Being a competitive athlete has been a major component of my identity for as long as I can remember. Participating in team sports as a child taught me so many lessons about life. Teamwork, sacrifice, humility, resilience and sportsmanship to name a few. My parents were big on us trying a variety of sports. So I played soccer, little league baseball, basketball, football and ran track.
As I have gotten older, my relationship to health and fitness has grown to support my overall sense of well-being. I believe attending to our physical health is vital to catalyzing growth in our spiritual, mental and emotional health.
Team Sports In Texas
Growing up in Texas, football is king. So, I felt like I had to give this a go. However, I was miserably small and skinny in junior high. I got my ass handed to me repeatedly. I played receiver on offense, and recall with great clarity a game in which the quarterback made the decision to throw me the ball. As we lined up, and the center hiked the ball, I took off down field. I slanted in toward the goal line looked over my shoulder and saw the quarterback swing his arm back ready for launch. Somehow, amid the din of the crowd, the clatter of pads, and the sound of my own heartbeat pounding in my chest, I heard my coach scream from the sideline, “Don’t throw it to McWhorter!”
But it was too late. Here came the ball. My big chance to prove I wasn’t just roster filler and could contribute meaningfully to my team. As I watched the ball sailing towards me, I tried to focus on the tiny brown spec through the grille of my helmet as it approached. I could sense a defensive player closing in on me with one intent – to crush my soul before I got across the goal line.
A second later, the ball touched my hands, I tried to pull it in quickly, then SMASH!! I felt the helmet of the defender crash into my chest. I was knocked one way, and the ball went flying the other. As the referee blew the whistle I laid there in the grass for a moment gasping for air. I wasn’t dead. But, I sure wanted to be.
I picked myself up off the ground. As I jogged back over to the sideline, I overheard my coach saying to the quarterback, “I told you not to throw it to McWhorter, and look what happened.”
As I sat down on the bench, I thought to myself, “Fuck you, coach. And fuck football.”
I won’t bore you with how terrible I was at baseball and basketball. But suffice it to say, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I was getting any kind of future athletic scholarship playing the “big 3”.
But European Football?
As a child growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, we were right at the beginning of what would eventually become a massive surge of interest in youth soccer. And thank goodness my parents had the wisdom to keep encouraging me to play with balls. (wait a minute…that came out wrong)
In most of my early years of playing soccer, I had a number of fairly anonymous coaches. It wasn’t until I tried out for a more competitive league (what today we might call “travel teams”) that I was able to connect with a coach who knew how to bring out the best in his young athletes. That coach for me was “Hoppy” Thetford.
Hoppy was the kind of coach who understood that competitive team sports provide a great vehicle for mental and physical growth in young people. He’s a guy with a huge personality that matches his huge heart, and he brought all of that to every practice and every game. Our team was the Cosmos. Because of Hoppy’s leadership, we enjoyed a great amount of statistical success over the years we played together. But our greatest achievement was that we were a team of really great friends who enjoyed playing together and supporting each other. We did all this under the tutelage of coach who we knew would go to the dirt for us.
Because of Hoppy Thetford, I went on to have a successful athletic experience in high school playing varsity soccer. After all these years, I still love joining in on adult league soccer and supporting my son’s budding love of the sport.
Cycling – Discovering Passion & Purpose
When I was around 12-years old, I watched a movie called, “Breaking Away”. If you’re a cyclist, you very likely know this film as the pinnacle of Dennis Quaid’s acting career. Okay, kidding – that was his role in “Any Given Sunday” (there, I made peace with football).
It wasn’t long after watching “Breaking Away”, that I began asking my folks if I could take my blue Schwinn Free Spirit out for longer rides in my neighborhood. My bike was a super-heavy steel machine, but it had silver rims and gumwall tires, and I loved the hell out of that bike.
At some point, my parents tapped a close family friend – Scott Schafer – to escort me on a few longer rides out into the countryside. I was totally hooked. This vehicle allowed me to go virtually anywhere I wanted to go. And I intended to go there.
Becoming A Racer
A short time later, I convinced my folks that I was pretty serious about riding bikes and they helped me buy my first real “racing bike”. I began working with a coach to improve my fitness and skills, and eventually began entering some races around the area. By now, I was living for the month of July and the Tour de France. The great Greg Lemond was winning the Tour, Andy Hampsten was winning the Giro d’Italia, and soon, a young Lance Armstrong would emerge on the scene. It was a great time to be a cyclist in the United States!
I rode competitively through high school and into my university days at Texas A&M. I wasn’t a prolific winner by any means, but I netted podium positions regularly on the road, track, cyclo-cross and mountain bike. But mostly, I just really enjoyed riding for hours around the roads of my hometown. Exploring the countryside alone or with my friends.
As the years have passed, my love of this sport has only grown, despite the public hits it has taken due to scandals centering on the aforementioned Armstrong. As a result, my desire to be competitive in this space certainly hasn’t waned at all. My primary focus is on road racing, gravel racing and cyclo-cross. As I have gotten older, I have become stronger and faster. Which seems ironic to me, but I’ll take it.
The Tangible and Intangible Benefits
It certainly feels good to be able to stay competitive with athletes 20-years my junior, but the greatest benefits of riding bikes these days are often intangible. Cycling gives me the opportunity to process the complexities and difficulties of my personal and professional life. It gives me the opportunity to connect with my children and instill in them the love of exercise and exploration. I can create a container of focused attention for friends who may be struggling and want help processing challenges in their lives. I use my physical abilities to support important organizations like The Pablove Foundation.
Now, when I am on the bike, I am transported back to the very earliest days of riding for me. The feelings of freedom and clarity are real and tangible. And there is nothing more gratifying and healing than that.
Becoming A 1st Phorm Legionnaire*
Being a “masters” athlete, you have to look for competitive advantages wherever you can find them. Even if you’re competing with yourself. And being a mature athlete with a high regard for fairness and sportsmanship, that usually means seeking out marginal gains in equipment, nutrition and recovery routines.
After several months of using 1st Phorm‘s nutritional supplements, I approached them about becoming a Legionnaire. I wanted to endorse the quality and effectiveness of their product line in a more official capacity. There are a few key reasons why I chose to align myself with 1st Phorm.
First, is the quality of their products. I use their multi-vitamin and greens mix on a daily basis. This ensures I’m getting all the vitamins and nutrients into my diet that I need to run as efficiently as possible (and to counter my weakness for pizza and ice cream). I use their pre-workout to ensure I’m ready to hit every workout as hard as I can. I use their recovery stack to jump start my body’s healing process.
The ingredients that go into every product are high-quality and backed by plenty of lab and real-life performance results from elite-level athletes from virtually every sport. And when it comes to taste (a huge factor in the adoption and consistent usage of a supplement), it’s impossible to beat 1st Phorm’s recovery and meal replacement products.
The other reason I love 1st Phorm is the people. These are people with huge hearts and a burning desire to inspire and help everyone live the best life possible. My coach, Mark Joe, is one of the hardest working and biggest hearted guys I know. I can’t name check anyone else for fear of leaving people out. But I’ll give a special mention to Roy Ulrich who is responsible for my interest in the company.
The final reason I get behind this brand is that from the top down, they walk the talk. They conduct business with integrity and purpose. Their core values align with my own. In the world of performance nutrition, that’s very important.
*I am not paid to endorse 1st Phorm in any way. However, if you click an affiliate link and purchase products from their website, I do receive a commission.