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The Quan Philosophy: Train and Live Like an Athlete

For the first post I thought it would be a good idea to really set the framework for all the future posts as well as to just explain the foundation of my training philosophy in general. In short, The Quan Coaching is about training and living like an athlete and doing so in a way that is grounded in scientific principles from the medical field and from the sport and athletic training field. But what does it actually mean to train and live like an athlete? What is the mindset that allows one to do this and what are the benefits of doing so? These are the things I want to talk about in this first post which is going to be all about The Quan Coaching Philosophy.

Before we delve into this philosophy I just wanted to give a quick background on me as I feel that will provide some context for this philosophy and how I go about coaching. I grew up playing and watching almost every sport I could which is where my interest in the athletics began. In high school, my focus was specifically directed towards tennis and my freshman year of high school our tennis team wasn’t very good so I played varsity and got destroyed every match. We’re talking 0-6, 0-6 for almost half the matches. And I was the biggest head-case you could find, no mental fortitude, and would just mentally collapse after my first bad point and start throwing different types of temper tantrums on the court. I really believe this is where my interest in developing an athlete’s mindset began, because I fully realized to become good at this sport and start winning matches, I had to be mentally tough – and this was something I really focused on developing over the next few years of high school tennis. After high school, I went to Purdue University where I studied Biomedical Engineering. I was no longer playing tennis competitively so my athletic outlet transferred to weight room, and I quickly became obsessed with the gym. Trying out different training programs and principles to try to gain strength and muscle became so fun and life-giving to me. In the classroom, I became very interested in the mechanics of the human body, including the engineering and physiology of force production, and I started to see some correlation between the science I was learning through engineering and principles of training in the gym. After college, I went to the University of Chicago for medical school, where I’ve continued to apply principles from my education to the weight room. However, also during medical school I became infinitely fascinated with how many aspects of health can be optimized to allow for prime functioning for each individual. I also became plant-based during this time and have done a great deal of self study into how a plant-based diet can be utilized for athletic training. Also while in school, I got my strength and conditioning specialist certification which is a training certification specifically geared towards training athletes. This has really allowed me to better understand athletic training principles and how they apply not only to the physical training but also nutrition and mindset.

So that is the background on me that has really formed my coaching philosophy. And to start delving into this philosophy, we have to start by defining “The Quan.” The Quan comes from the movie Jerry MaGuire, in which sport’s agent Jerry MaGuire has a client named Rod Tidwell – a NFL wide receiver. It’s probably my favorite movie of all time and has so many great themes throughout, but to me the greatest of these themes is that of the Quan. I’ll let Rod Tidwell himself start with giving us the definition of this amazing word. Rod Tidwell: “Love. Respect. Community. And the dollars too. The entire package. The quan.” Then, later in the movie, in the setting of a poor stretch of games from Tidwell and difficulties with signing an extended contract, Tidwell’s agent MaGuire says this to Tidwell, “Here's why you don’t have your ten million dollars yet. You are a paycheck player. You play with your head. Not your heart. In your personal life? Heart. But when you get on the field it's all about what you didn't get. Who's to blame. Who's got the contract you didn't get. That is not what inspires people! Shut up! Play the game from your heart. Then I'll show you the Quan. And that's the truth. Can you handle it?” So essentially, as Tidwell and MaGuire put it - The Quan is the entire package. It’s something you get from going all in and playing from your heart. It’s the love. The joy. The peace. The confidence. Success with relationships and at work. It’s becoming a more holistic and evolved version of yourself. Thus, the Quan Coaching, is coaching towards this goal of achieving your Quan. Which to me that is the beautiful part of this word as Tidwell defines it. It’s your Quan. It’s the entire package, but what is included in that package is up to you. Tidwell’s Quan, and the Quan of many athletes playing for professional sports teams is to become the best at his sport and be recognized and paid as such while also having a very fulfilling life off the field with his family. But your Quan can be whatever the “entire package” means to you. Do you want to become an amazing businesswoman and a loving friend who feels the more connected to others and the world than you ever have before? Then that’s your Quan. Do you want to be a creative force who produces art that inspires others while also being able to fully enjoy life at home with your family? Then that’s your Quan. Whatever it is, everyone has a life in mind that is the entire package. And that is a long term goal worth training towards. And that is really where training and living like an athlete begins to come in to play. One of the first differences between how athletes train and how your random person buying a gym membership trains, lies in the fact that the athlete is training towards something – they have these long term goals in mind. The average gym-goer does not have these specific goals in mind so they go to the gym and mindlessly train, not understanding how certain exercises or certain nutritional strategies lead to a specific desired outcome. They don’t have the thought process of how that last set of 10 reps is leading towards the extra muscle that will cause them to not be backed down so easily by the opposing defensive lineman next game. The athlete knows that the effort they are putting in will lead to specific results that they want to see manifested and this leads to a level of motivation that cannot possibly be matched by someone who has no long-term goal to work toward and no understanding of how the work they put in leads to arriving at these goals. And if you look at how athletes train, you will see that this level of motivation allows them to be truly all-in on achieving their long-term goals. Look at some of the best athletes of our day. LeBron James spends $1.5 million on his body every year to achieve his goal of being one of the best players in the league even at the age of 37. Tiger Woods used to train 13 hours a day in his way to becoming one of the best golfers of all time. If you saw the recent movie King Richard about the Williams sisters, you’d see that Venus and Serena, as most star tennis players do, grew up eating, sleeping, and breathing tennis at a tennis academy. So after you set your long-term goal (aka figure out what your Quan is), the next step is going all in on achieving that goal. And because The Quan is the entire package, going all in to achieve your Quan really means going All In on life. It means fully being here and now and approaching each and every moment like you are in training. Because you truly are. You are in training to be the absolute best version of yourself and achieve your Quan.

And to talk about going “all in” on our goals, we need to first better define what our goals are. You may have noticed that I was referring to athlete’s goals as specifically long term goals. And another way that this is defined in sports psychology are outcome goals. They are goals that are defined by results. LeBron having the goal to be named MVP or win an NBA Finals. Serena having a goal of winning her 24th major title. And again, as we just talked about, these long term goals are extremely important. They give us direction. They give us purpose. And they give us motivation because our current actions are given another layer of meaning when we know why we are doing them and we understand the actual effects of our actions instead of just mindlessly going about training and mindlessly going about our entire lives. However, there is another type of goal that is just as if not more important. They are called process goals - goals that are much more in our control because they are related to the short term process. For example, LeBron having a process goal of showing up at 5AM to the gym for a training session before team practice. Or Serena having a goal of hitting 500 serves a day. These goals are in line with our long-term outcome goals. So LeBron is showing up at 5AM because it helps him win the MVP and Finals. Serena is hitting 500 serves because it helps her win a major title. However, these process goals also provide satisfaction in and of themselves. I am a big believer in living in the present as much as possible and not focusing on the future or the past unless necessary. In fact I have a tattoo that says “Be Here Now” in an attempt to remind myself to truly be in the present. So, yes, like I said, it is still necessary to look into the future to set those long term, outcome goals that help us make correlating process goals. But then we return to the present -because our process goals can become infinitesimally small to the point where we are achieving process goals every single moment by truly being present. So for example, if look to the future to determine what your Quan is, maybe you see that includes living healthily in your 80s and being able run around and play with your grandchildren throughout that decade of your life. Well your process goals are going to involve showing up to the gym 3 times a week for resistance training sessions that will preserve your muscle and bone density so you can be athletically fit enough to play with your grandchildren. They will involve following a nutrition plan that promotes longevity by decreasing your risk of cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality. And they will involve being fully present so you not only enjoy your life to the fullest today, but also so you do not find yourself worrying about the future which has scientifically been shown to subtract years from your life. And you will start to find that when you are going through these process goals you are actually deriving enjoyment and fulfillment from these goals in and of themselves. In other words, you will find that you are finding joy in the journey or the process and not just the destination. You will find that you are starting to set up your life in a way that every moment is a “process goal” because you will start to see how everything is connected. How embracing every moment not only leads to your long term Quan, but that embracing every moment is in and of itself part of your Quan.

Now we can understand what going “all in” means in a whole new light. Because we are training for The Quan, a goal that we defined as the entire package, it requires optimizing many aspects of your life. Or in other words, really becoming well-trained at setting and achieving process goals. And that is exactly what an athlete does so well. Think about a boxer leading up to a big fight. His nutrition is dialed down to the exact amount of grams of carbs, protein, and fat that are required to arrive at peak fitness for the fight while also allowing him to make weight. His training is at the proper intensity and volume to allow for world-class speed and power on fight night. He is on a consistent 8 hour sleep schedule every night and is not consuming any drugs or alcohol. He is performing visualization and other positive mindset practices that allow him to be the absolute best fighter he can be so that when he steps into that ring, he is confident that he will win that fight. This is how we all should be approaching every day, every moment that we have been so blessed to be gifted. Like a boxer fighting for his life, we are fighting to live the best life we can in every single moment, and to do this, we have to go all in on optimizing many areas of our health and fitness, just as the boxer does. By continually setting process goals regarding training, nutrition, sleep, rest, recovery, hydration, and mindset – we will be of the most clear mind to embrace, fully enjoy, and value every moment of our lives.

So training and living like an athlete starts with goals - both short term process goals and long term outcome goals – and going “all in” on both setting and achieving these goals. But how does an athlete continue to achieve these goals especially in the face of adversity? And this is something we need to touch on because life is full of times of adversity. Its relatively easy to keep going all in on weight training when you are seeing strength gains every day. Or going all in on nutrition when you are seeing the pounds drop off on the scale. Or going all in on keeping a positive mindset when life is overall going well. But how do you keep showing up at the gym every morning when you’ve plateaued on your bench max? How do you keep eating salads for lunch when you’ve been at the same body fat percentage for a couple of weeks? How do you keep positive habits when you’ve been laid off at work and you feel like your life is falling apart? These times of set-back and adversity when you aren’t seeing the results that you want – these are the times when athletes, and especially great athletes, shine.

Success through this adversity often starts with a foundation of ritualization of one’s life. Similar to our discussion on process goals, this allows us to focus on things we can moreso control, which is especially helpful in times when it feels like you aren’t seeing the results that you want. One of my personal favorite examples of athletes ritualizing their actions is Rafa Nadal. If you have ever watched a Rafa tennis match, you will quickly notice before every serve he adjusts his shorts, his hair, and wipes the sweat from his nose – in the exact same manner every single time. Then when he returns to the bench at a changeover, his water bottles must all be aligned in a particular manner. This may seem odd, but it allows Rafa to focus on specific tasks which help inhibit negative self-talk which would severely hurt his performance. It allows him to feel more of a sense of control over the process of the match by maintaining control over his rituals even when he runs into adversity during the match. And it puts him in a positive, calm frame of mind by helping remind him that even at points of hardship, he has been in this position thousands of times and knows exactly what to do and has everything within him that he needs to succeed. So living like an athlete by ritualizing certain aspects of our life can really help us continue to push through our goals even in times of adversity. For instance, I have found that what often helps clients stick with their nutrition plans is to meal prep for the entire week on Sunday if their schedule allows, and then eating these prepped meals at set times throughout the day. Now, when they haven’t seen results on the scale yet and may be tempted to go to McDonald’s instead of making a nutritious meal at home, they already have a prepped meal that they eat at that time every day, which significantly lowers the difficulty of making a healthy decision to align with your process goals. Or at the gym before a particularly challenging workout, having a ritualized routine of making your preworkout meal and drink and then going through a ritualized warm-up, often helps for getting into a positive, anxiety-free mindset that allows you to take on that challenge. I personally have even taken this ritualization to a Rafa-esque level when it comes to taking exams. From high school all the way through medical school, I have worn the same Air Jordan 1s and a Yankees jersey to every exam and then listened to the same song (We Ready by Archie Eversole) right before the exam begins. I remember in college a baseball player who I was in a class with asked about this ritual because as I said about Rafa, it does seem odd. But then when we got talking, he ended up telling me about his pre-game ritual for baseball and how that helped him calm his nerves before games as he had just told me how nervous he was to take the exam we were about to take. To me it made perfect sense that he should make a pre-test ritual too– and that was how this idea of ritualizing things like an athlete first came to mind.

So these rituals definitely help us keep our goals in the midst of adversity, but they aren’t the only thing in our athlete tool-kit. Athletes in general and especially the greatest athletes, are extremely mentally tough, and their mindset towards their craft is something that needs to be emulated by us as we look to achieve our Quan. Think about some of the greatest athletes and sports stories of all time. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team and turned out to be the greatest basketball player of all time. Tom Brady wasn’t drafted until the 6th round and turned out to be one of the greatest QBs of all time. James Braddock – the inspiration for the film Cinderella Man – lost many early fights and had to give up boxing due to severe poverty during the Great Depression – only to eventually become heavyweight champion of the world. What these athletes and stories have in common is the tremendous display of the underdog or comeback mindset of an athlete. You see, a true athlete, the ones that go on to be champions or the greatest of all time, have an inner drive – an inner belief – that they may be down, but they are never out. They may face adversity and doubters, but they simply use this as motivation to improve and prove their doubters wrong. They realize that out of pain and suffering comes the greatest potential for growth so they see setbacks as opportunities. And this is yet another facet of the athlete mindset that we all need to adopt. Yes, still give the setbacks and suffering their proper healing time, but also realize simultaneously that the experience will grow you in ways that you have not even begun to imagine yet. Use the pain as a teacher and ask it, why am I feeling this way? Why was I unable to meet my goal here and why am I so hurt by the fact that I did not reach that goal? Then use those answers to move forward and grow. So you step on the scale for the first time in a few years and realize you’re 20 lbs heavier than you thought. That might hurt you – if so, ask why? Why am I so attached to the number on this scale when prior to stepping on the scale I did not think I had a problem? Then ask why you are 20 lbs heavier. What habits have led to that? Now you are using your pain as a teacher. Then, remember the feeling that you have at that moment, and use it as motivation to go all in on all the aspects we have talked about that lead to healthy living. That is the mindset of an athlete who is primed for a comeback.

Now the last point we’ll talk about today in regard to the athlete’s mindset in the face of adversity is maybe best exhibited by Kobe Bryant with his so-called Mamba Mentality. Kobe was known to be an insanely hard worker who would show up hours before the game to train when no one else was there. And if someone else did show up, he would make sure to keep training until he was the last one standing on the court – never letting anyone else train harder than him. This mamba mentality is something that, to some extent, all the greatest athletes have. It is a competitive spirit that outweighs any adversity they may face. They are so focused on winning that any adversity feels small. They don’t focus on the adversity because they don’t have time to, the prize of winning is always on their mind and it gives them the highest level of motivation possible. Now for us, we need to channel this competitive spirit not into competing with others, which can be a very unhealthy spiral of comparison and jealousy when what we are training for is to essentially live our best, most-realized life. Instead, we need to have this competitive spirit with ourselves. Each day we are competing with the version of ourselves that we were yesterday. We are competing to become a better person than the person we were the day before, by whatever metric you choose based on what you’ve defined as your Quan. Within the training world, this aligns with a concept known as progressive overload. As you move through your training program, it is important to provide progressive increases to the intensity or volume of your workout so that you continue to provide new levels of stress to your body to cause it to adapt to higher and higher levels of athletic production. So with progressive overload you are constantly focused on improving every session – which is a principle that can be applied to every aspect of health and wellness that we talk about with the Quan Coaching. And when you are focused on moving forward moment by moment, focused on progressively overloading in all aspects of your health, the adversity of the past slowly will fade into your rearview mirror.

That is the foundation of The Quan Philosophy and what it means to train and live like an athlete. There are certainly many more parallels to be drawn from the mindset and training of an athlete and we will definitely covering those in further episodes, but what we’ve covered today is what I believe to be the foundation upon which to start training and living like an athlete and the foundation upon which the other principles will be built upon. In other words, if you are able live with purpose by formulating what your Quan is (aka your long term goals) and then create process goals that allow you to fully live in the moment while making steps towards those long term goals. And you’re able to go all in on these goals in the face adversity by employing ritualization as well as the comeback mindset and the mamba mentality. You will be well on your way to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be.

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