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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The NFL Retirement Package


      Everyday, science evolves with advancements in technology. We live at a time when we can utilize both of these things in our daily decision making processes. Should we go to the coffee shop for our caffeine fix? Can we track our energy expenditure on our iPhones with the latest app? 
      What about the decision to take 5,000 "freight train" hits to the head over the span of a career within the NFL? The book League of Denial, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, gives us the inside look at some of the most horrific and tragic stories surrounding former NFL players who essentially took too many hits to the head.
      The book exploits the deep dark corners of the NFL leadership team; who denied the early science of repeated blunt force head trauma being directly related to concussions and long term neurological complications. These conditions included dementia, bipolar disorder and chronic depression. As I read this book I realized quickly that these serious conditions are directly related to the high impact hits during an NFL career. The most compelling story Fainaru writes about is the story of Troy Aikman. Everyone knows Troy was one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks to ever put his hand on a football. During the 1979 Superbowl against the Buffalo Bills, Aikman took such a hard hit in the first half (after an entire season of hard hits). Aikman told the coaches he was okay for the second half and that he could play. Aikman's family learned years later that he had no recollection of the second half of that game. He did not remember leading his team to a Superbowl victory.
        Now, if that doesn't shock you then double check if you are human. Stories like Aikman's started popping up all across the United States in the 90's and are still arising today. Men who once stood as 'gods' of the game, who were regarded as some of strongest men on the planet, suddenly losing their minds and becoming 'hollow' at an increasing rate. These were stories of Hall of Fame players who could not even write their own speeches at their own event. 
        Not only do Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru document these stories, they also break the book down into subcategories of the evolution of the science. Sport science has come a long way from where surrounding what we once knew about the origins of concussions and the initial IMPact tests. Dissenters within the NFL pushed player concussions to the sidelines. Even when Goodall realized he inherited a storm by becoming NFL commissioner, he then put together an 'internal' team of neurologists to publish concussion and impact based research. It was not until the early 2000's that the NFL realized they needed to change benefit plans for retired NFL players, help fund new helmet research, and change the rules of the game. Astro turf fields started disappearing and rule changes within the practice setting minimized the majority of high impact hits that players were taking.
      The bottom line here is that League of Denial is not just a biased book which shows one side of a multi faceted issue in the largest sports based industry in the world; it is a well documented- researched based book which shows how research led to major changes in the NFL. These changes are still evolving, as will the sport. One comforting thing is that the NFL has recognized and admitted to the fact that there is a direct connection between repeated high impact hits, sustained concussions and post retirement player deterioration. 
     I encourage any coach, and any parent who has kids playing football, to read this book. If nothing else, it will educate you on what to look for with concussions and how the latest research has transformed the sport.

Ryan Fahey

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Are You Thankful?

      With Thanksgiving days away, I could not help but to write a blog about how thankful I am for the greatest things in my life. For those of you know follow me on twitter and/or know me personally, you will notice I tend to see the positives in events, with work and in my personal life. I want you to think about all of the things in which you are thankful for in your life as you read my blog. After all, highlighting those positives only breeds an environment conducive of social and emotional wellness.
      First, I am working on my second Thanksgiving. My first one in Canada with my family in October. It truly has been a great opportunity to experience thanksgiving in both the US and Canada in the same year with some amazing people in both countries.
     With that in mind, I have never been more proud of and thankful for my amazing family back home. I know for a fact that they continue to support me wherever I may be and they deserve thanks to no end. Have you told members of your family you are thankful for them?
     Migrating from my entire network of friends, coworkers and family members and traveling to a new part of the world has been the single hardest, yet most rewarding, part of my young life. I have been blessed to have an amazing family here in Raleigh take me in as their own son. They have been able to answer all of my questions, point me to the best doctors in NC and have given me some of the best advice that school could never teach. I am so thankful that I have them in my life as I continue to expand my professional career. 
     The entire reason why I moved to Raleigh, NC was for my full time position with Be Active Kids. I knew this was an organization I wanted to work for and I knew that the philosophy there, accompanied by a great leadership team, would be the right decision for me. Was I right? 100%. One of my former clients and now mentor once told me, "Ryan, fortune favours the bold". The bold decisions I have made in my life have recently paid insurmountable dividends to which I am thankful. Are you thankful for your job?
      Lastly, I went for a run the other day (which is my personal reflection time) and I realized even more things I am thankful for:

1. I can run in shorts everyday
2. I can workout at an awesome and clean YMCA
3. I have some amazing friends doing some amazing things for me
4. I am in good health
5. I am aligning my passion with my profession everyday 

    Now, you are most likely thinking, "Ryan, what is the purpose of this blog? Many people are not as fortunate as you and have less to be thankful for." To that question I must say that every single person on this planet has something(s) to be thankful for. Sometimes you have to dig just a little bit deeper to find out what those things may be.

Ryan Fahey

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Dispensable vs Indispensable

      The other day I was reading an article from Forbes magazine on ways to make yourself less dispensable at work.
      With emphasis on Dispensable meaning replaceable, this Forbes article provided necessary information for habits you can make to become less ‘replaceable'. An analogy came up in the article which arose again in my personal reflection time on Sunday. It went as follows:

The Indispensable Person
(by Saxon White Kessinger)
Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego 's in bloom; Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room: Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole, Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how they humble your soul.  
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,Pull it out and the hole that's remaining,
Is a measure of how much you'll be missed. You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore, But stop, and you'll find that in no time,
It looks quite the same as before.  

The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can, Be proud of yourself but remember,
There's no indispensable man.

     After reflecting on this, I have realized two things: First, I realized that everyone is dispensable. As much as you can go to work early, leave late, bring your boss latte's, etc. One way or another we can all be replaced. Find me a person who is literally indispensable and I will hand you over my next pay check.
      Second, I have learned that people can destroy their personal lives living in fear of being dispensable. You may be thinking, "Ryan, what do you mean by this!?. The fundamental roots of human nature anchor on feelings such as success and hope. With those innate feelings we also have the opposite; failure and fear. With those feelings always in the balancing act we can destroy our personal lives when living out of fear of failure through being dispensable. This could come in the form of longer work weeks, tacking on extra hours and 'burning the midnight oil'. It can cause you to put the other important pieces of your life, such as your beliefs, family and your friends, on a dusty shelf. Can you see what I mean by the consummation of work through fear of dispensability? You probably know or have known someone who battled or continues to battle with this...
     With all of this in mind, please do not start showing up to work late, start leaving work early and drag your feet all day long with no apparent care for your working responsibilities. Practicing good 'less dispensable' habits at work and during working opportunities are important for the over all success of your job, your business and/or your career. Just be mindful of the amount of time you are working at how you approach the real concept of dispensability....
     Being a recent University graduate who has entered the metropolitan workforce, I am beginning to wrap my head around these realities. I consistently need to remind myself of how important it is to practice indispensable habits while allowing myself plenty of reflection/down time for growth, professional development and personal learning. I hope that you all can find that balance as well! After all, shifting your mindset to success through hope and balancing your work life with your personal life is what wellness is really all about!

Friday, 1 November 2013

New Gym? No Problem!

              Finding a new workout facility should be easy right? It should be one of the easiest things to findnext to a gas station. If you are a new gym goer, getting to the gym has been more important to you than the actual gym itself. Others, who have been gym goers for some time, may find they need to switch it up.  Some people prefer small gyms, while others prefer single gendered gyms, green gyms, etc. You name it, and it is accessible!
However, for me there has been an odd shift in my workout arena. I went from working and working out in the same gym for six years, to a YMCA in NY for summer bouts, and now I find myself in Raleigh, North Carolina trying to find my ideal workout facility. With my work location, the lack of active transport infrastructure and a very diverse demographic, it has been tough to find a gym that works best for me. I like to treat my gyms as I treat my footwear. My feet are wide, oddly shaped and flat. Why is this important to know? Well, I can only buy certain footwear with special insoles to support my feet. A gym is similar. There are many in the city of Raleigh; some are full of standard equipment while others consist of extensive weight lifting areas, accessories, etc. I have attended three gyms (for free, of course) in Raleigh which I am trying to call my home. While investigating every aspect of the gym, from the flooring to the sauna room, I have been spoiled. There are some prestigious gyms here located to suit my convenience. 
Now, you are most likely thinking, “Ryan, this is crazy, just getting to the gym is good enough for me”. Or, “Ryan, just workout from home, it is the solution to this issue”. Well, those are both great ideas to consider, but as a trainer I like to be publicly involved with my workouts. Being in public facilities allows me to meet more people, exchange workout philosophies and learn of new gym innovations. 
The point of this blog is that if you are also shopping around for a new gym, take it seriously. Too many gyms try to rip you off with start up fees, hidden charges, etc. I encourage you to ask for trial offers and ask to extend those trial offers until you know for sure that gym will be where you call home. Personally, I think everyone who wants to start going to the gym needs to utilize the trial offer allowance to see if that gym, and its atmosphere, works for you. There are way to many things in this world which take the money out of our pocket; don’t let a gym membership add to that unless you are sure you want to invest time in that facility or family of facilities.

Ryan Fahey