#CoachJeff Proud of former #TOTT Runners’ #EggNogJogRace Results:

It was a snowy, icy morning of Sunday, December 10, 2017 when the 33rd Georgetown Runners’ Egg Nog Jog 10.8 kilometre race got under way in the hills of Terra Cotta, Ontario, Canada. PERFECT race conditions for one of the toughest road races of its distance in North America – in the old coach’s humble opinion!!

I apologize that the above pictures were from the 2016 race (I was unable to attend this year’s version) but the conditions were virtually the same – a typical challenging Niagara Escarpment morning! This was the 1st time in decades that I was not at the race – having moved to London, Ontario in late September, 2017, I quite simply couldn’t get there. I certainly did miss being there – it is the kind of race that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go!! Who knows?? Maybe I will make a return visit in 2018…

Having said that, many of my former Team Over The Top (TOTT) runners decided to do the race as a tribute to me and the many years of training them. As all of them pointed out to me, the fall training was NOT ‘over the top’ with only 1 or 2 pre-race runs on the course versus the 4-5 times we would do it during the clinics. Further, NONE of them did the race barefoot BUT they did get asked by a few participants “where’s the barefoot dude???”. Yup – I have done the race a few times full-on barefoot and done well at that!! However, their results were actually quite good – which leads me to ask “who needs to train excessively within an organized clinic? Get in a few kilometres and then give ‘er hell on race day!!!”. Of course, I’d be out of business with THAT approach!!!

Check these out:

  • Kerry – 52:02 and 1st in her age group
  • Terry – 52:59
  • Casey – 56:26
  • Alicia – 57:25
  • Wes – 1:03:53
  • Big Mike – 1:14:02 (and coming back from a heart ailment!!)

All in all, a most productive day for the team – and one that I was sorry to miss! As I enter into a new phase of life, my previous one seems so far off in the distant past. It’s as if I never coached individuals or teams; it’s as if I had never organized Team Over The Top nor led clinics; it’s as if my one-of-a-kind T-Team programme never existed (even though I created it in 1982!). In reflecting back, I have come to realize that letting go is the key. Forge ahead with new ideas that make a difference in the lives of a whole new set of people. With that in mind, the old coach separates further from Port Credit and the GTA area – to return but only sporadically.

My hope is that clients like my TOTTers featured above continue to stay active, injury-free and INVOLVED in life!

coach Jeff

 

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Who says suffering TWO #Strokes Diminishes Capacity???

Two weeks ago, I arranged to meet Mike Yuhasz Jr. at his dad’s (you will remember him as “the Legend” from an earlier blog post) place of residence.  If you recall, Mike has suffered TWO strokes and survived to, most likely, see birthday #91 on December23/17! The goal was for Mike Jr. to record on video me engaging Mike Sr. (or Dr. Mike)  in a variety of activities…showing that he is STILL mentally zoned in, STILL ultra-competitive, STILL as strong as an ox (on one side at least!) AND knows exactly what people are saying to him even if he cannot speak.

The big challenge when people like Mike Sr. are in nursing homes, long term care  residences and the like is to provide on-going, progressively more difficult physical activities. The staff simply do not have the time and, many times, family members do not have the knowledge around the process of effective activity and how to implement it. In Mike Sr.’s case, he is surrounded by family and friends’ love, support and kindness. Beyond that, it is difficult to see their hero struggle with limitations. This is where I come in – yes, I consider Mike one of my heroes, yes, I do have the time to visit him but, more importantly, the  focus within my company (Team Over The Top) has been creative activity for unique individuals. Thus, it came naturally for me to physically stimulate Mike Sr. as you will see in the following video clips.

Mike Jr. wanted to record some of the more unique drills I had been doing with his dad for about 4 weeks and use this as a base to monitor his progress over the next several weeks. It is my surmise that Mike Sr. has much more to give in the form of intense physical activity that translates into a deeper, more passionate love of family as he nears the end of life.

I have observed first hand his deepening, passionate love for his wife of almost 66 years, Nancy. He simply adores her and perks up at the mere mention of her name. It is truly magical to witness this! Yesterday, he seemed particularly passionate – I like to think the increased physical stimulation has increased ALL components of his being. I told Nancy his wedding anniversary gift is to take her to the island of Majorca – another ‘honeymoon’!!!

I proceeded to challenge Dr. Mike to chase me around the hallways (which he did by pushing off with his left leg whilst using it to also hold up his right leg!). You have to see this to believe it. I then asked Mike if he wants to go for a ‘run’, to which he lets me know “yes” with an intense yelp!! The faster I push him (as he holds both legs off the floor), the better he likes it. There is NO fear – only sheer exhilaration.

In the video clip below, you will see us playing catch with one of Mike’s soft balls. This was not a standard toss & catch. Mike actually threw the ball to me overhand – not underhand as per usual. I also tossed the ball to different areas of his body. After missing one or two, he locked on and never missed again – as if saying to me “make this more difficult!”

Next, it was back to the good doctor ‘running’ along the hallway but, this time, using the railing to pull himself along. You will notice in the video clip below that he actually FLINGS himself past breaks in the railing to the next section so that he does not need to put his foot down. This takes strength, power and perseverance. Sit in a wheelchair and try this – degree of difficulty = 8 out of 10!

 

After this, we went back to the ball toss – only this time, I bounced the ball to Dr. Mike. We had only done this once before. Again, after 1 or 2 misses, he locked on as if back in his days as a competitive athlete – and never missed again! I angled the toss, I varied the body part for the catch and I faked a few times before throwing the ball. With each drill, Dr. Mike got more focused and animated. I asked him “one more, Mike?” and he’d bellow out and nod his head”yes”.

We finished with a drill that initially I thought “no way Dr. Mike will be able to do THIS! Hell, I’m not sure even I can do this!”. It involved me tossing the ball off a wall beside Mike. He was supposed to catch it as it flew across his body. As you can see in the video clip below, after a miss or two, his laser focus kicked in yet again and he never missed. I increased the speed of the throw and even varied the angle (from either side, from the front AND even from the back with the ball coming over his head) of the toss. In every case, it was the same pattern – a few misses and then NO misses.

I will finish with a story about me taking Mike down to the physical therapy room to ‘check things out’. I found out that Mike USED to go there regularly to train on the hand and leg exercise ergometer. Suddenly, a number of months ago, he stopped the process.  I had taken him there purely out of curiosity about 4 weeks ago. Yesterday, as part of our ‘running’ session, I took Mike back to the therapy room. The team were just closing up for the day and told me that ever since I brought Mike back there, he was coming in ON HIS OWN to use the hand ergometer – for up to 30 minutes at a time! Even Nancy had no idea he was doing this!

It proved to me categorically that, even after suffering 2 strokes and being rendered significantly limited physically, Dr. Mike CAN come back to a certain degree. His muscular strength and power along with cardiovascular fitness is improving weekly. Dr. Mike is possibly the exception but I like to think of him as a trail-blazer for others in like situations. Due to our weekly sessions and his ergometer training, Mike is getting stronger, faster and more animated – quite simply, there’s more oxygen coursing through his body and bringing him back to the ‘glory days’!!

coach Jeff

#RunningNirvana – It Does Exist! #InjuryFreeRunning #Barefoot:

Running Nirvana – does it REALLY exist??? As long as the old coach has been running (and that’s for the better part of 60 years!!!), I have been told that “there’s no better feeling than running”. To which I normally would reply “you’ve GOT to be kidding. This is the most God-awful physical activity I have EVER attempted. It is SO hard on my body. Blah, blah, blah…”!!! The other line that was always laid on me (especially as I got older & KEPT running!) went like this. “The runner’s high is beyond any positive thing you will feel in your life”. to which I replied “you’ve GOT to be kidding. All I experience is runner’s PAIN – in my joints, in my lungs, in my heart, in my muscles. You call that runner’s high???”I called it a not-so-subtle form of physical torture (ok – that’s a TAD harsh BUT not far off!). I’m certain ANY of you who have TRIED running even ONCE will agree – it’s the single most difficult physical activity that you can take on – let alone master!!Let’s put the physical act of running in perspective. Here’s my personal list of what’s involved:

  • lifting your WHOLE body off the ground (fully airborne!) AND then landing repeatedly kilometre after kilometre (see photo above)
  • working against the DOWNWARD pull of gravity with every stride (requiring an excessive amount of energy output – see photo below)
  • exacerbating that by hitting the ground heel-first thus taking the full impact of gravity in the skeletal system (leading to any number of so-called running injuries). Notice the kneeslocked and feet hitting flat or on the heels in photo above
  • pushing the body into uncomfortable areas due to the sheer energy output required to complete a runIt was only after MANY years of running in pain AND through a plethora of ‘itis’ running injuries that I realized change was in order. That’s when I shifted back to full-on barefoot – just like I did every summer for the first 14 years of my life (see photo below).Further to that, I developed the Squat-Scoot method of quiet, efficient running – basically, keeping my body tight, light, compact and moving forward. This helped me brace AGAINST the downward pull of gravity, land perfectly quiet AND protect my joints, tendons and ligaments from needless injury and pain.You have probably guessed where this is leading. Yup – to the elusive experience of RUNNING NIRVANA! To my way of reckoning, this is when you are running BUT it doesn’t actually FEEL like you are running. The action is NOT effortless – it just FEELS like it is effortless. You are essentially one with Mother Earth. There is NO impact ‘noise’, there is NO impact (reverberation) joint, ligament or tendon pain, there is NO labored breathing (even when you increase the pace), there is NO sense of distance nor time – the world seems to simply seems to stop.
  • Ok – maybe it is not ALL effortless BUT it can be an adventure!!! In the photo below, I lose the battle to Mother Nature and the Atlantic Ocean low tide!! It was CLOSE to Nirvana.Having given you MY parameters, I can honestly say that over 1000s of runs around the WORLD, I have literally experienced the sensation of RUNNING NIRVANA only a handful of times. I consider myself LUCKY to have done so. Truth be told, the majority of you have NEVER experienced this – I’d bet on it! That being said, you CAN experience it if you do NOT expect it. Go about your running business with the focus on moving either barefoot or as IF you are barefoot. Focus on being in the running ‘NOW’ – in other words, let go of ANY thoughts that take you away from the running moment. Then, and ONLY then, do you have the POTENTIAL to experience RUNNING NIRVANA. I guarantee that IF you experience it, you will desire to get there again – sooner rather than later.

Of course, the main way I get into the zone of NIRVANA is by running barefoot to FULLY activate my body. By doing so, I release so much POSITIVE energy into my system that I cannot help but get CLOSE to the ultimate running ‘high’ EVERY TIME I run – NOT afterwards!!! I know that virtually ALL of you will choose to run in ‘coffins’ of some sort. IF you focus on the techniques I highlighted above, you DO have a chance of experiencing RUNNING NIRVANA  during your very next run!!

coach Jeff

A #Roots Journey Long Overdue for #CoachJeff:

Ever since making the move to London, Ontario, Canada almost 2 months ago, I have been anticipating my return to Stratford, Ontario, Canada – a mere 40 minute drive north-east. The main reason being this is my second home. Yes – I was born and raised in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada BUT I spent a significant portion of my formative years visiting the Festival City. Why? Both my parents and all of their siblings (7 in total) were born and raised there. Hell, my parents started dating at age 14 and were married for 49 years!!! Both sets of grandparents lived there and contributed mightily to Stratford’s evolution (in far too many ways to mention here). One of my mom’s brothers and family lived there. Further, we happen to be a large, close-knit connection where visiting regularly was a given. Every Christmas and many school breaks were spent at one or both grandparents’ homes. Of course, I gravitated to my first cousins’ home to hang out with Jim and especially Bill (as we were the same age with many of the same interests). Of course, that meant meeting all of his friends and playing hockey on the frozen waters of the Avon River. Quite simply, this was as comfortable for me as my own home!!!

Tuesday, November 7 was the special day. My purpose for the visit was threefold:

  • spend time at my parents’ grave site in the Avondale Cemetery
  • have lunch with my other ‘brother’, Bill, and his wife, Judy
  • reconnect with my second cousin, Andrew (more on him later)I had not been to Stratford for 12 years – WAY too long a gap and I have no excuses for the delay!! This would be the first of regular visits by me – no excuses now!!! Venturing into the Avondale Cemetery was more emotional than I expected. Having said that, I drove on and actually remembered precisely where the Preston family (my mom’s maiden name) plot was located. My grandparents, great uncle and aunt and uncleare buried here…along with my mom AND dad! Pop got included even though a few of the Stapletons are buried in another plot of the cemetery. It just seemed to be a given that my parents would be buried together.I am LOUSY at taking ‘selfies’ BUT I simply HAD to try one of me in front of my parents’ headstone. My sombre expression reflects the emotion of the moment – not easy for me!!The sun actually shone through as I was taking the shot – I like to think that was Mom & Dad saying “hello, son, we are doing well!”. From there, things lightened up somewhat with a visit to my cousin’s beautiful home. Bill and Judy are always gracious hosts (as well as being two of my best friends!). They proceeded to treat me to lunch at PAZZO, one of the city’s best and most popular restaurants. It lived up to its reputation and then some. Getting a chance to spend time with Bill is especially gratifying for me. Not only were we born 2 months apart but we literally grew up together. Time not only spent in Stratford but every summer till age 14 at our cottages on Lake Huron (Inverhuron Beach). Bill taught me how to play golf and I taught him how to climb beams in a farmer’s barn! Now, we get to rekindle the bond into the final phase of our lives. Nothing beats that!

Years ago, I would visit young Andrew Preston when training sales staff in Stratford and area. Every trip there (every 4 to 6 months), I made a point of being dropped off for a brief encounter as my sales rep kept busy – selling, of course!! When I no longer had sales people in the area (going back 14 years!),  I did not take the opportunity to drive into Stratford. Fast forward to 2017 and I finally took the time to reconnect with my young friend.

I found his current place of residence on Gordon Street and, when I read the sign below, I KNEW thisthis was indeed a SPECIAL place. A staff member informed me that Andrew was at his day programme in the Eileen Langley Home (where I used to visit him years ago!). Not having seenAndrew in MANY years, I was not certain how things would unfold. After a few minutes of getting up to speed with one of the many FANTASTIC staff (Tara), I started interacting quietly and gently with Andrew. Even though he was born with significant physical and mental health issues, I knew that special energy resided inside him. As you can see from the photos below, we started to connect and I firmly believe he remembered me from so many years ago – or at the very least, sensed a caring, warm spirit that wanted to have a powerful interaction.

I tear up looking at the above photo especially. It’s impossible for me to put into words how powerfully he impacts me – right down to my soul!! Of course, once my iPad was brought out to take pictures, Andrew’s buddies HAD to jump in for a group shot. Tara joined them – notice the unbridled love and affection they show for each other and, especially, Andrew. One thing I know for certain…there is NO super-ego nor ego in ANY of them. It’s unbridled  id – in other words, 100% honesty, affection, trust and enthusiasm for living in the moment!! There is NO rigid timetable, there is NO clock, there is NO bullshit (pardon the expression). There are so many things for me to love about Andrew and what he teaches me  – the main one being always love unconditionally. To Andrew’s parents (my first cousin and Bill’s older brother, Jim, and Brenda), to Andrew’s twin brother, Chris, and his other siblings, Jay and Kathryn, to Andrew’s sisters-in-laws and brother-in-law and to Andrew’s nieces and nephews, a special thank you for providing him with the best care possible and, more importantly, unconditional love and support. Believe me, he KNOWS your sincerity reigns supreme.

Jim and Brenda have given Andrew every opportunity to thrive to the best of his ability. I have NEVER heard a complaint, a “wowwies me” nor a sense of failure from them. It takes special people to create a ‘village’ of support around those with special needs. Jim and Brenda are two of those people. Thank God they never gave up on Andrew – he certainly has NOT given up on them!!!

I cannot finish the blog without a few shots of Andrew impressing me with his ability to pull blocks out of the magic bucket,  pile them up and then, unceremoniously, knock them over with a hearty laugh!! He was totally zoned in the same way an elite athlete zones in – total focus on the task at hand!We also had a few moments with his picture and name book where he pointed out what thought he wanted to convey to me. He is SO good at expressing himself through this along with using his hands, eyes and body language. By the time I was getting ready to leave, Andrew leaned into me as if to say “thanks for the visit. See you again soon!”.

Indeed, I WILL see him again soon – along with the special staff, his buddies, my parents and my cousin.  NO EXCUSES!!!

coach Jeff

#WholeHealthFitnessCentre #Runners Learn #InjuryFreeRunning#Barefoot:

On Saturday, November 4, 2017, I was invited to conduct a running workshop at Whole Health Fitness

(WHF) in Lucan, Ontario, Canada (19 kilometres north of London). This was no ordinary running workshop. This was my Injury Prevention workshop for runners – featuring my Squat-Scoot technique of mid-foot running. The owners of WHF are husband and wife team, Rob Mitchell (a Lucan native) and Daniella Comacchio. As their company name suggests, they are full-on believers in the Natural Method of training where their clients are guided through safe, efficient programmes to achieve lasting results. Thus, their interest in my approach (including going BAREFOOT!). I loved their Declaration Station (see below!).

The attendees were ‘experienced’ runners in the sense of doing marathons, 1/2 marathons, 10 km races etc. BUT none had formal technical training in HOW to run safely. Thus, virtually all of them had (or have) running-related injuries (what I call “avoidable itis” problems).As you can see from the photo above, technical proficiency was missing. The arms are flinging all over the place, the upper body is twisting, turning and bending too far forward, the shoulders are over-rotating, the hips are dropping and the heels are hitting ahead of the hips with great downward force. All of this equates to major potential running injuries.

I proceeded to guide the gang through the basics of the Squat-Scoot (keeping the body TIGHT, LIGHT, COMPACT, FORWARD moving at all times). The end result (as you will notice in the photo below) was a quiet, efficient running motion WITH NO PAIN throughout.

I also needed to lock in the concept of bracing the WHOLE body against the downward ravages of GRAVITY. As you will notice, I got rather animated in my delivery BUT the message of HOW to grace the body versus gravity HAD to be understood totally.

Once that was established, I took the group through body symmetry testing (where all of them showed asymmetrical), unlocking drills

and the process of improving running posture and activating the extensor chain via the SkiEx and Health Bridges. They were then ALL symmetrical and ready for the next phase.

This was followed by testing barefoot for balance and stability in support of safe running. Without exception, none could stand on 1 leg with eyes closed for more than a few seconds nor run on the spot with eyes closed for 60 seconds without traveling all over the place – indicating an almost total lack of balance, sequential running muscle firing and spatial awareness.

It was then into my barefoot running drill world – one in which NONE of them had ventured. After getting them used to bracing the body from the chest to mid thigh, activating from the feet up, they caught on quickly to the Squat-Scoot.

They were now able to move quickly, quietly and pain-free with virtually NO extraneous, wasted body movement. None could believe the difference in the running ‘feel’ doing the Squat-Scoot. I gave them the option of staying barefoot or putting on their ‘coffins’ before we went outdoors. Only one chose to put on the ‘coffins’ (running barefoot is NOT for everyone!). After a few tipsfrom the ‘barefoot running’ coach, the team were ready to go – and did they EVER go!  Caressing the rough asphalt in perfect form, you would think they had been running barefoot all their lives. Nope – just willing to step out and TRY – believing that the technique of SAFE running was their nirvana. It was a beautiful sight, actually…even the non-barefooter was now running smooth and quiet.

I was exceedingly proud of the participants by the end of the session. They had been open to a whole new way of moving and caught onto the process within 2 hours.

Without Rob and Daniella being open to new concepts and ways of doing things SAFELY within the realm of physical and mental activity, I would NEVER have met the group nor had a chance to work with them. Whole Health Fitness is a testament to their belief in providing the best available training knowledge to people of all ages and abilities. If everyone in the fitness field had the same approach, very few of us would EVER incur an ‘avoidable itis’ running injury.

Take it from the ‘old coach’ – this is a facility AND couple who get it. Do yourself a favour and check out Whole Health Fitness!!!

coach Jeff

 

#CoachJeff Reconnects with the legend – #MichaelSYuhasz#PhD.:

It was during the years 1976 to 1979 (I know, most of you weren’t even BORN then!) that I had the privilege and honour to study at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada under the tutelage of Professor Michael Yuhasz. I was there to complete a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology within the Physical Education and Medical Science departments and Mike’s course of body somatotyping was a prerequisite.

I knew very little about the field and even less about Dr. Yuhasz. It did not take me long to realize that I was learning from one of the world’s foremost authorities in determining one’s body type. Mike’s reputation as a leader in the field both research and practical-wise was second to none. From the plaques and pictures around the faculty offices in Thames Hall, I further realized that Mike was one of the best freestyle wrestlers and wrestling coaches/historians in Canada.

As you can see above, he was inducted in both the Wrestling and Sports Halls of Fame at Western – he was that talented! By the time I arrived in 1976, Mike was in his late forties BUT looked more my age (22). He was quite simply chiseled out of granite (all 5′ 6″ of him!!) and a veritable fitness fanatic. As you will notice in the 2nd photo below, he could literally move walls!!

Even though Mike was not my immediate advisor, he WAS my mentor, guiding me along the more entrepreneurial road of the fitness field versus the PhD route. Mike KNEW I was more business than academia. As a result, we worked together on the original Fitness Ontario programme based in Ottawa and I assisted in his Business Executive Fitness programmes (the 1st of their kind in Canada).

After graduating and leaving London to set up my fitness business in Toronto, it was with Mike’s blessings – which meant  the world to me. Fast forward to 1992 and I heard of Mike suffering a stroke that forced his retirement from Western. I attended the celebration, not realizing that it would be another 25 years until I would be in the presence of his greatness once again!September, 2017 brought me back to London after 35 years away. I never forgot Dr. Mike (as I called him!) and had even tried to find out where he was on numerous occasions – with no success. It was a chance meeting with a colleague from my graduate study days (after only 2 weeks in London) that led me back to the legend. Mike had suffered a 2nd more serious stroke in 2007 and was residing in a London long term care facility. On October 26, I visited Mike at the home and just happened to arrive when his wife of 67 years (Nancy) was there for her daily visit. After getting reaquainted, Nancy mentioned that she held an 89th birthday party for Mike and invited a who’s who of other legendary Western Physical Education professors/coaches who worked alongside Mike (Glynn Leyshon, Jack Fairs, Bob Barney, Chelladurai, Jerry Gonser, Paul Thomas etc. See photo below) – thinking that he would NEVER make it to #90. Well, Mike will be 91 on December 23, 2017…AND he will make it.What Nancy should have known only God shared with Mike. He quite simply is NOT ready to leave the present. I asked Nancy if Mike had any heart or lung issues and the answer was “no”.  She then told me that his left arm and leg were still functioning and that I should challenge him to an arm wrestle. I did so and even had one of the staff take him on. The result? We BOTH lost – hands down!

Back in the day, Mike and I would go for runs around the campus – he was as tough as nails and every bit as competitive as any Olympic athlete I have trained. It was with those days in mind that I challenged Mike to a ‘run’ around the floors of the home. Using only his left leg to push off, we headed out and went ROUND AND ROUND…I lost track at 10 circuits.

He simply would not quit. I sensed he was loving every second of the ‘run’ – his reaching out to me and his big smile confirmed this. No longer able to read nor speak and with only limited use of his left side, big Mike can still compete AND think – there is nothing wrong with his brain activity. He proved that by flinging himself forward along the walls when the railing ended.It was incredible how fast he got going and then simply grabbed onto the next section of railing – always thinking ahead!!

Our final event of this visit was a full-out sprint around the main floor hallway. Mike absolutely LOVED this – the faster I would push him the better. You see, it is STILL all about physical activity AND pushing the limits. I know that someday in the near future Mike will die. That much I accept BUT I KNOW his memory will remain embedded deep in my soul.

Thanks to you, Dr. Michael S. Yuhasz, I became a better person in most aspects of my life. Thanks to you, I continue to bring active lifestyles to those who need a push. Here’s to you, Dr.Mike! I look forward to celebrating #91 with you …and BEYOND!!

NEVER GIVE UP!!!!

Coach Jeff

Young Tej Going to a new level #InjuryFree#Barefoot:

As I continue to train my young autistic client, Tej (age 14 now and in Grade 9!), we enter our 16th month together with new goals and challenges. There has been a progressive improvement in all aspects of Tej’s physical and mental well-being to the point where he is doing things never before imagined. I will feature a number of these in the following paragraphs. Let me remind you that Tej presented himself to me at age 12 barely being able to walk let alone run pain-free. Everything that involved physical activity gave him discomfort – AND frustration – at not being able to participate in sports with his peers. His parents were looking to me for a way to improve running gait WITHOUT PAIN – no easy task but, as you have noticed in my earlier blogs on Tej, he has progressed wonderfully.This has amazed not only his parents but also the plethora of physical therapy specialists who had treated Tej over the years.

Tej has mentioned to me that many of his classmates are now lifting weights and showing rather impressive improvements in strength. Of course, he wants to keep pace but has no experience nor confidence in his ability to do so (“I can’t lift 50 pounds, I can’t do a chin up, etc. and my classmates can do these easily. I want to try”.) Thus, at our training session a few weeks ago, I decided to gradually take Tej into a whole new world of physical challenges. Notice I highlight the word gradually. With Tej, introducing more difficult activities must be done at HIS pace, not mine. As an example, I had never put him on Health Bridge #3 (the top level) – even though he asked me constantly to do so – due to the extreme nature of the extension. After 15 months of working him up through Levels 1 and 2, I put him on #3 (supporting him carefully) , knowing full well it would be far too severe for him. Having said that, he was so excited to get on it and feel the improved range of his muscular release along the spinal column.  This was a huge confidence boost for him and supported what was to come next. After checking his body symmetry, (notice that he lined up perfectly even before we did the SkiEx and unlocking drills – meaning that for the first time, he is maintaining better balance between our sessions), we were ready to test his basic strength. I had started Tej with basic technical procedures for the 5 Olympic lifts 2 months ago and built up his confidence and general strength to handle larger challenges. In my experience training youth with autism, they pick up things quickly, process information quite accurately and perform the activity rather well. As you will notice below, Tej was able to lift a 70 pound kettle bell off the floor (after progressing from 30 to 40 to 50 to 60 pounds). He was amazed with this but even more impressed with himself doing the pull-up. He got 3/4 of theway up to the bar when, 4 weeks ago, he could barely hold is weight airborne. With a few more tries, he will be doing complete pull-ups…after telling me he could “NEVER” DO ONE repetition!

I then had Tej do 1/2 dead-lifts and 1/2 rear squats with light resistance and full technical support. He handled these surprisingly well – his total body weight maxes out at 104 pounds on a 5 foot, 8 inch frame. This is NOT a large, powerful 14 year old.

We then proceeded to the angled chest press, progressing from 2.5 pound to 10 pound dumbbells, before moving to the bench press progressing from 35 to 45 pounds. With my support, he also handled these well.

The rather amazing thing in Tej’s journey is how he initially presents things to me as “I can’t do this nor that” when, in reality, he CAN do “this and that”.  Come to think of it, most of the people I encounter approach much of life like this. I would argue that if you replace “can’t” with “can”, most likely you “WILL”…!!

More impressive to me as an Exercise Physiologist has been Tej’s improvement in processing multiple stimuli quickly and accurately. When we started the drills, he had trouble balancing let alone tracing, catching and throwing in the same sequence. Now, as you will notice below, 6 weeks into the drills, he can balance on the Bosu Ball, close his eyes and catch a thrown ball repeatedly with no fumbling. Even Tej cannot believe he can do this.

Beyond that, he can now maneuver a ‘heavy’ ball (8, 10 & 12 pounds) with eyes closed balanced on a Bosu Ball from the floor to overhead to behind his back without without falling off. When we started, he could not even lift the 10 pound ball overhead.

I wanted to finish with a series of drills seated on a stability ball, bouncing the ball off the wall and catching it on the return. We increased the degree of difficulty by having Tej lie on his back over the ball or sit with eyes closed balancing on one leg. In each case, after only a few repeats, Tej caught on and executed the drills well.

This was HUGE progress for the- young lad and, even though he was exhausted after a busy week, he felt “exhilarated” and “with NO PAIN nor SORENESS”.

You will notice as usual, Tej does the whole session with me barefoot. Whilst doing so, he has NOT suffered an injury let alone any unnatural discomfort. Further, he is running smoother and faster to the point where he is actually beating classmates over a 100 metre dash. He is regularly sinking baskets in pick-up basketball games with classmates when (only a few months ago) he could never sink one!. Finally, he is showing vast improvements in various strength moves that he could not even attempt just a few short months ago.

I point this out to give ALL of you who follow my blog (AND those who DON’T!) belief that you can overcome any setback with FAITH, HOPE and an I CAN attitude…especially if you do everything BAREFOOT!!! :-)))

coach Jeff