Last week for Balance The Grind’s interview series, we had a great conversation with strength trainer and kettlebell expert Mike Maher. This week we had the great opportunity to chat with Ben Kenyon, the Performance Coach for professional basketball team Portland Trail Blazers.
As the team’s Sports Performance Specialist for the past 3 years and the former Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for George Washington University, Ben was a great person to learn from about athlete nutrition and training as well as overall healthier living.
1) Can you give an overview of what you do?
I am fortunate and honored to train, prepare and inspire our players to compete and achieve success at the highest level of professional basketball on the planet!
From All-Star caliber players and starters to reserves and rookies, I am in charge of providing all of our athletes with proper nutrition guidance, physical strength improvements, moral support and innovative recovery techniques to better themselves in all areas of human performance.
2) Tell us about your role as the Performance Coach for the Portland Trail Blazers
In my 4-years with the Portland Trail Blazers, I’ve taken pride in implementing a sound training program, nutritional guidance template, and effective recovery and regeneration protocols and support for all team members on and off the court.
These programs and tools coupled with my daily energy, coaching and presence is meant to put our players in best position to have success throughout the season, grow within their assigned role, and maintain consistent health to provide longevity for their careers.
Working directly with players, I’m mindful of their individual goals and aspirations while linking everything back to our team mission. We, as coaches, empower all of our athletes and ensure that they contribute positively to the needs, goals and expectations of our organization that is centered on respect, culture and the process.
3) What sort of training routines do you do with the team?
I provide our players with total body exercises that improve strength, power, flexibility, mobility and resiliency.
Here are the primary areas of focus when I design a training template.
- Power (upper body & lower body)
- Knee hip dominant (uni- and bi- lateral)
- Hip hinge (uni- and bi- lateral)
- Push (horizontal and vertical)
- Pull (horizontal and vertical)
- Multi planar core training
Training variation and progression occur when an athlete has shown competency within a specific movement.
- Barbell high pull
- Dumbbell front squat
- 1-leg Romanian deadlift
- 1-arm dumbbell curl to press
- Reverse grip pull up
- 3-way lunge w/ Medicine ball reach
The advantage goes to the athlete that takes ownership of their nutrition plan. Our role as the performance coach is to partner up with a registered dietitian and provide each athlete with resources, education and support.
- Educate, teach and repeat
- Recovery starts here!
- Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are all important
- Supplements work for those with a balanced nutrition plan.
- Inflammatory/anti-inflammatory foods can change the game.
A sound nutritional program will have a cumulative effect on an athlete’s career.
4) How about for you? What sort of training are you doing yourself right now?
As I start to prepare for my second half iron man. I am running, cycling, and swimming, meditating, weight training and hot yoga classes. Again not the easiest task fitting it in, but I do believe a strong mind and body can conquer anything.
5) In addition to your work with the Portland Trail Blazers, you’re also the Founder of The YOUnique Piece – can you tell us more about it?
The YOUnique Piece is a collaborative, ubiquitous, wellness community that provides guidance and structure for purposeful life actions by establishing the following:
Defining and owning your ‘Why’ (personal life purpose), developing and structuring a ‘How’ (road map/plan to success), and committing to drive for results to achieve fulfilling impactful milestones/goals.
The YOUnique Piece envisions a community that listens and shares stories to inspire growth in all aspects of human performance.
We are here to answer the widespread problem of personal/professional dissatisfaction – improper goal setting and poor commitment to pillars of overall health wellness (mental, physical, and relational): personal development, meaningful relationships, purposeful career/professional and educational paths, healthy habits, finances and mindfulness.
6) What made you start the community and how has it grown over the years?
This business was born two years ago when I started an ‘e’-newsletter called ‘Ben Kenyon’s Food For Thought: A weekly newsletter that contained articles, books, videos, daily practices that have been beneficial and valuable to my personal and professional growth. Starting with ten personal contacts, the email distribution list quickly grew organically to over three hundred!
With incredible feedback from subscribers, my ‘Aha’ moment: Why not expand this to a global stage? This shared information was not only helping me, my friends/family and co-workers but everyone I’ve interacted day-to-day; having it expand to their networks was amazing.
With brainstorming and strong feedback this fueled a drive to create a bigger platform to inspire, support and guide individuals across the globe. Tapping into my network, I have partnered with individuals that have the same mission and vision to develop the brand.
Collectively, we have joined forces to identify influential leaders, shared this movement and receive ‘buy-in’ to spread this valuable content. These authentic and intimate conversations solidified the direction of the business of a solution-oriented guide to life fulfillment (for what YOU decide)
Through our research, we have concluded that defining personal purpose (your ‘Why’) is a great start, but not the end. Connectivity with others by sharing information, identifying a ‘How To’ plan, and establishing personal accountability will keep our members engaged with their defined mission to stay on the path of success with a community behind them.
7) With multiple roles and juggling various responsibilities – how do you ensure you balance everything out in your life?
Embracing responsibilities and multiple tasks is what I enjoy most about my profession, as I love new challenges to conquer, unique experiences and amazing connections.
With that said, to ensure balance in life I focus on maintaining an efficient, well-kept calendar to maximize all scheduled activities, meetings and tasks. Yes, there are times where things come up and I react accordingly, but this allows me to focus on what is most important. Here are five core things that keep me centered:
- Family – I contact my family members, friends and significant individuals in my life to stay connected
- Faith – pray, meditate, spirituality etc.
- Grateful – focus on what I have, how fortunate I am considered for more responsibility and excited for what the future holds
- Passion – creative writing, other projects gives a nice change in pace
- Hard work – The right effort and energy guides me towards results which will allow time for other actions, activities and rest
8) What does a typical day in your life look like?
Intense and productive! During the season we can travel to 4 cities in a 5 night time frame! What I’ve found to be most beneficial is stick to my well-kept schedule, my routines and focusing on what is most important to me.
In the morning I meditate for 20 minutes, pray, recite my weekly affirmation in the mirror and as I’m getting dressed listen to at least 20 minutes of an audio book. The book I just finished was the The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris and now I’ve just started Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
I’ll work out either before or right after on practice days. On game days I work out after our shoot around or team meetings. Allows me time to sleep in and get set up for the day.
Mid day I normally spend that time working on The YOUnique Piece at a coffee shop. I also connect with a friend and family through out the week, but a majority of my down time goes to the YOUnique Piece. This passion project has allowed me to tap into areas that’s helping me grow.
9) If you had to choose one exercise to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The one exercise that I choose is mediation; specifically transcendental meditation. Studies have proven that it helps the mind & body of young and old.
There are so many benefits to 20 to 40 minutes of meditation. It allows you to relieve stress physically and mentally, recharge, clear your mind and improve brain function.