When an athlete reaches the Olympic or World Championships stage, fans often assume these stars are emotionally and mentally grounded. That is not always the case, however, as we saw at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, when gymnast Simon Biles, faced with overwhelming internal pressure, got a case of the “twisties” and withdrew from competition. So it went also for tennis star Naomi Osaka, and in recent years football and basketball professionals have also come out and expressed their fears, doubts and anxieties around competition.

Retreats typically combine running and hiking, yoga and meditation. (Marty Kibiloski/Courtesy photo)

That’s why it was heartwarming to see sprinter Noah Lyles overcome emotional issues and win the 200-meters at last month’s World Athletics Championships in U.S. record time. After a disappointing 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games — earning “only” a bronze medal — Lyles opened up about his self-doubts and mental health issues, which, it turns out, is a key step toward healing. At the World Champs, Lyles sprinted his best ever, breaking Michael Johnson’s long-standing 200-meter record and had fun doing it.

Can we non-Olympians learn from Lyles? Yes, says former 2:23 marathoner turned successful businessman Marty Kibiloski, who co-leads a running/meditation/yoga retreat over the Labor Day weekend at the Drala Mountain Center, near Red Feather Lakes. Losing one’s confidence, whether in the midst of a mid-air double twist, on the start line of an Olympic final, or in your quotidian life, can be overcome.

“The true antidote to self doubt is to uncover for each of us the root cause of the self doubt,” Kibiloski says. “Through meditation, we can explore our mind, quiet the self critic and find our answers. By slowing down and examining our motivations, we can uncover what we need to start a new life.”

This year, more than ever, a life renewal is needed, as it seems crisis piles upon crisis. That’s is why retreat centers such as the Drala Mountain Center (dralamountain.org) recently rebranded after 50 years as the Shambhala Mountain Center, Timmy Olson’s RunMindful retreats and the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat (shoshoni.org) have been so helpful for me and for many hundreds of others over the decades. They are safe places to learn habits and techniques that can lead to life transformations by allowing the undertaking an inner journey, which, it turns out, is just as arduous and important as the outer journey of many miles run.

"Through meditation, we can explore our mind, quiet the self critic and find our answers. By slowing down and examining our motivations, we can uncover what we need to start a new life,
“Through meditation, we can explore our mind, quiet the self critic and find our answers. By slowing down and examining our motivations, we can uncover what we need to start a new life,” says Marty Kibiloski, who co-leads the running/meditation/yoga retreat. (Marty Kibiloski/Courtesy photo)

“Our mission is helping people connect with their innate wisdom,” is how Dhi Good of Drala Mountain Center explains the center’s goal. “We are always looking outside of our self for answers. It is easier to feel the self in nature, and that we do have the answers and we do know on some level what our truth is.”

The Labor Day retreat is always a yearly highlight; it’s a fun way to pass along a bit of what I’ve learned, meet new, like-minded friends, run, hike and practice yoga and meditation in a high Rocky Mountain valley. “It’s a very supportive environment,” said Good.

That support can be very helpful in “getting to the mat” and starting a meditation practice, since sitting still is often anathema for runners; we typically focus on the body and forget about the mind. Maintaining a regular meditation practice — it’s not hard, really — is a way to synchronize mind and body, explains Good. Doing so in a group setting can be powerful. That is how I learned originally. Having like-minded friends right alongside you for a long run or a meditation session sure makes the journey easier.

At one of Timmy Olson’s Boulder RunMindul pre-pandemic camps, Olson, a former Hardrock 100 mile champ, sat around a campfire talking about how he was influenced to start meditating by reading Herman Hesse’s “Siddartha,” a slim novel that reminds us:

“Most people are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in the air, flutters, and falls to the ground. But a few others are like stars which travel one defined path; no wind reaches them, they have within themselves their guide and path.”

How to find your guide and path? Perhaps by cultivating a meditation practice to go along with your training. Do so and you, too, might find that ataraxy the Stoic philosophers recommended and undergo a transformation from “falling leaf” blown this way or that by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to becoming a shooting star, centered, grounded, and traveling on the path that is waiting here just for you.

Follow Sandrock on Instagram: @MikeSandrock.

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Michael Sandrock
2022-08-01 13:00:27
Boulder Daily Camera

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