On Eating Disorders, Burnout, and What Really Matters
This is a guest post by my friend Justin Roethlingshoefer.
NEW YORK, NY September 28, 2020, 7:00am
Beep. Beep. Beep.
My alarm rings in my west village studio apartment.
Fuck, I’m late for boxing with Justin. What’s with these fitness guys who always want to workout early in the morning instead of just getting some goddam coffee?
While I was a prototype college student living off of dollar pizza, from what I’d heard of Justin, he couldn’t be further from that.
One of the benefits of living in a big city like New York is it’s the home to so many of the world’s best. My move to New York is how John and I ended up connecting for example.
Typically, my attempts at meeting professionals in the New York area went with the simple coffee/lunch/drinks. Justin’s reply to my invitation: “Do you box?”
“I’ll teach you. How about Fort Greene on Monday morning?”
So there I am, setting an alarm to hop on the subway to Brooklyn to go boxing with a trainer I’d never met before. Fortunately, we have mutual friends in the NHL training world, where Justin worked, and they’d all vouched for his mental sanity.
Justin is well known in the performance training world for how he looks at data and analytics and using it to improve performance. He even co-wrote a book on the subject.
“The problem with data in performance training today is that everybody loves talking about it but nobody’s using it to help people,” he said when I brought up the subject.
“I’ve noticed it’s become a cool thing to talk about, they’re the kind of articles other coaches share but nobody actually uses,” I replied, doing my best to add something to the discussion.
“Look, for some of my NHL clients all I look at is their heart rate and a few other metrics. And I’m supposed to be the data guy.”
Obviously, he wasn’t discounting the value of tracking data and metrics, but he was one of the few who understood the bigger picture: that they need to be used for something.
As he taught me basic boxing moves, we interspersed them with runs up and down the Fort Greene stairs. I was winded.
“Hey I have a client call in seven minutes, let’s jog back to my apartment.”
Now we’re running? Oh boy.
What impresses me most about Justin is not his knowledge of training for health and performance — although he can program with the best of them. It’s how he takes a holistic approach to training, and looks at what really matters to the person you’re coaching.
After a few semi-regular boxing sessions, I asked Justin if he’d be interested in writing for RFS. And we’re lucky he agreed. Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing regularly from Justin, who will, in his first few articles, be dive into his coaching philosophy, and later on giving us insight into one of his strengths: how to really use data.
I’ll let Justin take it from here.
Enter: Justin Roethlingshoefer
That was the conversation I was having with my coach, on the bench, at the end of practice. I had just made Team Canada West and we were about to embark on a journey playing against some of the best players in the world. This, it seemed at the time, like a hugely important moment for my hockey career.
There was just one thing wrong with this picture: I was 10 years old.
Now I was a chubby kid, but in no way would I ever suggest having that conversation with a 10-year-old kid, especially one with undiagnosed OCD and ADD.
I sat on the bench with sweat dripping from my skin and soaked into my hockey gear. I felt my muscles tense up and my hands grip into a fist.
However, from that moment forward, even at such a young age, that comment motivated me…you’re not good enough, you’re too fat, and you are not able to do something. Those words stayed in my head and drove me to not only become the fittest player in Canadian Junior hockey and propel me to college hockey, pro hockey, and NHL performance coaching career…
As any high performing individual would do, if you’re given a challenge, just like Barney Stinson, I would say…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
So from that day as a 10-year-old on my mission, I wanted to make hockey a career, yes. But it created a deeper desire (and wound). Because those words wormed into me, and I would never let fitness, nutrition, or my level of resilience be in question.
I went to nutritionists, iridologists, DNA testing, trainers, and specialists. Oh, and again, I was now 13 years old.
The 147lb kid at the age of 12 was now 108lbs at age 14. This fixation and fear of being ‘average’ drove me to take action. But not in a healthy way. While it may seem like getting yelled at as a 10-year-old was the call to adventure in my Hero’s Journey, it led to unhealthy actions that went way over the top.
Searching for identity and purpose drove me to go so far to the other side of the spectrum that it had become life-threatening.
Despite my self-sabotaging habits, I still progressed enough as a hockey player that I got drafted in Canadian Major Junior Hockey and at 15 went to my first Western Hockey League camp with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
As part of the training camp, we had a physical assessment at the rink. We did strength tests, mobility tests, and other basics. We also had to weigh-in.
So I showed up at the training center and stood in my newly issued team gym clothes.
I stepped on the scale and this balding hockey coach looked at the scale. Then back up at me. Then back at the scale. Then back at me. Then he turned to another coach, and, hiding his lips with the clipboard, whispered something to him.
They honestly thought I was playing a joke on them and sent my little brother in to weigh in for me.
While we’d been on the ice, because of the gear and pads, they hadn’t seen what I truly looked like until that moment. Needless to say, their response wasn’t overly positive.
As a child at this point all I knew I was too fat for someone and too skinny for someone else.
This pattern would manifest itself throughout my life: when I sought to reach goals for the acceptance of others, it didn’t matter what level I got to, I would never be happy.
I didn’t interpret what these adults were saying to me as I just needed to lose some fat or gain some weight. Rather, I interpreted that what I was doing wasn’t enough, and I had to go completely in the other direction. Overcorrection became a pattern.
More than a decade later, my drive and work ethic to learn about the human body took me all the way to the NHL, where I worked as a performance coach for some of the best athletes in the world.
As I arrived to the NHL, which I thought was already my dream, I still subjected myself to the standards and expectations of others. Management, players, other coaches were always pushing or pulling me in one direction or another, just as the opinions of coaches pulled my physical weight in one direction or another.
And, as other trainers and performance coaches may know, the job is often from sun-up to sun-down, always answering to the needs of others. Being a performance coach at the top levels of professional sports may sound glamorous, but you’re still playing other people’s games.
Eventually, I left the NHL.
The game of hockey had armed me with the requisite skills to help others win their games, but I still hadn’t learned how to even play mine.
After leaving, and not sure of who or what game to play, I moved out to New York City.
I sat on the couch cramped up against the small, one-bedroom East Village apartment, and, in the absence of anyone to fight for besides myself, I realized I had nobody else’s games to play but mine.
I thought back to where I’d only done things for myself, from being named the fittest player in Canadian hockey, to authoring books on performance training.
Those things I’d done for myself, for my own game, is not only where I’d reached the most success, but more importantly, the most fulfillment.
I looked at what my game looked like. My game was being an expert in using a combination of physiology, psychology, and technology to make the best athletes better. But not just better in their sport, but better in all areas.
So, a few years ago, I started a coaching company that would encompass everything. That was my game. Being a “high-performance individual,” whatever that means, is not about being the most jacked dude, the smartest person, or the fastest person in the room, although those may be important.
It’s about integrating those attributes that set you apart into your whole being. That’s my game.
When I was playing other people’s games, these eight pillars couldn’t stand on their own. When I was crushing it in my professional career, making it the NHL, my own wellness and relationships suffered.
It wasn’t until I started playing my game where I could have all eight pillars holding up the house of my happiness.
So, I want you to ask yourself if you’re playing other people’s games or your game. What does your game look like?
What do you need to change about your life to truly play your game?
Only you can find this for yourself. As a coach, I don’t find it for other people, I only facilitate the discovery and nurture the development of it.
To learn more about how we do this at Own It, you can check out our website.
As David said, while tracking data is a big part of what I do, and how I take high-performance individuals to the next level, none of that matters unless we’re working towards worthy goals where we can be happy and fulfilled.