athlete mental health podcast episode

Part 2: Mental Health For Athletes With Dr. Justin Ross

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Developing psychological flexibility
  • Performance psychology principles
  • Common flow state disruptors
  • Disordered eating patterns in endurance athletes
  • Foundational skills and high-performance mindset

Podcast Part 1 Episode Link:

Guest Bio:

Dr. Justin Ross is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in athlete mental health and performance – addressing issues such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating, insomnia, and stress to developing high-performance sport psychology skills on the chosen field of play and managing the psychological impact of injury or transition in sport. He has been a longstanding resource for CTS Coaches, works with athletes of all ages and abilities, and is vetted as a psychologist for the NBA and NFL players associations.

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:00:07):

Welcome back Dr. Ross, and welcome back to our listeners. As a reminder, this is part two of our mental health series, where Dr. Justin Ross and I have a conversation about what mental health is, why it’s important in how to cultivate an environment in your daily life, not only for happiness and wellbeing, but for the best pursuit of your athletic goals in that athletic setting, which then if you think about it, contributes back to the happiness and wellbeing of just being a human being. I encourage anyone who didn’t listen to part one, pause here, go back and listen to that part one, cuz I don’t want you to miss anything. We talk a lot about, uh, um, specific definitions and some, uh, buzz words that are being used out there in the world right now that I think will help shape up the conversation that we have here in part two. But, uh, for those who are up to speed, let’s jump right back into the show and to you Dr. Ross, just as a quick little reminder for our listeners, as well as myself, could you give us your working definition of what mental health is once again?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:01:15):

Yeah, absolutely great to be back and yeah, and mental health to me is, again, this idea of these are our human experiences. Mental health is not what’s wrong with you. It’s what’s happening with you right in your mind, in your body, in your emotions, in your relationships. And so the, the phrase we used the first time is, you know, mental health is much more than the absence of disease. It’s really understanding how our human experiences either point us toward optimism, vitality, vibrancy, growth mastery, or they point us in a direction of distress disease, uh, anxiety and stress. And so it’s working with those experiences to get the most out of our out of ourselves.

Adam Pulford (00:01:58):

I really like that definition. And in part one we talked about, we talked, well, we talked about a lot of things, including this concept of balance and for a lot of athletes and I use this term too. Okay. Um, I don’t really like this term, I’m searching for like a better term of seeking balance in one’s life in order to get what and you and I talked about flow we’re, we’re both huge, um, uh, uh, uh, fans of flow, uh, flow in the context of, uh, happiness as well as athletic, um, performance. But you also brought in this like concept of flow busters, something that takes away from flow. Right. And that is, it’s a distraction that can take away from this kind of balance as well. So, you know, when I, when, when athletes say, oh, I’m outta balance and all this kind of stuff, it’s, it’s usually because we’re talking about some sort of like scale, right. Where we have a lot of stress on one side and then we try to do things and hopefully sometimes take away things that would like balance the scale out. Right. So that they feel balanced. The question to you, doc, is, is that a good analogy to have? And part two is, does balance even exist?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:03:14):

Yeah. Great, great questions. It gets a lot of attention in this space, especially an athlete and athlete met health and that whole idea of flow robbers, right? One of the biggest flow robbers we have is distraction and lack of presence and balance or unbalanced gets talked about autonomous space. And I think the better word, the better idea is really flexibility, right? Because what I hear so many people talk about with, with balance is there’s there’s pressure. I have to get it in. I, I have to do my workout or else, right. There’s like this pressure. And in and of itself, that level of heightened arousal, that level of cognitive pressure is gonna Rob your chance of getting in a flow state anyway. Right. So not only that does it Rob flow, but it’s, it also doesn’t feel good for people that sense of pressure just doesn feel good.

Adam Pulford (00:04:01):

So flexibility. Like I need to stretch my hamstrings out more, do some yoga or

Dr. Justin Ross (00:04:06):


Adam Pulford (00:04:07):

Yeah. That’s, that’s

Dr. Justin Ross (00:04:09):


Adam Pulford (00:04:10):

Yes. That’s, that’s a good answer. But what kinda, what kind of flexibility are we talking about?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:04:14):

Yeah. Well, if you’re anything like me, my hamstrings definitely need a lot of work, but so, so much. Oh man. So psychological flexibility is, is really first and foremost, recognizing that as human beings, we have a number of different values and each of those values has importance. I think the problem with balance is there’s often this, this experience of, of those values need to be held in equal proportions, right? So it needs to be balance, right? And if, if you’re gonna perform optimally well in any place in your life, at some point you’re gonna get out of balance and optimal performance is probably gonna require that you’re out of balance. But the key idea underneath all of it is that you have flexibility. Flexibility is understanding that different needs at different times are gonna require or different things, right? So if you’re going all in on an important, uh, endurance school, race school, you’re gonna have to spend more time in the training bucket for a certain amount of your year, right?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:05:15):

In order to accomplish that feat, that doesn’t mean your family is less important or your work is less important. It means the time and energy that you can devote to those things is gonna shift. Once the event is over, there’s like a little bit of a recalibration and maybe those other buckets get more time, energy, and attention. So the, the whole idea, I think that’s important to think about living the life of an endurance athlete is having flexibility throughout your year, right? Thinking about your life as an athlete, more from a year perspective, rather than I just need to be in balance today this week. Right. It creates too much stress and, and too much tension for people.

Adam Pulford (00:05:51):

Yeah. I, I couldn’t agree more. I’m I’m glad you brought this up and I’m, I’m definitely gonna use that term flexibility more for sure. You have to be more flexible this week, this month, or this year for where we’re going. Oftentimes I’d always use, well, you know, we gotta get yourself outta balance before we find balance again. Right. And for a lot of us say in north America, a lot of us like masters or age groupers, it is January through September-ish right. We’re outta balance in an athlete sense. And then holidays or the fall comes around seasonal aspects, kind of bring us back in. And then we try to seek and find some balance there, people live in, you know, different parts of the world and also professional athletes. It’s not really that flow or that rise rhythm is not necessarily the case, but kind of get it right.

Adam Pulford (00:06:42):

And I think to how do you get more flexibility in your life? Right? That’s, that’s probably the next great question. And I’ll say, I’ll just first chime in with this is plan better or plan really well. And that goes with your yourself plan with yourself, plan with your coach plan, with your job and plan with your family, right? Because that will help set the stage for being out of balance when you need to, and then coming back and reminding yourself, um, that this is, this is why we’re doing what we’re doing. And this is why things feel out of balance right now. Yeah. That’s the way I’ve done and anything that you can say better. Yeah.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:07:21):

Dr. Well, I think so right before planning is identifying values. Yeah. I think we often miss that part and I really encourage athlete coach relationship. As you’re thinking about the season, are you thinking about race goals? Let’s lay out. What are, what are your core values right now? And most of us at any one time probably have three to five, right. I want to be really good at my sport. Right. I’m I’m targeting this goal, right. I want be for I’m speaking personally. Now I, I want be a really good family member. Right. I have two kids. I want to be a solid presence in their life. I don’t wanna miss out on that. I want to really Excel in my career and do good, meaningful work. Right. So those are like the three things that take most importance. The other parts behind that, you know, I want to like maintain my social relationships.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:08:11):

I want to be a good steward of humanity. Right. I wanna make sure that those things get time and attention as well. Right. So I think starting with that, like, what are your core values, values, two let’s plan, right? What does that mean? Like, okay, it’s looking like you’re probably gonna need to have a training schedule that looks like this. How do we make that work within the context of those other values? And then here’s where flexibility comes in in importance. And, and I was telling you about this about a week ago, right? So indoor season here for part of it. Um, I have a Peloton and there was a day last week where Peloton was down. And if, you know, my life is pretty busy, so I have to plan. I had like an hour and 15 minutes for my, my training session, which means an hour of training.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:08:55):

And then, you know, get ready, get, get done, shower, whatever. So I had one hour, um, that was it. And Peloton wasn’t working. What the hell is this? Right. So I was trying to get it to work. Wasn’t working, went online, found out Peloton was down like, all right, well, what do I do here? Right. And I think this is where we get unbalanced really quickly in the general sense of, of athlete wellness. We have a tendency to freak out, right? Oh my God. I’m not gonna put my workout in dooms day. I’m not gonna reach my goals. It’s all catastrophe. Right. We unravel so fast. It’s unbelievable. And so here’s the deal. I know all this, I recognize that in myself too, I was like, oh shit, I’m gonna be down on volume for the week. I’m not gonna get this workout in. Working out on a daily basis is really good for my physical health, my mental health.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:09:41):

I really appreciate that outlet. I don’t have the option today. My kids happen to be off of school that day. Like, oh, what are they doing? Oh, they’re eating cinnamon rolls. I’m having a cinnamon roll. I’m hanging out with them. Right. And I just let go of the whole idea of needing work out that day. And I said, you know, I’m gonna be present with my kids. My wife made these amazing CIS I’m hanging out CI rolls kids. And it was great. So I shifted like that’s a value, core value for me. And I was flexible underneath. It requires this capacity to understand that we’re all gonna miss workouts. Yeah. It happens. You’re long term goals at the, you know, at the whatever time of year are not gonna be in jeopardy because you miss a single workout,

Adam Pulford (00:10:25):

Like agree so much. And I, I, I remind my athletes of this. I remind myself too. I, I think the older I get it’s, it’s more like ingrained in there. I don’t have to have even a self talk conversation, but like, yeah, it doesn’t matter. But what I do tell my athletes is like, doesn’t matter if, if one day makes or breaks us, we’re doing something wrong. Therefore not one day makes or breaks us. Right. Right. And about also a week or two ago, whenever this happened and you texted me that cuz we’re working on something, this outline or whatever I’ve used this example, I was like, Hey, look, this is one of the best sports psych colleges. I know. And this is how he was flexible. So don’t worry about it. Right? Yeah. I think it’s such a great story because yeah. At the end of the day, you know, it’s, it’s more about the big picture. It’s more about that kind of like global stress, if it’s about the workout aspect of it or the certain time period. And so I think by getting more flexible or having more flexibility in your life, it’s gonna take the pressure off knowing that, eh, it’s not today, but you know what, tomorrow we’ll get after again. Right. Exactly. To pick back up

Dr. Justin Ross (00:11:32):

And it’s, again, it’s recognizing that all these are all values and they’re going to with in each and every one of them, there’s gonna be disruption in your expectations for how you think things should be. And the reality of how things are. And we have to mind the gap between expectations and reality because that’s often where we get ourselves in trouble, where athletes get themselves in trouble is we lay so many expectations around how we think things should be right. I should have this volume and I should be hitting these zones. And my paces should be like this. And when there’s any discrepancy we freak out, right. We feel it like an identity threat. We feel it like a goal threat. And we have to have have enough cognitive strength to take a step back. And to your point, such a great quote, right? If any, one day is gonna make or break us, we’re doing something wrong. So it’s being able to step back, look at the big picture, recognize consistency is key. Right? Those long term goals are made over months, not in a single session.

Adam Pulford (00:12:31):

Yeah. That’s it. And I think comparisons into just when you were talking about all of those aspects, comparison to others really plays up with as a, as a flow Buster here, um, to put that pressure on because once you know, she starts comparing to her about her power numbers or the speed of the hill climb, or he starts to compare, you know, how this guy looks. And I mean, it’s, that’s a, it’s not only a flow Buster. It’s just a buzzkill and it’s very inaccurate, right. Because, um, I like to encourage my athletes to compare themselves to themselves, like historically, um, the here and now moving forward. It’s not to say that it don’t use data to make sure that we’re on a level to compete at the level that the athlete wants to. Right. I make some fact checks there and then obviously, then there’s Strava, right. Which is crazy in some regard, but it also is very strong in data. And it’s very good to look back, to see how you’re going, say uphill climbs and on segments and things like this. But the over comparison can be a very big detriment when it comes to, uh, flexibility in some of this like mental, mental stress and mental unease that we’re talking about

Dr. Justin Ross (00:13:46):

Here. Absolutely. One, another, one of my favorite quotes comparison is the thief of joy. Right. Which was yeah. Teddy Roosevelt quote. And he, he threw that out there before this whole thing of the internet even existed. So he was on something and you’re right. I think Strava’s great in terms of the connection, right? The belonging we talked about in, in our first episode. Yep. But it can also really trip people up because it, it can lead to this idea of I, this is how I should be. And I’ve seen so many athletes get caught in this idea of, I have to have my numbers look like whatever for the world to see. And sometimes those numbers are to detriment, to actually training, to get you to your peak performance. Yeah. So it’s, uh, it takes a lot of strength to be able to use those tools in, in a way that’s helpful and connection. Um, not harmful in our training.

Adam Pulford (00:14:38):

Yeah. I mean, we don’t need to go here, but zoom out, look at social media, right. Look at Instagram and how that pertains to what we’re just talking about here. Strava’s the, the segmented athlete approach of things. But you, you can see kind of my point where I think it, where it hits the target, where we need to talk about is education, but specifically awareness, right. With what actually matters. And I think with my athletes, a huge part of what I’m doing, both like consci and subconsciously is helping them become more aware of what’s going on within themselves. What’s going on without themselves. Meaning like, uh, kind of a third person looking down upon sort of thing and um, recognizing self talk. Right. And so meanwhile, educating them on, you know, why training matters know globally or, or why the day doesn’t matter and all this kind of stuff. We also talked about awareness in part one. And I was like, oh, we’ll get to that. So to you, Dr. Ross, why, why is awareness so impactful and so powerful for a human being, let alone athlete.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:15:48):

Yeah. Yeah. Awareness is really the cornerstone in the starting block for, for just about anything in either the mental health space or the performance psychology space. Yep. Right. That saying that I used last time, one of my favorite sayings, I throw this around a lot. You, you cannot change what you are not aware of. And so if we’re going to, if we’re gonna achieve, we need to bring awareness to what’s happening and recognize that there’s probably a lot that’s really to your benefit, right. It’s pointing you in the right direction. Let’s bring awareness to that. We can enhance those things, right. We can help you strengthen them. Let’s also bring awareness to things that are maybe getting in the way or flow robbing you of your opportunity to be successful. And then let’s find ways to either accept some of those things or to navigate around them or, or to work on changing them completely. But we can’t work on changing something if we’re not aware of what it is that needs to be changed in the first place.

Adam Pulford (00:16:40):

Yeah. That that’s it 100%. And, and you know, to that tune, I, I tell my athletes, I go, Hey, this is a two-way street. I’m not a dictator. You’re not a robot. So let’s work together on making you become the best athlete you can be. And what I’m saying, there is like, I want awareness from you cuz you’re, you’re gonna get awareness from me and you’re gonna learn. Right. But I want that because it’s gonna make this whole process better. And as you said, you can’t work on stuff until you start to become aware of it. So whether it’s perceived effort for pacing, right. Uh, running a 10 or time trialing for a 20 or 40 K whatever, going up a hill climb, um, bringing awareness to the effort that you’re doing as an athlete. That’s, that’s kind of like primal, if you will, it’s like step one and then two, like you can rise up the ranks and then you, you get into the, kind of the space where we’re at right now with sports psychology and, and self-talk and whatnot.

Adam Pulford (00:17:36):

Um, but one thing I wanted to kind of throw out there, just a couple book recommendations and resources real quick is there’s, there’s two books. Well, one book that I encourage a lot of my athletes to read. And that’s the art of learning by Joshua Watkins. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that before, but, um, it’s a very good kind of starting place for like learning how to break down, um, the, the elements of sport and also like how to navigate through your own kind of self-talk as you go. Um, and the other one is awareness by Anthony deep mellow, who that’s an interesting one, go check it out. The, the title kind of says, tell, says what it’s about, but it’s, it’s gonna take you in different angles, but I just wanna throw those books out there while we’re on this topic of awareness. Um, anything to add to that doc?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:18:26):

No, I, I think those are great recommendations and always supportive of people, learning and learning about their learning and having this meta approach to understanding the, the process of their thinking and the process of their mind. And really recognizing that, you know, I, the mind is a highly trainable skill. Yeah. Right. And starting there. Right. You can train your mind. One, one of I have this really silly idea, right. That most of us listening are English first speakers. Right, right. And so much of what I see people come to me and they’re like, I wanna unlearn English and I wanna learn something else, not English, but something about the way they’re thinking. Right. And the whole idea in the mental health spaces or, or the sports psychology spaces, you cannot unlearn English. You cannot unlearn these things that naturally pop up in your thinking, how you appraise yourself.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:19:17):

But what you can learn is you can learn Spanish, right? You can learn a new approach. You can learn a new sense of vocabulary. You can learn a new way to appraise these situations. But the starting point is recognizing what that English language is, what those thoughts are for you at baseline. And then over time, developing a new system of thought, that’s really what we’re getting at. So don’t try to get rid of the thinking that you have, you have to work with it and then you have to modify it and then you can change it.

Adam Pulford (00:19:47):

So that’s a really good way to, to put that. And I think with where we’re going now, talking about athletes specific mental health, I’ve heard your talk before, where you, you use a systems framework for some of this where you talk about your three pillars or kind of, um, three aspects of this framework. Uh, could you, could you tell us what those three pillars are in why it’s important to, um, and athletes mental health?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:20:13):

Absolutely. So the, the first not surprising these awareness. Yeah. Right. Just bringing awareness to all of this stuff in general, the, the second is really based on, uh, de-stigmatizing this approach, and we’ve seen this growing leaps and bounds in the last few years, where again, this is these, these are, these are hazards of owning a mind, if you will. And whether you’re performing on the world stage or you’re going after your first 5k, the way you’re thinking is going to greatly impact the way that you perform on that day. And so destigmatizing that there’s nothing wrong with you. The is what’s happening to you. This is you owning a mind let’s enhance. That is a really big part of, of that second step. The third is that embedding a culture of support, right? And this is really where these conversations are critical. It level sets that these are, these are conversations we all should be having right on kind of a, a national scale, a global scale, but really within our community.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:21:09):

So I really challenge people listening. If you’re part of, you know, a cycling group, uh, a running group, you have your long runs on the weekends. Are you talking about this stuff with your, with your friends, with your running group, right. That’s the way that we get to the heart of understanding that these things that we think are person hindrances or, or bothersome to us are also experienced by everybody around us and we can learn and we can enhance, and we can do things to get the most out of ourselves, not only for optimal for performance, but also because it increases the enjoyment and what we’re doing.

Adam Pulford (00:21:41):

Yeah. That it does. And as I’m kind of envisioning like these three pillars to trying to hold up what we are considering, you know, an athlete’s mental health, I, I I’m picturing all these, like, things kind of like existing on, on top of like these pillars. Right. And, you know, that’s like training and self talk and communication, but also identity. And what happens when it all goes away and all of these like disordered eating aspects, and she’s doing that and he’s doing this, therefore, do I need to do that? Like, so anxiety and depression and some of the other stuff that we talked about and in part one. So, I mean, I is my visual kind of, is that pretty accurate? Is that what’s kind of,

Dr. Justin Ross (00:22:31):

Yeah. I think, you know, like we use the idea of pillars because pillars support something. Right. Right. And the pillars here support the opportunity for mental health, for sure. Right. And the opportunity for mental health supports being able to not only to enjoy your sport, but to be able to perform the way you to perform. Yep. And so it kind of all funnels down, but those are really the things that, that are needed. And if we’re not aware of what’s happening, if we, if we feel like we have to be secretive of what we’re doing, because the community around us doesn’t support us. Those things get internalized. And pretty soon that very first tier of pillars, it doesn’t exist.

Adam Pulford (00:23:08):

Right. Right. So some of the is like flow busters crawling up the pillars. You gotta kick him off.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:23:13):

Yeah. You gotta be aware of em, right. Oh, sure. Let me be attack. Let figure out what I’m gonna do about you.

Adam Pulford (00:23:21):

Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Um, well, all metaphors and somewhat joking aside, uh, let’s talk about some of the, the flow Buster that can inhibit like the athlete mental health. Um, one I mentioned was identity, you know, and, and I think that like first ID is, it’s it actually not really a flow Buster necessarily, cuz there’s like some good and bad aspects that could be around it. It could just be neutral. So can you talk about like identity as it pertains to an athlete and yeah. How it trickles over.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:23:55):

Yeah. And, and I love the framework around like thinking about flow robbers as an anchor point for some of this stuff. Cause it can make it more relatable. Right? Yep. So, and I think if we just start with the idea that that flow has a few requirements, right. The first is you have to enjoy what you’re doing, right. It has to be personally meaningful. It has to have that internal level of motivation. Two, you have to be, uh, nondistracted you have to be focused. And in a lot of ways you have to be singularly focused on whatever task is at hand. The third is then there has to be this like merging of challenge and skill. There, there has to be a sweet spot of that, right? If it’s, if the task is far too easy, probably not gonna hit flow. If the task is far too hard, probably not gonna hit flow.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:24:39):

It has to be challenging enough, just really kind of getting you to that point where you really have to have deep focus. So as identity relates to that identity can either enhance that or it can Rob that. And one of those areas that I see is, again, this, this ego attachment to metrics, which happens a ton in this space. I sometimes refer to this as the overqualified athlete. Right. And I, you know, I’m guilty of it too. I’ve got a garment on my, I’ve got, you know, a computer on my bike. I can measure. I mean, man, I can measure all kinds of things and it’s, you know, some of those metrics matter, some of those metrics really don’t matter, but we make them matter. And the more that we make them matter and the more we tell ourselves a story that they have to be a certain way or else, the more we’re gonna get in this, this place of robbing flow.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:25:30):

I’ve had a number of instances of this, of, of working with people over, over my career. I had, um, you know, the idea of streaks. I had somebody I worked with, um, had to run a 5k a day for a thousand days in a row and like, wow, man, where did, where did that come from? Let’s just, and yeah, cause it’s the first question like, wow, I’m really curious. That’s really intriguing. And like all things, it didn’t start out one day and say like, I’m gonna do this a thousand days in a row. It started out shorter. But along the way, it became harder and harder to let go of because there was this sort of like loss attached to it, right. Hung already 300 days in, in what’s gonna happen. If I stop now, I’m already 500 days in now I told people about it now I’m really committed. And it created a lot of distress because now he was having to do this thing. He felt he had to do this thing, even though it no longer provided any meaning, any P purpose or any enjoyment. And in fact it provided quite the op.

Adam Pulford (00:26:29):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and that’s where again, you know, I think that viewing something as, as neutral, like you said, can be the flow robber. Um, but I’m also gonna create this new term. Maybe it’s a, but you said like enhanced flow. So let’s call that a flow enhancer, right? Yeah. Yeah. And, and ego, I mean, we, we could talk a lot about that, but I, I think that I’ll just say in general, let go of the ego and everything else will go a lot better. Right. Especially in an athletic, competitive setting.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:27:03):

Well, in that place, it’s, there’s flexibility again. And the drive for that is can you have ego flexibility about this performance? And that gives this possibility of it can be a range. And as we all know, right over the course of months of training, there are gonna be someday that feel really great and it feels more effortless and it just, you hit flow and there are gonna be other days that just feel really hard and challenging. And you maybe can’t even put your finger on why our job is to not get overly excited about those good days, like have appreciation for them, but don’t get overly down on yourself for those down days. Right. And take that bigger, flexible approach to say, okay, this thing is built over the course of time.

Adam Pulford (00:27:52):

Yeah. I’m actually glad you, you mentioned that because I, as soon as I said what I said about ego, I was like, eh, that’s not actually how I view it because there’s, there’s part of it. That’s like, and we can talk about definition of ego or not. But like there, the part of the ego drives us to do something right. To achieve something. And it’s not this, let’s say that letting go of an ego takes away drive to achieve. Right. But it’s, it’s associating, you know, some of these, um, you know, the flow robbers from it or associating some sort of guilt if you don’t achieve. Right. And I always say like, Hey look like, let go of ego, but compete like no tomorrow, because when everybody’s faster, you go faster. And when you go faster, that’s kind of what it’s all about. Right. Because that is super fun. Whether you got the gold medal or not, or they’re hand on gold medals cares, you went fast, man. And that’s kind of what, that’s what I mean by, Hey, let go of the ego. It doesn’t matter if you beat him or not. How’d you do.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:28:49):

Right. Yeah. And flow is based on that. It’s based on the experience of the, the moment of movement, not based on looking down at your, by computer and saying, am I, am I zone two flow zone four flow? Like, where am I at here? Like flow robbers. And again, it’s all really with those metrics that are important to set up training and to have a better understanding of what’s happening. But really the whole idea of flow is like absorption in the, in the moment and that experience of movement.

Adam Pulford (00:29:20):

And one quick, uh, I love throwing out book recommendations, but for anybody who is like flow, cool, I know what that is, but maybe you don’t because it’s actually like a really big deal and you should probably like read more about it. Um, the grandfather of flow is, uh, I always butcher his name, but it’s like Miha Miha chick Miha. And I’d say just Google that into like, or put, put that into Google, find it on Amazon, whatever you want his book called flow. Read it. It’s awesome. I, I think it’s, he takes a ton of, um, research and makes it very digestible and readable. Also, he’s got a Ted talk and a few other things he’s now passed away, sadly. Um, but that guy, he, he is the grandfather of flow. He was actually researching happiness at the time in non-athletic populations and then derived this concept of flow. So if anybody was like, okay, they’re talking a lot about flow, but I wanna know more. Or you think, you know, a lot, but you don’t read it. It’s one of my favorite books.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:30:16):

Yeah. I arguably from, from where I sit, maybe the most important, uh, sports psychology, psychology understanding in our generation. Yeah. Um, because it, it connects to so many things. And to your point, it was trying to understand happiness. And really what we’re understanding is it’s, it’s not the it’s not happiness. That’s achieved. That is actually providing us a high quality of life. What leads us to feeling the good life is those moments of absorption into the task at hand. Now the beauty of being an endurance athlete is that is what we’re all about. And I think in some ways, the reason we do this is we’ve had those moments, right? Whether we’re on a trail or in our running shoes or on a bike or whatever in the water, whatever, it may be, all of those elements of movement, give us the opportunity to experience that. And it’s an amazing feeling once we’re there.

Adam Pulford (00:31:10):

Yep. It is. And so as we’re seeking flow, right, and we’re talking about these things that, that can enhance it or Rob it, you know, one, one thing that robs it instantly, and it’s pretty interesting, like observation of psychology as well as habit is when an athlete gets injured. The reason I pose it like that is cuz typically when an athlete does get injur injured, it is they could have, well, they probably weren’t in flow at the time or something really outside came in and made ’em not flow. Right. But they’re going pretty good. In other words. And then all of a sudden an injury occurs and it makes them stop instantly, which sends off a whole cascade of psychological as well as physiological stuff. Could we talk more about injury here and how to kind of use some of this, this framework to tell ourselves or tell our athletes that it’s gonna be okay here.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:32:05):

Yeah. Yeah. The, we can spend a lot of time on, on injured athletes first and foremost being injured sucks. Let’s just start there. Let’s call what it is. Yep. It, it sucks. It’s really hard. And for a lot of reasons, right? The, the first conversation we had understanding where anxiety, depression, human suffering, how they impact things. Those are all involved in being an injured athlete. Right. We have loss first and foremost, loss of functioning, right. Physically in whatever capacity, but loss of connection to sport. Right? And for, for us, we spend a lot of time, you know, training and being connected. And for, you know, when we’re injured, we lose that time. We lose that ability to, to train and that can have cascading effects on our mental health, our wellbeing, our community, all kinds of things. We also insert a lot of anxiety here, right?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:32:53):

There’s often a lot of uncertainty about, oh, I’m not really sure what this means, how order to be out. There’s uncertainty about when I’m gonna get back to my baseline, uncertainty about those long term goals that we’ve established for ourselves. And when you put those two things together, like immediately, what we see is anxiety and depression. And when you put that together, when your identity is being threatened, while now you have the perfect ingredients for a lot of anger. So we get a lot of anger first. Um, the, the first step of being injured as an athlete, the reason I call that out one, you have to give yourself permission to recognize that that’s all completely normal, right? That is a normal, uh, part of this experience that you need to give yourself validation for and permission to work through. Sometimes working through the emotional, the cognitive, the psychological elements of an injury are as hard, if not more difficult than doing the physical rehab that that is asked to be at the same time.

Adam Pulford (00:33:52):

Yeah. That’s um, that’s super good to hear. And it’s also a good reminder too. And I think, you know, as I, I AB observe injury for what it is, especially within my athletes, it’s definitely easier to kind of say the words to help guide them through it. Right. Because I’m not the one necessarily having to deal with it. So I think, you know, somebody can hear me and say, it’ll, I’ll be okay and we’ll get back on it and all, and, and they’re probably saying, oh, it’s easy for you to say, you don’t have to sit on the trainer now, or you don’t have to sit in bed. And, but, but I get it like I’ve, I’ve had some pretty gnarly injuries. And I, and I think, you know, for me, that loss of, of the ability to find flow, cuz through an athletic and kin somatic context, that’s how I find flow. And I do find myself more irritable when I’m not engaged in that. And there, or four when injury happens, injury does suck. Yes. But primarily because it’s like, oh my, my flow meter is down. You know, it’ss that meanwhile, you know, the whole body is, you know, building itself back up. However, I do think that taking that long term view, and this is where your term of, or your concept of flexibility comes into play. It’s like, Hey, it’s gotta be a little bit more flexible right now. Cause we’ll get it back.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:35:05):

Right. Yeah. And, and in some ways, and this is really challenging, but it’s flexibility is important. But also understanding that being injured is very much being a part of being an athlete. Yeah. And

Adam Pulford (00:35:18):

It’s, that’s

Dr. Justin Ross (00:35:18):

A good point. Yeah. May, maybe it’s a threat to this season, whatever that may mean for you, but it’s, it needs to be a part of this larger athlete identity that so many of us occupy, it’s not just based on one season or one race or one event, it it’s often based on a lifetime of experiences. And some of those experiences, if we capture injury as an experience, this is an experience I’m going through as being part of being an athlete. It can help re sort of recapture what this means in the grand scheme of things. Now, again, that’s all to say, that’s easier said than done and it’s way easier to say from some who’s who’s healthy and not injured at the time of saying it.

Adam Pulford (00:36:00):

Yep. Yep. And it’s part of that destigmatization process back to your three pillars, right. Where, when somebody gets injured, they, and somebody’s like, oh, this, this sucks. Sure. But then they’re like, oh man, if I were to been stronger, if I would’ve done that or you know, they start to associate shame with that injury. Right. And that’s exactly what you’re saying is like, Hey, this is part of being like riding your bike dangerous, right. Running can be being an athlete, dangerous waking up in the morning dangerous, but you know what? It’s also pretty cool.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:36:35):

Yeah. So, yeah. Yeah. And it requires a bit, you know, there’s another great saying, right? Like, uh, a ship is safest at Harbor, but that’s not what it’s meant for, that’s

Adam Pulford (00:36:45):

It. Yeah.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:36:45):

Right. And we are, you know, we go out here again because we wanna push limits and test limits and self discover. And it is, it is a hazard of moving our bodies in such, um, in such fast ways, you know, repeatedly over the course of time.

Adam Pulford (00:37:02):

Yes. Yeah, exactly. And some of this destigmatization that I also want to talk about is, is also for, for athletes. I, I feel like one area in, in psychology is as well as it relates to athletes is what I’m saying is dis eating or what we call, uh, relative energy defic deficiency syndrome. And it’s in multiple sports. It’s not, you know, it’s not any one sport, I would say it’s, it’s across many, um, different forms in the athlete population, but uh, I wanna bring some light to it and have a conversation about it. Uh, E and if it’s a little short, because I wanna bring awareness to it, as we talked about how, you know, sometimes you may not even know if, if this is you, right. Yeah. So I think having, having a conversation about it in this, in this manner can be really helpful. So doc, can you tell us what reds is and kind of a little bit of the history about it?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:37:59):

Yeah. I mean like disordered eating in general start there is, is a really common element in the athletic world. And the framework that I think we need to start with is understanding that, you know, most of the time, if not all the time disordered eating starts from the idea of it’s gonna enhance performance somehow. Yeah. Right. It, it’s not done. Nobody signs up for this saying, I want this to take over my identity. It’s done in usually small ways. At first, I’m gonna tweak something. I’m gonna adjust something. I’m gonna restrict something because I believe doing so is gonna allow me to move my body faster. Right. I’m gonna increase my performance. Now, what, what often happens is there can be this vicious cycle where, um, you know, we, we are, we all require calories obviously just to live our lives, but we have a unique constellation of that.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:38:53):

Given the work we do and given how much time we spend training. And when you start to get into this deficiency, right. Relative energy deficiency, what happens is there becomes a very big imbalance between the calorie needs that you have as a human being and as an athlete and the calories that you’re giving yourself and over time, what will often happen for people is this, it starts slowly, but performance actually doesn’t increase performance, starts to decrease. And when that decrease starts to happen, there’s a little bit of frustration. And the thought almost always is, oh, I know I just need to do more of the thing. And then I’ll get there more restriction, more withholding food. What have you, performance continues to decrease to a point where a for women, especially there can be some pretty significant problems. A couple of the cornerstones of reds in women is a men. So loss of menstrual cycle and negative impact on bone mineral density. So you start to loosen bone density as well, which both of those things have long term implications for just health in general, let alone performance.

Adam Pulford (00:39:58):

Yeah. And a, and a, you know, to that cyclical nature of how eating disorders, uh, tend to manifest and also just keep going is, um, usually when the athletes starts with decreased calories and decreased weight loss, they’re gonna see a nice bump in performance typically, especially in, uh, like endurance athletics and in other parts. Um, and so that initial, like bump in performance is, you know, I’m going faster. I’m, I’m more efficient, all these, all these things, right. And then people start to notice and they say, Hey, you’re looking lean, Hey, you’re going faster a pill. You know? So it’s, it’s adding to that and say, oh, more is better. Right. Cuz we’re athletes, we’re Americans right here talking. And that’s how we think. And I’ll, I’ll bring this up and say, cuz if anybody’s listening and they’re like, well, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

Adam Pulford (00:40:48):

Like I don’t, first of all, I’m not an expert here. Okay. But I’ve wrestled for years of my life. I wrestled from grades go all the way to, um, all, all the way through college. And then I started racing bikes. Right. And, but looking back on it now and having the awareness that I have now full, full fledge eating disorder. Right. Because initially it was like, I was the fat kid and I was, um, you know, it started wrestling, lost a bunch of weight, started to be good at sports and it just got outta control. My parents actually brought me to psychologists and stuff that didn’t go well. And I bring that up and it’s, it’s personal for sure. I’ve never really even talked about that. Let alone on a podcast, but to many people, but I bring it up to destigmatize it because I thought it was good for me because it was increasing my performance and all the problems that I had like mentally and also physically kind of throughout, like through high school and college and all this kind of stuff. As I look back on it now, and man, I was messed up and I didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t want to acknowledge it. I didn’t have the conversation.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:42:00):

Right. Yeah. And at the time there, wasn’t a, probably a culture that supports it. And in fact, what we can see is there’s almost cultures that enhance it or encourage it. And in, in sport we see this a lot and there, there are some sports that tend to have a higher rate of, of disordered eating than others. And they are things like you’re, you’re talking about that are bodily focused that are weight focused, right? That you, you have to hit a certain number on a scale in order to compete in a certain class. And so there’s already this intuitive drive towards thinness towards restriction. And when you pair that with, oh, this is gonna increase my performance or this is gonna help the team. Those are often kind of the, you know, the, the ingredients that really start this motion.

Adam Pulford (00:42:45):

Yeah. And I mean, to this point of wrestling, I mean, for those who don’t know, I mean, it’s like it’s weight class. It was, you know, at the time that I was doing it, it was, uh, you are encourag to lose weight in order to hit it. And not only that, but like Saturday mornings, cuz we typically weigh in Saturday mornings, eat a bunch and then wrestle like Saturday mornings, you’d weigh in. You’d be in a line in your underwear, in a gymnasium with people like just standing there and you know, with a clipboard and say, did you make weight or not drop your drawers? Stand on the scale in a way you go, meanwhile everybody’s, you know, and not everybody’s in the gym to watch the weigh in. Right. But there’s a lot of people there. Right. And so you’re just naked, cold, naked, and hungry.

Adam Pulford (00:43:24):

Right. And it’s all this observation. Did you make weight? You get in trouble. If you doing all that kind of stuff, then there’s cycling. Right. And I, when I was directing some teams, there was one athlete who had come from a European team. Now he north American team and kind of somewhat, this sounds bad, but like kind of making some fun about that team and some eating disorder type stuff. But it was like legit during base training season, they would have to step on a scale and the, and the person that was weigh ’em would pinch ’em and be like, well maybe you don’t have dinner tonight kind of thing. And it was like, it’s real people, you know?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:44:01):

Yeah. I’ve worked with a, a number of, um, well, a lot of athletes in all, all sports, but the professional cycling is, you know, notorious for that at least historically with a lot of athletes that I’ve worked historically. Right. And a lot of these, these athletes that I’ve had in the past have said, you know, my coach would say, and they’re all from Europe, right? You need to drop two kilos by tomorrow or you can’t train. Right. I I’ve worked with some there there’s a team of, um, of athletes who, who professional athletes with diabetes and, you know, that’s a whole area where, where people are learning how to, um, you know, mimic play with their insulin in an effort to lose weight. And it’s called Divia right where we’re, they’re using insulin as a weight to weight loss. And again, it’s all tangled up in performance, it’s all tangled up in identity and a, it can become really overwhelming and encompassing very quickly.

Adam Pulford (00:44:56):

It can. And so all that being said is, you know, I wanna bring some awareness to it. I want to recognize that, you know, in our sport endurance sport, which, you know, it’s, it’s pretty rampant. Right. Um, and you know, if, if this brings some awareness, you know, to the listener to you, um, and you wanna talk more about it, I’d say, you know, you could bring it up with your coach. You could, you could go seek out a sports psychologist as well to just check in on it, you know, because if you’re, if you’re having some of these patterns or seeing some of those that we’ve been talking about, start having the conversation out, become more aware of it.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:45:31):

Yeah. Yeah. The, and the first step is, is talk to somebody that you feel support with. Right? So the first step is always, I think, talk to somebody that you believe is gonna validate and support and then talk to somebody who can help. Right. And especially in, in this space, finding, you know, somebody with a, a, a counseling, uh, therapy psych background, who’s doing this work with folks, struggling with disordered eating and understands the world of athletics, because that can be a unique overlap is really, really important.

Adam Pulford (00:46:03):

Couldn’t agree more, couldn’t agree more well as we kind of transition from a little less weightiness into like fun aspect of it. There’s, there’s this, um, performance psychology, uh, and this term called performance psychology. And I think, I don’t know, you tell me, doc, is, is this something for our listeners here on the show or is it just an area of psychology that deals with only the top pros, Chas gold medals or something like that?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:46:35):

Yeah. Great, great question. Right. And I think starting point is if you have a mind, you can probably benefit from working on your mind, right? Again, the, the mind is a highly trainable skill. And one of those first myths that I hear from people is that it’s only for elites, it’s only for professionals. It’s only for those on the world state. And the, the truth is it’s for everybody, you know, that this is really about understanding, bringing awareness to what’s helping you. Let’s enhance that what’s maybe getting in the way and let’s work on tweaking that.

Adam Pulford (00:47:06):

Gotcha. So, so what is performance psychology when we, when we kind of throw that aspect around, if it’s not just for elites, if it’s for people with all and bodies to associated with those minds, uh, what is performance ecology? What are we talking about?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:47:20):

Yeah, it’s, it’s really the, the art and understanding of the interplay between mind and body and specifically in the performance context. Right? So psychology is just our thoughts and our feelings as it relates to our lives in general performance psychology is understanding our thoughts and our feelings as it relates to a performance outlet. Right. And understanding that when, when we’re trying to do something in the world of sport, there are gonna be some specific skills and some areas of development. We can work on enhancing because it’s gonna help us. Right. One of the other myths that we often see is that, oh, if I’m working on this, if I’m seeing a performance psychologist, it means that there’s something wrong with me. And the majority of time, actually, that’s not even close to true. It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with you. It means we’re gonna teach you skills. We’re gonna help you maximize so that you get the study yourself in whatever endeavor it is that you’re pursuing.

Adam Pulford (00:48:13):

Yeah. So essentially it’s like, you know, when you want to take it to the next level, you can do that. There doesn’t have to be something wrong. And this goes back to like, what we’re talking about, which is like general mental health. It doesn’t have to be born out of disease while you’re seeking help. It can be born on something fun.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:48:28):

Absolutely. And it can be, we’re not of that ambition, right? Yeah. I want to go and tackle this challenge, whatever that is, I’m gonna need some help to get there. And we under we’ve understand, we’ve, we’ve understood the importance of coaches in the physical space for physical development. We’ve understood coaches in the strength training space, right. I need to get stronger. Uh, we’ve understood that in the nutrition. So I need to dial in my nutrition to eat the most outta my body. And now we’re understanding that in the mental side too, I need to get the most out of my mind in my thinking, and I need to learn how to drive this thing. Once I’ve built the machine, now I need to learn how to drive it appropriately. So these are really skills and areas that help enhance that process.

Adam Pulford (00:49:09):

So once, once someone talk to a performance psychologist and they start to put that into play, is that the end all be all? Are they now impervious to all the flow robbers out there? Or how does that work?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:49:21):

Right, man, if it could only be that simple, I would love that. Right? Yeah. That’s, that’s the, the, the last myth here is that, you know, doing so is gonna make you like invincible, right. Or you’re gonna be able to run through walls or just go out and smash your PRS. And, um, that’s, that’s not the case, right? We know that this helps you in those moments to get the most out of yourself, but you still have to do all the other things. You have to do the physical training. You have to put the time in. And the, the important part is like developing these skills while you’re doing the physical training. So there’s a lot of approaches that you can think about doing before training in the middle of your training and after training to really enhance this entire process.

Adam Pulford (00:50:04):

So two, two elements to this performance, psychology, from what I understand is one is emotional intelligence. I, as I read about that, part of me was just like, wow, well, this goes back to our awareness component. Um, can you tell us, like, becoming aware of yourself so to speak, um, is it that, or is there more than just becoming self aware?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:50:27):

Yeah, there, there are really two, there there’s a lot to it, but there’s just two main components. The first component is awareness. Okay. Right. Awareness of self awareness of thoughts, awareness of feelings, being able to recognize what’s happening and that, especially as we’re moving our bodies for long periods of time, we have this relationship in our thoughts about what’s happening. So being aware of that’s the first part, the second big part is gonna be focused on regulation, right? Regulating our emotions, regulating our body, regulating our thoughts so that we can perform optimally. There there’s a lot of compelling data that shows that, uh, emotionally intelligent athletes are going to be, you know, not only be more aware, but they’re gonna make better decisions. Right. And in the context of endurance sports, where we’re out there for hours, sometimes days at a time being able to be grounded and making good decisions and regulating those experiences is really gonna enhance our performance.

Adam Pulford (00:51:22):

Yep. And it’s never, it’s not just like one thing that you do that all of a sudden you’re now emotionally intelligent. I, the, the reason why I say that is like, as it pertains to endurance athletics, your pursuit of being an athlete is a continual kind of ping pong between self-awareness and self-regulation right back and forth, back and forth. How did I do, can I do a better next time? And I think in part one, we were talking about using breath to kind of regulate either an effort or find calmness, you know, when there’s anxiety. And I think it’s, it’s in part that as well, where there’s these mantras or keywords that you can come back and, and, and use some experience from last year’s race to help you now, based on a, a thing that you become aware of in the moment, then you cue yourself to become self-regulating to, oh, uh, I’m hungry. Oh yeah. I need a gel simplistically. Right. So there’s kind of this emotional intelligence. Am I, am I on the pulse there with that?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:52:24):

Yeah. I think awareness becomes the cue. Yeah. Right. Awareness of whatever it may be. So that helps generate a response. Right. And again, the response could be in, in mind, it could be in body. It could be in breathing, it could be in emotion, but the awareness helps generate that response.

Adam Pulford (00:52:42):

Got it. Okay. And then the second aspect of the performance psychology, this psycho biologic model, meaning, meaning what we’re trying to connect mind and body and make better decisions.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:52:58):

Yeah. In, in part. Right. And I think the, this model, the psycho biological model is kind of the, the wave that we’re in now in terms of understanding and it really to understand it let’s go back a couple of models previously, so that sure. Yeah. Models around endurance performance were really based on, you know, peripheral and central fatigue initially. Right. Right. You know, we have central nervous system exhaustion. We have peripheral skeletal muscle exhaustion. And once those things hit, that’s it you’re done. You can’t do anymore. Right. And in part there, you know, there’s parts of that that are true. Right? Absolutely. The second model is called the central governor and the central governor is this idea that starts to understand the role of the brain in regulating, monitoring our systems. And really the model there is understanding that the brain is gonna regulate things to a point that we don’t push ourselves to a point of physical detriment or death.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:53:51):

Right? So it’s this understanding of the brain is sort of paying attention. And there are parts to that that are also true, but both of those models disregarded anything to do with motivation, self talk, psychology at all. There, it wasn’t even a considerate in the model. The second biological model is where we’re at today. And it’s the understanding that our bodies are pretty important, obviously in endurance sports, but our minds are the drivers of that. And there are two pieces that are the, probably the most important one is motivation in connection to our goals, right? So the more meaningful your goals are, the more likely you’re gonna tolerate discomfort, distress, find a way through them. And the second is our cognitive appraisal is a huge determining factor in what we do next, right? So if we’re out there and our thoughts are, this is terrible.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:54:42):

I’m really suffering. I’ve got so much farther to go. There’s no way I can make get, well, guess how that’s gonna play out for you versus woo. This is intense, right? This is really hard. This is a challenge that I wanted. I’ve got what it takes. Let’s keep pushing, right. Two very different roads. And I, I understand there’s a lot of gray in between, but the way that we’re app praising our bodies are situation, much distance. We have left to cover what our thoughts are, what our experiences are, how meaningful it is. Those things drastically impact. What we do in those moments of endurance

Adam Pulford (00:55:19):

Makes sense where my mind is going now is kind of in our final, well, we’ll have to wrap the as soon or else. We just keep on going with this Rogan model that I, that I tend to put you in here, doc Rogan in a good way. If, if they’re, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s a bad, uh, triggering word right now, but, um, thus identity cross where my brain is going is, is how to put this into place, right? Like mindset training. And for my athletes, I actually reached out to some coaches as well is to talk about like, where it really matters. And the word motivation keeps on coming to like, how do I keep my athletes motivated? How do I stay motivated? And how do I even cultivate motivation? So when it comes to actually putting this stuff into play, we can model all day. Right. But what do you have for our listeners who even having troubles, like staying motivated day to day?

Dr. Justin Ross (00:56:20):

Yeah. I think part of motivation is really finding what excites you. And again, one of the areas that I see is, is of concern for the amateur athlete is we get this identity connection to who we think we are, right? And it’s rooted in language. I am a runner. I am a marathoner. And what I see happen if we use that as an, an example is, well, now all of a sudden, all other endurance opportunities don’t fit. Right? I can’t do that because I’m a marathoner. And that’s what I said I am. And that’s what I’m doing. And I have to run whatever we’ve assigned ourselves to. And over time, and I’ve experienced this personally, right? I, I had to work through my own shifting around this. It is, we lose that energy. We lose that excitement and we become demotivated. And often what we do is we blame ourselves. I said, I’m a runner. I just don’t feel like running. What’s wrong with me when really we need to look at what’s exciting. Right? And so we need to have this flexibility in rediscovering who we are as athletes. Right. And we need to keep it higher level. I’m an athlete. I’m an athlete who runs, I’m an athlete who does triathlons. And I’m an athlete who swims, who cycles, who hikes, whatever, when we keep it on that athlete level, it permits more flexibility in what we’re doing.

Adam Pulford (00:57:38):

Yeah, no, I completely agree with that. And I think, um, it’s this weird, it’s this weird like dichotomy, maybe of having specific goals to attain, and I’m gonna do that and I’m gonna achieve this versus, Hey, I’m just here to ride my bike. Hey, I’m just here to run, go back to your analogy of the guy running a thousand days or a 5k for a thousand days. Right? Like at some point, you know, he lost the joy, which then lost the motivation. Right. Whereas, you know, if you took a day off and he ran 999, 5 Ks in a thousand days, and that’s all it took, that’s still pretty cool. Right, right. Right. If you, but you know, essentially what you’re doing, you, you take away some of that pressure in order to remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing. And I think from a motivational standpoint of what I try to like communicate to my athletes, or even try to instill in myself is like, when you’re not feeling it, just do it, is this like when you’re not, well, first of all, let me, let me backtrack when you’re not feeling it.

Adam Pulford (00:58:47):

If you just need a rest day, cool. Do it. Because like, again, going back to our point, there’s no one day that’s gonna make or break. Right. Specifically, I tell my athletes, Hey, you know, if you’re not overly fatigued and all this kind of stuff, and you’re just like the Mojo’s low, just do your warm up. And then you can do the main set or you can just ride your bike or you could go home. I always say nine times outta people do their warmup. And it’s like a general warmup, maybe a few openers or something like that. All of a sudden like that action, that physical action leads to a emotional motivation that brings them through a main or brings ’em through the duration of the workout. And then they’re like, oh, I’m actually, that is all I needed. And now I’m feeling better. Yeah. Right.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:59:29):

Yep. So there’s yeah. I, I think part,

Adam Pulford (00:59:32):

So what’s going on there, I guess.

Dr. Justin Ross (00:59:33):

Yeah, for sure. Like there’s, there’s, uh, micro motivation, which any, we all are gonna feel this in the rhythm of a training cycle, a training block, we’re gonna have days we’re gonna have weeks where we’re just like, oh man, I’m just not into it today or right now that’s okay. Normalize that permit. It, it makes sense. And it’s often you’re right. The recommendation there is, let’s just get started, put your shoes on, right. Just put your shoes on, go ramble around, outside for a little bit. See how you feel and if you’re up for it. Cool. And if not, yeah, whatever, come on back. It’s all good. There’s also more like what I call existential motivation that we see with athletes where it’s, oh God, I just, I’m not, I don’t wanna run anymore. And yet I told myself I’m gonna run. And now I’m dealing with this existential dread and this questioning about what I’ve told myself I’m gonna do or what I’ve told the world I am or how the world sees me and what I’m actually feeling. That process is much more complicated where we have to kind of sort through and realign and then find a way back to this athlete layer. Find that joy, that purpose, that meaning those are often the things that we lose when we’re not motivated. It’s not loss of motivation. It’s loss of joy, purpose or meaning. So finding our way back to there can be, can be challenging at times.

Adam Pulford (01:00:48):

Yeah. So to kind of organize what we’re talking about here, when it comes to say mindset training, you’ve laid out that there’s foundational skills, which is in part identity, motivation commitments self-concept yeah. Separate from high performance mindset where it’s self talk, intentional control, cognitive appraisal and this sort of thing. Yep. And I think, I mean, I think where my analogy that may be more in the high performance, but it means still speaking on the motivational, but it’s on a surface level sort of thing. How do I get out there today versus I might have to stop here. So how do, how does like the foundational skills and the high performance mindset kinda lead into, um, what a listener can do with some of these, these things, whether they are, I mean, trying to decide, well, man, do I keep racing for another season or do I hanging up, I’m hanging up or maybe that’s not the group greatest, um, sort of thing, because it’s a very big question, but I guess the overarching question would be how to separate these two skills or these two, um, segments of foundational skills and high performance mindset in order to get what we want out of ourselves for sports.

Adam Pulford (01:02:00):


Dr. Justin Ross (01:02:00):

So I think the foundational skills for me are things that we think out as in a way, like kinda like base training, right? These are things that can be done year round with, or without a race, but are really important to think about as you’re establishing your season. Right? And so I really challenge people to think about this kind of base building this physiological foundational, psychological skill building as being critical to the start of your season, right? It sets the tone for your year, goes back to flexibility, goes back to identifying values, goes back to setting up plans goes back to understanding what your motivation is, your reasons why you’ve signed up for whatever race or event you’ve signed up for. And it really helps to set the tone for then layering on that second tier skills. That second tier of skills then is specific mindset, training or sport specific mindset training that you’ll do as it relates to your event.

Dr. Justin Ross (01:02:54):

Right? And this differs, right. If you’re going after, you know, a, a 100 mile ultra the work you’re gonna do there to dial in high performance mindset is gonna be different than if you’re trying to, you know, crush a one mile on a track, right? So that’s very different skill set. The, a lot of it is overlapping, but we have to train specificity in mind, just like we train specificity in body. The, the last bit then is like call like the tip of the pyramid is executing when it counts. Right? And these are really specific skills. These are skills that are directly in relation to your event as you’re getting ready for your event. Right? These are skills you’re probably not doing in February if you’re signed up for a fall race. Right. But these are things you’re starting to think about. And they build a upon that high performance mindset training that you’ve been doing in and out of your daily training for weeks and months on end.

Adam Pulford (01:03:48):

Yeah, man, I, I feel like we almost need a part three where we can talk about like executing when it counts. Cuz personally I’m pretty interested in that, like the mental toughness, the grit, right? The like how do we train that? So if you’re ever up for another two hours of your life, you let me know now. Um, but here’s a kind of a curiosity question. Do you ever, do you ever meet an athlete who they come to you say from a performance psychology standpoint and they’re like, okay, I wanna get better. And then you do your thing and then like, you know what, I don’t think I need this. Like I got this, this is too complicated. I’m out. I mean, do, do you have anybody like that or

Dr. Justin Ross (01:04:26):

Yeah. All, all the time. Right. And I think that’s, yeah, I think that’s, it’s related to any part of coaching, right? Where there’s, I think a lot of people who kind of, they want to tiptoe in this space because they’re curious and they’re interested and they wanna learn, but then maybe it’s, it’s not a good fit or maybe they already have, have their stuff figured out or sometimes maybe because there’s some, some anxiety and apprehension. And I think that goes with any of these disciplines, whether that’s mindset, training, physical training, nutritional training, strength, training, I think there’s a lot of curiosity and tiptoeing in and then backing away for a number of reasons.

Adam Pulford (01:05:01):

Yeah. It’s a good point. I’ve I I’ve met athletes who I’ve seen their data and they’re like, okay, so can you help me? Can I do? Or how can I get better? And it’s like, Hey, you’re going pretty good. I wouldn’t change anything.

Dr. Justin Ross (01:05:11):


Adam Pulford (01:05:12):

You know that that’s, that’s definitely true. So for those of us self included who haven’t reached that level, um, are there any more resources that we can listen to or read or digest of we’re talking books or other podcasts that we wanna learn more to, to take what we learn from this two part series here on mental health and just keep on building upon it.

Dr. Justin Ross (01:05:39):

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Right. I think there’s a lot of great resources, especially in the performance psychology space. So, um, I usually turn everybody onto a book called endure by Alex Hutchinson as a starting point. Um, it one it’s well written, great writer love the way he presents this material. It’s easy to digest and yet really fun and exciting at the same time. And it really is a deep dive on the psycho biological model. Right. Kind of understanding how we got here, having, you know, very specific stories in cases where he brings these things to light. It’s an amazing book, right? I’d really recommend people check that out. The other book that I like in the space is called how bad do you want it? Which is, uh, written by Matt Fitzgerald, which is also based on the psycho biological model, right? This idea of how bad you want it, how meaningful, how, how important your goals are, is gonna fundamentally shape what you do in training and en racing.

Dr. Justin Ross (01:06:34):

And it’s a kind of chapter by chapter approach where he takes a certain situ in and he breaks down these concepts. Those are great books for people to check out a podcast that I like. Um, there’s a lot of podcasts that I like, but finding mastery by Michael JVE, um, is really good in this space. And he is people from all kinds of performance, avenues, business, um, entrepreneurialship sport athletics, come on and talk about their model for how they’re working on enhancing their performance and their wellbeing. So lots of great shows on there for people to check out as well.

Adam Pulford (01:07:07):

I’m, I’m glad to see that there’s a ven diagram of our, our resources here that we, that we enjoy. Um, the finding mastery podcast is really, really good. I think JVE does a wonderful job op of bringing in some really high, you know, like high end high achievers and talk and he breaks it down. It makes it pretty digestible. Um, all kind of related to that performance, psychology and Alex, uh, Hutchinson. I mean, I’ve been a huge fan of his, um, sweat science, uh, writing on outside magazine. So you can check him out there. We also did a podcast on the tri right podcast, actually back to episode number two, where I was terrible, but he was awesome. Um, and uh, we talk all about his book and I, I made a joke that I was kind of serious about that he needs to kind of do a, a, a book number two.

Adam Pulford (01:07:54):

Um, but he’s a fantastic writer and definitely is all about what we were talking about with this performance mindset training. So great resources there. Uh, in summary doc, man, we, we, we covered a ton between both, both, uh, episodes here. And I think the biggest one was bringing awareness to a lot of these topics, whether it was defining what mental health is or talking about. Some of the key buzz terms out there that people are experiencing through true trauma and grief through COVID and, and the Warren Ukraine and the unpredictability of where this climate is going, right just in our life that pertains to our athlete life. Right? Because it, it gives us cognitive overload if you will. And we can’t. And sometimes we can’t then, um, even have the energy or the motivation or the mindset to deal with what our coach gives us to pursue our athletic goals, which us is out even more. Right. So then we, you know, we talked about having flexibility versus balance, right. And how that can, um, help lead to having greater success or happiness, you know, in your pursuit of your sport. So all that to say, what else did I miss? And what would you like our listeners is to be left with on this last episode here?

Dr. Justin Ross (01:09:19):

Yeah. Yeah. Great question. Uh, I, I think the takeaway is your mind is a highly trainable skill and mental health is happening. It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with you. It’s the, the combination of your thoughts, your feelings, your relationships, your connection to meaning. So the challenge I’ll leave everybody with is how are you training your mind in and out of sport, right? How are you working before training in the middle of training after training to really enhance your performance and get the most outta yourself, start there with that awareness platform. And then you slowly take skills and you embed them into what you’re doing in your running shoes, on your bike, wherever you are to really optimize your performance.

Adam Pulford (01:10:05):

Those are wonderful points. And my last final word on that is because everything that you just described was what and Erickson wrote about in his book peak, where he is talking about deliberate practice, not just practicing. And so if that spurs anything on, in, in people’s brains and say what it’s actually, it’s how you’re doing something rather than just what you’re doing. And that’s what Dr. Ross here is talking about. All right, doc. So if every listener was like, whoa, I gotta get more Dr. Ross in my life. Can they find you on the socials? Where can they connect with you more?

Dr. Justin Ross (01:10:39):

Yeah. So yeah, you can find me on Instagram. Um, I’m on there. I have a website Dr. Justin and, uh, yeah, Strava, man, you know, all things Strava. So if you find me on there as well,

Adam Pulford (01:10:51):

Very cool. Uh, are you, are you taking clients? Like if, if somebody listens here and they say, well, this is great. I wanna work with, uh, Justin, uh, how do I do that?

Dr. Justin Ross (01:11:01):

Yeah. Yeah. You can find my contact info on my website and then just, uh, shoot me an email. Email’s gonna be the easiest way. And then we can get connected and figure out how we can help you on your path moving forward.

Adam Pulford (01:11:12):

Great. And for our listeners, um, if, if you do want to find his, his website or his Strava, um, or the article that I originally, um, mentioned in our intro and part one, we have a landing page where all these resources will be put there, including, uh, the book recommendations and podcast recommendations from both Dr. Austin. I, so, uh, please head over to the train, right? Dot com. And up on the little top, say train right podcast. You can click there and find our landing page and all the information. So Dr. Ross, thank you again for coming back on the train right podcast and ripping through all this amazing content. Uh, thank you for your time, your energy and your, uh, your flow today.

Dr. Justin Ross (01:11:56):

Oh, man. Appreciate the invite. Always good to connect with you. And, uh, look forward to part three. When we get around to that at some point too, there

Adam Pulford (01:12:02):

We go. I’m I’m game. Yeah.

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