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Part 1

 

“You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing because it’s part of your motivation is your enjoyment for what you’re doing, and I’m a firm believer that motivation is everything. It is everything.”

 

JESSE: Here today, my guest is a current USA level 2 certified coach. I know him personally. He coaches anybody from the average age grouper, all the way through Olympic level athletes. I want to welcome to the show today, coach Ryan Ross.

 

RYAN: Thanks, Jesse.

 

JESSE: How are you doing coach?

 

RYAN: I’m doing good. How are you doing?

 

JESSE: I’m doing okay. I kicked my butt a little bit with what should have been an easy swim set this morning.

 

RYAN: What happened?

 

JESSE: I’m tired from the run the week because you’ve been scheduled me for a lot of work.

 

RYAN: That tends to happen, fatigue is not the enemy.

 

JESSE: I know. I had know a coach that used to say endurance athletes job is to resist fatigue. It’s not–

 

RYAN: It’s everything. I mean, it’s everything. That comes down to our efficiency. But yeah, fatigue resistance is everything.

 

JESSE: So, I want to talk a little bit about kind of how did you get to where you are now. But without starting with a love story between a man and woman. Tell us a little bit about your childhood growing up, like were you active, like did you do sports or were you a couch potato?

 

RYAN: No, I was active. I did sports. I played several ball sports. I played a lot of baseball and a lot of basketball growing up. Those were definitely my two favorite. I tried every everything I played some football, some soccer, but my loves with the, I guess, we’ll call them the ball sports were definitely basketball and baseball. And I played those, you know, both through high school and actually both of them after high school some.

 

JESSE: Like in a rec league or?

 

RYAN: Baseball was a rec league, basketball, I did some like AAU type sports, [??? 2:29] type teams. And so yeah, so I love those sports. I thought I was going to be– My dream at one time was to coach in basketball and you know, after high school, I probably just, I don’t know. I didn’t have my stuff together maturity wise, you know.

 

JESSE: Like you’re out running around smoking pot?

 

RYAN: I’m definitely not smoking pot. I haven’t really done that in my life. But no, it’s like I wasn’t ready for the next level. So, I ended up just playing sports on my own. Took a few community college classes and I actually got a college degree, but I just [??? 3:13] right out of high school I just wasn’t– I had a maturity issue with making that next step to college, and getting on some career path, you know, when I was 18-19 years old. It took me a little bit longer.

 

JESSE: Right, you know, I think it’s for a lot of people. Even at the time going to college, I thought it’s a little insane to sit an 18 year old down and say, you know, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?

 

RYAN: Yeah. Yeah, no, I definitely agree with that. Like with my own kids, I won’t push them too hard too quickly because I just didn’t know. I mean, it’s funny. I mean, my degree is in accounting. And when I took my first accounting class, I didn’t even know what accounting was. I just figured it would be a nice elective. I kind of knew I wanted some type of business major, but I got in there and everything, you know, it came naturally to me.

 

JESSE: It doesn’t seem like the average person would say accounting sounds like a like a fun elective. I mean–

 

RYAN: Well, and elective for some type of business degree. So I was like, oh, I’ll give this one a go now, and I didn’t really– I don’t think I had a really a career path in mind at that point. But it’s just, you know, some things just come naturally. And that always helps when you’re in those last few years of college and focusing on you know, a specific major type thing.

 

So, to answer your question, yeah, ball sports, did a lot of cycling growing up when I was young as well. I think I was cycling very early. And then as I got into, like, the middle school ages, you know, I start I started realizing that cycling stuff wasn’t as cool as the ball stuff, you know, around school. So, you know, heavy into the ball stuff throughout high school, after high school and then kind of came back to cycling later in my college years.

 

JESSE: Yeah. I mean, it definitely seems like, here in the US, we don’t really have a culture like for young athletes in cycling. Whereas Europe seems to have a lot more than the US.

 

RYAN: Yeah. It’s totally mainstream there. It’s a mainstream accepted sport, and here it’s not. So, there’s definitely not all, like I mean as you know, in this community, you think all sports like soccer and baseball and the youth programs. I mean, and there’s some stuff out there now you can do in cycling, but it’s just not as prevalent. You know, I have a four year old son now and he’s got a year already a BMX racing under his belt. But the closest BMX track to where we live, I mean, we have to drive 40 minutes. So it’s just, you know, things aren’t as mainstream.

 

JESSE: And I kind of knew, you know, you’d grown up cycling. You know, how do you come from cycling and get to triathlon? I mean, there are plenty of guys that just decide I’m going to race crits or, you know, I’m going to go off and do off road or, you know, BMX or any of the thousand variations of cycling. You know, how do you decide, okay, I want to add two more sports to this?

 

RYAN: Yeah. So me it was, I think my mindset, I’m kind of a one at a time type guy. So, you know, I’ve raced I think almost every discipline in cycling, except, you know, in the last few years, we’ve got like this gravel thing and cyclocross. I have not gotten into either one of those. I think I’ve gotten to the point where maybe I’m just not up to learn something new at this point. I’m getting old, I guess. But you know, I was doing road, mountain, road, ultra road for a while and I decided to give triathlon a try. I wanted to mix in more variety with what I was doing.

 

I had some injuries especially with the old ultra distance cycling. You know, we’re talking races 12 and 24 hours and ultra distance stuff. So, had some injuries and gave it a try. And I’ll never, I mean, I think everyone remembers their first triathlon. And I remember mine and I was really blown away by the environment was really good. My first event was pretty big, about 1,000 participant event. And just the environment and the excitement of the environment was actually nothing I had ever experienced in the sport cycling, I’ve just single sport cycling. It was just amazing how many people were there supporting the athletes and camaraderie is just different.

 

You know, in cycling, you arrive at an event and everyone’s looking at each other, like, you know, how am I going to beat you? How am I going to tear your – up, you know, that’s the stare down, which is all fine. But it was a it was just a great experience my first time and I just got hooked after that. Like I said, just the variety and the balance of doing multiple things is something that really appeal to me at the time and I enjoyed.

 

JESSE: Okay. So, you said you remember your first one. So, what age are you at this point? Like, What year is this? You know, where are we in kind of, like sport position?

 

RYAN: That would have been we were at, you know, this event at Shawnee Mission Park. This is back when the triathlon was on a big up as far as participation and this is an event that you pretty much at the time, you know, you had to sign up, like really like in the middle of winter or a July event. Tour now, unfortunately, you could sign up for that event, a packet pickup.

 

So yeah, it was Shawnee Mission Park and what can I say, I got the idea over the winter and started slot my way through swimming and running and all the soreness that it caused me initially because I did run a year across country in high school, but it was really just to stay in shape or other things. So I just made that made that switch and started mixing in a variety. The year was 2000, this would have been four, four or five.

 

JESSE: Shawnee Mission Park I think is over 30 years old now. It’s been around forever.

 

RYAN: Yeah. I want to say it was 04-05 is about where that would have been. And I was like in my I was like, what 34 something like that, 34 years old first triathlon, in that timeframe.

 

JESSE: So, then you just caught the bug from there?

 

RYAN: Caught the bug from there. Like I said I just thought the event was super exciting, a lot of fun. I enjoyed training for it adding in all the variety, you know, no more injuries from long distance cycling. And so yeah, it just started from there. And I’ve always been, you know, with whatever I’ve done, I’ve always been kind of a student of the game. I mean, I would always did a lot of reading a lot of research. I enjoyed that aspect and that kind of led to getting into coaching later. I was dating, who’s my wife now, we were in dating mode at that point.

 

And I remember she had– she got into triathlon about a couple years before I did. And she had a coach at the time. And she was training for a half [??? 10:36] distance race. And she had a coach and she had a really poor coaching experience. And then she found out that the coach had given her basically the same training plan that he gives to everybody. So, it was kind of like it ended up being a cookie cutter thing.

 

And she was kind of upset about that. And she’s not real one to be like real animated or– She’s like why would you give, you know, all these other people, I’m way more experienced than I’m way faster, they got the same schedule. I don’t get it. And I thought to myself, you know what that is kind of poor. And that was my first thought is, you know, I can do this. I mean, so that was kind of my first inkling of going into triathlon and then getting into coaching.

 

JESSE: Just a matter of like, you know, I mean, we’ve talked about this before, my kind of like entrepreneurship endeavors where it’s like, you see this gap, where you’re like, you know, they’re not being treated, right or this could be better and you decide, you know, I think I can do that.

 

RYAN: You got to solve problems, you know, definitely. And so yeah, that’s how, you know, that’s how it came to mind. I mean, one thing I’d want to say on this topic is, with growing up with cycling, and everything, you know, for me, cycling started as a kid and I just rode like crazy. I mean, I rode my bikes like crazy, all over the place city that I lived in.

 

And I developed, you know, that childlike love for the sport that will never ever go away. Because when you do something as a child, you know, I mean, you’re not thinking about training or the next race, what your power is, you’re just out there busting it. And I think having that, developing that purity rather than think about it. Because we got adults now adult age people who’ve never done any serious cycling, they come into triathlon. And they never develop that. They never have that childlike, they miss the childlike, childhood type of love, that passion.

 

And I think that’s so important because how many triathletes would not go out and just go for a ride if they weren’t training for a triathlon? Would they just go out and ride for the love of it? And I mean, I know that I absolutely would and I do. And so I think that was something that was really important for my development and for me – cycling is developing that childhood type love. And that’s why I love to see, you know, my four year old, you know, even though he’s racing, about five years earlier than I even did any racing. I mean, I see him out and we go on rides, he’s four years old, and we, I mean, he went with my wife, they up her ride.

 

She got a new BMX bike for Christmas. And I went out one day rode with him, we rode over to a park near me road, like an hour. And in then I was like, wow, he’s doing good. He’s freaking four years old, you’re out there riding for an hour, non stop. And then the next day, my wife’s like, “Hey, I’m going to take Levi on a bike ride.” And she hasn’t been on a bike in a long time, I’m thinking, be kind of interesting, actually, what happened. She came back home, like an hour and a half later, her eyes were like this bigger out and she’s like “Oh, my gosh”, hour and a half later.

 

So you know, there he is a child, an hour one day and an hour and a half next. I mean, how many of us adult who are doing triathlons are doing that even especially– [crosstalk]

 

JESSE: Yes, the enthusiasm of the child without understanding like limitations or trying to like periodize your schedule or anything. It’s just like, it’s just pure joy.

 

RYAN: Exactly. And I think developing that is, it’s just really important.

 

JESSE: That almost kind of reminds me of, I don’t remember where I was I like, where this concept came up first for me. But it’s like keeping the beginner’s mind, you know, the child’s mind when you approach something. So you know, instead of being like, you know, you and I clearly get very involved in like my schedule and trying to make things, right and fitting it in and trying to maximize potential and all that stuff. But it’s like it sometimes you’re like, just have to get back to the beginner’s mind where it’s like, I’m just learning this today, I’m just having fun today, I’m just enjoying it for what it is, instead of being so focused on the greater picture.

 

RYAN: Right. You’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing because I guess it’s part of your motivation is your enjoyment for what you’re doing. And I’m a firm believer that motivation is everything. It is everything. So, yeah, and so if you’re not enjoying yourself, that tends to damper our motivation.

 

JESSE: Is something that I kind of think about, and another one of my coaches that I had in the past for my high school cross country coach is, he, I kind of debated with him a little bit on this, but he says that “motivation cannot be coached.” Like where do you think motivation comes from?

 

RYAN: Oh, that is such a good question. Can it be coach? Okay, so I have often said many times, okay, so I do agree with him to an extent, and I know where he’s coming from. Because motivation has to come from within, it has to come from within you, you have to wake up in the morning with that burning desire. But at the same time, I think the coach has a role in it, in that having the accountability piece, and the structure piece helps you be motivated.

 

Like, if you don’t have the accountability piece, and you don’t have the structure; I mean, I see a lot of people who it dampers their motivation not having those things in place. So, it helps you because then you’ve got that total package and you feel like I’m in a good direction. You know, I feel good about what I’m doing, because I have the accountability and the structure. So, I think they do kind of bounce off one another.

 

But also, like I said, it’s got to come from within. And you know, if I see an athlete at a race, and I see them out there on a run course, and I cheer for him and give him a high five as they run by, that’s great. And we all get that a little jumping our motivation from that. But that only last really 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and then you’re out, you still got five miles to go on that [??? 17:06] I mean, you do. So, that type of motivation is extremely, extremely short term, you know.

 

So, I think that aspect of it is probably what you’re coach is referring to is that, you know, you have to be out there and want to yourself and have that burning desire. So, I mean, I can kind of see it both ways. I think providing the accountability and structure helps an athlete be motivated.

 

JESSE: Maybe, like, I guess this is how I think about and we’ll see whether you agree. I kind of think about motivation like a fire. A coach cannot light the fire, but a coach can fan it. So you know, some athletes come to coach and it’s already roaring, there’s a bonfire already available. And other athletes come to a coach and maybe there’s only an amber. So, I kind of think about it where it’s like that fire already has to be lit, and then your job is in part to foster it.

 

RYAN: Yeah, I could agree with that. I mean, because sometimes if the fire is burning too high, and the coach has to be like, oh, we have to curb the enthusiasm down, seriously. Because I actually got one right now and coming back off the off season, and had a season last year, lack of motivation I was coaching this person, personal issues, I totally understood it. In fact, I went to him several times last year and said, look, you’ve got bigger things going on. Why don’t you go focus on those things?

 

And he hung on because if he didn’t have the accountability structure, he would have went to crap. He wouldn’t have been doing anything. But he came back this year and told me a story about how things have work themselves out. And I was amazed how well he did in the first few weeks coming back, how he’s hit every workout with a high level of enthusiasm to the point I did have to say, okay, we’re going to slow down here a little bit. Let’s not get too injured type time. Right you know, because the fire was burning so high.

 

So yeah, I mean, no, I agree with you. Yeah, the coach can definitely assist it. And again, I’ll go back to providing the accountability, structure. I think, you know, relieving an athlete from wondering, hey, what should I do tomorrow? What am I going to do tomorrow, you know? I think that helps with the motivation and helps like, you know, spread that fire a little bit. But I do think the fire needs to at least be started.

 

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