Welcome to The Ellie Project 💪
Pro sports physio Sarah Coletti and MBX Training collaborate to document
a step by step process in optimizing the performance of professional athlete and FEI rider Ellie Coletti
Professional athletes do three things. They eat. They sleep. They train. That's it. Every ounce of water, fistful of almonds, slice of grass-fed meat that goes into their mouths is for the purpose of fueling their muscles. Professional athletes are required to sleep, not only a full night's worth but naps and entire days are built into their schedules for rest and recovery. Rotations of calculated eating and sleeping serve to maximize the athlete's dedicated training time, which can be anywhere from one hour to 3, 4 (or on occasion I've seen 5) training sessions per day.
(Most) professional riders do no short of 25 things. They ride anywhere from 4 to 12 horses a day. They teach anywhere from 2 to 8 lessons a day. They manage a farm (or oversee the management of a farm). They deal with daily curveballs - anything from a horse colics unexpectedly to appointments going off schedule to weather-related emergencies (i.e, shoveling snow off New England roofs this past winter!) As with any business, there are endless curveballs that could potentially throw a day off track. Point being - most professional riders are also business owners (or at the very least, work in the field.) A special few are allowed the luxury of Eat. Sleep. Train. Not many. Oh, and as for the eating and sleeping of the everyday professional rider? Sometimes, there's a minute to cram in a few cookies in between rides and by the end of the day falling into bed comes way before carb-loading.
After ten years working in sports therapy, both clinical and on the road with professional athletes, I came back home to start a new chapter. This chapter involved scaling back my physio practice and moving it to my hometown so I could focus on growing a beach pillow business. When I started using my newfound time and proximity to visit my family, I noticed my sister Ellie, a professional FEI rider, working herself to the ground. I knew she rarely took days off and worked a lot but had I not noticed the glaring issue until it was staring me in the face? I looked into Ellie's pale complexion one day and thought, holy crap. How are you expected to improve personal performance as a professional athlete when nearly every minute of your day is dedicated to running a successful business? Where is the time written in to eat three balanced meals and two healthy snacks? When are the cross-training / strength sessions happening? I didn't even get as far as naps until I started yipping, "El, do you realize that professional athletes are only professional athletes? This model is insane! How do you do it?" "I just do it," she said, "I do what needs to be done."
Luckily, this is the quintessential element to athlete life - mental toughness. That, she has. Ten fold. But how long does one endure extremely high pressures of professional athlete and business life without breaking? This was the worry that came across my mind that day I looked at my sister. How long can she sustain this level of output without an equally opposite amount of input into the bank of Ellie?
We started talking. And thinking. And talking. And thinking. And more, of course, working. Ellie and I did a few bodywork sessions up at my office but it only confirmed my suspicions - there aren't enough elbows in the world! This girl needs corrective strength training stat. Well, stat rarely happens as these things go. But as luck would have it, a few months later, I found MBX Training - a hidden gem of a strength facility in the next town over. I was primarily looking to develop a relationship with like-minded colleagues in the area so I could refer my new suburban clients for corrective strength training. And then a light went off.
Enter, Dr. Mark Stonkus, Certified Consultant from the Association of Applied Sports Psychology, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and an all around awesome guy!! Mark designed a mental toughness test for athletes and developed a way to implement mental strength training into physical work-outs. I sent him a proposal asking if he would consider doing an athlete project with Ellie. Now that I have a better understanding how busy Mark is between running MBX and teaching courses at Boston College, I can't believe he even took the time to answer my email but he did - and met with Ellie soon after. (Insert touchdown emoji)
And, voila, The Ellie Project is born!
Dressage: a competition in which horses perform special movements in response to signals from their riders. ~Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Did you know most professional athletes:
Food for thought ↑
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For the next two months, Mark and his staff at MBX are going to work with Ellie on physical and mental strength (3x/week). Ellie will also receive bodywork sessions at Derby Street Restorative (1x/week). We are going to document the transformation and performance levels of this professional athlete as she goes from zero to 60. We invite you to follow along, cheer her on, and enjoy the process as we strengthen Ellie's performance and build awareness in the equestrian-athlete community!