If you haven’t had a chance -- listen up to a big podcast this week, featuring Alex Hutchinson. If you don’t know Alex, he is the author of Endure and the popular columnist of Outside Magazine. As a forever elite runner, PhD from Cambridge, and all around expert in research and trends in performance, he is an incredibly engaging person. I wanted to provide some thoughts and context on our discussion for you folks.
Alex was put in an impossibly tough place, as I asked him to prepare for a quick-fire round of speed-dating of questions on every topic of performance I felt we might cover. Five minutes per topic, get as deep as you can, knowing you will feel like you were leaving every subject impossibly short each time. In addition, I didn’t discuss his answers or thoughts in advance. I wanted the outcome to be organic and authentic. A ‘coach’s discussion’ of sorts (of course, realizing Alex isn’t strictly a coach). I believe we achieved our goal, but several lessons popped out for me In episode one, we discussed training and nutrition, so let’s dive into my reflections on just that episode for this week. Here are a few key takeaways:
- Pragma not dogma: Once again, every single area of discussion kept coming back to keeping things as simple and actionable as possible. Data is great, when it helps make decisions. Adding bells and whistles is only positive if seen in the broader context. There is no replacement for you -- the human -- and how you feel. Here is the most passionate man I have met about tools and gadgets, singing a word of caution about falling to the trap of being paralyzed by tools and gadgets. If you don’t hear it now, I fear for you.
- Amplify accountability -- to yourself. I found Alex’s thoughts on the coaching relationship powerful. As you have heard me mention many times prior, you succeed if you immerse in learning and empowering yourself to make smart decisions. Coaching isn’t just about the plan, it is about growth, understanding, decision making and building a toolkit to help you navigate every situation.
- Eat yer greens: I had been reading a lot on orthorexia, and it’s increasing prevalence in athletic populations, so was interested to hear Alex raise it. We have a saying at Purple Patch: everything in moderation, including excess. Eating is no different than training, in that pragma kills dogma every time. Build your filter and confidence in realizing that ‘diets’ are mythical, and eating well to support performance shouldn’t include highly restriction habits that feel more like the penitentiary than a journey to feel great.
- The stress of eating: Notice -- aligned with above -- how we both discussed the massive prevalence of athletes not consuming enough calories (and hydration) to support training. That may not be you, but the bold message is that a feeling of restriction of calories, when training, is seldom going to achieve the health and performance results you may seek.
- Consistency is king: It isn’t just about the sessions. It is about the habits and decisions to help you build consistency over many many months. I spotlight a central piece of information that Alex mentioned, and you might be sick of hearing from me. This is that ‘stress is stress’, and the body doesn’t do a great job of differentiating poor sleep, work stress and other forms of stress, from the impact of training. Remember that I discuss the weeds (1000 foot view), the 3000 foot view of weekly decision making, then the roadmap at 10000 feet? Well, keep this in mind, and broaden your mind. Training doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
I hope you are salivating for part two. More gems in there. Until them, stay pragmatic and calm.