Travis Macy is a professional endurance athlete, having finished over 130 ultra endurance events in 17 countries. He’s an author, coach and speaker. He is the author of The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life, and has a new book coming out in March called A Mile at a Time.
Travis’s racing resume includes mountain bike races, road runs, adventure racing, snowshoeing, skiing, kayaking and more.
His writing has been published across several publications including UltraRunning Magazine, Backpacker Magazine and Trail Runner Magazine.
In addition to being a sponsored athlete and writer, he is also a coach and founded a successful education consulting firm, Macy College Consulting, with his wife, and works with businesses, executives, and adult endurance athletes.
This week, Sonya and Travis tackle his racing escapades, embracing training, his experience with his dad’s Alzheimers, and redefining expectations throughout your career.
“It’s really a case that there’s lightning, if you’re taking shelter, to get down through a boulder field, it’s probably not good physiological training to help you prepare for your next bike race. And in fact, you might get hurt and hit your knees sliding on ice or whatever. But what it is, is it’s mental training; it’s psychological training. And I think of it as the idea that when you’re going through something hard, it is hard and I’m not saying that everything is good by any means because tough stuff happens and life is not fair. But if you can simultaneously embrace the opposing ideas that this is hard, and bad, and sad and tough, but it’s also helping me fill this, I think of it as a well of resilience that I can then draw from when other hard things happen, which they do, because they will. And they will happen in the sports we do, they will happen in parenting and relationships, and health, finances, whatever. These things will happen. And if you can think of it in terms of, I’m preparing ahead to be more resilient later on, I think that can really help.”– Travis Macy
- Travis’s favorite racing stories
- Embracing ups and downs
- Mental training – and embracing every aspect of training
- Managing his dad’s Alzheimers
- How to define success and what is good enough
- Who you are as a competitor if you’re not standing on podiums
- Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation
- Addressing the negative stories you tell yourself
- Looking at The Ultra Mindset seven years later
- Taking on and excelling at new sports
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Sonya Looney: Travis, welcome to the show.
Travis Macy: Yeah, thanks, Sonya. Awesome to be here and to be here with your audience. I am an active listener of your show. And I’m just pumped to get to play a role.
Sonya: Yeah. And your podcast is awesome and I was a guest on your show last year. So thanks and we’ll make sure that we put that in the show notes.
Travis: Yeah, absolutely.
Sonya: So it’s so funny you and I have such similar passions, and you’ve done a lot of really interesting adventure races and also a lot of mountain bike races, just you’re an endurance athletes around the world. So I guess the first thing I want to ask is kind of a hard question, what is your favorite story to tell from your racing escapades?
Travis: Oh, man, favorite story. I don’t know if there is one. I guess, the first thing that comes to mind is just gratitude for having been able to have some fun adventures, ups, downs, failures, successes, all over the world. I mean, the last couple of years, I’ve been telling some stories about this pack burro racing thing that we have here in Colorado, where you do basically a high-altitude trail run with a donkey on a leash, and those stories, they’re just, they’re funny, they’re quirky, they’re just good, good stories. Stuff from the early days, you and I are about the same age, and we both started doing some of these longer challenging races kind of right out of college. So there’s stories from that era, and maybe really, at the top of my list is a race that was a lot less competitive, but more just fun and family and kind of a higher meaning and that was the last eco challenge that I did with my dad. It’s now three years ago that we were in that race in Fiji and some folks might have seen that on Amazon. But that just on so many levels was an incredible experience, and really what stands out to me just thinking about it is the Fijian people and their energy, their spirit. They have this Bula spirit “Bula Bula Bula” and it’s kind of like the aloha spirit of Hawaii, or Pura Vida and Costa Rica, and these are like cultural things that are very real, and just part of, again, part of society and part of how people treat each other. And that was just so special getting to spend time with the Fijians, and get to sleep in their houses during the races and it gave me hope for humanity. That was just before the pandemic, so kind of on the tail of that the you know, here comes the pandemic along and just all kinds of stuff going on where maybe people weren’t treating each other well or poor international relations. The US president at the time, etc. Okay, the previous US president, let’s put it that way. But yeah, anyway, it gave me faith in humanity. So, yeah.
Sonya: Yeah, something so special about traveling, especially traveling internationally, is getting to experience the different vibes in the different culture and places around the world. And that has been one of my favorite things about international racing. And I especially like going to underdeveloped areas, because it seems like that spirit is even more pronounced. How have you taken that idea of having a pronounced spirit of some kind and apply that to your parenting?
Travis: Oh, boy, that’s a good question. I was the Fiji experience, I was really lucky that my kids got to go. So they weren’t they weren’t on the racecourse. They did get to visit a couple of villages. After the race actually, my wife Amy found on Airbnb, this kind of, it was like a homestay sort of thing where you take a boat out to this teeny little island and basically stay with a family for a few days. So, that obviously for my kids coming from Colorado was a much different lifestyle and, from the house to what we ate and everything. So they got to see some of that and I would say for some number of months, just kind of it would come up naturally. We’d talk about the Fijians and Bula and all that sort of stuff. Boy, how have I been able to do it since then? I don’t know. But I think maybe it’s just a good reminder to think about that, to ask yourself, what would what would the Fijians do or when I’m getting stressed about something, being thankful, for example, to have running water to or to have a hot water.
Sonya: Yeah, it sounds like that openness piece is also really important. Like you took them there and they had to, they had to open their mind to a new experience.
Travis: Yeah, yeah. And they were on all on board. I mean, those, it was one of the best family trips ever. And they also enjoyed, like, while we were finishing the race, all the families and there are many families and friends from different teams came, they all stayed at like a five star resort. And that’s fun as well, because you have lots of good food and a pool and that kind of stuff, but I would say more than the five star resort, I bet they will remember that homestay experience over time.
Sonya: Yeah, and I heard you say, when you first started talking about when I asked you what’s a memorable experience you, you said, gratitude first. And then you also talked about embracing the ups and the downs. And I think that a lot of times when people think about what’s a cool story, or what’s something that I’ve done in my life, they might not consider the downs as something to be grateful for. And mindset is a huge part of what you talk about, I mean, you’ve been talking about this for a very long time. When did you start learning that it’s important to embrace the challenges and not avoid them, not push those emotions away and to embrace them as part of what you’re doing?
Travis: Yeah, for me, it kind of came organically early on. And a lot of that was probably just through osmosis from my dad, who is an endurance athlete. And I talked about that in the Ultra Mindset book. He definitely wasn’t pushing any of these sports on me, but I was just around and out there, hanging out or throwing rocks or whatever at the Leadville 100, or the Badwater Ultramarathon, or watching the eco challenge on TV when I was a kid and a teenager, in the 90s, so some of that stuff just kind of seep through. My dad would have fun little mantras, keep hammering, or it’s all good mental training, those kinds of things. So I think I, maybe had a bit of that idea. But I would also say, especially as a teenager, and a young adult, I was very perfectionistic, when it came to academics, and also to sports to some degree, maybe less for sports, because the good thing about sports is, it forces you to fail. And if you’ve been an athlete for a long time, whether it’s team sports, or individual sports, just losing is unavoidable, you’re gonna have a lot of that. With academics, there is a chance you could go all the way through high school, or college or grad school or whatever, and have a few failures or low scores or that kind of stuff. So I think in that area, it took me a little more time to embrace everything doesn’t have to be perfect, perfection is not as important as progress, those kinds of things. I think I heard you say on a podcast Sonya, someone told you or maybe you made it up, it was like, sometimes done is better than perfect. I like that one. And so, yeah, it’s a process, and even the failures, the good thing about sports failures, when you talk about stories, often those become the best stories, whether it’s the humor, or just the feeling of it, like in the moment, you’re like, I’ve put so much into this, and it hasn’t worked out and, I wonder when or the prize money or whatever, and it’s the exact opposite of that. But over time, you usually realize, well, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’m still the same person, had I won or gotten the prize money, it wouldn’t have changed my life. You know, now I’ve lost and not gotten the prize money or whatever, that hasn’t changed my life either. And now I do have some good stories and good teamwork into stories often with other people as well.
Sonya: Yeah, that’s a really cool thing. Like I’ve actually never done an adventure race and the team aspect of adventure racing, I’m sure adds such an interesting dynamic to the storytelling and just to getting through the experience.
Travis: Yeah, I think you would like it. I mean, it really does add just a whole new level that I love. I think life is a team sport and in life, we all have chances to lead, to follow, to provide help, to ask for help. And that is exactly what you do in an adventure race.
Sonya: In your book, so we’ll kind of dive in and out of your book as we chat, the Ultra Mindset, one of the pillars in there is that everything is mental training. And I love this because years ago, a friend of mine, we used to travel together, do tons of races together. His name’s Jeff Kerkove and he lives nearby.
Travis: I know Jeff, not too well, but yeah, we’ve definitely raced against each other and some of the mountain bike races and stuff. And whenever you see, I don’t know, if he still drives the, what is it that the FTB Ergon van…
Sonya: So something that he would always say that we thought was, it was all it was a kind of a joke to each other, but it there was actually truth and that is, when something really bad would happen while we’re traveling or something goes totally wrong and you’re running down the side of a mountain with your bike, because there’s lightning, or whatever it is, you would say everything is training. And we kind of laugh about it. And yeah, you talk about that in your book. So can you talk about that pillar, and how important it is to embrace everything is training?
Travis: Yeah, I mean, it’s really a case that there’s lightning, if you’re taking shelter, to get down through a boulder field, it’s probably not good physiological training to help you prepare for your next bike race. And in fact, you might get hurt and hit your knees sliding on ice or whatever. But what it is, is it’s mental training; it’s psychological training. And I think of it as the idea that when you’re going through something hard, it is hard and I’m not saying that everything is good by any means because tough stuff happens and life is not fair. But if you can simultaneously embrace the opposing ideas that this is hard, and bad, and sad and tough, but it’s also helping me fill this, I think of it as a well of resilience that I can then draw from when other hard things happen, which they do, because they will. And they will happen in the sports we do, they will happen in parenting and relationships, and health, finances, whatever. These things will happen. And if you can think of it in terms of, I’m preparing ahead to be more resilient later on, I think that can really help.
Sonya: Yeah, it’s really optimistic. Because you can say, in a moment, this really sucks. I don’t like this, and I don’t want this to be happening. However, in the future, the future me is going to be more resilient because of this thing. So there is still good to be had from this thing, even though this thing really sucks.
Travis: Yeah, yeah. And so, there’s different levels, like everything’s on a spectrum, you can be having the shitty run or the shitty ride, or you went out ski touring, and it’s just the worst conditions ever, and you’re freezing, and it’s just miserable, but it’s going to be over in a couple hours. That’s great mental training for your upcoming race or whatever. Then there really are the super hard things in life that are bad, they’re not fair. And those kinds of things, I’m not trying to sugarcoat that, oh, everything happens is good, but maybe there maybe there is some positive to be found. As I think about my own experience with depression over the years. I mean, it’s bad. Like, it’s not a good thing to experience. And I’ve also realized that whether it’s friends or clients, or people I know, maybe I’m a little better prepared to support someone else who experiences something similar.
Sonya: Yeah. Thanks for being open about that, by the way. So you’ve drawn so much inspiration from your dad. In your book, it’s really apparent. Well, one of your books is, your first book, is really apparent. There’s pictures of you with your dad, and like you mentioned, seeing him as your as you were younger. And then your second book, which we’re going to be recording a podcast about is you know, racing with your dad and doing things with your dad, and he has now he knows Alzheimer’s, and that’s something you said, life isn’t fair, that’s another example of that. Yes. How are you managing that part?
Travis: Sonya, it’s a good question. I’d say overall pretty well. My dad’s an incredible guy, he’s positive. He is great at finding happiness where other people might not and that’s very much true. And my mom is incredible and resilient and just super attentive to him and to continuing to make the most of things, you know. And like I said, it’s hard. I mean, it’s really hard and sad to see someone lose cognitive capabilities, physical capabilities, communication capabilities, the unknown, the uncertainty is very hard. And there’s a lot of things in life that are like that. And I’ve really, my own sort of mental training, over the last few years has kind of been focused on that, how do I embrace the uncertainty as well as I can? And overall, I am doing pretty good. And I have bad days with it, tough days with it, days where like, man, where does this go? Where I kind of, I find my brain, scrambling ahead from the present to future hypotheticals, and how can I control this? How can I mitigate this? How can I, most of all, I don’t want my dad to suffer, and there’s some obviously sadness and suffering now, but it’s bearable. I hope things stay that way. And I don’t know; there’s a lot of uncertainty. So, yeah generally, I think I’m at a pretty good spot. I talk in, in that new book about like, the first six months after the diagnosis, six months or so, were really, really hard, a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of that, how can I control this? What can I do? How can I fix it? Immediately, let’s take care of finances and living and all this stuff at once that, in hindsight was kind of an effort to uncontrol or to control the uncontrollable, I’ve realized. And then doing that race in Fiji, it kind of felt like a rite of passage, sort of, and, whether it was that way, just because I imagined it that way or because that’s the story, I tell myself, but it was and I feel like after doing that, I was more ready to take on a new role as an adult child than I was before. And I think my dad was a little bit more ready to accept a role of accepting help, which is a very hard thing for a lot of people to do.
Sonya: Yeah, that’s so much awareness on your part to be to say, there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of things out of my control and I was just doing everything I could try to take action, trying to control something that I can’t control. And I know that a lot of people listening have probably felt that way. I mean, with various things in their lives, but there’s so many things that we don’t know the future and we don’t know what’s going to happen. And it’s really hard because we’ll start doing anything. We’ll get on the internet search, researching something. I tend to do that researching my myself into an oblivion trying to feel like I’m doing something for something you can’t do anything about. And this goes back to what we were talking about earlier of just being able to, like, take on those, those challenging emotions. I don’t even want to label them as negative because that I think that that makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. But yeah, just having the mental tools or the mental skills to just say, okay, I’m just gonna sit in this right now.
Travis: Yeah, yeah, and it was hard. And, and it is hard, and it will be hard.
Sonya: Yeah, the acceptance piece is so so important there. Yeah. And I don’t know what that’s like, and I’m sure that some of the listeners do though.
Travis: I’m sure they do. And I mean, whether it’s Alzheimer’s of course, like more and more people are being diagnosed. And that’s an all about either early diagnosis, identification, we’re now learning there’s a lot that can be done. The old story was no treatment, no cure. And now we’ve got new drugs, so much knowledge of lifestyle, stroke, sleep, you know, food, exercise, all these things can make a difference. And my message to someone out there who’s thinking, oh, maybe I’m experiencing cognitive decline, or maybe my friend or a loved one address it early. It’s a hard conversation to have. But I think having hard conversations in life is a good thing, because it’s part of the deal.
Sonya: I’m gonna change gears a little bit, and you’re talking about how you are perfectionist when you were younger, and that’s something that you’ve had to work on. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve been wondering if maybe it’s a generational thing because the story that you’re telling I’ve definitely that’s my story as well. There’s a lot of other people our age where I’ve heard them say the exact same things. And I’m also wondering, because your kids are definitely older than my kids. I’m wondering if the next well, I guess it’s many generations past when it was our generation, but the kids these days, if they’re still struggling with this perfectionist tendency or if that was kind of a generational thing.
Travis: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean I don’t think I’m qualified to speak on any of this as an expert, but anecdotally, you could say in the 80s and 90s, it was a lot of the self-esteem movement, right. And that often came about with a message of you can do anything and everyone gets the ribbon and that kind of stuff. And so that I think could be art could be argued, and has been that that would lead people to have that achievement orientation. And okay, if I get the A+, then I feel good. And you do that over and over, especially in academics, it becomes a snowball, right? And that’s something I talked a bit about with Steve Magness, who I think was also on your podcast, and his new book touches on that a bit as well Do Hard Things. And it’s sitting on my desk, my microphone is sitting on my copy of do hard things. So yeah, shout out to Steve. I mean, as far as now, yeah, my kids are nine and 11. They’re kind of in this like tween stage, like they are not little kids anymore. And they’ll both be in middle school next year. One is already there. So, it’s a different phase. Is this stuff still around? I would say, yeah, and what’s different, and again, this is not news to anyone, but the screens and the social media. And I do think, for a lot of kids that can lead to that sense of, oh, everyone else is looking great, or has the style or the body or the fun or whatever it is, right, that’s what social media is, it’s a highlight reel of everyone else. So I think as parents, and again, I don’t have the exact answer, but we got to be really intentional about probably less of what our kids are exposed to, because they’re gonna find their way to things, but maybe mitigating it, and also just having those conversations, those ongoing conversations about that self image self concept, what are what is, what is it that we really see on social media. Making these things, ongoing conversations. I think part of good content, good parenting would be ongoing conversations about sexuality or decision making, or wherever it might be.
Sonya: Yeah, I love how in your book, you have these different pillars of The Ultra Mindset, but then you apply them to real life. You have this sport example, but this is how it applies to real life. And then I also loved how you applied it to parenting because I’m still pretty a pretty new parent, so I’m still learning. And I’m sure I’ll be learning forever.
Travis: I am too, Sonya, but it’s a moving target.
Sonya: Yeah, something I actually wanted to ask you is, it’s another kind of broad question. But you’ve done a lot of different things in your life, you’ve had lots of successes in different sports and in different areas, like you’re, you’re a coach, you’re a speaker, you’re podcaster. And we just talked about perfectionism, so how do you define what is successful or what is good enough? And I mean, I’m asking that as not saying that this is good enough, and I never have to reach for more. But the question is, how do you feel good about what you’re doing and say this is successful while I’m still reaching for more?
Travis: Yeah, yeah. That’s a really good question. And I think a good first step, I may have said this in the book, I can’t remember, I feel like I said something like, it is just the idea of you get to define what success is. And for a lot of people, that’s a big step, because in the American culture, I know you live in Canada, you are American. And I mean, there’s probably Canadian culture as well. But when we say success, like that is synonymous with like, oh, the person made a lot of money in this job. So I think a good first step is to just be able to say, well, it’s up to you what success means and you get to live your life and decide how you’re going to define that. So that’s a good first step. An idea that’s come to me fairly recently from, his name is escaping me and every time I can’t remember a name now, I wonder if I have Alzheimer’s, which is scary, but William… he’s the stoicism guy. He’s written all these books about stoicism. He’s more academic, William something, it’ll probably come to you later. But I did a podcast with him and he talked about the idea I loved his terms for success was something along the lines of identifying your own game, and then playing it as well as you can. And I kind of like that of your own games, does that mean your niche? Does it mean your job? Does it mean your view? Does it mean, for me right now things that I’ve really been focused on are impact and experiences. Those are kind of maybe gauges that I can in some ways measure my success by.
Sonya: Can you talk more about impact and experiences?
Travis: Yeah, well, I don’t know, impact, making a difference for as many people as I can. So in some ways that actually may, ironically, connect with something like, oh, how many followers do you have on Instagram? Typically, that’s a very extrinsic kind of thing like, oh, you know, what’s my number compared to someone else’s number?
Sonya: How many of those people are actually paying attention or seeing the posts?
Travis: Yeah, exactly. Who knows. But none of that is my wheelhouse, by any means. But how can I make a difference for more people? I mean, that’s really for me something like writing a book. That’s kind of my core motivation. And then the experiences? Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, for me, more and more dynamic experiences. I’ve been thinking a lot about fun especially with sports, and even my own role as an athlete. I still race some. I have to admit, I went through a period that I think I’m out of where I had a lot of tough questions about my identity of if I’m not sort of standing on the podium, or like going for the podium, if my clear mission is not to win this race, or that series or these races, then who am I? That was very challenging. And again, I feel like I’m mostly moved beyond that. Currently, like I said, I’m enjoying focusing on fun and shifting from a story of, I’ve set up my job as an athlete so that I can race for a living. And now I’m thinking more in the terms of, well, I’ve worked hard and I’ve gotten to a point where the sports can be part of my job, in addition to my coaching and podcasting, and other things I do. And I can race or not race and if I want to focus on fun or building skills, that’s great, too. So that’s been a good new thing for me, especially with skiing and mountain biking, focusing on skills, whereas in the past, it was all about how fast can you ride or ski up a hill and then kind of survive going down. Now I’m like, why it’s actually fun to have a little more suspension and do a fun… this weekend, I got lucky and get to go to the lunch loops in Grand Junction because my son at a soccer camp around there. And these are some really fun techy trails. And there’s one called Holy Cross, it’s kind of a classic in there, and really challenging, and I’m not at the point where I can make it through without putting my foot down. But it’s a fun thing to focus on just getting better in those techniques.
Sonya: The thing that I love about skill-based adventures is that you either do it or you don’t, it’s not this nebulous thing of fitness, where it’s like, well, I might be 1% faster, and especially when you’ve been racing for a long time. Yeah, I mean, you kind of know, because you can see numbers and those types of things, but it’s not nearly as rewarding as looking at something that you road down or up and said, yeah, I actually did that thing.
Travis: Yeah, yeah. And the progress when someone’s at a very high level at something, let’s say like fitness, cycling fitness, the growth is hard. You do a ton of work, to gain another 1%. And with something where anyone is more of a beginner or intermediate level, the growth comes a lot faster. And that’s fun. I mean, you’ve talked about the book called Mindset by Dweck and that’s all about the growth mindset. When you’re focused on growth, things are things are usually better, and it’s fun. It’s fun to be able to progress faster.
Sonya: Yeah, something else that you said resonated with me a lot of well, who am I if I’m not standing on top of podiums, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, because I’m still planning to race and to do as well as I can in races, but I have lots of other endeavors in my life that I’m equally passionate or maybe even more passionate about than being on the podium at races. And so I kind of have one foot in and one foot out of trying to decide, I have a very limited amount of time, which is chosen because I want to spend more time with my kids and less time before I would work way more hours than probably anybody should. So the question I was asking myself is, I like standing on the podium because I feel special. And that’s embarrassing to admit out loud to like people listening. But yeah, you feel special when you’re standing on a podium, you feel proud of your accomplishment. People look at you like, wow, and they want to hear what you have to say. Because you sit on the podium. So what does that mean if you’re not on the podium? Are you still special? And does that even matter? And I don’t know if that’s something that you thought about while you’re going through this process.
Travis: Absolutely. And I wish like I had an answer because it’s all this stuff is a journey. And I think for listeners, maybe you’re a podium seeker in sports, or maybe you’re not, but there’s similar things in other.
Sonya: Like the workplace.
Travis: Yeah, it’s the next promotion or the next bonus or..
Sonya: Retiring from your job. Like, if I’m not like, whatever role I was more than what am I?
Travis: Yeah, it’s part of the human story. And I guess maybe one thing I’ve learned or something that I tell myself and tell other athletes is, sometimes initially we think in terms of black and white, either you’re totally in and you’re 300% into doing all these big mountain bike stage races, right, which is probably an idea that you and I have both experienced, or you’re totally out, right? Well, maybe if we think creatively, maybe there’s an in between, or maybe there are season, see I know for me for you know, probably the next, let’s call it 15 or 20 years after college it was full on athletics and racing all year round. There were no seasons it was race, and when is the next race, there better be another race in the next month. And I’ve kind of realized, maybe that worked for me then but now that’s not a good fit. And maybe there are seasons. So maybe there’s a certain time of year where I could really get into something, focus, maybe go further, have some of that external drive for the podium, whether it’s to feel special or to feel accomplished or to feel growth. But then maybe there can be other seasons where something else is going on?
Sonya: Yeah, I think this ties really nicely into your book, where you talked about using both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, because extrinsic motivation is demonized. And I’m guilty of over emphasizing intrinsic motivation. But in your book, you talked about why and how both are important. So can you talk about that? Because I think that’s really interesting.
Travis: he way I put it in the book was basically just that, if you’re doing something really hard, and that was part of the message was that book was, as Magness says, do hard things. There’s a value in setting a, what do they call it, a reach goal, or something. That if you’re doing something really hard, you’re probably going to need both, you’re probably going to need an activity or something that you generally enjoy, or at least enjoy some of it. And there’s going to be times where it’s not fun in the moment. So you’re going to need that extrinsic piece. Branching ahead, just to my reading this week, and I was listening to an audio book called No Bad Parts, which is this examination of I’ll call it a model or a framework called internal family systems. And it’s kind of a psychology model. I’m finding it interesting. But one of the things that book in that model says is like, the ego is not a bad thing. These kind of parts of us that we might call the ego that are focused again, maybe on the podium, or what do people think of us, how do we look, that kind of stuff, the advice in this model is don’t just shove those under the table, but see them as part of you, and how do they play a role here or there? And also, how can we use them to best support the true self. So we’ve got this true self that’s maybe kind of separate from, again, the ego or these exiles or these other parts. You can go way into the weeds on this, but how can we use those other parts of us to really support the self and self-base leadership?
Sonya: And I think that applying that to parenting to, like you said, this is about what was it this book is about families like parenting?
Travis: Could be. It’s actually more of internal family systems. It’s more of a focus on an individual person, but the model can be applied to families. Yeah, and I would agree, I mean, I’ve said this before, for me back to that identity piece, especially when my kids were younger, my wife and I were both working. And there were a few years there where she was still working away from home. And I was working from home with a bit more of a flexible schedule. So just kind of logistically that put me into a parenting role that I hadn’t imagined growing up, and that was really hard for me identity wise, really, really tough.
Sonya: Yeah, that’s because a lot of times in society, the females are the primary caretaker.
Travis: And I remember, you know, and I just say that’s just in case there’s any other moms or dads or whoever out there. But I’d be at the park in Evergreen, Colorado, where we used to live. This is an affluent place. And the typical model, there was dads at work all day. And here’s mom with the little kids, and it was me and my little kids and all the moms and their little kids, and they were nice people. And we would talk and interact at times, but very often, I was the only adult male there. And that felt challenging and isolating. And one of the stories that came up for me was like, well, at least I’m a sponsored athlete, at least I’m a pro athlete, and I’m going for these races and training hard. And is that a good story? A bad story? Who knows. Maybe it was just kind of a rescue story for some period of time.
Sonya: Sounds like something you drew confidence from?
Travis: Yeah, yep. Yeah, I did. And am looking back now I can also see, okay, this was a hard. Having little kids is an intense time, no matter who you are, and what you’re doing, right? One parent goes to work all day, and they come home, and they’re hassled for work. And boy, if I just been home all day with the kids that would have been easy. And then the parent who is with the kids is like, are you kidding me? If I could have just gone to work and talked to adults? And yeah, like that would have been so damn easy compared to what I did.
Sonya: So I’ve sort of taken us into the weeds, but I want to go back to talking about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. I was actually on a podcast recently talking about this and talking about self-determination theory, which you did talk about in your book. And, for those listening, autonomy, competence and relatedness. And we don’t want to spend the whole podcast going too much into that, but in the research I was reading, I did read that it is appropriate to use extrinsic motivation, instead of focusing on intrinsic motivation, in certain circumstances. And in other circumstances, it’s actually inappropriate to offer some sort of reward for something when somebody’s already intrinsically motivated for it. So in your book, you give actually, some really good examples based on what I had learned from that, that study I read, you gave some good examples of, when is an appropriate time to use extrinsic motivation to help you on towards your long term goal? So can you give a couple examples?
Travis: Sonya, maybe you should, I can’t remember what my examples were.
Sonya: Well, one of the examples is like, getting out of bed because you have to train and you really don’t want to get out of bed to train. So how can you use extrinsic motivation in that moment to get out of bed to train?
Travis: I mean, that one could be as simple as, especially for an experienced athlete, I kind of feel like shit, and I’m dragging right now, but I bet I’ll feel better after exercise. I tell myself that story almost every day. And it’s usually true. And in some ways, I think that’s a good example of, if you can create a positive cycle between the intrinsic and extrinsic where they play off each other in a nice way. I think that’s good. And I’m glad that you mentioned that idea about if something is intrinsically enjoyable, we can go too far with the extrinsic so that it’s no longer enjoyable. And you can see that a lot with kids’ sports, for example, where things have just gone too far out of control. And here’s this kid who loves the sport, but then the parents pushing too far or maybe the kid or the coach or the community or just the culture, and it becomes about making the travel team or the letter or the college scholarship. I know I’ve experienced that as, especially as a sponsored runner where I love running, I’ve always loved running, I still love it and there was a point where it became, oh, it’s the sponsorships or whatever, are really focused on performances and bonuses and stuff like that. And it’s not a bad thing like we all have to make money, but I realized that for me, it had taken something that’s something I love and pushed it beyond. Too much time in the in the extrinsic or achievement-oriented category.
Sonya: Yeah, I’m also thinking, my mind is like kind of mental gymnastics a little bit. But whenever you are putting your own pressure on yourself, like for people listening that don’t have sponsors, maybe they’re not getting any money, but they’re putting lots of pressure on themselves to go out the door and to perform a certain way or to feel a certain way. And that pressure becomes almost this extrinsic thing, where now you’re not doing it for the sake of the activity itself, you’re doing it because for whatever reason that you’ve put this pressure on whatever this means, it means this if I’m this on my bike, or this on my run, and then it’s not fun anymore. And I do that to myself all the time. And something I’ve been working on just telling myself like, this is supposed to be fun. Like, if I’m not having fun, I need to be thinking about why I’m not having fun, and what pressure I’m putting on myself to make this not fun anymore.
Travis: Yeah, yeah, I like that, Sonya. Yeah. And I think, as a coach of endurance athletes, I often find myself reminding people, that we’re talking on the phone, and they’re,, oh, man, my run was so bad. And then it spirals into the worry about this, or the injury or the you know, whatever. And I often find myself saying, it was just a bad run. Like, you want to know how many bad runs I’ve had, or how many bad, like just 1000s. It’s just, of course, we do want to avoid overtraining, and under fueling or whatever. But sometimes bad days just happen. And I find myself when I get home from my own bad run or bad ride, or my energy’s lower, I’m getting old, or I’m getting slow, or what the hell, and when I can step back and realize, like, dude, it was just like, a bad day, or, or maybe you are a little tired. Take the day off tomorrow, and you’ll probably feel good the next day.
Sonya: Yeah, like in your book, you talk about recognizing when you have negative stories and how to address those. And also, something, to put a word to it, we all catastrophize. And I realized that I do this a lot with lots of different things. But we’ll say, like your example of, this person had a bad run. And now they’re thinking worst case scenario, this that, and, yeah, and it’s recognizing that negative story. What was the mental tool that you use for people who are recognizing these negative stories? Like, what do you do when you recognize that you’re in this negative loop?
Travis: That is back to the Ultra Mindset, there was a chapter, I think it’s good stories, bad stories, the ones we tell ourselves, make all the difference. And I do provide in there kind of one idea of a framework for rewriting stories, and a good first piece, I think, is just to realize a lot of the things that we think are stories. So if we can kind of tell ourselves, well, maybe I don’t have to believe everything I think, or maybe in the language of the IFS, the internal family systems, it might be something like, okay, I’m sitting here as myself and I can see, well, here’s an anxious part of me that maybe is telling these stories, or here is a protector or manager part of me that’s telling these other stories. So in any of those models, the first step is you’re kind of gaining some separation, I think, from the stories that are going through your head. And then from there, how do you rewrite them. Different things work at different times, different strategies have shelf lives. And also it’s a journey. I do at times find myself stuck in a cycle of rumination or catastrophizing, where boy these things really do feel real. Sometimes maybe there is a simple psychology trick or component that is going to help. Maybe it’s talking to someone maybe it’s professional therapy, that of course can be can be really great. And maybe there’s a chemical or physical piece to it, where, whether that’s exercise or being outside or exchanging some love with another person or your dog. Give your dog or hug, take your dog for a walk, use these strategies that’ll put yourself in a different mindset.
Sonya: Yeah, I love what you said about the psychological distancing piece of even naming the different parts. I think you said it came from that book that you’re just reading right, the IFS. Yeah, recognizing there’s different voices, and that all and all those voices are not you. Those are just parts of you and then asking, is this true? Is this actually 100% true?
Travis: And often, rarely is something the actual truth. Again, that model would encourage us when we can find this place of self. Here’s what’s true for me, right? Now, here’s what I’m really seeking to move towards.
Sonya: A big goal for myself in the future, and that has been a goal that I just haven’t executed on for a number of reasons, is writing books. I really am passionate, and there’s so many different things that I want to write about. And one of the fears that I have had over the years that has stopped me from doing it is, well, I’m just going to keep learning more stuff that way. I don’t want to write it now because I’m just going to know even more, and then what I wrote before isn’t going to be good enough. And I’m sure that every writer, everyone who’s ever thought about writing a book, or has written a book has had these thoughts. So I just wanted to ask you, you wrote this book in 2015, which is so awesome. And I feel like even early to the table on a lot of these topics that are now very mainstream. So what would you what would you want to add? If you were to rewrite that book today, what would you add to the book?
Travis: Yeah, great question. First off, as anyone who listens to this podcast, or follows your stuff knows, that you absolutely have many good books in you. And if that’s something you want to pursue, I think you should. And I would also say, take it step by step, decide on here is this topic I want to write about now. And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be, the answer to everything or everything I’ve ever learned, right. You take on what you have. And also, working with a team, working with a publisher, they do a great job of, well, the book has this many words in it. So you’re gonna have to cut the chapters. Like the Ultra Mindset book, I had 13 principles, and they said, well, the book has to be multiples of eight. What was it? 256 pages, that means eight chapters. I’m like, hey, what do you mean? That’s like deciding which of my kids I love the most. So anyway, back to the point, what would be different? I’ve kind of realized that, anything we put out there, a book or podcast or writing, a business presentation, it’s also a reflection and a snapshot of where we are at a given point in life. So I look at this and I’m like, yeah, okay, it came out seven years ago, I was writing it more than eight or nine years ago, and my life is somewhat the same, but there are also big changes, and I’m older, and my kids are no longer little kids. Now, they’re bigger kids. And so, and I live in a different town. So yeah, there’s a lot that’s different. Most of it I still agree with and would still save. Yes, these are my thoughts on these concepts. The one tangible point that I may edit it a bit, there’s a chapter called the 4:30am rule. And it’s kind of the idea that when you commit to something ahead of time, you’re not waiting to see how you feel at the moment. So the 4:30am could be literal, could be metaphorical, but it’s like, oh, you’re going to train early in the morning, you’re setting your alarm for 4:30am and you’re not saying I’m gonna see how I feel at 4:30am and then decide if I want to get up and go out and run or ski in the cold, right? Because no one wants to. I don’t. So I still I still like that principle. I might present it differently after what I’ve learned about sleep, regarding my dad’s Alzheimer’s journey, and just sleep in general. Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep.” I mean, I don’t know when that came out, but it was after 2015. So we’ve learned a lot. And for me, personally, probably the biggest change I’ve made since my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is my own sleep habits. And I wasn’t staying up all night or anything like that, but I’ve really just taken to heart consistent sleep and wake times and good sleep hygiene as much as I can. And am I always perfect? No. Do I still get up sometimes early for a mission or a race because that’s when I have to get up for it? Yes, but I think a lot more about it. And I try to be a lot more creative to avoid those super early times if I can.
Sonya: Yeah, especially now that your kids are older too. Hopefully not getting up super early.
Travis: No, no, the kids are not there. They’re almost getting to that teenage stage of wanting to sleep in, which is great. I mean, we now know that developmentally, previously, the story would have been like, oh, you’re a lazy teenager, get your ass out of bed. And now we know the developmental course is for the brain to want to stay up later at night, and then to sleep in till 10 or noon, or whatever. And so I say support that if we can.
Sonya: So in the last couple of minutes, I actually wanted to ask you about different sports. So you’re very proficient and awesome at lots of different sports. And for me, I’m very much a solo or I’ve been very much a solo sport athlete, mountain biking has been a solo focus for a really long time. And focusing on the fun I’m trying to create flexibility in my mind to diversify a little bit. So I signed up for a 50k trail running race and, maybe I want to do some skiing, things like that. But and I’m sure people listening that are very single goal focus are afraid, in similar ways that I am. So for you, how did you manage doing all of these different sports at a high level and have the mental flexibility to not singularly train one of them?
Travis: Well, I think a good first step, someone’s thinking about a new sport is just grasping that beginner mindset. And, and for me, again, what’s great is that’s fun, you get to learn, you get to learn something as an adult, which is different from learning it as a kid, and you get to have fast progress. And so that’s all fun. I think that’s a good reason. As far as maintaining it, people get good at stuff because they spend a lot of time on it, is kind of what it comes down to. So consistently doing something over time. Like now when it comes to paddling, I’m not a fantastic paddler, by any professional means or anything. But when it comes to the adventure racing world, I can paddle good enough. When I first started adventure racing, when I was 20, I was terrible, and I couldn’t keep a boat going straight. And my form was horrible. And I just put time into it. And I went to New Zealand for almost a year, and I tracked down the best Kiwi paddlers and got them to take me out paddling and so I got better. And so in cycling, we say, time in the saddle, so it’s time in the boat, time in the shoes, time in the skis, or whatever. And then also realizing, I think, if you want to be a multi-sport athlete there is, especially if you’re balancing it with parenting, or work or whatever, there’s a give and take. If your goal is to be the best possible runner, you probably really need to focus on running for a lot of the year. But if you can say, oh, my goal is to simultaneously be kind of good or good enough for a multi-sport race, you could in the given week, I mean, I love in the winter, like in any given week, I’ll probably go biking, running and skiing, maybe each of those a couple times throughout the week. And for me, that’s just fun. And also l you get injured less, because there’s not as much overuse. That’s kind of how I like to do things.
Sonya: Now that comes all the way back to defining success in terms of impact and experience. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people find your podcasts, your coaching and your books?
Travis: Yeah. Thanks, Sonya. I really appreciate it. All of that is at TravisMacy.com. Instagram, like I said, it’s not exactly my thing. But I kind of do it. That’s @TravisMacy. And the books are on, you mentioned the Ultra Mindset, the new ones called A Mile at a Time. So that’s up for preorder now. It’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores, etc. And it’ll be on shelves in March.
Sonya: Awesome. And we’ll record a podcast about that. And I’m looking forward to it.