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Floating for Athletes: The Warrior's Secret Weapon


Alarm blares

Rudely interrupting that dream about dancing cats

Think about hitting snooze

Shove that urge aside and




Shake it off

Wake up

Lace up

Warm up

Show up

Push that doubt aside

Welcome in the pain

The exhaustion and the sweat

Beat the You of yesterday

Feel the confines of your limits

As they strain against your skin

And bust right through them


Man, those early mornings can be rough. But athlete's high is real! That beautiful blend of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine that we experience after some good, heart-pumping, strenuous activity helps tear us out of those warm sheets before the sun is out. Besides the ultra brain-boost, another factor that can drive us to push harder is the tribe we surround ourselves with. If you can find a way to weave community into your goals, you are exponentially more likely to succeed. I really wanted to take a dive into what it takes for elite athletes to stay motivated, so here's Part 1 of my Floating for Athletes research.

I got a chance to speak with Robyn Sheehan of Evolution Submission Grappling Academy (ESG) in Wilmington, Delaware. ESG is a premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling Academy that Robyn founded with her husband, Brian, and another partner, Jacklayn. Robyn is a powerful elite fighter, whose love of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has inspired her to find a way to weave the discipline into her everyday life. This Badass BJJ Fighter has been a vocal proponent of floating, and someone I really respect. She shared with me some secrets to her successes on and off the mat.

A: Tell me about some of the physical activities you're interested in.

RS: I am super obsessed with BJJ! I love it. I was really into self defense, and my husband taught me some preliminary Brazillian Jiu Jitsu holds before I left for a trip to Spain. While abroad, I realized how important it is for anyone, especially a woman travelling, to have really solid, basic self defense techniques. When I got back to the states, Brian convinced me to open the academy with him here. Primarily, I enjoy BJJ and wrestling. I was a competitive powerlifter in the past, but I've retired from that. ["I'm 'too old' for powerlifting," she says, and we both laugh.] . Additionally, I do weightlift -- it's really good for grappling. Rowing is great for cardio, so I mix that in too. Honestly, I'm not great at being quiet is hard for me.

[ Gurl, same. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ]

A: Can I hear more about your gym?

RS: Absolutely! ESG is located in Wilmington and we're open to all! We really love welcoming in new people. We're actually just under 100 members, and growing steadily, which we're so proud of! The gym is about to celebrate its 2 year anniversary. For a gym to survive (and grow) during a pandemic shows how committed and special our community really is.

We teach grappling for youth and adults. We train for competition, but also have members that come for the fitness and self-defense aspects. We offer kids' classes as well. For anyone considering classes, I welcome you to come check it out! Every gym has its own unique feel and identity -- its about finding the place that fits your style. Just come in and check it out!

Brian and I continue our own training at South Jersey Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Berlin, NJ. We go a couple times a week, and are fortunate enough to train under Steve Bongiorno [a world-renowned Martial Arts Trainer]. SJBJJ is a powerhouse gym for BJJ and MMA fighting. We get to learn so much and bring the teachings back to our ESG students.

[All the cool contact info for Evolution Submission Grappling Academy are listed in the notes below.]

A: How does all of this play a role in your life?

RS: I think about BJJ from the second my eyes open to when they close at night. Being business owners, we're in charge of everything in the front of the house, to all of the operations in the back of the house as well. My degree is in marketing, and I can talk to ANYONE, so I make a great PR person. [She ain't lyin'. She's not shy.] I'm just coming back from ankle surgery, but I have a goal to compete at the end of the summer and I will achieve that goal. It helps move me forward. I'm fortunate that my whole family is involved in training at the gym - even my kids. It's really engrained in our lifestyle.

A: How did you find out about floating?? Where do you like to go?

RS: I was helping get donations for my kids' school fundraiser, and I challenged myself to talk to the coolest businesses in the area. I reached out to one of the local float spas, First State Floats.

Dave Ruby couldn't have been more kind or welcoming! It was before they even opened their doors officially. He welcomed me in, gave me a great tour and answered so many of my questions! I ended up coming back on my own to check it out, and I was hooked from the first time I tried it!

Listen. My life is PAIN!! I don't ever stop moving / training / running around with the kids! I love everything about the float tank. Its quiet and calm and relaxing. Sometimes I listen to soothing music like tribal flutes. From the first session, as I sunk in I thought "Man, this is better than a massage!"

They have great combination events where you can float & listen to guided meditation, or float and experience a sound bath. [Sold! She and I are totally going to check an event out this Spring!]

I'll always love First State Floats. It is my go-to around here. Its also really fun to find a spa when I'm on vacation or in a new area and go check it out. There's one I love in Manhattan. It has a totally different look. Very futuristic. They have pods, so its like floating in an egg.

Floating is really popular with the BJJ and MMA community. Before I talked to you, I was asking around to see if anyone in the gym floated, and seriously, half of of the room raised their hands!

A: So do you prefer to float before you roll -- for performance and focus? Or afterwards, for recovery?

RS: I try to stay out of my head before tournaments so I go after I train, or after a tournament. Its great because I can lie there in meditation and absorb the lessons I learned on the mat. It also allows me the time and the space to let go of what I can’t control. You really get BEAT UP while competing, so I go to decompress and recover.

Half of the float is to to go over the matches and life. And then the other half is to let go...

A: Do you use any other wellness modalities?

RS: Brian and I, as a team, have tried several different things! I've tried cryotherapy. We've done dry needling with a physical therapist. We do Graston. [I had to ask her about this one as it's new to me! Its a technique through which you manipulate your scar tissue and break it up to promote blood flow.] I've tried heated yoga, barre, massage. Its gotten to the point where I know what works for me, and that's primarily a combination of floating, dry-needling, and Graston.

A: What are some of your most proud moments on the mat or otherwise?

RS: I hold the Pennsylvania Deadlift Record! Still going strong. 355lbs!! I set it 6 months after my daughter was born, in December of 2015. I'm really competitive so that was a cool moment for me - to do something that challenged me so much.

Another thing I'm really proud is winning the Battle At the Beach Tournament in Wildwood two summers ago. [She says this casually, but I looked it up, and its a pretty huge deal!]. To paint the picture for you, I've been training for just under five years. For the first three years the best I could do was 2nd place in every single competition I entered.. As I said, I'm really competitive, so that was so frustrating! But the people at the gym loved it. I got this nickname "Silver Streak Sheehan

["Ugh!!" She laughs.]. But that day at the tournament, I crushed it and won! It wasn't even about beating anyone else, it was about beating all that I had ever done. I was so tired of training so hard and still I walked up there and I did it! They don't call me Silver Steak anymore ;)

Finally, I'm so proud of opening and growing ESG. I feel like we are really a part of something that has grown so much bigger than myself and Brian. It means so much to us.

A Boss being a Boss!

A: You have accomplished so much!! What are you most excited about this year?

Brian has been training for 17 YEARS and he's close to getting his black belt. I'm so proud of him and all the work he's done. Also, for the first time ever, there will be East Coast ADCC trials. [Essentially, Olympic Trials in BJJ). This is huge. Historically, they have only ever been on the West Coast. The fact that there are local qualifying events shows that we are being taking more seriously, especially for female grapplers. This is just the beginning!


Such an awesome conversation. I really appreciated Robyn's candor and her willingness to share her perspective with me!! What I took away from our talk, was some of the key tactics that real warriors use in their everyday lives:

○ Grit & Determination

○ Stick to routine & Commitment to a goal

○ Tribe / Community

○ Tried & True Recovery Methods --> eg. Floating

I plan to do a follow-up post to this one, around the science of floating for athletic recover. I'll tell you why its SO good for serious athletes, both physically and psychologically.

Thanks so much for reading!


Some shout-outs!

Evolution Submission Grappling

4905 Mermaid Boulevard, Wilmington, Delaware 19808, United States


South Jersey Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy -

We also have to give a shout out to the one-and-only Brian Sheehan.

The Man. The Myth. The Legend -- He makes one heck of a pretty poster, too!

Robyn's other half, and her perpetual motivator. He has NEVER tried flotation therapy before.



900 Peoples Plaza Newark, DE 19702

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