Athletic Performance At A Stand Still? It’s Not Your Training That Is The Problem!

When an endurance athlete comes to me looking for coaching, my approach will likely be far different than most trainers and coaches out there. Many coaches have a strong focus on training with a little sprinkle of nutrition thrown in. They will design complex training plans that have long runs, hill sprints, track workouts, and if you are lucky, even some strength training. Their training plans look hard, challenging, and will have you lying on your back begging for mercy by the time race day arrives.

My approach is not all about training. I realize you are more than just an athlete.

You are a spouse…

….a parent…..

….a colleague….

….you are a human!

To be the best athlete you can be, you first need to build to be a healthy human, you need to live more like your ancestors did, than the way most people do in today’s society.

When I work with athletes, I focus on the following four foundational pillars of health before even worrying about training.

  1. Sleep
  2. Stress
  3. Nutrition
  4. Movement

Without these foundational pillars, you won’t be able to get the most out of all the hard work you put into training.

Here is a good example.

I worked with an athlete once and he was always complaining of GI issues that sometimes kept him from training. I noticed that this individual was also under a lot of stress, they were working full time, training for long distance triathlons, and trying to balance a busy family life. To address the stress in their life, I suggested they take 10 minutes to themselves each day doing something relaxing, meditation, walking, playing a musical instrument, reading, whatever they wanted. After adding in more stress management practices to their life they noticed their GI issues started to lessen and were able to train more consistently[1].

That’s what I call a “win win”!

How do I go about making sure sleep, stress, movement, and nutrition are optimal for you? I base my recommendations around what humans evolved doing over 100’s of thousands of years…

  1. Eat whole natural foods
  2. Go to sleep when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises
  3. Balance short intense periods of stress with long periods of relaxation
  4. Move frequently throughout the day, walk, squat, lunge, hang, play

Sounds simple right?

It should be, it is what we would naturally do without supermarkets full of processed foods, artificial light all around us, jobs that have us sitting in comfy chairs for hours, and the constant pressure of society to do “all the things”.

I am not saying we need to go live in a cave, but we do need to realize that many aspects of modern life can be detrimental to our health, and keep us from reaching our peak performance in life and in sport.

A great example is sleep. As athletes we know sleep plays a key role in recovery as well as performance[2]. If our sleep gets disrupted, our recovery is compromised, and without adequate recovery we can’t progress in our training. Furthermore, when we don’t sleep well we won’t be able to perform as well in our training. As athletes in today’s society, lots of things can disrupt our sleep, but perhaps the biggest disrupter is the impact of artificial light on our sleep/wake cycles. Like I said, I am not advocating for removing all artificial light from your life to optimize sleep, instead we can do things like wear blue light blocking glasses at night to mitigate artificial lights’ effect on our sleep and therefore get all the benefits without it impacting our health and athletic performance.

I challenge you to take a look at your own life, training, and performance in your given sport.

What about your everyday life is keeping you from performing better as an athlete?

Do you really need to put in an extra 10 more miles of training to get better? Or would taking three walks throughout your day accomplish the same thing?

Would waking up at 5AM on Sunday to do your favorite CrossFit WOD get you on the podium faster than staying asleep till 7AM and doing a 10 minute meditation?

Most athletes put too much focus on training and not enough focus on everything else, they are out of balance. My approach is to bring you back to balance, back in line with our evolution. Only then can you achieve the athletic goals you have set for yourself.

What aspects of your life do you think are keeping you from being the best athlete you can be? What could you do that is more ancestrally aligned that would help solve that problem? Here are some ideas…

If you are having trouble with your sleep, try limiting light exposure after the sun sets.

If stress is a problem for you, try going for a 10 minute walk in nature by yourself.

If you sit all day, try doing 10 squats every hour.

If you are struggling to reach your goals and overcome your greatest obstacles as an athlete try taking an objective look at your sleep, stress, nutrition and movement.  What can you improve in those areas?  Any improvements outside of what you do for your sport will surely translate to better performance in whatever your sport may be.  It may even provide the stimulus you need to reach that goal you have been struggling to achieve!

If you need help, I give out lots of training, nutrition, health and wellness information to make you healthier and perform optimally each week on my newsletter, so be sure to sign up!  Of course you can always reach out to me directly on Facebook Messenger or Instagram, I am always happy to help!

  1. “Stress and the Gut: Pathophysiology, Clinical Consequences ….” Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.
  2. “Sleep, Recovery, and Performance in Sports. – NCBI.” Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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