This article is part of the USA Women's Eagles Final in '14 blog. All entries are written exclusively by members of the women's national team.
We literally just got back from our Tigertown training camp in Florida earlier this month in which we kicked off our final eight-month push to World Cup. During this camp we talked a lot about what it means to be an Eagle in everything you do - life choices, physical training, nutrition, mental skills. We called it "The Eagle Way.” It's the idea that you have to be an Eagle 24/7/365 and not just when you are at training camps or around other Eagles...
Fast forward to last Thursday, when I got in my car to travel from Colorado to Atlantic City for my sister's bachelorette party ... many people argue I am crazy for driving, and I probably am, but when you are trying to play in a World Cup, every dollar you can save is critical... I was able to save more than $200 by driving instead of flying... but driving versus flying is not the point of this particular post.
One thing I have learned over the years is that there are very few things that will challenge the your ability to live the "Eagle Way" like travel, especially travel with/around your family... between horrible food options in airports and travel centers; many hours spent sedentary on planes, in cars, or other modes of transit; pressure to blow-off workouts and eat junk; and just generally being away from your normal routines, it makes for quite the challenge. Add in a bachelorette party to that mix and I knew that my resourcefulness and ingenuity was going to be taxed to the maximum if I wanted to stay true to the commitment I made to my teammates in Lakeland, Fla.
So I figured I'd give you a little glimpse into a few of the ways in which I managed to navigate this crazy-making prospect - a prospect that isn't too crazy to those of us who choose this life, but to others it is downright ridiculous.
The critical step to this process is to PLAN:
- Plan for the things you can control
- Plan to improvise (and expect to get weird looks for it)
First, you must plan for the pieces you can control – the big ones being nutrition, training, and effective use of time. Adam will always say "fail to plan, plan to fail.” For me, this meant packing enough healthy food to kill a small army, having a really clear idea of when and where I was going to train, and knowing how I was going to stay on top of my school work while traveling.
I know myself... I have a wicked sweet tooth... when I walk into a Pilot gas station and my blood sugar is low, if I smell the aroma of hot, melty frosting covering an original Cinnabon, I have an almost Pavolvian response that draws me to it.
The primitive, reptilian, sugar-addicted part of my brain tries to tell me 'just this once is fine.’ So I KNOW that it is critical to keep my blood sugar stable and maintained with lots of healthy food so that the rational, good-decision making part of my brain can keep functioning and let me get in and get out without the entire clearance rack of Christmas candy coming with me. For me, this looked like packing A LOT of fruit, hard-boiled eggs, greek yogurt, nuts, protein powders, bars, baby-carrots and baby sweet bell peppers, a jar of peanut butter, whole grain crackers, and the list goes on and on...
In addition to planning for food, I needed to come up with a plan for where I was going to train. Luckily, I am a member of the Y, so I can use gyms all over the place for free (or really inexpensive) but I still needed to know where they were and what hours I could go use them. So I did some sleuthing and got a list of a ton of different places that I could use depending on where I wound up getting to on any given day... over the past week I have been to four different YMCAs in four different states (some more than once) and learned another important lesson about planning for gym use that I hadn't come up against before: not only is it important to plan for when the gym is open, it is also helpful to check the schedule for other programs that might be happening that might conflict with your workout. For example, sometimes the weight room in the Snowbird capital of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is being used by an incredibly large and lively group of seniors participating in an awesome program known as 'Silver Sneakers.’ Picture 'Sweating to the Oldies' meets Zumba with free weights and you have my gym experience. While I had a blast watching and chatting them up in between sets (and Lord knows, I hope that I am still Zumbaing around when I'm that age) it definitely was more of an adventure than I needed when I was crunched for time.
Another part of my pre-plan was to plan to have things to occupy my time while driving so that I could feel like I was continuing to grow and learn. Besides being a rugby player, I am also a PhD student in the midst of dissertation research. So I made sure I had all my data loaded onto my Mp3 player, so I could be listening to interview data throughout the trip and feel like I wasn't losing that time. Needless to say, after 27 hours with it, I am really familiar with my interview data.
The second step to an effective plan is the ability to improvise on the fly and, in doing so, the willingness to be looked at askance by family and strangers alike for the choices and actions you take. You MUST be willing to look a little off and be willing to make a fool of yourself in public. For example, when you know you'll be driving all day and not have time for a full blown workout it might be necessary to do squat jumps, planks, and sprints in Travel center parking lots. I find the sidewalk paralleling the grassy area where people are walking their pink parka-wearing bichons and drinking 64-ounce sodas is the best spot to get commentary. Each time I stopped to get gas or use the bathroom, I made sure to do something to get the blood moving even if for just a few minutes at a time. I had a 27-hour drive (broken up into an eight-, a 14-, and a five-hour day), so had a lot of time on my hands and a lot of tanks of gas, so I got a lot of looks.
I also knew I was going to have to improvise when it came to celebrating with my sister for her bachelorette party. I knew that I wanted to celebrate with her and her friends and I knew she wanted to party in a major way, but I also knew that I didn't want to compromise on my goals. So I had to figure out a way to go out and party with her, but also be true to me. I wound up emailing my other WNT prop friends to get ideas - and they had some good options, some of which guided my choice. Ultimately, I wound up pulling the bartender aside when we got to the bar and telling her my situation and asking her to help me out. She seemed really confused when I asked her to make sure all of my drinks were 'mocktails' all night, but she obliged. All night she served me soda water with a slice of lime in a mixed drink glass - she even put on a show of mixing it in a shaker. I must've had a dozen "vodka" and sodas that night and did some serious active recovery dancing - my deep squats would have made Paul proud. It was a really fun night for everyone, and as an added bonus, I woke up really, really hydrated AND got the pleasure of recounting the antics of the evening's activities to the more tender members of the bachelorette party.
All in all I would say it was a successful travel week. Don't get me wrong, it was challenging and frustrating at times trying to juggle family schedules/desires and unfamiliar routines and locations with getting my needs met. But very little of what we Eagles do IS easy. And that is kind of the point. We want to spend the next eight months doing all the really hard work - the training, the compromises, the sacrifices, the perseverance - so that when August comes around, we get to just play. We get to play for the joy of the game, the love of our team, and the honor of competing on the highest stage of our sport for our country. And I'd say that's worth it.