Longboard Therapy: Andy “La Máquina” Andras and the 3-Step Process
Leading up to the International Distance Skating Association (IDSA)’s annual event—the Homestead-Miami Speedway 24-hour Ultra Skate in Homestead, FL—Andy “La Máquina” Andras, the Guinness World Record holder for 24 hour distance longboarding, carries himself in a most humble manner. Throughout my conversation with him, he gave credit to Paul Kent, the man who previously set the record, and whom he sees as the biggest obstacle in the way of breaking his own record. Andy remains realistic about how difficult and grueling the event can be. He explained to me that he understands he is not getting any younger, and there are many younger skaters who can also make their presence felt. However, he remains confident in himself and his training regime. I asked Andy many questions about how he is able to skate for 24 hours at such a high level of endurance, and I was particularly intrigued with the mind-body aspect of it all.
Andy kindly shared with me what he calls his “3-Step Process,” which consists of Body, Mind, and a Solid Plan.
Body: Andy’s body training plan consists of weight training and making sure he rides 100 miles every week leading up to the race. This ensures that he is in good enough shape to stand upright for 24 hours and perform at a high level. It also helps him develop his physical fitness and maintain a certain pace, which is imperative in this type of race. Andy recommended, “In a healthy way, extend the amount of time you are riding prior to the race without injuring yourself.”
Mind: Andy explained, “You can’t look at the race as 24 hours. Break it down for every mile.
Skate the next mile, one mile at a time.” When discussing the mental aspect of skating throughout the entire 24 hours, Andy explained, “There are ups and downs, happy times, and times when you want to be left alone.” Andy told me that throughout the race, he enters different meditative and trance-like flow states in which he does not think about much at all. Sometimes he listens to music, and other times he chooses to be in silence. Andy shared, “At times, my brain tells me that I wish I wasn’t out there, as I begin to question why I am putting my body through such pain. The mind and body think of any excuse to get you to stop. For example, a voice within screams, ‘This is ridiculous! It’s not humanly possible. You need to stop!’” Andy explained that pushing past such thoughts and skating through the normal human sleep cycles that begin to activate during the nighttime part of the race is extremely challenging, as it takes “your heart and soul to overcome your pains and your animalistic sides.” He recommended, “Listen to your soul and push past the pain.” With regard to the pain he endures, Andy offered a mindfulness approach, saying, “You need to learn to co-exist with the pain rather than trying to make it go away. This is your reality and life for the time being, so you have to embrace it.”
As a psychotherapist and the co-developer of Longboard Therapy, I am intrigued by the similarities between the Solution Informed Mindfulness Therapy (SIMT) approach I use with clients during Longboard Therapy and Andy’s descriptions of his three-step plan. In particular, three parallels stood out to me:
- The year before he broke the Guinness World Record, Andy rode the 24-hour Ultra-skate for 230 miles. Last year he rode for 261.8, breaking the record. He explained that his previous attempt taught him much about what he could do differently in his next race. In my work with clients, we constantly talk about using the past as an opportunity to learn and to be able to discover solutions for the present and the future. Learning from the past without judgment is imperative for making positive changes in our lives.
- Andy suggested taking the race one mile at a time, rather than dwelling on the entire 24-hour bigger picture. This reminds me of how important it is to make one small change at a time in working toward accomplishing goals. The famous quote by Lao Tzu, “The journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step,” reminds me very much of Andy’s approach.
- Andy mentioned that rather than try to make the pain go away, skaters should focus on “co-existing” with the pain. From a mindfulness perspective, this is consistent with the idea that we must have awareness, acceptance, and non-judgment in the present moment to be able to fully appreciate the present experience. When I asked Andy what happens after he co-exists with the pain, he answered, “It goes away.” I have also seen this type of experience while working with clients who are trying to manage their pain more effectively. A well-known and respected psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in the field of Family Therapy, Douglas Flemons, Ph.D, once told me: “When you turn towards something that you normally turn away from, this facilitates change.” I can surely see the direct parallel between Andy’s and Flemons's ideas.
Lastly, I asked Andy to describe why longboarding is so important to him. He replied:
- Longboarding helps me balance my universe.
- The human body needs exercise, spirituality, and meditation—longboarding encompasses all three for me.
- Everyone needs alone time.
- I am gliding two inches above the world on a board, feeling free and relishing the moment.
- It makes me feel good and happy.