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C2TS Coaching Level Two: Performance Coaching

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 experts before learning the skills to succeed. 

However, this is not how most people train their body. Typically training happens on a whim based on what they feel like doing on the day. I believe getting the most optimal performance from your body requires a long-term vision, some goals to help motivate you, and then having the knowledge and skill to develop yearly, monthly and weekly plans broken down into daily tasks. However, this doesn’t mean over structuring or regimenting your exercise where you lose the enjoyment and fun. 

At the very minimum you should have in place a framework helping to manage your time. You should know how to manage your body, balance fatigue, correct body imbalances, release muscle tension and prevent injury. You should know 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.

Couch to the Summit Performance Coaching is an advanced fitness training program designed for individuals who want to perform at an optimum level, tailored to your specific priorities, goals and level of fitness. The goal will be to not only increase your cardiovascular fitness, but also your health and functional strength across multiple elements. A stronger and healthier athlete will always outperform a weaker and less healthy one.

The same principles of health apply equally to people who just want better health versus people who want maximum athletic performance. My advice is to focus on building a platform of health, and then it’s really up to you—and your level of commitment—as to where you can take it to the next level  – Couch to the Summit

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

1.    Trail runners
2.    Vertical endurance athletes
3.    Stair climbers
4.    Fun runners
5.    Ultra-endurance athletes
6.    Cyclists
7.    Hikers
8.    Mountaineers

This is an advanced coaching program designed for already active people wanting to optimise their all-round athletic performance. If you are new to fitness or exercise, I recommend you begin with my Level 1 Coaching Program so you can safely transition to a more active life before transitioning to level 2 in the future. 

If you work with me for at least six months, a lot of the training will involve building a strong base of fitness and will give you the best chance of achieving your goals. However, if you need help with an event in the short-term I can help you with a specialised training plan as well.



Cost per month: USD$175.   Minimum 3-month commitment.

Cost per month: USD$125.   Minimum 3-month commitment.

Please get in touch with any questions, concerns or to sign up:

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


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, aimed at challenging your entire kinetic chain and helping to develop an anabolic metabolism so your catabolic endurance activities don't eat away at your strength gains. 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 base can perform well just off that base, allowing them to race very frequently. You want to become this kind of athlete, with a strong aerobic base, but also a strong vertical climbing base too.

I implement a phase and zone based training philosophy. The purpose of the base building phase of training is to increase your work capacity and improve your fatigue resistance through various techniques of progression and overload, slightly exceeding your work capacity in many workouts , then recovering and repeating this process for months. 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 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 vertical climbing 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 also 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 VO2max, 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. 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 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 lowering risk of injury, while also building explosive leg strength and power. When you train both type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers you become a superior athlete to those who neglect it.

Off of your base we can strategically focus on specific periods of intensity to peak your fitness for specific races or goals. 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 and VO2Max, I incorporate short, mixed and long types of interval speed and sprint sessions.

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.

Depending on your state of fitness coming into this program, you may need to go through a transition or preconditioning period to prepare you for specific demands of the base period.

During much of the base period you may be a little tired to perform at your best. This is why elite athletes build their base before competition periods. It becomes problematic when you try to build fitness capacity at the same time you intend to maximally use it in racing.  

A contrived example of how phase training works:



Expert Injury & Fatigue Management with Anabolic 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 and power hiking.

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. 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. 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 am 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.

I work hard to ensure the training allows you to finish each workout feeling invigorated rather than drained. You should feel like you could have done more that day if you had to, we don’t want to train to the point of failure unless you are racing or going for a personal best.


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 start logging your daily eating habits so we can explore various nutritional and supplement interventions for optimum performance, red blood cell creation, muscle growth and recovery (tailored specific to your dietary preferences). 
6.    You will be provided with an emotional and mental well-being action plan and specific mindset and motivational advice. Included are some psychological interventions for encouraging relaxation, releasing muscle tension, managing stress and emotional turmoil will be provided. The level at which you want to go into this will be self-determined.

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.


As we work together the process involves:

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


About Your Coach James Stewart


I have expertise and experience across a wide spectrum of athletic pursuits, and I’ve gained tremendous experience and insight climbing mountains all over the world, while keeping my body healthy and injury free through this process:

•    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 the technically challenging 30km Howe Sound Crest Trail in the mountains north of Vancouver. 
•    I have been a top placed finisher in some of the hardest vertical trail marathon races in Australia, Europe and Canada, including a 21st place in the gruelling and highly competitive Mont Blanc Marathon.
•    I have climbed 15,000m over 50km in 19 hours during the Multi Grouse Grind ultra-endurance event, climbing Vancouver’s Grouse Grind (2.5km 830m+) 18 times in one-day in 2019 beyond the previous record of 17. 
•    I also have a sub 30-minute Grouse Grind personal best (26th/8317 on Strava) and a sub 22-minute Manitou Incline (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.
•    I haven’t raced in cycling but I know enough about it to also coach recreational cyclists who want to improve their climbing (for elites perhaps look for a more specialised cycling coach). I’ve ridden in the performance group with Cycle Folsom in Sacramento as one of their strongest climbers, and climbed many of the famous Tour de France climbs in Europe on my bike.

Learn more about me here



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, 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 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. 

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 wrong. 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 (think Kilian Jornet), 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. The problem is their low-intensity may be the equivalent of your high intensity speed, warping your perception of their intrinsic effort. You cannot model yourself on the training 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 climbing far slower than you may probably want, 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.

After overreaching the self-trained athlete will 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.

I look forward to working with you!