Life Lessons from Volleyball

This month, I had the honor of watching my high school’s volleyball team compete in the state tournament. Small town sports teams are a close-knit community of learning and growing and bettering oneself and others.

I had a wonderful volleyball coach in high school – someone who guided and molded and shaped me as an athlete and a person. Unknowingly (or, maybe to her full knowledge), my coach provided me many nuggets of advice that have stuck with me throughout the years and have turned out to be applicable in many contexts of life beyond the volleyball court.volleyball

  1. Know your responsibilities, but be willing to go out of your way.

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, this means a player knows which parts of the court they need to cover. It is that person’s job to make sure no ball falls on that part of the court, and that they are playing the ball in a way that contributes to the team’s goal of making a competitive attempt at scoring a point. There are grey areas, though, which are the boundaries where the zones belonging to two different players meet. In that region, either player could play the ball equally well, just so long as someone plays it rather than allowing the ball to fall to the court. (Side note: This grey area is often known as the “husband and wife” area because lack of communication can lead to failure to make a play on the ball and loss of a point.)

Real life meaning: We all have things that we have to make sure are covered and taken care of in our day-to-day lives: rent, bills, kids, feeding ourselves, and going to work. All the tasks that fall into our realm of responsibility can feel like a lot at times, but we need to be willing to flex on that and even add more tasks. Sometimes a coworker or spouse may need help to get things accomplished, or something unexpected could come up that has to be handled. Taking on that responsibility yourself could mean that you are effectively managing the situation in what would be the real-life version of competitive-ness – doing a little more than just existing and surviving by making that situation just a little bit better and figuring out how to use it to contribute to your overall well-being.

  1. Trust your teammates.

Volleyball meaning: You don’t have to do everything yourself. This is a balance with my previous point. While you need to make sure you’re covering your area of the court and step up to cover the periphery of your area sometimes, you need to trust that your teammates are doing the same. One person can’t effectively cover the whole court. If they could, a volleyball team would just be one person. Trust your teammates, and lean on them to help you.

Real life meaning: There are people in our lives who can help us accomplish everything that needs to get done. A lesson that I’m still learning (slowly, and repeatedly) is that it’s alright to let people help me. It’s okay to take someone up on their offer to contribute to your life even if they don’t have to do it – they wouldn’t have offered if they didn’t want to be taken up on it. It’s even okay to ask for help. The end goal here isn’t to score a point, but to get everyone through life and have each person be as okay and good as they possible, and sometimes (usually) that’s more than one person can do for themselves.

3. TALK.

Volleyball meaning: It’s impossible to look both at the ball and see where each teammate is at all times. It’s also impossible to know what’s going on both on your team’s side of the court and the opponent’s side of the court at all times, and what you can see is often from a different angle or perspective than another person’s. Talking, LOUDLY, is a major part of volleyball. Players go home hoarse all the time from talking so much.

Real life meaning: One person can’t see or know all that is happening, and each person involved in any situation will have a different perspective. As humans, we tend to fill in the gaps in a story with details that make sense in our own minds, even if those details are not true. It’s incredibly and dangerously easy to believe that they are true, not even realizing that we generated those “facts” ourselves with no basis for knowing whether they are real. Talking and communication are just as key in real life to make good decisions and handle situations effectively so that we can do more than survive and exist.

  1. Make a decision and commit.

Volleyball meaning: The best way to play a ball may not always be clear, but one thing is certain: the ball will fall to the court and a point will be lost if we don’t do something. Anyone who has spent much time playing volleyball remembers a moment when their hands felt stuck at chest level because they couldn’t decide whether a forearm pass or an overhead contact would be best with the ball coming at them. Usually, this ends in a messy contact just to keep the ball off the floor, when committing to a technique would have resulted in a ball played more cleanly that would be easier for a teammate to use.

Real life meaning: The same thing happens in real life. Occasionally, we find ourselves waffling on a decision for so long that we end up backed into a corner and having to do something, anything, to get out. Sometimes it is impossible to know all the information we want to know to make a decision. And sometimes, even when we have all the information, we can’t see into the future to know which decision is best. In that moment, you just have to make a decision and commit to it. Maybe you trust your gut, or pray over it, or make a Rory-Gilmore-esque pro-con list. Whatever your method, though, something has to be done. Personally, I would rather know that I made my own choice rather than getting pigeon-holed into doing something I didn’t choose.

  1. Swing through.

Volleyball meaning: This is serving and hitting vernacular for “follow through.” If you’re going to serve or make a competitive attack on the ball, you need to swing your arm all the way through the ball to put as much power behind it as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of the ball falling short of where you wanted it to go, or that the attack was too gentle and allows the opponent plenty of time to reach the ball before it hits the court. Knowing where you want the ball to go and how you want that attack to end gives direction and a goal to a hit or serve, and swinging through is the action to get the ball there.

Real life meaning: Goals and desired outcomes are great, but a half-hearted attempt is unlikely to have the power needed to see a goal to the end. Committing to a plan and following through with a directed force to achieve those end results is critical. This means going after ambitions with passion and gusto to make them reality!

  1. “Plan B” is not “Plan A – Harder.”

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, the same set of skills are performed repeatedly to make up a match. If a player makes a mistake in their skills, or is completing a skill incorrectly, it can quickly lead to frustration and attempts by the player to perform the same faulty skill simply with more aggression. My coach always used to say, “I don’t care if you do nothing else right, as long as you don’t x again.” That x could be letting a ball fall to the ground, it could be hitting into the net, it could be serving the ball out the back of the court. Whatever it was, the requirement was never for perfection. It was to avoid making the same mistake repeatedly. Even if I still messed up, I just needed to make sure I messed up in a different way. Breaking skills down this way helped to take the focus off of coordinating everything and doing it all just right, and instead helped to hone in on adjusting just one part of a skill and working specifically on that. This was an excellent way to overcome repeating the same faulty skill with frustration, and instead work on making even a small improvement or change.

Real life meaning: I’ve heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Even if we add more enthusiasm and desire to a method that hasn’t worked, it is unlikely that it will work just because we’re trying harder. A better method is to re-work that fervor into a new plan to avoid wasting time, resources, and energy on an action that just isn’t delivering the effects we want. Trying a new approach certainly won’t make anything worse, and it might even make things better in ways we never expected!

  1. Better every ball.

Volleyball meaning: In volleyball, it is very common that teammates make mistakes and by the time the ball is yours to play, it is not ideal. There might be a weird spin on the ball, or it might be in a position on the court that’s difficult to finagle into a competitive play. This is incredibly common and happens frequently. Here’s the deal, though – just because you were left with less-than-perfect conditions under which to play the ball, you can’t cop out. If you do, it ends in blame that is destructive to a team mentality. No matter what, you have to do the best with what you have. And sometimes, those plays can be the most effective because the other team doesn’t see them coming!

Real life meaning: Whatever hand you’re dealt, it is critical that you do your best with it. We’re all going to catch tough breaks; that’s just a fact. And they’ll be hard and frustrating and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably cried. But we have choices. We can just blame the circumstances for our mediocrity, or we can put in work that we’re actually proud of, and maybe find more success than we would have had if things had gone the way we wanted!

 

What lessons have you learned from your sport that you have carried with you throughout your life? Please share in the comments section below!

“Re-challenging and Reintroducing FODMAPs” by Lee Martin, MSc, RD

This review was originally published on Nutrition411.com.

About the Book fodmapcover_resized
The book,  Re-challenging and Reintroducing FODMAPs: A self-help guide to the entire reintroduction phase of the low FODMAP diet, guides readers through the tricky re-introduction phase of the low FODMAP diet. The author, Lee Martin, MSc, RD, writes from a perspective of having completed the diet himself as well as researched the low
FODMAP diet extensively at King’s College London. The book is divided into two sections, the first being the re-challenging phase to determine which FODMAP-containing foods and in which quantities are likely to trigger symptoms, and the second being the reintroduction phase to work tolerated FODMAP foods back into the usual diet. Charts, tables, and flow charts that describe the process and FODMAPs found in foods are included to enhance the narrative.

Dietitian’s Review 
While the low FODMAP diet is relatively new, it is gaining traction and renown as a method to manage symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, due to the youthful nature of this diet, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the diet and just how to go about it. While eliminating FODMAPs from the diet is straightforward (albeit difficult), the re-challenging and reintroduction phases can be unclear and tough for patients and clients to understand. This book does an excellent job of specifically targeting those trying phases of adjusting to an individualized, IBS-friendly diet.

Lee Martin, MSc, RD, provides an excellent, concise book full of structured guidance. The content is well-balanced with easy-to-understand tables and flowcharts. Practical suggestions for applying the information are discussed in the book as well, effectively bridging the gap between research and pragmatism. Not only does the book explain the scientific aspects of FODMAP re-challenging and reintroduction, the mental component is addressed when the author suggests investigating whether symptoms following consumption of FODMAP-containing food are related to the food itself or the thought of the food. The disclaimer explains that the book is based on current research and clinical practices at the time of publication in October 2015; however, no references to research papers are provided.

This book is one which I will highly recommend to patients and clients who have IBS and plan to follow a low FODMAP diet. I would, however, encourage those following the advice in this book to obtain a food scale, as the serving sizes of some foods are listed by weight versus volume. Additionally, I would suggest that readers read the entire book first so that they have a clear idea of the process before embarking. As brevity and clarity are strong suits of this book, reading it in its entirety is a quick task.

This thorough guide is available in paperback on  Amazon for $17.99 or on Kindle for $7.65.

Adventures in Cooking: A Dietitian’s Discoveries in the Kitchen

Y’all, I’m not a cooking dietitian.

Whew! Glad that’s off my chest.

Really, though. There are MANY dietitians who are great and cooking and passionate about cooking. In fact, a love of cooking is often cited as an attraction to entering the field of dietetics and nutrition. However, cooking has never been my strong suit or something I really enjoyed very much. I always fumbled a bit when patients and clients asked me for cooking tips because I had none.

Recently, however, I have made a point of learning more about how to cook. In addition to my inability to advise others, I am motivated by my own lack of interest and inspiration in the few meals I am capable of preparing for myself. I want to eat veggies in some for other than raw or steamed (because those are the easiest ways to avoid cooking). I want to eat new and different things. I want to create and I want to learn!

I’ve begun my adventure of discovery with meal prep. This way, I only cook once at the beginning of the week, and I usually don’t have to cook again until the next week. (I have yet to overcome my lack of desire to actually cook frequently.) In just a few weeks of consistently doing meal prep, there are a few lessons I’ve learned that have really opened doors for me!

img_1030-copy

  1. I’m not the first person to try (or struggle!) with meal prep!

It seems obvious, I know; but to be honest, I felt sort of alone and anomalous among dietitians as someone who would rather hand over the knife and spatula than wield them herself. Simple internet searches, though, revealed so many resources from dietitians who LOVE meal prep and are totally willing to share their favorite tips and tricks! It also helps to remember that what I do doesn’t have to match anyone else – I can use the hacks I find most useful.

  1. A new recipe is only new once.

I find myself intimidated by new recipes. It only just dawned on me recently that a recipe is the hardest to make the first time. The initial making of a recipe takes F O R E V E R and it’s uncomfortable because I don’t really have the flow of the thing. I’ve realized, though, that all subsequent preparations of that same recipe are much easier. This “First Time Challenge” is why I…

  1. Pair one new recipe with one familiar recipe.

It’s much easier to [relatively] efficiently cook my lunch and dinner entrées for the week at the same time if I am comfortable with at least one of the two recipes. This way, I can build my recipe repertoire but cut down on the amount of intimidation and overwhelm I feel about doing my meal prep.

  1. Make YUMMY foods!

Duh. Why wouldn’t you?! Well, I didn’t. I made a whole week’s worth of salad-in-a-jar that I wasn’t even excited about at the outset. I was impressed by the nutrition in the recipe, it called for ingredients with which I was very familiar, and it seemed like something I ‘should’ like, so I made it even though I didn’t really want it. And you know what? I didn’t really care for it. It’s pretty disheartening to put in the time to do meal prep and not even like the results. I’ve since found more salad-in-a-jar recipes that seem more challenging but that actually sound good to me, so I’m going to be trying those instead!

  1. Convenience can be well worth the cost.

I had a thought at first that I wasn’t doing meal prep “right” unless I made everything from scratch. It seemed like the most foodie/cooking-dietitian way to do it. Maybe someday I will do everything from scratch, but it isn’t likely. For me, it’s worth it to use a pre-made pie crust for quiche, or to use frozen chopped spinach instead of buying fresh and chopping and cooking it myself.

  1. Lastly…

I’ve learned that my week is SO much easier when I don’t have to worry every night about what lunch will be the next day (or, let’s be honest, every morning when I’m getting ready for work). I’m learning as I go, and the most important part is that I’m DOING it and setting myself up for a nutritious week!

Have you learned any tips, tricks, or hacks for meal prep? Please share them along with your favorite make-ahead meals in the comments!

“The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions” by Julie Upton & Katherine Brooking

The Real Skinny cover

This review was originally published on Nutrition411.com.

About the Book

Penned by Appetite for Health’s founders and dietitian bloggers, The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions provides practical tips and explanations to combat common nutrition roadblocks and misconceptions. From a collection of information about quantities of ingredients are needed for various prepared volumes, to a list of treats that yield 80-120 calories, the focus of this book is to provide suggestions for small changes that can be easily incorporated for big long-term results.

Backed by research, Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, and Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, exhibit their experience in providing easily-applicable tricks to make positive changes for good nutrition and physical activity an integral part of anyone’s lifestyle. To that end, the book includes nutritious recipes for all meals to help those who are faced with the seemingly ever-present question, “What should I cook?”

Dietitian’s Review
The Real Skinny is a valuable book in that it teaches about the “doing” side of nutrition instead of just the “knowing” side. As a dietitian, I regularly talk with patients who say, “I know what I need to do, I just don’t do it.” This book is packed with handy suggestions to integrate good nutrition and physical activity into daily life. Rather than providing a diet with rules and labels of “good” and “bad,” lifestyle guidelines are the key component of The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions , which are categorized into different chapters making it easy for readers to find those particular habits with which they struggle, and the “slim solution” that immediately follows. The book is a quick and easy read with a tone that encourages and motivates the reader.

Then & Now: What It Means to be an Athlete

Then & NowAs I basked in the afterglow of a recent workout, I found myself reflecting on why exercise matters to me and what it really means to me.

I love to feel like an athlete. Several words help illustrate what my perception of an athlete:

Strong

Capable

Determined

Hardworking

Sweaty!

The more I thought about it, the realization dawned on me that I have always sought these feelings through exercise. As a tri-sport athlete in a small-town high school (I participated in volleyball, basketball, and track & field annually), I got my fill of feeling like an athlete through sports. As an adult, I have much less directed or structured athletic endeavors.

From the time I was in high school sports to adulthood, my drivers to reach that feeling of athleticism have changed substantially.

 

Competition with Others vs. Competition with Myself

In high school sports, being an athlete was very much geared toward being a better athlete than my competitors from other schools. I needed to be more than another person – more strong, more capable, just more. Now, I don’t much care where anyone else’s fitness skills are in relation to mine; if I can compete with myself and improve myself and my own fitness compared to where I was yesterday or last week or last year, I’m winning!

 

Stats vs. Health

In order to determine which of two people the better athlete is, sports statistics are used: race times, distances thrown, shots scored, wins/losses, etc. These days, I’m only comparing my statistics to my prior statistics. For me, fitness indicators include running pace, frequency of exercising, and pounds on the bench press bar. A few other numbers have been thrown into the mix, too – mainly, blood labs such as cholesterol and blood sugar that let us know if our bodies are healthy on the inside.

 

What I Can’t Do vs. What I Can Do

In competing with other athletes, it is important to find deficits and correct them to become a better contender. This results in more of a focus on can’t rather than can. For example, “I can’t consistently shoot free throws,” or “I can’t swim as fast as my competitor,” or “I can’t hit through that blocker.” When I compete only with myself, I get to focus on what I can do. Lately, my list includes, “I can run faster than before” and “I can lift more weight than last month” and “I can hold downward dog without wondering when the yoga instructor will let us change positions.” (That last one is a pretty fantastic accomplishment for me!)

 

Don’t get me wrong – sports are great! This simply reflects how my perspective on athleticism has changed over time

Whatever your reasons may be for seeking your version of athleticism, know that those are great and keep fueling that spark!