Wednesday, April 28

Elite Athlete Lifestyle

The Elite Athlete Lifestyle = The Pursuit of Excellence! 

Many athletes and their parents approach me to ask if I can coach them and give them a training program to become champion athletes.  What everyone needs to understand is this most important reality: in the long term, the ELITE ATHLETE LIFESTYLE is more important than a perfect training program!  

I have seen many talented athletes who had incredible performances as teenagers, but who left sport after they were not able to continue with winning results.  I have exchanged ideas with some of the best elite coaches/athletes from across Canada and around the world.  I have learned these important lessons from my experiences after 20 years of coaching.  As a result, from my small villages of Vermilion, Alberta & St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Quebec, I have been able to help coach 9 athletes to qualify to represent Canada's national teams and win medals at the Olympics & World Championships, including Olympic Gold Medallist Beckie Scott and Alex Harvey in cross country skiing.  -------------------------------------------------------

The elite athlete lifestyle = Dream, Drink, Listen to your Body, Sleep, Eat, Positive Motivation, Rest and Recovery, Physical Work, Enjoy Nature, Balance, Love, and, the Fun Positive Attitude of a Champion.  ------------------------------------------------ 

DARE TO DREAM & LISTEN TO YOUR SELF!  Dare to Dream.  Dare to dream realistic and optimistic dreams.  We all need to dream about something to hope for, and, to look forward to!  Listen to "your" voice inside of yourself.   Dare to take the risks to set goals for yourself, and believe in your dreams & believe in your self.  Set specific achievable goals that you can measure…goals that MOTIVATE YOU to train for a short term specific event or competition.  Only YOU can motivate YOURSELF, no one else can motivate you…as a coach, I am just a “glorified cheerleader” because I believe in the saying “you can’t push a rope or it collapses” = you can't push an athlete or they collapse.  It must be YOUR dream, not your coach's dream nor your parents' dream.  ---------------------------------------  

DRINK:   Drink lots of water = "Pipi Clair”.  Our urine should be clear all of the time, or else we are dehydrated.  Carry your water bottle with you everywhere you go and drink & pee and drink & pee all day long.  Dehydration is the #1 leading cause of poor performance for endurance athletes.  Dehydration is also the cause of people in our society feeling tired or lazy or yawning or lethargic or headaches or unproductive or blah or sleepy or droopy-eyed, etc.  Herbal teas without caffeine are great.  
*Wash & dry your water bottles, to clean away and kill any bacteria that may grow inside it.  Many plastic water bottles are contaminated with bacteria.
*Never ever share your water bottle with other people!  = because water bottles are one of the best way to share germs = sharing viruses, sharing infections, sharing bacteria, sharing ??????
***Avoid sick people and sick friends, to prevent yourself from picking up their contagious viruses.
*Drink water frequently all day long until supper, and after supper do not drink a lot before you go to bed, or else you will have to wake up to pee during the night. 

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!   IF you don’t “feel” like training, drink 2 big glasses of water and start your warm up for training.  The neck divides the head from the body.  IF your head is just psychologically lazy and unmotivated, and, after you drink water and start to train, you feel great, then you were just dehydrated and lazy FROM THE NECK UP, so keep on training.  IF your body is physiologically tired and fatigued, and after you drink big 3 glasses of water and start to train, and, you still feel tired, and your body is really tired FROM THE NECK DOWN, you need to STOP and walk home and rest. The ultimate question we must ask ourselves if we don’t feel like training today is “AM I LAZY OR AM I TIRED?”  The best way to answer that question to drink 3 big glasses of water and start your warm-up and let your body answer the question for you = listen to your body.  Find that special balance for yourself, a balance that each elite athlete must find for themselves, as they discover their own training threshold. --------------------------------------------- 

SLEEP:  The lack of sleep has a direct effect on our training and performance capacity.  Sleep is the second most under-rated and most over-looked factor (after dehydration) of endurance athlete performance.  We must be 100% disciplined with our biological time clock routine; every day; 7 days a week; for all 52 weeks a year.  You must explain your priority for a disciplined sleep schedule to your        family, your friends and your team mates so they understand why you want to go to bed early.  We must be fair to our body and give our body the rest & recovery it needs.  (Here is the secret = "discipline"!) 
For your ultimate best bio-rhythms, establish the same hour every night to go to sleep, and, establish the same hour to wake up every morning.  Because our peak energy output is around 12 noon, it would be ideal if you could wake up at 6-7am every morning, and, go to sleep between 8-9pm every night.  IF you are able to establish a new sleeping routine for 10 consecutive days, your body will adjust to the rhythm, and, you will wake up automatically at 6-7am every morning, without an alarm clock to wake you up.   And, at 8-9pm, you will start to feel sleepy and ready for bed.  We call this a "Routine Biological Time Clock".  If you are sleeping with really great quality, you should wake up feeling "fresh & alive & awake & well-rested".  IF you wake up feeling tired & sleepy, you need to go to bed earlier the next night. 
*IF you want to stay up late one night for a social activity with your friends, it is OK to sleep in the next morning, but, remember to return to your normal sleep routine immediately the following night.
*Quality of sleep is very important:  you must have a comfortable pillow; extra warm blankets; open your bedroom window for a little bit of fresh air at night
*You need a proper pillow and a solid mattress for quality posture during your sleep. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

NUTRITION: IRON is necessary for oxygen-binding capacity for all athletes.  Eat red meat: beef or chicken for hema-iron daily (or tofu) + remember to eat foods rich in vitamin C to help absorb the iron = tomatoes, cranberries, apples, oranges, grapefruits, etc /// MORE IRON...all of these snacks with vitamin C orange or apple one big handful of pumpkin seeds or raisins or dry apricots or dates or figs prunes or a spoon of molasses every day or spinach or other iron rich foods. PROTEIN is necessary for muscle development and synthesis, and repairing damaged tissue from training.  Organize your meals and snacks so that you can eat a small source of protein 5 or 6 times a day about every 3 hours /// #1 protein = one egg every day for breakfast (boiled or poached or omelette or fried or… for complete amino acid source for muscle, tendon and ligament tissue recovery ///  eat as much fish as you can (salmon or tuna or trout, etc) and flax for omega-3 acids ///  almonds, nuts, soy nuts, cheese, wheat germ is an excellent source of protein with yoghurt & cereal or yoghurt & fruit, cottage cheese is an easily digestible protein before and after training  /// lots of beans & lentils.                                         FRESH FOOD = eat five fresh fruits and five fresh vegetables every day…for vitamins, minerals and fibre, OR, a big vegetable salad or fruit salad every day /// lots of berries = blueberries, strawberries, raspberries.                              CALCIUM = three times per day consume lots of dairy products for bones for growing athletes= milk, cheese, cottage cheese and plain on toasted bagels & toast, or yoghurt with honey on pancakes & french toast, or, yoghurt with cereal & oatmeal  /// use butter not margerine /// use honey & maple syrup & molasses not sugar /// include onions & garlic & chives & ginger in your cooking /// olives & olive oil /// cabbage /// good complex carbohydrates: 
BREAKFASTS =  fresh fruits, long-cooking 10-15 minute oatmeal, quinoa flakes, whole grain hot cereals, whole wheat bread & whole wheat bagels.          LUNCHES AND SUPPERS = fresh vegetables & fruits, whole grains, whole wheat bread, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice long-cooking 30-40 minute, bulgur, kasha, couscous, beans, lentils, barley, corn, home made soups.  
***There is no magic "supplement" food or drink that can replace the value of a well-balanced variety diet of healthy, wholesome, locally grown, organic, fresh food.  It is important that young athletes help their parents with grocery shopping, and, maximize buying the fresh food located in the coolers around the outside of the store (fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy).  Minimize buying the old food in cans, boxes, glass/plastic bottles and plastic bags located in middle of the store.  Avoid the sugars and fatty foods and junk-foods that cause obesity, diabetes, etc.  Beware of the cancer causing substances in the food we eat = chemical contamination of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, chemical preservatives, artificial flavours, artificial colours, artificial sweeteners, chemicals in the packaging, etc.  We are what we eat!  
“BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS" Always eat a big breakfast = the most important meal of the day!  The best champion athletes eat their size of meals exactly opposite of our society:  
"NON-athlete" people in our society eat: (% calories of total day)
breakfast 0-15%
lunch 20-40%
supper 40-70%
The result of this unhealthy eating routine is that most of the calories we eat at supper & digest at night:  
*for the Men it goes straight to their GUT (belly-stomach), and,
*for the Women is goes straight to their BUTT (bum).  I have explained this to all of our athletes, because they think the will become fat if they eat more?  They are wrong...they will not get fat!!!  I told them to eat more, BUT, to eat better and to eat smart = a big Olympic breakfast, NOT, a big bad high fat supper!
Champion athletes eat: (% calories of total day)
breakfast 40%
lunch 30%
supper 30%
Actually, the best would be
30% breakfast & 10% mid-morning snack,
20% lunch & 10% mid-morning snack,
20% supper % 10% evening snack.  
Champion Athletes timing of meals is really important.  Eat good meals a couple of hours before training-racing.  Eat recovery snacks immediately after training-racing = chocolate milk & boiled egg, or whole wheat protein sandwich with lots of peanut butter, or salmon or tuna.

***This eating system provides athletes with the best energy for training and recovery every day.  This is also the eating system of the smartest academic-elite student-athletes at college/university!  ------------------------------------------------ 

POSITIVE MOTIVATION:  The statement we must use is I “WANT TO” train/compete today” = positive attitude.  IF we know we WANT TO train, then we have the spirit within us to enjoy the special opportunity and privilege of exercise & training as an elite athlete, something that over 5 billion people in today’s world will never have the opportunity to dream of and do…Africa, Asia, India, China, South America, etc
The statement we must avoid is I “HAVE TO” train/compete today  = negative attitude.  IF we feel like we HAVE TO train, then it is something we do because we have no choice and we feel like we HAVE TO train, instead of the positive motivation that we WANT TO train/compete.    ---------------------------------------- 

REST & RECOVERY DAYS:   I have learned from many years of coaching in the real world that we need to plan rest & recovery days in advance before we become tired. YOU MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your rest days = really cold weather, rain, and days we are too tired to train dictate our rest & recovery days.  When you are feeling sick, when you have exams, travel days, family vacations, etc. those are natural rest days = one day or two days a week is important!  IF you are traveling all day, it is impossible to train, except maybe to go for a short run.  IF it is cold below –30, no training outside!  IF it is cold below –20, do easy distance training breathing through a scarf or neck tube.  IF there is a snow storm with no ski tracks, make your own track in the deep snow, or go for an easy distance run.   TIRED?  IF you are too tired, do NOT train.  NEVER train when your body feels tired.   ------------------------------------------------------------------ 

PHYSICAL WORK:  To build and strengthen your body's complete musculature, you need to take every opportunity you can, to do as much physical work as you can.  We need to do a greater "variety" of different physical work tasks, to utilise all of the muscles in our body.  By finding a great variety of physical work, we can strengthen the "core" of our body = our back, our abdominals, our hips & our shoulders.  We do not develop our total core body strength by limiting ourselves to our sport and exercises in a weight room.  We need to do more!  Many athletes are limited in their athletic achievements because they do not have the core strength needed to stabilize and control their body movements during their physical execution of their sport.  The cause of the weak core strength in our society is because we spend too many hours each day with poor core posture in front of our televisions & computers.  Some of the greatest athletes do a lot of physical work to compliment their training!  

I always have believed that if we have a choice of doing "productive" physical work...why would be bore ourselves with the monotony of pushing iron inside of a weight room full of stale air and sharing other people's germs on the weight machines?  Especially if we can find work that is outside in the fresh air & sunshine!  Ask your family & neighbours & friends to create a list of the most physically challenging work they need to be done, and, do that work with the attitude that it is an important part of your training for your body.  Imagine how strong your core will become if you offer to shovel snow for 2 or 3 of your neighbours (and, maybe earn some extra money to pay for your sports expenses!).  Make your own list of physical work: "outside yard-work" = gardening, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, pruning trees, shovelling snow, outdoor painting, chopping wood, cleaning up nature trails, fruit orchard work, organic garden work, farm work picking rocks, harvest work, washing vehicles, etc.  Or, "inside house work" = vacuuming, cleaning, washing floors & walls, scrubbing bathrooms.  Or, "service work" = pushing people in wheelchairs while visiting with them, or, walking people's pets.

We spend 80-90% of our lives in bed, on our feet, or, in a chair.  We need wake up and realize the importance of our basic needs:  Buy a proper posture computer chair.  Sit on a physio-ball, or, on the floor, while watching TV. Buy proper shoes & sandals, and, spend a few minutes each day walking barefoot on the grass to strengthen our feet muscles.  Make sure we have a proper posture pillow and solid bed mattress.                 ----------------------------------------------------- 

ENJOY NATURE:  We need to spend time outside in our natural environment, and, enjoy exercise in the outdoors.  We need to expose ourselves to the sun's radiation and to absorb the sun's rays.  We need to breathe fresh air.  One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is to go for nice easy enjoyable walk by yourself, or, with your family or friends.  Find a nice nature route close to your home, where you can enjoy the water, the forest & trees, the birds or other animals, the rain, the snow, and the many other small miracles of nature.  The 4 best times of day to walk are:  early in the quiet of the morning to watch the sunrise while the rest of our society are in their homes waking up;  at noon/lunch time when the sun is shining it's brightest to warm you up;  during the sunset to enjoy spectacular scenery while of the rest of the people hurry about doing their daily routines and are too busy to stop and enjoy the simple beauty of the colours in the sky;  at night under the light of the moon & the stars to enjoy the peace & quiet at the end of your day.

LOVE:  We need to make time and take time to share love each & every day with our family & friends.  We need to spend time with those we love, talking & listening, and, sharing & caring.  IF we are too busy to share love with our family...we are TOO busy to live, and, our lives will be out of balance.  There is ONE reason why we are able to enjoy the elite athlete lifestyle = the support of our parents!  We need to communicate our appreciation to our parents, for the sacrifices they have made to enable us to participate in sport.  Without our parents, our pursuit of excellence in sports would be impossible.  "Behind every champion, there are parents who made the athlete's dream possible!"    ------------------------- 

BALANCE:  As elite athletes, we face a great challenge to balance our lives.  We need to keep perspective that the most important things in our lives are our self, our health, our family, our friends, our community, our environment, our education & academics, our work and our world.  We can make our pursuit of excellence in sport a priority, but, we must keep a good balance of sport within our lives.  We need to discipline ourselves to use a calendar & agenda day-timer to make our list of priorities of the most important things we need to do each day.  Time Management = we need to take a few moments each morning to sit down with our day-book and make decisions to choose what we will do each day to use our time effectively and efficiently, so we have some control of our lives.  ------------------ 

FUN POSITIVE ATTITUDE OF A CHAMPION!  A real champion is a humble person, who remembers where they came from, and, We MUST focus on creating our positive energy 24 hours a day, each & every day.  There is no place for negative thinking.  We must have FUN, smile and laugh every day!  
Happy People = Healthy People!   ---------------------------------------------

QUESTIONS?  Of course, I expect an email or phone call from you with a few questions about our elite athlete lifestyle.  I encourage questions and your feedback to challenge me on “why” we are doing what we are doing.  I encourage you suggest some changes from your experience as an athlete…I am always learning from everyone!  Please send me your thoughts on important elite athlete lifestyle actions:    HYPERLINK "" \t "_blank"   780-691-6912

I hope you are thankful for the privilege we share to live in a country where we have the opportunity, freedom, resources, facilities, sports organizations, time & money...and most important, the health we are blessed with, to pursue excellence and enjoy the elite athlete lifestyle.

Yeee Haaa! of many coaches...    Les Parsons 

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