So yesterday I did a little mental cross-training and competed in the National Sudoku Championships in Philadelphia. I wanted to put myself in an unfamiliar situation to test my focus, relaxation and motivation.

It certainly did. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, but I did it anyway. There were some serious competitors there and my brain hurt after the first round. But I stood up, relaxed, made sure I was breathing.

Well I didn’t make the playoffs, but may have come in first for the bonus round for my city, Lawrenceville, NJ. That’s if I was the only entrant for Lawrenceville.

It was a great experience as there were 828 competitors as young as 8 and as old as 93. The came from 23 states and from as far as British Columbia.

I caught up with Thomas Snyder (above), the 2006 and 2007 National Sudoku Champion from Silicon Valley.

I asked Snyder how he prepared for the event. “The week before the competition, I do about 300-400 puzzles. I can do an intermediate to advance puzzle in a few minutes. For the finals, you have to write on this large Sudoku white board and there isn’t much room, so I built a make-shift one at home with tiles and whatnot to make it as realistic as possible.”

Another question I asked was if he gets nervous beforehand. “Yes, but I try to stay relaxed by singing songs in my head and give myself a little pep talk.”

“Can anyone become successful at Sudoku?”

“Yes, with practice and the right strategy,” Snyder responded.

“How does Sudoku help you in other areas of life?”

The Sudoku expert responded, “In many ways…in life you have to know your task, have the right strategy, constantly observe, adapt, explore new ways to do things, and relax under pressure.”

Interesting, it sounds a lot like tennis.

Today I attended the Mind. Body. Spirit. Expo in Philadelphia and heard one of my heroes, Dan Millman give a lecture. Tune in tomorrow for details.

By the way, if you missed the Tseng Performance Academy shout-out in this week, click here:


What is cross-training? It’s training in different ways to improve performance. So if you’re a tennis player, you may cross-train by jogging, lifting weights, or playing basketball.

Cross-training your body can certainly help your physical performance, but there is another type of cross-training.

It’s called, mental cross-training.

If you have a tough time performing under pressure, do something similar that will help your mental toughness, like speaking in front of a group. When you put yourself in similar situations that will force you to face your fears and overcome challenges, it will be easier when you encounter pressure in your sport.

I really like cross-training my body at the gym, interval running, or practicing yoga.

But I LOVE cross-training my mind.

So what am I doing today?

Competing in the National Sudoku Championships in Philadelphia.

I know what you’re thinking, “He must be pretty good.”

Actually, it’s 5:26am and I just solved my first sudoku puzzle…EVER. Registration begins in just over three hours and the first round starts in just over five hours.

Don’t worry, I’ll be competing in the Beginner division. I’m extremely excited to put myself in that pressure situation and test my focus, relaxation techniques, and motivation. You never know, I might have beginner’s luck.

Well, I should probably go practice some more.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading.