Imagine a seven or eight storey building.
Now with that scale in mind, imagine that building is infact a wave surging towards you at anything up to 50 miles an hour. There’s nothing between it and you. All that explosive power, energy, speed and danger. What do you think your natural response would be? For professional big wave surfers, it’s one of presence, inner control, calm and cool. It’s seems so counterintuitive that it got Andy Blake from Bay Fitness thinking - there’s something in this for us all.
Andy’s not a professional big wave surfer, but he’s spent plenty of time in the UK and overseas training them. It didn’t take him long to realise surfers could teach the rest of us a thing or two about stress management. But more on that later.
A bit of background about Andy
Since he was six years old, Andy has lived in Devon, England. He’s always had a deep affinity for the sea and a connection to outdoor sports in general. He studied sports science and French at university, completing his third year in France before returning to Devon and (in one of those karmic full-circles) teaching French at his former high school and sports science in his former college. He took what was supposed to be a year-long sabbatical to New Zealand, but which stretched out to three. Upon returning to Devon, life veered unexpectedly away from the academic path. Andy had realised he didn’t want to still be doing this by age 60 - there was something else planned for him. He started his own boot camp and fitness business in Devon, and then went onto complete a yoga teaching and training course. Again, the unanticipated occurred - Andy felt himself connecting to the spirituality of yoga as opposed to its physicality. As someone whose background was steeped in the rationale and logic of science and human movement, it took him by pleasant surprise. He went on to complete a physical injury training and rehabilitation course before realising that he’d achieved an unusual combination of training and experience.
Science and yoga - unexpected bedfellows
What was it Abraham Lincoln said?
“I will prepare and some day my chance will come”.
With one foot in incorporeal belief and the other in practical science, Andy had struck upon a niche. He was able to translate between two worlds and two very different ways of thinking. By transcending this divide he could approach, for example, professional athletes. He could connect with them on a results-focused and logical level, whilst endearing them to new and less conventional ways of thinking. It was an exciting new direction, and it was taking Andy on a journey he didn’t see coming…
Big wave surfing (and an epiphany) in Hawaii
It was whilst he was in Hawaii for six weeks training a big wave surfer that Andy started to connect all the dots - here was a personality type that really knew how to handle serious stress. As much as Andy was helping to train bodies, the true mastery was in the mind. Every successful big wave surfer shares an innate ability to stay calm in the face of what would be Herculean induced anxiety for the rest of us. So, how does that translate for the rest of us?
Western culture perceives stress as evil. It is labelled as the root of much woe. Stress can stop you from sleeping, compromise your immunity, result in weight fluctuations; it can even kill you. In actual fact, it isn’t always bad for you. On the contrary, it’s how we anxiously react and (fail to) manage it that is the problem. Indeed, stress can be positive; just look at a big wave surfer. Rather than letting anxiety (a dysfunctional response to stress) take over them, they embrace it. This positive response enables them to then control it and wield it to their benefit. In seeing this, Andy realised there was a very powerful message to share.
Controlling stress and reducing anxiety
We mere mortals might not have a wave the size of an Airbus hurtling towards us, but everyday life still packs one helluva punch when it comes to stress. How do we find our natural inner zen? Andy applies some really practical, but powerful tools.
Take breathing, for instance. A typical fight-or-flight scenario (a big wave, a work deadline, a relationship trauma) would normally see the body go into a sympathetic response, where the nervous system braces itself for one dramatic outcome or the other. Breathing is fast and shallow, the heart rate goes through the roof, sweat glands move into overdrive, muscles tense and brace themselves. We’ve all been there. Eliciting a parasympathetic response, however, naturally restores calm and composure. By regulating our breathing - taking deliberate long, steady, deep breaths and letting the oxygen settle in our lungs - we subconsciously send signals to the rest of our body, telling our entire being that it’s all ok. We’ve got this. In doing so, we remove our body from an inflammatory state - the heart rate lowers, cortisol (the fight-or-flight hormone) is flushed from the system.
The big wave, the work deadline, the relationship trauma; they’re all still present, they haven’t gone away. But our emotional reaction has. It’s in this space between stress and response that the learning lies. Like a modern day stoic, Andy is training clients to focus on what they can change rather than what they cannot. It’s not about ignoring the root of the stress, but managing it. It’s an approach that has garnered him plenty of attention...
Big ticket talking
It all started during a boozy New Year’s Eve celebration in the US. By now, Andy had put this mental training into practice and was applying it to several clients. He was recounting his experience to a guest at the party, and it left an impression.
“I’ve got a work event coming up at the Hilton in London, and you should present at it,” the guest suggested.
Andy passed over his business card, poured another wine, and forgot all about it. Until, that is, a follow up email arrived in his inbox. It came from the guest’s PA, sounding out his availability and cost. It seemed like an interesting opportunity. Andy said he’d be keen, estimating his fee at a couple of hundred quid. The event was to be hosted by one of the biggest advertising agencies on the globe. They informed him of the budget they’d set aside for his presentation. Andy thought it was a joke, but it turns out he wasn’t dealing with comedians.
And from there, the momentum continued.
Andy’s clients have included England Rugby, the Arsenal Football Club, Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, pro and champion surfers Andrew Cotton, Garrett McNamara, Miguel Pupo, Gabrielle Medina, Alana Blanchard as well as everyday athletic weekend warriors, mums and dads on fitness quests, and those recovering from injuries. He provides bespoke physical and mental training (in person, online or through a series of getaway retreats, when coronavirus permits) to help them achieve their individual goals.
Collagen and recovery
So how does Edible Health come into all of this?!
Andy suffered a back injury during one winter, and turned to Edible Health Bovine Collagen.
He knew his body needed amino acids to help recover, and he wanted to facilitate that process as naturally as possible. He turned to Edible Health for that very reason; the powder was pure, without nasties, additives, even sugar. He’s a big believer that nature holds the remedies and answers to many of our ailments. Friend and former client and big wave surfer Andrew Cotty Cotton also began using the powder for a knee injury that had been plaguing him. Both men recovered well, and Andy attributed some of this to the collagen. He’s since encouraged clients with injuries to take it, and even serves it as part of the breakfast spread at his fitness and training retreats. The fact that Edible Health is pure, natural, and minus any BS resonates with him.
A while back Andy had to interview a 95 year old Devon lady about longevity. He asked her what she took to achieve such a healthy, long life. Her response? Nothing - absolutely nothing. It struck a chord with Andy. He believes there is a role for supplements, but not to get carried away with them. Let them assume their place in your quest for health and wellbeing, but don’t get caught up in the hype. We couldn’t agree more.
If you’ve enjoyed this read, be sure to check out our series with other inspirational Edible Health friends and collaborations.
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