Learning to breathe at the OptiMYz Getaway Fitness Retreat

Memo: The OptiMYz Getaway Fitness Retreat, Atlantica Hotel and Marina Oak Island, NS, April, 2011

Andrew Russell, the Olympic paddler just back from training camp in Florida, speaks in the first evening on his lessons from one of the most demanding sports ever. In a season he paddles over one million strokes, most in practice, all for a few races that are over in less than four minutes.

 The goal is to peak physically and mentally for the races. He and his teammate Gabe also have to in sync, intuitively, he says, so that when he surges from the bow, Gabe picks up on it instantly.

They plan out their months, weeks, days, and hours. The training is tough. It has to be, not just physically but mentally too. At the end of a race, Andrew says he goes into a tunnel and time slows down. All he sees is the finish line. If he is not exhausted at the end, he left something out on the course. After his best race ever, he took two days to recover.

When the training is intense, he has to eat huge amounts of food, all healthy of course. He had to learn to eat that much. That’s a switch in our diet-obsessed culture.

Despite all this, performing at the elite level is mostly mental, he says. A German paddler told him that about 30 people in the world are capable of the fastest times, but in a race only about three will be able to deliver. The difference is the mental aspect.

This is true for everything in life, Andrew says. They spend a lot of time on mental training, including visualization. If you can’t visualize winning, he says, you can’t win. To be good at anything in life, you need to do the work, and you need to be the master of your mind.

In the morning Tracy Cypryk takes us through a Zumba workout. She loves to dance. It is a workout. We have some delicious smoothies to recover.

Then there is a guided meditation by Bruce Bradley, massage therapist, Reiki Master, hypnotist, and former speed skater. He leads us through three techniques, including enhancing your breathing. Oxygen is fuel, he reminds us. Most of us don’t breathe deeply enough to give our bodies what they need. We go on a little interior journey to a restful place where we can be calm and creative. He plants seeds for the future.

In the afternoon I take Tracy’s yoga class. It is wonderful. Yoga is about how you feel, not how you look, she says. She is also a long-term meditator. The physical practice of yoga was developed to enhance meditation, she reminds us. We breathe slowly and deeply. We feel great.

Later a walk on a trail in the fresh air. More breathing.

Then a cooking demo by executive chef Daniel Orovec, a sweet potato shrimp patty that is a preview of the supper to come. Mmm.

The next day I sign up for super trainer Adrian Veinot’s Synergy Workout, which will appear in the May/June issue of OptiMYz. We are in partners. Adrian is mine.

It is timed. There is never enough time between sets to recover, so you are in the aerobic fat-burning and muscle building zone the whole time. It is hard, but rewarding. Just what I need to jump into spring. Adrian is a master who loves what he does, and he loves people too. You can’t fake this stuff. He assesses everyone at a glance and jokes and cajoles and pushes. At the end we go through deep stretches. Ah, more breathing.

The food and staff at the hotel were great. The clients were great and so was the OptiMYz team.

 See you next time.

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