Category Archives: Health

Advanced Health Coaching to Improve Athletic Performance, Part 1

Health and fitness are not synonymous. As I noted in my last post, I’ve rethought my training strategy to emphasize good health and patience vs. strictly fitness. Health is the basis for longevity in sports and focusing purely on building fitness can eventually come at the cost of longevity. This is why I gravitated toward the MAF training method, since an inability to make fitness improvements under MAF may indicate underlying health issues.

MAF training varies by individual. There are no standard 16-week MAF training programs for a particular endurance event.  Therefore, I don’t follow a regimented training schedule. Instead, I stay in tune with how my body is feeling and do what feels right on a particular day.

For the past two months my improvements under MAF have plateaued and my body has felt a bit off…not bad…just not ideal. As a result, I wanted to take a deeper look into my health. Coach Tawnee Prazak started offering a new Advanced Health Coaching (AHC) consultation option which is exactly what I was looking for.

AHC differs from my previous consults with Tawnee in that she also brings in a naturopathic doctor (ND), Erica Cowan, to develop a health plan. AHC includes the following:

  1. Completion of a comprehensive health questionnaire along with providing food logs, sports history, etc.
  2. An initial consult to discuss items in #1 to figure out what lab tests should be ordered and the creation of an initial health plan
  3. Upon receiving lab results, Tawnee and Erica meet for lab analysis and creation of a health plan
  4. A follow-up consult with Tawnee and Erica to discuss the lab results and the corresponding health plan

ND’s put much more emphasis on prevention and holistic wellness (diet, lifestyle change, supplements, etc,) to support the body. They focus on the underlying causes of symptoms and not the symptoms themselves. Conventional medicine has a tendency to focus more on treating the symptoms than figuring out the root cause.

After my initial consult they recommended two lab tests: Genova GI Effects (gut health) and DUTCH Complete (hormones). A few days later they sent me my initial health plan that included recommended diet and lifestyle changes that I can start working on immediately while we are waiting for my test results. Once my test results are in, they will fine tune my health plan with much more detail. Below is a summary of their initial recommendations for me:

  • Reduce FODMAP intake
  • Limit caffeine
  • Limit/eliminate alcohol – preferably 1 month of no alcohol
  • Screen cleanse – eliminate screens after 7-8pm
  • Keep a food journal – note foods that make me feel great or trigger negative issues
  • Stick with MAF training
  • Find activities for de-stressing/parasympathetic activation
  • Turn Wifi off at night

As far as implementing the above recommendations…it is still a work in process across many of the items. One great comment that Erica made in an email to me was “Lifestyle changes are often the hardest to implement, but also the most effective!” I 100% agree! Making these lifestyle changes has been difficult. However, even with making some small progressions, I have already noticed improvements with fewer gut issues and an improved MAF pace. Even though it may be hard, it definitely seems to be worth it!

Below is what I’ve been doing to progressively implement the above recommendations:

Reduce FODMAP Intake

Tawnee sent me this great list. It is the best FODMAP foods reference I’ve seen. I eat a lot of vegetables so I was initially discouraged that most of my favorites tended to be in the “more fermentable” categories. However, Tawnee told me there is an individuation aspect to FODMAPs and that is where a food log can be a useful tool. There are indeed certain FODMAP foods that bother me more than others. I’m anxious to get my GI Effects test back to see what is going on with my gut.

Limit Caffeine

I’ve already been working on this one – check out this post. The amount of fully caffeinated coffee I drink now is a fraction of what it used to be.

Limit/Eliminate Alcohol

Ugh! San Diego is the craft beer capital of America and I also enjoy having a glass of wine in the evenings. I have never considered myself a big drinker but I’ve started to realize that I likely drank more often than I thought. My strategies for cutting back have been:

  • Order Pellegrino/sparkling water with lime at restaurants. This helps me feel like I’m getting something special without it being alcohol (helps save some money as well!)
  • When I do drink, I try to keep it to red wines from Dry Farms wine (less alcohol, sulfites and additives)
  • When I just “need” a beer I’ll have a session IPA. Session IPAs have great hop flavor like a standard IPA but the alcohol content in a session IPA is typically in the 3.5% to 5% range vs. the 5.5% to 8% of a standard IPA.

I’m down to having four or fewer drinks per week. However, I’m going to go big…30 days of no alcohol (started yesterday)!

Screen Cleanse – eliminate screens after 7-8pm

Surprisingly, this one has been easier than I thought. I shifted my non-screen activities (cleaning the kitchen, prepping for the next day, etc.) to the evening. I’ll also read a physical book before bed instead of perusing the internet/social media and/or watching TV. This also helps my productivity because I need to get all my necessary “screen work” done by 7-8pm.

Keep a Food Journal

Easy…Evernote – DONE

Stick with MAF Training – No Added Intensity

No problems here either. Except for the occasional spin class that I’ll go to with my wife, all my workouts are at my MAF heart rate. I forwent my normal training buildup to my half Ironman, which I’m only doing for fun with no performance expectations.

Find Activities for De-Stressing/Parasympathetic Activation

I don’t have a good de-stressing routine at the moment. However, I started journaling again in the evenings (which also helps with the screen cleanse). At the end of every day I’ll write down my accomplishments, memorable moments that made me happy/smile/laugh, and other reflections.

Turn Wifi Off at Night

Zero progress here but I have an idea that I’m going to try…

By the time my test results come back in another 3-4 weeks, I’m planning to fully incorporate all these lifestyle changes. Stay tuned…