October 29, 2022 6 min read
Marc and Patty will be a cycling Power Couple at the 2023 National Senior Games. Their secret sauce for success comes from within....their heads.
By Ray Glier
The human brain consists of one billion neurons, which make 1,000 connections to other neurons, which add up to 1 trillion connections.
This is the hardware to our Inner Genius. Can you tap into it? How do you tap into it?
Marc Sacco, 58, is the director of an emergency department at a hospital in Vermont and accustomed to trauma and he has clearly tapped into his Inner Genius. This does not mean just creative genius. It is also healing genius and Sacco co-authored a book about Verbal Medicine.
He gives himself a talking to, in a calm way, and this is why Sacco will be a legit medal contender in cycling at the 2023 National Senior Games, even after a series of calamities that could have disabled a cycling career.
Marc's inner genius overcame this:
*When he was 20 and training for the 1984 Olympic Trials, a truck ran through an intersection in Louisiana, clobbered Sacco and he was left for dead. The head injury still robs his memory. A leg injury required surgery. His competitive cycling days were over, for the time being.
*In January, 2020, a man Marc and his staff were treating in the emergency department flew into a rage. He smashed a towel rack with the goal of making it a shiv and stabbing everyone and then himself. Marc was struck on the right side of his head and tore tendons in his left elbow. Sacco has to wear hearing aids because of this assault and one nine months later.
*In September, 2020, a neighbor, who was having a “psychotic break”, attacked Marc and they fell tangled up over a 6-foot embankment. Sacco tore his rotator cuff, tore the meniscus in his left knee, and lost hearing in his right ear from repeated blows to the head. Did the man mean to kill Sacco? “I think so,” Marc said.
*In July 2022, Marc was on a training run and squirted one of those energy gels into his mouth, which is routine for a cyclist. He quickly followed it with water, which he didn’t sip, he accidentally inhaled, which is not routine. The caffeine, sugar, and water all at once collapsed his right lung. He struggled to walk five feet. He was off the bike and out of work for a month.
Marc should stay inside the house, right? At the very least, Mr. Sacco should stay out of the middle of cross walks.
Not a chance. He keeps truckin’ (pedaling). Sacco cycles with an elite group of riders and he regularly competes in virtual “Zwift” indoor events. He recently won a Gold in his age group, but that was in the relative safety of his house.
The perilous street? Does he dare that? He chuckles into the phone. He understands what you mean.
Sacco was indeed on the street in September and qualified for the 2023 National Senior Games in the time trials and road races, along with his wife, Patty.
So read this from Marc (below) about how he can get back on the bike after the run of calamities. Many of you will nod your head. You’ve been there, maybe not to this extent, but some of you can relate to the disorienting affects of injury.
Does this reflect Inner Genius and activating your brain?
“You’ve heard the phrase ‘don’t sweat the small stuff… it’s all small stuff!’ Right? The gift has been that I can look at life with such a positive attitude and perception because I have seen how bad it really can be … and lived.
“I have the gift of gratitude. I have the gift of accomplishment when I had to start from scratch and re-learn and re-train from the very beginning each time I had a setback.
“I am so much better and stronger BECAUSE of what I have been through… that I can be thankful for (not resentful).”
Sacco says all this with conviction. He owes much of his attitude to his training in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), which is hypnosis and breathing, all wrapped in the “Verbal Medicine” he uses on trauma patients. NLP is the basis for his finishing in the top 10 in all four cycling events at the 2022 National Senior Games (5K and 10K time trial, 20K and 40K road race).
“Our frenemies, or our competitors that we met at Nationals, would tell us they were training for 2022 Nationals for 2½ years because of Covid,” Sacco said. “We (Marc and Patty) were training for six months and we were both hitting top 10. They were amazed.
“It’s physical training, but it is also mental training, too. I really believe in it.”
I can explain some of his mental tactics here, but check out the book Marc wrote with co-author Roger Woods: Verbal Medicine. The Language of Healing.
Sacco says he feels stronger at 58 than he did in his 20s because of the mental sharpness he has acquired. It is a singular focus on breathing and biking and being present. It is how he hangs with the ‘A’ group of riders, which can be riders 30 years younger.
“They have youth on their side, but this is where the mental training pops in,” Sacco said. “It makes all the difference.”
Where it really helps most, Marc said, is when he thinks he has hit a wall in a race. He hasn’t. His body has more to give. It’s just a matter of his mind out-dueling his body for control.
“The Navy Seals have the 40% rule, which means when you feel like you've given everything you've got, you’ve reached about 40% of your physical potential,” Sacco said. “It's your mind holding you back, so if you can push through that barrier you can actually progress. And that's where that mental strength has come in handy.”
Sacco has been tested mentally for 58 years. He was born with club feet and was put in casts. He was smaller and wore glasses as a young kid and endured the inevitable taunts of "four eyes."
The worst test came when Marc told a friend, who was also a paramedic, he would cover a hospital shift for the friend. The friend then responded to the catastrophe unfolding Sept. 11, 2001. The friend died and Sacco has had to deal with the demons of somehow feeling responsible, which mental therapy has helped control.
Marc and Patty believe in the power of mind over matter, the hypnosis, as they prepare for competition. They believe in visualizing a successful run. It is not hocus pocus. The Mayo Clinic has adopted it as a part of therapy. Sacco and his hospital team have used it on patients who are in despair giving them a sort of planogram on their recovery.
“Part of verbal medicine is visualizing you getting out and walking again and visualizing running again,” Sacco said. “What does that look like in your mind? It’s a missing piece.”
Marc is known as the Patient Whisperer because of the effects of talking to people who have been traumatized. He sees people at the worst moments in their lives and his Verbal Medicine is the chicken soup to the brain.
“We have a healthcare industry that doesn't have a full picture,” Sacco said. “We can heal the physical very well. The mental is a little gray area.”
Marc and Patty can make it less a gray area as they win on a national stage and spread this gospel of using everything available to us, which is the mental combined with the physical. Patty has already made it to the podium winning a bronze in the 10K time trial in the 2022 National Senior Games. Her husband said she is a competitor to look out for in all four events in Pittsburgh.
Good, but please, Marc, you look out.
The Power of ‘Healing Breaths’ from The Patient Whisperer Marc Sacco:
Breathe in through nose for 3 seconds.
Hold it for 3 seconds
Let it out slowly for six seconds.
Do that 3 or 4 times.
For the riders out there:
“Allow yourself to just relax every time you exhale. Naturally lower your shoulders. Relax the muscles in your in your chest. Each breath you relax yourself even more and as you relax you go through that mental race or that mental ride and you see yourself going faster. You see yourself having an easier time. That is the daily stuff before the ride.”
Copyright © 2022 Ray Glier
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