Neal Palles podcast episode

Psychological Flexibility With Coach Neal Palles

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • The psychology of masters athletes
  • Psychological flexibility vs. mental toughness
  • “Pushing away paper” exercise
  • Developing self-awareness

Guest Bio:

Neal Palles is a CTS ultrarunning coach who holds dual master’s degrees in Social Work and Applied Sports Psychology, and is a licensed Psychotherapist and Sports Performance Specialist.

Episode Links:



CTS Coach Bio:

Twitter: @NealPalles

Instagram: @nealpalles


Book Recommendation: Confidence Gap by Russ Harris —>


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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.

Corrine Malcolm (00:00:06):

My guest today is Neil Palles. Neil is one of the newer coaches in our running team at CTS, and he is someone who I am proud to call my colleague as he brings broad depth, the knowledge to our coaching cohort. Neil wears many hats holding dual master’s degree in social work and applied sports psychology. He’s a licensed psychotherapist and sports performance specialist and is working on becoming a licensed mental performance consultant Neils based in Longmont, Colorado with experience providing psychotherapy and mental skills training to athletes at all levels today, we’re diving into psychological flexibility, a really interesting topic. Um, we actually, the, my favorite quote that you’re about to hear is that we talk about how psychological flexibility might be a greater skillset than mental toughness. And you’ll have to let me know what you think about that. We’re also gonna talk about what that means in practice, how you can apply acceptance and self-compassion to both your training and racing and what this means specifically for are masters athletes. As we all age, we hope you enjoy the show. Neil, welcome to the show.

Neal Palles (00:01:09):

Hi, thank you for inviting me. I’m excited

Corrine Malcolm (00:01:11):

To be here. We were just talking before we hit record, and I’m really excited to get to share your knowledge and expertise with our listening audience. You’re one of the newer members of the ultra coaching staff at CTS. We were able to bring on a number of new coaches, um, this year, and you bring an interesting skillset to our little, little like cohort of coaches. You’re I guess I would say our resident of, uh, our resident, well, of psychological knowledge. And it makes me, um, think about how coaching for me is this perfect blend of science, um, that drew me to exercise physiology. And then also the human side of working with real people. I get to combine my loves of working with humans and the science that brought me into grad school and all that stuff. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so I’m wondering, we talked a little bit once again, before we hit record, but can you, um, tell us about your academic background and the interest that brought you into the coaching ultra endurance athletes and how you’re combining that with all these other interests?

Neal Palles (00:02:09):

Yeah, so I, yeah, so I have a master’s degree in social work, so I’m a, I’m a licensed clinical social worker I’ve been for 20 years. Um, got my master’s yeah, 23 years ago. And, um, and recently, well, in 2019, I finished master second master’s degree in applied sports psychology. Uh, and it it’s really kind of a, a roundabout way I got here, um, years and years ago. Um, we’re talking in high school. I, I, I in high school, so I, I did this program called outward bound in North Carolina when I was 17, I was still in high school and outward bound rock climbing, backpacking. We did some whitewater canoeing and it was really this challenging environment that pushed us to our limits. I remember hiking 10 o’clock at night with a 70 pound pack. And I weighed all of, probably a hundred, five pounds.

Neal Palles (00:03:11):

And it was this, this giant pack, you know, and, and you, you’re doing this with this group of strangers. You don’t know, but you formed bond, but you also find that you have a little bit more in you. And that excited me. I was like, whoa, there’s this potential, you know, I found parts of me that I never knew. I had, you know, I was this really quiet, shy guy and I just, I opened up, I, I blossom there and I came back to high school and, you know, it was my senior year of high school. And I even, I started writing, you know, I had rather write a paper and I remember this from, you know, this is a long time ago. Uh, I wrote a paper called the psychology of mountaineering and I wish I still had that paper. Uh <laugh> because it, it, it took from all these great psychologists, humanistic psychologists, uh, you know, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and, and these folks, you know, basically talk about this thing called self-actualization, you know, which, you know, in a nutshell, you know, it was finally, you have more.

Neal Palles (00:04:20):

And so I kind of applied that to mountaineering and I said, you know, I wanna be an outward bound instructor. And so I go through college at the university of Oregon and there was a great outdoor pursuits program there. And I, um, right at the end of college, I got hired by outward bound in Oregon and started teaching rock climbing courses or mountaineering courses and whitewater rafting courses. And I worked in California for a bit. And, um, somewhere I decided, well, I need to settle down a little bit. What am I gonna do? And got my social work degree, but that stuff never left me. I wanted to empower people. I wanted people to kind of find what I found, you know, at a program like this. And that’s kind of why I went into social work, but I had this in the back of my mind that, you know, how there has to be a way to integrate kind of this outdoorsy, you know, mindset with, you know, social work.

Neal Palles (00:05:20):

And I, I, I get a career in social work and I’m still heavily involved in, um, in a, in a, uh, program working for a big insurance company. Um, and I provide crisis intervention services. I’m actually a supervisor, uh, during the day and at night I do have a private practice. Um, but so I had all that stuff and I started getting into running. Uh, again, this is, I ran in high school, uh, and actually my high school coach wrote one of the first sports psychology books for runners, which was amazing. And I, you know, I thought about it actually got in the book and I still have yet to contact him. I wanna do that. I gotta do that. Um, but I, I, I got into running again and I was, I fell in love with it. And I was like, I kept on this is, it became my outward bound.

Neal Palles (00:06:13):

Again came, you know, this is great, you know, but it was road running, nothing wrong with road road. I love you love it. And I, I got into marathons and I qualified for Boston. It took years and I hit these roadblock and I started getting interested in sports psychology. Like, what is this, this block that I’ve got? Um, you know, and I really went along with my passion for mental health. And so I get into it, but it, as I get into it, I don’t just dive probably like most of us coaches, we don’t just, you know, stick a, you know, toes in, we dive into it. And so I would, you know, you can see behind me, I was get exercise physiology books. I got books on organic chemistry. I took organic chemistry back in college. So like, okay, you know, learn about this.

Neal Palles (00:07:00):

Now let’s learn about coaching. What does it take to be a coach? You know, and I took a coaching course in 2008, 2009, and I started working with some athletes here and there. And finally this opportunity came up to, uh, do a distance learning, uh, through Adam state university, uh, in sports psychology. And I took one through their program and, you know, that’s, I loved it, it, but one of the, one of the premises in that program, one of the pieces of it, they’re like, this is really good material to bring to coaching, you know? And so I was like, well, why don’t I take all of this mental health and, you know, the, the, the mental performance piece to coaching, you know, and, and I’m already coaching some athletes here and there. Why don’t, you know, saw, like I saw, you know, this opened up and I was like, yeah, this is great.

Neal Palles (00:07:51):

You know, and I’ve been, I’ve been doing ultras for a, a good couple years already. And there were so many pieces of it. <laugh> that where it’s that mental performance piece and the mental health piece comes in, and that’s why I’m here, I’m here, here to help people find they have more. Um, and you know, whether it’s looking at it from the, you know, the psychological, the mental skill side or the physical standpoint, you know, and I can kind of jump in all these different worlds and, you know, and I feel, you know, yeah, I’m learning more about the physiology, which is, you know, I’m eating this stuff up and then, you know, hopefully I can provide some tools for people here on the mental skills science and the mental health side, you know, and, you know, use me as the resource. That’s, that’s what I’m here for.

Neal Palles (00:08:42):

And, you know, I, it’s interesting, I have this motto that I, I like to share with people and, and it’s this, uh, it’s a Latin, and it actually comes from one of the schools about rebound actually in great Britain. It’s, uh, the motto is Latin called it’s plus estin Vos. And that is, uh, it means more in you and simply more in you. And they have that on the wall, uh, of one of their schools, the school started in the 1940s. Um, and, uh, yeah, that’s, I, I think about that all the, and if I could provide that for people could, if I could help that and be a resource for people techs, that’s why I’m here.

Corrine Malcolm (00:09:21):

Some of my very, very best friends are, or were outdoor ed instructors who were frat word bound or adventure tracks. And they’re, they’re my favorite people because, you know, they deal with teenagers in crisis all the time in the woods. And so they deal with adults in crisis, very, very well. They’re my favorite. Like, let’s go for a run and like really break some stuff down. Um, we joke that there are our, uh, personal therapists for our, our, for my husbands and my relationship. We always bring one of them on our run every year. And we say, okay, let’s talk about some stuff. Let’s dive into this because they’re so good at, at listening and reason, and, you know, using, using movement as part of this process. And so I think it’s, it’s cool. That’s where you got kind of really, really engaged in it. And then I, yeah, I just, I think that resonates with people right, is that we, as coaches get to combine all of our loves together, and yes, it’s anyone who’s run anything or rid anything, or don’t triathlon like knows that yeah, physical stamina and physical fitness matters. But if you don’t, if you’re not mentally, well, if you’re not mentally sound and can die, like dig in, oftentimes like that’s a huge, um, performance limit for lots of us. Cool.

Neal Palles (00:10:31):

It’s absolutely huge. And, you know, I kind of see it as a, you know, you have to, you have both the mental health side and the mental performance side, and they interact with each other and, you know, and physical side. I mean, it’s just, it’s, we’re one, it’s, it’s very holistic. So yeah,

Corrine Malcolm (00:10:48):

I think we’ve spent a lot of time this past year, really recognizing that like physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing are not the same thing. Like I think for the longest time, we’re like, oh, athletes are physically fit. Ultra runners are physically fit. Like they, so they’re men, they’re emotionally fine. And it’s like, that’s not really what we’re seeing in research. It’s not really what we’re seeing. If we look around at our, you know, our, our peers, the people that we’re lining up on re in races are in long runs with like, it really physical health and, and mental health are, are not the same thing. And I think it’s been in important thing, right. To highlight in the, in like the, the more wide stream media this past year. Right.

Neal Palles (00:11:23):

You’ve gotta take care of both, you know, you’ve gotta, you know, and you gotta be active about it. You know, you can kinda shove it away, the mental stuff. Sometimes you can try to shove away, but it’s gonna percolate up, you know, it does. It always does. You know, even if, you know, you think of COVID and it’s like, I gotta be STR you know, no matter how strong even there’s therapists right now are struggling, we got all these tools and it’s like, wow, this has been hard. It’s been,

Corrine Malcolm (00:11:48):

It’s been really hard. And I think a lot of us thought that 2020 was the hard year, but I think 2021 was, as we’ve talked about in our coaching group, like 20, 21 was very hard. We pretended it was a normal year and it really, it hasn’t been a normal year. And I think a lot of us are feeling very burnt out. Yeah.

Neal Palles (00:12:08):


Corrine Malcolm (00:12:09):

Um, one thing, I guess, what I really wanna talk about, which we spend the next bit diving into is that you gave, so we do, um, for people who don’t know, the, the reason I coach for CTS is because we get to do these continuing ed sessions, both, um, across all disciplines with our cycling coaches and our triathlon coaches. But we also have a weekly running one, which I like probably make it to about 50% of them because life is life and crazy, but, but, um, topics come up that are super, super interesting. And each of us takes a turn presenting something, or we bring in experts to talk to us about things. And you recently gave this great continuing ed talk to not just the running coaches, anyone who wanted to attend within our coaching cohort. And it was, it was titled psychological considerations for the aging athlete, the master’s mindset. And I immediately at the, all of our gears, like flipped and they’re all turning. And so I’m really one of the very first things you pointed out in this talk was like, what is a master’s athlete? Like what defines a master’s athlete? Who are we, who are we talking to here? Or is it really we’re talking to everyone? Well,

Neal Palles (00:13:07):

You know, it’s interesting. I mean, I, I, I looked it up again today and I was like, well, you know, what is the S a T F say, you know, and they said 35. And then I followed this other link attached to the UC, uh, us ATF and, and something said 35, but 25 for some of these races. And there’s a lot of information out there. And, and I really thinking, it, it, it all depends. And, and, and the reality is we’re all aging, you know, and even people in their twenties are concerned about, you know, oh my God, I’m gonna turn 30. You know, you know, I’m gonna turn 30 people in their thirties. Like I gotta turn 40, you know, you know, and, and in my forties, you know, I was like, I’m like, this is it the big day, you know, I’m turning 50 here, you know, like everybody’s gonna change today.

Neal Palles (00:13:57):

And, and then, you know, and then it’s the sixties or the seventies, and we’re all aging. And so we are all gonna have these feelings that, you know, I’ll talk aloud about this later, but you know, these feelings that come up for us, you know, and these thoughts, you know, of, you know, who am I, am I, I getting older, how’s this gonna affect me? Um, so, you know, when we think about ultra runners, I mean, I’ve seen, I saw something, you know, that I have to pull it up here. I got it right here is, you know, masters athletes. I kind of broke it down as masters athletes, certified plus grand masters, which was a label. I just, that label grand masters. Well, dude, it, it’s 50 to 59 and it’s, wow. I’m a grand master. That’s cool. <laugh> and they have senior grand master 60 plus.

Neal Palles (00:14:47):

And, and I think those labels get, you know, and it depends who you are, where you are probably where you are in the world, you know, and, and ultimately, you know, I just, well, we’re all aging, you know, you look at, you look at ultra runners. And I think the interesting thing is I didn’t realize this until I looked at that it was 42, about 42 and a half is the average age for ultra run. That’s amazing. And, and, you know, you can look at the, um, you know, some of the statistics, you know, you see the 40 to 45 plus age group is probably one of the largest and it starts dropping off a little bit, maybe after 45, uh, after, just as you reach 50 and then 50, 55, it starts dropping off significantly. So, but that, you know, that’s, I’m talking about anyone I’m talking about everybody

Corrine Malcolm (00:15:37):

<laugh> yeah. I’m, I’m one of the younger, one of the younger coaches, I think, on our, on our running staff. Um, by default, even though I’ve been with the company for five years, I’m like, have I just like keep hanging out at the, at the, the young end of our, our crew a little bit. Um, so recent college grads get a at us if you wanna coach. Um, but I, what I think is interesting there is that, you know, we’re talking about the ultra running audience, really, you know, as these masters level, these masters aged athletes, I think for USA track and field for like cross country, we just had cross country running championships, not that long ago. And I think 40 is their master’s distinction for cross nationals, right? And so Renee, this woman outta bend, who like just turned 40, went and, and won the master’s championships.

Corrine Malcolm (00:16:18):

And she’s so fast, like she’s way, way faster than me, faster as a master, maybe. But one of those things where it’s, you know, it’s, it’s gonna be different for everyone here. And so, although masters are very well represented, particularly this four, you know, 42 or so, 40 to 45 year old age group, um, in ultra running, having spent a lot of time in the exercise physiology world, doing research, we know that exercise physiology, research and psychology research and medical research is not perfect. The mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, quote unquote ideal test subject is a college-aged male. And I joke it’s because you can pay them to do basically anything <laugh>. But, so, so what does that look like though, when you’re talking about, like, when we’re, when we’re trying to pull information to, to give athletes skills and tools and educate coaches on this topic, like, what does it look like from a research standpoint, as far as, you know, the psychology of master’s aged athletes? Cause they’re not the, they’re not the routine, um, no sample sample group that we pull from. And,

Neal Palles (00:17:16):

You know, when I, when I did research for this presentation, I, you know, I dug as far as I could. I, I don’t have access to a lot of libraries. I wish I did, um, anymore, but it, you know, as far as what I was able to pull, was it wasn’t much what they do look at, or, you know, looking at some motivational aspects of, you know, trying to get people to exercise and, you know, ex you know, like exercise motivation, you know, how do you get somebody who may not never have, you know, ran in their lifetime to, you know, to get running. And, but not, there’s not much out there. What I do get is a lot of kind of self reports from mental performance coaches and consultants and sports psychologists saying, Hey, this is what we’ve seen. This is what I’ve done. This is what, I’ve, how I’ve focused on it. Uh, but there’s, you know, yeah. It’s college a, uh, where are most of those? Um, you know, the, those studies that you, you know, are done for sure. You know, even, even in sports psychology. Yeah. We wanna

Corrine Malcolm (00:18:18):

Talk to those guys, you know, 20 years down the road and, and then say, Hey, let’s talk about your, your psychology. Oh, it would be,

Neal Palles (00:18:24):

It’d be awesome. I mean, there’s so many, I mean, I, yeah, this is the direction. I mean, I love all this stuff and I go, wow, why don’t we take sports, psychology and physiology and do a big research study on this. Yeah. And see how, how it works, you know, and see it over the long period, you

Corrine Malcolm (00:18:41):

Know? Yeah. I was, this is not a question I sent you, so don’t, don’t worry. It’s like, if it, if it shocks, oh, please not shocks. But, um, so I was recently on a podcast and I was asked if you could have like a bucket, like a bucket list, like, or a study, if you could, if you could have someone, a university somewhere do a study for you for ultra running, what would it be? And I was like, well, basic physiology, like a basic ultra running study on like, let’s say, like training methodology, like just understanding volumes and training loads and quantifying it specifically for ultra running. Cuz we pull a lot of that information from Nordic skiing and, and road cycling and triathlon and not necessarily from our, our own cohort of, of athletes. And that’s obviously just a very basic study. And so I’m wondering, talking about the lack of this research. If you could, if you could have one that someone would do for you, what would that, what do you think would be a really like a, a value to me personally, to your practice or to the, like the wider sports psychology ultra running master’s athletes committee

Neal Palles (00:19:43):

The way, well, yeah, let’s go for it. Uh <laugh> you know, you know, and this is, I have, you know, and I wish I got a PhD. I wish I, you know, um, and maybe that’s down the road, who knows, but you know, what I would like to see is, oh, you have, you’re kind of you’re programming for the physiological components. And then you layer on a program for sports psychology, you know, and, and there’s ways to program sports psychology. It’s, you know, it really, you know, the, the trading that I had, you know, it looks more educational in nature and you could do it that way. And, you know, instead of the therapeutic modality where I kind of jump into that realm, but, um, you have that and, and then have, you know, the ones that don’t have that program, you know, and, and, and see how, what the results are in the race, not just the results, but how did they do six months later? What were their perceptions of that experience? I, I think that the research that I’ve read it, it’s interesting when you look into the psychology, it’s like, yeah, we, we did this training, we did it like five, six weeks before the race. And then we looked at it afterwards and, you know, yeah, yeah. They didn’t, you know, there was no differences in, in how they performed, but it was six weeks afterwards or six months afterwards where they said, Hey, I got something out of that and I’m still utilizing, it’s interesting.

Corrine Malcolm (00:21:14):

There’s a

Neal Palles (00:21:15):

Lag don’t there, there, there’s a lag. And I think it’s, you know, you can’t just start six weeks before a race. It’s, you know, just like you can’t just train someone physically six weeks before race, you know, you’ve gotta have six months, you know, in a year you have a timescale where you’re really integrating this stuff, you know, uh, you know, coop talks in his new book about periodization of mental skills. And I think you’ve really can do that by integrating them early on and developing the athlete. And so you would have to work with someone it’d be a long study and very expensive <laugh> yeah,

Corrine Malcolm (00:21:55):

Yeah. They often are, but it’d be really, really cool. And so it’s kind of like that. Yeah, totally. What’s the, what’s the dreams of dreams there. I like that, you know, giving that intervention and then getting to see it kind of play out. And I wonder with ultra too, I was talking to Addie brace, see about this and Addie, obviously in a similar line of work, she wrote a book it’s really, really good. Um, yeah, I like that got like skill, like skill sheets in it. Um, cuz I need practice always. But um, she was saying, you know, and, and coop brings us up as well. Is that, you know, one of the interesting things about our sport is that the longest thing we do in training is still not close to as long as running a hundred or running a 50 or running, you know, whatever it might be. And so it’s like, there’s this gap in our experience from training to race day, particularly if you’re jumping up in distance for the first time. And so I wonder would some of that like longitudinal intervention is like having the athlete have a, an opportunity to put that stuff like to cement it in practice in a race scenario. And then they can like, they’re like, oh conceptually I know what mile 80 feels like now.

Neal Palles (00:22:58):

Exactly, exactly. I mean, if you don’t know what mile 80 feels like, <laugh>, you know, you know, all this stuff, I’d be, I could mental skills backwards and forwards. You could read Addie’s book and if you don’t know what mile 80 feels like until you’re there. Oh yeah. But if you get some practice in that stuff, that’s where it is. It’s like, okay, maybe this is where I could put this into practice. And you know, it goes back to this concept that I learned at outward bound. This is the idea of experiential education. You’re gonna be using these experiences to, you know, your first a hundred may. You know, this is where this goes, this is how my nutrition kind of goes and you’re kind of fitting this stuff together. And maybe it’s your second or third one where you’re kind of fully integrating everything, the sports psychology components, the nutrition, all the, you know, all the other components where you’re like, yeah, I feel good at this. And then you get to your fourth one and go, oh, something’s different. <laugh> oh.

Corrine Malcolm (00:23:53):

Or, oh, I still made a mistake or whatever it might be. Yeah. I tell every athlete going into any ultra I’m like, look, we’ve prepared for the best day possible, but yeah, like it’s an ultra. Something could go wrong and like, you gotta roll with it out there. So I feel like adaptability is something that we’re all training training for and about. And that’s actually kind of, I think, heading into this next question, we’re talking about flexibility a little bit here and not the touching your toes type. Um, I would like to say that my mental flexibility is good. My physical flexibility is poor. Many people can probably relate to that. But in, um, our continuing ed session, you asked this question to the group and basically it was, you know, like what are the stories you tell yourself when you think about aging and like, you know, we’re all on this video call and everyone’s face kind of like lights up, right?

Corrine Malcolm (00:24:38):

Like there was like audible, audible noises happening, um, on this video call. And I think it’s because we all had this immediate understanding of what, what that question meant and where it was heading. And I think comparison kind of rose to the top of that pile. I deal with this with Aperts all the time who are super fast, 20 somethings, and now they’re 60 and they’re a different runner than they were then they’re not, it’s not bad or, or anything, but it’s different. And so comparison rose to the top of the pile, which we can all relate to young, young or old, we’re all, you know, self comparison, comparison to others. We all sit with it constantly, but I’m, I’m wondering, and this might be outta order and we’ll kind of just like, we’ll wiggle our way through it here actually. Cool. But you, you kind of talk about this really interesting type of therapy and type of con concept and it’s called acceptance and commitment therapy as a model for examining, um, aging in particular with, within around athletics. And I’m, I’m wondering like what does that look like? Kind of big overview and what does that look like in practice with an individual?

Neal Palles (00:25:40):

Well, good question. <laugh> right. Yeah. Um, so what acceptance commitment therapy is, is really, this kind of goes back to this idea of psychological flexibility and I’ll throw a bombshell out here. I love, I gotta say this. I gotta is that I think psychological flexibility is much more important than mental toughness. Yeah. Cause if you, you know, if you don’t have psychological flexibility, you, you know, that toughness and toughness doesn’t matter. I don’t, I don’t even like using that term, you know, because that always implies that there might be weakness. And I like saying, well, you know, we all have a certain range of flexibility. You know, I could bend down, you know, to my, you know, I could bend my hands down to my knees. Some people could down to their toes, you know, we have a range of flexibility. Now we could stretch that range a little bit.

Neal Palles (00:26:34):

And you know, what we’re talking about in psychological flexibilities is being able and, and use in acceptance commitment theory is this idea of being present, doing what matters and, and opening up. And, you know, you know, briefly, you know, being present is, is being here right now in the present moment, I’m sitting here talking to you, I’m talking to the audience. Um, I’m sitting in my room, I’m aware that I’m in, in my room, I’m taking, you know, I’m aware that there’s a sound machine going in the background, you know, that’s being present. You know, I’m also present to my thoughts. You know, I’m a present, you know, maybe there’s a little, few butterflies coming up. I gotta do this talk here. You know, I, I, I’ve never spoken to Karen. This is, you know, wow. These butterflies here opening up to this experience, opening up to the, you know, the feeling of anxiety opening up to the fear, uh, that I might be aging opening up to.

Neal Palles (00:27:41):

Yeah. This idea of you, of self doubt that I might be experiencing. Some of this is scary ultimately though, it’s going commitment doing what matters. So you’re committing, you know, actively towards what matters to you, what matters in the sense of your values, you know, and developing out of values, your personal goals. And yeah, I, I always kind of Def I define a type for athletes. It’s the process, you know, it is, you know, what, what matters is part of the process here? What are we getting as a process when we look at ultra running, you know, uh, or training. So that in a nutshell, I is what it is. And, uh, acceptance being opening up, you’re accepting, uh, you know, the, these emotions, these feelings, this, you know, possible angst or fear that you might have of growing older, um, and again, commitment to acting, uh, and doing what and doing what matters.

Neal Palles (00:28:45):

Um, and I wanna go back to acceptance for a second here. I’m sorry. I digress, but acceptance, acceptance. Isn’t laying down, you know, and giving up, you know, people get, people get this wrong, you know, when they hear acceptance, you know, um, yeah, here, here, here goes it soft social worker again, <laugh>, you know, no, no. So acceptance means we’re recognizing this stuff. We’re human, you know, everyone has fears. Everyone has anxieties and you know what, and going back to that idea of comparison, and I said this in our talk, as we all compare, you know, I hear people say, well, don’t, don’t compare, don’t stop trying to compare. Okay, <laugh> you can’t, you know, you could do some things that can help you, uh, you know, put your phone down, but you know what I would rather say, I say, put your phone down, do what matters instead, you know what matters right now?

Neal Palles (00:29:43):

you know, what could I, what could I be doing right now? Well, you know, I could be, you know, I, I could be reading the book. Um, I could be going out for a run. I could be, you know, looking at Strava is not what matters, but I might be, we have to compare to learn how to walk. You know, I look at somebody, you know, babies, you know, they’re standing up, you know, how am I gonna, how do we do that? When we go back to, uh, you know, prehistoric times, you know, Hey, that spear is bigger than this spear. And it was able to take down that mammoth, maybe I need a bigger spear. You know, this

Corrine Malcolm (00:30:19):

Is good comparison.

Neal Palles (00:30:21):

Comparison is learning. Exactly, exactly, Sally. Sorry, I digres, but no, no, no.

Corrine Malcolm (00:30:26):

I, I have a question that probably digress us more about acceptions. Good. So I’ve read a lot over the past year about, and this is kind of coming out in some of the psychology literature these days is the difference between like dissociation and kind of like, like mindfulness and a acceptance. And is that, is that the same, like obviously we’re using a term here and is that term blanket like in, in those situations generally, that means, like they say it’s, oh, it’s better to like actively accept kind of what’s happening during an event or a race or a game, as opposed to trying to disassociate as far as like moving through this situation or whatever, whatever it might be, maybe your nutrition went sideways or, or you’re, you’re in a rough patch. Is that the same style of acceptance or is that just, we’ve got a lot of terms that all involve

Neal Palles (00:31:11):

Acceptance of some sort. I, I think, I think there is a lot of different terms. So the dissociation, I think you’re talking about is the dissociation where I’m gonna go, you know, and I’m on 80 at mile 80 and I might just try to tune out. Yeah. And, you know, and just tune out of everything and I, you know, and that, and here’s a concept, here’s another concept we’ll probably get into, is it workable? You know, Hey, that works, you know, you know, so why don’t you do that and use that? Is it tool? So dissociation might be a tool association, might you know where you’re okay. You know, you’re more focused you’re, uh, here and present in the moment and that’s good too, but that dissociation might be what I would describe and getting this in a second. I’m sure. But, uh, what I describe as a, towards move, you’re moving towards something that this is helping you right now, dissociation in other aspects of your life may not be helpful, you know, and you gotta ask, is it workable at that, in that moment? So is this something that’s helping me, you know, really to move towards my values? Or is this, yeah, I’m not really, it’s not really this behavior isn’t helping me right now, this actually, you know, but so yeah. Good. I love that question though.

Corrine Malcolm (00:32:28):

Yeah. It’s like, it’s like what tools are gonna work at different points in time and understanding once again, via experience and experience like experiential learning is gonna be kind of what helps you understand? What, what tools benefit you in the moment and what tools maybe don’t benefit you in the moment. So we just talked a little bit, you brought up terms about working towards something. You also, and you talked to us, talked about hooked versus unhooked, and I’m wondering if we can kind of steer the ship that way as far as like, okay, next, you know, if I, if I want to be accepting to be open, to do what, how do I then take, you know, how do, how do I like build from there?

Neal Palles (00:33:03):

Yeah. So the way I, I define it or describe it is like this a choice point. So if you can imagine a V you know, a show in the window here and at the, at the intersection right at the center is, uh, the choice. This is where all those thoughts, feelings, perceptions, it might be pain that comes up for you. It, it might be these thoughts, these uncomfortable thoughts, you know, you know, we think about aging. We think of, you know, it’s like this, this self doubt that might come up, these uncomfortable thoughts that come up. If we kind of move in one direction, let’s say this is the away direction. And that I would define as kind of sometimes getting hooked by some of that stuff. So you might be ruminating about self doubt. You might be worrying about self, you know, about, you know, performance.

Neal Palles (00:34:01):

Um, and it might take over in, in such a way that you, your behavior it’ll trigger a behavior that isn’t really too helpful. Um, for example, over training. So self-doubt is a great way to overtraining, you know, and, but here’s the thing is you don’t have, you could experience self doubt and move this way and go, you know what, I’m still gonna go here and stick to the process. I know what, you know, I know what the healthy thing and the right thing is to do. I know what my values are. I gotta, I gotta do that recovery stuff. My coach is telling me to do, you know, I gotta take, gotta sleep eight to 10 hours a day. You know, I gotta do all that stuff. That’s that, that, that could be a good, that could be a workable behavior. If I think about it as unworkable is, um, I decide to go on a 20 mile.

Neal Palles (00:34:56):

I had a great example is I decided to go on a 20 mile run and it’s outside of what my coach for me, or I’m already really fatigued. And even though my coach has me doing this, I don’t tell them, cuz I know I wanna show my coach that I could still do this. And I go out on a 20 mile run or I look on Strava. Here’s a great one is I look on Strava and all my buddies just, you know, they went out and did this crazy run. Um, you know, up in an Indian peaks will, I’m like, oh, I gotta go do that. Run looks so cool. And then I could show it on Instagram or something like that. And it feels really good, but I’m now I’m more fatigued, you know, that’s in a away move. So you, you kind of have that trigger, you know, maybe that sensation that, you know, that feeling, you have that behavior, there’s always a payoff to the behavior, you know? Ah, you know, I got a few likes on Instagram. I got a few likes on Strava. I must be doing something. Right. So there’s a reward there.

Corrine Malcolm (00:35:54):

Yeah. Those dopamine, those dopamine hits, it’s hard. It’s hard to get away from the so right. It, you pulled

Neal Palles (00:36:00):

In. It is. And, but here’s the other thing here’s the other reward is you’re avoiding that self-doubt you? That, that self-doubt is still there, but it gets, it, it gets neutralized a little bit by going out for that run could still do it, you know, uh, you know what I did. Okay. I’m gonna, I’m gonna share, you know, <laugh>, I I’m gonna share something I did this year. So I did, uh, the Leadville silver rush. I did the whole Leadman series this year and had some issues with that. But, um, I, and, and it was probably what led up. This is, I did rush 50 and four days later, I decided I was gonna do a, a, uh, 800 on the track.

Corrine Malcolm (00:36:45):

Logical, very

Neal Palles (00:36:47):

Logical, logical, very logical. No, it was not, no ego involved, no ego involved at all. Like, you know, and I, you know, and I, and it was, I, I did it, you know, not a good thing, but it was, there was that dopamine, you know, there was that, uh, you know, there was that desire, but it wasn’t following really what, what I valued, you know? Yeah. In some ways, but in some ways not, it really wasn’t workable, you know, and okay. I learned

Corrine Malcolm (00:37:19):

<laugh>. Yeah. And so you have to learn the hard way. And so you just mentioned values there. And I think that, you know, we can talk about why’s and we can talk about values and I’m wondering, how does yeah. How for people who are struggling with this with, with that, you know, that, that moment that trigger, and then they have to, they have to choose basically to, to work, to work with it or against it, or, you know, away from it, towards it, towards that goal. How do, how do you value use, play into helping us make those decisions?

Neal Palles (00:37:45):

Absolutely. So think about, you know, and, and you really have to do a self analysis of, you know, what are your personal values? What brings meaning to you? And yeah, and there’s a lot of different, great worksheets at, out there, you know, that lists different values and you have to sit there with them and it’s not like a one five minute thing where you’re circling ’em and yeah, this is it. You really have to be introspective about it and thinking about what it is. And if you think about, for example, uh, I wrote, uh, a little blog a couple weeks ago, uh, on the idea of long in sport and longevity is a value, you know, I, I wanna be able to last, I wanna be healthy, what, you know, in 20 years, you know, I wanna be able to walk in 20 years and with that concept in mind, okay.

Neal Palles (00:38:38):

Does beating myself up right now, really, you know, work into, is that workable for that value of longevity of, of health? Why am I doing this sport? Is it because, you know, you know, you, we look at our why, which I, you know, it’s, you know, it’s, it is a, it’s a great tool, but I think underneath the, why is your, your personal values? What do you have? You know, why do I get into this? You know, maybe I love being in the wilderness, you know, coming back to this, what am I out here every day? You know? And, and there’s some people, you know, competition is, is a value and that’s okay. You know, again, thinking about, okay, what about the other values? Am I balancing these values out? You know, am I able to say, well, competition’s, I love that, but am I gonna be competitive in five years if I keep doing this unworkable stuff? Um, does that make sense?

Corrine Malcolm (00:39:33):

Yeah. No. And if your values longevity at that point, right? Like you’re being counterproductive to that, to that goal, to that value by kind of sabotaging it and helps see a lot of athletes battle that, right? Like health is always greater than performance, right? Like I’m using on this audio formatted podcast, I’m using gestures. We’re gonna gesture wildly, you know, health is ultimately, you know, probably the core value there over performance. And, and that, like that flexes a little bit there. But I do think that, you know, longevity is a great, a great value. Like I I’ve coached athletes who I, my oldest athlete is now 70, and it’s like, that’s awesome. I hope that I’m running when I’m 70. And it’s like, so there are gonna be moments possibly that if, if that is my key value, and maybe it’s not my it’s one of my values, but not my key, like my most important value, like there are gonna be decisions I might make in my career in the next 10 years that work towards longevity or work away from longevity. And it’s, you know, that will be a rank order of, of those values. And that’s, that’s a hard, that’s a hard thing to navigate, but I think that also, you know, speaks to like, what are those like short term and long term goals and how can you kinda stay, you know, stay on course through all of that.

Neal Palles (00:40:40):

Absolutely. And so those goals are, are, can be derived from those values, you know, goals could disappear, but you still have those values that are underneath, underneath those goals. So, you know, the Val, you know, the value of maybe of competitiveness, you know, value of, you know, adventure, the value of, you know, experie, you know, experiencing the wilderness, the value of comradery and friendship, you know, those are always there. Those goals can kind of come and go, but you could always formulate those goals based off of those values.

Corrine Malcolm (00:41:18):

Yeah. I could see how acutely those goals could even like situationally, right. Acutely those goals could disappear, say, you’re, you’re in a big race. If it’s your, a race and things aren’t going well, right? Like if you’re really hung up on this one, very, very specific goal, maybe that’s out the window and maybe that’s that, that ends your day. But I think that once again, if you fall back on those values to allow you to be, to be flexible and adaptable in the moment, all of a sudden, you know, oh my time, my time goes out the window, but I value the experience I value. Yes. Um, you know, pushing myself, I value the community. Like all of a sudden you have these things that kind of hold you on course.

Neal Palles (00:41:57):

Yeah. And, you know, I had that experience going back to this Leadville, um, you know, it was, it was a rough season going 20, 21 was rough. And I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. I think a lot of people kinda struggled with that and, uh, get to the race. And it was one of those races you get to, and you’re, you’re just so fatigued and you’re like, what is going on? And it just got slower and slower and slower. And I had an athlete that was running the race too. And he was, he kept on leapfrogging, me and we kept on running together and then he got injured and, and I was like, you know, I just wanna make sure he gets down. Okay. You know, and, and I was just, you know, it’s like, I’ve got a belt buckle, you know, and it’s like, let’s, let’s make sure this guy gets down.

Neal Palles (00:42:40):

Okay. And so there’s, you know, the value of this, a, this camaraderie and just, you know, I care for other people, you know, and I, you know, I just wanna make sure he is okay. You know, it’s like, yeah. You know, I could come in at, you know, 29, 9 hours, 29 and a half hours, whatever it is. But you know, he he’s struggling right now. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and yeah, I want let’s, let’s make sure, I mean, it’s dark, he’s tripping. His foot is, you know, what’s gonna happen there. And, you know, I, you know, I still have the wilderness first responder background, so <laugh>, I need to, I need to be here, you know, so I turned that on. So those, that’s how I played, you know? Yeah. I was a bummer, but you know what? He got down. Okay. You know, made it to his family. I get to race again. Not going anywhere. Yeah.

Corrine Malcolm (00:43:27):

That’s that’s so I think that’s so, so important that those values do get to goals. Goals are maybe a little bit more temporal or no, I keep using the word nebulous. It’s my, I knew it’s my new favorite word. I think goals are my, I love that word. And then values are like these things that they change, they flex over time for sure. But at the same time, like they are, I think really, really grounding for everyone, young, young, and old and, and otherwise

Neal Palles (00:43:50):

They’re your compass. Yeah. You know, that, that, that’s, that’s, that’s your direction north. Yeah.

Corrine Malcolm (00:43:55):

A hundred percent values are your north star for sure. And I guess kind of building off of our toolbox here, right. We’ve kind of talked through some situations that people could find them in and how they work, work towards things, you know, making, making decisions to, to work towards goals or away from goals or, or kind of how we let things influence us. And you had us do a, another, um, another exercise during the, uh, during our, our continuing ed session. And I’m wondering if you can just walk us through, obviously people are listening to this, so you’re in a, you’re gonna be, maybe people are running or driving or you’re at work and you’re not working, whatever you might be doing. Um, Neil’s gonna walk us through this exercise, the pushing away paper exercise that he had us do, push,

Neal Palles (00:44:39):


Corrine Malcolm (00:44:39):

I’ll do it on my end. I got Sharpie

Neal Palles (00:44:41):

Ready. So, all right. First of all, if you’re driving, you’re doing anything like that. Don’t do, yeah. Just drive, don’t do this later. Stop, you know, do this later, you get home, um, or you could just watch us do it. Um, and if you have any shoulder problems or neck problems, I didn’t mention this in the group. And I probably shouldn’t have <laugh> if you have any shoulder and neck problems, disclaimer, don’t do this either disclaimers. Um, but first of all, I want you to think about out there, out there, right there in your space, everything, those things that you value, the things that are important to you and, you know, it might be, you know, for me as an example is the, is the athletes that I work with. Um, it is my family. It is, it is, you know, I use adventure a lot as a value of mine environment.

Neal Palles (00:45:37):

Um, challenge, you know, these are, you know, some of your values, but there’s other deeper stuff, things that matter to you, what matters to you. And it’s gonna be a lot deeper than that. Um, so out there is all this stuff. Now, this piece of paper, write down some of the thoughts that come to your mind, when you think about, think about aging as an athlete, you know, what, what kind of fears do you have? What kind of, what kind of, um, you know, what, what comes up for you? What does your brain, what does your, what, what I like to say is, what does your mind tell you right now? Now I write some of that stuff down. I’ll write my, you know, I’ve got, oh,

Corrine Malcolm (00:46:24):

People can hear us scribbling wildly in the

Neal Palles (00:46:26):

Scribbling, get some of that stuff down. I want you to stare at it for a second and just kinda get hooked on that. Just look at that. And it might, you know, it might be really uncomfortable. Now. I want you to take this and try to push this paper away, push the paper as far away as possible. You, my

Corrine Malcolm (00:46:52):

Arms are medium long. I’m doing this. Oh,

Neal Palles (00:46:54):

Okay. That’s fair. We really just, just struggle with it. What you’re doing, struggling with this, pushing this, oh, wait, trying to get rid of this stuff. Okay. Now how much energy are you putting into that? Instead of everything out here,

Corrine Malcolm (00:47:12):

I would say maybe too much energy,

Neal Palles (00:47:14):

Too much energy. If you set this down, that that stuff is still there. You know, self doubt, fear, you know, all that, all that stuff, all that crud, that’s coming up for you. It’s Al it’s there. It’s recognizing it’s not going anywhere, but now I have this opportunity to interact with everything else and do the things that matter, you know, and act on the act on those things. And it’s, it’s flipping the, so to speak. You know, you’re flipping the switch and I’m gonna be brutally. I mean, honest, this isn’t easy. You know, you have to be number one. The most important thing is aware of these thoughts, the stuff that’s coming up for you. And that’s where self-awareness plays a huge part of it. And I, I have heard Addy Bray mention it in, in the podcast with you, but I’m not sure, but, um, you know, or I may have heard her talk about it somewhere, but I mean, self-awareness is so critical.

Neal Palles (00:48:19):

I know, I know Dr. Justin Ross spoke about it, uh, in a, in a summit he did with us, but it it’s so critical and being aware of this stuff is half. And it, it was, you know, going back to that level experience I’m running, you know, and I’m like, and I’m just struggling. And, and then I realized what I was struggling with was even this, this idea of like, I was aging and I kept on fighting this thing, you know, throughout this race. And, and I stopped, started laughing. Ah, there it is right there, you know, and that recognition was able to, okay, let’s focus on what we can right now and what we can control, which is really big. So

Corrine Malcolm (00:49:03):

Yeah, I’ve been having this conversation, this ongoing conversation with one of my really good friends recently. Um, who’s very introspective and well read and brilliant and, uh, an amazing writer. And he, he was talking about how, like right now, as a, as a society, as a culture, particularly my, you know, I’m, I’m 31, I think. Yes. I’m 31. <laugh> I, uh, sometimes I forget be like I haven’t had a birthday and a hot second. So I, um, I

Neal Palles (00:49:29):

Forget all the time. That could

Corrine Malcolm (00:49:31):

Be 23, no one would know. Um, but this idea, and I think my, my age group, but I see this with my athletes too. My, my 40 year olds, my 50 year olds that we are in this time period where we’re trying to quantify everything. We’re trying to quantify heart rate variability and resting heart rate and body temperature and hydration status and all these things. And it’s, it’s our generation or early society right now seems to be trying to replace understanding yourself with quantifying yourself. Yeah. And that seems like that’s like at the heart of some of these issues is that you, you’re not, you’re not being introspective, but we’re kind of like saying like, oh, I’m, I’m listening to myself, I’m listen, I’m listening to my body by measuring all these things, instead of like actually being introspective with how, how you feel about things and about yourself and about your body and about your body or whatever it might be. And I think that’s a really, I don’t know, maybe that should be on my paper here, that I was trying to push away, but I think that that’s, that’s

Neal Palles (00:50:30):

A big issue. It’s huge, you know, and Hey, I’m, I’m 53 and I, you know, you know, here, here’s another story. I love telling stories, but so the other, the other day I was out, I, I was on a long run and somehow my heart rate, my, you know, I have all the gadgets too. Somehow my heart rate monitor slipped off and I, oh, God, you know, I gotta, you know, have that. And then I was like, well, you know, I don’t necessarily need that. You know, I need, I could run by perceived exertion. We talk about that with all our athletes. And, but I did go back to try and that, uh, on a short run in the evening, a dusk on the trails out here near Boulder. And, uh, and it was this just beautiful experience just being out there. And I wasn’t really concerned about what my heart rate was or how fast I was going.

Neal Palles (00:51:23):

And it was letting go and, and, and I was actually moving towards values guess. And the coolest thing is I saw a mountain lion at the, you know, and I was like, okay, I don’t need to find the heart rate monitor anymore. <laugh> you know, and it was just like this, wow. I’ve never seen that before. So that was something you learn, you know, it’s like, wow. I, I love, I love that point though. It’s like, yeah, I think a lot of, and I think even, you know, sometimes older you get, you, you get more into the gadget sometimes <laugh>, you know, and, and looking at all that other stuff, I don’t know, you

Corrine Malcolm (00:51:57):

Know? Yeah. I’m, I’m on mute because my dog is drinking copious amounts of water in the background. She just woke up from a very extended nap. But yeah, I think it’s like, what, basically what you’re, what you’re saying is what, like what can you actually see or hear, or be attuned to when you’re not so caught up almost or distracted by these other external things, which I

Neal Palles (00:52:18):

Like, wow, that’s a, it’s, it’s intense. It’s,

Corrine Malcolm (00:52:21):

We’re getting, we’re getting philosophical. I really like it. Um, I love it. <laugh> but the kind of, we’re gonna slowly kind of round out our conversation here and I wanna add some more kind of like practic take home things that people can do, be it pushing away this piece of paper, or just really sitting with those thoughts and feelings, but what, what can, like, how can we apply these skills to the athletes that we’re working with or to, if athletes are listening, um, to their own, their own practice with this, you know, what, what might those, um, tools look like?

Neal Palles (00:52:51):

Yeah. So let’s, let’s go to one of the things that we kinda skipped over is that being present. And so I think one of the, the best tools, uh, that I, I use, you know, whether it be in the mental health realm or, you know, the sport of performance realm. Um, and I, I used it with my daughter a little while ago. <laugh>, uh, was just anchoring, just noticing, you know, sitting here right now, just noticing, you know, what might be coming up for you, you know, you’re here with your thoughts, you hear with maybe some dis you know, maybe you have some discomfort, you know, maybe it’s an ache or pain and your Achilles or your shin, just noticing it, taking a deep breath. And then just noticing what you could see, you know, noticing what’s around you, maybe identifying five things that you could see taking a deep breath, you know, what can you smell know?

Neal Palles (00:53:52):

I smelled dinner being cooked, you know, I smell, you know, maybe some coffee down my desk, you know, what, is there anything you could touch? Yeah. You know, I touch this piece of pen using, going through your sense, says very slowly like that, taking a deep breath, which we all have control over taking a deep breath. And what it does is helps to anchor you, even though all those thoughts and all that stuff is, are still there. You know, it may become less intense while you do that. You could do this on a run, you know, I’ve had at athletes go, okay, just take a moment and look, notice the flowers, you know, notice what does it smell like out there? What is it, what do you hear? What does the wind feel like? I go out in a freezing cold day. What does that ice feel like?

Neal Palles (00:54:41):

You know, what does your hands feel like? That’s coming back in the present moment. Doesn’t get rid of all that stuff. That stuff is still there. And it’s really important to know that, you know, the idea isn’t that we’re doing this and pushing it away. The idea is that, you know, yeah, that stuff’s still there, but now I’ve got this space, got this moment where, Hey, I can move towards the things that really matter. So mindfulness. Yeah. And this is kind of a mindfulness thing. And you could develop a mindfulness practice. You could do meditation and go into use something like Headspace or the app called Headspace or column. Um, or there’s all sorts of different things you could do, you know, all sorts of different books out there and, and podcast and, uh, different things. But you don’t have to, you know, it’s and I think a lot of, you know, a lot of athletes already know how to be mindful.

Neal Palles (00:55:34):

It’s just getting tapped into what that is. And so that’s part of it. The other, the second half is, is being cognizant of what’s your mind telling you. And so when I think about that and I think about, you know, we use, uh, it’s CTS, we use training peaks as a tool and, you know, we have our athletes, you know, write down, you know, how did that rate run go for you? Well, have ’em write down, write down what your mind was telling you before that run. You know, you’ve got a, uh, five by three minute running intervals tomorrow. What’s, what’s your mind telling you, you know, are you scared? You know, are you worried about, you know, your ankle, you know, what’s going on, write that stuff down and notice how you behave or reacted to it afterwards. That’s really important is taking note of that.

Neal Palles (00:56:28):

How did that run go for you anyways? Did, did it, did those thoughts prior, did, did you get kind of hooked on that and that affect you? Or did you, you know what, I’ll just, okay. That, that, that paper’s right here. I’m gonna go and do that five by three minute, you know, or that two by 20 minutes or whatever you got going. Um, all that stuff, all that stuff that comes up is so normal for people it’s, it’s being human and, and that’s, you know, it’s another piece that I didn’t talk about is self compassion. You’re being compassionate and you know, oh, there’s that soft social worker side again, you know, it’s yeah, you gotta be compassionate, but it doesn’t mean you’re laying down means you’re gonna go and run that five by three minutes. That’s tomorrow, you know, maybe you’re more aware that, Hey, I’ve got a, a, a little ache in my Achilles and maybe I shouldn’t do all of those and that’s okay too, you know, and being aware of that. So it, its self-awareness is key. So

Corrine Malcolm (00:57:29):

Yeah, it’s, it’s simple, right? Or it’s, it’s seemingly simple. I think we try to make it complex right. With, oh, you need to do this or that, or these apps or whatever, but it’s really, it’s like, yeah. I I’m like, okay, when I’m feeling really anxious or stress, it might mean this like pausing during my run at some point to like actually be present, to like to stop the stop we ran this morning, we went on this beautiful run. I had a health scare over the weekend. So getting out to run has been really great. And my dog had a health scare and she got to come running with us. And so we, we ran and had this beautiful run and we got out to this zone called cardiac, um, or like panto area, um, kind of it’s all, it’s all in the Dipsy trail for people who are familiar with the bay area.

Corrine Malcolm (00:58:07):

It’s really cool. But you can look out to the ocean you’re looking. And from there you can descend distance in beach. We did not descend distance in beach, but we all was kind of paused up there. Like, it’s this natural like bench you get to look out, it was sunny. We’d like run outta the fog. Like it was just cool to take a moment and to, and to pause to like, that’s so awesome. Enjoy the sunshine and hear it. I had an athlete recently who, um, did not lose their home in the fire, but was impacted by the fires in Boulder. And yeah, I was like, Hey, do you wanna run? Like what what’s going on? Like what, how are you feeling? And, and he was like, yeah, I’d really like to run, but you know, like, we’re just gonna kinda take it one day at a time.

Corrine Malcolm (00:58:44):

Um, because they they’ve been outta their home, do the fires and mm-hmm <affirmative> I was like, look like, just so you know, like if what you need on this run is to ground yourself and by ground yourself, I mean like physically put yourself on a rock and just hang out there for a bit, like that’s that’s okay. Like that’s, you know, just kind of like giving yourself the time and space to, to feel it or smell it or see it, or anchor, and then people all the time, like they do, or don’t write in training peaks and it’s like, okay, like this is for you too. Right? Like, yeah. You know, and I do like that pre oftentimes I’ll send new athletes like a, okay, this is what a comment might look like. And that’s, that’s how I write in my log is like, okay, like I felt kind of, you know, just off during the warmup and like, I give myself space to write this thing.

Corrine Malcolm (00:59:29):

It doesn’t have to be a novel, but it’s like, it’s, it’s a moment to reflect on not just the performative aspect of running and, and the, and how you di how you executed the workout, but how you felt to about the run or life or whatever going into it. And if that changed on the run and how you felt coming out of it. And I think that people don’t realize that yeah, the data is amazing and crushing a workout feels good, but having all those other pieces of the puzzle that you’re aware of, I think is like, as a coach, those are the ath, the training logs that make my life easier. Cuz I actually know what it’s happening. I feel like there. Yes.

Neal Palles (01:00:03):

Yeah. It’s that communication piece, you know, we get to see a picture cause we’re, you know, as coaches, you, you know, if you’re just looking at the metrics or we go into the metrics again, you’re just getting this small tip of the iceberg, all that stuff, you know, you know, talk about heart rate variability. And we’re like, what is the stress doing? You know what we, we hear about the stress. If we’re talking and we’re interacting, why are you stressed or why, you know, what’s going on? You know, why, why are you, you know, you know, why is, why are you, are you struggling with performance? Well, cause there’s other stuff you’re human, so, okay. Why

Corrine Malcolm (01:00:36):

Is that? No, I do that all the time. I tell athletes, um, and this is tangent, but I think all very practical that I, you know, again, back to these, these notes, right? And this could be your personal journal, your personal training journal, your training peaks journal with your coach or whatever you might use. Strava. I’ve wrote some really good Strava novels out there by by friends and, and peers. And I think, you know, it’s, I asked my athletes to ask themselves why, and this is something that one of my husband’s medical school mentors made him start doing. And at first I thought it was very annoying, but then it’s grown on me and basically he said, you need to ask yourself why three times? And so he’d be like, you know, why are you so you’re stressed. Okay. Why are you stressed? Well, I’m stressed because of X, Y, or Z. Okay. Well why, why is that happening? Like, do I have any control over this? And so all of a sudden when you ask yourself why couple times, right. Like right. You start to get at the heart of what’s actually going on or how you’re actually feeling about

Neal Palles (01:01:32):

Something. Yeah. Yeah. It takes a while. It takes a while, you know, and you know, again, it’s just, it it’s, it’s hard to hit home sometimes, you know, cuz you know, if you don’t do that introspection, you know, and if you know, what are you, what are you talking about? You know, it’s, you know, I’m just anxious. I don’t know why, you know,

Corrine Malcolm (01:01:53):

Well it’s, well, there’s probably a reason we should probably dig at this a little bit,

Neal Palles (01:01:56):

You know? And, and there’s, you know, and you look at, you look, look back last year as a great example, is, is there was so much stress the, that, but we, we, what we did is we moved the threshold up a little bit and we weren’t aware of that threshold going up and you know, kind of getting really philosophical here, but you moved that threshold to stress up a little bit and then you’re really kind of deep in it sometimes. And so if you struggled, you know, with fatigue and motivation, that’s totally normal, you know, when you go through over a year, but we didn’t realize we were, you know, it was like, wait a second. Everything’s normal again, you know? And it’s like, oh wait a second. That thrash, this moved up.

Corrine Malcolm (01:02:40):

Yeah. You, you had a weight vest put on you and you weren’t aware of it. And by it’s definitely a metaphorical weight vest. Right. It’s like, totally

Neal Palles (01:02:46):

Was that’s exactly it. You know, it’s like, you know, you know, a weight vest and you’re all of a sudden you’re I get a, an outbound, I’d put 10 pound rocks in people’s packs. Now I wasn’t a mean person. It was always my co structure, you know? <laugh> yeah. So, you know, it’s like, why is my pack so heavy? Well, Hey, there was a lot going on here in rocks. Exactly.

Corrine Malcolm (01:03:08):

Yeah. We’re gonna try to, we’re gonna, hopefully we’re all learning stuff so we can stop carrying so many rocks around unless you’re training for like, I don’t know, rocking or becoming a wild end firefighter, then carry all the rocks you want dump the at top of the trail. Do, do what you wanna do, but otherwise the

Neal Palles (01:03:23):

Rest of no, no, no, no rocks. <laugh>

Corrine Malcolm (01:03:27):

Um, okay. I think that I’m gonna bring us to our conclusion here a little bit and, and I really wanna have, I would love to have you and Addie Bray on together and do like an ask, ask the sports psychologist, Pete. Cause I, I get questions all the time in, in regards to sports, nutrition, sports, psychology, sports physiology. And I think it’s fun to have some like domain domain people who are practicing this domain experts, people who this is part of your life. Um, just kind of like bat these questions around. So I will I’ll we’ll uh, we’ll definitely get to dive into some more of this. I think this is a super interesting area for people, but to close up, I think what’s really cool in all these, when we’re talking to people is kind of getting a sense for other resources that might be out there. And so I’m gonna ask two questions. Um, maybe I’ll ask three questions and one, I didn’t send you, so haha. Oh good. Okay. So the first one I’m gonna start with is one I didn’t send you is, and I’ve asked this several, a lot of people and it’s what do you wish that you knew that, you know, like what do you wish that like something, you know, now that you wish you had known when you either started as an ultra runner or started as in working in like sports psychology specifically with, with ultra runners?

Neal Palles (01:04:37):

Hmm. I know that’s a big one. What I wish I knew, um, you know, even, you know, the first word that comes to mind is just being yourself, you know? Um, and even when it comes to ultra running, you know, as, as a coach, as a, as a therapist, as a mental performance consultant, um, it’s just being yourself, being who you are, you know, and yeah. You know, when you’re out there running it, you know, fighting, you know, well, I gotta be this way. I gotta be this way. You know, I gotta run hard, I gotta run on the roads, I gotta do this. And instead of like what I experienced the other day where it’s just, I’m just out here, I’m just having this adventure, you know, be yourself, you know? And, and, and when it comes to mental performance therapy, you know? Yeah. Just coming back to yourself and a number one, I would tell students <laugh> so

Corrine Malcolm (01:05:44):

Yeah, I think, yeah, that kind of speaks to that whole, the whole, uh, our self-acceptance and self-compassion talk that we’ve had today. So that’s, that’s a great lesson for all of us to bring into our, our daily lives. Is I, yeah, I would tell my younger, you can be compassionate. You can, you can have compassion for yourself. You’re I, I was an athlete who struggled with my, my results equating to my like self worth a little bit. And so I think that took some time to learn. And that’s something I’ve tried to instill in my athletes, both, both junior athletes I’ve coached and, and adult athletes as well, is that, you know, your, your results do not dictate your self worth. So be, be kind and compassionate. Um, I’m wondering if there’s there something that you’ve read, watched or listened to recently that you really enjoyed, and this could be thematic to, to our conversation today, um, or to ultra running in general to something that you’ve, you’ve consumed recently that you think that the listeners might also enjoy. Oh,

Neal Palles (01:06:37):

I loved, I just watched, uh, sat down and watched 14 peaks yeah. In, um, yeah, in Netflix we’ve seen it and it’s, you know, it it’s absolutely, you know, just incredible. Um, and it’s about this gentleman who, uh, and Nepal climber who climbed all these, um, 8,000 meter pull, less peaks, the tallest peaks in the world, basically. Um, within, you know, he was shooting for a seven month period and he did it six months, six days. And he gets to, you know, he gets to like K2 and all the climbers at the base camp are just, you know, we can’t do this, you know, there’s no way, you know, and he’s like, or yeah, now I, he had this self-belief, you know, that self-belief was so strong, which come bad. I wrote about this 35 years ago in high school, you know, that self-belief was so strong.

Neal Palles (01:07:34):

And, and I REM, and I remember writing about K2, you know, saying one in 10 people on K2, he goes climbs. It sets the ropes. So you have to set fixed lines and 24 other people made it for the summit the next day. Um, absolutely. It’s, you know, it’s what we do every day, you know, running these long distances, it’s, it’s kind of coming back to that, moving to towards a little bit, you know, kinda letting go of that struggle and, and just like, all right, what am I gonna do? How am I gonna have that self-belief which is really hard, you know, and, uh, fantastic representation in that

Corrine Malcolm (01:08:13):

Yeah. Of work working towards self-belief I think is a, a value that we can probably all, all hold, hold pretty high on our list. And then, yeah, the, my final question for you is in a similar vein, if people enjoyed this conversation in particular, and they’re looking for resources, be it a book or a podcast, what content can you recommend, um, to steer them towards? And we’ll add this to the show notes for everyone as well.

Neal Palles (01:08:37):

Yeah. Take a look at Russ Harris, his book, uh, it’s called the confidence gap, um, which is absolutely fantastic book, um, confidence gap. And he also has a, at some other books out there, uh, one is called the happiness trap. Uh, um, absolutely. It talks about these much more in depth, you know, and he’s a great educator about this material and the confidence gap really hits home. I think for just everyone, every athlete, uh, really good book. He also has a YouTube out out there. His name is Russ Harris, R U SS Harris, H a our our is. And, um, there’s a lot of YouTube videos and just kinda these short clips, so kind of integrate some of these ideas, uh, that I talk, you know, kind of talked about. So that’s, that’s what I would

Corrine Malcolm (01:09:27):

Recommend. And then I know that you do, you’re working on some, on some writing and some get, you know, kind of get putting these ideas out there. And I’m wondering where can people find you if they want to kind of follow up on, on work that you’re, that you’re actively working on?

Neal Palles (01:09:41):

Yeah. I mean, you can go to my website and check out my blog. Um, uh, the, the website is w it’s long it’s And, uh, on there is the blog building mountains. Um, and I’ve got, you know, I’ve got some things I’ve written and, uh, and then I’ve got Instagram I’m at, at Neil palace. And, uh, and then Twitter at Neil palace, uh, and Facebook is at Colorado psychotherapy and sport.

Corrine Malcolm (01:10:17):

Amazing. We’ll, uh, we’ll make sure that all those go in the show notes for everyone. So if you wanna track down Neil, ask him questions, shoot him, shoot ’em stuff. Um, follow up on these book recommendations, all that will be in the show notes for you. Um, and I just wanna, Neil, thank you. I mean, it’s dinner time for both of us. It’s definitely dinner time for you. I’m a, I’m an hour, it’s dark here, but I’m an hour hour earlier, so I’m gonna go get food as well. Thank you so much for giving us so much of your time tonight. Thank you.

Neal Palles (01:10:44):

Thank you so much, cor it was a pleasure being here. I, I just love having this chat and yeah, hopefully on again. We can bring Addie that that’d be super awesome. We’ll make

Corrine Malcolm (01:10:54):

It happen. That’ll be amazing.

Neal Palles (01:10:55):

All, all right. All right.

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