As far as injuries are concerned, my policy is prevention, prevention, prevention. I observe a number of basic principles when it comes to injury prevention and management. The first is listening to my body and learning to respond to it quickly and appropriately. Every time I train, I create some injury. Through the work I do, I deliberately break down my body. Our bodies respond by rebuilding themselves stronger than before. By managing minor, self-inflicted injuries (my training), I will grow stronger over time. Building up tolerance by increasing very slowly is crucial. For example, if I am going to run a marathon this year, I would need to have a base to start from. I would need to demonstrate consistent mileage without injury on the kinds of running surface I would be training and racing on. Injuries generally occur because the body is not responding well to the increase or not recovering quickly enough to do the increased volume.
Using the proper equipment can help prevent injuries. Analyzing body mechanics is another important tool for injury prevention. Using a professional trainer can be indispensable in this area. A trainer can show me how to set up a stationary bike to avoid injuring myself over the long term. A trainer can show me the proper way to lift weights to avoid injury and to gain the most benefit. Using a lower weight with good mechanics and low injury potential is more productive than using a higher weight that might look better to my friends but risk injury. Competing with others in the gym while lifting weights will be counterproductive in the long run. In fact, I apply this principle to almost all physical activity.
Longevity as an athlete is dependent on body mechanics. To increase my chances of a long, productive life, I treat myself as a finely tuned athlete at maximum performance. Poor body mechanics can set me up for injuries—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly over time. It is up to me. Using proper technique, for whatever activity, is essential to perform efficiently and to prevent injury. I believe in getting expert advice on as many of my activities as possible so as not to shortchange myself with an injury.
Goals then come into play. If I cannot increase my workload as quickly as I want because it would possibly cause an injury, then I must revise my goals. I may need to scale back to run a half marathon this year and a full marathon next year. This would be realistic.
I am not in the results business. I must keep moving my feet and trusting that the results are what they are. This includes injuries. If I really believe I am exactly in the place where I am supposed to be, then the lesson for me is waiting in whatever process I am engaged in. There will always be a timely solution and a gift from the issue. With this in mind, if I do sustain an injury, I can try many different solutions for my recovery. I know that being proactively involved in the process will help me to heal as quickly as possible.
Poor nutrition, unrealistic goals, misplaced priorities, uncontrolled ego—each of these can play a part in causing injuries. When an injury occurs, look at all the factors that surround it. Have I tried my own solutions? Is my injury beyond my help? Do I need a professional?
The acronym RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is the rule of first aid to follow immediately after an injury. After the initial shock wears off, I can then evaluate what to do next.
When I am injured, I have a whole host of resources to draw from. First is myself. I am the only true expert on my body. No else lives in my body or my head but me. Am I getting out of my own way? When analyzing a situation involving injury, I must stick with the facts as they are, not as I would like them be. No drama or minimizing. What kind of pain is it, and how is it affecting me?
I am not best judge of myself, so I use people around me to provide a mirror to see myself more clearly. For example, when I walked into my physical therapist’s office not too long ago, she told me within 10 seconds that I looked tired and asked me what was wrong. Because I was wearing my fatigue on the outside, she could plainly evaluate me and provide feedback.
Every injury teaches me a lesson. Protecting something that is weak only makes it weaker. Many times, a physical symptom is a manifestation of a deeper emotional issue that is surfacing and crying out to be dealt with. The underlying issue may not be evident for some time, but it is always there for me. Everything happens for a reason, and it is my job to figure out the lesson. Sometimes God is telling me to slow down, to change my thinking, to be more sensitive, or to be there for someone else. To think about the higher purpose, recognize it, accept it, and act upon it is the key.

I tell an in depth story in my book that deals with my knee surgery three months before the Olympic Trials and demonstrates all these principles and what I learned, good and bad.

One day after Knee surgery July 2009, 3 months before US Olympic trials.

One day after Knee surgery July 2009, 3 months before US Olympic trials.

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day to my Dad

Here is a poem he wrote about me when I was about 16.  The setting is a frozen lake in the upper midwest.

Thanks Dad for everything!


Stark lean silhouette against a darkening sky
Measures effortlessly the ice in ten meter strides.
An imaginary track precisely surveyed in his mind
Guides his turn and glide strokes in mock slow motion.
Each movement carefully calculated to maximize the thrust
With arms reaching out, pulling back, swinging high behind.
Each foot under body center starts
Gigantic leg strokes too long for the horizontal torso.

Seventeen inch blades cut the ice subtly
So sharp they could easily shave the peach fuzz from his chin.
Breathing as measured as the pace stroke -and heart rhythmically beating to match. Muscles flexible in spite of the cold,
Straining to balance the relentless press of spirit.
Why does he stretch so? Who is he racing?
The other skaters are already laughing and drinking hot chocolate
Does he race Olympic ghosts McDermott and Blatchford?
Or is he chased by his own image?
And what does he hope to win? A fleeting flush of triumph?
A medal or trophy? A record someone will break tomorrow?
Or does he try to catch the goal of self respect
The lake ice is never smooth
With unforgiving cracks to keep his mind alert.
A chilling gust keeps balance honest.

Powdery shavings and grooves show other skaters have gone this way
Were all so highly motivated? Or so stubborn?
Did they feel the pleasant numbness-Not of cold but of tendons too stretched?

He counts six more full-effort laps.
Is this enough to beat the best?
Unsure, he fast-paces eight more.
A swirl of light snow blends with him at the far turn.
High flying geese seek a cornfield – not these icy shores.

Honk from a patient parent’s car calls him.
He slows, straightens, and circles to let the real world return.
H. W. Conner

With my Father Harold Conner at the rink in Salt Lake City, Utah

With my Father Harold Conner at the rink in Salt Lake City, Utah

24 Lessons From: “Faster As A Master”, Part Two

24 Lessons From: Faster As A Master Part Two

In my upcoming book “Faster As A Master” each chapter has a summarization of what I learned in the form of “Lessons:”

Here are the second twelve. Last week was the first twelve.

Each chapter has one or more stories, philosophies, and principles to illustrate my points. The statement of “Lessons:” is a summarization of what I have learned and apply to my journey of breaking down barriers and journeying toward wholeness.

Continued from last week…..

13. By enjoying the journey as well as the finish, I use goals as my vehicle forward to external and internal work toward wholeness.

14. Recognize and deal with the ego and emotions to your advantage.

15. Discipline to do bring my “A” game to everything I do, sets up the best outcomes.

16. Proper nutrition sets up the body and mind to do great work. Discipline with nutrition will pay great dividends internal and external.

17. Be coachable, find and foster a coach – athlete relationship.

18. Build the motor and learn how to apply it to your endeavor. Utilize the principles of, practice, warm-up, cool-down, volume, intensity, strength, cardio, periodization, stretching, mental training, and rest.

19. Prevention first, then apply RICE, learn from the event and move forward with changed expectations.

20. By continually reevaluating our plans and adapting we can uncover new ways to enjoy the journey and achieve our goals.

21. Competition can reveal our true selves providing growth and healing.

22. Balance is a great barometer for all parts of my life internal and external.

23. Honest mindful attention to my thinking will guide me through all of my internal and external activities toward wholeness.

24. Take the risk, keep moving with courage, practice gratitude for the journey toward wholeness.

Longs Peak Colrado

Longs Peak Colrado

24 Lessons From: Faster As A Master, Part One

24 Lessons From: Faster As A Master, Part One

In my upcoming book “Faster As A Master” each chapter has a summarization of what I learned in the form of “Lessons:”

Here are the first twelve. Next week I will publish the next twelve.

Each chapter has one or more stories, philosophies, and principles to illustrate my points. The statement of “Lessons:” is a summarization of what I have learned and apply to my journey of breaking down barriers and journeying toward wholeness.

1.  Keep moving, be mindful, and you will put yourself into positions that will be right for you.

2.  Core self esteem is built from within and is not based on performance but the effect of the     results on how we feel about ourselves.

3.  By taking small steps everyday we exercise courage to heal old wounds from within to become whole.

4.  We are not alone and have the benefit of many resources seen and unseen to help us past our barriers, internal and external.

5.  Ask for what you need to the universe, keep moving, and trust whatever comes your way is in your best interest.

6.  By breaking down barriers you can show yourself and the world that we are all more capable that we give ourselves credit.

7.  Keep moving in the direction of your goals, adjust as necessary to meet the present circumstances, accept what you cannot control, and trust you are on the right path.

8.  Define blocks to progress, figure out a way around them, set your goals, act, trust the path ahead.

9.  Getting better and going faster is more about intention and choices than age.

10.  Parental and Grandparent support comes in many forms and can be used throughout our lives.

11.  Our networks are wider than we know and can work in better ways than we can predict.

12.  Spousal support is extremely helpful and other support can come from almost anywhere I have spread good will.

Photo by Jerry Search

Photo by Jerry Search

Chinese Symbol for Courage

The Chinese Symbol for Courage

Thoughts on Sochi 2014

Thoughts on Sochi:

The results from these 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for U.S. Skaters hadn’t dipped so low since Sarajevo 1984, when no medals were won. Typically the US Team has been winning, in a single Olympics, some more some less, in the area of 4 long track and 4 short track medals. To be shut out in long track and win only the relay in short track, is not only unusual, but is indicative of a deeper problem. Expectations were high and rightly so, because of World Cup results and US Championship results leading up to the games. The team had won 28 medals in 4 World Cups (19 at altitude, 9 at sea level), set 1 world record (altitude), 2 track records (lowland), many altitude personal bests, but a few lowland personal records also by comparison.

We all have support networks that we rely upon, but if there are limited resources, we are then forced to work within such limitations. In the US, the governing body is US Speedskating (USS). If you are selected to be on the National Team and choose to use the support, you must live and train in Salt Lake City (SLC) at altitude. You must also use the coaches provided to you by the organization.

The Sochi Olympics were contested at sea level. About a third of the Olympic team trains in Milwaukee (sea level) with independent coaching and virtually no support from USS. The fall World Cup trials as well as the Olympic trials were held in SLC 5/6 weeks prior to the opening of the Olympics in Sochi. This favored the SLC skaters to make the team and forced training in SLC which proved counterproductive for adjustment to Sochi type ice. There is a significant difference in effective skating technique in altitude versus sea level. There is also a physiological benefit to training at altitude and racing at sea level, but the physiological advantage declines in 1-3 weeks dependent on the altitude receptiveness of the athlete. The technical advantages that can be gained from pushing heavier lowland ice (arguably) are a greater advantage than that of the physiological advantage gained from altitude training that gradually loses its effectiveness once down from altitude.

Then there was the skin suit controversy. The clothing manufacturer Under Armor developed a new skin suit, but the US High Performance Team did not want to race test it for fear of losing an advantage of what they assumed to be a jump in technology over the competing teams. Because of testing blunders, there were features of this skin suit (still to be determined) that made it slower. It was erroneously tested on a mannequin as opposed to different sized athletes moving in their unique technique and styles. By having had race tested these suits earlier, such discrepancies would have been discovered and corrected. Unfortunately the negative effect of the suit (arguably adding drag) could have added a fatigue factor to the skaters legs during the first races in Sochi. Switching to their fall World Cup suits may have helped but there was no “control” factor for comparative analysis.

Another factor in the results was the requirement for the entire team, including independently coached skaters, to train at altitude on an outdoor rink in Italy 3 weeks before the games opened. The combination of outdoor ice and cold temperatures potentially drained skaters energy levels, initiating a fatigue that was followed by an inappropriate travel schedule that again was added upon by having to walk too much once in the Olympic village and venues. The Collabo conditions also potentially threw them off their game technically because of having to deal with the wind, cold, and ice of a different feel. For the Milwaukee skaters transitioning to altitude, there was that additional stress to challenged the body. All these factors can cause similar effects to over-training. Piggybacked on these stressors, several poorly planned travel times in the early morning, team processing, and a late sponsor dinner immediately following Italy added to the brewing perfect storm.

The basic principles of periodization, tapering, and complete recovery before an important competition were compromised here. In my training, I only make minor changes if necessary prior to racing. That principle was also violated considering the change of ice conditions in Sochi. It is easier to train at sea level ice which is ” heavier ice” and then transition to altitude ice which has more glide per stroke,  than the other way around. In addition, logistics must also be considered. After arriving at Sochi the unusual, relative to what the skaters are accustomed to, could have and should have been avoided using bikes. The Dutch, by comparison, had planned well ahead with 2 bikes per skater. The second week the US finally offered bikes to be purchased by the athletes, but then it was too late for recovery. The independent coaches had been speaking up, raising questions, and seriously challenging the compromising of these basic principles but to no avail. Unfortunately, both National Team and privately coached skaters paid the price with a once in a lifetime opportunity to shine at the Olympics …….wasted due to poor decisions by the High Performance Team and team management.

Thanks for the contributions to these thoughts on Sochi were made by
Nancy Swider-Peltz, Sr.

Sochi 2014 logo



Faster As A Master Book Intro Part 3 of 3

Faster As A Master Book Intro Part 3 of 3

Good Luck in Sochi!

Sports are one of the ways that I connect with in a tangible, measurable way to my own inward journey of self exploration.  Chasing meaning rather than trying to avoid discomfort creates better health.  Going after what creates that meaning in my life and trusting  that I can handle the stress that follows, sets me up for a journey to wholeness.  Any activity, external or internal, can become the vehicle for this important journey.  However, the principles are universal.

Let me give another example.  Another passion of mine is flying airplanes.   An eye doctor told me at age 16, when I received my first pair of glasses, that I would never fly airplanes for a living.  It was widely believed then, that you needed perfect vision and military training to become an airline pilot. Despite those warnings, I am now at the top of my field as a United B-747 Captain.  Not accepting the fact that I needed glasses as a barrier, I broke it down before it could become a reality for me.

When I was young and began skating, I could not imagine how rich my life would become because of this sport.  I have reconnected with my passion for skating, training, goals and achievement as a masters athlete.

I am part of an incredible growing masters sports movement.  In speed skating we have an international as well as national governing bodies that oversee the rules and sanction masters’ competitions.  Age groups start at 30 with 5 year increments ending in the 85+ category for men and women.  Masters only races can be found many times each year around the globe including yearly World All Around and Sprint championships.

Skating has come full circle for me.  Through my sport I have learned much about myself, it exposes me like no other sport.  If my body is not responding the way I expect, there is always a deeper reason. It is up to me to find its cause, and a way to correct it.  If I am off balance, physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, the ice and my competitors will give me immediate feedback.  It is up to me then to regain and maintain my balance to move forward in skating, and my life.  Skating is a mirror for how to live my life, to learn, change and grow.

I like to do things that are challenging and thus rewarding.

With imagination to dream it, breaking down my limiting beliefs, the willingness to do the work, I can achieve almost anything!

To break through barriers and to change my life, I must change my thinking.  Every action starts with a thought.

Here is one of my favorite quotes that reflects my philosophy:

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit.”         Aristotle

This is what I believe and what I strive for on my current path.

I have divided this book into three sections.  The first deals with telling parts of my story and thereby building a case for what I have done.  The second deals with breaking down barriers and limiting beliefs.  The third details all the tools I have used in my life to facilitate and enhance my journey.

I hope you will be inspired to successful living and journeying toward wholeness.

US Olympic Speed Skating Trials 2013, photo by Jerry Search

US Olympic Speed Skating Trials 2013, photo by Jerry Search

“Faster As A Master” Book Intro Part 2

Good Luck to all the Olympians in Sochi!

“Faster As A Master” Book Intro Part 2

We all want to be great.  As I get older I want to be great again.  Happy, loved, healthy, that is what I aspire to.  To be whole in body, mind, and spirit, is the reward.  We are more capable than we give ourselves credit.

Competing as a youngster from age 12 till 19, I achieved a great deal in the 1960s and 1970s.  After winning a few competitions as a long track ice speed skater, I was on the US national team from 1974 through 1976.  My younger brother Bart made 3 Olympic teams, 1976, 1980, and 1984. Bart is a 2 time Olympic Gymnastics Champion.  My youngest brother Mike won the first national medal in our family in short track speed skating when he was age 13. I am very proud of my brothers and their accomplishments as they are of mine.

When I did not making the Olympic team in 1976, I was devastated.  I worked harder than anyone, I deserved to be on that team that went to Innsbruck, Austria.  Years later I can now look back and see that I trained myself into the ground.  Athletes call it over-training.

Discouraged by the failure, I amputated that part of my life for 22 plus years.  As a much older and hopefully wiser adult I returned to the sport that I loved.  Opening up old wounds from my past was inevitable.  Fear had held me back for decades.  Was I ready to deal with the memory of my past?  I had to find out, or those very deep wounds would never completely heal, and I would never be quite whole.  Cautious about the pitfalls of my past, treading lightly as I returned, I decided making the same mistakes was not an option.  Time heals wounds, but it also hardens scabs.  Fear of more suffering was very real.  Pulling off the bandage was going to hurt.  Healing from the inside, from down deep was the only answer.  The core of my being was screaming for help.

My mother had died from cancer the year before and I was still having a tough time accepting it and needing relief.    I went through the five stages of grieving for her death as well as many other hurts in my life.  Doing the work to heal from the inside was my task.  Drowning my pain was not possible anymore; I had to face it.  Going back to the old way of thinking was not an option.  Striving for answers, from my youth, from midlife, from a broken marriage. How could I move forward?

Not sure what was around the corner, but willing to address my humanness, I knew my very survival was at stake.  By returning to speed skating, this sport that has brought me much pleasure and anguish, I would ultimately be journeying toward wholeness.

My need to achieve was born in a very fertile environment, a combination of wanting approval by my parents and sibling rivalry. Was my struggle about the external achievement or self acceptance?  Survival for me depended on what I was about to discover.

Ready to tackle my past, the time was right to do this work and start healing.  The tangible evidence of my extraordinary achievement in speed skating is visible.  What is unseen, and more important, is the internal work of healing the wounds of my past.


US Olympic Trials 2013
photo by Jerry Search