Building from ‘the Basics’

The daedal workings of a human life are phenomenal. Living in an increasingly knotty, convoluted world with internal and external pressures creates challenge and a labrynthe of scenarios one person could simply not list out. So why do we amplify this chaos before we’ve nailed the basics?

A couple of years ago I read Good to Go by journalist and author Christie Aschwanden. This book took – what one might call ‘proper’ – journalism and interrogated the research behind the latest training and recovery. Finally! Some good investigative journalism supported by the thing that social media takes away from us; critical thinking. 

Christie takes you across history from Gatorade to vasoconstriction exploring the scientific evidence that led to these ‘revolutionary’ and ‘high-tech’ training and recovery aides asking the pertinent question: do they actually work?

Soon after I jumped into the Netflix series The Game Changers following a recommendation on the basis that ‘it makes sense, that’s why I am going vegan’. Cleverly stitched together quoting various studies referenced by some intellectual academics, why are you being so cynical Matt? 

It’s not so much that I don’t acknowledge these studies, approaches or products, my cynicism is more to do with how they are appropriately adopted and deployed. Take for example, some of the benefits associated [to athletes] from a vegan-based diet in and similarly to taking an ice shower; both reduce inflammation. Add to it that anecdotally people claim they ‘feel better’ following either – should we add it to our new years resolutions to increase our performance?

It depends. It depends on many things, but most importantly what you want to achieve and whether that new approach or product is going to enhance performance when the basics are already being nailed.  

This is really important for everyone. 

Nailing the basics is an age old phrase that can be applied to almost every walk of life. In an endurance world whereby efficiency, injury prevention and psychological management are critical to good performance, getting the basics done as well as they can be is an absolute must. 

Adding a ‘sleep enhancing’ pillow to your bed is not going to improve your sleep – and thereby recovery – if you’re drinking a skin full of alcohol and consuming two hours of blue light just before you try to nod off. It might be comfy, but not as effective as it could be. 

And that’s exactly the key. These approaches and products could be very effective and beneficial to your overall performance, when approached or adopted appropriately to you and your goals. Being able to critically think about the why, what and when if you’re considering a gadget upgrade cannot be taken for granted – otherwise you’ll likely end up with little more than a nice placebo – but before you get there, are you nailing the absolute basics:

  • Good quality (ideally tracked, so you have the evidence) sleep?
  • A well-balanced diet (balance is timing as much as make up of your plate!)?
  • Consistent training?
  • Sufficient recovery? Are you listening to your body (which probably doesn’t follow a 7-day standardised plan)?
  • Ladies, are you balancing training with your menstrual cycle?

If there’s gaps in the above, perhaps co-develop a plan with your coach before leaping to buy those new calf guards succulently advertised on Instagram. Get the strategy well developed before you start trying to retrofit potential ‘enhancements’. 

Stay safe and start the new year focused, refreshed and in good spirits despite the mad world we seem live in!

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