Why Hard-Charging Athletes Need to Stop and Just Breathe

Chris Holder
Kettlebells, Strength and Conditioning, Martial Arts

Fellow coaches: What I’m about to write about is going to be hard for some of you to hear. Listen, I get it, we are the quintessential tough guys and gals within our businesses. For me, and many of you, I have to be the pillar of toughness because I work at a university. The soft, delicate stuff is for the athletic trainers and academic advisors. We strength coaches need shaved heads, full beards, and a glimmer of crazy in our eyes. We can never be caught with our guard down or give the kids and other coaches the feeling that we have we have softened. The soft stuff is for other people.


But what most of us don’t understand is there are missing elements in our athlete’s recovery that must be addressed with the same kind of rigor that we put into hard-driving training. Recovery is not just sleep or the types of foods you put into your mouth. It goes considerably beyond that. What I am about to propose to you all is something that is deeply imbedded in science, though a little harder to find. And it’s going to sound a whole lot like the soft stuff.


As many of you know, along with being a strength coach for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I am also a Medical Qigong Doctor. What I’m going to tell you about looks, on the outside, like two completely unrelated entities—hard, punishing training on the one hand, and soft, meditative practices on the other. But we have found a very seamless way to take the hard, pounding discipline of weight training and combine it with the more intention-driven, softer discipline of Qigong to keep my athletes balanced and performing at an incredibly high level. Let me explain.


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