To celebrate the new Manduka X Mat, we're checking in with powerful athletes to hear how yoga improves their performance as cross-sport influencers. First up? Movement Coach and Manduka Ambassador, Mike Aidala.
What is your athletic background?
My parents always say I never met a ball I didn’t like. In high school I was an all-state football quarterback and an all-conference basketball forward. I also played football at SUNY Cortland. After graduating college early with a degree in Kinesiology and Fitness Development, I competed in Olympic Weightlifting. I then did Stand-Up Paddleboard distance racing and at one point even instructed skiing in Austria.
What does your fitness routine look like now?
My current training program is a mixture of strength and conditioning, gymnastics, sprints, hand balancing, stretching, meditation, swimming and recovery. It's a varied routine but it's all to help strengthen my body and mind so I can surf, swim, climb, and other activities for longer and with more ease. There is nothing worse to me than having to stop doing something fun because my body or mind can’t keep up.
What drew you to yoga?
I was always interested in the off-season grind and the mental edge athletes face during training. When I tried yoga in my self-directed graduate studies, I found being on the mat quickly became a way for me to push my mental edge while offering me opportunities to grow.
You’re a movement coach now, what does that entail?
I coach people how to move more efficiently and effectively, which leads to improved performance and less injuries. I work with clients in three different capacities. First, I build personalized online training programs. These are based on the client's goals, needs, space, time, etc. Programs can include free weights, kettlebells, TRX, gymnastics, yoga, martial arts - and many other things. The second way I coach is my personal one-on-one coaching. I have local clients and also travel all over the US. Lastly, I offer an extended weekend retreat in southern California. This lifestyle retreat includes personalized trainings, meals, bodywork and adventure for a complete reboot.
What kind of clients do you work with?
Everyone’s goals are slightly different but they all want to have fun, work hard and get results. For example, I have women who want to build strength to hold arm balances or handstands and men who are bored with traditional gym machines and want to develop true total body strength and flexibility.
How do you incorporate yoga in the work that you do?
I incorporate some traditional asana into my programs for clients, but the majority of yogic work comes from the mindset I ask of my students. I need them to be totally present during the work they are doing in order to reap the most benefit from it. Staying mindful with what you’re doing in the gym will help strengthen your ability to stay mindful outside of the gym, leaving the training to essentially become a moving meditation.
What are some of your gear essentials?
The gear each person needs varies based on their goals and other factors, but almost everyone needs a mat to do floor work on. There is no substitute for a good mat on a hardwood floor especially for any drills with your hands on the ground. When you’re starting out and building stability it’s very difficult to find balance on an unpredictable surface. Other essentials I use often are a foam roller, mini resistance bands, and an inflatable ball.
What’s one piece of advice you give to all of your clients?
I tell them to enjoy the process of learning about themselves. A lot of people want the work to be easy – but if it’s easy there is no challenge and no growth. The key is finding the sweet spot of flow within your work, where the challenge you’re faced with requires all of your skill to stay completely engaged. Too little of a challenge, or too much skill, and you become bored. Too much challenge, or too little skill, and you become frustrated.
Anything else you want to add?
“Don’t let your memories become bigger than your dreams” – Anonymous
I want to add this quote because I know how it can be easy to look back and live in the glory days, but that feeling of scoring the game-winning basket when you were 15 could be the same as learning your first handstand at age 40, or hiking up a mountain at age 65. Keep the search alive!
Mike Aidala is a NFPT Certified Personal Trainer, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, and Sports Performance Coach who has worked with the New York Jets’ strength and conditioning staff and trained Division 1, NFL, MLB and NBA players at EXOS in Los Angeles. He currently resides in Encinitas, CA. Follow him on Instagram and visit his website to learn more about his training programs.
Photography: Hunter O'Brien
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