Aging, Revolution vs. Evolution & XPT: The Unstoppable Doc Hickey Answers Our Questions
Dr. Brian Hickey is a competitive athlete, a coach and Professor of Exercise Science and Sport Management at Florida A&M, who personally holds an incredible 30 National Championships worth of hardware. We caught up with Doc to discuss the Myth of New Year’s Resolutions, what he’s focusing on now, and what he thinks about us. Here’s how it all shook down…
Doc Hickey fuelling up with friends at the XPT Experience in Malibu
XPT: It’s the end of January. Talk to us about New Years Resolutions.
DOC: The quick fix doesn’t work. It’s a shame and, in my professional opinion, almost fraudulent for the fitness industry to perpetuate that. “New Year, New You.” The truth is that by Valentine’s Day, the majority of people who signed up for the gym memberships and bought personal training sessions in advance have moved on to other things. And then they’ve left the industry and as consumers and they’re left with a bad taste in their mouth so they’re less likely to return. We need to try to have an evolution not a revolution. XPT, to me, represents an athletic evolution. XPT allow you to have an appreciation for balance with other life responsibilities. I look at Gabby and Laird and they are entrepreneurs, they are CEOs of themselves. And then they have so many other responsibilities with their kids, and yet they’re able to put an importance on getting the physical dimension of health and make it work. And that’s one of the things you learn at the XPT Experience, is that no matter how busy you are you can figure out a way to get movement into your life. Everyday. No matter what. So with this paradigm you can meet you family and professional responsibilities within the context of training and physical exercise.
XPT: As a strength and conditioning professor what appeals to you most about the XPT Methodology?
DOC: First, it’s got a realistic approach. It incorporates the high intensity/low volume protocol but it makes it realistic and accessibly to everybody. These are workouts that everybody can do.
When I got back from XPT, I went from California to New York to my parents house in New York and within a couple of days we were in the pool doing scaled workouts that we did at XPT, and my parents are 82. They’ll pass for 62 on any given day. So the universal scalability is phenomenal.
Doc Hickey at the pool with his parents, Fred & Terry Hickey
The next thing is just the whole concept of breathe, move and recover. And that’s one of the things that I stress with everybody, with the people that I train and with my students, is that every day you have to have some sort of movement. I really like that the XPT philosophy has the emphasis on movement. Some days we’ll move more than others, some days we’ll move heavier things than other days, but every day there’s going to be some kind of movement. For XPT Daily Trainings Click Here.
XPT: Let’s talk about recovery.
In terms of recovery, and from a coaching standpoint, it’s not how much work you can do, it’s how much work you can recover from and the whole principle of individual response and that’s another thing I like about XPT. Everyone has a certain tolerance for work and we all have our own recovery timeline. Just because one person or one athlete can do XYZ it doesn’t mean every athlete can do XYZ. We tend to run into problems with that in group fitness classes and with teams. One of the groups I’ve worked with in the past is hockey strength coaches. One of the big differences between working with college students versus working with the NHL is that in the NHL you’re going to have 18 year-old kids flying up and down the ice, and they’re going to be on the same team as guys who are 27 or 28. Or if you’re working with the Florida Panthers, you’ve got Jaromir Jagr—he’s about 44 and wants to beat Gordie Howe’s record. And, in terms of individual response, the key is the recovery and everyone’s got his or her own timeline there. I like that XPT embraces that.
XPT, to me, represents an athletic evolution. It’s the next step. Your number one enemy is your birth certificate. In 2004, I did the Olympic Trials in bike racing and time is undefeated. I’m going to be 50 in 14 months, so my days of doing the Olympic Trials have come and gone. But what the XPT philosophy allows me to do is to stay active and in terms of fitness it allows me to pursue another batch of fitness goals, and the whole concept of breathe-move-recover every day.
I’ve been playing a lot of Lacrosse lately. This winter I was playing box lacrosse–which is indoor lacrosse–in Charlotte, on my way back to New York for Christmas. And we were doing 2-on-1 drills and I’m on offense and there are two guys on defense and the guys D-ing me up, their ages together were still less than my total age and I was holding my own. One of my friends, he was All American 2014, Syracuse Team Captain, and he was one of the guys I was playing against. And we got off the field and he said, “Doc, you held your own today, man.” And that’s what the XPT philosophy allows me to do…to mix it up with the young guys and even stick it to ‘em once in awhile.
Head Coach Doc Hickey with the Florida A&M Lacrosse team, a program he helped to launch
XPT: While you were playing did you use some of the breathing methodology?
DOC: One of the things I’m working on right now in terms of research and practice is using breathing to engage the parasympathetic system. You get that heart rate to drop when I’ve got the ball in the stick. One of my best friends, Dr. Jim Kellogg, (renowned sports medicine researcher, clinician and practitioner, who died in March 2014) and I had a lab together. He did his master’s work at Bowling Green University and one of the things he studied was hockey players. He was one of the first guys to put heart rate monitors on hockey players. And in studying their heart rate, he found that in every instance within the game, that he’d set an upper bound and a lower bound and learned that their heart rate was within that upper and lower bound, whether they were skating, whether they were fighting or on the bench or in the penalty box—whatever it was—except every once in awhile when he would see about a six-second spike. And when he went back and correlated that spike with the game film, the only time that there was a heart rate spike that couldn’t be accounted for within the film was when they had the puck on the stick. And that’s when they’re making the play, all eyes are on them and they would get that sympathetic rush. This was back in 2005. And in looking at it now, with the breathing, the key for me when I’m playing and when I do my shooting drills, I’ll pick up a ground ball and take a deep belly breath and imagine that I’m breathing through my navel and engaging that parasympathetic system and slowing the heart rate down, and letting whatever move come to me or letting the game come to me. And then the other thing that was really big when I was playing these guys was leaning on my fitness. And then as soon as we would switch from offense to defense, if we were playing three-minute periods, is taking that really deep breath and slowing everything down and clearing out the mind. When you’re going crazy anaerobic you’re in that fight or flight and your judgment is going to get clouded. So the longer you can stay aerobic, the longer you can keep some parasympathetic tone, the better you’re going to play. For XPT Performance Breathing exercises & articles click here.
XPT: What do you find that most successful athletes have that others lack?
DOC: Successful athletes are willing to do what others won’t. Period. In terms of racing, for me, and in terms of still competing, I got 30 national championships and I earned the last one last year when I won the Powerman Short Course Dual National Championship last year for my age group. I’m 48. And I got in all of my bike training while I was commuting. I am a full time professor at Florida A&M and I teach part time at Tallahassee Community College. So Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will ride my bike from my house to TCC, which is about a half an hour ride, then I’ll ride from TCC to FAM and then I’ll ride home, so I’ll get in about 80 minutes of cycling. Then, if it’s an interval day on the bike, I’ll just set my trainer up in the kitchen and bang out my interval workout after that, while I’m still warm. If it’s a lifting day, I’ll go downstairs where I’ve got my kettle bells and I’m ready to go, and then I’ll cool down with some lacrosse and some mobility stuff. Or if it’s a run day, I jump off my bike and put my shoes on and run in my neighborhood right there. And that’s the stuff that most 48-49 year olds aren’t doing. Your fighting days aren’t behind you.
XPT: As a coach and athlete, what you say to athletes after a loss?
DOC: What I do is I say, “Next.” My current Lacrosse goalie, Jared, just started playing Lacrosse in September. By early November he wants to play goalie. He’s new, so we’ll stay after practice for two hours shooting and every time he misses, I’ll say, “Next.” Your NEXT game is your most important game. What’s done is done. You need to look ahead. If you spend too much time licking your wounds then you’ll not be prepared for the race ahead. If it goes well, enjoy it for two hours. And then move on. If it goes badly then sulk for two hours and then move on. There’s nothing that so good that it’s going to keep the sun from rising the next day and there’s nothing that’s so bad that it’s going to keep the sun from setting that day.
Also, be critical. Be a scientist. Look at what you did right. Look at what you did wrong. Look at the game film, even if it’s in your head. The stuff you did right, repeat it. The stuff you did wrong, lose it. And that goes for winning and losing. How am I going to make it better tomorrow? There’s no such thing as perfection, it’s just striving for perfection. There’s always going to be something that you can improve upon.
Doc on the podium after winning the Powerman National Championship in 2015.
XPT: Any additional thoughts for people who are thinking about attending an XPT Experience?
DOC: Do it and have an open mind. Those are the two main things. If you want to go then go, but when you do take all your preconceived notions and go in with a blank slate. Because you’re going to be filled with a lot of different ideas.
Doc talks adrenaline at XPT Experience in Malibu, with some unexpected friends…
And take time to meet one on one with the various advisors that are there. There were a couple of people last summer who would seek me out every day. So make sure you are getting that ROI, that return on your investment. And then keep a journal to write down the stuff you like, the stuff you don’t like and what you think you’re going to take back to remember in your own life. And then remember evolution, not revolution. Move the needle a little bit at a time. Maybe you learn a little bit about stress management. Try it and give it 70 days because it takes 70 days for a behavior change to really take hold. So give it 70 days and then put something else in and then put something else in after that. And then in a year you’ve made five changes and that’s pretty good. Learn more about XPT Advisor Dr. Brian Hickey and his incredible racing career.