Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics Festival Farewell…for now...

Dear friends,

It is with great difficulty that I must inform you that the Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics Festival (KSGF) is on hiatus for the foreseeable future... 
As you may or may not know, I am opening my own gymnastics facility in South Calgary this Fall called Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics. The University of Calgary Gymnastics Centre feels, quite understandably, that this presents a conflict of interest as they were the host club of KSGF. I have been respectfully asked by The U of C Administration, UnoCalGym Parents Association and the U of C Gymnastics Centre coaching team to step away from their annual event and I accept those wishes. 
When I agreed to help build the Festival, it was never with the benefit of just one club in mind. For me, it was always about the bigger picture. My vision was to help create an event that provided a platform for us all to share in a celebration of gymnastics. It was my hope that the Festival could continue on in partnership with the U of C as host club and beneficiary despite my new venture, but unfortunately this is just not able to happen. 
Shortly after my Olympic dream came true in Athens, I realized that the value in the accomplishment would best be found by using it as a platform to give back. It’s my privilege and purpose to serve my community. For me, this was at the root of the Festival. I agreed to lend my name, time and energy to the U of C’s annual gymnastics event because I saw its potential to make an impact.
I am so very proud of what the Festival became in just 3 short years. The event gave thousands of participants a space where they could show off their hard work and have some fun. It raised more than $15,000 for Right To Play. It redefined what an invitational gymnastics competition in Canada could be. And there were hundreds of incredible people behind the scenes who helped it get to that point...
Thank you to the sponsors and media partners. Your support truly brought the event to a higher level.
Thank you to Right To Play. It was a pleasure to be aligned with an organization that cares so much.
Thank you to all of the volunteers, especially the meet directors and team leads. Your dedication of time and energy was inspiring. Without you, the event could not have happened. 
Thank you to the U of C, UnoCalGym Parents Association and U of C Gymnastics coaching team. I appreciate you giving me a stage to share my passion for gymnastics. 
Most importantly, Thank You to the supporters, athletes, coaches and judges. Thank you for choosing to come to the KSGF. Thank you for embracing the concept.  Thank you for bringing your best.
It is with a very heavy heart that I say farewell for now. Who knows what the future holds – I envision the KSGF taking on a new life somehow, somewhere, sometime. When that happens, I would love for you all to join once again. 
In the meantime, I look forward to staying connected. As a gymnastics family, let’s continue to collaborate and showcase our great sport. I encourage you to support the U of C’s new annual gymnastics event as they move forward. I know I’ll be there cheering on our great athletes.  
Thanks for the memories. KSGF Rocked!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A poem about swimming...

It all started in January when I needed a new goal 
I was a bit lost, feeling out of control 
I decided I wanted a challenge that was unfamiliar 
Because something that was easy just wouldn’t be fair.   

I jumped in to the pool on the very first day 
I swam 25 metres and flailed my arms the whole way 
I’m surprised the pool had water left when I was done 
I swallowed so much of it. Man, that wasn’t fun.   

I walked away from the pool that day and told my sweetie that I HATED swimming 
I was convinced that this was an activity that I would never be winning 
I hummed and hawed – do I continue because I can grow and expand? 
Or do I quit because life’s too short to spend it doing things you can’t stand?   

I made a choice. I was going to see it through. 
A part of my heart felt it would never come true 
Me – being able to swim for a full 1500 metres? 
In open water none the less. Jeepers Kreepers.   

I showed up each day, put on my goggles and cap 
Some days felt awesome while other felt like crap 
I asked for advice, took lessons and listened 
Focused on my stroke as my speedo glistened.   

Months and months passed by and I could finally breathe
Through the side of my mouth, oh what a relief! 
My stroke became smoother and my arse felt less heavy 
Was I actually getting the hang of this? Time for a bevvy??   

I stood on the start line at Wasa Twenty Thirteen 
Feeling scared to death, but proud as a Mexican jumping bean 
I had struggled and questioned, loathed and hated 
Now I stood in a wet suit, heart pounding as I waited   

The gun went off and the crowd rushed in to the water 
I let them go like a patient little otter. 
I didn’t want to get a boot in the face 
I wanted to survive, that was my goal for this race   

Stroke, Stroke, Stoke, Breathe 
Stroke, Stroke, Breathe 
Stroke, Breathe 
Stroke, Stroke, Stroke, Breathe 

Slow and steady, I began to make ground 
Under the water, you could barely hear a sound 
All I could hear was the voice in my head 
And it was saying, “6 months ago, you thought you’d be dead.”   

But here I was, swim swim swimming away 
I wasn’t dying, in fact I was pretty okay 
At 850 meters into the race I did a heart check and a smile came rushing across my face   

I thought back to that cold day in January when I thought about giving up 
And here I was, in my first triathlon race, raising the roof and sayin’ “What’s up?!” 
I became immersed in the moment and cheeky with pride. 
This was me, swimming along, and enjoying the ride.   

As I came closer to the beach, marking the end of the swim and time for transition 
A part of me was sad because I kind of liked being in this position 
I had committed and conquered and nothing feels better 
Well, maybe at Christmas when your grandma gives you a sweater ;)   

The moral of the story goes something like this: 
Anything is possible if at first you don’t dismiss 
As Jim Cuddy sings, “You’ve got to Try. Try. Try. Try.” 
Be open minded. Allow time before you ask Why?   

Enlist the help of others and give it your best shot. 
Show up each day and give it everything you’ve got. 
Learning something new is awkward as heck. 
You’re a fool if you believe you won’t be a wreck.   

But attitude and approach are simply a choice: 
Be open to learning and listen to the good voice.


For more articles on healthy active living, visit www.revive.ca

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To all boys who get teased for doing a "girls" sport...

I received a note from a concerned mother who's son is being bullied for doing gymnastics. The other kids are saying, "Gymnastics is for girls" or "You're gay because you do gymnastics". Firstly, let's make something very clear: girls and gay people are both awesome so it's not an insult in the first place. And secondly, the last time I checked, males didn't grow a vagina or become attracted to men because they set foot in a gymnastics gym. In fact, I'm about 100% sure that wanting a sex re-assignment surgery or loving someone of the same sex are determined well before you breathe your first breath of Earth's magnificent air.


I want to see a world where every boy can proudly do gymnastics and not be teased for it. *pretend I'm waving my finger in the air and moving my head in small circles like a good ole' drag queen when you read this part* It's uncalled for and unnecessary and it gets right on up under my skin. Roar. Uh huh. I said it.

The following is advice I have for that young man and for every young man who wants to participate in gymnastics or a publicly perceived "feminine" sport. We're here. We love our sport. Get over it.


I remember when I was a young boy, I always felt a bit of pressure to do other sports and activities, but gymnastics was always my passion. It was difficult sometimes - often I would get teased that I did a "girls" sport. But I realized that I couldn't control the other kids. They were just lacking confidence in themselves because they hadn't found the "thing" that they loved to do. That is why it was important for me to be confident in my path and to dedicate myself to my dream, regardless of whether I had the approval of everyone around me or not. By me continuing to do gymnastics despite the teasing and comments, I was actually showing everyone around me what it truly meant to be committed. I quickly realized that I could only control my own thoughts, my own actions and my own work ethic. It was ME chasing my goals, not anyone else. Sadly, I had NO control over the thoughts or opinions of others.

I got called all the names in the book: Pussy, Fag, Homo, Wimp, Girl, Fairy, Loser…the list goes on and on and on. Of course, it hurt because these people who said these words didn't even know me at all. They didn't understand my desire for greatness in my sport. And surely they didn't understand what it meant to be focused or to have found a passion for something. They teased me because they were still looking for what resonated within themselves. They wanted to try and take me off course from my dream so that I would be more at their level of uncertainty.

When I showed no waiver or weakness and just continued on pursuing my dream, they eventually gave up on trying to bring me down. They realized that it was impossible to break something that had such a convincing strength at the core. They wanted me to be vulnerable, but I never showed it to them. Sure, I cried about it at night and I was sometimes afraid to go to school, but when the teasing would start, I never openly fought back. I tried my best to ignore them and to spend time with the friends whom I knew valued my dream - many of whom are still my friends today. My friends would sometimes stand up for me because that's what friends do. Instead of adding fuel to the fire and getting upset and frustrated in front of the bully, I would use their taunting as fuel for myself. "I'll show them", I'd think. I would also try to feel a sense of compassion for them because they needed to bring me down in order to feel better about themselves.

I assure you, this teasing passes. Soon, what you choose to do will not matter to them anymore. They eventually move on. Hopefully at that point they have been inspired by your integrity and relentless pursuit of your dream and have found one of their own. But if not, they will learn that there is no amount of energy or name calling that can break a person who truly believes in their own potential.

Doing gymnastics as a boy doesn't make you a girl. It doesn't make you gay. It doesn't make you a wimp or a pansy or a freak. What it does is it makes you resilient. It gives you an incredible physical foundation. It makes you knowledgable. It makes you accountable. It makes you strong and fit. It makes you flexible and agile. It gives you a foundation that no other sport in this world can give you.

To me, being a real man has nothing to do with how masculine you are on the outside. Being a real man is about being kind, compassionate, caring, generous, driven and courageous. It's about taking good care of yourself, your family, your friends and your extended community. It's about being a leader and doing the hard stuff even when you don't want to. It's about respecting and encouraging the dreams of those around you - regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. Being a real man has nothing to do with the sport you love to participate in. It has everything to do with the way you build up your fellow person and help them succeed. And gymnastics is a sport that can help implement these values into your life at an early age.

Keep on your course. Do what you love. You are who you are. You like what you like. Be proud of it and stand firmly in it.

And if all else fails, challenge them to a push up contest. Guaranteed you'll win every time…

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Performance Based Success VS Outcome Based Success

The other night I was laying in bed and I had one of those panicked reality check moments. I often get them when I think about the fact that I will actually die one day, but in this instance it was about my Olympic experience in 2004 and how a different outcome could have drastically changed where my life and career are today. 

At those Games, I delivered the BEST routine of my life and it just so happened to coincide with the moment where it mattered the most. As I stepped off the floor at the conclusion of my routine, I felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction…and I didn’t even need to know my score or the final result. 

I’ve heard many other athletes talk about the rush they got when their performance was finished and they knew that they had left it all on the floor/hill/pool/mat, etc. It’s a very raw sense of emotion that comes from deep within. If you can feel content when you do that gut check before you see your time/your score/your placing, then you know you’ve achieved success. 

The truth is, we have absolutely no control over the outcomes in our lives. I think the realization of this is why I had my panic moment the other night. As much as we try to be in charge of how things turn out, we can only be responsible for ensuring we deliver our best performance. The reality is that a best performance doesn’t necessarily guarantee the outcome or result we seek.  

In my particular instance at the 2004 Games, I could have done the exact same routine on that day in Athens and ended up in fifth place. Another athlete could have been better or the judges could have seen someone as better on that day. The outcome was completely out of my hands. I did have complete control over the performance though - both the way I prepared for it and the way I showed up both physically and mentally on the day. 

As an athlete, I always tried to set performance based goals. I would break down my routines to the subtlest of movements and create some really specific cues and expectations for each. I narrowed my focus to the simplest of measurable such as the way I landed, the way I pointed my toes or the way my leg form would be impeccable on my splits. It was the possible outcome, chasing the title of best in the world that drove me to get up in the morning, but it was the focus on preparing and perfecting the details of that ‘best performance’ that kept me feeling in control. 

I can remember being at the 2002 World Championships in Debrecen, Hungary and being laser focused on the fact that I might be able to call myself a ‘World Champion’ at the end of my routine. Obsessing about that outcome in the moments before my routine completely took my focus away from actual performance I needed to deliver in order to get there. I eventually ended up mistiming the third skill in my routine and staring at the audience from my arse in the middle of the floor. I was shocked and embarrassed, but also very humbled. As I walked off the floor with my head hanging low, my coach asked me what I was thinking about before the routine. I told him, “I was thinking about becoming Canada’s first World Champion”. He looked at me and said, “Perhaps you should have been thinking about the timing of your first pass and where your arms needed to be right before the take off on your third skill.” Touché.  

As you approach your personal and fitness goals, I encourage you to avoid being obsessed with the outcome or result. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have no control over it. You do, however, have complete say in the way you prepare and the way you deliver your personal performance. Focus on what that might feel like if it were at its peak. How would the routine or race unfold? If you were to produce it in a way that you could walk away and know you couldn’t have done anything more, would you leave satisfied? What if the outcome didn’t match what you had imagined? Would it still have been worth it? 

Success can be defined in so many different ways. I’ve found that the best way to walk through life feeling a sense of control and contentment is to base ones happiness on the performance and not the outcome.   

After my initial sense of panic about where my life would be if I had not won Gold that evening in Athens, I quickly settled in to the fact that I would be exactly where I was meant to be. I left everything I had out on the floor and at the end of the routine, I had no regrets. Looking back, the purest sense of emotion I felt that day was as I embraced my coach. We both knew that I couldn’t have done a better routine. That moment felt more satisfying than standing on the podium. And it was because it came from within.  

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Setting Yourself Up For Success - Part II!

Last week was all about creating a plan and ensuring some accountability exists around your goals. This week, I’ll be diving deeper into the depths of goal chasing and discussing the importance of a reward system, measuring your progress and saying ‘YES!’ wisely. 

A Reward System   
What milestones will you celebrate along the way and how will you celebrate them? We humans are more like dogs than we’d like to admit; when we reward ourselves for good behavior, we are more inclined to be good more often.   

Find that one thing you love (healthy and consistent with your goals of course) but that you don’t treat yourself to every day. Now, dangle it in front of yourself as incentive on those hard days when you need an extra push. Most likely it will get you through and you’ll be thankful you didn’t give in. It’s important to see the victories during the process and to treat ourselves once in a while. Life shouldn’t be all work and no play! 
I’ve found that it’s always my Sunday long runs that are tough to get motivated for. Therefore, I promise myself a smoothie and a two hour nap once I struggle through the distance. Works like a charm and seems to get me going every time!   

Bottom Line: Sometimes you need a bit of external motivation. Give yourself a small reward once in a while! 

Measuring Tools  

Something measured, something done. Invest in tools that will help you measure your progress.   

Pull out the camera and take some before shots. Head to your local running store and invest in a GPS watch. Take measurements and write them down in a special notebook. If there’s anything you can do to help create a measuring stick in your quest, then do it! If you can start seeing your progress and results, you’ll gain momentum and feel a renewed sense of motivation. The initial price tag may seem a bit high on some of these items, but I can assure you that they will be well worth it once you’ve accomplished your goal.   

Know that results will take a while – they won’t be evident tomorrow. But the more disciplined you are and the more you measure and record, the more you will be able to see your progress.  

I remember when I was at the 2004 Olympics and I was having a bit of a freak out a few days before the Final. My coach, Kelly, pulled out our work plan, sat me down and said: “Look at how many routines you’ve done. Look at how many times you’ve gone through this nearly perfectly. You’ve put in the work and you are ready. You’ve got to trust that.” Having all of my work recorded and right there in front of me made it a lot easier to trust my readiness. I instantly became grounded with confidence. I had done everything I could to be as prepared as I could be.   

Bottomline: Invest in tools to help you measure your progress. It will keep you motivated and disciplined. 
Energy Protection Shield   

Our energy is incredibly vulnerable – we have to say ‘YES’ wisely or we can burn ourselves out in a jiffy. It’s very easy to get caught up in committing to things that aren’t going to serve us. We often do it out of guilt or obligation. But by saying ‘YES’ to things that aren’t really serving our purpose, we spread ourselves thin.     

Say ‘YES!’ wisely. Protect your energy to ensure you can show up and be the best version of yourself as often as possible. No one can be their best when they are overwhelmed, stressed out and not present. Ensure that your energy stores are recharged by sleeping well, drinking tons of water and by smiling often. Don’t feel bad if you have to say ‘NO’. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a wise one.  

Bottomline: You can’t do it all. Choose your commitments wisely and don’t spread yourself too thin.   
So there you have it, the 5 keys elements to setting yourself up for success. I encourage you to take some time to actually implement these principles into your life and program. Guaranteed, you’ll start to feel better about where you’re at the instant you have a plan in your hand, a group of friends texting and emailing you some accountability, a nap and a Jugo Juice on the horizon, a GPS watch on your wrist or an album/notebook dedicated to capturing your progress and a bit of extra energy to dedicate towards chasing your goal.   

Please keep me updated on your progress. I’d also love to hear about your unique approach for setting yourself up for success. Are there any tips or secrets that work for you? The more we share, the better we all become.   

Good Luck!  

To read more awesome articles on Active Healthy Living, check out Revive.ca!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Setting Yourself Up For Success - Part I!

Today, I’m excited to discuss some of the key elements you need to implement for a successful ‘race’ once the metaphorical gun goes off. POW! BANG! BOOM! 

This topic gets me bouncing on my bossu ball (my choice of office chair) because once all of these factors are implemented; you are 90% on your way. The last 10% comes strictly from within (more on this later…), but that internal motivation won’t mean much unless you’ve got these 5 key elements in place. These are the foundation for setting yourself up for success! 

In this post, I’ll be discussing the first two elements – The Plan and Accountability.

1. The Plan 

If you are really serious about your goal, not just so/so serious, then I highly encourage you to make a detailed plan. Whatever your goal is, just google it and add ‘training plan’ or ‘plan’ to the end and you’ll come up with some great options. Be cautious though, one plan might not be the perfect fit for everyone. I encourage you to look at a few and find the consistencies among them. I always combine three of my favourites in to one super plan – this helps me to accommodate my schedule and what feels right for my body. 

Without a detailed plan, you’re guaranteed to fall off track. Plans help us create a daily focal point and give us something to work towards. They give us the “purpose” factor. As a gymnast, my coach and I would always meticulously map out the entire year. We would see when the major competitions were and we would build a training plan around ‘peaking’ at these events. Having a detailed plan helped me prepare for the next day’s work (I knew in advance whether it was a ‘light’ day or ‘death’ day) and it allowed me to guage where I was at in the big picture. 

I suggest printing out a calendar and taking an hour or so to sit down and fill out each day’s program. Another great part about doing this is that it will also take the guesswork out of the process. You’ll know when an intense phase is approaching and you can mentally gear up for it. Alternatively, you’ll know when a recovery phase is on its way and you can look forward to it. Once it’s made, the plan is always staring right at you. You don’t have to think too much about it - you just have to bear down, get it done and give yourself a check mark. 

Bottomline: No Plan = No Path = No Finish Line.  

2. Accountability

Do you have a person or group of people who will be your accountability structure? The easiest person to let down is yourself and because of this, we must create some strong accountability to surround us. This is especially true in those weaker moments when we are tired and busy. When we schedule workouts, meetings or set deadlines with others involved, we are way more likely to show up and get the work done. 

I suggest you start booking workout dates with friends, colleagues, a coach or a trainer. Perhaps you want to enlist the services of a nutritionist who can help hold you accountable to your nutrition goals. Why not schedule a two-hour window with your family to go skating or to the swimming pool? Join a running club, a boot camp or a yoga challenge. Find a group of like-minded individuals who meet up once a week who can help keep you motivated and on track with that new creative project you’re working on. Enroll in a class. Send out invitations and/or a facebook invite to an event you want to plan. Make a call that you’ve been putting off – you never know where it could lead. These are all just suggestions on how to create some more accountability around your goals – you need to find some that are specific (and a bit scary) for you!

I always need to sign up online for a spin or yoga class or schedule in a swim or a run with a friend (and it’s got to go into my calendar). I can’t just work out solo on a “whim”. When I try to do this, I am instantly setting myself up for disaster. 6 times out of 10, I’ll convince myself that I’ve got way too many other things to do or that I am too tired and it can wait until tomorrow. Having to meet someone somewhere at a specific time makes me get off my butt and go.

Bottomline: Make it impossible to wiggle your way out of commitments. Put yourself in situations that fuel your fire (even if they freak you out a bit)!

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll discuss Reward Systems, Measuring Tools and Energy Protection. Until then, set aside an hour to start building out your plan and call a couple friends to be your accountability buddies. You’ll need them and they’ll need you!

For more awesome articles on Healthy Active Living, visit Revive.ca!

What are you thinking???

“Watch your thoughts, for they become your actions. 
Watch your actions, for they become habits. 
Watch your habits, for they become character. 
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”   

Our thoughts are such a powerful force. State of mind and what we tell ourselves can be the cause of greatness or defeat.   

I fondly remember standing in the corner of the floor at the 2004 Olympics and having the most powerful positive self-talk going on inside my mind. I was reminding myself to breathe and that I was ready. I was completely focused on each element of my routine and wasn’t getting ahead of myself and thinking of the outcome. I was completely immersed in the moment and internal words of encouragement were like fireworks inside my mind. I was so open to possibility and as I stepped on to the floor I said out loud, “Make it Happen”.   

I also fondly remember standing in the corner of the floor at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in the floor exercise final. There, I had incredibly negative self-talk running through my mind. Instead of reminding myself that I was ready and focusing on the subtle details of the performance, I was worried sick that I would make a mistake, not win a medal and let my country down. I was so afraid to fail and I kept imagining myself messing up. Inside my mind I was thinking, “Don’t screw up”.  

At the 2004 Olympics, my routine was simply flawless. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, I landed my first pass on my arse. Coincidence? I think not…   

During my years in sport and in life outside of it, I’ve come to strongly believe that our thoughts ultimately become our destiny. What we believe about our potential will come true. The stories we tell ourselves about our worth will become real. The energy we have buzzing through our mind will directly impact the scenarios we find ourselves in. Thoughts are the epicenter of our lives and we must be very aware of them in order to determine how they are affecting our current state.   

I encourage you to take 5 minutes today to observe the story that you tell yourself inside your head. Is the conversation full of positives and encouragement or are you beating yourself up? What kinds of language do you use inside your mind when you are interacting with others? Imagine if you wrote down every thought that entered your mind for a 5-minute period. Would the majority be something you’re proud of or would a lot of them be judgmental like watching an episode of garbage TV like TMZ?   

The great part about our thoughts is that we do have control over them. Positive thinking is a choice and it’s something that gets better with practice. The most important thing is to have an awareness of our thought pattern. We need to catch ourselves when we begin to stray and doubt our worth or abilities.   

As the sun begins to shine, start exercising your mind to be your most mighty asset. Concentrate on thinking positive thoughts and telling yourself courageous stories. Let the conversation inside your mind be one that is full of belief, hope and confidence.   

Our destiny is determined by our character and our character is based on our habits. Our habits are formed through our actions and, ultimately, our actions are dictated by our thoughts.   

So, ask yourself, what am I thinking? If you are not where you want to be, perhaps shifting your attention to the dialogue that exists in your mind is the best place to start.

Check out Revive.ca for more awesome content about active healthy living!