Dedication and correct design to a training schedule (nothing works if you don’t).
Professional athletes have to perform at the highest levels. While not all of us will share Professional athletes’ athletic skills, we can learn insights from their workout routines about how we can improve our own exercise regimens. In this interview series, we are talking to professional athletes from all sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, Soccer, Olympics, Golf, Tennis, etc.) about the workout routines that they use to help them achieve top-level performance. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Solomon Simmons.
In college Solomon Simmons was the quintessential “student-athlete” earning his bachelor’s degree and MBA in finance within the 5-year eligibility of his full-ride athletic scholarship. As the Track & Field Team Captain and star decathlete for Eastern Michigan University, Solomon won the Mid-American Conference Championship 4 times and set the Conference Championship Meet Record. He is a 3 time NCAA All-American, 6 time NCAA Academic All-American (3-years Indoor & Outdoor season), and became one of only 81 people in US history to score 8,000+ points. He concluded the 2019 season by competing in the Track & Field World Championships in Doha, Qatar finishing as the #1 U.S. Decathlete and #8 in the World.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and the story of how you became a professional athlete?
Mystory is one of being the underdog! I was never “the guy” as a young man, but had a lot of people that saw potential in me, especially I was the younger sibling of a very athletic brother. From high school at Murrieta Valley High School through college athletics at Eastern Michigan University, what I lacked in athletic talent, I made up for in hard work and commitment. From a young age, my father taught me what hard work looked like — early mornings, late nights, and mental toughness. I was known for being the first guy at practice and the last one to leave the training room. The decathlon is often an event of attrition — if you can outlast your opponent and remain healthy from doing all the little things that keep you in the competition, you will find yourself successful. My professional story, and perspective on life, truly boils down to a lot of good luck (any athlete that tells you otherwise is lying) and a lot of hard work! Even professionally, my edge was not being the best guy on the field but being the guy that took the most joy in the opportunities I was given!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
My most interesting athletic story is back in my college days at Eastern Michigan University, at the 2014 Indoor Mid-American conference championships. I was plagued with Jumper’s Knee, which is a degrading overuse injury of the knee tendon making it extremely painful to jump. My injury got so bad that about 2 weeks before the championships, I was faced with a decision: 1- to either switch my jumping leg or 2- not compete. Since not competing truly wasn’t an option, I had to switch jumping legs which in track and field, and more specifically the decathlon, is an easy way to not finish the event. I was fortunate enough to finish the competition and much more than that, I was fortunate enough to win my first conference championship! It boiled down to the final event which is a distance run, separating myself from the competition by only a 3 second margin! The take away I had from this event was centered around faith. Faith, not from a perspective of “if I pray and believe hard enough God will give me success” but faith in that no matter what the outcome is, that I am called to give my best effort and trust that the chips will fall exactly where they should. That I have no control over the outcome but only over my input.
You are a successful athlete. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1- Mentality- Every athlete must believe in themselves. Every person faces doubt, injuries, limits, setbacks — it’s a part of being human. What got me through this was embracing it! There is no magic pill to get over your doubt or limits but having an acceptance of who we are as human beings lets us remove our need to perform or be someone we are not! The first time I had to embrace this was when I tore my meniscus my freshman year of college. I was faced with the question of “could I ever compete again?”. I had to trust my body and if it limited me, it was a limitation I had to accept and learn how to deal with as I pressed on to my goals!
2- A purpose bigger than yourself — To have a ‘why’ behind what you do every day is game changing. My family, my relationship with God, and even my personal goals fuel me when the days get long and the motivation is hard to find.
3- Self control — As a man, athlete, friend we have responsibilities. We remain true to those priorities by setting boundaries. If my goal is to make an Olympic team, it starts in the off season with what I choose to (and not to) eat. It continues through my sleep schedule, my commitment to my training calendar. Saying No is the strongest (and shortest) complete answer we can give to remain committed to the things we truly want to say yes to.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
My worst (and funniest) mistake happened at the 2019 US championships. Going into one of my best events, Javelin, I had essentially won the entire event. I was leading the competition and was frustrated coming from the previous event (pole vault) and not performing as well as I’d wanted. Walking into Javelin, I decided I wanted to get all of my frustration of the competition out and throw as hard as I could. I threw so poorly I slid into 2nd place and hurt myself during the competition from getting out of control! Fortunately, I was still able to finish and qualify for the 2019 World Championships, but a huge lesson was learned about self control. I let my temperament break my attention from execution on one of my strongest events. We often bring baggage with us between stages of life and dropping that weight (even momentarily) so we can focus on what is in front of us was my key takeaway! I’ve taken this perspective into not only sport but into life as well.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?
My biggest current project is raising a daughter! I was fortunate enough to have an addition to my family and she is the biggest ‘project’ that has my attention as of late! I hope one day I am able to take all of the lessons I’ve gained through my athletic and professional life and teach them to her.
Can you share with our readers a few of the workout and nutrition routines you use to help you perform at peak levels?
One of my favorite workouts is a very simple speed play workout called ’30 on — 30 off’. It is a workout that focuses on fitness, and it’s simply running at your maximum pace for 30 and then recovering for 30 seconds. After 15–20 minutes of this, my lungs and legs are on fire! After running a workout like this, I use Juice Plus + Perform (JP+) as an immediate recovery shake so I am ready to head to the gym for weights! JP+ seriously crushed it with their new Perform shake!
What do you do to prevent injuries during your workouts or during your competitions?
I think every person is struggling with some type of injury that is holding them back. I found out that later in my career that most can be eased with nutrition and preemptive treatments; having a strong balanced diet of whole foods and work that puts the body back into homeostasis (such as chiropractic, masseuse, and stretching) has been key to keeping me in the competitive world.
What type of workout regime has helped you to rehabilitate from injury?
I focus on the fact that you are not only supposed to workout HARD but that you are to workout to do things right. Focusing on natural movements for the body that keeps your body moving the way it is intended to be. People that have spurred me on to have a more holistic health approach to my athletic career have been Ashton Easton, Ben Partick, and Ido Portal.
Do you practice mindfulness or meditation as part of your overall training routine? Can you explain what you do?
I often incorporate prayer into my training routine. I am always trying to experience gratitude for the moments I have been fortunate enough to partake in. Whether the moment has been taking time to appreciate the officials, my competition, or even just the opportunity to compete — this makes the experience of athletics so much more meaningful. No one knows when their opportunity in a given field of professionalism will be over, so being present and enjoying it all is so important.
Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A Professional Athlete?”
1- A true desire and liking to a specific event.
2- A willingness/humility to become a student of the event (learning how to perform best and unlearning your innate biases).
3- The ability to say “no” to distractions (“no” is the shortest complete sentence. When you say no to something that takes you away from your goal, you are saying yes to your priorities).
4- Dedication and correct design to a training schedule (nothing works if you don’t).
5- Choosing the ‘why’ you are pursuing an event, and stick with it. When the motivation runs out, you can rely on that.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My movement would be dedicated to sharing the story behind my relationship with God through Jesus. I want every athlete/person to know that they are God’s masterpiece, whether they win or lose. I want to blend sport with faith for an opportunity to share that good news with everyone!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.