Taking on the World

Today I woke up to a lovely little inquiry from a dear friend, and so this blog post is for you Alana, for you and for your athletes who are ready to take on the world!  But this also goes out to my Turquoise Ambition girls who’ll be shining bright at Westerns!

Competitions, performances, and tests are these incredible things we love and sometimes may love to hate.  It’s the time when we have to put everything together, the days-months-years of work, sacrifice, dedication and passion.  Since I was a young girl I loved performing. I loved sharing what was so much fun with others as it made it even more enjoyable.  And then there came a time when competitions were less fun and way more stress.  From that time I have worked very hard to get back to that original mindset… and these are some of the things I do.

1. You have the same job to do. 
What you are doing (your routine, the skill you are performing) does not change whether you are in practice, at a local competition or at the world championships or Olympics.  The only thing that may be different is your mind and how you are seeing it.  So choose how you see it.  Use your mind to visualize your home gym or a comfortable environment.  Or begin now to visualize where you will be performing.  Trust your muscle-memory.  While you need to be aware and calm enough to assess what’s happening in that moment, you need to rely on your auto-pilot to a certain extent… as Nike says: Just Do It. No more. No less. Exactly as you’ve practiced day in & day out.  You don’t need to be better you just need to be YOU.

Remember pressure doesn’t actually exist, it is just your perspective. Change your mindset if it’s not working for you.  But know too that nerves are a good thing – they help give you that edge. Make them work for you too!

2. Trust.
When the mind believes the body can achieve!  In moments of doubt we change the way our mind and body perform an action or skill. Doubt leads to hesitation which throws off your timing, speed, power etc.  When you believe in yourself and commit fully you’re able to do it ‘like you always do’ and are calm and aware.

You must trust your teammates and your coaches implicitly.  And if you begin to question yourself remember their faith in you.  Do it for one another.  Friendship is a powerful motivator. Know that together you can do more.

When we dream alone it is only a dream, but when many dream together it is the beginning of a new reality.” ~ Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Depending on your personality and tendencies you may live more in your head, your heart or your body.  But often our thoughts and feelings can lead our actions astray…. If we ‘feel’ nervous we may begin thinking negative thoughts and our behaviour follows suit.  However if we act with confidence, faith, strength – all of the qualities of a champion we are cultivating winning thoughts and feelings.  So stand up tall, chin up, shoulders back, strong core, be proud, eyes focused & centred.

4. Be a conduit
When I have experienced flow (or peak performance state) it feels as if the performance is coming through me.  All you need is within you, so how can you ‘get out of your own way’ and let that skill, talent, strength come out?  You don’t need to force it – trust your training, and give over to all of the work you’ve put in.

5. Enjoy
Attitude is everything.  When we’re having fun we can do all of the things I’ve mentioned much easier – trust, flow, let it happen, go for it.  And at the end of the day, and in many years down the road the joy, the fun, the incredible memories you made is what you’ll remember…

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.” – Henry David Thoreau

Courage is the capacity to confirm what can be imagined.” – Leo Rosten

There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh


What I say is what I am…

I was in dance school when the concept of language really became interesting to me.  Funny that as I’m learning to communicate without words their importance became so clear.  Teachers there began to talk about what (and how) you say and it made me realize the words we choose and the way we say it has a huge affect on our behaviour/actions.

As I continued my teaching (as a gymnastics coach, dance & yoga teacher) I try to be very conscious of what I say.  Our words can be limiting or opening, negative or positive, defeating or empowering, etc.  When we speak with children our awareness is often heightened because of a role we play in their development.  As Peggy O’Mara says “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”

Speaking out loud helps us to register what we’re actually saying.  (Hopefully) We choose our words to others carefully and selectively, but what about what we say to ourselves?  This post comes about as I prepare for a 2km erg test in a few hours.  It’s not a lot of fun.  Basically (for me) 8ish minutes of pain.  And so I’ve been thinking about what I will say to myself in those moments…. when it starts to hurt, when the doubt is louder than the faith, when I want to quit, when I don’t know why I’m doing this in the first place, and I could go on and on.

You are what you believe yourself to be – Paulo Coelho

Everything in life is about choices.  What we think and what we say are exactly that.  A little while ago I posted about choosing which thoughts to surf, and I have to remember that today.  Because even though there are moments where the voices of doubt grow louder, the belief, positivity and joy are still in there… I just have to play DJ and adjust the levels a bit to drown the bad ones out!

And so in this challenge today (and in every other aspect of my life), I will not let my head be my own worst enemy.  I will not defeat myself before I begin.  I will choose to believe, and if I begin to think thoughts that aren’t supporting me I will ask myself what I would say to a child, or to you… and then I will listen to the trust grow within me, and know that I can overcome anything, that with my relentless spirit I will do more than get through it I will conquer.

Thanks for this little public pep talk.  Think about the words you say to yourself and the thoughts you think.  Manifest the good within you and watch it blossom!

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can do it BABY

My letter to Patrick Chan


Dear Patrick,
First of all I want to say Congratulations on your third World Championship title.  This isn’t a letter to talk about “Chanflation” or other ridiculous things. It’s in fact to tell you, you deserve it! 

Yes, the LP may not have been your finest performance, but you would be the first to admit it.  However, winning a championship is not only about two programs, it’s also about all of the components. And you are the complete package.  Like the Canadian Champions before you, you show impeccable technique and strong performance qualities.  But to me you combine these like none-other.  You are effortlessly powerful AND graceful.  You seamlessly meld footwork into jumps into choreography and back… you show strength not only in your skills but in your choreography… and yet demonstrate a sensitivity and gentleness that makes you endearing too.

But this isn’t a letter to tell you things you already know.  Or to boost your ego.  I wanted to write to you because I saw some of the interviews you did before Worlds and well what I wanted to say is, I get it.

I understand how at the peak of your game you begin to question what you’re doing, and what you want.  How just a year out from the Olympics when things are going so well, for some reason there’s a change – and things aren’t flowing so smoothly.  It happened to me too.  I had come off of being the most medalled Canadian Athlete at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.  Then a knee injury took me out for about six months. Undeterred, I returned to competition as if nothing had happened.  But looking back at what followed, something was happening.

In the 1999 Pan American Championships in Winnipeg a fluke mistake (nearly falling on my face out of a spin) placed me in 4th – and would eventually lead to me not making the 2000 Olympic Games.  Perhaps it was the pressure of the hometown crowd? Perhaps it was the doubts that began to creep in?  Perhaps it was as you experienced, that you just needed a change.

I often think that being in sport one must utilize a kind of ‘auto-pilot’.  This is important so that we don’t interfere with the knowledge and experience of our bodies.  But sometimes when our training gets on auto-pilot we need to shake things up.  I think your change in location is an excellent example of this.

But I think something else needs to shift.  In an interview you spoke about enjoying working hard – putting in time in the gym etc.  But can you find the joy in your skating?  Can you go back to the excitement of how the ice feels under your blades?  The thrill of your feet moving blazing fast?  Nailing your most complex jumps?  The goosebumps when you live the music?

Can you get out of your head and into your body.  You don’t need to force yourself to be good. You are. You don’t need to try hard to be a champion. You deserve it.  You have earned it, time and time again.  Trust your training.  Trust the years of work you’ve put in.  And enjoy it.

During my yoga teacher training Eoin Finn helped us realize we are at our best when we are being a CONDUIT.  Perhaps you could try the same thing with your skating… allowing it to flow through you.

I know, and I think you know in your heart of hearts that you have everything it takes to be Olympic Champion.  Trust that knowledge, honour that faith.  My coach said “you’re too smart for your own good” and I feel like you are as well.  Allow yourself to be all that you are.  Allow that journey to be filled with happiness and fun.  Allow the ups and downs to happen, the good and the bad. And realize that they don’t need to affect you.  You can choose to go with the good and release the ‘bad’.

“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” 
~ Jonatan Mårtensson

I’m excited for your year ahead.  Enjoy it. Embrace the challenges and savour the joys.  Hold your head up high.  And Go For It!  We’re all behind you… well, at least this lady is (and my Nanna is a huge fan too!)

Best wishes xo
~ Erika