By Reggie Miller,
NBA Hall of Fame, Olympian, MTB Racer, CTS Contributing Editor
Some of the best advice I received early in my athletic endeavors was to surround myself with people who would always support, challenge, respect and hopefully uplift me through the ups and downs of life, work or athletics. I had my fair share of life being turned upside down. During those times I also had people I could turn to for support, advice and sometimes just a listening ear. As I tackle a new sport and try to become the best possible 50+ year old rider I can be, I would like to highlight the village helping me get there and hopefully shed some light on their positive influences on my life.
Mama Bear Laura Laskowski
I got started later in life in terms of having a family. I was 48 when we had our first child, followed by two more. So, with kids ages of 8, 5 and 16 months, we have a full house of love, laughter and, of course, chaos.
It is wonderful to have a partner who understands and supports my need to train long and hard for certain events. My family are the most important people in my life and I want to see all the school plays, dance recitals, and sporting events. Many times, getting long rides in before the kids wake up is a necessity, so having Mama Bear be the calming influence in our family has been the best thing. Never take your partner in life for granted because having a balanced and stable household is the first step to harnessing your goals.
Jason Siegle, CTS Coach
Nearly five years ago, my good friend Holly Breck suggested I get a VO2 max test from Carmichael Training Systems. I was paired with Jason right away. He was there for my initial test and when we talked about what I was looking to accomplish, I knew Jason and I would be like an old married couple.
I’ve stated before that Jason sets my everyday training schedule and maps out and sets the race day plan. As any Coach/Athlete dynamic goes, we won’t always see eye to eye. But I’m from a military background, and although you may not agree with what a commanding officer says or does, you respect and try to follow orders.
Jason has been there to pat me on the back after a good training block and has also kept it real during a race when I’ve coasted when I could have been going full gas. That honesty is crucial. Athletes want to be told the TRUTH and, at times, be coached HARD. He knows when to push the buttons and when to back off, and I appreciate that so much.
In the world of cycling, you’re going have highs and lows. March of 2017 was probably one of my lowest lows. As I was pre-riding a racecourse in Fontana, California, I went over the bars and fractured my scapula, blackened my eye and had some serious facial cuts. I remember driving myself to Malibu because I knew exactly where to go to get patched up: Pepperdine University.
I live 5 minutes from the school and was frequently in their training room for a variety of basketball injuries sustained over my 18-year NBA career. But this was a whole different issue. As soon as I walked in the training room, Karissa said, with a smile, “Boy, you’ve really done it this time.”
Karissa has been the Director of Sports Medicine for 9 years at Pepperdine. Not only does she take great care of all the student-athletes, but she’s also worked on professional athletes who have come through her doors. I’ve always loved Karissa’s attention to details. No matter how big or small your injury may be, she and the whole Pepperdine training staff make sure they diagnose, treat and have a game plan going forward. I’ve had a number of crashes since 2017, and every time Karissa and crew have patched me up with a smile.
You’ll probably see a theme formulating here. The crash in March of 2017 led me in a variety of directions. I was cutting corners and just riding with no real sense of direction. So, after the crash I knew I had to train harder, better and smarter. I knew I had to get back in the weight room and train specifically like a cyclist.
I lived in the weight room as an ex-basketball player, but in cycling you use different muscles. Plus, I had to get my scapula and back strong again. That’s when Karissa ordered (smile) me to go see Brianna in the Pepperdine weight room.
Brianna has been an Athletic Performance Coach for the University for 8 years. She’s in charge of women’s beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, soccer and tennis teams. She took one look at me and said, “This is going to be fun.” She did so much research on cycling, from road cycling to mountain bike exercises. On one hand she wanted to help me build back stronger, faster and fitter. She also wanted to make sure any lingering issues could be dealt with quickly.
My two biggest weakness in the gym are stability (difficult for athletes with longer limbs) and core control/balance. If you’ve seen my Instagram stories, that’s her yelling at me to, “STOP SHAKING.” She wanted to work on “bike strength”, as she calls it. It’s not about throwing around heavy weights, it’s getting stronger from lifting lighter to medium weights but with more repetition.
I lifted heavy when I played basketball because I had to set a cross screen on Shaquille O’Neal 30 times a game, and you have to weather that beat down. On the bike I’m going longer/farther and need that bike strength to withstand those long rides. Brianna and the Pepperdine weight room staff are so positive with all the athletes coming through their door. We leave tired and sore, but looking forward to doing it all again the next day.
Cyclists know, when the body and legs are fatigued there’s nothing better than a good ole deep tissue MASSAGE. Debra is one of the longest-serving members of my village. She’s worked on my body since 2012, way before I became a fanatical mountain bike racer. She’s been so valuable over the last 5 years. Debra has seen my body change from being a weekend warrior rider to training full time. As a result, her massage techniques have changed as well. For instance, she now knows when to go deep, deep, deep vs. just giving my legs a good flushing so I can crush intervals tomorrow.
Treating – or should I say pampering – your body can go a long way. I got a massage damn near every day from the Pacers athletic staff when I played professional basketball. You only have ONE body, so go ahead and pamper, coddle, and indulge it. Lord knows I appreciate Ms. Williams for keeping the Miller Family functioning.
STRETCHING is one thing I’ve been notoriously bad at my whole athletic career. Yes, I stretched with my teams and got warmed up, but I was all about the action. So, as soon as I felt warm, let’s jump ball and go. Now that I’ve transformed into a cyclist, it’s become even clearer that I need to stretch, and stretch often.
When I’m riding the bike for hours and locked into one position, my lower back gets tight. My legs/hips start to get out of alignment. Sandra has a unique set of skills. She’s an Elite Mobility Expert who focuses on FST, FRC, AIS and Thai Massages to accelerate recovery.
I‘m sure you’re wondering, “Well can’t your athletic coach or massage therapist do this?” Yes, to a lesser degree. Sandra specializes in what I need the most: joint manipulation. My body gets so out of line from long bike rides and mountain bike races. Sandra comes in and basically snaps me back into place. Some sessions are 45 mins, some can take up to 1.5 hours. Our bodies become puzzles after a while. Finding people like Sandra to put the pieces back together is a Godsend.
So yes, it takes a village to be a cyclist. With my history, I’m a little more on the extreme side, so you may not need a village quite as extensive. Nonetheless, focusing on your happiness, health, and having people in your corner to support and guide you, is sometimes we all need. I love and appreciate my village.