Episode 20 - Grant Giles

  

  

In this episode, I talk to Grant Giles, founder of Sports Supports and Aeromax Coaching.

Aeromax Coaching was founded in 1997 and Grant worked in both an online and local capacity with athletes of all abilities in triathlon, swimming, cycling, and running. Grant continues to work with athletes in a coaching role but his passion and expertise remains in the identification and development of young professional athletes.

In 2015, Sports Supports, a new arm of Aeromax Coaching was born. Grant helps athletes develop the mental skills required to reach their ultimate potential. Sports Supports also delivers corporate seminars and workshops, drawing on the application of elite sport into the corporate world.

.

In this episode we cover: 

  • The story of how Grant started in coaching
  • Athletes suffering from anxiety
  • Practical tips from Grant on the relationship between psychology and performance
  • Grant’s reason for separating coaching and the psychology side of sports
  • Suggestions for psychological and mental preparation for a race
  • Grant shares his journey about studying different philosophies and modes of psychology and implementing it to what he’s doing
  • The focus of Sports Supports and how they help athletes
  • What is hypnotherapy, meditation, or calm state visualisation
  • Grant’s recommendations for quieting our minds
  • Self inquiry as a powerful mode of self development and how this relates to athletes
  • Grant’s mode of coaching
  • Subjectivity of pain as one of the key areas of webinars Grant runs for all sorts of athletes
  • Opinion of Grant on athletes pushing themselves beyond their threshold

Links

Transcript:

FELICITY:

This is episode 20. Welcome to the All Torque podcast, where each episode we interview an inspiring person to share their story with you. I'm your host, Felicity Dales, managing director of Body Torque.

I have here today, Grant Giles, the founder at Sports Supports and Aeromax Coaching. Grant founded Aeromax coaching in 1997, and worked both in local capacity and online with athletes of all abilities in triathlon, swimming, cycling, and running. Grant's passion and expertise, however, is in the identification and development of young professional athletes.

In 2009, Grant began formal studies in ego psychology, an area of great interest both personally and professionally. Grant has a natural talent for understanding in individual cycling and how it impacts their training and racing. In 2015, a new arm of Aeromax Coaching was born with Sports Supports launched. Grant continues to work with athletes in a coaching role. However, his passion is to help athletes to develop the mental skills required to reach their ultimate potential. Your mantra is ‘maximise what I have to work with today, to love, and believing that good mental health is essential to good physical health’.

Welcome, Grant.

GILES:

Thank you. It's great to be here.

FELICITY:

You're welcome, and we love having you here. You raised internationally for 10 years as a professional athlete in the sport of Triathlon, Duathlon along and running from 1992 to 2002. And during that time, you set up your online coaching business as a level three triathlon coach with your formula, transforming plateaus into PBs, and some progress onto pro and world class levels through a smart progression approach for all ability levels. Tell us about your story Grant, we'd love to hear how you got started.

GILES:

I started into coaching because I was training full time on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and a guy who was coaching a small group at the local bike shop decided he didn't want to do it anymore so he asked me if I'd take it over. That's how it started, really, it just.. And from there, it really took a life of its own, and my whole life seems to have been about that. I never seem to plan to do anything. Things just seem to plan to happen to me.

FELICITY:

Right.

GILES:

Everybody has goals, it seems like goals had me for some reason, but that's how it got started.

FELICITY:

That's fantastic. It's great to hear a different story. You always hear about people's passion and purpose, so it's nice that you just go with the flow and it sort of flows on from there.

GILES:

Yeah.

FELICITY:

So, you worked with renowned psychologist Dr Arthur Jackson in Sydney to overcome an anxiety disorder and that resulted in developing an intense interest in psychology as a result. Are there many athletes that suffer from anxiety?

GILES:

Oh, tonnes. Tonnes. I mean, anxiety is.. Well, it's the flip side of a type A personality, goal driven personalities are also prone to a little bit of anxiety. If you don't have a little bit of anxiety, then you don't really have the drive to really achieve, but it's when anxiety becomes overwhelming, that's when it becomes a problem. And it does for a lot of athletes, it becomes overwhelming. It's about just tempering the energy and that anxiety to get the best out of yourself without it becoming overwhelming and becoming over aroused and going down the road into fear and doubt and all those sorts of negative drivers.

FELICITY:

Working with Dr Jackson, how did that help you?

GILES:

Well, I was that type of personality, and I was, I've got a history of anxiety. Actually didn't know the definition of anxiety really till a lot later on. It helped me because in the beginning I kept having these patchy races and I ended up going to the doctor and saying there's something physically wrong with me and he said, there's nothing physically wrong with you. And he flipped this card across the table and it was Arthur Jackson's card.

I went and saw Arthur Jackson, and it had such a profound impact on my racing that that sort of started this bubbling interesting in psychology, that followed and my racing career along, and then my coaching career until it really opened up and I really looked at it and then started to study in earnest to find out more about what what we're actually capable of outside of the physical realm, which controls the physical realm as well.

FELICITY:

Absolutely. What did you learn from that? How did that help you? Is there any practical tips that you can share with us?

GILES:

Yeah, of course. The first one is where being is not doing, and I think that's where athletes get separated from themselves. They have this idea that they have this external goal and that everything that they do has to be externalised towards that goal. The problem with that is that drive is all away from the self and you the being are the space that gets this job done. So, if you separate yourself like that, you're really cutting off a whole side of your own psyche that is the driver to being able to perform athletically. It's not so much about trying to attain a goal, it's about trying to become a whole human being so you can perform at your absolute zenith. Your own personal zenith of performance. When you reach that place, it's impossible to walk away disappointed because you know that you've given all you can. You can't know that without being psychologically stable as well, if that makes sense.

FELICITY:

Yeah, absolutely. Your passion for inquiry led you on the road to study the power of this visualization and meditation as tools for unlocking athletic potential and self-realisation. Is it daily practice for your athletes, so when you coach them, is that something that you encourage them to do?

GILES:

From about, I think was about 2008, we formed the professional squad up here in Lennox Head and that ran till about 2015. This ran along. At the same time, I was studying psychology in earnest and what I worked out was that on the deck I couldn't really influence people with psychology because it was just too much, they were already exhausted. That's why I started this arm that just looks at the psychological side of performance because I found that face to face with an athlete, it was a strange place to take psychology, right? You are, as a coach, you are a psychologist, but when you really start to delve there, it's such a big area it has so many facets that it can become a bit too much for a coach, so I decided to separate the two out.

I really love the psychological side of sport, and it's taken me into other sports. And the funny thing about that is, I found that it doesn't matter whether you're a sprinter who runs ten seconds or an ultramarathon, who runs all night. The psychological impact on the performance is exactly the same right across the board. It's really just dealing with the human in the performance.

FELICITY:

What part of psychological and mental preparation would you suggest though, before a race? Is it a formula of a routine or a mindset? Is there something in particular that you encourage your athletes or have encouraged your athletes to do to prepare?

GILES:

Yeah, I think calm state visualisation is probably the best tool for an athlete to get themselves centered in the performance. Another word for that is hypnotherapy. I don't like using that word a lot because it freaks people out, but meditation, calm state visualization, practices that bring you back into your body. Because the thing with nerves and anxiety is that it tends to take your focus out of your body and project outwards. So, anything that brings you back in, into the body really grounds you in that performance and you can, when you're grounded in a performance, you can take action in a performance.

If you're living outside the performance, then the tendency is to be reactive not proactive. So, anything to get you into the body; meditation, visualization, hypnotherapy, all those types of things are great and even just completely calming the mind and becoming still is another really great tool for an athlete.

FELICITY:

Fantastic and you pursue your own inquiry as well, and ongoing training and ego psychology as you say, it's a huge subject and topic, and I'm sure it's never ending learning. With diamond essence, can you share that with us?

GILES:

Yeah, I don't.. These days I don’t aspire to one mode of psychological learning there's so much out there, there's so many great teachers. I study hypnotherapy and psychotherapy as well. It's become more of a.. it's morphed into a more of the uptake, a whole bunch of different philosophies and modes of psychology and implement them into what I'm doing because they kind of, things tend to resonate in one direction or another. I don't like to get stuck on one road too much these days.

FELICITY:

No, and it could depend on the athlete or the person that you're working with as well.

GILES:

Yes, some people are absolutely amazing at becoming very still with meditation. Other athletes, you have to use a different form of meditation. And active meditation can be walking on the beach, feeling the soles of the feet, feeling themselves in their body when they're running. There's a million different ways you can skin this cat and you're dead right. It's about looking at the individual what they're saying, and then bringing to them the best thing that you can to get them the best from them, and it's different for every single person.

FELICITY:

Yes, absolutely. And you organised a triathlon World Summit as well. Let's talk about that.

GILES:

Kristian Manietta did that. I was part of the World Summit.

FELICITY:

Yeah fantastic. Oh, wow.

GILES:

That was just on psychology, on psychology and sport. Yeah, and I've been doing a few of these podcasts. I've done some for swimming, and a few other sports; paddling, running. And it's just great. It's great to be able to spread out into all different areas.

FELICITY:

Which Sport Supports do you have a particular focus now. Is there an area that you're concentrating on?

GILES:

The whole point of Sports Support is that when I was catching this really, coaching full on, on deck, the thing that I learned most was that the self-talk from the group generally was quite negative. I used to have a saying that I've got juniors and a bunch of beginners who think they are world champions and a bunch of world champions who think they're beginners. And that's exactly how it ran on pool day. It was really just about that we are capable of so much more as athletes if we can get the headspace into the same space that our goals are in then what is actually possible. I think it's a new paradigm. You read a lot about consciousness, mindfulness, lots of keywords they're using these days to describe all this stuff, but the bottom line is that there is a shift because people are that busy these days that they're losing touch with what defines them as a human being.

FELICITY:

That's right. I mean, we’ve all got hectic lives and I guess it's how we prioritise what we do and how we schedule our time accordingly, really. Isn't? And fit it all in?

GILES:

Yeah.

FELICITY:

With family, with training, work, etcetera.

GILES:

Yeah. People often say, well, meditation or hypnotherapy or calm state visualisation is just another job, but it's actually the opposite of that. It's actually a break for your brain. It's some downtime. It's some silence for your brain to repair and recovery and it does. It does that. And when you do that, you're cutting off that side of the brain that's still linked to caveman which is full of instinct and fear and still running away from the sabre toothed tiger.

The stillness brings in more rational, more frontal cortex, more rational thinking and silence does that. People just, they're so busy that they don't do that much these days.

FELICITY:

I've been reading a bit about the brain actually recently, and talking about the frontal cortex and neocortex, I think it is. So, did you learn that with your psychology? Is that parts of the brain that you learned about and focus on as well?

GILES:

Yeah, there's certainly there's parts of that, and how you can best access the frontal cortex and quieten down the primitive brain. There's a million different ways to do that. And if you can't do that, then you're putting your fear based thinking on the back burner and bringing more clarity to the goals that you've got in front of you, and that's the premises for doing this kind of work. Because it's bringing clarity. It's actually just bringing more space into your life. And that can only be a good thing, right? I think.

FELICITY:

What is the recommendations that you can make that we could do to quieten our mind in that area?

GILES:

I think oftentimes, people think of meditation as something that you do. And actually, I think it's the opposite. It's something that you don't do. There's literally nothing to do. It's just being quiet and being still and becoming aware of your own psyche and becoming aware of your own feeling of being alive in this body and being conscious. Without the constant dialogue, judgment, and circular thinking that the mind likes to do, it's just literally, it can be sitting on a bench and just dropping out. And at first, it seems almost impossible. There's too much intrusive thought but with practice, just like physical training, it starts to drop and you become aware that in the background of everything is this deep silence that you can access anytime you want; five minutes, ten minutes, an hour, whatever.

It makes no difference as long as you're consistent with that training. You're training your brain to become still and for some reason that I don't fully understand when you do that, there's a level of intelligence that starts to bubble up through that and it provides motivation for goals, it provides inspiration, it's proof that there's something deeper in a human being than just the cognitive thinking mind.

FELICITY:

I find that, as you say, walking on the beach or also when I do yoga or actually riding as well, I find that does it for me also.

GILES:

Yeah. I had a lot of trouble with athletes over the years when they stopped, especially professional athletes. I'm sure you read about the levels of depression in ex-athletes. And it really, part of that problem is that when we're training, we're meditating. We just don't, especially riding bikes and endurance sports, you're really dropping out. I advise athletes who are slowing down or stopping to become meditators. Because that's what you're losing out of your life as well. It's not just a physical part of your life, it's the mind gets its chance to heal in that space.

FELICITY:

Yeah, I feel surfing does that for a lot of guys and they don't realise. I actually thought the same of that surfing is a form of meditation. You're out in the surf with nature, and you're always waiting for a wave or searching for the best wave. I think there's lot of silence in between that.

GILES:

Unless there’s 300 people out. And it's a point break.

FELICITY:

Riding the wave, that's right.

But you still got that focus, and you're still, I think, really kind of relaxed. I think that's the same if you go on a ride, you've got that rhythm of the pedals and legs going around like your cadence. I think that that gets you in the zone as well?

GILES:

Yeah, yeah. I think of self.. Self-inquiry is a very powerful mode of self-development. Because when you really start to look inwards at what makes you tick, you start to figure yourself out. And for athletes, they tend, a lot of the time to look at people who are further up the chain and aspire to being at that level, but the only way you can get to that level is to be fully yourself. It's actually the opposite of what you're looking at. You really have to give into yourself and follow your own path and do it your way. The instinct that runs in through that takes you forward whenever you kind of projecting out to something above, you can plateau and get stuck.

FELICITY:

Absolutely. I mean, it was easy to externalise it and obviously they've got goals so you know they want to get faster and so you want to do your PB, and la, la, la, so it progresses. It's really easy to always look outside of yourself. Isn't it?

GILES:

Yeah, yeah. Maybe just don't read that next article on power wattage and pace and go outside and sit on the beach and drop out for half an hour. It might serve you more than the reading does.

FELICITY:

Absolutely. So when you're coaching do you put that in part of their plan for them to practice that? Because it does take practice like you say it, is a discipline.

GILES:

Yeah. I've changed my mode of coaching altogether. These days I coach.. It's not so much that there’s mental cues all through. I think I probably drive them a little bit nuts, but from a coaching perspective, if I'm working with somebody, I want them present. I want them in their body, I want them to be able to tell me what they're feeling. I don't want them.. They can tell me what pace they are at, they can tell me what heart rate they're at, what wattage, fine, that's all great. With a lot of people I can turn around and say, "Well, what was your pedal stroke like? Where was the bulk of your drive coming from? Was it coming from the glutes, was your upper body relaxed, was your face relaxed?" They can’t tell you.

These days I coach from place of getting people to look at the whole thing, to actually be present with what they're doing. Because on race day, if you're not present on race day and you've trained from the place where you're distracted, on race day you're going to be distracted, you're not going to be present with that performance. Whatever you've trained, will bubble up through the middle of that performance on race day. And that's so training itself is your goal. Every training session is an opportunity.

FELICITY:

And so by being more in touch with yourself, it actually means that every time they're training, or if they're reviewing something, or have done a race, then they actually are more aware about how they feel, so then they can relate that to you. And then you've got more of a sense of, well, how to direct them or coach them from that.

GILES:

Yes. We run webinars for all sorts of athletes these days, and one of the key areas of those webinars is the subjectivity of pain, and what does the term pain actually mean. If you take the tagging and the judgment out of pain, there's a lot less pain there than you actually think it to be.

Pain is, it’s part of the body. It's an energy source. It's sending signals to the brain, but you've kind of got it. If you just feel it the way it arises, it's a completely different space if you think it. You soon think yourself into a lot of pain. Whereas, if you just stay with it and feel it, it's much more likely to circulate and you can become a conduit for pain, you don't have to be the block for it.

A lot of people don't realise that when they really start to play with that in training and challenge themselves to stay relaxed, allow the pain to surface then they find that they can sustain a lot more pain than they think and meditation is part of that. That's part of what it teaches you. To let things be the way they are and not resistant and to stay out of judgment.

FELICITY:

Okay. What about for athletes say? For instance, I know some that can really push themselves beyond what I think is I guess, normal or reasonable where they can just throw up. They come up on an ergo session or doing whatever, and they push themselves beyond that threshold. What would you suggest there? Or how do you look at yourself there?

GILES:

In my opinion, that's still that's judgment. It's still mind judgment, because you're using your mind to overcome your physical capacity to sustain what you're doing until the physical body goes, "I can't do this anymore." And then you throw up. And that's to me, that's not being mentally tough. That's being disconnected to your performance. A lot of sports psychologists say in order to be successful, you need to be detached. But as a coach, and as someone who study psychology closely, that's not the experience that I'm getting. And from working with athletes, that's not the experience I'm witnessing either.

It can work both ways. In judgment, it can stop you from performing at a high level, but judgment can also push you above what you're capable of. And both things, taking you away from your potential because you push too hard and you blow up, you can't sustain it. If in your body, you're aware, you're conscious, you're fully present, those little incremental shifts in pace, one, two percent become a lot easier to handle. But people tend to, especially when they push above what they're capable of, they come back 20%. You know what I mean? If you're gonna have.. You'd rather have one to two, or three percent than 18, 19, 20 percent. It's about being present, being conscious.

FELICITY:

Yeah, absolutely. I personally have a threshold and I wouldn't push my body that far, but then it's interesting to get your perspective because otherwise, some people could say, "Oh, that's really hardcore." And I do think that's hardcore, but I can also say, "Hey, you say that's being disconnected," so I understand that as well. It's interesting.

GILES:

Yeah. I have a guy send me a message who took me to task over our subjectivity pain part. But he didn't read the whole thing in context and he said, "Well, what if I run till I break my leg?" I said, "That's actually not consciousness. That's being unconscious. That's being disconnected. It's the same thing in a different way. It really, all it's about is just being awake to what you're doing and being with it all the time. A race, any kind of race is a whole bunch of present moments stitched together and then at the end, you get the result you get. But a lot of the time you've also got to be leaving the past behind. Because the past, we've all got baggage from the past learnings, negative learnings and so when we leave that behind we’re just left with what we’re doing, which is we’re always.. everything we do happens now it doesn’t happen anywhere else. There’s only one postcode and you’re in it.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

GILES:

You might as well be in it.

FELICITY:

Absolutely. That’s a good way of saying it.

GILES:

Yeah.

FELICITY:

Well it’s been great chatting with you today, Grant. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the psyche and what we can do about that to support ourselves and be present. And I think that’s really fantastic. And I certainly meditate and enjoy that but of course, I always believe that I can improve. So, I’ll take what you said today onboard and be more mindful as well.

GILES:

Great.

FELICITY:

For our listeners, I’d love them to be able to check you out on your website, which is www.sportssupports.com.au. So, we’ll have those details in our show notes as well as being able to find you on Facebook and Twitter, we’ll have that in our show notes and the links there, so people can get in touch with you. I really appreciate you joining us today and thank you once again and look forward to hearing more about the mindset as time moves on and you learn more as well.

GILES:

Great, thank you.

FELICITY:

Thanks a lot.

GILES:

Great chat.

FELICITY:

Bye, bye.

GILES:

Bye, bye.

FELICITY:

Thanks for listening to the All Torque podcast. We'd love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about. Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales, see you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the All Torque podcast.

Share: