Its been a “minute”

Not often enough do i stop and look back at my life. The older i get, days feel like seconds and years feel like days. Its easy to get lost in the hustle of life. Not often enough do i realize that i lead a life of beauty in darkness, like a beautiful painting in a dark room. The painting doesn’t get the thought or love it deserves. I say this because i don’t appreciate the moments of triumph I’ve had over seemingly bleak circumstances or i don’t reflect on my extraordinary heritage. People, family before me, overcoming hardships that i can’t fathom. I come from a family of hard workers, with can-do attitudes that surpass racial, social, and economic turmoil. Most of my friends back home will understand the immigrant state of mind and lifestyle. But a lot of people can not relate at all.

I am bombarded by minuscule complaints from my peers, believing that they are going through “hardships”. Yes, everything is relative, but not to me. Not in my eyes. I grew up with grandparents living through a Japanese invasion, a dad who grew up fighting racial and social punches, and a mom who literally grew up sleeping in a rice sack. To me, those are hardships. For them to not only grow through it and bring up a thriving, beautiful family. That is overcoming hardships. I feel as if people complain more, rather than appreciating the simple things happening in our lives. Like…we can turn on a light, eat breakfast, shower with warm water, and DRIVE to work. The society around me is driven by instant gratification. Most of my peers do not have a grasp of hard work and manageable pain. The people around me choke my positive mindset, their negativity cements my feet so i drown in their sea of despair. Please understand that negative thoughts never create a positive world, but positive thoughts will chip away at a negative world and spur on beauty.

I know to take their heavy negative hearts lightly, because they are not me and i, not them. In time, like everything negative in my life, they will slowly fade away. I will be able to see where beauty thrives and appreciate my family before me and in turn, like them, i will be seen in the light of beauty by the ones after me.

Lets look for the beauty in our lives, daily. It can be a kiss or hug you got from a love one or a lady bug landing on your shirt or a smile from a cute guy or gal. Do not dwell in a negative mind set or the bad things in our lives, because it is fuel for more negativity. It is easy to complain, but harder to see the good in the bad. We have all been told is some shape or form that the best things in life are never easy. Don’t go for the easy way out, because that never leads to sustained happiness. We all want to be happy…right?

work hard, vault high




The Chad and Mike Story

Today is my friend Chad’s Birthday. I want to write something that embodies the influence he has had directly and indirectly on my life, that’s impossible. No one else, but i, have walked my path. Even if i write truest to my heart no one can feel what i feel for my brother Chad. But i will try.

Without Chad Phillips, there would be no mikethevaulter, i wouldn’t be the person i am today, i wouldn’t have chased pole vaulting, i wouldn’t have chased wild dreams, i would’ve been a scared-shy-low self esteemed boy longer than i was. But i am who i am today, largely because of him. He showed me true drive and dedication. In high school he would either study super hard or work out really hard during lunch. Him and i would actually do a workout during lunch then go to practice after school, i idolized him. He broke a 20 year old pole vault record not because he had a good coach, but because he did his research and worked out hard before, during, and after practice. He would go on runs at night because he couldn’t sleep. That drive he had, i wanted, and so i duplicated. I excelled in pole vaulting fairly quicker than my peers who had a year or more above me, solely due to imitating Chad’s work ethic…nothing to do with our coach. Him and i were suppose to go vault at Humbolt State together our freshmen year in college, but they drop their program and he went onto a division 1 NCAA track and field team, i went to a school that didn’t have track. Fast forward 3 years, he dropped out of college and i was heading to Dickinson State University on a scholarship to pole vault. We were roommates for 2 of the 3 years, we did crazy things, we got out of our comfort zones, we inspired, but most of all, we did what we EACH loved. No matter the consequence. Yes we had our troubles, run ins with the law, drugs, alcohol, fast girls (hahaha), fights with other dudes. It was a blast, it was scary, but it made me who i am today. I haven’t seen him for 3 years, i miss him. He, like i and our other steelie bro have had trouble with the law, we express ourselves differently than the general public, most do not understand us, most think we’re crazy, we just do what we love and believe. We try not to be held back by society’s norms or wants. Yes, there’s repercussions, but as i look back at everything that Chad, John, and i did, it was magnificent. Life is about making mistakes, doing things that you believe, staying uncomfortable, and knowing and staying true to yourself. I wouldn’t change anything, my experience with chad has gotten me a scholarship for track, gave me the courage to walk up to girls i like, and fuck fools up (in our words). I miss my friend dearly and hope he is at least in good health. He has fallen from grace, but he is still an angel. He and many others like him in my life, have saved me from hands of despair.

There are friends in our lives that vibrate through our very being, let them know how much they matter. They may be suffering, they may be hurting, help save them like the saved you. I love you Chad Anthony Phillips, i am me, because of you.

love hard, soar high, Mike out!

The Tao of Mike…or More Like My Philosophy of Coaching

Coaching/Teaching is in my DNA. I come from many generations of teachers and coaches, My Dad was my very first coach, 3rd grade basketball until 8th grade. Around the 7th grade i was a black belt at Delucca’s Tae Kwon Do, and was an assistant instructor (my sister still teaches there). That’s my humble beginning as a coach. Then in high school i trained with Chad Phillips and with his help and the internet, I created my own training program and the beginning of my coaching philosophies began. Then i had a chance to coach my brother Mark, i jumped at the opportunity. And so i dove deep into coaching, i wanted to help my athletes achieve their athletic goals and dreams. More than anything, i wanted to help guide them through a weird time in their lives. High School is emotionally tough and can hinder creativity and drive. I found track and field as an outlet and the people and the sport helped guide me through tough times. I then used what i acquired from High School coaching to coaching college athletes. Through the years my philosophies have changed, i’m constantly trying to develop my coaching style by attaining as much knowledge and making mistakes. Making mistakes is a HUGE learning tool on the road to success. I made (still making them) so many mistakes, especially in the last 4 years, but i’ve had the most growth as an athlete and an individual. My beliefs are my own and i know everyone is different, different experiences create different beliefs. But i think there are common points in most peoples’ philosophies that hold truth, that resonates through all our souls. These are coming from over 10 years of coaching.

In my first years of coaching High school athletes i remembered what was a key aspect of what made track fun for me. The friends! Your teammates make hard practices worth it. I never wanted to let my teammates down. My bestest friends that came to my house almost everday for 4+ years (some still do! Randy Fung!), were on track, but more importantly we were all pole vaulters.

So my first goal in developing great athletes is to surround them with like minded individuals and make them a family. Have them push each other and make them cheer and scream to forget about being tired or the pain, but to finish. Creating an atmosphere for a team of individuals, rather than individuals on a team. The first group of athletes i coached are now in their early 20s. Most of them more fit than I, doing various sports, chasing music, chasing dreams, but most of all they still are close to each other. Not as much as before, but they still hang once in a while, a couple of them visited me in the midwest, some will soon. But together they were a great team, winning came easy, prs became easy, “hard workouts” were fun. Its because they felt love from there teammates, they spent time together after practice or on weekends. They were more than teammates. In the beginning i told them that they all will become best friends. i created games and weekend practices so that they will create trust with each other. i drove them to open meets in the summer. i held bbqs at my house. On my 21st birthday, i coached a meet, and my athletes would not let me take them home unless they celebrated my birthday at my parents house. It was a mustache and sombrero party, i still hang up a picture of that day. My greatest friends today, the ones that call me out of the blue, or message me on facebook; they were all on track with me. we all won championships together. All teams that are close, will always have great seasons. Build a team base of love and success will follow.

Work ethic is huge. I’d spend more time coaching an athlete who isn’t the best but works hard, rather than one of the top athletes who doesn’t give his/her best effort in practice. Its hard to figure if you’re pushing an athlete “too hard”. You’re not them, but it gets easier when you have athletes that understand meaning of great work ethic. Leaving all outside issues in the locker room or at home or at work or at school. Being able to be in the present and train hard. It wont be easy, but i’ve witnessed greatness from individuals that were going through tough times in their lives. But they did not show it on the field or practice, they just enjoyed the release. I know that we all lead different difficult lives outside of the athletic arena, but when you’re training or competing, that is were you can control outcomes, that is where you can lose yourself and have fun. I emphasize to my athletes that when we are training or in competition, forget about everything that happened before practice or what will happen after. live in the now, focus on greatness today.

Do you guys agree with me? I’m pretty sure not completely. It would be cool to read some of your thoughts.

These are only two different things i believe in to help athletes achieve greatness. I will post more through my writings.

work hard. vault high. Mikethevaulter

I Miss My Brothers

My brothers are now on a plane heading back to San Francisco. They visited me for ten days here in Bozeman and it was quite the experience. We got to celebrate my birthday, Easter, we made pork rib lumpia, hiked a lot, and even got into to huge fights with each other. But we grew a lot from everything we did. Although in the last 6 years i’ve seen them very little and we fight verbally and physically when we do, i feel the love. Something that i’ve grown to cherish even more through the years. And now that they’ve stepped into my world and shared what my everyday life has pretty much been for the last 6 years, which is very different than what they are used to, i miss them even more.

I haven’t been writing for a while because my world has been in a downward spiral. Battling with my depression has left me tired and exhausted. Things have been going pretty much down hill since my last post, but i’ve been trying to turn the negatives to positives. Its been a lot harder because my lack of sleep, but i still manage to get a training session in at least 3 to 4 times a week. I just feel alone, no one to really connect with. Dont get me wrong, i have great friends here, really great friends. But theres something missing between us like i had with other friends like John Paul Willams, John Pang, Jordan Beiber, Allan Ayala and so on and so forth. What we had were similar dreams and interests. We bounced ideas off each other and pushed each other physically and mentally. But here in Bozeman, i lack that companionship. Being your own motivator and training partner and teacher and student is very draining if you dont have proper support. With my Brothers, i spunked up and found that spark.

My brothers gave me tough love, i felt like they were saying hurtful things, but when we settled down. They were right. i know i’m being vague with what i’m talking about, but sometimes you need love ones to actually tell you things you dont want to hear because it hurts. Truth is, no one who is on the path to achieve great things has the complete strength to do so alone. They need different perspectives, they need to be shaken up in times of doubt. And thats what my brothers did. I didnt realize how much i doubted myself until they told me to suck it up. Its crazy how i thought i was doing everything possible to get me out of my rut and all it took was a fight with my brothers to put me back on track.

Things will always fall apart, but with my brothers by my side, i can achieve everything i ever wanted. Stay thirsty my friends!

work hard. vault high. Mikethevaulter.

Sometimes I Put On Blinders

There were times in my life i had to put on blinders. Like the ones that horses wear so they cant see whats on their sides, but only straight ahead. I had a goal and that’s all i saw or heard. I didn’t hear my parents doubt my ability to use pole vault as a platform for college even though i was 21 when i got a scholarship. I didn’t see that moving 1500 miles away from everything i’d known to a place that had the only large grocery store within 200 miles  as a burden. All i saw was greatness. All i saw was dreams fulfilled and hard work paying off.

To some of you readers who don’t know me it may sound like i was/am an elite athlete of some sort. I’m not, I’ve just repeated certain moves over and over again until my body got used to it. I love fitness and movement and sport and so that’s what I’ve been doing for over 20 years. On that journey, sometimes i had to be the only person that believed that i could attain my goals. I looked too short, too skinny, too small, too weak, or too slow. For some reason hardly anyone saw what i saw. But i believed it would be only time holding me back. Against the odds. I’ve prevailed.

Those blinders are what i want and need now. Without a school or coach making me be accountable for my training, its difficult when working and have no one else pushing you. I’ve been reading a lot of sport psychology books and books on meditation and spiritual strength. Its a constant battle, but slowly I’ve been gaining restraint and focus at the task at hand. Performing well. There have been distractions such as pretty girls or junk food or rest, but now its easier for me to turn around and train. Its been hard especially now because i have a huge crush on a lady friend, as hard as that is, I’ve stayed true to my training. Using tools i read from recent books. We often train our bodies religiously, but forget about our minds that have to be equally, if not even more so.

I am in my phase 2 week 2 (6th week of training)  schedule for my training:

Monday- Long Sprints and upper body power

Tuesday-Olympic Lifts and Plyometrics

Wednesday- Short Sprints and Long Jump/ Pole vault Technique

Thursday- Lower Body Power

Friday- Core and stability strength and Running Mechanics

Saturday or Sunday- Mobility and Flexibility

I usually work 32-40hrs a week on top of that so its a full week. But lately because of meditation and breathing techniques I’ve had the mental and physical strength to keep going. Knowing that all this pain and hard work will surmount to something. But there are lows such as weather and lack of time or straining my hamstring (like today). Knowing that people see me as inspiring is a big help. Knowing that my brothers read this, makes me keep writing.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” -Henry David Thoreau

-work hard. vault high. Mike.

If We Wait for the “Right Time”, we’ll be Waiting Forever

I’m often lost and fully absorbed in my own world; for an instant i forget the people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made in my seemingly short existence. I’ve lived in 4 different cities, 3 different states, and have great friends in Guatemala, the Bahamas,  Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Mongolia and almost every state from the Midwest to the West Coast (i’m pretty sure i left some people out and i’m sorry). I am blessed and privileged. And i want to thank everyone for your support, especially those who contacted me after my first post. I’m filled with gratitude and most of all i’m glad you guys clicked the link to my blog.

In the past I’ve always tried to validate my reluctance in doing the things i really really wanted to do. Take for instance, my freshman year in high school. The first time i saw pole vaulting i automatically wanted to do it, but i was so timid. I told myself, i’ll stick to distance running and then maybe try it later. Practice after practice, i longed to be a pole vaulter. I was mystified, crazily infatuated even. But i told myself, i’ll wait for the perfect opportunity to ask to pole vault, the season did just start and i didn’t know any of the vaulters yet…so i kept waiting. Long story short i didn’t start pole vaulting until my Sophomore season and by then i was beating the upper-classmen. I look back and the right time was when i first initially had the urge to pole vault. Who knows what could have been if i started my freshmen year…thats done and over with. The “right time” is now!

For those of you who were/are around me i’m a pretty energetic and positive fellow, always believing in the good of others. It takes work. It takes work to be positive, it takes work to see the good in others, it takes work to get out of bed and actively chase my dreams. But its all worth it. Its much easier to be negative and mean and lazy and make excuses. This gets us nowhere, not close to our goals or dream careers. Negativity runs off us and gets soaked up by the people around us and they become agitated and negative. Bad cycle. Lately I’ve been trying extra hard to be positive, i always tell myself “a champion would/wouldn’t do this”. Those words get me out of bed, push me in the gym and the track, it has even stopped a lot of my bad habits (drinking, lack of eating well, blah blah blah). I don’t want to live a life of mediocrity, i want to live my dreams. I want to be able to tell my children, chase your dreams till the ends of the earth until you’re old and grey, because THAT’S WHAT I DID…

You’ll never achieve greatness or your goals if you create excuses. Stop whining and do. Pain is a reward. Pain and mistakes and mishaps are needed to guide and mold you to a better you. Those of us who see this, those of us who put in the work day in and day out. The ones who go over and above in silence. The ones who live in pain and use it for motivation and drive. We will experience a better and fuller life than the people who do not.

Here’s a little something that i wrote yesterday:

“I can feel it. The fresh breath of air, i can taste it for the first time. It’s as if I’ve been living in a cave. Sheltered from Greatness. Kissed by its rays for the first time, it brings me to my knees. I’m going to take this gift and share it with as many people as possible. We will all be great together.”

-work hard. vault high. mike out!

And So It Begins…

I’ve been procrastinating on starting a blog for weeks now, but now i want to start sharing my story, my journey as a non-elite post collegiate Track and Field athlete still wanting to compete and do what i love. I want to bring people into my head so they can understand why i do what i do, but also enlighten them to follow their loves/dreams even if it seems silly or impossible at first. Not only will i write about the rigors and joys of my training or lack thereof, but also maybe give some health tips, tell some jokes, and spread some knowledge, and maybe a laugh or two or three. I should give you a little insight on who i am and where i’m coming from.

My name is Michael Ricardo Barrios, 26 years of age, Filipino-American, 5’9 150lbs (on a good day), and living in Bozeman,  Montana. Currently working as a dishwasher and Front Desk at a local gym. I grew up in San Francisco and moved to Dickinson, North Dakota at the tender age of 21 to pursue pole vaulting at Dickinson State University. Yes, to pursue pole vault. Prior to this i went to two different colleges and wasn’t interested in school at the time. But slap pole vaulting to the mix and i’d do anything, go anywhere. For those of you who would not be able to point where North Dakota is on a map its smack dab in the middle of nowhere (borders Canada, but in the very middle of the united states) about 1500 miles from either coast. I knew nothing, knew no one, but i packed my bags and pole vaulted in the frigid cold. I was far from being a great athlete, but always a competitor, i lived for competition. In my heart and mind i knew i was going to achieve my goal of 16ft and higher…seasons came and passed and i never even bettered my personal best the whole entire time i was there. Do i quit? Do i put my dream up on a shelf? Nope, i decided to coach after my eligibility was over so i could still pole vault and so that there would be a glimmer of hope. Two years of that i broke a couple of bones, my training partners/athletes decided Dickinson State wasn’t for them and left, and my love for training and pole vaulting began to diminish. Depression started to seep in. I drank heavily and my relationship with my live with girlfriend at the time began to deteriorate. Within months my girlfriend and i broke up and i decided to move in with my great friend Alexis who mentioned weeks previously that she needed a roommate. Packed my car and drove to Bozeman, Montana. Thinking that a new environment would lift my depression, it didn’t. I sank even more, i would lay in my bed for hours upon hours (i was diagnosed with depression 3 years ago, but stopped taking meds. also i’m pretty sure i have general anxiety disorder). So i started training, off and on, nothing serious. I kept drinking, not being able to find a job, thoughts of packing up and going to live with my parents loomed in my head. I hated the thought of quitting my life in Bozeman without giving it a thorough try. So i dug in and landed two jobs within a week of each other, then something in me was reawakened. Something that has been in my soul since my freshman-sophomore summer, waiting patiently until it was needed…my love for Pole Vaulting.

And that brings you up to speed. I have no coach, no equipment, no proper facilities in snowy conditions, but i do have heart, determination, and exercise science and coaching background, and 10 years of experience. My biggest dream in high school was to become a collegiate pole vaulter and to be seen in the Filipino Track and Field community; in 2009 i was back to back coast conference champion for junior colleges in California and ranked #19 of all time for all Filipinos in the world. I know i’m capable of achieving my dreams and i this is my journey.

work hard, vault high. Mike.