A Day in the Life of an Athlete

What’s it like to be a Team Canada athlete day-to-day? Social media feeds show a lot of the glamorous travel, action shots, and photo shoots from competitions and media articles, but sometimes you don’t get to see what happens behind the scenes to get there. I mean, that’s not the whole story, it’s just a part of it.

It’s kind of like a production – theatre or the movies – you get to see the show, but you don’t see what’s going on behind the curtain; the painstaking hours of rehearsal, learning lines, and perfecting the performance. What do Team Canada athletes really do behind the scenes to get them to the podium? In wrestling we like to use the term “the daily grind” to describe this. It’s all the stuff you have to do when people aren’t watching, the disciplined action that only you can hold yourself accountable for that doesn’t usually get praised. So, I’ve decided to pull back that curtain for a day!

That’s right – I’m going to let you in on what an average day looks like for me. Every athlete is a little different, but we’ve all got to do our strength and conditioning, eat right, practice, and recover. Tomorrow (Monday May 8th) I’m going to be posting my day on my Instagram story! So, if you have an Instagram account, you can follow @Sam_Stewart53 to check it out! Here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come tomorrow:

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Follow along from when I wake up to the time my day is done! The pictures and videos will stay up on my story for 24hrs so you don’t miss anything 🙂 I’ll be posting parts of my workouts with tips on how you can get involved and try them too! I’ll be posting some of my meals and some of the recipes. Also, I’ll be posting about some self-care and recovery practices that are just as important as the work you’re doing in the gym!

I’ll also be posting a picture on my Instagram feed announcing this, so if you have any questions and/or comments for me you can make a comment on that post and I will answer them as soon as I can!! I look forward to talking to you all tomorrow!! ❤

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Getting Involved and Giving Back

Being an international level athlete is super exciting and I’ve had the opportunity to travel and see a lot of the world while doing it. Often times people will say that they are jealous or that they should have joined wrestling, but they feel that they missed their chance or that it’s beyond their ability. I’m here to tell you it might not be too late!

Okay, it may be too late for you to learn how to wrestle and get yourself into the competitive shape that is required to compete at that level. BUT! It’s not too late for you to get involved. There are a couple great ways to get involved in sport that don’t require painstaking hours of training and physical prowess – officiating and coaching!! These are also two great ways to give back to the sport of wrestling after you’ve retired, and I’ll come back to that point in a bit. Here’s how you too can travel the world through involvement in sport:

First, officiating!

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Officiating is a great way to get involved in sport, especially in wrestling. We’re always looking for more officials. Becoming a referee in the sport of wrestling only requires knowledge of the rules to get you started. Although a prior knowledge of the sport is useful, it’s definitely not mandatory! You don’t need ANY prior knowledge of wrestling to get started, you can learn everything you need to know from the courses and training. There is an officials’ association for each province which are all under the umbrella of the Canadian Association of Wrestling Officials (CAWO). You can follow this link to check out more info on that, the rule book, and who to contact:

https://wrestling.ca/officials/canadian-association-of-wrestling-officials-cawo

Officials can work their way up from beginning levels to become one of our most advanced officials who get to travel with Team Canada to international events. You start out at the provincial level learning and improving through experience and mentoring from more experienced officials. As you become more confident and skilled you get graded on how well you are performing. Through this you can become a national level official. All it takes is dedication and through steady improvement you too could be travelling the world with Team Canada! You have to spend a few days on the mats officiating; but, you get to see the world, meet new friends, and have all sorts of unique and memorable experiences 🙂 For my New Brunswick readers, if this sounds appealing, get in touch with Lutte New Brunswick Wrestling’s Executive Director Tom MacRae (exec@luttenbwrestling.com) or check out our Provincial Sport Organization’s website: LutteNBWrestling.com for more information.

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Officiating can be a lot of fun and it’s a great way to give back to the sport even if you are currently still an athlete. For those who have retired from the sport, this is a great way to stay involved. Myself and a few of my teammates in the Black Bears Wrestling Club referee at high school and middle school tournaments throughout the year. High school wrestlers can even get involved in officiating for the elementary and middle school season which takes place just after the high school season finishes. For me this is a great way to give back to the sport and help out at other age groups. I also have the chance to watch our younger wrestlers in the province compete and improve. It’s an awesome way to see our sport grow in the province and be a be a part of that development.

Second way you can get involved, coaching.

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Coaching the sport of wrestling requires a bit more prior knowledge of the sport than officiating does to begin with; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t still get involved in coaching if you don’t have a wrestling background. The coaching education programs for wrestling in Canada are great for teaching you about the sport and about how to be a great coach! More coaches are always welcome and needed at all age groups and levels of competition. Athletes can begin competing internationally at a young age in wrestling and getting involved in coaching can create opportunities for you and your athletes to travel the world for training camps and competitions. Just like officiating there is a provincial coaches association which falls under the Canadian coaches’ association. You can find out more about that here:

https://wrestling.ca/coaches/coach-training

And you can also look up how to become certified as a multi-sport coach through the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). Once you have your multi-sport training completed you can look to become certified in your specific sport. Each National Sport Organisation (NSO) has its own coaching certification through NCCP to make sure its coaches are trained specifically for how to plan practices, teach technique, how to plan out a season, and so much more! Also like officiating, you can work your way up through the rankings by taking more education courses and being mentored by more experienced coaches. You can coach provincially at a club or at a middle or high school in your area. For the New Brunswick readers, check out the coaching section of LutteNBWrestling.com or contact Tom for more info. If you’re not from NB, you can check out the Wrestling Canada Lutte website by following that link a few sentences back, and there is information on each province’s Provincial Sport Organisation (PSO) website. Once you have enough experience you can apply to be a coach on an international tour. This requires a lot of knowledge and experience, but with a passion for coaching and a dedication to becoming one of the best coaches in Canada, you can be selected as a member of the Team Canada coaching staff for an international tournament.

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Fellow wrestlers, helping coach at a younger age group is a great way to give back to the sport and help with its growth and development 🙂 Just like officiating, coaching is also a way for retired athletes to stay involved in the sport and help with the development of the next generation of athletes! I do not coach a specific team, but I do help with development camps and Learn-2-Wrestle clinics within the province of New Brunswick. This is a great way for me to meet all of our young up-and-coming wrestlers. I love coming to camps and seeing many eager young athletes ready to learn and improve themselves. I love being a part of that and helping our sport grow in my own little way. This weekend I was in Rexton, New Brunswick at a Learn-2-Wrestle clinic for the Novice, Kids, and Bantam age categories. I got to show some technique to beginner wrestlers and interacting with these kids is very rewarding. After the technique session they took part in a competition and the best part of my day was watching how these kids applied the technique that I taught them in their tournament. It’s great to watch the kids in our sport learn and improve and I felt very proud watching them apply what they just learned.

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So there you have it, a short snippet of information on how you too can travel the world through wrestling. I hope this helps inspire you to get involved and maybe I’ll see you in the future when we’re a part of Team Canada together 🙂

The Struggle Is Real

Battling back from injury is probably the most universal athlete experience. What athlete, regardless of sport, location, ability level, age, or gender, hasn’t suffered at least a minor setback because of a physical ailment? Still, there’s something about it that can feel so isolating. This may be exacerbated because I’m both an individual sport athlete and because of the timing of the injury, it’s our post-nationals lull after all. Despite knowing this, I feel like it should somehow feel different. I haven’t been given this much space to just “relax and let it heal”. It feels weird. It’s not intuitive. Usually it’s a ‘jump back on the horse and keep training for the next big thing’ and there’s a coordinated effort from everyone, the doctor, the physiotherapist, my strength and conditioning coach, the massage therapist, my training partners, and my wrestling coach, to get me back in top form as quickly as possible. Being given this much time and space feels kind of lonely. It’s also extremely frustrating. I’ve spent the last month trying to recover from this injury and it sucks!

There’s no point sugar coating it… I feel like, as athletes, we take advantage of how well our bodies move when we’re healthy. Introduce an injury and all that goes out the window; but, introduce a lower body, mobility inhibiting injury and my world feels like it’s fallen apart. I hurt my elbow in Sweden, a month away from nationals. It wasn’t fun and it hurt a lot, it altered my training a great deal, but I was still able to go about my routine with minimal disruption. My team and support staff were awesome and I came back from it quickly. The healing time was supposed to be 4-6 weeks and I was on the lowest end of that projection, my elbow didn’t even hurt when I was competing at nationals. It helped that I could still run, lift weights (with modifications), and wrestle during my rehab time. Arm injuries seem easier to cope with.

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At nationals I hurt my knee. An LCL-ligament strain and a sprained – possibly subluxed – fibular head. Now, those are non-weight-bearing injuries, so I could still walk but that was about all I could do. I spent the first week doing my regularly scheduled lazing around and eating all the food I never get to eat. Yeah my knee hurt in certain positions but it didn’t get too much in the way of my Netflix binge watching and marathon pizza eating. I would have taken this break regardless of injury. It was a week to just chill and recuperate having just peaked for the biggest tournament of our domestic season. Then came week two… I had enough of couch surfing and was ready to get moving again. That was short-lived as I saw the doctor and physiotherapist and received the “relax and let it heal” prescription from everyone. As someone who is very active and used to being extremely busy and on-the-go, this was really challenging. I decided to spend week two listening to my health care professionals, but I found myself restless and irritable. After what seemed like two weeks of nothingness, I couldn’t stand it anymore. If there was no wrestling and I couldn’t lift weights I could at least try to do yoga! So at the end of week two that’s what I did. I took solace in being able to get a great workout with Amy downtown at Yogagrow. It was a relief to be back to doing something that made me sweat and my muscles work! Despite not being able to do pigeon pose, I was having a great time. After a few classes I was thinking, “this isn’t so bad, I can move pretty well. I think I’ll try to get back in the gym”. I thought, this is great, I’m slowly easing back into a normal routine. In week three I tried to take on yoga classes and my reintroduction to the gym. My body was like, “nah! This isn’t the rest and relax we were supposed to do!” and I experienced some more debilitating pain reminding me that I should be taking things easy. So I did. The latter half of week three and all of week four has been spent sitting around on my butt twiddling my thumbs and it has been a test in patience. I think I’ve had enough rest. It’s been a month and I think it’s time to jump back on the horse and start training for the next big thing. My mind is definitely eager to get back, I hope my body is just as ready.

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Thank you YogaGrow

YogaGrow is a beautiful yoga studio downtown Fredericton, New Brunswick. The space is warm and filled with light, with exposed brick walls, and an inviting atmosphere that is relaxing and comforting. It is the perfect space to practice yoga. On top of that, owner and instructor Amy Murphy is full of knowledge and passion. She creates balanced, fulfilling, challenging, and thoughtful sequences and no two classes are the same! Climb the stairs up to the second floor studio and you are greeted with a welcoming smile and enthusiasm for the upcoming class.

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I first reached out to Amy about a month ago. I have wanted to incorporate yoga practice into my training for a while, but I had never quite found the right fit. I had a little experience from taking a few private classes with the Black Bears Wrestling Club, but I wanted something more consistent  and frequent. So, I decided to fully commit to finding my right fit and seeking out something that would be beneficial to my training. I was doing research on what was out there and I came across YogaGrow’s website. I started reading about the studio and about Amy and I was so inspired! She is so passionate about movement and physical activity and through travelling the world she has learned so much and been able to soak up the beauty of nature and the world around her. She brought all of that back with her to Fredericton and opened her studio in 2014, and it has been growing ever since. I knew right away that this wasn’t like any other yoga studio out there, and I wanted to meet Amy, so I sent her a message and she got back to me right away. We met for coffee and clicked immediately. I told her all about my wrestling and my goals and where I thought some of my weaknesses were. She knew exactly how a lot of the movements and the strength and flexibility could help develop a more well-rounded athlete and translate into better performance.  I could see the intensity and enthusiasm and I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I have a lot of different coaches who are all experts in their respective fields and Amy has become my yoga and movement coach.

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I started going to some targeted classes a couple of weeks ago and it has been an awesome experience! It has also been a huge learning curve so far and I have seen some short-term gains, but I can’t wait to see the long-term changes in my body. The very first class I took, my arms were on fire! They were shaking and full of heat from using them in a way I hadn’t before. This was so exciting for me because I knew I had found something that was going to challenge and change me. After all, an area of weakness is merely an area with the opportunity to grow and improve. The next night I came in for an advanced strength class and I felt the burning and shakiness in my legs. I had not worked them in that particular way before and my endurance was definitely being tested. Strength and muscular endurance in the arms and legs are extremely important in wrestling, especially for maintaining a stance and hand fighting. Yoga has offered a different and unique way of training those areas. I think every athlete could benefit from the unique style of training that yoga offers. Yoga is more than just relaxation and flexibility; it is targeted strength, endurance, concentration, balance, and body awareness. I think those are all areas that translate to any athlete across all sports. If you are in the Fredericton and surrounding area and are looking for a new and exciting challenge I would highly recommend coming to see Amy at YogaGrow! There are a number of classes that focus on different things, a number of other talented instructors, and no two classes are ever the same! Check out the website at: http://www.yogagrowfredericton.com/

And here is a photo of Amy rockin’ it!

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Thank you Synergy Training Center

Synergy Training Center is an awesome facility with super knowledgeable and enthusiastic coaches, but for me it’s more than just that. Synergy is a community of wonderful and supportive people who are all motivated to push themselves to reach their fitness goals and be the best versions of themselves; it’s a family. I want to thank everyone at Synergy for being so supportive of me and making the gym more than a room full of weights. I look forward to coming in and seeing everyone in the morning; and even though I’m there to work, it makes the work way more enjoyable when you can share it with such great people. I want to tell you my story of my relationship with Synergy Training Center and my coach Chris:

I first reached out to owner and head strength and conditioning coach, Chris Schnare, in the fall of 2014 . I had only met Chris once through my former strength and conditioning coach, Kevin Roy. The Black Bears Wrestling Club was working with Kevin since I first began with the team in 2009, and when Kevin moved out to Alberta I was trying to find something to replace what I had lost. See, the great thing about Kevin was that he was passionate about what he did and he cared about his athletes. He would come to our practices and he even travelled to watch us compete at a couple of our tournaments. To better understand wrestling, he even came and learned about some of our  techniques and movement patterns so he could better program our strength training to compliment what we do at practice. Training with Kevin was also so personalized. He knew what my goals were and designed programs for what those goals were. Kevin would even coordinate his own workout at the same time as mine, so I could have one-on-one coaching. When he left, I tried to continue on training at the gym on campus but it wasn’t the same – I didn’t have someone designing my individualized program and no hands on coaching which made training difficult for me. So, I did the only thing I could think to do and I sent Chris a message asking for a meeting. He gladly met with me and we connected right away! Chris is so full of energy and so passionate about what he does and I loved that immediately. I found out that Chris used to wrestle and that he had experience training combative sport athletes and he really sold me on the community experience that is Synergy Training Center.

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I couldn’t wait to get started and Chris started my intro and programming right away. I loved the workouts and they reminded me so much of what I used to do with Kevin; this was because Kevin and Chris used to work so closely together when Kevin used to coach at Synergy. I felt like I was back on track again. Chris is so great about working with me on my goals and working my training phases to compliment what I’m doing on the mats. I didn’t even notice it myself, but after a few months of training at Synergy by body started changing. I started getting a lot more lean, powerful, and muscular. My wrestling coaches and teammates started commenting on these changes and wanted to know what my secret was. The strength and conditioning I was doing with Chris directly enhanced my performance in wrestling and everyone was noticing these improvements. My wrestling coach started talking with Chris and soon targeted athletes on our team began working out at Synergy too. I had helped create a great new partnership and my teammates and training partners were going to benefit from the same changes I had. This also helped grow the sense of community I felt at Synergy, being surrounded by my friends.

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The 2015/16 season was really huge for me. I won Olympic Trials and was the Olympic alternate for Rio, I won my first Senior National Championships title, and I became a Pan-American Champion. Chris has been so supportive of me and follows all of my results. He rewarded my success with putting one of my singlets up in a shadow box in the gym. After my medal at the FISU World University Championships this past fall he even got a banner made of me and my training Allyssa, who also medalled at the world championships, which is also hung up in the training space.

The gym feels like a second home for me. Anyone in the Fredericton and surrounding area looking to improve their fitness should definitely check Synergy out. All of the coaches are fantastic and they each have their unique coaching styles and areas of expertise no matter what your fitness level and what you may be interested in. There are a number of elite level athletes from a number of sports like rugby, basketball, volleyball, and track and field to name a few. Christina Coulombe works with a lot of fitness and bodybuilding competitors. Jason Rudy works with powerlifters. Trevor Pardy has a lot of experience in Olympic lifting. And all of the coaches work with community members who just want to get stronger and move more efficiently as well. No matter what your goals or fitness level, Synergy has so many passionate and knowledgeable people making it a great place to train. Here is a link to their website: http://synergytc.ca/

Thank you again Chris, and everyone at Synergy, for being so supportive of me!

Updates and Post-Nationals Reflections

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted an update on my training and competition results. The Canadian Senior National Championships were last weekend in St. Catherine’s, Ontario marking the conclusion of the 2016/17 domestic season. I figured now was as good a time as any for some reflection and a wrap up on the last three months.

Since my last post I have been to the Paris Grand Prix in France, the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden, and the Senior National Championships in St. Catherine’s. The great news was that I was in a medal match at all three of those tournaments! Unfortunately, I was on the losing end of those final matches. I won a silver medal in France, I was 5th in Sweden, and I came away with a silver medal last weekend. The last three months have been very busy and filled with challenges – I was sick which affected my training, I had to overcome an injury to compete at Nationals, and I’m finishing the last course of my Masters degree. I’ve met all of these challenges head on and performed despite them and I earned a well-deserved and much needed break! I took this week off everything! No weights, no running, no practice, no diet – just rest and relaxation 🙂

I am a little disappointed about the final result from Nationals, but I am still proud of how I wrestled overall. I think I performed very well and I have identified some growing points and areas that need improvement. I will definitely be sure to work on those areas as soon as I am back on the mats. I want to be constantly evolving and bettering myself as an athlete and a wrestler. There is always something to learn from tournaments, training camps, and daily practice; Nationals was no different.

Some great news moving forward – I will be competing at the Jeux de la Francophonie in Ivory Coast this July! I look forward to getting back on the mats and training for that. I have just started working with a dietitian, Kristin Brown, who will be helping me transform my diet into something that will better fuel my performance and optimize my recovery. I have always had a healthy diet, but thankfully Kristin is well-versed in the science behind nutrition and she knows what my goals are and how we can achieve them together! I’m very much looking forward to reaping the benefits of that 🙂 Another awesome update is that I will be working with Amy Murphy at YogaGrow! Amy is super passionate about movement and physical activity and is going to be helping me strengthen my muscular endurance and increase flexibility through yoga practice. I am super excited to be working with her and she brings so much knowledge from her background as an athlete, a former massage therapist, and years of yoga practice.

One of the things I have been focused on this year is securing sponsors to help me on my journey toward Tokyo 2020. I have some great supporters in my corner and I want to highlight them and give them due diligence! I have decided that the month of April is going to be devoted to thanking them! I am going to dedicate a blog post per week to one of my supporters, putting them in the spotlight and highlighting how they have helped me! So, stay tuned for my first Supporter Highlight post next week on Synergy Training Center 🙂

World Rankings, Paris Prep, and Other Exciting News

Last week United World Wrestling (UWW) published their Women’s World Rankings to start off 2017. I’ve shared the news all over social media and I am proud to say that I am ranked 13th in the 53kg weightclass. I was formerly ranked at the 55kg weightclass, but I’m happy to be ranked at the Olympic weight (55kg for women is eligible to compete at the World Championships, but not the Olympics whereas 53kg is eligible to compete at both the World Championships and the Olympics). It is definitely a great way to start 2017. I don’t normally put a lot of weight or importance on rankings because they can be subjective, but there is no doubt that the 20 named to the list in each weightclass are all talented athletes and the best wrestlers in the world. I do want to climb my way to the top of that list and it serves to show me who my top competitors are. Those are the matches I want to have this year. I want to wrestle the best in the world; because in order to be the best, one must beat the best. I also want to congratulate my teammate, Allyssa Cleaves, who made her rankings debut in the 48kg weightclass. Her hard work and dedication to this sport shows in her results and now she is officially being recognized as one of the best in the world. 

Speaking of the matches I want to have: I am officially booked to go to Paris! Allyssa and I depart on the 25th of January and compete on Saturday January 28th. I will definitely post updates and if there is a webstream or live results page it will be shared on my Facebook page and Twitter. Training for the Paris Grand Prix is going very well. I’m feeling strong in the gym and practices have been very focused and productive. We wrestled matches on Monday and, despite my legs being a little tired from that morning’s squats, they went very well. I was moving well and scoring on the moves we have been drilling since we came back from the break. I’m excited to put this altogether in France at the end of the month. 

I have more exciting news to share in the coming weeks so watch out on social media for the official announcements! That’s all for now 🙂