Category Archives: Physical Training

To Upgrade Equipment or Not?

I had a masters athlete come up to me and ask, “should they buy a racing suit for upcoming Ontario Masters Provincial Swimming Champs.”  Actually, the athlete asked, “would a racing suit help?”

I answered no.

Why? Because the athlete is a triathlete who decided this year to kick it up in the swimming department, deciding that in order to do that they would join a masters swimming team.  In the course of the year the athlete has improving dramatically in their technique, added breaststroke as a second stroke, and has competed at a masters swim meet.

So why no racing suit?

Wouldn’t it help?

Wouldn’t their times possibly be better with a racing suit?

Probably, but its too soon.

Too soon?

When you go into competitions early in your career what you need to see consistently are improvements made not from equipment, but from training.

If you go into competition too early upgrading constantly to new equipment, you may not consciously think it, but subconsciously you cannot and will not (and maybe never will) attach performance improvements to training.  There will always be doubt as to whether the improvements made were the result of training, or because of the new equipment.  With articles spewing the benefits of everything from aero this to aero that, even encouraging novice athletes that shaving legs leads to time savings (yes, but not meaningful at 25kph), it becomes difficult if not impossible for the athlete to know exactly how and why they are making gains.

But guess which one is more seductive? Results from effort put in day after day, or results from dropping a credit card at your local swim, bike, run or triathlon shop?

Exactly.

Its so seductive, that I believe there is an entire generation of triathletes who believe more in equipment upgrades, in “free speed” as the path to progress, with training a mere add-on, as opposed to training being the primary source of improvement, with equipment being the add-on.

So what?

Because it matters.

There are enough variables in life to make training challenging that adding more variables (i.e. equipment) simply makes it impossible to discern what is working and what isn’t.

New athletes need to learn how to train, need to learn to look for improvements from their own efforts, and become confident in the causal relationship between time spent developing as an athlete, and the results in racing.

Besides, you can guess what is more rewarding… you improved because you trained, vs you improved because you bought a new piece of equipment.

Gee… I wonder which one encourages me to go out and train, and which one discourages training and makes me want to hit the next trade show to pick up the latest tech?

Can you see the cycle that can be created? If you see gains from training, then what are you rewarding? All the effort, all the time you spent training, and it encourages you to train more, it can even encourage you to want to explore even more of your potential, causing you to seek as much information on training, encouraging you to experiment and learn what makes you tick, and how to make yourself tick better. But if the gains you see are not clearly linked to training because this time you bought a new helmet, new carbon rims, lighter racing flats, etc… then what does that encourage? It definitely does not set you up in a virtuous cycle of seeing training as the primary source of your improvement. In fact, you can setup a vicious cycle where to obtain greater and greater gains you have to spend more and more time and money at your local shop outfitting yourself with the newest and greatest.

Athletes can go on for awhile with this mindset, because most are unlikely to have the finances to start off with top of the line everything.  This ‘lack’ of top of the line equipment supplies the answer to every race that doesn’t go as desired… if I had these aero rims instead of these aero rims then, THEN I would have hit my bike split goal, if I had that new thinner wetsuit then, THEN I would have hit my swim split goal, and so on. But what happens when the athlete has all the top of the line equipment, then what?

Instead of doing as Stephen Covey wrote “Put First Things First”, too many triathletes are putting second, third and fourth things first.

Can you see why so many triathletes end up burnt out, frustrated, disappointed, and then financially burnt out, frustrated and disappointed?

The shiny new stuff is sexy, sure, and yeah it would be fun to have, but if you are in search of your potential, then its seduction, temptation you have to avoid. There will be a time to upgrade, but imagine upgrading when you are already able to swim fast, ride long and hard, and run past all the walkers in a triathlon.

You have no idea how fun it is to pass an athlete riding fully decked out in top of the line kit, equipment, you know… a carbon fiber bike, deep aero rims, aero helmet meanwhile you’re on your sisters bike, on a big brothers hand me down, on a garage sale or Kijiji find, especially when they just spent a few thousand to shave a few grams off their bike (meanwhile their arse alone could stand to shed 10+lbs), and you go flying by as if they were standing still.

You want to find out why the pros are having fun? Because the best of the best didn’t get into the sport because of the amazing equipment, they got into the sport because the sport was amazing and now someone is giving them free top of the line equipment.  Now that’s fun.

Read the autobiographies of the best of the best in your sport and the type of equipment they had when they started almost always follow the same pattern… milk crate boxes as baskets or goals, hand me down or left over equipment, or whatever entry level equipment they or their parents could afford to get them started.

If you want to be your best, rise to your best, then make equipment secondary. Invest all the time and money and effort that you would have put into equipment, into training, coaching, and the training tools that you need in order to improve.

Remember the movie Rocky? Rocky trained punching sides of beef, training in old nickel and dime store sweats, running in Converse hi tops, and worked with a crusty old coach out of a broken down gym.  In the 4th installment, Rocky faced Ivan Drago, a Russian boxer who had at his disposal every known technological training tool available to the KGB.  Yet when the illusion of superiority broke down, everything else fell apart, including Ivan.

Who do you want to be?  Rocky or Drago?

We don’t often consider the nuances to why one athlete wins and another loses, and it is for this reason why I believe that athletes should start with nothing other than the basic equipment. Athletes need to learn to train, need to see results from their training, see continued results from adjusting and progressing training, and become confident in themselves. When you race you need to draw confidence, belief, inspiration and motivation from somewhere.

Consider two athletes: one athlete draws their confidence from the training they have put forth over the past two years, the other athlete has little training to draw from but believes that their new equipment will get them to the finish. When the race gets into the final miles, when the body and brain are running on fumes, when the athlete has to dig down into another layer of themselves to finish the race… which athlete do you think will have the confidence, the belief, the inspiration and the motivation to finish and finish well?

Start the way you want to finish. If you want to finish because of the belief you have built in your potential, then start by building that belief. You can build belief in yourself, you cannot build belief in equipment, nor will equipment ever believe in you.

Problem with… Power Meter Training

In science there are two measures by which data is assessed: reliability and validity.

Wikipedia definitions:

Reliability in statistics and psychometrics is the overall consistency of a measure. A measure is said to have a high reliability if it produces similar results under consistent conditions. “It is the characteristic of a set of test scores that relates to the amount of random error from the measurement process that might be embedded in the scores. Scores that are highly reliable are accurate, reproducible, and consistent from one testing occasion to another. That is, if the testing process were repeated with a group of test takers, essentially the same results would be obtained. Various kinds of reliability coefficients, with values ranging between 0.00 (much error) and 1.00 (no error), are usually used to indicate the amount of error in the scores.” [1] For example, measurements of people’s height and weight are often extremely reliable.[2][3]

Validity is the extent to which a concept,[1] conclusion or measurement is well-founded and corresponds accurately to the real world. The word “valid” is derived from the Latin validus, meaning strong. The validity of a measurement tool (for example, a test in education) is considered to be the degree to which the tool measures what it claims to measure; in this case, the validity is an equivalent to accuracy.

Problem with power is that it is less reliable and valid when applied to the testing of novice and intermediate/sport athletes, and more reliable and valid when applied to the training and testing of expert or professional athletes. Overall, power may be objective (as all the online paid advertising states by both coaches and the manufacturers), but it makes power data unreliable and invalid.

With professional athletes who have a keen awareness of how their body functions, how their body generates force, from where force is generated, and how to modulate and regulate movement to change their power output, the measurement of power will be more reliable and more valid because it is an actual measurement of the forces they can generate, consistently with specific technique.

With amateur athletes, those who lack self awareness, lack a deep understanding of technique, lack technique, lack the ability to modify technique in real time while training or competing, whose life focuses primarily around home and work, which is then followed by sport, you cannot be sure what exactly the power meter is measuring?  Is it the stress of work impeding their ability to generate power, is it fatigue because they were up all night with their sick child, exhaustion because a project deadline got moved up, because home renos are growing from a minor to a major issue, or perhaps they overdosed on coffee and energy drinks and are having a mild PED fueled burst? You don’t know, and if you don’t know what you are measuring, then irrespective of how objective the number may seem, it isn’t.

If you cannot specifically identify what the power data represents, then the data is meaningless. With novice and intermediate athletes, power values are more often than not, random points achieved at a point in time, where the athlete has little to no idea of how they generated, or how to replicate generating that power level under varying conditions. Worst, athletes and coaches don’t know that they don’t know, and proceed to depend on data simply because they have a solid number to establish training and racing parameters.

Curious isn’t it… hack coaches depend on data, but Daniela Ryf, and her coach Brett Sutton do not depend on power data. When the 3x Ironman World Champion and Ironman WC course record holder doesn’t use power as a staple in her training, you would think that it would make athletes and coaches rethink their approach.

Overcoming Doubts: Daniela Ryf’s Record-Setting Day In Kona

When the 4x Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, who was undefeated at the iron distance of triathlon states that she did not rely on power to compete, instead honed her skills of self awareness in order to execute racing strategies, you would think that it would have athletes and coaches throwing away their power meters.

But the temptation of a number is just to much for most to let go.  Problem is that for most athletes, their power meter is a random number generator, not an objective measure of anything because what is being measured is not consistently reproducible by the athlete.

So why is power heralded as the new metric for training? Because online/spreadsheet coaches need something by which to measure progress, and power has become the data point. Why? Unfortunately because… the average coach cannot tell the difference between valid and invalid data, between reliable and unreliable data.  The mindset is… its data, hurray! Now go harder and produce data with bigger numbers.

As an athlete, if you do not have proper technique (be it cycling, running, or whatever), if you do not know what proper technique is, if you do not have the awareness to feel whether or not you are executing good technique, when and how your technique breaks down, then there is absolutely no reason to have a power meter.

What is a power meter going to tell you?  It will only tell you the power you generate with ineffective and inefficient technique; technique which limits your potential and places you at risk of injury.

What will a power meter not tell you?  That you are riding with ineffective and inefficient technique, what aspect of your technique is ineffective and inefficient, how to fix your technique, or the fact that chasing power with ineffective and inefficient technique is a dead end.

What will a power meter not tell your coach? What sort of technique you train with, compete with, train with when you are tired, done in, fueled poorly vs fueled properly, etc…

Only one on one coaching, where the coach observes, adjust, teaches through drill and skill work can technique be assessed, improved, developed, and hence power be generated efficiently, effectively and with the potential to increase without jeapordizing the athlete with injury, burn out or a blow up.

But what will an athlete (unaware of their lack of technique) do with a power meter?  They will train and train trying to squeeze more and more power out of ineffective and inefficient technique, because they were told that this is proper “training” and the way to becoming a competitive athlete.

And what will the outcome be for this athlete? By squeezing more and more power out of poor technique, they will fail to progress past a point without having to compromise their health and as a result will become frustrated, disappointed, probably suffer an injury and/or a bout of over-training, and if pushed too hard, too long, will likely come quit the sport.

If you want to develop as an athlete the starting point is not power, it is technique.  In swimming, in cycling, in running, in any sport, the starting point is the technique of that sport, or perhaps the athlete needs to take go back to an earlier starting point and learn basic movements fundamentals prior to being able to start sport specific technique.

If you seek your potential, then stop working with coaches who want to take the easy way out, who seek short cuts in their approach, because they will seek short cuts in your training. If your coach is an expert in “copy, paste, and send”, then perhaps you want to consider changing your coach.

If you seek your potential, find a coach who works one on one with athletes, developing their abilities from the beginning, not from where its convenient and cost effective for the coach to begin.

Find a coach with a long term perspective, who cares about you as a human being, not just you as an athlete, a coach who cares about your health, and wants you to succeed equally in sport, and more importantly at home and work too.

http://www.runnersworld.com/the-fast-lane/do-all-those-stats-matter

Problem with… Athlete Turned Coach

Based on simple observation, it seems that ‘athlete turned coach’ make up the majority of coaches in sport.  There is some sense to it, if you loved a sport, played a sport, progressed in sport, then obviously there is something to continuing along the path and assisting others to find their way in the sport.

Problem is that the ‘athlete who turns into coach’ tends to have a massive blind spot.

As athletes they trained in a particular way, or they were trained in a particular way.  Not knowing any different, and not having the education or experience to know different, they are unaware that they are blind to the fact that everyone is not like them.

Problem with the ‘athlete turned coach’ is that they are almost all guilty of the following syndrome:

“When all you have is a hammer, all your problems start to look like nails.”

Because their training worked for them, because their training resulted in their resume of podium placements trying to convince them that their philosophy does not apply universally is typically met with a blank stare which seems to state “what do you mean the training I do won’t work for everyone else?”

When athletes of the ‘athlete turned coach’ fail to make progress, these coaches have only one solution (i.e. the hammer) and with that they apply more of their magic by either picking up the volume or the intensity of their athlete’s training, or in extreme cases, both.  At no point in time does the ‘athlete turned coach’ conceptualize that their approach is simply wrong for that athlete. How can it be wrong?  It worked for them, therefore hammer that nail harder.  If that doesn’t work, hammer harder still! Geez that’s a stubborn nail, hammer it harder (get the point, or do I have to hammer it further)?

At first I thought this observation was an anomaly, but after awhile… after taking coaching courses, after working with numerous coaches, and after reflecting on how I was trained by many of my coaches I came to realize that the pattern is consistent, and eerily so.

Then I read in Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography that for a period of approximately a year, she turned to former International Triathlon Union (ITU) Champion Simon Lessing who after his stellar career turned coach.  Who wouldn’t want a 5x World Champ as coach? Chrissie shares how the relationship didn’t last because Simon spent more time coaching himself then actually coaching Chrissie.  Plus she states that his ego had difficulty with the fact that his athlete was setting a new standard (i.e. Chrissie was undefeated at the iron distance of triathlon competitions).  But not all former ‘athlete turned coach’ are guilty of the hammer syndrome, or of forgetting that they are coach.  Chrissie switched to 6x Ironman World Champion Dave Scott after Simon, and continued her success in her final years working with Dave.

So, how do you go about selecting a coach? I suggest the following:

DISREGARD… their resume of podium placements as it is irrelevant to you.  Their training worked for them but whether or not it will work for you is to be determined, and their success in no way guarantee of your success.

INSTEAD… compare the number of athletes that the ‘athlete turned coach’ helped vs the number they have harmed: the number of athletes they have injured, broke physically, mentally or emotionally, burnt out, blew up, max out, discarded blaming them for lack of talent, motivation, drive or desire. This is not info that will be made publicly available by the coach, so you will need to talk to the athletes/parents of athletes to a sense of the truth.

There is a concerning consistency amongst the ‘athlete turned coach’ that is a telltale of those you want to avoid as a coach. Every coach has helped an athlete achieve a level of success, that is no measure of a coach. The measure of a coach is the ratio of athletes they have helped to the number they have not helped, and those they have harmed. Problem is that these ‘athletes turned coaches’ rarely appreciate their role in burning out, blowing up, and maxing out athletes, and therefore rarely take any responsibility.  Instead, their typical reply is that those athletes who do not make it were either uncoachable, unmotivated, lazy, weak, untalented.

But isn’t that why athletes comes to a coach? Because they need help? So if you run into a coach who uses athletes as scape-goats, be cautious. When you fail to progress you too will likely find them blaming you for your lack in achieving successes. Is that what you want? To be blamed or do you want to be helped, mentored, coached?

If your health matters to you.  If your training matters to you.  If you are serious about your training, about improving, about progressing as an athlete, find a coach who is concerned equally about all their athletes, not just their top performers. Find a coach who objectively assesses their own performance to determine whether athletes who are failing to progress has anything to do with their own coaching style, and if so, makes specific changes to their style, pursues continuing education, widening their skill set, or in humility refers athletes to other coaches who they believe can truly make an impact.

Watching the Rio Olympics it was amazing how many times the coach of the athletes who were at the Games was the father or mother of the athlete.  In some the cases, the father or mother were not even former athletes, nor college or university coaches.  What does that say?

To me it says that above all what truly matters in a coach is that they care.

Find a coach who cares about you as a human being first, and the athlete part second.

Problem with… Online & Spreadsheet Coaching

Online/spreadsheet coaching is uni-dimensional coaching, attempting to train athletes who live a multi-dimensional existence.

Take the typical week of an age group/masters athlete; it will probably look something like this from an energy-fatigue perspective:

weekly-stress-level

  1. Middle of the night (Sunday-Monday) child up coughing, with a fever, and you spend the night up with them… make it to work on Monday but are drained, done.
  2. Monday night you’re exhausted, you made it through the day just to collapse into bed.
  3. Tuesday and Wednesday you start to recover, work doesn’t throw any curveballs.
  4. Thursday you start to feel normal, but a project is assigned to you, which is in addition to your regular workload and the stress takes its toll.
  5. Friday you manage to hold all things together, but there is a social event in the evening that takes a bite out of you, and its not til after all your errands are done Saturday morning that you start to feel on the rebound.

As an age group athlete, managing a career, a profession, a business, perhaps responsible for a team or a number of staff, with a busy home life, with kids, who come with their own after school activities, and maybe having to provide care to aging parents, and you already have a 60hr training week before you jump into the pool, step onto bike, our out on the road for a run.

How does an online/spreadsheet coach take into consideration, you, your life, on a day to day basis, and modify your training so that it is optimal for you workout to workout?  Exactly, they cannot.

The problem with online/spreadsheet coaching, is that the coach is unable to take into any consideration your life, your energy level, your level of health, yet they demand that specific targets, whether its power, split times, or intensity levels are met as if you are a machine that can cough up workouts without effort, nor consequence. These coaches claim that they can take these issues into consideration by looking at your ‘data’, but without seeing an athlete, feeling their energy, watching them train, I have no idea how that is possible.  I have to be with my athletes – in person – to know whats going on with them, I have no idea how anyone can do that online.

If that hypothetical week of an age group athlete repeated one exact workout on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun, I guarantee you that they would not be able to hit the ‘objective’ levels set out for them with consistent effort, consistent technique, consistent RPE.  Yet online/spreadsheet coaches measure progress dependent on these ‘objective’ data points, but if these data points are anything but reliable or valid, then what use are they? What value is coaching that depends on meaningless data?  It isn’t; its worthless.

An athlete grinding out huge wattage but doing so with inefficient and ineffective technique renders power data meaningless.  Who cares if you can pound out power if its performed with horrible technique?  Horrible technique is a dead end that will cause at a point the athlete to hit a wall beyond which they will be unable to pass despite trying harder and harder.

What matters with power data, is how the power was generated.  Was it efficient? Was the technique exquisite? What were the impediments in form, posture, in the pedal stroke, the swim stroke, the stride that prevented greater power?

If your coach answers that question stating that form, posture, and technique are irrelevant, its just a matter of grinding, mashing, pounding out more power… please change your coach before you end up injured, burnt out, blown up, or simply disgusted with the sport.

What matters is technique, because it is optimal technique which generates optimal power.

The top athletes in the world, Olympians and World Champions train to be able to deliver a peak performance at given moment, on a given day, at a specific competition, and they have difficulty, even failing at times to pull it together and deliver their potential in the moment of competition, and they devote their lives to training and competing. Yet age group athletes are told by coaches that the power meter data they obtain is an unequivocal representation of their training, their potential, their progress?

What crap.

If you take your training seriously, then stop with the online/spreadsheet coaching.

If you take your health and well being seriously, then stop with the online/spreadsheet coaching.

Online/spreadsheets are tools… on their own they do not comprise ‘coaching’ because coaching involves the teaching and the learning of sport specific technique, skills, and abilities. There is no way that this can be online/via spreadsheet, therefore there is no way that you can be getting all the coaching you need to achieve your potential online/via spreadsheet.

If you are worth the investment you made into equipment, then you are worth the investment of one on one sport specific technique coaching.  Coaching where your day to day energy and health level is taken into consideration, where your technique is observed day in day out, where the coach comes to know you and how you perform when energized, when fatigued, when training, when competing.

If you want to make progress, consistent meaningful progress that you can feel, then find a coach who knows how to do more than copy, paste, and press send.

Links:

Problem with… Learn to Programs

Today if you want to ‘learn to’ do any sport, the list of available retailers willing to offer you a course is long.

There are learn to programs for everything… 5k, 10k, the half and full marathon distances, triathlons, and even learn to walk programs.

Have you ever stopped and reviewed exactly what is taught in these programs? If you were to take a university or college course in a specific area of interest, you would likely review the course contents, perhaps review the required and recommended reading, and/or do a Google search on the professor to see their qualifications, their experiences, to ensure that the learning experience is what you want.

Does anyone do that type of research for sport ‘learn to’ programs? You would think that the instructor would be an actual coach, someone with actual experience in taking novices and introducing them to training and sport.  Rarely if ever is this the case.

Stop and think about it for a second… what do these ‘learn to’ programs actually teach you about the sport? Nothing or next to nothing. Instead they teach you, or tell you what to buy to look as if you know what you are doing in the sport. Take the typical learn to run program…

  • Session 1 – What shoes you need… to buy.
  • Session 2 – What clothing you need… to buy.
  • Session 3 – What nutrition you need… to buy.
  • Session 4 – What training technology you need… to buy.
  • Session 5 – What else you need… to buy, in case who haven’t already emptied your wallet.

The lesson is this… if you spend enough, then you will have learnt all that you need to learn about developing as an athlete in the sport.  The outcome of these learn to programs is an abundance of novice athletes who overtrain, get injured, get disappointed, and who in time switch to another sport or simply give up on sport altogether because beyond buying their way into the sport, they learnt nothing about the sport, and having no concept of how to improve, progress, or proceed (except by taking another learn to program) have no other option then to quit.

There are always stand out stories of accomplishment, achievement, especially weight loss, but everything has its exceptions. Its easy to point to the exception, problem is when exceptions are not identified as such, and are made out to be the typical outcome.  No different than mutual fund, stock market returns or weight loss results which require a disclaimer: results are not typical, history is no predictor of future results, etc… same should apply to these programs.

These are learn to shop programs not learn to train programs. These are boardroom designed programs designed to boost sales, not your appreciation of the sport, not your understanding of your individual needs of how to start training, of your starting health or fitness level. And for a society which is now on average unhealthy, overweight, obese, and sporting at least one lifestyle disease, stepping out the door and just running is not appropriate in all cases.

If that wasn’t bad enough, these programs have dumbed sport down to the point where DIY is accepted as all that any athlete needs in order to achieve their potential, and relegated coaching to some ancient art that’s been replaced with one size fits all plans from start to finish line. Funny isn’t it, none of these retailers would sell one size fits all training shoes or apparel, yet one size fits all training programs are acceptable. Everyone needs a specific fit in their shoes or clothing, yet everyone can follow the exact same step up program of mileage to complete an event? Really?

Done with ‘learn to’ programs yet?

Ready to take your health, your fitness, your performance and your potential seriously?

Ready to take all of the above back in your hands, and out of the hands of salespeople?

Find a coach who trains athletes, and not another salesperson. Sales people will have you hooked on sports nutrition products, compression clothing and weekly or monthly ‘health’ treatments like massages or adjustments, or items such as taping, orthotics, or braces.

Find a coach who appreciates movement, understands how human physiology and psychology intertwine and relate to sport, knows how to inspire and motivate athletes to want to develop, and depends on learning to achieve results, not self abusive “no pain no gain” training.

Take the leap from athlete look-alike, to authentic athlete.  You do not need to stand on a podium to be an athlete. An athlete is anyone at any level of ability who is seriously taking the time and making the effort to learn how their body works, how it moves, what it needs to function optimally; athletes do not depend on others to tell them what they need.

Become an athlete, stop selling yourself short and giving into those who only want to take advantage of you and your goals.

Fitness vs Health

The problem is that we have equated fitness to mean health, and health to mean fitness, and neither is accurate nor true.

fitness-vs-healthFitness can be gained in a relatively short period of time.  The predominant research today in performance has nothing to do with health, its all about fitness. HIIT (Hi Intensity Interval Training) programs which are most heavily researched lead to quick gains, and in a society where yesterday is still too late, quick gains are a must.  Problem though is that fitness gains do not equate with gains in health. In fact the opposite is often the case… the results from intense training come at the cost of your health.  I ain’t making this up, the reverse J chart correlating cardio-vascular disease and training intensity has been shown to be both reliable and valid.  Therefore, athletes who suffer heart attacks, strokes, or die during competitions are not a genetic oops, but the outcome of an athlete straining to deliver a performance way beyond their capacity.

Put another way… you may be fit enough to finish a marathon, but not healthy enough to deal with the strain of the effort. Sounds paradoxical but it isn’t.

That’s the problem when two different metrics – fitness vs health – are confused and substituted for one another as if equal.

Unlike fitness, health cannot be gained or lost quickly. Why is it that despite not exercising for a decade (typically in the mid 20s for most) we do not suffer any real health setbacks or diseases? Because the health of our youth manages to hold on. We lose the health of our childhood over decades, not a weekend at Bernie’s.

Equally health takes a long time to regain once it has been spent. Yes, spent. Not keeping up proper sleep, proper eating, proper exercise over one, two or three decades depletes our health asset column. Once our balance sheet inverts and our health liabilities grow larger than our health assets, disease should be no surprise to anyone… you should predict and be able to predict that you will end up injured, chronically in pain, fatigued, or end up diagnosed with a disease simply because you no longer have the assets to keep your body operational.

Balance sheets are used to identify the ‘health’ of a company, well it ain’t any different for you and I.  If our life balance sheet is overleveraged, with a few our of assets depreciating to the point of becoming impotent, then why should it be any surprise that your health fails? There will be no foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings when it comes to health, there is simply impairment, then dysfunction, which leads to disease and finally death.

By our mid to late 30s, once our health asset column is coming close to our health liability column it starts… aches, pains, nagging niggles that won’t go away. So what do we do? We pop an anti-inflammatory, take a few pain killers, get a massage, an adjustment, tape over the injury, fill a prescription for a medication that will reduce our signs and symptoms. Because the signs and symptoms are managed, we interpret it that we are once again healthy, that our health asset column has been restored and off we go.  We sign up for an obstacle race, start to train for a half or full marathon, or take on the immensity of an iron distance triathlon. The fact that we are not cured nor healed of our aches and pains matters not, as we simply progress to stronger and stronger ointments, potions, pills, and treatments, to continue to manage our ills.

When we really start to breakdown, when medicine no longer has a cure for us… all of a sudden we wake up and realize that the years of neglect and then the years of leveraging the remaining health assets using a variety of health care instruments to prolong our denial of dwindling resources hits us like a 2 by 4 in the back of the head.

Is that what you are waiting for? A reality check from a hospital bed?

Do you need heart palpitations in your 40s, arrythmias and a pacemaker in your 50s, TIAs or a full blown stroke or early onset dementia in your 60s or will you wake up today?

For your sake, for the sake of your spouse, your kids, your family, your own life, I implore you to wake up! Stop buying what everyone is selling you desperately as a quick fix solution, and start to reinvest in your health, in you, in your vitality and your longevity.

The fitness craze is only that… a craze of protein powders, HIIT workouts, compression clothing and gym memberships designed to make you look healthy, but fail to actually make you healthy. If you want health, you have to pursue health, not fitness.

Health is a different form of fitness, its not tolerance, its capacity.

Cause of Current Epidemics

Part 2 in a series on why articles on ‘nutrition’ and nutritional advice from ‘experts’ on diet is a waste of time, energy and effort [for the non-medically institutionalized population].


The LO Fat / NO Fat Diet Craze

It started earlier but it was the 80s when I remember the low fat / no fat diets being blown up as the answer to all our health issues… which back then was more or less limited to heart disease. With fat being fully demonized as the source of evil… the root cause of heart attacks, clogged arteries, the war on fat was well underway. Margarine was the replacement for butter, 1% skim milk replaced 2% and 4% milk, first low fat yogurt then no fat yogurt, and then the snowball engulfed every conceivable item on grocery store shelves. When the war on fat started to plateau, then the war on sugar began. Not to be left out, soft drink manufacturers started on their own ‘solution’ which was low calorie and no calorie drinks with aspartame another solution. In the end, I’m not sure what we were actually eating… as everything was either no fat, or no fat and no calorie.

Today we know that fat is not the devil in disguise that it was made out to be, in fact, fat is healthy, a key part of our diets as it is responsible for critical functions such as nerve conduction.

And who was preaching to eat no fat/fat free.. that’s right… all the so called experts in nutrition.


The 6-10 Small Meals a Day Diet Craze

I recall sitting in the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Triathlon Level 2 course and around me were triathletes / triathlon coaches of all levels. In front of them were piles of tupperware type containers with grapes, nuts, rice cakes, raisins, others with entire rice dishes or salads topped with quinoa, chia or pumpkin seeds, or pomegranate (as I think that was at the top of the pandemonium surrounding pomegranate as the critical superfood that everyone was supposed to be eating). No one waited for a break to eat; eating or snacking was constant. Someone was shoving something in their pile hole every few minutes, and when there was an actual break in the course, that’s when forks and spoons were unleashed digging into new containers that emerged from backpacks below the table. Eating, eating, non stop eating.

Today we know that without intermittent fasting, the body is constantly producing insulin, constantly packing away the calories we are eating, never unpacking a single calorie that was meant to be released when there wasn’t anything to eat.

And who was preaching to eat non-stop, alternate snacking and eating so that there isn’t a single second in the day when you aren’t chewing on something… that’s right… all the so called experts in nutrition.


Consider just the two diet crazes above – as there are other, and even crazier diets – that were preached as the solution by all those so called experts in nutrition that were claimed will prevent us from gaining weight, ensuring our health.

And the result of all these diets… epidemics in obesity, in diabetes, in hypertension, in heart disease and cancer.  It would seem experts in nutrition are the source of problems, not the solution as they so sincerely claim to be.

Let’s look at this another way…

Who have all these diets enriched?

Who have all these diets impoverished?

As far as I can tell, the major food manufacturers are raking in the revenues. As far as I can tell, so called nutrition experts are raking in the revenues from sales of diet books. And as far as I can tell, the rest of us are diseased: fat, overweight, obese, and suffering from one disease or multiple diseases… diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and so on.

Think about this…

If you ate less, what would happen to revenues of the major food manufacturers?

Hmm… if you ate less, if all of us ate less by fasting intermittently in order to regain control of our insulin levels (without medication), major food manufacturers would have a problem. With falling or not even falling, just stagnating sales of food, revenues and profits would steady, with the side effect being a drop off in the company stock price. Well, it seems that what is more important that our health, is maintaining corporate financial health even if it comes at the cost of our health, the health of the population of an entire nation.

Think about this…

If major food manufacturers are going to continue to grow their revenues into the future, then doesn’t that require all of us to have to eat even more than we eat now? We have to consume even more food than we are consuming now, a level which is already driving us into disease as a result of our obesity. If we are already obese, already suffering from lifestyle diseases related to over-eating, then isn’t the goal of the major food manufacturers rather sinister if they need us to eat and consume even more?

And who is the mouthpiece of all these major food manufacturers, preaching to us how we need to buy this food item, buy into this food trend, buy, buy, buy this superfood, that superfood… promising that we will all end up thinner, healthier, sexier than ever before?

That’s right… the so called experts in nutrition.

Its The Fire That Matters

Part 1 in a series on why articles on ‘nutrition’ and nutritional advice from ‘experts’ on diet is a waste of time, energy and effort [for the non-medically institutionalized population].


Summer is winding down, but hopefully at some point this summer you spent some time in the great outdoors. If you did, and if you did spend some time outdoors in the evening and into the night then its likely you had to build a camp fire or you hung out by a camp fire.

If you have never built or worked to maintain a fire then this blog may offer an experiment that you need to explore – safely so you don’t set yourself or anything else on fire – in order to truly appreciate that its the fire that matters, and not the fuel (and why advice on nutrition is the equivalent of pushing on a string).

If you focus on the fuel… as in what you want to burn, you will never build a fire that is able to be sustained with ease.

If you focus on the fire… as in what stage is the fire, and what fuel the fire needs at that stage, then you will be able to get a fire going, build it up, sustain it and eventually get it to the point that it can be left to generate heat, cook food, boil water, dry clothes… do whatever it is you need it to do without constant attention.

So how do you start a fire? Have you ever watched the TV series Survivor? Have you ever seen contestants of that series have to compete in fire building? If not, then it may be worth searching for and watching on Youtube. For the purpose of this post I will quickly run through the steps of starting a fire so that I can draw the analogy to nutrition, and nutritional advice.

To build a fire:

  • Start by accumulating a variety of fuel… you will not have time once the fire is started to go search for the fuel needed at each stage: you will need paper, or leaves, or twine, anything that is bone dry and will easily take a spark and turn it into a flame; you will also need every conceivable size of fuel to help the fire grow from flame to the size of fire you want. A collection of twigs, small thin branches, thicker branches, thick branches and a log or two.
  • Needless to say this is also the time to accumulate all the items you may need to either put out the fire if it gets out of hand or if it spreads… water either in a bucket or coming from a hose, sand is an alternative when water isn’t available, a shovel or rake or other tool that will keep you at a distance from the fire but can be used to put out a fire.
  • Plan the location of the fire where at its full size you will not set anything above or around on fire and start something you didn’t intend… like a forest wild fire.
  • Plan the location of the fire so that wind doesn’t put out the small flames that you will start with, nor blow the full size fire in a direction that can cause anything else to catch on fire.
  • You are ready to build your fire… (here are the pivot points to this post):  you need to create a spark or a small flame to start… matches, magnesium & flint, magnifying glass, whatever.. and that small flame needs fuel that will catch on fire easily. As the flame catches and grows, the fire will need to be fed a steady diet of increasingly larger pieces of wood as the fire will burn through smaller items faster and faster to the point that the fire can extinguish itself if it doesn’t get fuel that is hardy enough to grow it or at least sustain it.

Now think of fires that you have enjoyed this summer or in past summers. What are the best fires to sit around, to cook hot dogs, smores, to warm yourself by, to simply be around? Its definitely not small fires that are constantly requiring attention in order to be built or maintained. Its definitely not the fires that are raging in all directions, fires so big that we have to escape their flames if the wind so much as whispers in the wrong direction. The fires we are enjoy are the ones that have burnt long enough that there are coals, hot coals, coals so hot that even if a damp log is put over top… the coals will dry out the log and in time make that log burn. These fires we can cook food overtop, we can sit beside for long periods warming ourselves, we can even sleep beside them through cold fall or wintery nights.

What’s this got to do with nutrition?

Today, the nutritional advice is focused solely on the fuel (as in the food you ought to eat), yet as the analogy to a wood burning fire demonstrates what a fire needs depends on the stage and size of fire.  When was the last time that a nutritionist evaluated your ‘fire’ (as in your metabolic rate, your physiology, your psychology), before advising you on the fuel you need?

Nope. Exactly. Never. Its straight to the superfood fad of the week… Goji berries, Acai, kale, blueberries, walnuts… oops, sorry no, almonds and sunflower seeds, oh and dont forget gluten is bad bad bad (even though only 1% of the population has Celiac disease and needs to go gluten free). Which makes my point…  nutritional advice is a waste.

What fuel you put into a fire is entirely dependent on the type of fire.

What food you put into you is entirely dependent on the type of fire in you.

If you do not know the type of fire burning, if you have no clue how to assess type of fire, if you have never built a fire, never maintained a fire, never experimented with different fuels with different fires then what business do you have calling yourself an expert on fires or in the case of nutritional advice, what business do you have calling yourself an expert on nutrition? You may be an expert in the nutritional value of different foods… but that’s like being an expert in insects, it has nothing to do with what insects if any we should be eating!

Anyone claiming to be an expert in nutrition yet lacks the education, and clinical and non clinical experience in relation to how the human fire operates [imo] should not be preaching anything about nutrition as they are clueless on what to prescribe. How can you prescribe fuel when you are clueless on the type and size of internal fire – metabolic rates & processes – of a person.

Knowing how ‘healthy’ a food item is and how much ‘health’ that food item may or may not yield when consumed by a person, or the ‘health’ of the person as a result of consuming that food… has no proven consistent correlation on any scale that is scientifically reliable or valid.

Yet we expect that by eating ‘healthy’… we will become healthy.

How’s that working out?

Let’s see… we have epidemics in obesity, diabetes, in chronic and lifestyle diseases… hmm… it appears that it ain’t. Meanwhile everyone is giving nutritional advice… from Oprah to Dr Oz.

The exception as I have stated at the outset is the medically institutionalized population as in patients of hospitals, long term care facilities, and hospices. In these scenarios, the patient is under constant observation thus it is possible to assess the impact that dietary changes have on the individual (and doing so without extracting applicability to the level of populations).

There is another exception which is disease specific individuals who would benefit from certain food items being eliminated from their diet, where the food item eliminated is the source of overwhelming and persistent inflammation which adds to the underlying dis-ease… but eating any specific food and obtaining health as a result… has yet to be demonstrated to occur with any degree of consistency, and reliably.

What matters is not the fuel, but the fire – its quality, its robustness, its longevity!

Want to change your health… then you need to change your fire, what it can burn, how it burns, what are the byproducts of it burning, etc…   How do you do that?

HEALTHY EXERCISE PERFORMED OVER LONG PERIODS CONSISTENTLY

Not just any exercise, and most definitely not the exercise that is prescribed by virtually all trainers, coaches, gyms and so called health clubs: i.e. it is not HiiT/hi intensity interval training.

The exercise we are sold today as healthy is not, its ‘exercise’ in name only as it is designed to cause you to buy, buy, buy feeding the industrial machine that is our economy. Your health is irrelevant. What is relevant is looking as if your health is improving, as if your health is important, and selling you on the belief that everyone actually cares about your health when all they want is you to buy, buy, buy. We’re promised that if we only buy, our health will be restored: its is just a matter of spin sessions, yoga tights, and smoothees away.


For those who have had ‘results’ with eating properly, eating based on nutritional advice… I would caution you on giving credit to where it doesn’t belong. Why? There is something called the placebo effect.  If unfamiliar with what the placebo effect is… in short, if a person in a white lab coat, with a stethoscope around their neck, a clipboard, basically someone who looks like a doctor or medical expert offers advice, when compared to the exact same advice given by someone dressed like your next door neighbour… the result is that the advice from the medical expert looking person ‘works’ better. How is that possible? Because we believe it will work better because we believe it is coming from someone who we trust is an expert. Our belief in what works and what doesn’t plays a massive role… its for this same reason that fortune telling and why nutritional advice ‘works’ and why both are still in business today.

The placebo effect is so significant that in order for any prescription drug to be permitted to be made available by medical doctors must demonstrate in clinical trials that the effect of the drug is not simply a result of the placebo effect… the drug actually has to work whether or not a patient believes it will work or not.

There is no evidence that I am aware of that demonstrates that nutritional advice ‘works’ (as in not just by placebo effect). If nutritional advice was ever shown by clinical trial not to deliver results greater than placebo effect, then the entire field of nutrition would cease to exist as a recognized and regulated health profession. I doubt that the profession is going to undertake any such research as the risk of self destruction is undoubtedly too high.

Triathlon Legend Mark Allen


“We have to train the physiology so that their body is perceiving that day as low stress. How do you train an athlete so that their mind, their internal emotions are perceiving this day as something they can tackle? And also how do you train their physiology so that inside the body’s going “this is hard, but its not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” You have to provide them with training that over stresses both of these elements.”

Movement is A Language

I may finally have arrived at a way to concisely and effectively communicate why I hate HiiT (hi intensity interval training)? And when I say hate, I use the word unemotionally, its an authentic expression to the depth at which it hurts when I hear athletes/parents/coaches talk of it.

If movement is a language, then how we study movement should be comparable to the manner in which we study language, to the manner we use language… be it in poetry, in speech, in song.

Imagine if a teacher of language encouraged you to learn only a handful of sounds, not even words, just sounds, and then suggested that effective communication was the mere repetition of those sounds. If the goal of communication is not achieved thru these sounds, the teacher then suggests that the alternative approach is to escalate the intensity of the sounds until a zenith of screaming, screeching, yelling is reached, because effective communication can be achieved if sufficient decibels are put behind the sounds.

Sound familiar?  This is identical to that of a coach prescribing only workouts focused around targets of wattage, speed, or split times (i.e. decibel level), with sport specific technique dumbed-down to a handful of universal principles (i.e. sounds).

There is nothing more moronic, idiotic, ignorant, even evil for a teacher of language to do then to massacre language by dumbing-it-down to a handful of grunts and groans with intensity made the centre piece of communication. It is equally as moronic for a coach to dumb-down peak performance in sport to hi intensity interval training (HiiT).

As caveman grunting is to Shakespeare…
HiiT is to athletic training, to sport, to peak performance.

Those who teach that sport is nothing more than HiiT – i.e. caveman like activities of suffering in a pain-cave (no coincidence that a caveman approach wants a cave to hide in to train), via a “no pain no gain” mindset, where hurting oneself to the point of self harm or self mutilation is believed to be the source of strength, endurance or speed – are morons, idiots, ignorami who should be kept as far as possible from sport, especially from children who are experiencing sport for the first time.

Like language, movement is supposed to be beautiful, inspiring, captivating, intriguing, a creative outlet of self-expression, where an athlete – one who studies the language of movement – arrives to competition commanding such presence, attention, awareness that all eagerly wait to witness what awe-someness they will undoubtedly experience.

What does language have?

  • It has an alphabet which represents all the basic sounds of the language.
  • Those sounds, represented by letters are tied together in syllables, and syllables tied together to form words.
  • There are different types of words: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs and every word has a specific meaning, sometimes multiple meanings.
  • There are rules on how words are linked together to form sentences, how sentences are united to create paragraphs, and paragraphs linked to create essays, short stories, novels, and so forth.
  • There is complexity to language… there is figurative language: simile, metaphor, personificaiton, symbolism, and hyperbole.
  • There is more complexity when language uses literary devices: anachornisms, analogies, foreshadowing, imagery, irony, satire, understatements, etc…

The palette may consist of only 26 colours (letters in the case of our alphabet), but the number of paintings an artist can render from those simple starting points is infinite. Hence movement is limitless, hence sport is limitless.

Why is HiiT the training tool of the ignorant?  Because it is the equivalent of stripping language of all its complexity… dumbing-it-down to grunts and groans, teaching that communication is a simple matter of intensifying the grunts and groans to exchange concepts, ideas, to negotiate, to interact.

What sort of individual would dumb-down the beauty, the sweetness, the creativity, the white canvas that is language into grunts and groans? They would have to be the moron of morons.

Any coach who relies on HiiT… is just such a moron.
A moron you must avoid at all costs.

Because the risk is that their ignorance will get all over you, and that ignorance will take you down… in injury, in illness, in blow out, burn out, or meltdown; far short of your potential, far short of you experiencing peak performance.

Find a coach whose love for sport is no different than that of a teacher whose love of language compels their students to inhale book after book, to fall in love with verse.

Find a coach whose appreciation of movement leads athletes to fall in love with the complexity of the language that is movement. A coach who inspires athletes to explore, to play, to engage in movement encouraging not only self expression, but self discovery so that the potential of the athlete can and will be truly experienced.

To become the highest performing version of you… you need to find a coach who is willing to take the time to teach movement as a language so that as an athlete – a student of movement – you can start to learn how to write creatively, and then to write your own essays, your own short stories, perhaps a novel, maybe an entire series.

When movement is seen as a language, then you will come to appreciate that there truly is no limit to pursuing your potential.  If this was not the case, then long ago we would have decided as a civilization that there are no more combinations of words possible… that every book, song, story, play, movie that could be written has been written and we have reached the pinnacle of our existence, of our creativity. It hasn’t happened with words, it hasn’t happened with music, therefore it has not happened in movement, thus not in sport.

Every World Record that stands today is a single chapter in a novel of that sport… its waiting for you to come along and write the next chapter in the history of the sport. But to be able to write that chapter… you will need more than grunts and groans, you will need a full vocabulary, a thorough understanding of the rules, the patterns, the process to writing and sharing ideas.

I challenge you… become a student of movement so you can write yourself into the history of sport.