3 Ways To Train Like An Athlete And Thrive In Life

Train Like An Athlete

If you have played sports you might have fond memories of training like an athlete.  For many of us, one of the great things about when we trained for sport was how well we felt and functioned.

We were in great shape and felt like we could do anything.

We can take some of the lessons from training elite athletes and apply them to lifelong human performance as well.  If you train like an athlete with these 3 tips you can get more out of life.

Training With Purpose

Workouts are great.  You sweat, get endorphins, share the struggle and energy with the group, and keep your fitness up.

Across your lifespan, you’re going to do a lot of workouts.  A random mix of things in a workout can be fun.  There are times you just want to mindlessly sweat.

But athletes don’t work out.

They train. 

You see, the difference between working out and training is two-fold;

  1. There is a specific goal
  2. Each training session is part of a bigger plan.

We can make the case that workouts can have a goal.  Lift heavy, burn calories, sweat, and struggle.  All of those are could be goals.  But they aren’t part of a specific performance goal. 

Athletes train so they can improve things that help them reach their performance goals.  Build power to run and jump higher.  Get stronger to improve joint stability and reduce injury risk. Improve VO2 max so they can race at a higher pace. And so on…

Planned, Not Random

For an athlete, each workout is designed to be part of the overall plan and progression.  The workouts aren’t just a random collection of hard stuff. They compliment each other to increase your results. 

When you train like an athlete you stop just doing random things that are hard.  You know what you want to get better at and then you follow a plan to achieve that.

This is not just true in sports performance, but human performance as well.  If you want to run the Spartan Race faster or be able to play 18 holes on back-to-back days without pain, you have a specific goal.

Your training should help you achieve that.  It should progress through phases that build the right physical qualities so you can get better.

Having a specific goal, progressive variation exercises, and loading to pursue it, and training sessions that compliment each other is training like an athlete.

Movement Patterns

When it comes to strength & conditioning for sports, the goal is to improve the sport.  Sports are about movement not muscles, so we should train that way.

Yes, it’s your muscles that generate force and make you move.  But if we try to break the human body down into individual muscles, joints, and tissues we are missing the athleticism.

What you need to understand is that the brain doesn’t organize muscle by muscle, it is organized in movement.  When researchers observe brain activity through EEG they recognize that the brain activates by the movement pattern.  The same muscle can light up different parts of the brain in different movements.

So if we want to move and function better, we better make that the basis of our strength programming. 

This wasn’t always the case in strength training for sports.  For many years (and still today), bodybuilding influenced athletic strength training.  One of its basic approaches is a focus on isolating individual muscles to add maximum stress and growth.  That’s great if we are only trying to build muscle.  But if we want to improve movement, we need to train the muscles and the brain.

Isolation work has its place, but most of your workout program should revolve around the 7 foundational movement patterns.

Multi-Segmental Extension

The basis of most sporting movements is the coordinated extension of multiple joints and muscles of the lower body.  Just picture a sprinter simultaneously extending their hip, knee, and ankle joints as they propel their body forward out of the starting blocks.  You can also imagine a volleyball propelling themselves upward by extending hip, knee, and ankle to jump high and make a block.

Single-Leg Stance

Another fundamental human movement pattern is the single-leg stance.  Because human gait involves single-leg support variations, we find this everywhere in sports where athletes are moving over the ground.

Hip Hinge

Another lower body action we see is hinging at the hip.  This might also combine with some extension at the torso. 

In sports, we might see examples in a wrestler bridging, trying to get their shoulders off the mat, or standing trying to throw an opponent backward.  Or if we observe a track athlete sprinting at full speed and focus on how their leg moves backward to hit the track by extending at the hip.  In other parts of life, this might be lifting furniture to help a friend or picking up the kids.

Upper Body Push

When we have a coordinated extension of joints in the shoulder, arm, and wrist, we consider this a push. We can classify these as vertical or horizontal push motions based on the plane of movement. 

In sports, we see athletes pushing against opponents and it’s part of swinging and throwing motions.  It’s also common when we have to put something up on a shelf or push ourselves up off the floor.

Upper Body Pull

This is the inverse of the push and is the coordination of flexion in those upper body joints. While it’s slightly less common than pushing, it’s critical in many sports.  The “pull” in swimming strokes is what we would consider a vertical pull.   It could also be a rock climber or gymnastic pulling their body upward.

Horizontal pulling occurs in wrestling and grappling sports as opponents battle for position.  Another common horizontal pull would occur in rowing, kayaking, or canoe.


This isn’t a movement pattern at all.  Bracing is actually an anti-movement pattern.  In their core, athletes need to control and transfer force from the upper to the lower body.  

The efficient transfer of force often means limiting motion so that force isn’t lost.  Resisting flexion, extension, and rotation in the pelvis and the spine is critical for efficient and explosive movement.

This is a key function to bulletproof your back and hips.  Since you experience the transfer of force through your spine in so many activities, it needs to be up to the task.

Multi-Segment Rotation

Finally, we have the coordinated rotational action that builds up from the lower body, through a stable core and transfers into the upper body.  It is easy to picture this in sports from a batter swinging to a quarterback throwing.  Sports such as golf, tennis, and hockey all involve rotation to swing an implement.


Athletes move faster, farther, higher, and stronger.  But most of all they move.

Often in fitness, people keep working out, but they stop moving.  They end up doing a lot of lifting in the sagittal plane of motion.  People end up on spin cycles, treadmills, and machines.  They stay in one place and use cables, bands, and weights repetitively.

There is a place for all those things, but it’s missing athletic movement.

Athletic movement includes moving our body through space.  Coordinating to move faster and slow down.  Jump and land.  Move sideways and twist.  But most of all, to challenge our coordination in dynamic and changing ways.

That’s what we do in sports.  It’s what we should do as humans.

Athletic movements that involve coordination, different speeds and direction of movement, changing orientation in space, and lowering our center of mass have benefits for human performance and heath as well.

This doesn’t mean we have to go full speed into contact to improve performance.  But those who want to improve their human performance and health do need to move dynamically.

Moving at faster speeds, and decelerating is a unique load for our tendons and connective tissue.  Sports science has demonstrated that for optimal tendon health we need to regularly expose our tendons to fast stretch-shortening cycle movements. 

These are movements where we quickly load our muscles and change from flexing to extending or vice versa.  Think of dipping down before a jump in basketball.  Or the backswing in driving a golf ball. 

When we aren’t used to doing those things, they start to cause tendon pain when we go do them.  That’s when people get tendonitis problems like jumpers knee or tennis elbow.  Small doses of fast stretch-shortening movements can help your tendons stay ready for the weekend activities.

There’s also growing research that shows challenging your coordination can benefit lifelong brain health.  Moving the center of mass, changing your orientation in space, tracking moving objects, and coordinating body movements all can contribute to a better quality of life and improved memory and cognitive function.

If you can sprinkle in actual dynamic movement with these challenges, you are training like an athlete. You likely perform better in your sporting activities, have a lower risk of injury, and improve your overall health along the way.

Train Like An Athlete For Human Performance

Whether you want to run a better race, be a weekend warrior, or just feel better and eliminate pain, training like an athlete can help. 

Start by changing your mindset from working out to training with purpose. 

Then makes sure you think about movements and not just muscles when you pick up the weights. 

Finally, move more and move better.  Dynamic, challenging athletic movement will change the way you function and feel.

Returning to Sports After COVID-19 Layoffs

Returning to sports after covid

As we look to the future and reopening, returning to sports after COVID-19 is a challenge athletes and coaches need to be preparing for now.

Everyone who loves sports wants to see it return to normal.

Sport provides many benefits to our society. There is the encouragement of physical fitness and health. The joy of exercise and competition. The lessons it teaches us about life and ourselves. And the comradery and community it can provide.

However, if coaches and leaders don’t intelligently manage the return to sport process, the risks for injury will be increased.

Because of all those positives and financial incentives at some levels, there are a lot of people looking to get things back to normal ASAP. That’s understandable, but this isn’t normal.

The athletes that will be returning aren’t the same ones who left.

We Hit Pause on Sports

With the imposed stoppage of leagues and schools, athletes have not had the opportunity to practice, nor compete in most places.

The more dedicated athletes have found ways to carry on as best they can. From running outside to training at home, they are working to maintain their fitness.

Unfortunately, even if they are doing everything they can, they just can’t duplicate all the elements of their sport. Large spaces, high speed running and jumping, long throwing or hitting, high-intensity practice, hours upon hours of weekly practice. All of this is missing or severely limited.

With it being gone, the accompanying physical stresses on the body or lowered as well. There isn’t the same load on muscle, tendons, and the cardiovascular system. There isn’t the same cognitive demand on the brain and motor control system.

Some Rest Is Good

On the bright side of that rest is the opportunity to recover. Many athletes don’t have an offseason anymore, and this may be the first time off from their sport they’ve had in years.

That can allow some time to heal injuries. Overused muscles and tendons are getting rest from the constant stress. The time off gives them a mental and emotional break that just may have needed and can reinvigorate their motivation to play.

Some athletes have taken advantage of this window to not just rest but repair their bodies and eliminate problems. Rest is helpful to reduce pain, but proactively working to rehab those nagging injuries takes the athlete to a new level and helps protect them when sport returns.

Athletes Have Been Detraining

Without that stress, there is also a negative. Keep in mind “stress” in the general sense isn’t good or bad. When it is too much, things can break, but when it is too little, they become weaker and fragile.

For many young athletes, they don’t realize how much that constant practice has conditioned their bodies.

Every repetition puts small strains on the tissues. They help stimulate the body to keep them strong and functioning. When it is too much, things like tendons start to break down over time. But now, there is too little. Those tendons are not ready to withstand the same practice volume they did a two months ago.

The muscles don’t have the same strength or endurance. Those qualities normally protect them in practice day after day. Adequate levels of strength, power, and endurance keep them firing properly to move efficiently and react to the athlete’s environment.

The problem is they aren’t going to be at the same level for a lot of athletes. Even though many are trying to train at home, they aren’t exposing themselves to the same high-intensity loads they do at practice and in games.

Without the muscles’ same capacities, they will fatigue faster. Lower intensities than usual will challenge them. If practice plans and volumes are not managed with this in mind, the athletes will be at higher risk.

Sudden Retraining Increases Risks

We have evidence in the world of elite sport that a sudden increase in the training load on athletes is a factor in their risk of injury.

You see it’s not just the overall volume that matters, but how quickly it changes. Ramping up from no training to normal over several weeks is much different than returning to full practices in a week or two.

In elite sport the concept of acute to chronic workload has been accepted by professional teams and organizations worldwide. Basically, the concept is that if your acute workload is too high compared to your chronic workload, an athlete’s injury rish increases.

Chronic workload is how much you’ve been doing over the last few weeks. Acute workload is how much you are doing this week and today. When your acute workload jumps a lot above your chronic workload your chance of injury os higher.

Risk of injury returning to sport after covid 19

Unprecedented Return to Sport Process

For coaches, this is a big challenge. Most sport coaches have not had athletes this detrained in decades. The era of sport off-seasons ended a long time ago. Coaches are used to athletes who are doing too much, not too little.

They take for granted that the athletes have been having the number of foot contacts, the swings, the throws that they need to be ready for practice. Even the best intention coach hasn’t experienced bringing back all their athletes from near zero.

LEARN MORE: Why Returning To Sports Now Isn’t As Simple As Flipping The Switch

In fact, our closet parallel to this unprecedented situation is athletes return from major injury or surgery. While athletes in lockdown haven’t had the trauma of surgery, they do have the detraining. Safely returning athletes to sport is an area of great focus in elite sports. Now it’s going to be important for everyone.

Have a Plan To Prepare

Athletes that want to be successful aren’t sitting back and doing nothing right now. They are training as best they can. Those that had nagging injuries are hopefully getting help to repair them and remove the root causes.

Knowing that there are a lot of unknowns in how sport will return, it’s in an athlete’s best interest to prepare now and to prepare for the worst.

The worst being a return to sport period that’s too short, increases volume too fast, and has too much intensity too soon.

That scenario could happen, and that’s outside of an athlete’s control. So, what can they do to be proactive?


“Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” is a quote from Vince Lombardi that still rings true. Not only that, but our coordination goes down, and injury risk goes up when we are fatigued.

Although an athlete might not be able to train their stamina exactly as they would need it in their sport, they can stay close. That’s good because stamina starts dropping off between 3 and 30 days, depending on the energy system.

By working on maintaining or improving different energy systems, it’s going to be a lot easier to regain their sports-specific stamina when sport returns after COVID-19.

When we say different energy systems, we are talking about stamina for different durations and intensities of work. A good aerobic capacity is what people think about often as stamina. It is an essential part of many sports, and helps in an athlete’s day-to-day, or even drill to drill recovery.

Don’t stop there, however. Athletes need to be able to produce repeat short 1-6 second, high-intensity efforts. An athlete also needs to be capable of sustaining efforts right above that anaerobic threshold for anywhere from 30 sec to 4 minutes in a lot of sports.

The key is to make sure you have a good base of stamina as you get ready to return to sport. Get a plan, get a heart rate monitor, and get to work now.


Muscle strength will last for several weeks, even if it may not be at its very peak. If you’ve been training for some time, it lasts a little longer and will come back quicker.

Still, after months of not doing any heavy lifting, you may be losing strength. Athletes often stimulate or maintain strength by the high-intensity things they do in sport. Full speed sprinting and repeated full effort jumping is typical in many sports practices and help maintain strength through a type of ballistic and plyometric training.

Without that sport practice, you are probably losing maximum strength more than you know. Even worse, since you lose the neurological ability for speed in just a few days, that explosive strength is dropping off rapidly when you don’t use it.

So, an athlete that wants to be ready is going to hit both ends of that strength & speed spectrum. Using dumbbells, kettlebells, or even bands can help maintain that muscle’s ability to produce high forces.

Doing explosive jumping exercises will help maintain that explosive strength.


Tendons connect muscles to bones to transmit the muscle’s force and create movement. They can also act like springs in many athletic movements, from running to jumping.

They lose their trained capabilities and structure between 2 – 4 weeks according to the research. They are also one of the first areas to flare up with increases in training volume. Add to that a slower readapting rate than muscle. That means you better use it, and not lose it if you can.

The achilles and patellar tendons are areas of concern for a lot of athletes. There are some things they can do to protect them. Lower body isometrics (holding a position for 30sec – 1:00min) with bodyweight or added resistance are an excellent first line of defense.

One of the best tools to keep them springy is a jump rope. Basic jump roping is a good start, and double-unders take this up a level in maintaining those tendons.

LEARN MORE: Athlete’s Tendon Risk Infographic


Maximal speed abilities include actions like; jumping, sprinting, throwing a ball, swinging a bat or racket, or hitting a volleyball. They all require coordination of high-speed muscle contraction, and they drop off in just a few days.

This will be one of the hardest things to maintain at home and/or on your own. If you can get out and sprint, it’s a fantastic way to stimulate these abilities for every athlete. Yes, even the upper body athlete will benefit from the neuromuscular stimulus. Think of sprinting as a high-intensity plyometric exercise.

Sprinting and plyometrics are great if you have a place. Don’t do this on the concrete or your patio. The grass is a much better surface if you can get out in a park.

Returning to Sport After COVID-19

If you want the best chance to return to sport after COVID 19 without injury and playing near your best, take action now. If you’re not sure how to achieve some of these things, find a performance coach who can help guide your training plan, so you’ll be ready.

Hopefully, coaches will get advice as well so they can create an intelligent return to sports plans that manage the volume and load on athletes.

This sports stoppage is unprecedented. We all need to step back and evaluate how we will train as sport returns. This isn’t just business as usual.

Gym Closed? It’s A Good Time For Working Out(doors)

running in nature

Gyms and fitness studios across the country are closing, and it’s a good time for training outside.

Even if your gyms not closed, you should probably be avoiding big groups to practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, there are big benefits to exercising outside!

No Gym, No Problem

No, you don’t have the machines, or the group energy, or the coach encouraging you.

So is that going to be your excuse? It might be harder in some ways and different now that you aren’t going to the gym.

No gym, now is a good time to workout doors
There are added benefits when you train outside.

This doesn’t mean you can’t keep exercising. Use this as a chance to explore the fitness and strength you’ve been building in the gym in new ways. You’ve already been training in the gym, so now it’s time to get outside and play.

During the coronavirus outbreak, you can combine the benefits of the outdoors with exercise while keeping a responsible distance from people and improving your mindset.

Boost Your Mood

People are experiencing new stresses daily with Covid-19. Stress and isolation like that aren’t great for the psyche.

One solution, training outside, has been proven to boost your mood. 

A 2015 study from Stanford University found students just walked through a campus park for an hour were less stressed than those who didn’t.  There is a lot of compelling evidence that getting outside makes us happier.

Get outside around some green, and you’re likely to feel better.

Outdoor exercise monkey bars

Build Your Immune System By Training Outside

Reducing stress and anxiety helps boost your immune system.  Plus, sunlight can help kill viruses! However, it’s even more beneficial when you are training outside

While the exact mechanics remain a mystery, research has shown a wide range of health benefits to being outdoors.  From the Vitamin D boost of the sun to additional ions and phytochemicals from plants, they add up to a stronger immune system.

How To Workout Outside

When it comes to outdoor exercise, the first thing that pops into most people’s heads is usually running.

running in nature is a great way for training ouside
There’s more to exercising outdoors than just running.

And if you love running, that’s great—but if you don’t, there’s a whole lot more for you to discover.

Whether it’s your own yard, a park, or larger greenspaces and nature, everyone can find something fun and challenge outdoors.

The key to finding the right outdoor workout for you is to engage.

Listen to your body and how you’re feeling. Find what enjoyable for you to do. Look for ways to and play to your workout. Try new things, vary it through the week, involve your kids as well.

Tips For Training Outside

  • Ease into It.  Outdoor exercise is adaptable to everyone’s level of fitness, but it might be different than what you’re used to in the gym.  
  • Exercise early. It’s easier to find excuses to avoid exercising outdoors at the end of the day.  In the morning you have more energy, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature tends to be lower.  Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the post-workout benefits of less stress and a better mood throughout the day.
  • Avoid temperature extremes.  Your body adapts to colder or warmer weather, but you should still avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold if not acclimated to it. In warmer temperatures, watch for signs of overheating. 
  • Don’t get burned. The sun is good for you, but too much sun is not. Protect yourself with a good sunscreen.  You can also wear sunglasses and a maybe a hat.
  • Drink enough water. “Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water in the 30 minutes before exercising outdoors. Then steady hydration through the workout should suffice. Remember that you can lose water through sweating even in cooler weather.

Workout Ideas

Training outside workout ideas
Just a few ideas of workouts you can try outdoors.
Better yet, lose some of the structure and just play around with this stuff outside!

Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle 

Many of us are conditioned to think of exercise as something we do in a gym.  With the gym closed and a need to stay away from groups, it’s a good time for training outside.

Get back to nature and start adding some outdoor variety to your training routine even when the gym opens back up.

The Missing Variable In Your Fitness Equation

The Fitness Equation

The Fitness Equation:

Training + Nutrition + Recovery = Results ?

Makes sense, right? 

Mostly, but it’s incomplete.

Read on to find the missing link in your plan.

A Smart Client’s Fitness Equation

The first time I worked with Steve was when he joined my strength and conditioning program.

He said “My diet is on point and I am really consistent in my workouts. I foam roll and get a massage regularly. I’m sure that all I need now is to get stronger! ”

It was true. There was no one more consistent.

He tracked all of his workouts and lifts, ate really ‘healthy’ meals and tracked his sleep. Ten minutes before class he showed up to roll out and stayed after to stretch and recover.

He was a very smart guy and a high performer in his career. His drive to perform in life at a high level was clear.

He wasn’t looking for just ok results in the gym, he wanted to find his peak physical state.

Fast forward, 1 year and Steve was still reasonably fit and reasonably lean, but he was putting in what he felt like was more than a reasonable effort.

He wasn’t gaining muscle, and he wasn’t getting leaner. In fact he had seen a slight increase in his body fat.

His frustration that he wasn’t seeing progress led him to the conclusion that he just needed to do more.

Do more to see the results he wanted since he was sure he was doing everything right. He must not be working hard enough.

Sound familiar? 

The ‘Aha!’ Moment

Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen this pattern play out many times.  At first, like any coach, I looked at the fitness equation. Was he managing all the variables? And was he consistent?

We spent a few weeks tweaking his macros. Tweaking his programming. Looking at his recovery making sure he was managing stress and sleep.

Tracking all the data to see where we could make adjustments to get him stronger and leaner. It still wasn’t changing and he was getting fed up.

One day after a particularly difficult strength training class, Steve got out his dinner as we were chatting and cooling down.

He opened his Tupperware and inside was the fitness industry standards- sad dry bits of chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice. 

Aha Moment
The ‘Aha” Moment: there’s another nutrition variable

So I asked him something no one else had asked him before, “How do you feel after you eat this meal?”

 He looked at me, a bit puzzled and said, “ Full. I guess? How should I feel?”

This was my big ‘Aha!’ moment with Steve. From there we changed one thing that broke his plateau.

Tracking Nutrition Data

As coaches, we’re like Vanilla Ice “If you’ve got a problem, yo I’ll solve it’.

We love to break out our measuring equipment and get to work providing a set of exercises or a new macro split that will solve it all.

We have come to a place in fitness where many of us approach change and progress with cold, calculating, almost robotic methods that manipulate numbers only.

Pouring over numbers and controlling every aspect makes us feel like we are doing something.

Something that will guarantee our results. Up to a point this is true and worthwhile.

Not losing weight? –> Change your macros

Not getting stronger/faster? –> Change your training volume/exercise selection

Not sleeping well? –> Take melatonin and implement a sleep ritual

It feels good to give a client something tangible and immediately implementable to address their concerns. 

Simple right? A+B= Results!

A=write a program

B= Client follows program and voila!


Unfortunately, this neglects the fact that we are not simple, programmable machines.

For You: More Articles On Fitness

Fitness and Human Behaviour

We have more complex decision-making machinery than we are addressing in our coaching practices today.

So why did I ask Steve how he felt after eating and how did that help us break his plateau?

Because the secret sauce to long term results are emotional. It’s about satisfaction

Emotion is tricky because it can feel like an unreliable and constantly moving target, but that’s not an excuse to ignore it. 

Our subconscious is the driving force behind our behavior.

Behaviour is a result of what we feel, as our feelings are our first line of information processing.

First, something happens, then you feel something, then you respond.

Event + Feeling/emotional response = Reactive behaviour

It mostly serves us well by letting us know when there is danger, who we can trust or not trust and tells us about what we truly value.

This is where the expression “follow your gut” comes from because it can be difficult to articulate why you are having a particular emotional response in time to make a rational decision.

Luckily, we’ve been observing and processing life situations since we were born. Subconsciously, we have established a framework for how to live our lives that makes our ‘gut feelings’ useful. Happiness, sadness, anger, pride, excitement all send clear messages about what to do/not do to continue being a successful organism.

We chase ‘happiness’ in particular because it is our subconscious’ way of rewarding what it thinks is ‘productive’ behavior.

Find yummy food —> happy feeling. Get chased by bear —> not so happy feeling.

Unhappiness, Fear, Anxiety are signs that something in our environment needs to change.

The Elephant in The Room

The Elephant in Nutrition

Think of your subconscious as a big quiet elephant. We have instincts and feelings that are programmed to help us make decision that will guide us towards success.

Basic decisions we make all day, everyday promote the pillars of life which equate to success in survival terms; find food, find shelter, find a mate and reproduce.

Job done. Congratulations you are a successful organism.

But as humans, we also have this rational brain that gets involved too. It’s the part separating us from the rest of life on this planet which functions solely on instincts (or feelings).

Think of the rational part of your brain as the dude riding the elephant.

It’s the part of our brains that like finding logical solutions to problems. It likes using data to measure things. It likes to ensure that we feel in control of our situation at all times. It makes our elephant feel safe and stable.

After all, control = success. Right?

The Rider On The Elephant
Your rational brain is the rider using logic to direct that elephant of emotion

So here we have this super-rational little dude trying to steer and control this giant instinctual elephant.

For the most part, if we are generally heading in a direction the elephant thinks will keep it happy and alive, the rider remains in control.

If the elephant feels threatened or in danger, it becomes a lot trickier to control.

What Do You Really Want?

When our deeper values and principles match with our environment there is harmony and equilibrium. We can maintain this for the long term.

The rider tells the elephant where they are going and the elephant agrees because it feels safe.

When the rider tries to force the elephant down a particular path, it can become a struggle between instinct and rationale.

For example, you value your family life and you also want to have a rewarding amazing career. You want a career that provides value to society, all while having the physique and stamina of Thor.

Sometimes those values and priorities conflict forcing you to make choices. Choices that your elephant fears will make you less happy, or possibly less healthy.

If you spend all your time at the gym, your family and work may suffer. If you only go to work and spend time with your family, you may find yourself less healthy than you’d like. Equally, if you constantly miss work to spend time with family and work out you may find yourself out of a job.

The weight we give each of these priorities, and how we choose to balance our responsibilities, is different for each of us and is part of what makes us unique individuals. 

But what happens when the rider consistently makes decisions the elephant isn’t on board with? 

In Steve’s case, rigidly restricting food choices all day every day over a long period.

For a while, the elephant may go along, but push it too hard or ignore it and may just take you for the ride of your life!

Managing The Elephant in The Fitness Equation

So now maybe you are starting to see how this relates back to Steve and breaking his plateau.

 For a long time, Steve had been ignoring his elephant.  

Even though he thought he was paying attention to his needs, his elephant was hungry. It was tired and unsatisfied with the path he was walking. 

His subconscious set of values prioritized social time with family and friends. However, his rational brain said these are things that are contrary to his fitness goals and so they must go.

He was isolating himself from colleagues and family during the week in order to eat ‘compliant’ meals. On the weekends he was ‘binging’ on not just food but social activities as well.

He really loved good food. Yet, his rational brain was saying only bland portion-controlled food will give you results. To get where he wanted he had to control his calorie intake precisely and he couldn’t do that if he was around other people or if he enjoyed what he was eating. Because as we all know flavor = calories.

This is where our rational brain can let us down. We can create ridgid scenarios that are perfectly controlled and effective but don’t reflect reality very well.

Food variety is interesting to us because it is beneficial. Eating a narrow selection of foods can lead to longer-term nutrient deficiencies due to the limited range of foods we take in on a restrictive diet.

Color and flavor are indicative of the wide variety of nutrients our bodies need to sustain optimal health. We are wired to crave variety. It keeps us healthy and interested.

Boredom or monotony in training or nutrition will lead to non-compliance because it doesn’t feed our broader needs.

For Steve, this rigid strategy meant his rider and elephant were pulling in opposite directions. 

The Missing X-Factor In Your Fitness Equation

Our rational brain likes black and white thinking. It simplifies a complex world and creates opportunity for action. Chicken good, chocolate bad is very clear and actionable.

It’s thinking, “I can’t ever go out to eat if I want to have a six-pack! When I have a beer on Saturday with my friends, the whole weekend is blown, so I might as well say screw it and let loose!”

Monday rolls around with a dose of feeling like a failure and so the rider yanks back on the reigns and tells the elephant “Enough is enough! Get back on the path! You just need more self-discipline!”

The Missing Variable

The more we repeat this pattern, the less satisfying it becomes. Then we become less compliant, finding ways to ‘cheat’ or ‘have a break’.

When we first started that new diet or training program, we could maintain it. It provided a clear path to success by simplifying the complex foodscape we live in. When it’s exciting and new, it is sustainable, but over time we find it repetitive and less exciting.

Excitement and motivation are finite but allow us to give 100% to any aspect of our training while they last. As soon as the newness is gone so are the results.  In fitness we see this every January, and we watch as excitement wanes and consistency goes with it.

Whether this is in your nutrition, training or recovery. Variety is the key to satisfaction and sustaining your results.

Nutrition Tracking With A New Variable

So when I asked Steve how he felt about the meal that he was about to eat he was stumped.

His rider was the only one answering and he wasn’t talking to his elephant.  “This is what I am supposed to eat to get super lean. It’s not what I want to eat. I can’t eat what I want or I will not be able to achieve my goals.” The rider thought that how his elephant felt was irrelevant and counterproductive. 

In his mind, letting the elephant have control meant he would find himself in a pile of peanuts a mile deep because his elephant was an out of control animal that needed more discipline!

Rider and elephant didn’t trust each other anymore.

So the first step was the hardest. It went against everything he thought would get him where he wanted to go. 

We still needed to track things and assess progress, but not in the way he was used to.

I asked him to track how he felt after each meal…. With a very unscientific emoji system.

Regardless of whether they were ‘compliant’ meals or not.

😀 For a meal you enjoyed 

😐 For a meal that was meh

😕 For a meal that was totally unsatisfying

What he found was his big Aha! moment!

He learned that all through the week for almost every meal he had a 😕 or a 😐

On Friday night when he let loose, he had a 😀

then Saturday morning a 🙁 because he felt guilty for being so weak willed

followed by a big 😀 on Saturday evening when he went out 

And another even bigger 😠 by sunday evening when he was getting fired up to ‘get back under control’ for the week.

The pattern showed without a doubt that he had a death grip on his eating throughout the week. (success = control) When he finally let loose, he went nuts and unit he was really satisfied. (out of control = failure)

The consequences of this all or nothing approach showed up in his lack of progress.

Here’s What Your Diet Might Not Be Telling You About What It Takes To Get Lean.

A New Nutrition Variable: Satisfaction

We talked about what might happen if he didn’t feel 😕 about his meals during the week and how it might affect his weekends. We also talked about the nutrient/calorie deficit he was generating throughout the week that might have been generating some of the need to ‘cheat’ Friday-Sunday.

It took a lot of courage for him to trust that adding in some satisfaction to his daily routine would work.

He was scared that he would utterly lose control in the face of the ‘freedom’.

We took what he was already eating so he felt safe and still under control and added the most important ingredients- Flavor and Satisfaction

No more eating alone at his desk while everyone else was going out to eat together.

We also added a few calories per day in the form of more food volume and variety, using spices and herbs to pump up his satisfaction throughout the week. This helped ensure he was getting enough nutrients to fuel his workouts and grow some muscle.

What he found changed his approach forever. He immediately found weekend outings less out of control, even though initially he went to the same places with the same people. He ate and drank less because he didn’t feel like ‘it was now or never’.

He noticed that not feeling lonely while eating increased his satisfaction at meals. So much that he even stopped eating before he finished his portions. Paying attention to his feelings of fullness and satisfaction was helping him control his calorie intake,

A Fitness Equation For Sustainable Results

You see, if you want to do something really well you, have to do it A LOT for a long time.

That’s no secret.

But what we forgot to consider is that if we don’t enjoy it, we won’t do it as often and therefore, we don’t get super good at it.

Satisfaction = longevity of results

Therefore, a fitness equation that only includes rational brain data collection like this;

Training+ Nutrition+ Recovery= Results misses the elephant in the room. Pun intended..

Without satisfaction, nothing you achieve will last. Amazing results are only attained through consistent effort and consistent effort is unlikely if you are forcing yourself into doing something.

So the real fitness and health equation includes an x-factor. The satisfaction elephant. SO….. The real fitness (or Achievement) equation is:

Training+ Nutrition+ Recovery+ Satisfaction = Sustained Effort = Mastery Level Results 

How satisfied are you with your training and nutrition?

Could you still be following the same plan when you are 80?

If not, maybe it’s time to take a look at your strategy and make some adjustments.

Here’s What Your Diet Might Not Be Telling You About What It Takes To Get Lean.

what it takes to get lean

It’s a new year and you are focused on the new you. You want to be fit and leaner so you can feel good doing the things you want and look better.

You want six-pack abs. Toned muscles. That look of fitness and health. It’s an image we see countless times a day n advertising and social media.

But do you know what it takes to be that lean? To really understand what you have to do? What sacrifices you have to make to look a certain way.

You have to accept there are certain trade-offs you will need to make if you want to lose fat and change your health. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s a lot better if you understand these choices.

In the infographic below from Precision Nutrition, you can see the trade-offs for different levels of leanness. This is a key step in setting realistic goals and living a life you can happily sustain.

what it takes to get lean
what it takes to get lean
what it takes to get lean
This content is used under license from Precision Nutrition Inc. and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or otherwise used or reused in any way without the express written permission of the owner. Copyright © 2020 Precision Nutrition Inc. For more information about Precision Nutrition, visit http://www.precisionnutrition.com.

Tips to help you eat better when you travel in 2020

travel food

Travel is a necessary component of competitive sports that can start as early as middle school. When you’re on the road, all the careful planning and meal prep you do at home to guarantee your body get all the nutrition it needs for optimal performance suddenly disappears. Your body already has to contend with a host of challenges that can’t be helped – jet lag, long periods of time spent sitting on planes, strange beds, etc. – so change something you can control and make sure you’re still fueling your body well.

Prepare for Success

First and foremost, plan ahead. How long is the trip? How much of that will be spent traveling? Are you likely to need food on the plane? Can you make arrangements ahead of time for healthier in-flight eating? What kind of food will you have access to wherever you’re going? Answering these questions will help you form a plan and avoid the trap of grabbing whatever is easiest because you’re hungry.

Stay Hydrated

The recycled air on planes and in airports is dry and will dehydrate you faster than normal, thus requiring you to replace what you’ve lost more frequently. You can’t bring bottled water through security, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle and fill it up at the bottle-fillers most airports have these days. You’ll feel better when you land and won’t feel any of the cravings that dehydration can cause.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Probably everyone who has ever traveled regularly has fallen into the trap of grabbing whatever is most convenient. Your flight might be boarding in the next two minutes, or maybe you know you’re about to be on a long flight and that bag of chips or candy bar looks like the bit of comfort you need to make it a little more tolerable.

We’re not here to say you shouldn’t ever have indulgences, but bringing your own, healthier snacks will help avoid impulsive choices that you will regret later. Below are a few nutritious options to keep you fueled and feeling good.

  • Fresh fruits and veggies: When you’re traveling, something you can eat with one hand is always welcome. Baby carrots and grapes fit nicely in a small plastic bag, and bananas and oranges come in their own container!
  • Almonds: Pack them easily into a small container for a protein-packed snack.
  • Pre-Packaged Single-Serving Options: These days there are plenty of snacks already packaged into a convenient travel size. Hummus cups go great with your baby carrots, and single-serving peanut or almond butter makes a nice addition to your banana or apple slices.
  • Make Your Own Protein Bars: A quick internet search will turn up far more recipes for protein bars than you will ever need. Make them in bar form or roll them into balls for a handy, nutritious snack.

All you need is a little planning and you’ll never have to wonder how you’re going to avoid hunger on the go again.

Are your Fitness Gains being Stolen in 2020?

Stop Having Your Fitness Gains Stolen

From pro athletes to weekend warriors, training hard is a strong part of the culture of competition.   If you want to improve, you train hard, so your body and mind can adapt.

But what if your gains are being stolen and part of that hard work is being wasted?

In a lot of cases, it is if you aren’t managing your recovery for fitness.

Stress Can Hold You Back

Among coaches in the world of elite sports, many know that a player that is too stressed won’t recover.  Physically or mentally.  This means so much of the time and energy put into practice and training end up wasted.

Just as an athlete has a training program, they also have a recovery program.  It’s based on individual profiles and coordinated with training and competition.  Its not static either and often changes through the season, month or even week to week.

Sport science backs this as well.   A 2012 study in the respected journal, Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, demonstrated that psychological stress from life reduced recovery of muscle function.

In 2014 the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research published a paper showing that the more a subject experienced stress, the worse their recovery.  In this study participants with more stress had worse recovery of muscle function, as well as how their body felt.

This is not exactly what you are going for in your training.

Measure and Manage

Today in elite sports, teams have a sport science and/or recovery staff dedicated to this. In many, systems are used to measure the player’s status on a daily or weekly basis.  One of the most advanced is called Omegawave and has a history of several decodes in settings like Olympic teams and military special forces.

Systems like this provide information tells you about your recovery through both the autonomic and central nervous systems.  It provides feedback on your level of recovery and how much “adaptation potential” your body has.

In other cases, good old fashioned self-reports provide a lot of insight.  Usually, in apps or online, players can rate how they feel and are performing in various measures. Although relatively simple, if the questions are right, they can be incredibly helpful and scientifically valid feedback.

Take Action

What can you do to get the most benefit from your training?  The first step is to recognize that recovery is an important part of the training process.  The training is the stimulus, but adaptation happens during recovery.

The next is to learn how you are adapting.  Whether it’s getting Omegawave readings or just a self report, you need to start evaluating how you recover.  Guidance from a knowledgeable performance coach or recovery specialist can guide you to the recovery methods that are best for you.

Measure your recovery, manage the process, and stop having your fitness gains stolen.


J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jul;28(7):2007-17.

Chronic psychological stress impairs recovery of muscular function and somatic sensations over a 96-hour period.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Nov;44(11):2220-7.

Psychological stress impairs short-term muscular recovery from resistance exercise.

If you want that six pack, you better understand the fundamentals of fat loss

fundamentals of fat loss

Lots of people want to lose bodyfat and get leaner.  Many hope to get lean enough to show off six-pack abs. If so, you better understand the fundamentals of fat loss.

Unfortunately with all the conflicting information out there it can be hard to know what works and what’s important.  Nutrition, keto, paleo, supplements, cardio, strength, HIIT, CrossFit…?  Its a long list of confusing information.

If you want a six pack, better understand the fundamentals of fat loss.  Sports Performance Director Tim Hanway from Velocity Norwood, shares some of the fundamentals of fat loss.