Find the Strength

Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month

I recently learned May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system, specifically the pancreas, with build-up of abnormally thick mucus. Because of this build-up, CF patients are prone to multiple and severe lung infections, as well as the inability to properly digest and absorb nutrients from food.

Well, a close family friend, Jamina “Lil’ J” Winston, has CF and in January, had a terrifying experience while visiting New York City. I received a frantic call from my sister saying she was flying out to NYC and let me know Jamina was in the hospital and it didn’t look good. I am about 2.5 hours away from the city, so I told my bosses that I would likely be disappearing for a few days (I am very lucky to have the supportive network here that I do).

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides Walk 2009. My sister is the pink one (fundraiser) with Jamina kneeling just behind her left shoulder.


After a few scares and crashes, Jamina was able to communicate via notepad (she was on a ventilator and unable to talk). Even though she had been close to death for a week, down to 65 pounds, and filled with tubes, she was still able to crack jokes and (silently) laugh while I was with her. Amazingly, her sense of sarcasm was still evident in her writing and body language. To illustrate just how amazing of a person she is, Breaking Muscle had an article on Jamina and her battle to continue swimming with CF.

Lil’ J in her full hospital get up, yet still chipper.

Now time for the good news. This past weekend, Jamina received a double lung transplant and within 24 hours, she was off the ventilator, sitting up in her chair, and able to walk. This is an exciting, but expensive, development for Lil’ J, as her main caregiver (her mother) had to leave her job to move closer to the Duke medical facilities (one of the top CF/lung transplant facilities in the country).

I believe we will find an answer for cystic fibrosis in my lifetime, however this will not happen without increased awareness throughout the public. Please take the time to visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website and Jamina’s fundraising site to help cover medical expenses, and help spread the information available. I am not asking for anything more than your time to learn more about this disease. Everyone has a cause they fight for, and this is mine.

If you are able to help support Jamina and her medical expenses, please visit her donation page here. If you would like to donate to the CF Foundation, you can contribute to the 2013 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Walk. Please share this post with family, friends, coworkers, and as many people as you feel would be interested in learning about it. I appreciate your time and interest in this matter.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

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Use Competitions to Drive Your Athletes

I was asked an excellent question last week – “How do you get lazy athletes to work hard during training?” What I usually rely on is his or her teammates to provide the motivation, and the best way I’ve found to do that is with competitions, especially during conditioning.  Here are a couple team-based competitions to put your athletes through if you’re noticing a drop in effort.

Timed Sprints

You aren’t timing their speed, but you give them a time limit. One good example is 30 yard (or 25, depending on the speed of your athletes) sprint they have 5 seconds to complete. After a short rest, 10-20 seconds, they sprint back, needing to beat the clock again. It’s really easy and efficient to have the rest be either 10 or 15 seconds, so you can have a stopwatch handy and have them start on the :15 or :20 mark. Keep doing this until only one or a few are remaining, declare them the winners, and have the losers do the real conditioning. Oh yeah, that part isn’t their actual conditioning, it’s the work they need to do to get them out of it. Make sure to schedule this with something all the athletes know and hate so they’ll put forth a good effort in the beginning. Whether you follow through with the planned conditioning after is up to you (and whether you’re pleased with the effort you see in your athletes).

A few variations:

  • Have a designated number of reps (let’s say 8) they need to complete in the given time to be done, otherwise they have to do the full amount (let’s say 12-15). Those who don’t finish the first 8 in time don’t sit out and run later, they keep running with their teammates, only with shorter rest periods. So in the above example, if an athlete is taking 7 seconds to complete the sprint, and need to go again on the :20 mark, they get 13 seconds of rest. Anyone who has done this before will know those extra two seconds mean a lifetime.
  • Split the team up into two groups, and for each round completed, the player gets a point for his/her team. So if there are two groups of five, they all make the first five rounds, the score is 25-25. It gets interesting when players start dropping off, whatever team has the highest score after the last man standing wins and is excused from conditioning. It can be really amazing to see one athlete left running by himself, trying to pull his teammates out of a deficit to help them avoid conditioning (essentially running it for them). It’s rare to see (because usually the team with the most left at the end finish off the other, and most athletes get tired and pissed at their teammates for quitting early), but it can be a great team experience.


These can be as simple as Prowler sled relays or more complex involving a handful of exercises with each athlete having his or her own responsibility to the team. If you’re looking to mix it up with a few exercises, and have them at your disposal, I’ve found these usually work pretty well.

  • Sled Drives
  • Hex Bar Deadlift
  • Goblet Squats
  • Push Ups
  • TRX Rows
  • Chin Ups
  • Box Jumps
  • Bear Crawl
  • Tire Flips
  • Farmers Walks

If your athletes are lacking motivation or effort, appeal to their inner competitor to get things back up to par. It may not work all the time, but having half your teammates yelling and screaming for you to go harder usually works better than any coaching tool.

Let me know if you have any other combinations or useful tips you use with your athletes. If there’s ever anything I can do to help out you or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES

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Find the Strength

“Give me forty minutes of effort, that’s all I’m asking for.”
This was what I recently asked of from one of my basketball players before his workout. I knew he was elsewhere mentally (focus and work ethic weren’t high on his list), but I also knew he needed to get his work done or else his head coach would sit him without hesitation. This kid is talented (I mean big time, could be playing on ESPN in two years talented), but as the saying goes, “Nothing is more common than unfulfilled potential.”
Some people get it, but unfortunately many don’t. Once you’ve grown accustomed to getting by on natural ability, it can be hard to swallow that you have to WORK to advance. It may be cliché, but it’s true that nothing worth having comes easy. This isn’t limited to sports or athletes either. Hell, I want to become the best professional I possibly can, and in my efforts lose out on several small joys – TV, movies, going out every weekend, etc – so I can bury my face in a book or research journal. At times, it’s awful and I question whether I truly want to succeed that badly or if it’s worth it. After all, above average is still pretty good, right? Why not settle for that? It’ll free up an hour or two a day that I can spend vegging out in front of the TV or going out for a drink. Why not?
It’s simple – because anyone can do that. Anyone can say, “This is too much…I don’t feel like it” or any of a million other excuses. It takes strength and determination to deny those voices in your head and do what must be done. Two thoughts enter my mind whenever I am exhausted and question whether I really want to finish this workout or that chapter.
Find the Strength
Pretty simple really. Find the strength to do what’s necessary, when it must be done, and the best way possible. Dan John made a great point in his book Never Let Go, many recovering addicts (or anyone attempting to make a life change) face a challenge as a whole and get overwhelmed. Break it down to small pieces and, as cheesy as it sounds, take it a day at a time. Dan summed it up best by basically saying – “tomorrow I’ll break from my new routine and go back to my old habits, but not today” (I say basically because I forgot the exact wording and couldn’t find the page with it). Give in tomorrow, but not today. Find the strength to get through today, and when tomorrow comes, find the strength again.
Average is Below Me
This may come across as egotistical, but I believe that if I am merely average in what I do, I’ve failed. I hold myself to higher standards than that and except the same from all of my athletes. If you settle for average, then you aren’t worth my time to train. If I settle for average, I’m not worth your money to pay for my services. Anybody can do average, bust your ass and do something special.
This isn’t to say that every workout has to be a record breaker to be a success, or that I believe I am perfect in any way (far from it, in fact), but rather the focus should be to strive for excellence instead of settling for mediocrity. Some days, the absolute best you have to give will be less than ideal (sick, stressed over work or loved ones, sleep deprived, etc), but still get everything you can from that day under those conditions. With the athlete I mentioned above, that was not the case. He was being lazy and didn’t want to work. There is nothing more frustrating in this field than watching a young talent blow an opportunity because he or she failed to put in the effort. On the flip side, there is nothing more rewarding to me as a coach than to see one of my less genetically gifted athletes take their lazy counterparts opportunities after busting their ass. It’s the difference between recognizing that doors close and expecting them to be held open indefinitely.
I can’t tell you whether that basketball player will ever figure it out and recognize his potential – only time will tell – but I can tell you that for forty minutes, I had his attention and effort and got every bit out of him that I could. If athletes can take anything from this, it’s two thoughts – 1) It doesn’t take any skill to work hard, and 2) Just because you’re not at 100% doesn’t mean you can’t give every ounce of effort you do have.
If I can ever do anything for you, your athletes, or your program, please don’t hesitate to contact me at anytime.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
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