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Interview with John Monagle about Naturopathic Medicine

Dr. John Monagle owns and operates the Marin Center for Natural Medicine, which is a state of the art medical clinic and natural pharmacy located 15 miles north of San Francisco in Larkspur (part of Marin County). John (who also goes by JK) has dedicated himself to helping others live their lives better, longer, and stronger through natural medicine. He is an expert in a variety of progressive sport therapies including Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), a treatment for regenerating and repairing connective tissue in the joints and Prolozone Therapy which is beneficial in repairing painful arthritic joints using the regenerative power of ozone. John treats a variety of clientele ranging from NFL superstars to the weekend warrior athlete, the old to the young, and everyone else in between.


Here are my 5 questions with John and his answers:

1) What do you see as the primary differences between Naturopathic Medicine’s approach to sports medicine versus a conventional Allopathic medical approach?

The primary differences are in the treatment of sports injuries, and whether the ailment is acute or chronic. Allopathic medicine has two major approaches; drugs and surgery. In my opinion, drugs do not heal, they relieve symptoms. Pharmaceuticals may help temporarily, but are also dangerous in that they can mask a problem that needs to be addressed and therefore risk causing further damage to the area, not to mention the addictive properties of pain killers. The other option in conventional medicine is surgery, which in my opinion, should only be considered as a last resort when every other alternative has been explored and there is absolutely no other choice. Period.

Two of the major tenet’s of Naturopathic Medicine are: Treat the underlying cause of illness; And treat the whole person. Following these principles, I address not just the injured area itself, but the whole body. I put my patients on a regimen of nutraceutical supplements to help build their energy, increase their healing strength, and decrease their pain. Then, with regard to the injury, whatever it may be, I use therapies to heal the area, and not just remove the pain. I treat a lot of chronic joint pain from normal wear and tear, or from repetitive use in sports or exercise like running, swimming, biking, lifting weights, etc.

One of the main tools that conventional Medical Doctors use for pain is a steroid injection, primarily Cortisone. These doctors mean well, because it does help with the pain. The problem is, it is like cutting the wire to the “check engine” light in your car. The pain may be gone, but the tissue is not fixed. In fact, multiple cortisone shots only serve to weaken the connective tissue further, because they block any possibility of healing in the affected area. The other non-surgical treatments of conventional medicine are pharmaceuticals like anti-inflammatory medicines, pain killers, and steroids, all with a host of negative side effects and no true healing effects.

2) In Western medicine (after far too long in my opinion) we are finally seeing clinicians and practitioners focus on prevention. For instance, doctors are making more of a concerted effort to prescribe exercise for mild hypertension rather than wait for it to progress and treat the problem with pharmaceutical drugs. Is this paradigm shift in ideology affecting Natural Medicine as well?

I think Natural Medicine is the paradigm shift. It is the way Naturopathic Doctors are trained to think about health in the first place. It is an ideology of true health and one that is far older than pharmaceutical medicine. It is affecting more and more doctors every year, and the beauty is, it is coming from their patients not wanting to take a drug or have surgery. More and more people are recognizing the downside of being a slave to prescription drugs. Thanks to the Internet, they are more informed about health in general and they want healthier alternatives; and they want their doctor to know about these alternatives.

3) Personally, I’ve had mixed results with both Non- Western medicine and Western medicine. Acupuncture cured some chronic arthritic pain I had in my thumb – where traditional pain relievers could do little to ease the ailment. Conversely, I tried to treat my insomnia with acupuncture – the approach was met with limited success – so I began using Lunesta which has worked wonders. Do you support the theory that the multiple disciplines augment each other? Is the best path for a patient trial and error to figure out what works best?

I do think that multiple disciplines augment and complement each other. Usually, you can’t get everything you need for your health from just one practitioner or modality. I think the best path is one that works for the individual. Contrary to what some might have you believe, it is important to be participant in nurturing your well-being. The more informed you are with the choices you have, the better you can tailor your own health care approach.

4) If you could clear up one misconception about Naturopathic Medicine what would it be?

That we are not “real” doctors or that we didn’t go to a “real” medical school. Anyone who does a little bit of research (www.naturopathic.org)
can learn that a Medical Degree from a Naturopathic Medical School is equivalent to any MD degree from an Allopathic Medical school. The first two years in either program are nearly identical. We take the same classes, use the same textbooks, and learn the same basic facts about how the body works, pathology, diagnosis, and yes, even pharmacology. I have a DEA license to prescribe pharmaceuticals, but I hardly ever need to use it, because I prefer to use natural and less toxic medicines. I’ll take it one step further and say that the didactic part of an MD’s education ends after their second year, when they begin rotations and learn more about disease management through the use of pharmaceuticals or surgery.

Conversely, in Naturopathic Medical after our second year, we begin rotations and seeing patients in a clinical setting, but we continue to take classes in our 3rd and 4th year to learn about Homeopathy, Botanical Medicine, Intravenous Therapy, Physical Medicine (Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Physical Therapy), Chinese Medicine, and most importantly, Nutrition (where the average MD school might teach two weeks). Our board exams after year two and four are in the exact same subjects and are modeled in the same manner as an MD.

We are licensed Primary Care Physicians, and are exceptional at treating chronic illnesses by getting to the root cause of the problem.
We can order lab tests, radiographic imaging, and perform minor surgery if we choose to do so in our practice. When it comes to Primary Care and Family Practice Medicine, we resemble the “old fashioned doctor” who knows the family and makes an occasional house call as opposed to a focus on cranking out cases. We treat patients with the best of what modern Natural Medicine has to offer (based on the latest scientific and clinical research).

5) Thinking back through your years of practice, what is your favorite sport/fitness related success story (rehab, prevention, or otherwise) regarding Naturopathic Medicine?

I treated one of the Oakland Raiders who was told he couldn’t play in the game that upcoming weekend because of a pulled muscle. I saw him for two days in a row, and did several trigger point injection therapies and a prolotherapy treatment. In three days he was back on the field, playing full speed and ready to go on Sunday. His coaches were so surprised, they gave him a random drug screening to see if he took something illegal. He laughed, took the tests, which all came back negative, and played a great game.

Interview with Gloria Park Perin about Positive Psychology in Sports

Gloria Park Perin was a competitive figure skater for over 14 years, and remains active in the sport as a coach. She received her BA in Psychology and Philosophy from Villanova University, and has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Next year Gloria will receive her PhD in Exercise and Sport Psychology from Temple University. She is also the founder of The Good Body Project. Her interests include broader applications of positive psychology in the pursuit of promoting mind/body health and wellness, bridging positive psychology and sport performance consulting, and youth development through sport and physical activity.


Here are my 5 questions with Gloria and her answers:

1a) What role do you believe positive psychology plays in athletics (under the umbrella of sport psychology or otherwise)?
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A working definition of positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning, and the conditions that enable individuals, communities, and organizations to thrive. I see positive psychology playing a role in sport psychology in the following ways:

  1. Augmenting existing approaches to performance enhancement and nurturing high talent.
  2. Providing new direction on cultivating well-being and happiness in athletes in ways that don’t necessarily involve achievement.
  3. Enhancing the understanding of sport as a positive, enabling institution in society and informing practices to enhance virtue and morality.

Many natural connections exist between positive psychology and sport psychology, and in fact, both fields share similar bedrock assumptions in theory and in practice.

You might be wondering how the teachings in sport psychology differ from what is taught in positive psychology, and the fact is, they’re not so different. There is no “aha!” in positive psychology, and many of the basic principles are things that we might have all learned in kindergarten, church, or in a graduate program in sport psychology. However, what positive psychology has contributed is rigorous, empirical research into concrete and tangible ways to cultivate more of what makes life worth living. I believe that the two fields have the potential to benefit greatly from working synergistically together, and I’ve made it my life goal to foster collaboration and connection between these two fields.

1b) Do you think that positive psychology can play a significant role in enhancing sport performance (or does the significance of positive psychology in sport play a different role)?

Absolutely! One of the most robust areas of research in the sport and exercise psychology domain is that which contributes to the understanding of the behaviors, mindsets, and characteristics of high-performers. Similarly, the positive psychology movement and its related fields, such as positive organizational scholarship, have contributed much to the understanding of the processes that enable optimal performance in other domains such as business and education. Each of these fields draws on the notion that by supporting well-being and happiness in human beings, we can nurture high performance.

Talking positive psychology with folks in the sport psychology domain is like preaching to the choir. However, emerging research in positive psychology has a lot to offer in the way of innovating existing performance enhancement techniques. For example, Barbara Fredrickson’s hypothesis that positive emotion has the ability to “undo” the harmful, physiological effects of negative emotions can inform new approaches to arousal control. Coupled with other emerging technologies, such as biofeedback and psychophysiology, I see so many possibilities for increasing the efficacy of performance enhancement interventions in the future.

2) In practice what has been the biggest surprise after you have introduced positive psychology into the overall regimen and rigor of a specific sport?

My applied work experiences (in terms of one-on-one or team performance consulting) have been limited because I’ve focused most of my energy on completing my PhD. However, one of the most life-changing experiences I had was working as a coach for Figure Skating in Harlem, a girls’ development program incorporating education with the sport of figure skating and designed to encourage positive psychosocial and physical development. During this time, I was able to observe concrete and positive changes in 65 girls from a marginalized area of New York City. This program was a living, breathing incarnation of positive psychology in motion that helped to connect the girls with their community and with their families, provided an outlet to produce and be a part of something in which they could take great pride, and taught the girls the importance of hard work, determination, courage, teamwork, and leadership. Coming from Harlem, many of the girls in the program faced adversities that I have never had to face, and still, in the shadow of all of these difficulties, the girls exhibited their resilience by thriving and continuing to make progress, on the ice, in school, and in their personal lives.

I believe it was this experience that drove me to pursue my graduate studies in sport and exercise psychology. I realized that the value of sport expanded far beyond the achievement domain: When structured properly, it had the potential to be a powerful enabler of the good life, even for those who never had a chance of making it to the top of the Olympic podium.

3) You previously made the following statement about your experience as a figure skater, “I wish I understood the gravity of negative experiences and their uncanny ability to linger around long after the fleeting high from a success.” As an elite athlete that had her career cut short due to injury – regressing back to that period immediately after the injury – what is one thing that you know now that you wish you had known then that could have helped?

If I think back to that time in my life, I wish I knew that there would be so much more to live for after skating was over. When I was injured, I felt like the world was caving in on me. For so long, my sense of identify, meaning, and purpose had been defined by my involvement with skating, and when I saw things coming to an end, I felt lost. In that moment, I wish someone would have helped me put the experience in perspective and provided me with a way to seek out a renewed sense of passion and purpose. I imagine the transition is a little easier for older, more mature athletes, but in sports like figure skating and gymnastics, where retirement age often coincides with puberty, having resources available to facilitate this process would be of huge value.

4) How has your unique experience as an athlete altered the lens in which you approach sport psychology in general?

A lot of people go into sport psychology hoping to become the next big performance enhancement consultant with a major league team or high profile athlete. While I think elite performance is fascinating, I don’t see that as a major focus of my life’s work as a practitioner of sport and positive psychology. I want to promote well-being and happiness with athletes (and in turn, enhance performance) and help research evidence-based approaches for creating institutions that can help teach virtue, grit, and healthy habits across the lifespan. I would also like to play a role during athletes’ transition out of sport by working with them to identify and embrace new passions and goals, and exploring ways to give back and stay connected to their sport communities by mentoring, volunteering, or coaching.

Through skating, I learned at a young age that nothing in life comes easy. It takes hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and courage to pursue anything that is of worth. My parents, exemplars of this philosophy on life, showed me the power of their unconditional love and support, and constantly reminded me that it is not enough to just be successful in life. True success is measured by the legacy you leave behind: By what you do for others, by giving back to the world and the community, and constantly striving to live morally, justly, and compassionately. I hope I can use my experiences to do just that.

5) As a practitioner of positive psychology one of your implied goals is to help people “flourish”. Since the field of positive psychology is still fairly new, how do you see sport and fitness fitting into this goal and this field’s evolution?

The field of sport and exercise psychology is defined by two scientific objectives: 1) To understand the psychological factors that affect physical and motor performance, and 2) To understand the effect of participation in physical activity or sport on an individual’s psychological development, and how it contributes to health and well-being. The latter speaks to the role of sport and fitness in flourishing. In much of positive psychology research, the human body is conspicuously missing, even though physical activity has a robust connection to cognitive and psychosocial development throughout the lifespan and can support psychological well-being by serving as an effective treatment for and buffers to illness. Sport is also a powerful enabler of flow because it is a source of fun, enjoyment, and social connection for youth and adults alike. It has the capability to cross over racial, religious, and socioeconomic boundaries and bring people together in the pursuit and celebration of a common interest. As I mentioned earlier, sport is a powerful mechanism to engage, motivate, and develop life skills and good character in youth, and has already been adopted by a growing number of organizations. Finally, as a vivid testament to the tenacity of the human sprit, sport has the power to move, inspire, and elevate each of us to reach for our full potential.

Interview with Tom DeLong about Sports Technology

Tom DeLong is the former Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at California Lutheran University and has had teaching appointments at both UCLA and CSU, Long Beach. He is also the former co-owner of The Performance Center. His research and interests involve the application of segment length measurement ratios and their affects on optimal movement performance mechanics in resistance training exercises. Tom is currently working on authoring a book chapter entitled “Biomechanics of Power” for the NSCA’s Sports Performance Series, Human Kinetics, after which he plans to complete his own book entitled “SomatoMe… chanics”.


Here are my 5 questions with Tom and his answers:

1) A recent Wired article discussing the impact of technology and capturing personal metrics during exercise (The Nike Experiment: How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics) sited a 2001 study in the American Journal of Health Behavior which concluded that personalized feedback increased the effectiveness of exercise programs. One theory is that people react to the “Hawthorne Effect” and are inspired to improve if they feel they are being observed or measured. As Moore’s Law continues to play out (regarding computing power) and we are garnering the ability to aggregate an immense amount of data do you believe we will begin to see benefits beyond motivation and psychosomatics from personal metrics?
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Yes, absolutely. Adaptation comes from change. Try harder and you get better. When you get data back you can set the bar for yourself and adapt. It is simple. With any program/system you: one, analyze; two, optimize; three, maximize for efficiency and effectiveness; four, minimize anything that decreases anything that inhibits your ability to achieve all the goals within that program/system. The right technology makes this inherently easier if it is the “right” technology. Regarding the Hawthorne Effect, their increased productivity basically came down to stimulus, which is a component of adaptation. We adapt to stimulus, whether real or perceived (as in the case of the Hawthorne study).

Will the ability to collect and amass data help us? Of course, but with that said training needs to be individualized and you can’t get around that. Let me use getting a front-end alignment on your car as a metaphor for this. You can standardize the process of aligning the tires on your car. But if you try to use the same measurements and metrics of a Hummer and apply that to a Mini you are going to have real problems. You can use technology and statistics to improve the overall system and make sure that both models get the most optimized alignment that is possible, but you can’t apply the same exact formula to align both models. That would be ridiculous, they are two different cars.

The same holds true for exercise prescription. As we learn more and are able to collect and analyze data in ways that were previously impossible we can help people make better and well defined choices. We learn what is working and what is not working and as facilitators can adapt the system. However, nothing will ever replace an individual assessment. There aren’t any cookie cutter programs out there that are going to be of optimal design without first being tailored to the needs of the individual. It is that simple, period.

2) As someone who has played a role in helping improve the fitness of our military I know you hold an admiration for servicemen and women. I was recently touched by the story of Jerrod Fields (An Injured Soldier Re-emerges as a Sprinter) who was wounded in Iraq, lost his leg and now belongs to the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. He is now up against Oscar Pistorius whose prosthetic limb and Olympic hopes basically began the debate about (non-pharmaceutical) fitness innovation giving an unfair advantage. In your mind when does innovation become an unfair advantage?

This is a tough question to answer, because you have to determine where to draw the line. Some of our physical augmentations are out of necessity, as is the case of the two men in your question. To use myself as an example I had to have my hip replaced, so I have a titanium hip which is surely stronger than yours. Does that mean I should not be able to compete with you? It is really up to the governing body of the respective sport to decide what is, and is not, an unfair advantage. I don’t know, I don’t have the answer.

3) What do you think technology’s role and/or place is with regards to fitness? In other words, define the line between the benefits of technology and what is required as an active participant in an athletic/fitness program.

All technology should be is another tool in the toolbox and it really depends on the level of fitness of the athlete. Beginning athletes really need to be properly assessed and then focus on fundamental training. To the extent technology can help with that, great!

As a trainer I use a force plate to help power lifters with explosive movements. Does that mean that a novice should jump on a force plate? Of course not. These are all tools, so technology’s role is to be a tool in someone’s toolbox. And like any good toolbox, it should be filled with things that are useful. The line lies between asking yourself, “What do I need?” and then making sure that it helps you analyze, optimize, and maximize the goal that you are aiming for. If it is not then you minimize it, in other words you get it out of your toolbox. The role of technology is to give proper and relevant feedback to the athlete in question. If it is not doing that then what is the point.

4) As a fitness practitioner you utilize technology to improve your client’s results – what invention/innovation do you believe had the biggest impact on increasing overall fitness levels to date?

Regarding what I do, my answer is Dartfish. It is the best tool I’ve found for structural analysis. I use it to analyze athletic performance and it is great for that.

5) Do you see any innovations and/or paradigm shifts on the horizon that warrant excitement (ex. http://exerciseismedicine.org)?

Right now I really like what CrossFit is doing. They have validated what the Soviets, Bulgarians, and the NSCA have known for ages. It is a throwback to general physical preparation… to fundamental training. I learned this stuff from my mentors like Dr. John Garhammer, Bob Takano, Dr. Bill Sands and Dr. Mike Stone. This stuff has been known for 50 years or more and now CrossFit is using technology to get the message out. Everyone has access now… the Internet, mobile, etc. It is also a product of good marketing on the part of CrossFit, I mean they are experts at creating evangelists, but who cares as long as people are getting the message.

Ground based, multi-joint, multi-plane, under load, done at variable speeds and according to the level of fitness of the athlete. It’s not rocket science but somewhere along the way people lost sight of what is important and CrossFit is doing their part to move the focus in the right direction.

My wife and I like to call it the “burn the box” principle. Fitness is obviously enhanced by innovation and science, so we need to cross educate people. I think we are making a lot of ground but we still live in a world where people want instant results. Individual assessments are an important part of every program but the instant access to generic regimens and training programs (a downside to technology) has enabled people to jump in head first often to their own demise. By all means, do your own research and when you do you’ll see that the reason existing paradigms are getting challenged by CrossFit and others is because a lot of common wisdom regarding strength training in the U.S. was/is wrong.

There are great scientists that have substantially contributed to the vast body of knowledge that people reference from: The late Dr. Mel Siff, Dr. Yuri Verhkoshansky, Dr. Tudor Bomba, Dr. Greg Haff, Dr. Kyle Pierce, Dr. Fred Hatfield, Dr. Bill Whiting, Dr. Stuart McGill, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky, Dr. Michael Yessis. These are just a few of the MANY great scientists and practitioners who have been in the background writing, researching, and teaching all these facts I and others have taught for years that fell on deaf ears and now are being heard from the pulpit of CrossFit.

Again it is great that CrossFit is changing/reverting this paradigm, but it is important for people to know that CrossFit methodologies and all the underlying information has been around for years in textbooks and training manuals if people had just bothered to read, opened their ears and listened…

Interview with Jeff Galloway about Running

Jeff Galloway is a lifetime runner. He was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and competed in the 10,000 meter and marathon events. Since then he has helped over 250,000 non-elite runners achieve their goals through coaching and instruction. Jeff authored the best-selling running book in North America entitled Galloway’s Book on Running, and has also authored numerous other titles on running. Jeff is a producer of a wide range of fitness programs and events each year, he is the CEO of Galloway Productions, and as if that were not enough he also owns several running specialty stores.


Here are my 5 questions with Jeff and his answers:

1) I recently discovered that, contrary to conventional wisdom, muscle does not have a “memory”. You have written that after taking a week off from exercise a runner begins to lose about 25% of their fitness level per week. If someone is simply finding it hard to train but wants to make sure they “bank” their current progress from previous efforts, can one devise a minimal maintenance regimen in an attempt to maintain muscular and mitochondrial adaptation?

There is a minimum but you don’t need to pile it on either. Too much mileage can cause injury. Most people can do well on just three days a week. The muscles recover and the mind recovers as well. Studies show that 48 hours are needed to fully recover from a run. Along with running three times a week, your program should include performing a long run every two weeks. To maintain speed, you need at least one speed workout per week. My Running: A Year Round Plan book explains this comprehensively.

2a) I just ordered your new book Galloway’s Marathon FAQ: Over 100 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions. What is the most frequently asked question you get (and the answer of course)?

The two questions that I get asked most frequently are, “why do I experience fatigue?” and “why can’t I get beyond a certain distance?” The answer is almost always that they have not implemented walk breaks into their long run. When I can get them to do this, they inevitably are able to break boundaries in their training most of the time.

2b) What is one question that you believe is not asked enough?

The question I do not get asked enough is, “how can I maximize running enjoyment?” When asked my answer to this is: go out easier at the beginning of your runs, find the right group to run with, and enjoy the process. Getting injured diminishes the enjoyment of running and is avoidable if you follow a few simple guidelines.

3) This is a very self-serving question, so excuse me. You have honored me with your time so I am going to take full advantage. The Boston Marathon falls on my birthday in 2011 (need I say more). My last marathon was in your town of Atlanta in 2008 where I finally broke 4:30:00. Since then I have focused on speed (I can run one mile repeats at a 7:20mph pace) and reducing my weight (I’ve run most of my marathons at 220lbs; I am now closer to 200lbs). I’ve got two years left to try to get to Boston, which means shaving over an hour off my current personal best. What list of three reminders pertaining to this goal should be stuck to my mirror for daily viewing?

1. Lower your body weight ~ In your particular case it would benefit you to get under 200lbs.
2. Run slower on the long runs ~ Work up to 29 miles for your long run and 14 (one) mile repeats for your speed work.
3. Improve your form ~ Start by making adjustments at shorter races.

Focus on your long-term program. Identify your “magic mile” (learn more about the magic mile here). Your marathon pace will be around thirty percent more than this measure. You should remain realistic. I usually see between a 3% to 5% improvement over a six month period with the time goal runners I have trained, so again the key is to think long-term. Also, remember to stay cognizant of factors such as race day heat and marathon participant congestion that could adversely affect your time. In other words, avoid anything that is not going to maximize your overall time based on your goal.

4) I am a fan of supplementation. With regards to endurance training, you have well documented thoughts on nutrition and the benefits and concerns of caffeine supplementation. Are there any non-traditional supplements that you believe a marathoner should consider?

I think a good recovery drink after a run is important to reload glycogen stores. It should be 80% carbohydrates and 20% protein and be approximately 300 calories according to the research. Endurox R4 is formulated to provide just that.

I also believe a one-a-day vitamin is important to help aid with recovery and provide antioxidants. Personally I take Cooper Complete.

5) The first time I employed some of your strategies wholeheartedly in a marathon was at the 2007 Austin Marathon. I remember around mile two or three my watch beeped indicating to me that I should begin walking, which I did. A guy drafting me ran right into my back jeering, “Move to the side Gallowayer.” I laughed to myself and did what I was told. When you began promoting your run/walk strategies did you have any idea that, in turn, you would also be creating (in essence) such a huge marathon counterculture?

My mission since 1973 has always been to enable people to enjoy running as long as they can. I want people to be able to run until they are 100. It is my firm belief that if you pull back at the beginning you have more at the end. If people follow my advice, they have a greater probability of:

  • a reduction in injuries
  • more fun
  • increase in health benefits

When I hear that someone has applied my principles effectively it gives me great satisfaction. It’s why I do this.

Interview with Chris Talley about Sports Nutrition

Chris Talley is a sports nutritionist who specializes in the unique requirements of ultra-elite athletic performance. He has more than 22 years of experience in the fields of nutritional science and exercise physiology, and has been exposed to information and processes that are unheard of in the civilian nutritional arena. Mr. Talley’s career began as an Aerospace Physiologist, performing nutritional research in changes to protein metabolism and bone density due to exposure to microgravity environments. After 8 years in this highly technical field, Chris found a unique civilian application for the information he had uncovered. Many of the nutritional interventions that help preserve muscle mass and bone density in space also INCREASE muscle mass and bone density on Earth. This held serious implications for the field of athletic performance. In 2001, Chris founded Precision Food Works, Inc (PFW). PFW is a high-tech, software-driven nutritional company that scientifically evaluates each individual, then (utilizing proprietary software) plans, prepares, and delivers customized meals on a daily basis. In addition to overseeing his rapidly expanding nutritional service, Chris has utilized this same process to perform nutritional programming for elite athletes worldwide. His clientele include 3 NBA MVPs, 2 NFL MVPs, 2 MLB Cy Young award winners and 3 MVPs, world record holders in 4 Olympic track and field events, 2 Heisman trophy winners, and a host of other household-name athletes.

Interview with Chris Talley about Sports Nutrition

Here are my 5 questions with Chris Talley about Sports Nutrition and his answers:

1) I am a believer in Muir’s Law (which is: “when one tries to pick out anything by itself we find it attached to everything else in the universe”). This “law” seems to hold true for nutrition, as was discussed in a recent NY Times article. With that in mind, what do you believe to be the role of supplementation in the diet (especially with regards to ergogenic aids)?

I believe supplementation plays a role only after “the basics” have been addressed. Eating a wholesome and healthy diet will carry you surprisingly far in athletic competition. Sure, throwing a few top-notch supplements at someone who is already well-nourished can put the icing on the cake, but I would aim for getting “health” covered before looking elsewhere. Your body needs “the basics” to make a lot of the precursors, hormones, and 2nd messengers required to maximize performance. I see A LOT of athletes that eat HORRIBLY, and then try to patch it up with some over-the-counter ergogenic aids. It never benefits them in the long run when they go that route, though the placebo effect may carry them for a little bit.

2a) There has been a lot of recent hype about prohormones and DHEA, but not much credible research to indicate that there is an effective nutriceutical aid… so far the tried and true combo of creatine and whey supplementation still seem to be the best. Is there anything exciting and/or new out there that has potential?

Most of the prohormones are banned by the sanctioning bodies in any type of athletic competition, so I’ll leave that out of this conversation. For non-athletes, a good blood work-up will tell you where your current testosterone and estrogen levels are. My current way of doing things with athletes is much different than it was 10 years ago. It used to be that you would just hit someone up with an assortment of state-of-the-art supplements and hope that something in there would help. Because nutritional blood work-ups are now well under the $1,000 mark, I’m finding that identifying any underlying deficiencies is much more efficient, effective, and less expensive than just taking every supplement in the nutrition store. It’s not going to do you a whole lot of good taking an assortment of supplements if you are missing some key neurotransmitter precursors, essential fatty acids, or simple vitamins and/or minerals. I’ve recently seen an athlete go from “fairly competitive” to “absolutely on fire!” simply by getting back to full nutritional status based upon nutritional blood work…and that was without taking ANY ergogenic aid!

2b) Is there anything exciting and/or new regarding how one can lower their myostatin levels?

Antisense technology is going to be the answer here, though I’m not sure what the repercussions will be. It’s a brave new world once you start changing the way genes are permitted to express themselves! Ovita Limited owns the patent to the bovine version of the myostatin gene (and antisense control of it), but Isis Pharmaceuticals is by far the leader in the antisense field (and owns most of the key patents related to it), so remember that name a few years from now. They are the only ones who have figured out how to effectively deliver the antisense oligonucleotides to their target. Antisense therapies are incredibly powerful and elegant solutions if/when their time comes.

3) Some compelling research has shown that there is a link between dairy intake and weight management, and some researchers make the leap that this is due to CLA. What are your thoughts on CLA and the compound’s purported benefits?

I’m not entirely convinced that the dairy/weight loss connection is due to CLA. There’s a fair amount of support that adequate dietary calcium plays an important role in weight loss, so that may have something to do with it. Sticking to the CLA question, there is a fair amount of support that CLA helps prevent cancer and heart disease. When it comes to weight loss…yes, I have seen a number of studies supporting its benefit. Empirically, I have not seen anyone taking it lose body fat any faster than those who were not taking it. Of slight concern is the fact that some people seem to develop temporary insulin resistance after taking CLA for a couple of months. This seems to correct itself once they stop taking it, but it may be a bigger concern if someone is borderline diabetic.

4) This question is personal. I am a caffeine addict. I use it as both an ergogenic aid and a mental stimulant. Actually, it is safe to say I abuse it. Practically undisputed are its benefits in endurance events and the fact that it crosses the blood brain barrier increasing neurotransmitter release (which allows for more intense anaerobic workouts leading to improved adaptation). However, the user also risks many of the same side effects as other stimulants. When and where do you believe that caffeine has a role in the diet of an athlete?

A lot of people swear by caffeine to keep them going throughout the day. I suggest that my athletes stay away from it because of the side effects. Caffeine can increase the production of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). Since SHBG binds to testosterone, it can decrease FREE testosterone (the form of testosterone that is responsible for the well-known action of testosterone) to the point that it affects the anabolic state that many athletes are looking for. I usually tell my athletes not to have more than 2 cups of coffee a day, as that’s a low enough dose that testosterone is not affected in any substantial way. For the average person, having a cup of coffee or the equivalent amount of caffeine before exercise can improve endurance a bit — and for those looking for it, possibly speed weight loss.

5) What are your favorite overlooked supplements?

Pyruvate is a great one for any extreme endurance athlete or those looking to lose weight, though you have to combine it with DHA (dihydroxyacetone…not the essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid) to get the most benefit. Most pyruvate products on the market these days have DHA added already. Dosage will vary according to gastrointestinal tolerance, but 1 gram per 10lbs of body weight is a good average starting point. Make sure to spread the intake out over the entire day, as too much at once will cause digestive issues. Take it before meals and before exercise for best results.

I’m becoming a big fan of Beta Alanine for athletes, even though this one has been known about for about a 100 years. It’s especially great for vegetarians (or those that don’t eat a whole lot of meat). Dosing is dependent on the person, as you want to take enough to get a benefit without getting “the tingles” in your fingers. I’ve found the dose most athletes can tolerate ranges from 2 – 5 grams per day. It’s best taken a few times a day to reduce the side effects.

Interview with Dave Scott about Fitness Training

Dave Scott is the most recognized athlete and coach in the sport of triathlon. He is a six-time Ironman World Champion and the first inductee into the Ironman Hall of Fame. Today, Dave continues to live up to his reputation as “The Man” through his many speaking engagements, sport clinics and race sponsored activities. He currently trains several top professionals and age group triathletes and has recently completed a DVD on nutrition called “The Art and Science of Fueling, for Pre, During and Post Endurance Training and Racing” available at: www.davescottinc.com.


Here are my 5 questions with Dave and his answers:

1) There is a misconception amongst some that you won the first ever Ironman. You actually won the third Ironman, which was the first televised Ironman, correct? At the time you crossed the finish line for the first time did you have any idea that you had just become an early icon (founder if you will) of an elite society of alpha individuals and endurance junkies… distinguished from the status quo by dotted M tattoos and hints of masochism?

Yes, 1980 was the 3rd Hawaiian Ironman. Well, I’ve never had the desire to put an “M -Dot” tattoo on my body. The passion I have for health and ultimately triathlon was underway well before my first Ironman. My “true” roots stemmed from coaching a large group of master’s swimmers in Davis, CA. They taught me “skills of life” and elevated my passion towards being healthy. Triathlon merely pushed the envelope a bit further!

2) Over the years I have spent a pretty penny getting my gait analyzed and adjusted. I have been told to keep my arms at my side and pretend like I am pulling the rope of an imaginary bell in front of me. When I watched the long distance runners in this year’s Beijing Olympics I saw everyone running with their arms up by their chests, something I have been discouraged against by multiple coaches. You are famous for having a very unique gait and yet you are still a world-class runner. What are your thoughts on making adjustments to a runner’s form? Obviously making anatomical adjustments has its place (ex. getting a bike properly fitted) but I am curious about your take on gait analysis.

Running technique is an individual art. My form was disastrous, but I did one element of the technique fairly well – keeping your hips up and slightly forward. This creates a subtle posterior tilt in the pelvis and takes the load from your quads. Additionally, it creates the ability to increase your cadence and reduces the time in the stance phase. Imagine you are a puppet and a puppeteer is pulling up on the strings while you simultaneously, lightly squeeze your glutes together – this will get you into proper position. This simple cue will work for everyone – even you Michael! Regarding your arms being rigid and too low, that creates a robotic running form. Get a new coach!

3) Middle of the Packers (like myself) live for the special needs bags – from gummy candy to In-N-Out Burgers – there is nothing like getting some real food in the middle of the race, especially from a morale standpoint. Another mystery is flat cola. There was a recent debate in a nutrition class (in which I was a student) and after the debate I was tasked with rationalizing why this was a better choice than an electrolyte drink. Even though this is a welcome beverage on any Ironman course, I could find no hard evidence on why it is part of the traditional nutritional offerings. To summarize my inquiry into two answerable questions, if you are burning that many calories does it really matter what you eat in the second half of the marathon leg of an Ironman (if it doesn’t make you sick)? Second, what is the deal with flat cola?

Long question on nutrition. If you are well hydrated and working aerobically (as in most marathons or an Ironman) Coke can give you a big jolt of calories and yes, it can work! The draw back is the volume that you drink at one time. The sugar concentration can exceed a fluid replacement drink’s (FRD) sugar by 3 to 10 times depending upon your intake. This can cause inter-cellular water to be drawn to the gut to dilute the sugary fluid. Bad news if you are slightly dehydrated! Additionally, FRDs contain higher levels of sodium which help maintain the water in your cells. Coke does not have the proper sodium levels. If you are a heavy sweater – Coke again is a bad idea. Also, there is a breakdown of protein during longer loads and the circulation of blood proteins start to diminish as a long race continues. Keeping these blood proteins elevated has a synergistic effect with the carbohydrate in FRDs. FRDs spare muscle glycogen, reduce muscle breakdown and maintain electrolyte levels – Coke does not have proteins. Lastly, no one has won using Coke for their fuel. Surviving – maybe, winning – no!

4) One piece of knowledge that I took from last quarter’s business interview with Olav Sorenson was that average people actually do themselves a disservice when they try to replicate the regimen (or use the roadmap) of a person that has been blessed with innate and/or inherited resources not available to a layman. In your experience training amateur athletes to reach their ultimate potential, how do you mediate the human assumption of “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” (especially considering most iron distance triathletes tend to be over-achievers)?

Most triathletes are like sheep. If the leader tells one to do a workout because it is good for him or her — the rest of the sheep follow. Bad idea! A workout in a book is not the answer for all triathletes. Without tweaking the workload, progression and recovery for each individual a guaranteed plateau or falling off will occur. Regarding the Ironman folks, the tendency is to do more volume! There is a point of no return in just squeezing in more distance in your training. Without teaching your body to burn fuel at the rate of your projected race pace and providing the physiological overload needed for adaptation, the athlete is destined to go slow during the race. Ironman athletes at all levels need sub-threshold training. In simple jargon, this means the intensity is moderately hard to hard in effort. For example, you have a 3 hour bike ride scheduled in mid summer, try to include 40 – 60% at an intensity closer to your 1/2 Ironman pace. Cruising along at 16 miles per hour, taking pictures and stopping at every convenience store does not replicate the intensity (even for folks who just want to finish) of the race. All races heighten your performance and ultimately extract your highest potential. Do not run or ride away from discomfort – just learn to manage it

5) Since I have tried to challenge some conventional wisdom throughout this interview I’ll conclude by simply asking what are some tips that my readers can takeaway, which can be acted on immediately?

– Be consistent.
– Do what you can in the moments available to you! Even if it’s a 20 minute run, do it.
– Strength train year round to prevent injuries and to consistently “trick” the muscles – go to my website davescottinc.com for programs.
– Have other interests besides talking about your spoke weight, new Lycra running tights, and your sets in the pool. A dull athlete will lead to a dull performance!

Interview with Jeff Atkinson about Running

Jeff Atkinson is a world-class athlete who broke the fifteen-hundred meter record at Stanford University in 1985. After winning the US Olympic Trials, Jeff represented the United States in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea where he finished 10th in the 1500m. He ran professionally for 10 years, earning spots on eight U.S. National Teams and sponsorships from Nike, Foot Locker, Brooks, Oakley and Ray Ban. Jeff is currently a coach of cross country & track and field at Palos Verdes High School (one of the most competitive schools in these two disciplines in California). He also trains athletes at all levels in the Los Angeles area under the banner Olympian Fitness.


Here are my 5 questions with Jeff and his answers:

1) First and foremost, what was your favorite moment about being in the Olympics?

The best moment for me was when they announced my name at the starting line. A woman with a sexy voice announces your name in three different languages and at that moment you think to yourself, “I’ve made it. The whole world is watching me.”

2) Okay, to put you on the hot seat for a second… I know you are in the Arthur Lydiand camp that a high volume mileage training regimen is ultimately the best way to train if you are trying to improve performance. You are aware that I support an alternative view but I wanted to give you a chance to defend your position.

Look at it this way — you can only build a pile of sand so high. Ultimately you need to increase the width/base if you want to reach new heights. The base of this sand pyramid is a good metaphor for the foundation of your aerobic capacity. I believe that the only way to max out this “base” is through sustained volume.

Take the non-believers rhetoric out of the lab and look at the empirical evidence offered by professional athletes. All of the top guys in our sport have big volume (120 to 140 miles per week for a marathoner). It is that simple.

I offer your readers this truism: The more you can do without breaking down is what you should do if you want to increase aerobic capacity.

3) As a trainer whose athletes run the gamut of fitness levels and ability, what is the biggest newbie mistake that you see that impedes progress and/or natural progression.

Too much, too soon. Okay, so I am an advocate of high mileage – but everything is relative, right? Look, the teenager Pamela Jelimo won a decisive victory in the 800 meters at this year’s Summer Olympic Games. Are you telling me that she runs 20 miles per week? No. But should someone off the couch replicate her training regimen, of course not. People aren’t reasonable when they first start off and don’t honor the natural progression that needs to take place. We are all capable of a lot more than we think – but it doesn’t happen overnight either.

4) What are three motivators that have proven, in your experience as a mentor and coach, to be the most effective at keeping an amateur athlete on track?

Well before I can answer this I need to set the stage and preface that it starts with the person. Are they competent enough to set reasonable goals that elicit follow-through? If the answer is yes, then they create drivers that are personal to them either in an external or internal way.

With that said:

  1. Commitment to the goal/driver as a process.
  2. Obtaining support for the process (i.e. getting a coach, getting involved with a training group, etc.).
  3. This is the most important: changing that process into the goal/driver itself.

Let me explain, once you begin to enjoy the process (and it becomes the goal) then motivation is automatic. This comes in the form of “moments of truth” as you execute the process. There will be days that you don’t want to advance your goal but you know you have to as part of the “process”. It turns into a situation of personal integrity rather than an external benefit. When you force yourself to complete the process (on a day where you wanted to give up) the moral victory becomes easily worth the effort, in turn the process and goal become self-perpetuating.

You are able to move past that little voice (inside everyone) that is telling you it would be a lot easier to watch television — and the kicker is that voice is right! You don’t need to get out and run — watching television is easy, fun and enjoyable. If you can get yourself to view the process as the goal then you have switched the paradigm.

5) In your “bag of tricks” of all the workouts you can prescribe a client/athlete/student, what is your favorite?

The one hour run with descending splits. It is the most pure of the running drills. You can do long runs, hills, interval training, all at varying degrees of effort. When you set out to do a one hour run with descending splits you are committing to having a better mile each leg of the way. You are saying to yourself, “I am going to get better with each mile,” and it is super satisfying no matter who you are and what level you are at. You can be world-class or a total beginner, either way it will be a great hour for you.

I mean, come on, it leaves you feeling good and it only takes the same amount of time it takes to watch two sitcoms. It is a good one.

Interview with Sean Waxman about Weight Training

Sean Waxman is a former National level Olympic Weightlifter and highly regarded coach. He spent nearly a decade of his life immersed as an athlete in the world of Olympic Weightlifting under the direction and guidance of USAW Hall of Fame Coach Bob Takano. Sean was one of the top Olympic Weightlifters in the country from 1995-2001, earning him a spot on the National Team, a National medal, and five California state championships.


Here are my 5 questions with Sean and his answers:

1) In devising regimens you have been known to take competitive athletes back to rudimentary exercises, reintroducing basic movements such as somersaults into your client’s program. Explain why this is necessary.

Many times athletes, especially young athletes, spend too much time playing and practicing their sport (developing specific sport skills) and too little time training for their sport developing specific athletic attributes (i.e. strength, power, flexibility, etc.). They become highly skilled in the movement patterns required for their sport, but overall they have become poor athletes.

By introducing new movement patterns such as basic barbell exercises and gymnastic movements, the athlete is exposed to different movement patterns thereby raising their developmental ceiling. An athlete is better served, especially in the beginning of their career, spending at least as much time preparing their body for sport than actually playing their sport. This will assure that the athlete’s body will be properly prepared to handle the rigors of intense competition without breaking down due to overuse injuries.

2) You have been one of the pioneers in bringing multi-joint exercises back to the forefront through your various publications. In general, there has been a departure from the dictum of isolated movements and fitness practitioners across the board are incorporating multi-joint movements back into their overall programs. Why has the paradigm shifted back to exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups rather than specialized training that single out particular muscle groups?

It is quite simple, multi-joint exercises are the most effective tools to elicit change in the body. I do agree that there has been a turn back to multi-joint movements. Although, calling a bodyweight squat on a Bosu ball a multi-joint exercise is like calling fast food fine dining. The fitness world has turned proper training that follows the laws of biomechanics and muscle physiology into some form of entertainment that affects the body on only a superficial level.

Because of this “paradigm shift” many in the worlds of fitness & strength and conditioning have heard the message of multi-joint movements and have gravitated towards it. Unfortunately, many of the most visible leaders of this movement are incompetent, ignorant, misinformed or just out to promote themselves without any regard as to the quality of their information. In many cases, these people/organizations have taken one small part of the training paradigm and formed their own training system around it. For example, if I hear one more person talk to me about core training, I am going to go postal.

There is an entire industry that revolves around core training. “Functional” core strength is a byproduct of properly executing squatting, pulling, overhead lifting and the Olympic lifts — not lying on a freaking ball and doing crunches. What function does that serve? Proper training is about the “big rocks”. If you want to fill a glass with rocks, you put the big rocks in first, then the little rocks then the sand. In training, the big rocks are the exercises that elicit the best physiological response; as mentioned earlier: squatting, pulling, overhead lifting and the Olympic lifts all done while standing on the floor with a barbell and sometimes dumbbells.

3) You are recognized as the “go-to guy” when it comes to Olympic lifts. What is one piece of knowledge that you can pass along from your expertise regarding this style of training that could benefit every athlete?

Regardless of how many certifications or letters a person has after their name, if they tell you weighted jumps, Vertimax or any other circus act provides the same benefits as the Olympic lifts, they are misinforming you. These movements do not come close to providing the benefits the Olympic lifts do. The problem is that often the people telling you that you don’t need the Olympic lifts have either never used them properly in their own training or are out to promote there own new “revolutionary” training method. I guarantee you anybody that has trained using the Olympic lifts, WITH GOOD TECHNIQUE, has dramatically improved their ability to produce and absorb force.

4) Looking at fitness and health across its broad spectrum, if you had the power to make one profound change to the landscape – something that you view as fundamentally wrong in its current state – what would it be and why?

Because of the ever-increasing demand for trainers and strength coaches, certification has become a cottage industry. This is where the big money is. Because of this, there are very few quality standards provided with a certification. This puts many unqualified people into circulation. At the very least before you hand somebody a license to take somebody’s health and well being in their hands, make sure they know how to perform and teach you exercises properly. I don’t think that is too much to ask for. Exercise is a powerful stimulus. If used correctly it can provide innumerable benefits, however if used improperly — especially on an athlete — it can act as an impediment for reaching one’s full athletic potential.

When somebody is certified as a trainer or coach the assumption is they are competent and well versed in the skills it takes to make you a better athlete. Right now in the industry’s current state that is not the case in the worlds of fitness & strength and conditioning.

5) In contrast to the previous question, what is something that excites you about the future of fitness – i.e. something that you view as fundamentally correct and heading in the right direction in its current state?

What excites me in fitness is the general acceptance of exercise as one of, if not the most, powerful components to one’s well being, a kind of cure all. Even the most mainstream media outlets report on the wonders of exercise. If this trend continues and is championed by the correct people/organizations, exercise, especially exercise done with free weights, can affect society on a scale as large as the personal computer has. For example, two out of the top four killers of Americans are currently cardiovascular disease and adult-onset diabetes. These are “lifestyle” diseases caused predominantly by inactivity. Exercise would all but eradicate these ailments. The six top-selling medications: Pfizer’s cholesterol pill LIPITOR, Bristol-Myers Squibb blood thinner that treats heart disease PLAVIX, AstraZeneca’s NEXIUM which treats heartburn, GlaxoSmithKline’s ADVAIR which treats Asthma, Merck ‘s ZOCOR which treats high cholesterol and Pfizer’s NORVASC which treats high blood pressure… these drugs would no longer be consumed at their current rate. That could mean over forty billion dollars less in the pockets of the drug companies. If there were less demand for these drugs as well as for all the cottage industries created around treating these conditions, it would force the companies that provide health care to dramatically lower the cost to the consumer. It would give some power back to the people and take it away from the companies for whom keeping American people sick is business as usual.

I believe that this is but one way exercise could impact society. I also believe that we have taken the first step towards making this paradigm shift, and this excites me!

Interview with Luke Aguilar about Running

Luke Aguilar is the All-South Texas Cross Country Coach of the Year for two years running. He has ten years of Track and Field experience spanning the high school and college level. He is a Level One Coach with USA Track and Field and has been a certified Personal Trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 1995.


Here are my 5 questions with Luke and his answers:

1) With the understanding that running is a dynamic system with a lot of variables, in your experience what one regimented change in training have you seen produce the greatest change?

Pace work is one variable of an overall training schedule that can produce huge improvements in increasing one’s speed. I will concede this is nothing new or profound. If your goal is to run a 4:40 minute mile, speed work should include 800 meter (1/2 mile) intervals at 2:20 minutes, 400’s (1/4 mile intervals) at 70 seconds and 200’s (1/8 mile intervals) at 35 seconds. Tempo runs should include a progression starting at 6 minute mile bursts (reader’s note: if you have not heard of tempo runs Google it) progressing to 5:50 minute miles, 5:45 minute miles, 5:40 minute miles and so on, you get the idea, as your time per mile begins to drop you graduate to a longer tempo run starting with one mile and building up to two, three, and then four miles at the faster pace. The key to pace work is control and progression and getting more efficient at each pace. Mentally, pace work has a huge payoff from simply knowing you can run at your desired speed effectively. The caveat to this is that you must maintain control and progress slowly throughout a steady regimen, avoiding superman syndrome. If you go out there and kill yourself it is counterproductive and you will lose most of the benefit, especially any mental edge you might have gained. Pace work is particularly important for shorter races.

2) What is the most common correction you have to make when you begin working with someone that is new to running? What piece of conventional wisdom with regards to running is just plain wrong?

There are several mechanical corrections that are common among young and/or new runners. Probably the most common mistake I see is improper shoulder and arm swing caused by muscle imbalance. Some other factors to be careful and cognitive of are tightening of the jaw, neck, or upper traps, and/or improper foot strikes. Everything should stay loose during a run of any significant distance. I see these problems across the board in young and old runners. The key to improving is to be an efficient runner.

One thing I would like to note as well is that if anyone that says one method of training, or one specific workout, is the best for everyone they are just plain wrong. High mileage workouts, speed training, walk/run strategies, etc. there is no one way. Each person needs to keep trying until they find what works for them.

3) With regards to long distance running, there seems to be a dichotomy in ideologies: the camp that says it is necessary to log serious miles in order to improve and the camp that preaches Periodization and a focus on quality workouts versus quantity. Who do you think is right?

Not to sound like a presidential candidate but both are right. If you read carefully between the philosophical lines that divide the two camps you began to recognize the similarities in both ideologies and the concept of macro- and micro- cycles. Factors that could determine the use of either approach are a runner’s specific goals, the runner’s background, the runner’s experience level, their history of injuries, the amount of time a runner has to train, etc. Again, there is no “one” right way for everyone. For instance Arthur Lydiard’s work is now questioned, the idea that a track athlete should train like a marathoner seems counterintuitive to many coaches. Another example is that it might not be prudent for a heavy set person or someone with any existing injury to prescribe to logging high mileage. The factors of your training dictate the regimen. A good coach will work backwards from their respective athlete’s goal based on the athlete’s background, existing base, and genetic factors. In the 12 week season I have with my high school athletes I need to maximize my season relative to its start. For that, I incorporate a Periodization with a phase of high mileage tapering down to peak performance, so for me there is a symbiotic relationship between these two ideologies, but again there is no right way for any one athlete.

4) What would be your prescription for a long distance runner that has come to you looking to improve their overall speed?

“Overall speed” would need to be defined. I like to start with a measurable goal. My next inquiry would be determining weaknesses in the prospective runner with regards to speed. Is this person in need of speed because of lack of endurance, strength, mechanics and/or gait cadence, or perhaps all of the above?

Strength training sometimes is the only way to increase speed. You can use the right strength training routine to emulate lactate build up. You can also use strength training to correct and/or improve your athlete’s gait.

An example of a track workout would be 150 meter build-ups or “on the flies”, both are good workouts to isolate mechanical problems as well as teach and develop the concept of turnover (proper gait cadence). Pace work combined with controlled tempo runs (as I discussed in your first question) is another way of developing speed by systematically loading the appropriate energy sources. Cone drills and ladder workouts to focus on stride length and frequency are also something in my bag of tricks. Basic A Step, B Step drills is another drill I use to teach proper leg mechanics and foot strikes.

Again, each runner is different, this is a difficult question to answer because it is open-ended but I have provided you with some examples of different approaches I use for different athletes.

5) What is your favorite professional success story (you do not have to limit this to running)?

As coaches we all take the same classes, we all read the same books and magazines and go to the same seminars. What makes one coach better than another is their ability to wade through all this information and incorporate it into a system that is specific to the athlete they are training. So much of sport is mental, my ability to sell “my product” has been a key to my success as a track & field/cross country coach. If your athlete knows you have the knowledge and the ability to help them improve then they are going to buy in to your system and bring that confidence with them into competition. Individualized training, the ability to instill confidence and the mental edge in my athletes, I believe those have been key factors in my success.

Interview with Dr. Michael Gervais about Sport Psychology

Dr. Michael Gervais, as the CEO of Pinnacle Performance, Inc., is an authority on the psychology of performance excellence. Throughout the past ten years, Michael has consulted with numerous NHL, NBA, NFL, MLS, AVP, Mixed Martial Arts fighters, Olympic, collegiate, and high school athletes. He is a published, peer-reviewed author of sport psychology systems for innovative strategies toward performance excellence. Mike is an internationally recognized speaker on issues related to human performance.


Here are my 5 questions with Michael and his answers:

1) Under the constraint of having to pick only one, what one change can an average athlete make to improve his or her overall performance?

Enhanced perspective; I know it might sound a bit esoteric, but one of the greatest tools that athletes can add to their “toolbox” is the interpersonal depth that comes from experience in life, with an openness toward growth (i.e., change)… which, at some level, requires risk… risk of being uncomfortable, risk of pushing outside of comfort zones, risk of failure, risk of not meeting “goals”. The process of enhancing perspective is a life-long journey… with perspective being defined as the ability to continually better understand how you “fit” into the grander scheme of things… whether that be in sport, business, or life. So, I guess I’m not really providing a concrete recipe for improved performance, but rather suggesting that with a posture of being open to change and a continual passion for rich experiences, people naturally grow and enhanced performance is often a pleasant by-product.

2) With regards to performance, what is your favorite natural supplement?

Most people think of supplements as some sort of dietary enhancer. I see it just a bit differently. For me, a supplement is anything that enhances performance when it’s added to the mix – and in that context – my favorite supplement for performance is anything that keeps the body loose, yet retains technical movement. And this is going to sound way too simple, but the most powerful supplement is our inner dialog. That little running script, while running, can be our greatest ally or our worst enemy. The good news is that we can train that dialog to be our greatest “supplement” towards enhanced performance. That is a big part of high performance psychology… getting your mind and body aligned so that your performance becomes more fluid.

3) What is the biggest mistake you see in novice athletes?

This question ties back to the first question — novice athletes, by definition, lack experience which greatly decreases their ability to set realistic, yet challenging (performance-based) goals. A second mistake that I see many athletes make is paying way too much attention to the variables that are not within their control. It is really important to have a clear understanding of what is with-in. and what is outside of one’s control. Once this is established, the mentally tough athlete becomes absorbed in developing, with excellence, each variable that is within his/her control.

4) What does imagery mean to you and how can athletes use imagery to help them achieve their goals?

Imagery is the process of using all five senses to create experiences in your mind. To simplify, these images become the “software” programming for your neurological and muscular system. That being said, your body doesn’t really know the difference between the pictures that you create in your mind and the real experience. Think about that… your body, when the images seem “real”, can’t tell if you’re actually in the event or simply creating it in you mind. Pretty powerful! These pictures (images) come from the words you use (your thoughts)… so it becomes very important to be aware of your thoughts, to become aware of your pictures, to become aware of these “invisible” habits that are continually programming your neurological and muscular system. If you have clear goals, the benefit of having successful images/thoughts speaks for itself.

5) What is your favorite professional success story?

I’ve been blessed… I have many “favorite” success stories… and in particular with one female ice skater who changed the perspective of what others thought was not possible. More specifically, this athlete (competing at the world level) was able to do for her sport, what Roger Bannister was able to do for running. She did something that completely changed the way the sport can be done… this change unlocked a new vision, a new image for others. She was able to see what others couldn’t see… she was able to trust that vision… to trust her training… and perform a feat that still to this day has not been done on the world stage. That being said, the reason that this story stays present with me is because she really had to work for it… along her path of excellence, she experienced many personal struggles… and in the face of each of them, she was able to anchor her inner belief, and truly become absorbed in the day-to-day pursuit of personal excellence… Being part of her journey has been an amazing experience that has forever shaped how I understand the exploration of personal potential… and the courage it takes to follow that calling.