Couch to the Summit

Icon Collap
...
Home / Couch➜Summit Performance Coaching

Couch➜Summit Performance Coaching

Coaching-Lead-Banner

 

A Next Level Online Performance Coaching Program for Uphill Focused Endurance Athletes and Anyone of Any Fitness Trying to Get Fitter and Healthier!

Hi my name is James Stewart, I'm the coach at Couch->Summit Performance Coaching - you can learn more about me here.

I offer a specialised online coaching program specifically focused for athletes who are mountain or vertical orientated. The program has been developed and mountain tested over a decade and built with your overall long-term health and performance in mind. This program is suitable for any person at any level of fitness including elite athletes, intermediate, beginner and novice/sedentary individuals. I tailor my coaching for the individual and structure how I assist to develop you based on your health, fitness background and current level of fitness. The starting place is often very different for different people; however, everyone ends up in the same place: a healthy active body and lifestyle.

Most training programs take a short-term approach, typically focused on rapidly increasing fitness for an upcoming race or event. While I can definitely help you to prepare for short-term goals, my training methodology is designed to help you achieve you ultimate fitness potential with a long-term perspective in mind: typically 3-5 years and beyond. The most important thing for an athlete is to work hard and learn to be very patient by looking at training as a process. The only way to hit your endurance potential as an athlete is through consistency and structure over several years, and with training loads managed carefully to keep you healthy and progressing forward month by month. If you keep your body healthy and your biomechanics working well with my help, a life of amazing outdoor adventure awaits you!

My endurance training process is strongly science backed and I have put in almost a decade of dedicated research before I took onboard my first clients. I also studied the training habits of world-class elites, and after experimenting with different training approaches on myself through the hundreds of hours I spend in the mountains each year I was able to  narrow down into simple terms what was effective and what wasn't. At 42, i'm still training toward setting records against much younger athletes. I've worked with both novice and experienced athletes during 2019, 2020, and 2021, and the feedback thus far has been extremely positive.

With this coaching, the aim will be to not just increase your cardiovascular fitness, but also your overall health and functional strength across Couch to the Summit's Ten Elements of Health

If you're not improving every single year - and you're not yet at the age of expected performance decline - then you're doing something wrong.

20190813-K3__4510_C2S

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable - Socrates, 400 BC

What would you accomplish if you really gave your fitness everything you have within you with dedicated and consistent focus over a period of six-months or longer?

 

Do you know what you’re really truly capable of?

 

Why not try and find out!

Maybe you’ve been trying to find your potential, but haven’t quite been able to make it work on your own! 

When it comes to success in business or your career, you wouldn’t just wing it on the fly and expect to achieve the best success. Most people will need some education or training course to get specialist training from an expert before learning the skills they need to succeed on their own. The best fitness and performance results come from following a well-structured long-term plan - this also helps to keep you accountable, to moderate your intensity, and to motivate you to get out the door on the days when you're not quite motivated enough, or the weather is bad.

However, this is not how most people train their body. Typically, most people train "on a whim", based on what they feel like doing on the day, but the sad reality is most novice and self-coached athletes invariably suffer limited fitness progression, or even worse, they suffer injuries or fatigue because of their "stop-start" or "doing workouts they aren't ready for" approaches. These issues are normal for athletes who train with inappropriate training programs or the lack of one entirely! Self-coached athletes typically train too hard, too often, often following similar workouts as those of their peers or elite-athlete idols. With a few exceptions, this typically ends in disaster. Modelling your training on others rarely works because the intensity impact of a certain running or hiking speed, can be drastically different depending on the conditioning of your "aerobic base" and the structural strength within your body to handle specific workloads.

For example, lets consider the case of one aerobically conditioned athlete (Athlete A), who does regular training activities at a certain high training speed that has a low-intensity on their physiology and has successfully taken them to achieve certain achievements that catches the eye of another less aerobically conditioned individual (Athlete B). Athlete B copies the high speed training of Athlete A, thinking the same style of training will get them the same results.

However, those same training speeds end up having a highly fatiguing impact on Athlete B's physiology because his aerobic base is not as well conditioned as Athlete A. If both athletes A and B trained with the same volume over time (let's say 6-12 months), Athlete B is likely to end up becoming burnt out and overtrained compared with Athlete A who remains fresh and improving month by month. This is despite Athlete B copying the exact same training as the successful athlete A, who they admire and want to be like. Training stimulus and improvement is highly relative to one's endurance level (aerobic base). Elites actually train very fast in comparison to novices, but their perceived levels of effort during the bulk of their training intensities are actually often pretty low.

The trap for middle of the pack and novice athletes is that they see how fast the elites go and get lured into training faster than they should. You do have to train at fast speeds to go fast eventually, but only when your body is ready to handle it. Until then, you have to eat humble pie and start slower. The good news is, that you don't often have to work as hard as you think you do to go faster. You just need more time and patience.

Overtraining often leads to a plateau or decline in performance over time - and worse an athlete may suffer dire health challenges that suspend their fitness regime entirely. Athlete A however, continues to increase in performance steadily and surely. This perplexes Athlete B, who then quits training, or keeps running themselves into the ground in the endless of hope of something changing.  At the end of two years or more, Athlete A is now even further ahead of Athlete B in terms of fitness progress and getting better by the day, and Athlete B is frustrated, always tired, and likely rationalising that Athlete A has superior genetics, which is possible, but most likely not true in this case.

What did Athlete B do wrong?  Athlete B incorrectly copied the training volume and intensity of Athlete A, when they should have instead copied the training process of Athlete A, but altered the intensity and volume of the workouts to match their starting fitness level (aerobic base). In other words, they need to slowly progress up to those training speeds over a long period of time so that the relative intensity impact of that speed becomes low impact on their physiology. It's not that the workouts were wrong or Athlete A was genetically superior, Athlete B just needed to slow down and train more intelligently, following similar types of workouts that mirrored the intensity impact they had on Athlete A. Athlete A is superior because they are following a properly structured training program tailored to their level of athletic endurance. That is why ... it's rarely genetics. 

By training slower more of the time, Athlete B would have actually achieved a higher level of fitness over those two years with less training intensity effort. In fact, its quite likely, the entire two years becomes mostly a waste of time, and Athlete B is little to no fitter two years later than when they started despite ALL the hard effort they put in. This happens all the time with self-coached individuals. It's quite sad when someone pushes their body so hard, and puts in so much effort, only to make little progress. Training correctly doesn't mean you have to suffer all the time. In fact, the athletes who make continual upward progress often don't even have to push as hard as they realise. In fact, most training volume should be happening at low-intensities with relatively easy perceived effort.

The secret of enhanced endurance performance is not just increasing your running or climbing speed by going fast all the time, it comes from making a series of metabolic enhancements to the muscle fibers and cardio-vascular system, which develop increaseed blood-flow supply, greater movement economy, fat fuelling adaptations, and also fatigue resistance. This is how elite athletes go so fast with seemingly little effort compared with novice athletes. There are no shortcuts and it happens over a long-period of time. You only survive training over a long-period of time, by doing most of it slow - otherwise you just simply mentally and/or phsyically give up at some point. Many of these adaptations don't come from training fast, but training relatively slow (interspersed with periods of high-intensity training) over a period of many, many years. Most people don't want to spend a lot of time training slow, but its how the world's best endurance athletes gain their superiority. This is now established and shown to be the case. If you're still not convinced, watch this Ted Talk hereFurthermore, the detrimental health outcomes from poor training methods become even more pronounced in athletes with an uphill focus, those people who like to spend a lot of time in the mountains. Mountain and vertical focused athletes get injured and burn out far quicker than other athletes: it's more imperative for you to get the balance right.

Each person is at a different level of fitness, and what might be an easy workout for one person, can be a very hard one for another. We cannot simply follow what other people do and expect to remain healthy, to make the fastest progress and to achieve sustainable growing results in the long-term. The problem is understanding someone elses training process and the intensity impact their workouts are having is very, very hard to do unless you have a strong understanding of sports science and coaching fundamentals. That is what a coach does for you, so all you have to do is execute what is asked of you. Eventually you will learn where your limits are and how to one day coach yourself one day as you learn how to train effectively and what to look out for to avoid overtraining. Even I worked with a coach before I learnt how to train myself. The next challenge is choosing the right coach.

Achieving your fitness potential requires a long-term vision, with identifiable plans set for yearly, monthly and weekly targets, broken down into daily tasks. However, this doesn’t mean over structuring or regimenting your exercise where you lose the enjoyment and fun of adventure. As an adventure focused athlete myself, I know how training programs can suck the life out of enjoying your time outdoors. Ultimately, I encourage maximum adventure and fun in training, but we also need to constrain how much adventure we do, and how fast we do it, within certain parameters and knowing when to take appropriate rest. 

All my training methodologies and principles are backed by my own 15 years of trail running experience, and run along similar lines to those used by the world's leading endurance trail runner Kilian Jornet. Jornet is renowned for his strong focus on unstructured "fun" daily activities, but all his fun is constrained within a very disciplined and scientifically phased progressive capacity training program that is reasonably structured over the course of a full season. This is how he is able to sustain continual upward progress over decades without burning out, while many other of his peers have come and gone. When it comes to Kilian, genetics play a part of him rising to the very top, but his approach to training has many principles that apply to all people. The hard part about capacity training is that most people don't have the discipline to pull it off, because it requires patience and serious dedication to the pursuit, but those that do, become part of the cream that does rise to the top.

The sports science reveals this one message we all cannot hide from: You cannot achieve your endurance fitness potential without a long-term period of properly executed capacity training. If you don't know what capacity training is, then please read on...

In my online coaching process, you will continually learn how to manage your body, balance fatigue, correct body imbalances, release muscle tension and prevent injury. You will learn how to train different systems in the body, at what thresholds to train, when to push and when to pull back, how to progress your training, and peak when you need it to happen. If you don’t understand all this—or it sounds too overwhelming—I am here to help guide you through the process.

I have written a 12-part series helping to educate my Performance Coaching clients -- and to educate prospective ones -- on understanding more about my capacity based training approach. I highly recommend you read this series if you are interested in signed up for coaching with me, or if you simply want to gain greater knowledge on self training. 

As an uphill focused coach, I understand intimately the demands that ascent and descent has on the body- and not many coaches have backgrounds with this specific focus. Not only am I a coach, I am an elite mountain focused athlete myself, and everything I coach has been thoroughly tested over the course of my 15 years in mountain running. I also keep up to date on all the latest improvements in training from like-minded coaches and athletes.

 

Training Science Series: Why We Focus on Capacity Training…to Eventually Go Really Fast

Part One - Introduction

Part Two - The Utilization Problem

Part Three - Overtraining Syndrome (OTS)

Part Four - Advice for Beginner Runners

Part Five - Aerobic vs Anaerobic Fitness

Part Six - The Aerobic Base - Capacity Training 101

Part Seven - The New Science of Fat Adaptation

Part Eight - The Science of Endurance Training

Part Nine - A Brief Introduction to Heart-Rate Zone Training

Part Ten - How to Choose Which Zones to Train in Regularly

Part Eleven - Peaking: When to Enter a High Intensity Training Phase

Part Twelve - Keeping the Ego in Check and Sticking to a Long-Term Plan

 

I am happy to work with all people who are interested in improving their fitness with mountain endurance focused activities, including:

1.    Trail runners
2.    Vertical endurance athletes
3.    Stair climbers
4.    Fun runners
5.    Ultra-endurance athletes
6.    Cyclists
7.    Hikers
8.    Mountaineers
8.    Sedentary People looking to get started on developing a more active lifestyle.

If you work with me for at least six months or longer, a lot of the training will involve a capacity training focus designed to slowly and steadily increase your endurance to very high levels in the future, while minimising or avoiding injury and fatigue.  If you need help with an event in the short-term I can help you with a specialised utilization focused (higher intensity) training plan as well. Ultimately, the coaching is a mix of low-intensity and high-intensity workouts tailored to maximise your fitness and achieve your personal goals.

Cost:

Please note there is a minimum 3-month commitment if you sign up.

Cost Per Month: USD$105   CAD $130   AUD $130    EUR 85   GBP 75  

Please get in touch with any questions, concerns or to sign up: coaching@couchtothesummit.com

Other currencies and cryptocurrency accepted. Please contact me for rates.

I look forward to working with you!

20191001-K3__0342_C2S

My Methodology

I am a vertical focused coach with an interest in many areas of fitness. This means hills, mountains and stairs—along with functional strength training, biomechanical correction and mindset/psychology—are an essential focus in my training methodology.

I believe performing optimally requires an all-round base of health and fitness off of which you can then further specialise depending on specific goals you have in mind. I aim to offer a wider net than most coaches who will potentially only focus on improving your aerobic fitness. 

I believe many athletes over specialise in their interest and neglect areas that may increase performance in their speciality. For example, endurance athletes tend to neglect strength training, and strength athletes neglect their aerobic base. In both cases, the person is limiting their potential as an athlete to some degree.

With strength training I use a technique of incremental exercise progression for bodyweight calisthenics and compound lifting exercises (if possible), aimed at challenging your entire kinetic chain and helping to develop an anabolic metabolism so catabolic high-intensity endurance activities don't eat away at your strength gains. For athletes concerned about weight gain, you can definitely become lean and stronger without putting on significant muscle mass. I also include biomechanical reviews, biomechanical correction exercises, foam rolling, trigger point work, isometric stretching and dynamic stretching into the program, both for injury prevention and ensuring maximum muscle power output. 

For most athletes, the biggest impediment to performing better is a lack of basic work capacity. Athletes with a huge endurance base can perform well just off that base, allowing them to race very frequently. You want to become this kind of athlete, one with a strong aerobic base capacity, but also strength in vertical/uphills. I almost entirely train in the mountains, and I specialise in developing fast, efficient and economical climbing. If you train with me long-enough, you will be able to climb all day.  

I implement a periodized phase and heart-rate zone based training philosophy. The purpose of the capacity building phase of training is to increase your overall endurance capacity and improve your fatigue resistance through various techniques of progression and overload. I implement modulated training phases to allow for necessary supercompensation and to ensure an athlete has time to recover both mentally and physically from the ongoing demands of training. The aim is to slightly exceed your work capacity across many workouts, then recover and repeat this process for months on end. Ideally, your body slowly adapts to the increasing volume without a growing fatigue debt, then you can handle more work (for the same perceived effort) and eventually more intensity work. The progression must be gradual so your body can adapt and be continuous without long breaks in training. An unbiased coach is vital in monitoring this progression and pushing too hard in this process is the major stumbling block for self-trained athletes.

I use a strong focus on mountains and stairs as a core training approach because it is a great way to strengthen and tone your lower body and is also one of the best ways to burn fat and increase your metabolism. It can sometimes be more time efficient than aerobic training on flat terrain. Climbing also trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently and convert it to energy quicker. This results in more rapid improvements in aerobic capacity, which means you perform better for longer durations. Vertical terrain—including both going up and down—also helps you build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints. Load-bearing exercise is actually really good for you, but has been demonised unfaiiry and actually unscientifically by many ill-informed people. If you are worried about your knees – don’t be – I can help fix your knee problems and other biomechanical issues impeding your progress. The joints in your body actually have the capacity of close to handling two life-times of load, and the erosion of joints is often borne from poor lifestyle and dietary choices as well.

The inclusion of mountains and stair training into a running program is designed to build proper running form and technique, building a strong biomechanical foundation and lower the risk of injury, while also building explosive leg strength and power. Our goal will be to optimise the slow-twitch type 1 muscle fibers, before progressing into brief periods of high intensity training where we increase the performance of the anaerobic system and type 2 muscle fibers for peak performance.

During intensity phases of training, we will increase work on your lactate threshold with a mix of varying intensity runs, longer runs, speed play, tempo runs, cruise runs and fartlek sessions. To increase your anaerobic capacity, I incorporate short, mixed and long types of interval speed and sprint sessions.

The determining factor for when you are ready for added intensity depends on your results to a number of running tests we will regular do to measure both your aerobic and lactate thresholds. These numbers will help us to set up your training zones, which will regularly change as your fitness changes. Many training programs are inflexible to fitness changes, but I am careful to ensure we are always training at the appropriate speeds.

Types of workouts may include:

•    Recovery orientated walking, power walking and hiking with vertical endurance focus.
•    Nordic hiking full body workouts, recovery, endurance, fartleks and power intervals.
•    Foundation building mountain and flat workouts.
•    Mountain adventure days, long runs, fast finish runs, speed play runs, fartleks.
•    Tempo and cruise interval runs.
•    Short, long and mixed interval threshold runs
•    Short power interval sprints and hill repetition runs
•    Stair workout variations with different progressions and techniques.
•    Stair power intervals, pyramids and sprints.

20190731-K3__9693 (2)_C2S

Expertise in Injury & Fatigue Management with Metabolic Focus

Two major factors typically prevent an athlete from achieving their goals: fatigue and injury.

I am a coach focused on developing an injury free body. Being vertical orientated helps with this tremendously. Moving upward forces you to work against gravity, and this helps build two essential benefits for performance: strength and power. It also has the added benefit of helping to improve your biomechanics, especially from the negative aspects of sitting. 

Sitting for long periods puts stress on the entire kinetic chain and is the largest contributor to adversely affecting performance and the biggest predisposing factor in injury.  Many treatment programs do not pay enough attention to the significance of correcting the damage caused to the body by a prolonged sedentary lifestyle and reversing the many imbalances and weaknesses caused by it. Nearly all new runners break down with injury when they first start, largely because years of sitting has adversely affected the muscles needed for proper running form. This also limits power output, reducing performance by up to 30-50%.

I believe you shouldn’t try to run unless you know how to walk really well. I believe power walking and Nordic hiking to be essential components for people as a pathway into injury free running, but also valuable components for experienced athletes during the training process. Many athletes just focus on running, but they will be better served by also training different movement patterns such as stair climbing, power hiking and also foundational strength training through functional calisthenics.

I suffered through years of injury from terrible biomechanics when I first tried to run. After spending thousands on expert therapists, I learned how to refine the techniques applied on me to develop a system of biomechanical self-treatment review and correction exercises – along with muscle tension release techniques – I have successfully used to stay injury free for over 5 years, while dramatically increasing my training volume in steep mountain terrain.

I know the debilitating affects of chronic musculoskeletal pain, injury setbacks, chronic fatigue syndrome and more. I understand the emotional toll these setbacks take on an athlete as well. I have overcome all these issues and my aim is help lift you from their crippling reality and prevent you from suffering them yourself.

I am a coach focused on fatigue management and avoiding Overtraining Syndrome. I am very focused on ensuring the training does not raise levels of the catabolic cortisol, so you remain in a muscling building anabolic state and also optimise your fat fuelling adaptation for better endurance performance. Staying too catabolic will eliminate the gains you make as your body eats away at the muscle you develop. You may have seen many endurance athletes who look emaciated and lacking in functional strength. Often these athlete’s breakdown with injury following bouts of high intensity training or racing. This is why adequate nutrition along with strength training is so important in this approach, an area often neglected by performance endurance athletes. Don’t mistake strength for major muscle or weight gain; the goal is to get you functionally stronger, but not necessarily heavier. I aim for you to become toned, lean and strong. Your own body will naturally decide what weight you balance out at in this equation. You shouldn't lose any speed, but you should become more powerful.

20190801-K3__0664_C2S

How the Process Works

Getting Setup:

1.    You will receive an initial questionnaire and action plans to fill in from which we will have a series of conversations to determine your goals and current state of fitness.
2.    You will be given various information packs to help you understand the training process, how it works, what you need to do, and explanation of the tools we will be using to plan and track things.
3.    You will be given instructions on how to perform a biomechanical self-assessment. The results of this will determine your initial biomechanical improvement exercise plan.
4.    You will be given instructions on how to perform a series of functional strength tests to determine your various strengths and weakness. The results of this will determine your initial strength workouts.
5.    You will be asked to perform a number of tests to help determine your training heart-rate zones and paces.
6.    Advice relating to diet and mental health is offered as required.

Each week you will receive plans and perform tasks as follows:

1.    Training Log with Individually tailored Zone based Aerobic Activity Workouts with instructions on the workouts to perform. These are week by week building upon your body’s reaction to the previous week’s training metrics. You will be required to update the log with performance metrics at the conclusion of each workout.
2.    Biomechanical Self-Assessment Review to be performed once a week to stay on top musculoskeletal issues before they turn into injuries.
3.    Customised Biomechanical Self-Treatment Correction Exercises to be performed 1-2 times a week to correct muscle imbalances, weakness, muscle tension to prevent injury and maximise muscle power output and performance.
4.    Customised Foundation Strength Building Workouts to be performed in specific training phases to strengthen your body, helping to increase anabolic hormones and increasing your overall athletic performance.
5.    Lifestyle Metrics Logging. You will also update metrics on other lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep etc… helping to manage fatigue or stress from other areas of life.

An example training log we use:log3

I have decided against various commonly used industry tools for coaching such as Training Peaks, instead I build my own spreadsheets and software. This allows me to be completely precise in coaching to the specific detail I need. I found other tools to be limiting in a number of ways, but most importantly, I found custom tools are better for clients to visualise their training week and to log their training feedback and metrics all in one place. Other tools were too complex and cumbersome for this.

Throughout the coaching process I provide:

•    Daily feedback where needed.
•    Unlimited adjustments to workouts.
•    Unlimited coach communication via email/whatsapp/facebook etc…
•    Continually adjusted to your schedule.

 

Pre-requisites

1. Mandatory: GPS watch with HR chest strap (wrist watch HR monitor is not sufficient).  To be able to track your workouts and pace them appropriately in specific heart-rate zones, you will need to be able to see your heart-rate readings when you train.  If you are just getting started and at a more lower fitness level or sedentary starting place, we can work around this with a mobile phone and use of various apps to track your activity.

2. Highly Recommended: Foam roller and trigger point massage ball.

3. Recommended: Lightweight carbon climbing "Z" poles.

 
About Your Coach James Stewart

Hi, my name is James Stewart. I'm 41 years old and in the best shape of my life. I have expertise and experience across a wide spectrum of athletic pursuits related to mountain and vertical endurance sports. I’ve gained tremendous experience and insight climbing mountains all over the world, while keeping my body healthy and injury free throughout most of the last decade. Some of my recent highlights have been:

•    I’ve competed at the highest level in international stair-climbing events, including two Top 15 finishes (out of 4000) in the Taipei 101 Stair Race (once the tallest building in the world).
•    I have raced extensively in vertical km races in Europe, included a two-time participant of the triple-vertical KM race in Susa, Italy, a 2nd place finish in the vertical mile race in Samoens, France; and a top 30 finish in the European Vertical KM world championships. 
•    I have an FKT (fastest known time) on a double traverse of the technically challenging Howe Sound Crest Trail in the mountains north of Vancouver. 54km 4500m. [ Watch video here ]
•    I have been a top placed finisher in some of the hardest vertical trail marathon races in Australia, Europe and Canada, including at age 35 a 21st place in the gruelling and highly competitive Mont Blanc Marathon in 2015.
•    At 40, I climbed 15,000m over 50km in 19 hours during the 2019 Multi Grouse Grind, climbing Vancouver’s Grouse Grind (2.5km 830m+) 18 times in one-day beyond the previous record of 17. 
•    I have a sub 30-minute Grouse Grind personal best (26th/8317 on Strava) and a sub 22-minute Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs (24th/10050 on Strava).
•    I’ve endured two long duration three-month expeditions in the European Alps, trail running and hiking for 6-12 hours on most days without suffering injury or overtraining syndrome.
You can Learn more about me here and see my full list of achievements.
You can watch some of my videos and see what I've been up to lately by clicking here to visit my YouTube channel.

20190718-K3__4594_C2S

Why Not Just Train Myself?

If you know how to do it, then yes go right ahead! However, knowing and doing are two different things. The knowing part takes a lot of time and research. I have spent over a decade studying and experimenting with various coaching/training approaches. After quitting my desk job in late 2011, to spend more time travelling and adventuring, I've spent a lot of time in the mountains understanding how these different approaches affect the body, and a lot of time learning how to optimise biomechanics to prevent injury…especially when spending lots of time on steep terrain.

You’re free to travel the same journey, but it will take you longer to figure all this out than simply working with someone who already does…especially if you don’t have much idea on how the process works. When you go to school, you don’t turn up and try to figure it out as you go. You follow an education expert’s curriculum first; you learn, and then once you have sufficient knowledge, you step forward and progress in your own individual direction. Working under a coach is how I learnt as an athlete and how you should too.

Many athletes understand how structured training works; the types of workouts there are and a general sense of how a week should look. However, there is so much more to the equation. There is nutrition, biomechanical considerations, recovery considerations, strength and structural considerations, how to phase training, how to design progressions, how to choose the right intensity, how to choose the right volume, psychological factors, how to know when you're overtraining and so forth…  There is a great art to developing a program and it’s well-worth working with an experienced coach, because it will save you time and it will curb your enthusiasm at the times you most need it: that is when the training stimulus starts to make you feel really good and the desire is just to spend all your winnings all at once on some big adventures! 

The big problem with self-trained athletes without sufficient experience is they tend to push too hard when they are feeling good and end up overreaching to some degree. When you invest a lot of time into training, you want to reap the rewards when things start to go well. You might make a whole lot of race plans thinking how you feel now will last or continue to improve into the future. Things will only keep improving right? Not necessarily. Because optimal performance involves a delicate balancing act of knowing when to push and when to hold back. There is a tendency to over race, to over train, to model one’s training or race schedule compared with your role models, all before your body might be ready for such load. 

When an athlete overreaches they will often keep pushing and pushing until their results start to suffer and the fatigue lingers a bit longer than usual. Self-trained athletes tend to spend far too much time training above the aerobic threshold (AT), which in the really long-term is going to set them far further back than someone who doesn’t. If you think this won’t apply to you, you are likely to learn the hard way. Run too fast too often, and you’ll actually get slower over time. This is the training paradox that has led to the downfall of many athletes. Studying the training habits of all the seasoned pros in endurance sports reveal staying below the AT most of the time is how they train. They build a massive low-intensity base of fitness, which appears to most ordinary people that they are actually training hard most of the time. You cannot model yourself on the training intensities of someone more experienced than you. 

There is also an added peril for over-reaching: uphills. Many athletes find it difficult to stay below aerobic threshold on climbs, even when trying to take it easy. In this program, you will spend quite a lot of time training slower than you will probably want to be doing, but it will be very beneficial in the long-term if you follow the process. This is why an experienced coach with uphill experience is vital.

An overtrained athlete will eventually be forced to pull back—typically from fatigue or an injury—which halts progress for a while. The reason this happens is the impact of training above aerobic threshold too often causes an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which is catabolic to muscle mass and increases stress and tension in the muscles too. Weak and tense muscles are more prone to injury.

This cycle can go on for some time. Often when athletes finally bite the bullet and reach out for coaching, they are at the inflection point of feeling run down and injury-prone and having it happen over and over.  Most athletes will struggle with this cycle, especially early on in their fitness journey. A tired or injured athlete will eventually be forced to take time off. Once they get back into training, they have to spend all this time building-up their fitness again. 1-2 years later, the self-trained athlete will have barely progressed and potentially even regressed. If you are not improving year after year, you are doing something wrong in your approach. 

Doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result is not a good position to find yourself in. Imagine what you could achieve if you were constantly improving and never injured? This is what my coaching program is really aimed at developing. It may take time, but I believe I can get you there.

The best way to never worry about getting into shape is to never get out of shape - Zabo Koszewski

I’m sorry to inform you but there is no short-cut to building a very high base of fitness and strong injury-free biomechanics. You need multi-year plans to do this, but you can achieve great things if you start working to a plan today, making small incremental progress on a daily basis and have patience in the process.

Self-trained athletes typically lack structure, lack a long-term plan and lack the self-discipline to hold themselves back. By all means, you can make improvements on an ad-hoc training plan if you know how to manage your body well, but you still might be causing yourself a performance disservice through inefficient planning. 

 

Effective Time Management

One of the most common reasons people give for neglecting general health and fitness is a lack of time. Typically, people who think this way, are not scheduling their time well or at all. Working with a training program you’ve invested your money in—heading toward a fixed goal in the future—is a sure-fire way to motivate you to consistently find the time each day. Also, to get really good results you don’t need a huge time investment either, but you shouldn’t be wasting time each day figuring out what to do or how you should be doing it. At the very minimum, you should know at the start of the week everything you will do during the week and a schedule of exactly when you can do it.

Being consistent is what matters more than anything. Anyone can go out and have one great workout, but can you achieve this consistently? This is why a coach is very important, because you have someone who can fine tune your approach and helps to keep you accountable. There are many more benefits too.

What is the best exercise? The answer is the exercise you will keep doing. Adherence is what matters most.

 

Keeping Things Fun

There are many training programs out there to choose from. You will gain some benefit from almost all training programs if you consistently stick with one of them for a long-period of time. Often, the best training approach is the one you are willing to keep doing.

Structured training can feel a little stifling to some people who are more seeking adventures and different experiences. One of the joys of trail running, is mixing things up, exploring different places. However, sometimes there has to be a little bit of trade off if you want optimum performance. Some days you have to roll up the sleeves and get some harder intervals done, but overall we shouldn’t lose sight of what we are here to really do: enjoy the movement of the body, enjoy time in nature, lower our overall stress, increase our health and enjoyment in life. 

Often I like to include my specific workout objectives during short periods in a longer more unstructured mountain adventure day. The goal is to have fun, enjoy nature and what it has to offer, while also improving your fitness at the same time.

My goal is to keep you intrinsically motivated by your training, where you gain satisfaction from the engagement in the training process as much as you desire in rewards and outcomes.  If you exercise more for intrinsic reasons you are more likely to feel energised, confident and satisfied.  Intrinsic motivation is a key factor for activity adherence. Enjoyment of an activity leads to reduced stress and positive psychological feelings.

Many people start an exercise program, but those who are able to stick to one over the long term will always say enjoyment is the principal reason they continue. If you are not enjoying your training, then something needs to change. As part of the coaching process, you will be rating workouts on various metrics so we can adjust things to maximise both your fitness increases and overall enjoyment.

Unstructured training is fine to do if you’ve planned a period of time for it (like on an extended vacation where you will be going on constant daily adventures to new places). Unstructured adventuring is how I do a lot of my training, but I have always implemented my unstructured training in a larger structured box of building my base of fitness and I carefully monitor my body’s response to it. I haven’t rushed into races – like ultra-marathons – until my body had built strength and a strong aerobic base over an entire decade of running. Whenever I have a specific goal, I become more structured in my training to give myself the best chance to perform well. Most importantly, I know when to build in periods of rest and recovery phases into my training.

 

Transitioning for Beginner/Novices/Sedentary Individuals

This program is designed to help transition you toward a more active and healthful life with a positive future even if you are at the beginner level.

I have specific health-focused interventions for:

1.    Anyone suffering a health crisis, poor health or wants to be healthier;
2.    Sedentary people who want to be more active;
3.    Anyone with an unhealthy relationship with food or other poor habits or addictions;
4.    People who struggle to organise their time and prioritise health;
5.    People who are constantly injured or in pain and want to transition to pain-free activity.

Everyone is an athlete-by-design no matter how far that might presently feel from you now. We are primal beings living in a modern world. Human physiology hasn’t changed for thousands of years, but what has changed is how we have chosen to live. We have regressed in physical strength and stature, and so many people are functioning at a much lower capacity than they are inherently capable of. You have been gifted with a body that is the ultimate tool for movement. Life is animation and movement; we are not designed to be sedentary and most people only walk to get to their next sitting position. Are you going to make the choice to use your body to its full capability? You have an athletic body - and if you don't think that, then you will need to work on changing your self-limiting perception. And don't let me hear you say you are too old. If you are breathing you are not too old to get healthier and fitter. 

I now ask you to ponder the question: What would you accomplish if you unlocked everything you have within you and aimed it toward a dedicated and consistent focus on one area of your life over six-months? What about one year, three years or five? 

If you want better health you need to be actively and deliberately working toward it over a long period of time. It is not something you can instantly achieve overnight, there are no short-cuts, or “30-days to amazing health” clichés here. I have deliberately created this program with the long-term perspective in mind and to build a habit of consistent focus on health based choices.

I believe five-years is the average period where most people in poor health and/or poor fitness can make a complete transformation to a new person that makes other people think, “Wow – how did you achieve that!?” For some people it might be shorter, for others longer. But that’s ok. 5 years might seem really far away, but life can also fly-by quicker than you realise. In 5 years you will be healthier, the same, or worse than your present day level of health, so what do you want it to be? 

The vast majority of people today can’t accomplish any long-term goal, because they are more seduced by short-term (and short-sighted) ambitions...don’t be one of them. This why the proverb “patience is a virtue” exists. It means being able to tolerate something that lasts a long-time. Making positive health changes are not something you have to tolerate though; I aim to help you find changes you can be truly excited about and don't make your life lacking in fun. With greater health your like becomes the opposite of dull, you can do a whole lot more and really enjoy life to its fullest. 

I believe 6-12 months is a short enough amount of time to learn how to successfully transition toward this healthier and fitter version of yourself under the guidance of an experienced coach. My recommendation is to work with me for 12 months or more, but the choice is in your hands. Get started and see if you find value in the process.

 

Testimonial - Cameron York

Cameron started working with me in January 2020. He transitioned into trail running over the past two years, but was looking for more guidance on how to progress.  Still in his 20's, Cameron is a big tall guy and still early in achieving his endurance potential. I have definitely noticed a lot of changes in Cameron since he started, around 15lbs lighter, a lot stronger physique, no injuries, and excellent consistency with training. I'm sure in the coming years he wil be right up there in the mix if he keeps at it. Here is his testimonial:

I started working with James at the beginning of 2020 to dial in my running training to progressively become a more efficient, faster and injury free athlete. Since then, I’ve tracked my resting heart rate, weight and runs/workouts daily under James’ professionally structured tracking tools. It has been enormously insightful to review my trends and adjust workout plans as we progress through the training weeks and stages. Lately we’ve also looked at nutrition, analyzing what I’m putting into my body to become leaner and healthier.

I had race plans for the Diez Vista 50k and Squamish50 50 Mile events this year, but the pandemic derailed these. In lieu of an organized event, James thoughtfully devised a race route that he dubbed the “North Van Traverse”. We ran this 43km route together in May, and James even filmed the majority of it for us to review how it went - plus it was a pretty incredible memento for me to reflect on a tough but rewarding day. It was an invaluable opportunity for me to have a coach see how I race, as his analysis provided exceptional feedback on how I can further improve moving forward. 

James’ training structure, methodology and support has been nothing short of incredible. I couldn’t be happier with how my running fitness has come along under his coaching. Not only is the quality of the program phenomenal, but his communication is fast and comprehensive, and he’s an all around awesome guy. I’m very excited to see where I’ll go with his coaching support over the years to come!

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, Cameron had his races cancelled for 2020. Instead, Cameron and I decided he would participate in a solo race across the mountain trails of North Vancouver - from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. The course is an extremely challenging technical trail at times with 43km with 2200m of vertical climbing and descent. Cameron did exceptionally well to finish this gruelling course in a time of 6:15.

The solo traverse gave me as coach the opportunity to run with Cameron, film his journey and give an insight into how he approaches his pacing and strategy in races. My role was simply to provide navigation support and filming and I gave no advice during the race to simulate a real race experience for Cameron. We both learnt a lot from the experience and I will be able to tailor Cameron's training to strengthen his weak areas and build his self-confidence with all the positive aspects of the day.

Cost:

Cost Per Month: USD$105   CAD $130   AUD $130    EUR 85   GBP 75  

Please get in touch with any questions, concerns or to sign up: coaching@couchtothesummit.com

Other currencies and cryptocurrency accepted. Please contact me for rates.