Getting back in to competing recently I stumbled across Dr. Jack Llewellyn, a US sports psychologist who’s performance program has long been considered one of the worlds best. His approach seems so simple, implementable, and transferable, I really wanted to share it with you. So as not to bastardise his program, understand this is simply my summary of his process as I’ve been exposed to it so far.
I get a lot of people asking for help with overtraining, Adrenal Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue issues. It sounds silly but it needs to be said, because I had to learn this. If fatigue is your issue, doing anything that makes you more fatigued isn’t going to help. Sounds obvious I know, but everyone wants to know how they can keep training, how much they can do, and are very resistant to hearing that they can’t keep doing what got them to this place. Funny that. And before anyone else contacts me saying I’m suffering from over training, it’s not just the training! These issues, unless you’ve been unlucky enough to have a virus create it for you, are lifestyle stress disorders. You have an inability to handle the stress you’re being subjected/are subjecting yourself too. Training is ONE contributing factor.
The most important recovery/anti stress tool we have at our disposal is sleep. Sleep is probably the most underrated tool when looking at recovery with athletes I work with or know and likewise with stress heads and de-stressing. People talk mental strategies, nutrition, breathing etc. All are great but mediocre at best without sleep. When you begin to study the benefits of sleep, its function, and the effects of depriving yourself of it, sleep really does sound like the panacea. Recently I wrote about adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, and my experience with both. During my recovery process one of the biggest turning points was actually giving in to the fatigue. I had resisted feeling half dead for a long time, and everything that that state ‘meant’ for me, what it took away. So giving in to it was a big step. It was a massive turning point because what it meant was that when I felt tired, I respected that and rested. I slept A LOT. Any time of day, for as long as I felt I needed to feel like I could function again. My recovery improved greatly with this approach.
When it comes to programming for CrossFit, I like to look at things through a modified powerlifting lense. So let’s start with some basic definitions from the powerlifting world. In it’s simplest form, a supplemental lift is a movement that mimics the lift/movement. You could think of this lift as being more joint related. Accessory lifts are typical (or not) bodybuilding style lifts that focus on muscles. Where things can get confusing is that you can separate further in to force bias exercises or control bias exercises. For example with an accessory force exercise, you hit the muscles that produce force in the target movement, as opposed to accessory control exercises which hit the muscles that provides control during the movement.
A good mixture of ego and eagerness will almost always be the reason for getting hurt. Every coach/pt/athlete I know has been there. Chasing weight/reps/time instead of form. Whilst it’s obviously infuriating because you’ve failed, and are paying a price in terms of not being able to do what you want, the lessons are always sitting ready to smack sense in to you. The amusing thing is, the lessons almost always seems to be the same things that cause the injury to happen; not having the orthopaedic profile for the exercise (I’ve discussed this many times from a joint, muscle, and pain perspective), or you don’t have appropriate control/tightness. How many people have you heard say “ I was doing X when I just lost concentration/tension/tightness, felt my knee drop in, shoulder pop up, etc”. I’ve found that the rehab process is always a lesson in re-establishing tension, and is a tool for educating how to dial up/use appropriate tension.
The whole lacking motivation thing in Winter is a weird one. It’s 100% a head based thing. People deciding that the discomfort associated with being out while it’s dark, cold and or wet simply does not justify the rewards gained from it. I’ll make you a deal. If you want to hibernate over winter and do nothing, then during summer you need to behave like the good hibernating animal you are and eat all the pies. Fatten yourself up so you can survive your weeks of couch surfing with no food. Or… you could just change your mental approach and let go of your resistance to the fact that it is about to get dark, cold, and wet.
Everyone talks about what to do in training to train harder, faster, get more gains. Very few mention that it’s the return to a parasympathetic state and the rest in between that is THE most important part of any state you want to take your body/mind to. This article is about the maladaptations of stress. I plan on writing a series of seperate articles on conditioning your brain, nutrition, training, sleep, gut health, etc explaining how these things place stress on us in the first place, and how to manage that stress to allow you the results you are after. Apart from being valuable to those who seek me for help, the following articles will be valuable to anyone looking for health, athletic performance, weight loss, growth, and more. I’m starting on the topic of maladaptation so you can understand why it’s so important to manage your recovery.
The most simplified description of the management of health I’ve come across was to look at health as the combination and involvement of four pillars. The pillars are nutrition (inc hydration), movement, sleep, and de-stressing. The analogy given was to imagine each pillar representing the 4 legged chair you are sitting on. Imagine the length and strength of the pillars to be representative of how well you look after yourself in that area. When I was asked to look at it like this I realised I had become a little lazy in my approach or one-eyed perhaps. I am great at looking after my movement, and nutrition, and I do try with my sleep but work prevents that from being optimal, and de-stressing doesn’t get looked at at all. Kind of weird considering stress and lack of rest are my prime issues and my inability to regulate them on all levels have created my biggest downfalls. Like the mechanic analogy, I seemed to do a better job of seeing dysfunction in others and dealing with it than with myself. But until I went through this exercise, I couldn't see it.
When people start talking about recovery they commonly refer to sleep, stretching, foam rolling, massage, recreational activities that bring joy etc. Often the most basic skill of staying still and relaxing, deeply, is neglected. I think this is because most don’t know how to just be still. It seems at least 80% of people who’ve reached the top of their field, whatever it may be, chooses meditation as a method for self control, stress relief, and self development. Every athlete has some type of ritual and a style of self talk that helps them stay relaxed and focussed. One of the most defining differences between a trained athlete and an untrained individual is the speed at which the athlete can completely and totally relax. It isn’t something they were born with, like any skill, it’s learned. It doesn’t matter the field your in, or the method you choose, learning to let your mind and body relax is integral to high performance.