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August 6, 2018

Strolling San Sebastián

I had just one day to spend in San Sebastián, so I battled a minor head cold and walked all over the seaside town, known locally in Basque as Donostia. 

(This town definitely has pharmacies, and Marc and I have since been thankfully cured by their Spanish medicines.)

Basically, if you're a fan of churches, parks, and beaches, you will love San Sebastián. I had an alright weather day, as you will see from my photos. The morning and evening both had cloud cover, but the entire afternoon the sky was bright blue.

The Puente Maria Cristina has four ornate pillar-towers with great horse sculptures on top. This is the furthest inland landmark and a good place to start your walk.

The Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral is a great walk around and through. It's not that old (late nineteenth century), but its Gothic-Revival style is well-done and interesting for every cathedral tourist.

Parts of San Sebastián reminded me very much of lovely Deauville, France. It has that same clean resort vibe, fancy hotels, and even also its own international film festival. La Concha beach has lots of space and activities along its 1,5 kilometers, and the views include mountains, an island, and the city.

You can go even further down the beach to the west for a climb up to a castle, an amusement park, and a lighthouse.

De Okendo Plaza is home to the Victoria Eugenia Antzokia performing arts theater. It's a fabulous location right smack in the middle of the town, and also where the San Sebastián city buses from the airport end.

Many of the parks in San Sebastián were filled with happy families and friends enjoying the warm weather with a picnic and outdoor fun.

I love this oblong gazebo at Kiosko Boulevard, just east of the City Hall. The stained glass framings along the top are beautifully set within the lacing ironwork.

Heading into the older part of town, the Koruko Andre Mariaren Basilika draws its visitors down the long Kale Nagusia street to its impressive façade.

I didn't have the time to head up to this lookout point, but I am sure the views will be awesome! The Begiratokiko Baluartea (because you'll be able to toss that around with a swell "¿Dónde está...?") can be accessed from behind the left side of the basilica or also around the corner from the San Telmo Museum.

The Iglesia de San Ignacio church was close to where I was staying. It is located very nicely at a curve in the road next to De Cataluña Plaza where many cafes and benches are set up to serve as a sort of main social area on the eastern half of the town.

I know there is a great food scene as well, but I only got around to some magnificent desserts at MEYVI Cafés y Pasteles on the other side of De Cataluña Plaza. It's not often I find a brownie that can beat my own home baked brownies. But this cheesecake brownie and the accompanying dulce de leche coconut bar were two of the best desserts I have ever had. Soft, moist, and full of complimenting flavors. Well done!

Another beautiful church to check out is San Bizente Eliza, also close to the San Telmo Museum.

I had planned to be in San Sebastián longer than just one day, but I changed my itinerary to return to Bavaria for a few days to surprise Marc for our tenth wedding anniversary. Totally. Best. Idea. Ever.

Hopefully when you get to go to San Sebastián, you'll have decent weather like I did and can really take your time walking around the different parts of the city. I'm already looking forward to the next chance I get to return to the Basque region of Spain!

Next up will be Bilbao!

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August 1, 2018

Following the Romans of Tarragona

On my last day in Barcelona this summer, I decided to leave! It was high time for me to reach beyond the borders of that awesome town, and, after many moments exploring Google Maps, I selected Tarragona for my daytime venture.

The €8,05 train from Barcelona-Sants to Tarragona was air conditioned and had plenty of seats. It took just over one hour to get to Tarragona, and the train tracks run along the Mediterranean most of the trip. There are some more expensive trains that may be a few minutes faster, but it's basically the same to take the regional train and pay half the price.

The Romans first called it Tarraco in their Hispania Tarraconensis province, and it was a popular fortification both for its position and great weather. It became a very wealthy Roman city and received much attention from various rulers. Tarragona passed through many different hands after the Roman Empire fell, and today is in the Catalunya region of Spain. There have been ongoing projects for archaeological excavations and preservations throughout the city since the 1800s.

Starting our walk from the Tarragona main train station, our first stop is what's left of the Roman Theater. It's the best teaser for the day, as it is barely still visible, but has been well-cleared in the middle of the buildings. There is even a metal structure that does not impede the view to simulate how the theater would have been situated.

Moving northward, there is a lovely park now where the Roman Forum ruins are. Entrance is €3,30 - however, I strongly suggest getting the Pass to Roman Venues combination ticket for only €7,40 that will include the Roman Forum, Passeig Arqueològic, Roman Circus, and Roman Amphitheater parks and is valid for an entire year.

The next section doesn't really have anything to do with the Romans, but it doesn't make sense to be in this part of town and skip the Ramblas Nova plazas! The Monument als Castellars is not to be missed, and the fountains and garden areas along the Ramblas are all worth a walk through.

Heading northeast on Carrer de la Reina Maria Cristina, then right on Via de l'Imperi Romà will lead you to the Passeig Arqueològic where Roman walls are still intact. This park is included in your combination ticket!

Jump forward in history just a little bit to the 1100s and visit the Tarragona Cathedral that has both Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It is one of the grandest cathedrals in all of Catalunya. I didn't particularly care for the front façade, but the rest of the cathedral was equally impressive and beautiful.

It's also a great moment to take a break at the nearby Le Solet outdoor cafe area around the right corner from the front of the cathedral. There's no menu, but if you ask for classic Spanish snacks and tapas (I went with queso de Manchego and patatas bravas), great food at a great price will be placed in front of you.

Wind any way you like down the mountain toward the ocean and you'll eventually end up on Passeig de Sant Antoni. Follow this street down the hill to the remains of the Roman Circus, where they used to have their chariot races. Next to these ruins that are included in your Roman pass, is the Torre de les Monges, where you can climb the tower for panoramic views of the city and sea.

The Roman Amphitheater is the most well-situated ruin. Gloriously set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea, the amphitheater is both awe-inspiring and extremely photogenic. Plus, it's included in your combination ticket!

If you still have some time to enjoy Tarragona, you are now right next to Platja del Miracle, or Miracle Beach. It's across the train tracks, but definitely worth taking the streets down to the left or the beach walkway overpass on the right on a hot day for a dip in the sea and a resting break. And depending on where you station yourself on the beach, you'll only be a five to ten minute walk back to the train station.

BONUS: if you are fortunate enough to have been visiting Tarragona in a car (less than ten minutes), or even with a bicycle (about 20 minutes), then you should absolutely make your way to the Aqüeducte de les Ferreres, or the Pont del diable. There is even a bus that takes you that way! I didn't have the means or time to get all the way out there, but it looks like it would be incredible!

Tarragona is a fabulous day trip from Barcelona. I'm really glad I elected for a city trip instead of just a beach getaway to Sitges, because I still got to include the beach in Tarragona, too. Enjoy the history and a very Roman place on the Spanish coast!

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July 26, 2018

The Pro Player Timeline: Daily

This is the final overview post for The Pro Player Timeline. The other ones are the year Overview and for a strong Weekly schedule. After these overview posts will come the individual months and days broken down to really stay organized and on task throughout the entire year. When the individual month posts come out, they will also include Google calendars with reminders of when to do what.

Each day is the backbone of how your life will look like and build up around you. The details aren't just important, they're everything. Of course, nobody needs to feel trapped into a certain routine; the idea is to create positive habits that contribute to your success in life and in sports.

These habits are guidelines to what you can do to make your day-to-day activities support your athlete lifestyle and can be tailored in any way to fit you best.

Wake-Up Time

Based on when you have to be where for your team, this time could be anything from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM. I recommend something generally between 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM to feel your best. Keeping your wake-up time consistent will keep your body in rhythm and start each day the same.

First Thing

My first thing is to drink a glass of water then catch up on the emails and texts from the night before. Some might take a shower, others go straight to their breakfast, some want to read a book, others do best by brushing their teeth and getting dressed right away. Whatever your thing is, make it your way of waking up fresh and ready to take on the day.

Morning Nutrition

People don't just say, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," for fun. It's because it actually is. I know way too many people who say they can't eat breakfast. Your body may not be used to it and that's why it feels weird, but making breakfast a priority will eventually bring your body around to the idea that you can be a breakfast person. You shouldn't drive a car on an empty tank of gas, and you shouldn't start your day on an empty stomach either!

Quiet Time

This can be as simple as taking five minutes to just be silent and calm. You can do breathing exercises, have a meditation session, or use it as your prayer time. You can even just read a chapter of a book or write in a notebook/journal to create this space of silence that can prepare your mind and heart to absorb the rest of the day. This may seem like an awkward time for super social people or for someone who doesn't like being quiet or alone...but that means this time is especially crucial for you to actually self-reflect and listen instead of allowing distractions to fill up the sound space.

Morning Activity

For most pro athletes, this activity is morning workout or practice. For others who don't have double days everyday, this time frame can be used for an outing, finishing up chores, running errands, or a creative project. Whatever it is that you'll be doing, your previous actions in the morning need to support the energy your body will need. The most important key is to not waste this time or give it up to laziness! "Morning movie time" should not become a thing, because all that's doing is taking hours away from the awesome life that waits outside your door in a totally unexplored world!

Midday Meal

Depending on the tightness of your schedule, you may want to consider preparing this meal in the morning or even the night before. If you have a solid chunk of time, you can use it to prepare a great lunch that replenishes your body after your morning activity and also prepares it for whatever is left in your day. Include a lot of water to maintain a high hydration level.

Early Afternoon Activity

This is either your choice or a team practice of some kind. If you have practice in the late afternoon/evening slot instead, this can actually be a good moment to rest and, yes, even take a nap or watch a movie. Pay attention to how your body reacts to napping and/or movie watching; I know for me, any practice I've ever tried to do after napping - no matter how many hours before or not - has been wacky. My body does not recover after naps well enough to perform sanely in a practice, so I use this early afternoon time to get things done. If I get totally caught up, then I use this time to prepare for the next day, whether it's meals, clothing choices, backpack packing, etc.


My go-to's are a granola bar and a banana. Make sure your snack fits with wherever you will be at the time; for me, I'm at the gym already, so it has to be quick and easy to eat with no clean-up. When I'm at home and can prepare a snack straight from the refrigerator, I'm making a fruit salad or enjoying vegetables and hummus.

Late Afternoon/Evening Activity

For most pro athletes, this is the main team practice of the day. If you're one of the lucky ones with an early afternoon training schedule, you can use this time to go out with friends, do laundry, or start making an elaborate dinner. The rest of us are sweating at training, and need to make sure we have brought all the necessary items with us to the gym. My bag always includes: the aforementioned snack, 2 pairs of sports shoes, ankle braces, knee pads, towel, full water bottle, elastic band for warm-up, foam roller, shampoo, change of clothes for after shower, and athletic tape. The earlier I have packed my bag for practice, the less I have to think about the rest of the day and can focus on what needs to be done in training. It is our job, after all.

Evening Refuel

Not pizza. Not French fries. Not cheeseburgers. Not ice cream. Not fast food or junk food of any kind!!! This is not about binging because we exercise a lot so our bodies can handle bad food. This is about what our bodies need to recover from the day and go into the next day strong. A variety of healthy vegetables and proteins is what your body is asking you for, so find your favorites and meet some new ones to create dinners both you and your body will love.

Recovery Habits

These can occur throughout the day as well. Ask around for a mobility and flexibility program that aligns with what your body needs. Incorporate yoga poses, set aside fifteen minutes for stretching, use the foam roller while watching TV, icing, heating, mashing, whirlpooling, soaking, whatever! We all have our preferred methods of recovery and some work better than others. The key is not only finding the method that works for helping your body feel strong, but also something that relaxes your body and mind to be able to go to sleep that night and feel rested again when you wake up the next day.

Sleep Time

We are all relatively young when we start the pro athlete journey. Meaning we may still like staying up past midnight, playing video games late, Skyping with friends and family back home at odd hours, and so on.

Your sleep is your most important detail in your healthiness and preparation for playing sports. 

You should be doing this for at minimum eight to nine hours per night. You don't eat for that many hours, you don't do recovery exercises for that long, and you won't even usually work that many hours as a pro athlete. But, you do need that much sleep. Make sleep your priority. Turn your phone to "do not disturb," or, even better, turn it completely off. Shut down your devices and the voices and the noises and rest your mind. By sleeping well, you'll be able to maintain that consistent wake-up time and be strong and ready to go for whatever your morning holds for you.

This basic daily schedule arrangement can be designed exactly to what your day needs. Sound off in the comments below with other tips and ideas you've used or seen work, too!

More info: Play Abroad 101
Navigating Sports Abroad

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July 18, 2018

The Pro Player Timeline: Weekly

Working from The Pro Player Timeline: Overview, this Weekly post focuses on what a professional player overseas should be outlining their week like. Read Navigating Sports Abroad blog post.
Read Play Abroad 101 for the most accurate preparation in print.

Obviously, every player's schedule will vary based on practices, matches, and other planned activities, however, it's important for athletes to go into each week with an organized view of how the days within the week will play themselves out.

Most of the world outside of the United States starts their calendar week on Monday, as will this week outline. This is based on Saturday matches, but can be adjusted around when match days are as the peak of the week, with the day of reflection and rest following.

MONDAY - Food Day
Meal plan for the first half, if not entire, week.
Main grocery shopping trip of the week. Most local supermarkets have their freshest and most plentiful inventory at the start of the week.

TUESDAY - Wild Card Day
Do something different for 1 hour every Tuesday. Ideas for this will be linked onto the "Tuesday post" eventually.
Post inspirational or goal-oriented content on your social media platforms.

Take at least ten minutes (thirty is better!) to be silent, whether through breathing exercises, meditation, or prayer.
In addition to your normal mobility and flexibility routine, take time to incorporate yoga and other deep stretches to refresh your body for the rest of the week.

THURSDAY - Double-Check Day
Return to grocery store to stock up before the weekend when you won't have much time and the stores will have inconvenient hours or will even be closed.
Make sure you have everything you need for the weekend in advance to go into match preparation stress-free.

FRIDAY - Preparation Day
Pack your game gear bag and prepare pre-game meals.
Your sleep and nutrition should be balanced everyday, but Friday is the most important.
Save your "going-out" days for post-match or the day after the match.

SATURDAY - Performance Day
Wake up on time and eat a great breakfast.
Post match times and links onto social media platforms for fans to follow online.
Implement your favorite and important pre-game traditions.
Fuel your body with healthy and energy-infused foods and meals to perform your best.

SUNDAY - Reflection/Rest Day
Take five minutes to review your week and the match from the day before. Write it in a notebook, type it into a document, speak it into a voice memo, or record a video of yourself reviewing the week.
Date and keep these records as the basis of your journey both as an athlete and person.
Post match results and links onto social media platforms.
Take at least thirty minutes to stretch, roll, and whatever other recovery routines you should be doing.

As your weeks become more routine, you can add more social media presence (i.e., sharing other pro player's match times/highlights, linking to your blog, etc.). The most important baselines for every week are getting enough of the right kind of sleep and eating properly. These actions take intentional planning and purpose. Too many times we have heard stories of athletes finishing practice after 9:00 PM and not having any food left to eat - and all the grocery stores and decent restaurants are closed! 

The athletes who make an effort to learn to exist in the schedule of the culture around them are going to be the most successful in the short and long term.

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