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Couch➜Summit Performance Coaching

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

 

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 rational people invest in education to get specialist training from an expert before learning the skills they need to succeed on their own. Making a commitment to working with an expert can deliver rapid and life-changing results. As human beings, we are at mercy to our overall health and vitality - everything else in life suffers if our health declines. Investing in your health will always be the most important investment you ever make.

A period of 1-2 years under an experienced coach can set yourself up with the tools and principles to make health and fitness an easy and straight forward reality for the rest of your life.

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 I implore you to alter your self-limiting perception. And don't let me hear you say you are too old, you are nevr too old to get healthier and fitter. 

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

I am a vertical focused coach with an interest in many areas of fitness. I offer a specialised online coaching program specifically focused for athletes who are mountain or vertical orientated, but if you're new to running I can also help you get started too! My training program has been developed using the foundational scientific principles underpinning elite world-class endurance athletes and various aspects of my approach have been self-tested and refined over a decade of countless hours running in the mountains and competing at the elite level.  I aim to offer a wider net than most coaches who will potentially only focus on improving your aerobic fitness. 

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, but also allowing them time off from training without rapidly losing their conditioning as seen commonly in High Intensity Training (HIT) methodologies. 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.  

Built with your overall long-term health and performance in mind, my coaching service is suitable for any person at any level of fitness including elite athletes, intermediate, beginner and novice/sedentary individuals. I customise my coaching approach specifically for the individual based on your health and fitness background. The aim of my program is not just to 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 probably doing something incorrect or inefficient. 

Some training programs take a seasonal 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. There is no substitute or shortcut in unlocking your endurance potential. The reality is that the more years of progression you have under your belt, the higher the level of fitness you can attain. If you have not been progressing and expanding your capacity each year - building upon the last - for at least the last 7 years, then you still have a lot to gain.

The most important thing for an athlete is to work hard and learn to be very patient by looking at training as a fun weekly process. Enjoyment of the process is crucial, because if you're only motivated by the end goals, its unlikely you will be able to sustain making training a key feature in your weekly lifestyle. 

My endurance training process is strongly science backed and I have put in almost a decade of dedicated research and trail-testing before I took onboard my first clients in 2019. 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. 

 

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Why Not Just Train Myself? The Self-Coached Training Trap

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 trail-testing various coaching/training approaches until I have personally settled on an approach I feel is sustainable and efficient. 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 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. My body was broken when I started my running journey, but I have built up tremendous resiliency where injuries and fatigue setbacks are no longer an obstacle in my path these days.

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 as you learn how to train effectively and what to look out for to avoid overtraining. 

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 on specific days of the week, 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!  A coach can push you when you need it, and hold you back when you become over-excited.

The big problem with self-trained athletes without sufficient experience is they tend to push too hard when they are feeling good. 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? I hope so, but 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 a thing. A core foundation on how I train people is "pick your winnable battles", but also to keep seeking goals that are difficult to achieve, but still realistically achievable.

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), the transition point where your body predominantly fuels itself from lipids (fat) versus muscle glycogen. 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. The science is clear cut, seasoned pros in endurance sports spend most of their time training beneath the AT and by doing so they build a massive base of fitness; they are not actually training hard most of the time which is a common misconception due to their training speeds that always seem so fast to the average individual. 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. Cortisol only really rises when doing high intensity training too often.

The overtraining cycle can go on for some time before athletes realise what is going on. 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.  Many novice athletes struggle with this cycle, especially early in their fitness journey. 

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 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. This approach invariably 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 your aerobic capacity and the metabolic structural strength within your body to handle specific workloads. 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. 

For example, lets consider the case of one aerobically conditioned elite athlete (Athlete A), who does regular training activities at a certain high training speed that has a low-intensity impact on their physiology and has successfully taken them to achieve certain achievements that catches the eye of another less aerobically conditioned novice individual (Athlete B). Athlete B begins to copy the high speed/volume training of Athlete A thinking the same style of training will eventually get them the same results. However, that training ends up having a highly fatiguing impact on Athlete B's physiology because his aerobic base is nowhere near 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) but with different aerobic base starting points, Athlete B is likely to end up becoming burnt out and overtrained compared with Athlete A who remains fresh and still improving month by month. This confuses Athlete B who is frustrated, always tired, and likely rationalising that Athlete A has superior genetics, which is not necessarily true. Athlete A is just training smarter and has built to a high level off of years of consistent progressive training. Moral to the Story: 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 can be pretty low on their physiology. The maintainence low-intensity load of a world class athlete can still be above the abilities of a novice athlete working at maximum high intensity capacity.

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 principles used by Athlete A, but altered the intensity and volume of the workouts to match their starting fitness level (aerobic base). In other words, the training principles being used by Athlete B weren't necessarily incorrect, but they failed by not slowly progressing up to Athlete A's training volumes over a long period of time. 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.

Athlete A is only superior because they followed a properly structured training program tailored to their level of athletic endurance over many years. That is why it's rarely genetics. This process cannot be rushed, it doesn't take months, it takes years. You should not be increasing your total time training each year by more than 10% each year.  By training more in alignment with their present aerobic base, Athlete B would have actually achieved a higher level of fitness over those two years with less training intensity effort than just trying to work super hard and do a lot of training (well in advance of their previous years). In fact, its quite common that years become wasted of time and Athlete B is little to no fitter 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 to no progress. Training correctly doesn't mean you have to suffer all the time. If you're not improving noticeably each year, then you need to change how you train.

Novice athletes will always benefit from expanding their aerobic low-intensity capacity before they think to work on expanding their high intensity capacities. You will always run faster at high intensity off of a larger aerobic conditioning base. Set the foundation in place first and the speed and performance comes off the back off that with some short periods of selective high intensity "peaking" training. It's that simple.

Conditioning your aerobic base correctly is where the money is, but its a delicate balance of doing too little and doing too much.

 

A Smarter Training Process

A smarter way toward enhanced endurance performance is not just increasing your running or climbing speed by trying to train fast all the time, it comes from making a series of metabolic enhancements to the muscle fibers and cardio-vascular system, which develop increased blood-flow supply, greater movement economy, fat fuelling adaptations, and also fatigue resistance. This is how elite athletes can run so fast with seemingly little effort compared with novice athletes. Elites are not necessarily working any harder than their back of the pack counterparts, they are simply more efficient - more efficient in metabolic fuelling, more efficient in running dynamics and so on. 

There are no shortcuts to developing these efficiencies; it happens over a long-period of time. The fastest development pathway is for training to be progressive and consistent. 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 metabolic 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 can become injured and burn out far quicker than other athletes, so if this is your focus, it's even more imperative for you to get the balance right.

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 training is that most people don't have the discipline or time to pull it off. Kilian is a full-time athlete, but the same training principles apply irrespective of whether you are training 5-10 hours a week vs 20-30 hours.

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 aerobic base training. 

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 and steadily improve my coaching offering each year.

 

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

 

Expertise in Biomechanics, Injury & Fatigue Management 

Aerobic conditioning is only one slice of a larger pie. Several major factors typically prevent an athlete from achieving their goals: poor biomechanics, fatigue, and injury. I am a coach focused on all slices of the pie.

Being a vertical orientated athlete can help with developing efficient biomechanics tremendously. Moving upward forces you to work against gravity, and this helps build two essential benefits for performance: strength and power. Uphill climbing "forces" proper biomechanics due to the high knee lifting action required to get up terrain, making it a good place to start for novice athletes who might constantly suffer strains running on flat terrain.

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, while dramatically increasing my training volume in steep mountain terrain.  

To be a successful runner you must know how to self-treat, and do daily and weekly sessions aimed at maintaining a functional neuromuscular system.  The outside training is only half of the process, if you neglect the foundational strength and muscular work, your running will only suffer.  Most runners fail to perform well not simply because they are aerobically inefficient, but because their muscles fatigue too early from overtightness, or their leg strength is not developed enough to run the entire way up a big hill climb. Greater performance gains can often occur from simply fixing or improving biomechanics versus doing more speed or endurance work. I 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. 

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. The goal is not to lose any speed, but to become more resilient and powerful.

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.

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My Coaching Package

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. 

Cost:

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

Cost Per Month: USD$120   CAD $140   AUD $145    EUR 100   GBP 90

How the Process Works

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.

As part of the coaching process you receive a large training eBook manual that teaches you everything you need to know about the training process. I setup your workouts each Sunday tailored for your long-term goals, your seasonal goals, and how your body has responded to recent training. I monitor signs of overtraining and I help you manage your biomechanics so you stay healthy and can keep training. You are only asked to read the material provided, execute the scheduled daily workouts, and log your training outcomes into the spreadsheet on how things went. I take care of everything else.

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 unfairly 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. Your body can heal and daily movement is critical to the healing process. Use it or lose it!

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.

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 anaerobic 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 training at the appropriate speeds as you develop.

Getting Setup:

1.    You will receive an initial questionnaire 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 a 100-page 50000 word training manual 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.    Advice relating to diet and mental health is offered as required.
4.    Biomechanical assessments and advice will be handled on a case by case basis as the need arises.

Each week:

Your training is setup each sunday in your 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.

Throughout the coaching process I provide:

•    Schedule your training for the upcoming week every Sunday.
•    Daily feedback where needed.
•    Unlimited adjustments to workouts.
•    Unlimited coach communication via phone/email/whatsapp/telegram/facebook etc…

Please get in touch with any questions, concerns or to sign up: coaching@couchtothesummit.com   or call me on 778-229-8230 (in North America)

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

I look forward to working with you!

Transitioning for Beginner/Novices/Sedentary Individuals

If you are new to running or exercice, I can 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.

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.

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Testimonial - Cameron 

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.

Update (End of 2021): It’s now been almost two years of working with James at Couch to the Summit as a trail running client. This year James supported me in doing two 50km efforts (one casual home-made effort and the Squamish50 50km race), as well as getting a 5 minute PR on the Grouse Grind (33 minutes) and two performance efforts for a “Fastest Known Time” on Coliseum Mountain and Wedgemount Lake (third overall for both). Through James’ coaching approach, we’ve spent considerable training time in low aerobic heart rate zones this year, which has been unbelievably beneficial for my active lifestyle with running and hiking. I’m able to do long days in the mountains, covering substantial distance and elevation changes with minimal soreness and zero injuries to date! 

I really like how James lays out the training plan - no detail is missed with tracking and workout descriptions with suggestions on how best to get each session executed. It’s easy to follow and intensely motivating. His response time for questions is rapid and he provides exceptional written packages for effort/race debriefs, nutritional analysis and training progression planning. Late last year I experienced a health issue with persistent fatigue - James was able to guide me through to get testing and supplements to combat what was diagnosed as iron deficiency. I’m incredibly pleased with my progression since becoming one of his athletes and so stoked for what next season holds with his support. I couldn’t recommend James more.

Cameron
December 2021

Testimonial - Rene

Rene started with me as a beginner level athlete looking to lose weight and become healthier in general. He was just transitioning into more outdoor activity, mostly hiking with some shorter bursts of running. Rene has come a long way in the first six months and I enjoyed running with him in the North Shore mountains just a few months into his training and he impressed me on the trails with his commitment to the process, his drive for a healthier life, and being patient with a long-term outlook. He should be really proud of what he achieved in such a short time and we're only getting started!

I started out last year February (2021) with hiking the North Vancouver mountains. This was always something I just wasn't into, but things had to change. Following a doctors checkup with bloodwork and an ultrasound of my liver in early February for my 46th birthday i had to make choices and change my habits. Everything was high from blood pressure at pre hypertension levels to the cholesterol way outside of normal healthy levels and to top it off a fatty liver. I was 300 lbs at 6-7.

Things had to change.

I started hiking from the house in Lynn Valley up the hill making my way up to Princess Park and that was tough just to make it to the park. I had to stop and catch my breath several times before getting to the park. I kept at it and next thing I was making my way past the park and getting on the lower trails of Mount Fromme. I kept at it few times a week rain or shine for a few months. Then I started to want to run so I started with little bits of that training around the suspension bridge area in Lynn Valley. I kept at that for a couple months and started to research trails running online and came across James and his youtube channel. I found James website and started to read what hes doing and his approach.

The timing was right. I have alot of injuries from the years and I knew if I', going to keep this going and do things right James is the guy to help get me there so I emailed. James got back to me and sent me his intake package with questions about my goals and what I'm looking for. I listed off my issues and my goal. I want to run the knee knacker 50k before I', 50 is what I told him.

Its been 7 going 8 months training with James and I cant believe how far I have come.

The hike to the park I had to stop to catch my breath, I now power up the hill past the park and right up to the Baden Powell trail then I run across town and back home! I dont stop anymore!

Following James guidance i have lost weight now 255 lbs average and holding that as more muscle is building along with the endurance to power up hills running. I recently did the BCMC trail 2 times in 1 day. That's hiking up and down twice and I couldn't believe I did that. It was a huge accomplishment for me.

My running has extended to half marathon distances and that keeps growing.

I have ankle issues and have had knee and lower back surgery and with James guiding me I have stayed injury free. Thats exactly why I reached out to James because of what he talks about on his website.

Everything is earned and the effort has been worth it for me. James keeps me in check and the results are great for me. I'm down almost 50 lbs and my legs are growing in strength and endurance capacity.

My blood pressure is normal now and I average a resting heartrate of 55. My doctor can't believe my bloodwork now. The levels are optimal.

Its been just over a year now since I started and I'm glad I did it the right way by having James as my coach.

The adventures in the mountains keep growing for me , the best part is I'm having fun.

Rene
May 2022

Testimonial - Matt

Matt has been with me since I opened my coaching program in late 2019.  He originally signed up hoping to compete in the Multi-Grouse Grind Challenge for 2020 and hike as many Grind's as possible. With the pandemic it was cancelled and Matt transitioned to beginning his trail running journey and has progressed substantially in his running to being able to race hard at half-marathon distances. He is now working towards developing his endurance to run longer distances in the future.   Matt originally came into the coaching program with the mentality of feeling like he had to train at high intensity all the time to make any progress to his fitness but has learned to embrace a more consistent structured program that balances training intensities that has led to higher levels of fitness than he has previously attained.

James Stewart has been my coach since December, 2019. Over that time, he has helped me get fitter and stronger for a variety of activities, including hill-hiking, trail running, and biking.

Throughout my time with him, James has been thoughtful and constructive about what kinds of goals I should set, and, once decided, extremely helpful in teaching me how to reach them. I have gotten, since I have worked with him, fitter, faster, and stronger, and his approach to training has kept me almost entirely injury-free.

James is everything you want in a coach: friendly, approachable, non-judgmental, and effective. I hope to work with him for a long time yet!

Matt 
May 2022

Testimonial - Adam

Adam arrived to me as someone recently new to running. Adam's background was almost entirely a sedentary lifestyle until I was 29.  About a year ago, he started going for morning walks which eventually led to running. He started running at 280 pounds and only lasted 400m on his first attempt. Prior to signing up to coaching he got down to around 230 pounds and started to run 5ks consistently. After working with me for a year Adam has been able to find consistency with his running and after 9 months of working with me Adam was capable of doing a 25-30km trail run successfully. He's come a really long way in a short space of time.

I have been working with James for about a year now. The first thing that impressed me after signing up was his in-depth Couch to Summit Training Manual. It contained valuable information on everything from running technique, diet & nutrition, mapping routes & more. 

During my time with the program, James taught me the importance of running at a lower intensity level. I can now run much farther than before, all while avoiding injuries. He does a great job customizing the training log to perfectly suit my ability. Whenever I have a question for him, he answers it promptly & thoroughly and will add lots of valuable insight.

Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, you will not find a better coach!

Adam 
June 2022

Testimonial - Rudy

Rudy wrote to me and told me he watched many of my videos while in his “Lazy Boy chair”.  He is defying the "age is no limit" barrier signing up for coaching at 71 years old. Rudy is learning to trail run and increasing his hiking fitness. He has a strong enthusiasm and passion for outdoor fitness and a love of the mountains along the Sea to Sky highway in North Vancouver. Rudy wants to safely tackle some of the more advanced trails with the fitness to make it home before dark. He said he doesn't see any reason to give it up, he just wants to get better and safer at it.

II got to know James thru watching his “Couch to the Summit” Videos that cover many of our local mountain trails that I frequently visit or have been on some years back. Last summer, James introduced us to  Bremmer’s Vancouver VK program on his website. In his article he explained what level of fitness makes it possible to participate. I decided to hike the “Lost Limb” VK4 trail on (Mt Harvey) just to test things out. With one-week recoveries from outings of similar difficulty, I realized that I would need his help to progress. James started Coaching me from October 2021 (9 months ago). His training fits my long-term plans  with visible results right during the first month. The weekly training programs are carefully prepared around my personal needs with adjustments and fine tunning as we keep moving forward. James brings a scientific approach to fitness that he acquired on his world travels and while competing along with the word’s elite athletes.

Rudy 
May 2022


About Your Coach James Stewart

Hi, my name is James Stewart. I'm 42 years old and still 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:

•    In 2021 I won the Vancouver 100km by almost an hour to the nearest competitor, and fell 15 minutes short of the course record. This race has almost 6000m of hard technical ascent/descent and some snow traverses, making it a great endurance challenge. My time was 13hrs56m.
•    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.
 
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