Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'm Not Giving In

I thought that I would give a quick update as to how this week has been going.

I feel old, tired, achy and a little bit cranky too. I've had a few freak outs. Today's was particularly awesome - "F----ing Bi--------------------------tch" (the last word was long and loud and had tons of frustration behind it! It echoed for a minute too. haha.). But I only yelled because I really care.

I guess you could say that Mission: Get tired, both mentally and physically = Accomplished. And I still have one day left to go, which I'm way too excited about!

I am actually quite nervous about going to bed tonight because I don't know if I will be able to walk like a normal human being tomorrow morning when I wake up. I am pretty sure that I am going to have to limp, tip toe, shuffle and heave myself to the bathroom in the morning. Ahhhh, the life of an Olympic gymnast. Gotta love it.

I think this is the worst part about pushing yourself your have to pay before you get your reward. And waking up and feeling like your body has been beaten is a harsh reality of becoming the best in this sport.

The good thing, and something that I try to keep in mind often, is that the reward does come eventually...once you've had some time to recover. That time will come, but not for a little while. There are still a few weeks of 'pushing myself far far beyond my point of comfort' that have to happen. Crazy thing is, as much as I try to evoke the emotion of hate towards feeling like crap, I actually love this feeling. I love punishing myself...don't get me wrong, I'm not into S & M, but when my mind and body are tired and I am on the verge of breaking down then I have evidence that I have been pushing myself hard. If I felt great right now, I would be a little worried.

I can't remember a time in my gymnastics past where I've put forth the effort that I have been lately. I can look back and remember times when I was tired and knew that I had worked hard, but right now is like, 'day in day out, can't waste a minute, must go till death' kind of pushing myself. And with the time I lost because of injury, I desperately need to. I feel this sense of urgency and I am trying to embrace it.

I have been asking myself the question,"How bad do I want this?", many times in the past week. At morning training today I literally could not rebound across the floor in warm up. I felt like my shins were going to explode. But then this afternoon, I came in to the gym knowing that I needed to tumble and I found a way to shut out the pain and just do it.

When you have 42 days left until the most important competition of your life begins, you don't give in. You can't. You want to, but after you have come this far, there is no way that you can let yourself down. They say that champions are not defined by the moments they are on top and feeling great, but rather by how they push themselves forward when they are down and struggling. I am proving to myself that I do have a "Champion's" attitude. There is absolutely no way I am giving in now.

I'm Off to bed...actually I'm half-sleeping already! Wish me luck with surviving one more day!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Inspired Contentment

I am home now from our first Olympic camp and I feel incredibly energized and motivated. I feel a huge sense of belief in myself and a desire to rise to the next level...which I guess would be Olympic level!

I wasn't dreading last weeks camp before it started, but I was very anxious about it. I had some restless sleeps in the week beforehand thinking about the possibility that I would fail and leave the camp feeling defeated. I definitely didn't want that to happen, but in times of doubt those negative thoughts can come creeping in and rent way too much space in your head.

I knew the day would come where I'd be put into the uncomfortable position of competing again. I say uncomfortable because when you haven't competed in a while, it's pretty scary to step out there and have all eyes on you. It's unfamiliar and you feel very very naked (plus, the tight gymnastics pants don't leave too much to the imagination!)! You can't hide any of your mistakes because everyone is looking for them. I guess I just doubted the strength that I would have inside of myself to face it and make competing again a positive experience.

As it turns out, it was the ultimate positive experience for me. I was so proud and so pleased at the end of the camp. I couldn't wait until I could get back into the gym and become even better!

Just to give a quick run down of my second day of competition: Firstly, it was a lot less stressful than day 1! I definitely felt a lot more confident and comfortable while I was doing my routines. It honestly felt like I was right back in the mix and hadn't missed a beat. I think that everything on the second day was a little bit better than the first. One thing in particular that was a huge improvement was my floor routine. I went through a more difficult routine and it was cleaner than the first day. I did however almost die on my third pass when I just about landed on my head on a 1 3/4 roll out, but I held my flip position a little longer and bounced off of my back rather than imploding my skull into the floor! Some of my teammates told me that this was the first time I had ever scared them on floor (besides when I landed with 2 straight legs!)...believe me, I scared myself a bit.

But doing stupid things like this is part of the process. You need opportunities to make small errors so that you can come back the next time and get some redemption. If anything, I am glad that I made some small mistakes because it has motivated me to fix everything that was a little off.

Right now, as I am sitting here writing this, I am grinning from ear to ear. 'Inspired Contentment' could be the name of the emotion I am experiencing. I am in such a good frame of mind right now. I feel like anything is possible. I am thrilled that I am now in a position where I can push myself to my limit and really show myself what I am made of. I thought that I wanted to succeed badly before, but now, with less than 2 months to go, I feel like nothing can stand in my way. The blinders are on. Gymnastics is my main priority and everything else must take back seat.

I have no time for distractions, nor any desire to misbehave and let myself down. Now is the time to commit myself 100% to my goal. I feel guilty if I do anything that will not bring me one step closer to being my best. I have been eating right (If someone put a bag of Miss Vickie's Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar chips in front of me right now, drool would disgustingly stream from my mouth...that's why I don't have any in my house. Out of sight, out of mind!), taking my vitamins everyday (have you ever had a horse pill get stuck half way down and then you burp vitamin flavour all day??!), icing after each training session (can you say shrinkage?), saying NO to patio outings (that one is killing me!!! soon, Kyle, soon!), going to bed at a very decent hour (Calgary stays light until 10:30 right now...when the sun is down I hibernate)...I am being a very good boy. Discipline is essential to success. There were some crazy times in the past 10 months where I went to bed not knowing what the next day would hold. It was almost as if I was hoping to feel great as the sun rose. Now though, I am taking control and I making sure to do everything in my power to ensure that I wake up feeling alive, passionate and ready to push myself.

My main priority for this week is to do as many numbers as possible. I need to be tired, both physically and mentally by the end of this week. I need to know that I can do a great routine even when I am tired. This way I will know that when I feel fresh and it's time to do the routine in competition then it will be easy as pie. We have one week of training in our home gym and then its back into another camp starting July 3rd. I am really looking forward to being even more ready!

I love this shift that I am experiencing. I am going from an athlete to a competitor. I knew this time would come, I just didn't know when. The transition that I am experiencing in terms of confidence, focus and presence is uplifting and powerful. I think the past training camp lifted my spirit and my confidence in the exact way that I needed it to. I proved to myself that I am almost there. I showed myself that I am capable of this.

It's no longer a dream, it's right in front of me and it's up to me to make the most of this beautiful opportunity.


ps- I filmed some video's from camp and will get them up as soon as I can.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm Baaaack!

I'm Baaaack!

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous in the day leading up to last nights competition. I tried to be calm and cool and just conserve my energy so that I would be able to explode when it was time to compete.

During warm up I tried to stay relaxed by taking lots of deep breaths and moving at a slow pace in between turns. I didn't want to go off and then have nothing left for the competition. I just wanted to get warm and hit one of each skill.

I am a planner. I've discussed it here before, but planning keeps me feeling calm and in control. I made a plan in the afternoon yesterday and I followed it to a T during warm up. Run, stretch, basic tumbling, vault, highbar, rings and then floor.

After the warm up was over, it was time to compete.

During our competition yesterday, we had a pretty big audience at the gym. Nothing crazy, but a good 150-200 people. That's not bad for a gymnastics meet in Canada! Usually we only have 5 people watching our test competitions. It was great to have an audience. I really liked having people in the gym. It created some electricity and some atmosphere that I think all of the guys enjoyed and appreciated.

The competition started on rings - this will be our first event in Beijing and so we will be starting with this event during all of our test competitions over the summer. I think this is an awesome place to start because it's quite hard to make mistakes on rings and you are almost guaranteed to stay on the apparatus! I have never seen anyone "fall" off of rings!

Because I am the weakest member of our team on rings, I'm the lucky one who gets to start the party! The way it usually works is that a team has their weakest guy go first and then the strongest guy go last so that the scores build. This creates some momentum and it gives the 'strongest' guy some more time to prepare himself to be a beast!!!

Well, being first up was a bit nerve wracking. Not only because I haven't competed in a while, but also because I wanted to start the day off right for myself and my team. When I was standing there waiting to compete, I kept trying to remind myself that this was just another routine and I needed to be relaxed and present.

Finally, after all of the other guys were done there one touch warm up, the head judge saluted me and it was go time!

Tony, my coach, lifted me up to the rings. I got a good grip and just hung there for a second. The music was playing softly in the background and I could vaguely hear it. Then, to my surprise, I heard the music turn off. I was completely distracted for a second. It was absolutely silent. It became very clear to me that every eye in the building was watching me. Oh shit.

Well, after the initial shock and distraction of silence, I figured that there wasn't much I could do about it so I quickly focused myself and began my routine.

I held my strength moves and swung pretty cleanly. I did my dismount, a tucked double twisting double back, and took a small step. I was on my feet and really happy with the way it went.

The crowd cheered! My teammates gave me props. One of my teammates, Dave Kikuchi, welcomed me back to the world of competitive gymnastics!

I was relieved! First routine down.

Oh, how I love competing!

My next event was vault. I felt fast and smooth on my run, tight and quick on my take off and I absolutely nailed my landing. I picked up right where I left off 10 months ago...well, maybe I'm a little wiser and more appreciative of my ability since then!

I don't compete on parallel bars, but was treated to awesome performances by my team. The whole time I was watching I was trying to pretend that this was the Olympics and I needed to stay focused and warm for my next 2 events, highbar and floor.

I was uber nervous for highbar. I don't know why, but I always get into a weird state of mind when it comes to competing this event. It might be because the routine that I do is very easy for me and I want to do it perfectly and that distracts me a bit because I don't see much room for error. I also know that I should be able to perform it easily and I take that for granted a bit.

Before I competed here, I tried to get myself into a really present and positive mind set. I told myself to be a warrior and attack the routine.

I saluted the judges and got lifted up to the bar.

I brought my toes to the bar, did a beat swing and swung up to handstand. After catching both of my release moves, I only had a few small deductions through out the rest of the routine (a couple of missed handstands and a heel bonk on one of my inbar elements). I can definitely make it cleaner over the next weeks, but I was really happy that I hit my routine!

3 routines down, 3 hits, one left to go...floor, the BIG one.

I was most anxious about this routine. Not only because I am the current Olympic Champion on this event, but because it is the routine that I have had the least amount of numbers on. For me, it has been the biggest challenge because I want to be GREAT on this event, not just content with average.

As it was my turn to perform, I could sense the anticipation in the crowd. I could also sense it within the coaches, my teammates and myself.

I tried to rely on my previous competition experience and trust that I was going to be fast and aggressive when I needed to be.

The judges gave me the go ahead. I saluted them and got into my zone.

I took a deep breath, stepped into the corner and began my routine.

First pass: arabian double pike. HUGE!

Second pass: clean

third pass: smooth, but then I bailed out on the third skill and just did a front pike rather than a 1 3/4 roll out. It's OK. Keep going.

Fourth pass: whip, layout thomas (this is a new addition!). Successfully done.

Fifth pass: Handspring to front double twist. Clean.

Then I had a decision to make. Was I going to go for a full-twisting double back or be ultra safe and just do a simple layout dismount. I felt strength and determination in my legs and my mind so I went for the full twisting double back...and landed it! Phew.

I think this had to be my biggest victory of the day (it is and was pretty obvious, I'm sure). Even though I made a couple of mistakes and used mats on most of my passes, I felt like this was a HUGE step forward. I was ecstatic when I completed this routine. I felt like I validated my potential to myself, my team, the coaches, judges, audience and press. Being out there competing on the floor felt so right.

Now, I have a confession to make: during the week of Nationals, I created a new routine with a big start value and I neglected to share. It was just an idea at first, something that I wanted to play around with, but then I thought really hard about it and decided that it was actually possible.

Not only is it possible, but I believe I will be able to do it well. I'm inspired.

I am going to push myself to get 6 tumbling passes in my routine. In Athens I had 4 and I have been doing 5 passes through all of this cycle. Now I guess urgency has been creeping up on me and I have given in. I was completely against 6 passes in a floor routine because I think it takes away an athletes opportunity to do some artistic corner parts. These creative and artistic elements are how I earned my international reputation and I think it was the big factor that contributed to my victory at the last Olympic Games. But, the good news is that I think I have come up with a blend of tumbling and artistry that will not compromise my integrity or my style.
Yesterday was the first day that I competed a routine with 6 passes. Could it be true that I am actually IMPROVING after my injury??? Maybe. Just maybe :)


Mission: Compete Again = Complete.

I felt proud. I felt overwhelmed. I felt energized. I felt comfortable and I felt inspired.

It was a grand day for me and I managed to take a moment at the end of it all and really appreciate the opportunity. I have fought so hard to get to this point. I still have a ways to go, but everyday I am proving to myself that I can do it. One small victory at a time.


- I forgot how hard it was to sleep after a competition. I was friggin' wired all night long!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Competing Tonight

I just wanted to give a quick update.

I am in Edmonton right now for our first Olympic training camp. Things are going great and we compete in a 'test' competition tonight! It will be the first time I'll perform my routines in front of judges in a competition setting since my injury. Exciting, but a little scary!

I'm using tonight as an opportunity to gage where I'm at. I've been working hard in the gym and I hope tonight confirms that. I am not expecting too much. I just want to trust myself and hit my routines. Tonight is my starting off point and I keep telling myself that I need to start somewhere!

I am looking forward to the adrenaline rush that competition brings. It's been a while since I've had those pre-competition butterflies. In fact, I am starting to get them right now. I feel like my heart is beating a little faster and my hands are a little shaky. I am trying to embrace these feelings and recognize that they are good things. They will help me tonight.

This afternoon I am going to do a lot of visualization and spend a lot of time convincing myself that I am ready. This is definitely a very normal way for me to act in the lead up to a competition. I kind of get into my own little world and start building up my strength, power and confidence. I want to attack my performance tonight. I want to rise to the occasion and not back away from it.

I know that people are going to be watching and expecting me to be in "Olympic Champion" form. I am simply not going to be at the same point tonight that I want to be at in Beijing. I am going to be a bit rusty, but it will be a chance for me to work out the kinks and start this process of being ready for the Games.

Wish me luck and stay tuned for an update.

Now, it's time to Breath, Relax and Chill. Tonight is going to be fun!


Monday, June 09, 2008

Top Secret

My decision to withdraw from the Canadian Championships last week was absolutely the right decision. Without the stress and worry of not being fully ready for competition, the week turned out to be incredibly productive. I was a man on a mission and I had some amazing training!

I made training my priority last week (the week of Nationals is usually an opportunity to get overloaded with interviews, school visits, autograph signings etc. and forget about taking care of #1). I made my media schedule conducive to a little breather before my training started. I cut off my autograph signings at the time I said I would because I needed to get to the gym. I am usually the type of guy who will sign until the very last person gets their turn, but this week I needed to be a bit selfish. I hope I didn't disappoint any kids...

I was in uplifted spirits all week. You know how sometimes you see people and you just tell them that you are doing awesome, but it's not a genuine, heart felt and believable "I'm Awesome!". Well, last week I actually believed myself when I told people how I was doing because quite frankly, I felt bloody awesome all week long! I felt like everything was starting to fall into place and I felt excited about the surprises I am going to show people when I am back into the mix in a few weeks.

I felt like people didn't know if they should believe me or not when I told them I am doing great. In all reality, I withdrew from the competition and no one really saw me train. What would I expect them to believe based on the evidence. I trained in my 'home' gym and not in the 'Nationals' training gym with the rest of the crew. It's hard to predict where a gymnast really is at unless you see them train. I guess I was in top secret training mode. I felt like I was completely in the background getting myself prepared...kind of like Rocky or something. Eye of the Tiger! I wasn't in the spotlight or the forefront and coming to my training session was like an exclusive "invitation only" kind of deal. I felt like a musician preparing for their tour and only a few people got backstage passes to see the rehearsal.

But those who did come (our National coach Edouard, my former coach Kelly, my good friends Chris and Cindy Waller) told me that they were blown away! It was a great feeling to get promising reviews from people who's opinions I really value.

My hard work is paying off. It really is. Things are starting to feel easier every day. I know that I am getting into great shape when I come into the gym and my brain is a little tired, but my body is able to do my routines. That, to me, is the difference between getting into shape and being in shape; being in shape means that you don't have to think too much.

One of my teammates, Nathan (who you might remember as the 'amazing' singer in some of my previous videos), had a rough day on Thursday. He is a highbar genius, but couldn't put it together during Thursday's competition. He looked like a deer in headlights and he came off of the bar a couple of times. After finishing up his routine he walked away and looked like he had just seen someone get hit by a car (I think he felt like he was run over by a bus). I took him into the back training gym and let him vent out his frustrations to me. He was clearly upset at his inability to go out there and show the judges, the coaches and the audience how great he actually is on highbar. When he expressed this to me, something inside of my own brain clicked...he was thinking too much before he went. He was thinking about the judges. He was thinking about the coaches (granted, Edouard our National coach was standing right there with intimidation written all over his face!). He was thinking too much about the outcome of the routine and not enough about the actual performance. Uh huh! Eureka. A discovery was made. Thinking too much before a routine can actually make the routine go bad. I think that an athletes biggest enemy is themselves and sometimes their own thoughts. When you salute the judge you need to let your body take over and turn your brain off.

So what does an athlete do when they have had a disastrous performance and must finish the competition. I guess there are 2 options. 1. Dwell on it and suck even more. 2. Accept that it happened, get focused and fight like you've never fought before on your next events. Luckily, Nathan chose option 2 and rocked his floor routine. I like to call it the "F%$^ it, F%$^ that, F#$% what happened, F#$% everyone and get F^%$in focused!" option. The heat of the moment makes me say the "F" word a lot! I should have been a trucker...

Watching my teammates compete gave me butterflies. Firstly because I am excited about getting out there and competing, but secondly because our team is on FIRE! The guys all looked awesome. Of course, there were a few mistakes, but that is perfectly fine 2 months before the games. It gives you something to work on and will keep you working hard towards the Olympics. Sometimes when you are perfect too early then you get bored and training seems like a chore, but when you have improvements to make then you feel inspired. I guess the thought of "being better than you already are" turns the crank of many athletes, me included.

This men's team is the best Canada has ever produced. We have a core group of guys who could all legitimately be on the team. We have never experienced this depth before and I think it will lead us to achieving history in Beijing!

Congratulations to all of the guys on another successful Nationals. I'm looking forward to spending the next 2 months training beside them rather than in the background!


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Withdrawing From Canadian Championships

Over the past couple of months I have had the goal and intention of competing at the Canadian Championships (CC's). I originally thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to show how far I have progressed and to get back into the "competition" swing of things.

I wanted to be prepared to compete because the opportunity was so awesome. CC's are in my city this year; Calgary. It had so much potential to be something amazing. I don't often get the chance to compete at home. Actually, the last time I competed here was more than 2 years ago at the Jurassic Classic. Before that, it was our Olympic trials in the summer of 2004 (What a great competition that was!!). I wanted to somehow recreate the magic of trials at CC's and use it as motivation heading into the final 2 months of Olympic preparation. I wanted this to be a positive experience that would propel me forward. I wanted to come out of CC's feeling like I was making huge progress and that everyone in the audience would know that "Kyle" was back and ready to challenge.

But, I'm not quite there yet. I tried. I really, really tried. A week or so ago, I felt something sink inside of my stomach as the thought of competing became a REAL reality. I'm just not ready to go out there and make myself vulnerable. I am not confident enough yet to come out of this competition with positive feelings. I haven't been able to do the numbers that I need to in order to feel like this could be an experience that would propel me forward.

I have the tendency to trust my gut and listen to my heart. I’m very thankful for that. When I don't; I always end up regretting it. Like when I bought my hardwood. I knew I shouldn't have gotten it from “Floors R Us”, but I didn't listen. I just wanted to get it done. That was a mistake. I don't want to make a mistake in this process, especially when I am so close to being back in the game.

This time around my gut is telling me that not competing this week will put me in the exact position I need to be in. I need to spend this week training and putting in the numbers I missed out on because of my injury. I need to do each turn with the intention that it is the only one that counts, but I am not quite in a position where I feel it would be positive to put myself out there and actually have consequences for messing up a routine. I don't like competing when I don't feel prepared. It's like throwing someone into shark infested waters! That's just trouble waiting to happen. I can swim, but those sharks are a little scary right now (I guess the sharks would be the external expectation).

I am better off now because I prepared for this competition, but I know deep inside that not competing is absolutely the right decision.

For those of you who haven't noticed, I set quite a high standard for myself. I'm a perfectionist. It’s one of my best and worst qualities all in one! I like to show what I am capable of and not what I am lacking. I know the severity of my injury. I know how hard I have worked and how far I have come. I know better than anyone how far I have left to go. The thing is, not everyone knows the position I am in. Not everyone knows what circumstances my gymnastics is in right now. As much as I like to pretend that I don't care about other peoples opinions, I actually do. We all do to some degree, especially gymnasts. I gain momentum when I hear positive feedback. I like praise, just like a dog! I know when I am doing a bad job. In lots of cases, I don't need to be told what I am doing wrong. I work better when I am praised on the things I am doing right. There is no better feeling than knowing that someone has noticed your effort. But on the flip side, there is no worse feeling than being called out for your lack of preparation. And my lack of preparation was completely out of my control. I prepared the best I could...I’m just not “there” yet. Almost.

I don't think any sort of negative feedback will help my quest. I might crumble and crumbling is not a good thing unless it's crackers into soup. What would be the opposite of crumbling? Maybe confidence? Maybe "put together"? Maybe "whole"? Well, whatever it is, I want to be exactly that. Crumbling is weak and I want to be strong!

I made a list of pros and cons before I made my decision. There were many on each side of the list, but the one that really stood out was my main goal and priority: To be at my best in Beijing. Right now it’s still too early. I need to protect myself. I need to keep things positive. I need to set myself up for success. Can you imagine if I took a landing and it was a little too hard and the plate in my leg flared up? Can you imagine if I went out there and fell on my arse on every pass on floor? What would people think? What would people say? What would Edouard, our National coach, feel about my chances of being ready? I would be down in the dumps and I don’t want to be there. I want to feel alive and inspired!

In my mind, 2 months is enough time. I know myself and I know my body and I know that 2 months is the optimal amount of time for me to turn it on and get GREAT! Before Athens I was further behind in my preparation than I am now. I just started tumbling around this time 4 years ago. My ankle injury kept me out of Nationals, but I was focused and I was committed to being in my best form for the Olympics. I believe that I can do this again.

So, of course, the loaded question:

Will this effect my chances at earning a spot on the team?

And the answer:

Everyone at Gymnastics Canada has been extremely supportive. My spot will not be jeopardized. They trust me. They know that if I say I am not quite ready to compete then I am not quite ready. But when it is time to show my readiness at the camps, I will. I am experienced and I have never missed a routine in Olympic competition. I care more about this than anyone else does. My life is invested in this. And they know that.

I am very thankful that I have this trust and support. It really does mean a lot.

I have been assured that I will be invited to the camps and I will get a fair shot at making this team. I will earn that spot. I don’t want it handed to me. I want to show that I deserve to represent Canada at my third Olympic Games.

Yesterday (Monday), at training, Edouard came in and checked out my progress. He was very impressed! I showed him a routine on floor with full difficulty middle passes and basic first and last lines. Then I did a couple sky high Arabian double pikes and full in dismounts. I vaulted 5 great Yurchenko 2.5’s. I hit highbar and ring routines too…He seemed excited and told me I look great. That’s not an easy compliment to get out of Eddy!

So, I guess you could say that I am on the verge of readiness. I am feeling really good. I am getting strong, lean and my routine shape is coming. I just need a little more time before I suit up into my tight singlet and little short shorts and show the World that Kyle Shewfelt is back and ready to go!


ps- I also wanted to let everyone know that my new website ( has been launched and my blogs are available there. Please let me know your feedback!