When someone mentions their dedication to triathlon one immediately notices a mixture of awe and wonder. This is often followed by remarks on the madness of waking up at dawn to ride, getting out of bed on a cold morning to jump in a pool or running endless hours under a blazing sun. Behind this apparent exaggeration of a triathlete, there is actually a commitment that can hardly be understood by those who are not passionate about a given activity at the same level. A triathlete approaches the sport not as a mere hobby, but as a way of being in the world, guided by love for a healthy lifestyle, for an appreciation of the discipline and effort, and for the constant quest to surpass one’s limits.Coincidentally, these values are very similar to those professed by practitioners of the DeRose Method. The DeRose Method is composed by a set of concepts and techniques that seek to awaken the full potential of its students. It induces its practitioners to constantly improve themselves, an improvement that goes far beyond just increasing strength and flexibility, but that leads to a broader perception of the emotions, thoughts and other more subtle aspects of personality. The ultimate objective and result is an increased self-knowledge.Given the similarity in purpose of these two activities, the arsenal of tools provided by the DeRose Method is of great value for the triathlete of all levels, from the mere beginner to the elite athlete searching for a secret weapon that will provide an edge against other elite athletes. It would be impossible to describe here all the positive impacts that the Method can have, but below we highlight some techniques that are developed in the basic practice of the DeRose Method, and their effect in athletic performance.
- Breathing. The DeRose Method promotes an intensive respiratory re-education. In addition to learning how to better use and expand the capacity of the lungs, the practitioners learn to breathe so as to maximize the amount of energy absorbed through breathing. This is by no means a detail: take into account that human beings in extreme situations can go a few days without food and a couple of days without water – but we cannot stand more than a few minutes without breathing. Oxygen is our vital fuel. Athletes may enhance their performance by improving their nutrition and hydration, but they are wasting a huge potential to increase performance if no effort is paid to perfecting also their breathing.
Our practitioners are taught about the direct relationship between their breathing and their mental and emotional states. Once you are aware of how the process works, you learn how to take the reigns of its functioning. For instance: when we are relaxed, the breathing is longer and the heartbeats are slower. On the other hand, when there is stress, the breathing is short and the heartbeats are faster. Normally, we are chained to this mechanism. However, using the techniques our Method offers, we gain awareness and act consciously to conduct such process at our will: accelerating the breathing to increase the heart rate and alertness, and slowing the breathing to reduce the heart rate and anxiety. Needless to say, the value of this for a triathlete is immense. Imagine mastering a mechanism to effectively reduce anxiety before a competition, slowing the breathing, or accelerating the breathing to achieve a state of alertness where the body is ready to respond at peak performance.
- Physical Techniques. The physical techniques of the Method develop the strength and flexibility of the practitioner in a smart way, providing a significant increase in muscle tone and strengthening the joints. Consequently, the risk of injury is reduced. Practitioners also develop a deep awareness of their bodies, improving their movement patterns as a whole and understanding and respecting the body’s signals. This is a valuable asset for the high performance athlete, who needs an acute awareness of what goes on inside to fully exploit its potential without exceeding the limits.
Another interesting factor is that in the DeRose Method there is a focus on permanence in the techniques in detriment of repetition. The longer permanence allows the body to find the best fit for the technique, so that its deeper effects can be explored. The muscular strength techniques place an emphasis on pushing one’s gamut of limits – the practitioners have to go beyond their mere physical resources to sustain the techniques, learning and honing their mental and emotional strength. Obvisouly, this is done individually, and our teachers have the sensibility to know where each student can go. In any case, depending on the technique, in 2 or 3 minutes the practitioner can be directed to a physical state analogous to the “wall” often described by marathoners and triathletes. Training the sheer mental and emotional determination required to overcome these states requires a long time in the saddle or on your feet if your cycling or running, but our practitioners can put themselves to the test in every class. As our students continue to take classes they become more and more familiar with this state and are able to find comfort even in extreme situations. The usefulness and application of this mental and emotional conditioning to endurance sports goes without saying. Day after day, you will stregthen that inner voice that says “keep pushing until the end”.
- Relaxation. One of the set of techniques of the DeRose Method basic practice is dedicated to relaxation. As with other techniques, their effects are felt far beyond the simple resting of the muscles and the physical body, as they also have an impact on the emotions and thoughts of the practitioner. The result: this technique greatly speeds up the process of recovery from the peaks of stress that we place on ourselves during training, at work, etc. In addition, the practitioner feels a true internal re-organization, which leads to a clear realization of what is important or not in their lives. It will also lead them to the ideal state for performing the visualization techniques.
- Visualization. Visualization consists of creating mental archetypes of what we want to accomplish in the physical plane. Several studies have shown that the brain has little distinction between what is seen through the eyes and what is imagined. During the visualization technique, the practitioners learn to create in their minds a “movie” of what they wish to achieve. Given the appropriate time and repetition of the action, the psyche and the physical body start to recognize that archetype as something real. Triathletes gain a powerful tool at their disposal to achieve their objectives: day after day, every cell in their body will get the message that the goal will be achieved – be it finishing a race, making the podium in their age group, qualifying for Kona our outright winning! When the time to perform comes there will be perfect alignment between the body, mind and heart, since the “movie” and the successful outcome has been seen hundreds of times.
- Concentration and Meditation. It is well known that the distance between reaching a goal or not reaching it can be summarized by one word: focus. DeRose Method students develop a superlative ability to concentrate allowing us perform any task we commit to in an ideal way and beyond, to keep on track when aiming at medium and long term goals. The state of meditation, in turn, can be described as a state of superconsciousness, in which the experience of the present moment is so intense that it is as if the observer, the observed object and the act of observing itself merge into a single thing. There are many reports of athletes describing similar experiences: a point at which everything fits, where there is no effort, a feeling of complete happiness. This is the “zone” that every athlete seeks, the moment our potential is maximised, simply because we stop thinking and allow the integration of the self with that which surrounds us.
After this brief explanation we can conclude that there is a common element in these different processes: self-knowledge. A deep perception of yourself is not only a source of excellence in sports, but also for success in work, in relationships and in building a fuller life, an accomplished, uncomplicated life.
The DeRose Method provides the tools to reach that which is the greatest desire of each one of us: to be happy.
So swim, cycle and run! But also breathe, stretch, strengthen, relax, mentalize, concentrate and meditate – Kona is the limit!
Instructor Bruno Sousa
Text from DeRose Method Leblon, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
* Kona, Hawaii, is the location of the Ironman World Championships.