like I’ll think of the feel of the bar in my hands. I’ll think of the feel of my feet on the floor. I’ll think of the smell of the rubber in the gym. All those things go into that visualization. And I think I spend as much time in visualization as I actually do going and doing performing the activity.
Dr. Murphy: Yeah, that makes so much sense during a pandemic, right, when some of the things that we would normally have access to are taken away. If you’re good at that, and you know some of the strategies, you can do some visualization, learn some imagery, that can help replace some of the routine and resources that you’ve lost. I would imagine, Tim, that that comes up a lot for injured athletes, right? Because they can’t do some of the training that they normally would do.
Dr. Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And, one of the things we do even for healing here at the institute is that we encourage, I often will provide our patients sort of meditations where they visualize the blood flow. And actually, I had a recent conversation with Ben. And I was like, “I need you to visualize the blood actually gonna your tendon and these other cells coming in and fixing this and laying down.” And so I have had so many athletes in my career approach me. And I have a string fishing background as well. And I train them and so forth.
And they be like, “Tim, how do I get over this next competition? How do I beat this next hurdler? I mean, what is it? I mean, we have the same sort of parameters, we have the same sort of history, why are they better than me?” And I was like – and I just say to them – the first question I ask is, “So, how much time you spent on your mental game?” And they look at me like, “What are you talking about? What do you mean mental game?” And I was like, “Right, are you doing imagery? Are you meditating? Are you kind of working on this? ‘Cause, you’re doing a lot of work down here, but what controls down here is this, right?”
And so it’s really interesting, it comes to a big shock. And I think I’m gonna be an advocate here. And I don’t know where the APA comes in on this or the sports psychology world. I really think we should probably be teaching this to young athletes at a very young age. That it’s a healthy thing, give them the tools. Because as I’m listening to this – I mean, I’ve taught athletes this, and I’ve done it myself. But I think a lot of people out there, Dr. Murphy, and I think maybe Ben is pointing to this is like, how do they start? Like, do they just like, “Okay, I just think about it.” Like I know, there’s some very like succinct sort of research and protocols on this.
And of course, I’m not the one to talk about this, but how do we help people with this sort of vital tool during a pandemic era that they probably need to do on a regular basis?
Dr. Murphy: Well, I think the things that Ben was talking about, are in fact supported by research as the very things that make imagery more powerful. So, making it more realistic building in, not just the visualization, but the feel, the kinesthetic feel, the smells, the touch, and everything like that. Even we find that like rehearsing, like standing up and going through the motions. Tawnee is nodding so I’m sure she’s found some of that with hurdling as well. But yeah, you can learn those skills at a young age. And, for me, what I’ve focused on in my career is working with youth sport coaches. And that that was part of what my book The Cheers and The Tears was about, a healthy alternative to the dark side of youth sports.
Because if youth coaches know how to build it in when they’re teaching, for example, learning new skills, right, “Here is how you do it visualization,” and then you can also then build upon that or you can also use it for a little bit for teamwork and understanding how to turn a double play together and things like that. Coaches can reach 10, 15, 20 athletes, and they can do it a lot faster than I can. So, I really think it’s through having better-trained youth sport coaches myself.
Tawnee: That’s something that I was gonna say, too. One of the philosophies that I have with my youth coaching, the kids that I work with is the importance of mental training. I had an opportunity early on in my career where I was able to identify the that the brain and the mental capacity that you have, and how much power that you realize that you really have, once you learn that – once you can control up here, you have a lot of things. So, you can keep centered, and they won’t go out of control, and that kind of thing.
I’ve noticed a lot of youths that I’ve seen in the past, they have – they get to the competitions, and they’re feeling ready, they’re feeling good. But when it comes to step up to the line, I see a lot of anxiety and nerves and that kind of stuff, and which is normal. That’s like you’re getting pumped up, you’re getting excited. But one of the things I think is very important for coaches, both now and in the future, is that we teach them the importance of being in control of what’s going on up here.
If you are going into a track meet, or any type of competition or anything in life, if you’re going in scared, not knowing what’s gonna happen, all these thoughts that are kind of running out of control, that’s gonna really play a huge role on the outcome of your performance. And if you can learn just to reel it in, keep calm, just take in everything with your senses and be in the moment, that’s gonna help you a lot. For me, before I discovered that, I was very bad about picturing the end result of the race and having it not go as how I wanted it to go.
And that would affect me a lot. I would stumble out of the blocks or my first couple of hurdles were bad or the time wasn’t what I wanted. And I just came to a realization that that’s not gonna help me at all. So, I’ve learned to teach both myself and the youth that I work with that it’s important to see your success and see that time. See that throw, see that mark, see anything that you are wanting and picture that. Picture it all day long.
Like I have a specific time that I’ve been wanting to hit for a very long time. And I have written that down and it’s posted in front of my mirror, in my car, it’s everywhere, I can’t not see it. And because of me having that everywhere I go, it’s really helped me see and develop the confidence that I need to go into these track meets without having that fear that it’s gonna go wrong or having that anxiety that I might mess up on something.
Ben: Yeah, an emotional barrier is just as relevant as a physical barrier. I mean, in strength sports, we have personal records or PRs, right? And I’ve seen myself, from a vulnerable standpoint, I know I’m physically capable of moving a certain weight. But I’ve had times where emotionally, I have a barrier there. I don’t think I can do it. And to Tawnee’s point, if any doubt creeps in, it ain’t gonna happen. And that’s one of those things where she says seeing the actual successful execution of that maneuver, that activity is critical.
So, before even just that – even but even more important than just the setup and the precursor to doing it, seeing yourself going across that finish line and seeing yourself walkout that lift, that is so important to think of. And I like what Tawnee said, she said live in the moment. I think that’s one of the most important things. And as strong men, we have usually five events, sometimes across two days. I can’t be thinking of the next event when I’m currently on the one I’m on.
I just have to say – or if I did really bad on the first event and now I’m going to the second event, I’ve had to really mentally hone my game to say, “Hey, I’m not – I don’t need to worry about that. I’m only gonna focus on what I’m doing right now in this moment.” And seeing myself do that and complete it and finish it at the level that I know I can do.
Dr. Murphy: Yeah, absolutely, the mind is such a tremendous tool for potential to be able to lift us. But we can also be our own worst enemy when we start thinking in the – the two enemies are really thinking in the past like, “Oh, how did I make that mistake? What a stupid thing,” and you’re beating yourself up for it, or as you said Ben, like thinking in the future like, “Oh, what’s coming up next? I need to worry about that.” No, you can’t do either of those things. You have to train the mind to be able to focus right into the here and now.
Dr. Tim: Can I ask, how has COVID changed that for you? Tawnee, Ben, because there’s a fair amount of anxiety out there and fear and doubt, okay, revolving around a lot of things like even as an athlete if you decide to get a vaccination, what’s that gonna do to me? Right? What if I get COVID? What if this happens? So, it’s challenging enough for us just living our lives, just doing our thing, going to work. But then we pile on that sort of athletic endeavor that both of you are attempting to do, which is fairly large. How has that – how has the pandemic and these doubts and anxieties and these other factors around you, how have they affected you? And I’m just curious of both the short-term and potential long-term effects for you.
Ben: I think it’s what happens if I can’t get back to what I was or I want to be? If I’ve been delayed 18 months and performing, or executing – is this – COVID’s like an injury, an injury with an unknown outcome as if I’m gonna be able to return to what I want to do. So, with COVID happening, it’s like, well, I’m only getting older. Someone like Tawnee, Olympians only have so much of a shelf life, I don’t want to say that in a negative way. But they only have so much of a window right? Before someone younger and fresher is gonna be able to come in and do more, right. And I think that’s the same thing with any athlete. And so as we’re being delayed, and stalled and postponed and not being able to go work out or go train, it’s like, “Okay, so when the time – is it ever gonna come back? And when it does, am I gonna be able to execute at the level I was before or greater? Are my goals and dreams shattered?” And so it feels very much like an injury with an unknown emotionally and psychologically I’m like, I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to come back and do what I wanted to do or perform at the level I even was before.
Tawnee: Yeah, that, I agree with that, that fear that you may not reach where you once were. It’s always been in my brain like that whole thing since COVID started has always been like, “Oh, no, if I have to stop for a whole year. How do I get that back? How do I get 12 months of hard training back?” And it’s hard. It’s not – I don’t want to sit here and sound like, “Oh, it’s easy. It’s fine. Just kind of get over it.” It’s not. It’s not. It’s something that I think it’s individualistic, versus like, like a general consensus. I think we all can say that yeah, it’s hard. And there’s always those little doubts, and there’s things that are gonna creep in. And that’s that fear of like, “Okay, if I don’t – like what am I gonna do if I don’t get to that point again? What are people gonna think? Or what am I gonna think of myself?” That kind of thing. I think that we can’t – in order to live happily here and now kind of going back to the being present, in order to be happy here and be able to, again, be present in the moment and to really take in and just be here in this point in time we can’t focus on those what-ifs, we can’t focus on the doubts.
I mean, who knows what’s gonna happen? Like we were saying earlier who knows like if another pandemic is just gonna break out tomorrow, we don’t know. I think that it’s great that we can recognize what has happened and what the last year and a half has taught us and really take those things and learn how to say, “Okay, yeah, we need to be realistic about there is a possibility that that might happen. I may not be at the level or may not get to the level I once was and somebody else might come in and like Tim was saying, kind of take my place, if you will.” But I don’t think that those possibilities should hinder us for still pursuing things that mean a lot to us.
I’m really big about following your heart and following your dreams and pursuing what you want to make happen even though – disregarding anything that kind of comes your way, hurdles if you will. For me just those possibilities, those what-ifs, like there’s always gonna be a what-if in any aspect of life, a career, kids, family, your athletic pursue anything like that, there’s always gonna be a what-if, and there’s many doors that are gonna be able to be open or closed. And we don’t have the ability, unfortunately, to see what if we went this way, or what happens if we do this or anything like that.
I think we’ll drive ourselves crazy if we think about that kind of stuff, versus focusing on right now, what you are in control of, using your mental space in a positive way, flood it with light, flood it with what you want, pursue what your goals are, pursue what your dreams are.
And when those things come in, when those little fears those doubts kind of creep in, you can recognize that you don’t need to shut them off, you don’t need to put them away, you can recognize that they’re there. But I think if we can find a way to use those as fuel, maybe just taking moment or taking control of this moment right now that’s the best that we can do. And that’s all we can do is our decision right now. We can’t make a decision five minutes in the future right now, we can’t do that. So, I think it’s too hard for us to say those what-ifs like they can’t control us.
Dr. Murphy: Tim, you told me in getting ready for this, that you had two great people to invite along and Ben and Tawneeto talk about this. And I’m just like, in awe because they’re so mature, and so insightful into the psychology of this. It’s almost like, I can just shut up. I mean, they’re really explaining it so well, aren’t they?
Dr. Tim: Well, and I was just thinking like, “Oh my goodness, I’m gonna use Tawnee’s advice for my life.” Call it the Tawnee advice corner, you know? And same with Ben, I mean, we’re learning as even as individuals here, maybe how to refocus ourselves in this pandemic era, to make it through, to make it to the other side. And I believe that’s what most athletes are trying to do right now. But I can say, Tawnee, that for a lot of us, whether we’re athletes or not those doubts and those fears, they’re hard to control. You have some mental discipline Tawnee, that many individuals may not have.
And so I think your tips and so forth, they have that mental mindset, super important. But I’ve run across some athletes here at the Institute that they’re crushed, they are in a depressive state. They can’t break out, they can’t motivate, exercise, they can’t get out of bed, they’re moving towards clinical depression. And I fear for them, I fear for and this is why we’re kind of having a discussion because while you and Ben have navigated this pretty well, and we’re all learning from your examples and your words of wisdom, I’m pretty concerned for a lot of my patients, a lot of my clients and athletes out there and individuals in general, that they cannot necessarily be in the moment.
That one of the things that we’re aware about with COVID is that when you’re anxious, and you’re doubtful, and you’re fearful, it affects your immune system, and it may put you at more risk to not do well. So, I’d be interested to hear also from Dr. Murphy, like for those individuals out there, how do we get them – how do we move them to the point where maybe Tawnee and Ben are at to be in that moment? To not let the fear and anxiety of COVID consume them and their sport and their aspirations?
And when we talk about these aspirations, we often think about well, this is a very individualistic thing, right? This is Tawnee, and this is Ben’s thing, and they’re so selfish ‘cause they want to do this, right. But as I said before, in an earlier conversation before we got online with Dr. Murphy, I said, “Sport is super embedded in our culture, and in the way we live the way we view each other and so forth.” And, your successes and failures, Tawmee and Ben are ours. We live vicariously through you often. And I believe sport elevates us. It elevates our spirit, it helps us thrive. We know from mirror neurons that we have in our brain we’re actually when we watch you we’re actually we’re like it’s us, and we’re living through you.
And so I’m just curious, Dr. Murphy, I think maybe these two are the anomaly because I just deal with so many athletes on a regular basis and patients that they’re not where Tawnee and Ben are at, right? I’m actually trying to give them resources and books and videos and meditations. But do you have any sort of perspective on that that you can help guide those who aren’t where Ben and Tawnee are at to kind of move in that direction?
Dr. Murphy: Well, I think what they’ve said is offering the path out. And it’s not an easy path. But I think what you’re hearing in different forms from both Ben and Tawnee, is, you have to deal with it. Right? You have to confront it. You said earlier, like what do you say to that coach who wants to really squeeze the last piece out of the turnip, and really – you got to be focused. And we found this back when we developed the career assistance program at the Olympic Training Center, a lot of coaches were like, “No, we don’t want that offered to our athletes, because we want them focused on Barcelona or Atlanta,” or whatever the Olympics was. We can’t be distracting them.
And what we found in talking to the athletes was that anxiety was already there. We’re human beings as athletes, right? And it’s like, we’re already starting to think like, “Well, what will I do after that?” And then, oh, and I gotta put that thought out of my mind because I don’t know how to deal with it. Right? There’s no answer to that. And what we’re really providing was some answers, just some ways to think about it, things that you can do in advance. And so I would say that for those athletes that are struggling with this pandemic situation, that the only way out is really to confront the reality of that, and then start to think like, “Well, how am I going to change myself to acknowledge the reality of this situation, and then do the best that I can to navigate it through it.”
I’m very much guided – a great man died this year, his name was Dr. Aaron Beck. He was 100 years old. He was the founder of what’s known as cognitive therapy for depression. And it’s interesting that you said a lot of your clients, Tim, are depressed. And what Beck found was that people who get depressed, they have three things, they start to think very negatively about the world around them, they start to think very negatively about themselves, and they start to lose hope for the future. And I think that is something that the pandemic has challenged a lot of us. You look around the world and think that this is really bad, the pandemic, and is it going to end? Is there hope for the future and I’m not handling this well?
And Beck said, “The only way to change that is to change your own thoughts, to change the way that you think about it.” And it takes – it’s hard work. And there’s no one easy answer for any one individual, as Tawnee said, it’s gonna be different for every person. But it does, as Ben said, it begins in our own minds, we have to change our own thought process to change the reality that we live in.
Ben: I think one of the big things you highlighted there, Dr. Murphy is it’s simple, and people don’t want to hear it, but do the work. I mean, how many times have we been told that right? And I think, strategically, and I guess from a general perspective, I believe in the people who I coach. I believe life is built on tolerances. As long as we’re willing to tolerate something, we will not move into a growth change, or we will not willing to move into a position of change. It’s when we are no longer willing to tolerate something that we will tend to want to institute a change or institute growth. And we know that there’s no comfort in the growth zone. Right.
And so I think a lot of the things that were highlighted by Tawnee and yourself is like, “Okay, what are the easy wins I can get now, what are the short-term things that I can do right now this week to help navigate this, change my mindset, and program my optic on how I’m going to approach this?” Because if I think of the COVID as a – if I look back, I’m like, It’s been almost two years. Like I’ve been working from home since March of last year. I’ve been in my home. And I look at these people and like, and it’s not just athletes, but the general populace. I mean, they’re not out in the sunshine, they’re not getting vitamin D. Think of the Depression. Think of all the hormonal changes.
In fact, I was at the gym before here and there was I saw right on the news blood pressure – Study shows blood pressure has gotten higher since COVID, right, probably due to lack of physical and obviously due to psychological as well. Right?
Dr. Murphy: Yeah. Blood pressure, weight gain, substance use. I mean, you name it during the pandemic. It’s all been up.
Ben: Yeah. And so I think I think what we’re talking about tonight is a pivotal concept and a pivotal thing that needs to start being coached and talked through. If I was a counselor or a psychologist or a psychiatrist, I’d probably be saying, “What are you – Are you sitting at home?” Before I write someone an SSRI, I’m gonna be like, “What are you doing daily to get outside? What are you doing to become active?” Is there things you can do in your home.
Dr. Tim: Well, I shared this story, I think with Ben about this about just getting out, right? Just going outside. I had a patient just last week say to me, and they were like, when they came in, “Tim, I’m really tense. I’m stressed out.” I’m like, okay, so am I, this person was from the West Coast and I was like – I didn’t know them. I said, “Well, what’s stressing you out?” And he’s like, “Well, I just, I’m really stressed out because I can’t get my baby vaccinated. And we haven’t been outside in a year.” And I’m like, “Hang on. You haven’t taken your child outside in a year?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, because I’m afraid they’re gonna get COVID.”
And then I was like, “I think the chances are pretty low if you go outside with your baby, on the sunshine, and go outside.” And they’re like, “No, no, no, no, I got to have the vaccination first before I take them outside.” And this was coming from a very college-educated individual. And I’m just kind of flabbergasted. I’m like, “Um,” and I tried to like educate and say, “It’s okay to take your baby outside, and you should go outside too.” But they’ve been hunkered down, like in a bunker since this – well, maybe for a year since their child was born. But they won’t take their child outside to get sunlight, because they’re afraid the child’s gonna get COVID.
And then it starts to kind of spin in my head and questions and be like where did that misunderstanding happen? Did it happen through social media, through lack of education. Obviously, there’s fear there, there’s lots of fear, and I’m not discounting individual’s fear around COVID, ‘cause it’s a real thing. But I do see some of the fear being amplified and affecting, and being a barrier, being a hurdle, to individuals actually breaking free of really themselves and what’s happening here, and that they’re stuck. And oftentimes even myself, I’m with them for about an hour, two hours, I have a really hard time reaching them Dr. Murphy, and being like, “I understand your fear, I understand your apprehension, and your anxiety.” But I don’t think if you’re outside running on the Wasatch Front, or on the top of the mountain, you really need to wear a mask when you run by yourself on the mountain 9000 feet up, but I do see it.
And so I’m wondering if there’s an education piece here, Dr. Murphy, or if there’s some other factors at play, that are essentially inhibiting individuals to engage in the kind of heavy or deep work that’s necessary, even some of the short gains that are necessary to move them to that that Tawnee and Ben have been able to engage in?
Dr. Murphy: I mean, short answer, no, education doesn’t work. And it’s just like anything else. I mean, how did Tawnee and Ben get to where they are today and achieved everything they have? They’ve done it through their own initiative, and through goals that they’ve set for themselves. And they’ve talked so eloquently about how they’ve struggled with those and overcome them. And I think that client that you’re talking about is a great example of how they’ve just created basically a prison in their own mind, right. So, again, it’s their thoughts that are keeping them from going out and enjoying the sun and hopefully lifting some of that depression and so on. It’s their mindset.
And something as a psychotherapist, I always have to remind myself is like, I can’t change my client, right? They have to be the one that wants to change. So, one thing, one strategy, though, I can do is – everyone’s ambivalent about change, right? Ben, made a great point about that, like the tolerance for it, right? It’s like, if you’re okay with not changing, then you probably won’t change. But everyone’s ambivalent. Like people, even people who don’t really wanna change, there’s a part of them where, “Oh, I do want to stop drinking or stop smoking or start exercising more but I can’t.” So, what I do is I amplify that ambivalence. I actually get them almost to take like the opposite side and argue while I’m saying, “No, no, don’t do that, stay at home. Oh, no, I would like to get out more.”
I get them to be willing to make that argument. So, again, all I can do is sort of be the facilitator to help them in that process of changing for themselves.
Tawnee: I think everything you guys have been saying has really come down to one thing about like Ben was saying with the tolerance. I feel like the pandemic has given a lot of opportunities to be comfortable with the situation that we’re in. And not – and with those fear components that have come into play, as far as extreme as not as not going outside, not being able to get outside and see the sun, all those different things. I think the mentality that most people that are fearful of going outside or doing things that they used to do, it just begins in the mind like we’ve been talking about all night. We have to – there has to be a way to help these people see that you can’t – you’re gonna be stuck in a prison, as we said before, you’re a prisoner of your own mind.
And if you’re gonna stay in that place, then it’s gonna be very hard to break out of that. But if you make the decision to escape those things, get away from those triggers that bring negative feelings and emotions, get away from those things that bring anxieties, turn off the social media, turn off the news, get back into nature, reconnect with what you believe in, and your thoughts and in your spirituality and things like that. Get back to where you are, instead of what’s happening out here in the world. And find the things that like bring you joy, those kinds of things. We need to get back to finding those things that bring happiness and love and light and all those types of things instead of focusing so much on the heavy things of the world.
And I’m not saying that we should be ignoring those things, because they are important. But I think that a shift in mindset and making the choice to not remain stuck every day, I think that’s gonna be important for a lot of people.
Dr. Murphy: Yeah, turning off the cell phone and stop doom scrolling, it’s a good step for everybody I think.
Ben: That’s what that’s what I was just gonna say, Dr. Murphy, I think a lot of people ask me, what do I do. And one of my coaches who I’m working with right now he’s challenged me to, you need to take some self-isolation from media, from your phone, you need to shut down anything that is that something that you can pull for self instant gratification, or something that’s at your fingertips that’s gonna distract you from the connections, purpose, such as spirituality that Tawnee brought up, that needs to be put aside. And so I would challenge anyone listening to this of looking at a way to go through a period of self-isolation, even just for a couple of weeks to start. And if you can go through a month, you’ll be there. I think most people that have taken the time out from social media and all those external heavy things that weigh on us, they’ll realize that they come out of it feeling more positive, more connected with themselves, and not only emotionally and psychologically, but physically, because we know all that’s connected, right?
I wonder if we could take the population and check everyone’s cortisol. I wonder how much higher it would be compared to what it was before the pandemic? I’m like, “Weight gain, stress.”
Dr. Murphy: Absolutely.
Ben: People come to Dr. Speicher’s Institute, I mean, people come in all the time with stuff that’s stress-related that he’s brought on. And so I think that’s an important part of it is, is again, removing that from your life so you can focus. And that’s hard to do.
Dr. Tim: Yeah, and you mentioned hard to do, well, I want to tell you that for a lot of individuals, Ben, like you have the capacity to break away for about a week or two, like the isolation piece, there’s some individuals that can’t do that. I’ve challenged them. I have patients, I hit the table, and I’m like, “Can we put your phone over here, like not on the actual treatment table with you?” And they’re like, “No, no, no, I gotta keep it with me in case something happens.” I’m like, “Well, what’s gonna happen?” And so I think for some individuals, it might be two minutes. Believe it or not, I mean, to isolate themselves, right?
It could be a day, a week. And so when I try to teach patients with meditation and visual imagery, I’m really kind of really focused on like these small little segments. And then over time, we build them, and we build them, and they stack on one another over time. So, I think that is an awesome suggestion. I think it’s a great suggestion. I think everyone should be doing it. I think everybody should take full isolation mental break from this world, unplug completely.
I do have to say, though, that for many individuals, they’ve got to take it in really, really small chunks or it really overwhelms them and can make them more stressed out believe it or not, at least –
Dr. Murphy: That’s a great strategy is to start small and build from there. I mean, I think Tawnee was talking about that and I think that is a really good approach because you start to see the benefits of it. Right? It starts to be becoming reinforcing. And then it snowballs.
Dr. Tim: I think we said the what and the why. And so I tell anyone – I tell our listeners out there, just Google, go to YouTube, there’s so many videos just type in self-isolation in YouTube and you will pull up a whole bunch of videos and stuff that will help navigate you and start getting you through that. And it’s challenging for me, I made it about two and a half weeks, and I’m talking all social media, all news, and turning off my watch, my smartwatch and so I’m not getting briefs from Google or Apple or whatever it may be.
But how I felt physically, emotionally, and mentally was it was a breath of fresh air. And since then I’ve even closed some of my social media accounts. Like I’ve just said, “You know what I’m done with this, I’m just gonna do this.” And it’s been so much easier like to pick up a book. And before I would have never picked up a book, I would have got on Instagram or got on Twitter or saw what was – what controversies are out there about the pandemic today, regardless of how we feel about it, right? And that’s just given me more confusion than clarity and having that isolation has allowed me to follow my instinct, and learn to trust my instinct, which is now translated to my athletic abilities and my ability to execute as an athlete, which is another point.
Ben: And I’m gonna say something kind of crazy. Okay, I’m gonna say it’s okay to turn off The In with Dr. Tim, for like, just a few weeks. Well, it’s okay, because we only do these about once a month. But I do think the isolation piece is important. And just and I – and we’ll post up a little later some of the resources that are out there, some of Dr. Murphy’s work and others that can help guide individuals. But it is correct, there’s a lot available out there. And for my patients, sometimes they just get overwhelmed with the whole meditation thing. And I’m just like, “Hey, start with a five-minute YouTube video about meditating in the morning to set your day, right? And then go from there.”
But I really try to encourage my patients, I think you might say the same Dr. Murphy, is be easy on yourself, okay? Give yourself some latitude to make mistakes, to go off track, oh, I ate six cookies today, or I got on social media for several hours and I went into the Facebook sort of void of time, right. And so, I think we need to be also a little cognizant of what we’re trying to achieve some of this mental clarity, some bring back and really bolster our mental health during this pandemic, or I think we have to be also a little bit patient with ourselves that it may not go as well as we thought like what Tawnee was saying earlier, there’s so many parallels for sporting life, what Tawnee was saying earlier about, “Hey, it didn’t go with us well that time, but that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna keep trying, right?”
Just because I couldn’t keep my – keep a focus on my breath as I was meditating, or keep a focus on the visual imagery of me completing this event, that doesn’t mean stop, that just means we need to keep working, and we need to keep trying a little harder. And then we might need some additional help and some additional resources outside of ourselves and in other areas.
Tawnee: I like how you said that, because it’s what it is is committing to that process too, and committing to living a peaceful life and committing to finding ways to overcome the difficult things and committing to just doing what you need to do to navigate the New World basically if we want to say that. And like you said, give yourself latitude as well. It’s not gonna be easy. And there’s gonna be days where it’s like maybe you want to eat six cookies, maybe you want to go out for dinner at fast food restaurants, whatever it is, I don’t think that we should limit ourselves on those things that we, for lack of better terms, if we want to treat ourselves every once in a while. Why not?
We shouldn’t – I don’t know, there’s a lot of things that – and it’s not just food-related or anything like that. But there’s a lot of things that come along with the commitment process. If you’re committed to – like for me, I’m committed to pursuing track and field right now in my life. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to limit my – I’m not gonna limit myself on the things that I can enjoy outside of that.
Ben: I think it’s interesting. I always say, how do we get out of dissatisfaction because our confidence is low, maybe because our confidence is low so we’re getting small wins. So, I have to strategically and intentionally consciously set up what are my wins gonna be? And if I am having a hard time, what were my small wins this week? I mean, I’d ask Tawnee this. I mean, Tawnee you say you go go go when you guys are in season, right? A lot of athletes like myself, we train six days a week, I would be very hard on myself when I didn’t have 600 percent days in the gym.
And I think I finally had – someone finally sat down and said, “Look, if you have a few days that are 60, 70, 80 percent, one day, that’s 100 percent then one day that’s 20 percent, that’s okay. You did a good – you had a good week. I think that goes back to what you’re saying with being patient with yourself. But Tawnee, how do you feel about that? I mean, do you have days when you’re like, man I just don’t feel like I was able to get the speed I wanted, or, hey, my hamstrings are feeling worse than what they normally would be. I mean, how has that been for you?
Tawnee: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it happens to everybody. And I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like I’m perfect and that I can just go through everything just fine. There are many times where the workouts are tough, or I come home from work, and I just, I cannot give more than 20 percent. And for the longest time, it was so – I was so hard on myself. Like, “Oh, if you didn’t,” like you were saying, if I didn’t go 600 percent, then that was just a complete waste of my time, which is wrong, because if you’re living at a state of heightened senses, like 100 percent, all the time, you’re gonna just burn out. And that’s what happened to me a lot before I realized that, or had the realization of the mental epiphany, mental training, and all that.
When I was like going nonstop, 100 percent all the time, I found myself getting sick, I found myself tired, I found myself doing for my classes that I was working on different projects, they weren’t up to par. And it was just, I was starting to see that things were slipping through the cracks. And in a society where it’s just go go go all the time, and you have to be the best you can be at everything, it was very hard on me, and I’m not gonna act like it was – it wasn’t enjoyable, there was a lot of points in my time, during either high school or college or what I’m doing now where it’s like, “I don’t want that.”
And so I’ve committed to giving myself that freedom to back off, take it easy, if you need to take a day off, take a day off, if you need to take a week off, take a week off. But finding the ability to give yourself that permission to ease up, relax, kind of take it easy, even though we are doing stuff that’s – in our training, it’s very intense, it’s very cycle-specific, it’s very important that we stay on top of it, it’s also important that you make time for yourself, and make time for your mental space and your body and listen to your muscles.
If you hurt, you can’t perform at your top level, if you’re in pain, and you physically can’t walk because your muscles are so sore. That’s not – it’s not sensible. And I think that something else that kind of going back to our talk about youth athletes, or just any athlete, in general, we have to be okay with letting those percentages for the day be a little bit lower than 100 percent. I’m not gonna sit here and demand 100 percent hard effort out of my athletes all day every day, because that’s not gonna be functional for them, there’s components that come outside into these – into the training that are going to benefit and will help you get that 100 percent if we’re gonna talk numbers.
The things that are like mental training, or what’s happening outside in your home, or me caring about them as a person versus an athlete, or me caring about myself as a person versus an athlete, that kind of stuff and recognizing that, that helps me a lot.
Dr. Murphy: Yeah, and I want to thank you both for pointing out the reality of that because certainly research and sports psychology backs you up100 percent, right, that the road to burnout is when you are dictated to by what other people outside are saying you have to do this, you got to go 100 percent all the time. And you’re both saying like, “No, it’s okay to set your own goals and to set one day is 100 percent, one day is 80 percent, and then have a 20 percent rest day. That’s fine. Even a 0 percent rest day, every now and then is fine.
It’s the road to good health. And so again like listening, as you said, Tawnee to your own body and really being in tune with that. And what you really need is really important. And so listen, I again, I want to thank both of you, Tawnee and Ben. I mean, I just feel so energized after this discussion and conversation today because it’s really reinforced so many really important truths. It’s about training smarter, not training harder, right.
Dr. Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And training smarter for mental health as well. Right? And so we know the mind-body connection and to bring both of those together is going to really sort of engender a sort of a well being that we need to achieve not only to be functioning here in our society as contributing members in a positive way but also be able to excel as an athlete. And I really applaud the work that you’ve done in that area, Dr. Murphy, but also the insights and those truths that Tawnee and Ben have brought forward.
I think the challenge in this time and space and really in all time and space, but even more so in the pandemic era, in this COVID pandemic era is how do we hold on to those truths? How do we sort of capitalize on these truths? How do we put them into action? And I think Tawnee and Ben have given us some really awesome action items for us out there, not only as individuals but also as athletes to say, this is how we put it in action, these are the sort of mental mindset techniques that we’re using, that have enabled us to move through this pandemic. And it continued to allow us to move in this pandemic era, as athletes who want to make a change, not only for ourselves but also for others.
And so, with that, I mean, there’s so much that happened here, everybody, it’s hard to kind of unpack all the nuggets that have come out of here, which makes me super excited. We could have like a whole series on all the stuff that you guys mentioned, but I think I’m gonna probably bring it to a close here, and really just – and something we always ask of all of our presenters that come on to The In because we’re trying to present here at The In, just cutting edge topics to improve your health and performance. And I believe that’s what’s happened today. But the world continues, your impact continues, your place in everyone’s lives continues.
So, with that being said, and maybe we start from Ben, and then Tawnee, and then maybe Dr. Murphy, what impact do you want to have on humanity? And we’ll start with Ben.
Ben: That’s a deep question, Tim. I think, for me, I have gone through such a journey of losing a lot of weight. And being in a place where I didn’t have the mindset or the motivation or the belief system in myself, more of the people that sir, I surrounded myself lift to be able to make change. And so where I’m at now, as an amateur competitive athlete, going on five years now I’ve held my weight off, I’ve put on a lot of muscle, I’m in the top percentile of strength, if we were to take the general populace, right?
For me, I want to take that and bring it to people that are not athletes. Because I bring a perspective where there’s people out there that don’t know how to get active, they don’t know how to go to the gym, they go and they look at diets, they look at programs, they see someone that’s a lean 6 percent of oil down trying to teach them through a video or an app on how to do that. I’m like, that’s not the typical person that’s going to go into the gym. I want to impact the typical, normal person that’s in their pajamas, who doesn’t know how to get started, feels intimidated, doesn’t know what to do with their mind or their body, and help give them some frameworks and tips that they can adopt and adapt to their psyche and their optic to hit the goals on what they want.
And I think that comes down to both emotional coaching and it comes down to physical coaching. So, if I could affect one person out there and help remove those barriers and get them – as Dr. Murphy said, “Look, I’m tolerating this, but there’s a big part of me that really wants to make a change,” I’d love to be there to help be that catalyst to implement and make that change.
Tawnee: That was amazing. I don’t know how to top that at all. I think my impact, it’s kind of always been ingrained in me. And it’s just given me – the last few years have given me the opportunity to really identify that and identify how I can help others define this. We talked a lot tonight about mental training and how important it is to be the master of your own mind and your own perspective. Something that I hope to impact people with is just to dream big. And if you have a dream that you think that is so far out there that no one will believe you, it doesn’t matter. You can be the biggest dreamer out there. Just be flexible with your methods, but determined with your purpose.
I think it’s important that we are able to set those goals and set those dreams and have those things in our lives that give us that hope, and give us that desire and give us something to pursue, no matter if it’s lifting, no matter if it’s running, no matter if it’s a career path, whatever it is that you are passionate about, I think it’s important that you hold on to those things, and you pursue it. And I mean, even if it’s something that comes along, like an injury or a worldwide pandemic, whatever it is, that comes your way, find some way to still make it happen, be stubborn with your purpose, make your dreams happen. And no matter what, just keep going for it.
There’s ways to get around the stresses, there’s ways to get around anxiety, there’s ways to get out of depression, there’s so many things out there that are good and full of light and love. And I think it’s important for us to identify those and really hold on to those things and bring them with us wherever we go.
Dr. Tim: Well, there’s no doubt that both of you are gonna have a massive impact on humanity, especially with your mindsets, and where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished, from losing several 100 pounds and transforming yourself to pursuing an Olympic gold medal and the trials and tribulations that have led up to that. And I know that some parents when kids say, “Hey, Mom, Dad, I’m gonna do this. I know it’s gonna happen, right?” And sometimes these goals and these visions, and these sort of aspirations seem unrealistic, like, “Oh the rest of our family, we’re all heavy, right? It’s okay. Right?” I’ve heard that 1000 times.
And then all these people ever make to go to the Olympics right, you maybe shouldn’t hurt yourself and that’s sort of – I’ve heard that from parents too, right? But if we can support those individuals, if we can support ourselves to accomplish those goals, so that we can impact humanity, what better thing can we do? Right? And what better thing can we do than to enjoy and relish the process?
As Tom Bill will often say, success is not guaranteed, the process and suffering is. So, if we can learn to sort of identify that the process is gonna enable us to grow, and to help others and not only to help others, but help ourselves and not be so focused on like, I got to get that 100 percent all the time, that if we can just kind of attune to the process. And it applies for business, too, right? We all have goals in business as well but the process really is probably the most richly enriching thing, versus I just competed and maybe that’s why we’re a little down because we enjoyed the process so much, right? It made us grow.
Ben: Yeah, and I smoke my nervous system and all the happy chemicals. Yeah, I love that, Tim, and I think it’s hard and I think we got to really evaluate who we surround ourselves with as well ‘cause we all know that people have a hard time picturing other people doing things that they don’t think they can do. And so if someone doesn’t think they can do it, then they don’t think I can do it. And we’ve had that happen before. And so I think that’s an interesting point you bring up is focus on what you want. That’s what Tawnee said, if you have a dream, do it, go for the work. If you have the tenacity, and the ferocity to go for it, I mean, despite whatever people may around you might say, “Hey, well, we don’t want you to get hurt, or hey –”
And I was told many times, like, “You’ll always be a morbidly obese guy, it’s in your genetics.” And I’m like, “No, bull crap, I’m gonna change, I need to change. I am no longer willing to tolerate where I’m at in my life, and I cannot dig my way out of a hole.” And so surrounding myself with people that can help, Dr. Speicher and his team at the Positional Release Therapy Institute, they put me back together, whenever I break something, surrounding myself with other like-minded athletes and surrounding myself with the community that’s going to help positively influence and support me is another big part of that. But above all, I have my boundaries, I have my purpose, and I have my identity and I have my dream, just like what Tawnee said.
Dr. Tim: Good stuff. Dr. Murphy. I and many other people out there are fully aware of the impact you’ve had on humanity, which has been quite, quite impactful through your work as a sports psychologist and advocate for Healthy Youth sports, but I’m curious where you’re at now, what do you want to continue to do and what kind of impact do you want to have on humanity going forward?
Dr. Murphy: Why I think it comes down to the sort of thing we’re doing right now. And again, thank you so much for inviting me and allowing me to get to meet Ben and Tawnee. And I just can’t say enough about the goals that you both just stated for yourselves. And I wish you all the best with those. They’re wonderful, wonderful goals. And as you said, Tim, I’ve been lucky in my career. When I was 21, I left Australia and came to the United States, because I wanted to get a career in clinical psychology, and I couldn’t get it back home and pursued my dream of becoming a sports psychologist.
And, as you said like so many people told me even in graduate school what a waste of time, that’ll never come to anything, sports psychology is, it’s frivolous, it’s not serious, you shouldn’t study this stuff. And, I’ve been lucky enough to have a career for 40 years in this. And what I’ve learned is, is what I value the most, honestly, is the relationships helping people. And so that’s what I’m gonna continue to do. And that was part of this tonight is just contributing to something that’s a teaching tool to be able to help others. And, boy, the way Ben and Tawnee expressed it as I said, better than I could ever say, and I’ve been studying this stuff for 40 years, so well done.
Dr. Tim: Yeah, and I would say there has to be a research qualitative study in here somewhere. As most people know, I’m also a PhD researcher. And so there’s just so much rich, rich, rich, rich stuff that came out of this tonight, and I’m just so super grateful for really kind of kicking off this relationship with you all, and how it’s gonna affect relationships for others going forward, not only with themselves, their relationship with their mental health, their relationship with their physical health, and bringing both of those together, but how those things can help others and in the relationships they have, as they move forward, not only as an athlete, but even once their athletic career is over, or changes.
So, I really am super grateful for you guys for that, and really super grateful for helping others in the way that you’ve done tonight. And so, thank you, and hopefully, we will see you again, on a follow-up episode of the In with Dr. Tim. So, with that, thank you, everyone. And we hope to see you again and hope that you hear us again on a future episode of The In with Dr. Tim. So, with that, thank you, good night, and stay truthful to yourself, your aspirations, your vision, your goal, and be stubborn with how much tolerance you have for letting it go. Thanks, everyone.