As a fairly new coach, what I find awesome and not a little touching is how often I get asked for advice. A lot of people, text, e-mail, or simply approach me before class or on the way to my car with a problem or question. Working and socialising with highly motivated populations such as the CrossFit and weight training community, I find the people around me are always looking for more ways to get better. It’s very inspiring. But it can be a little frustrating.


The complaint given to me and many other coaches out there is:


"I’m not seeing the pounds off the scale/boundless levels of energy/ flexibility/strength gains/ general growth of athletic prowess of my peers. Help me fix that."


The problem isn’t the question, or even the answer. Athletes tend to be aware of what they might be doing wrong, and they’re always open to hearing what we say they might do about it. The problem is that many athletes don’t take any action on what I or any other coach says to them.


Now. The answers to this question they ask - sleep, nutrition, and mobility -  are likely the most well-covered topics here on Breaking Muscle, and I’m not exactly writing the seminal article of the century by briefly addressing them here. Yet they are still the three things that hold 99.9% of all athletes back.


So if you’re an athlete with this question, humour me for a brief moment. Before you continue your quest for The Answer to your training problem, take a look below and see if there’s a very common training truth or two that you know, but aren’t actually doing.


1. Get Enough Sleep

If you are crushing five CrossFit classes a week and sleeping four hours a night there is no intervention that will work for you, nutritional or otherwise. It’s that simple.   


Sleep is the most important part of recovery. If you’re not making it a priority, you won’t lose weight, get strong, or generally get much healthier. And when studies estimate you need 7-8 hours of sleep a night, they don’t have the athletic population in mind. Those doing hard training will need 9 hours of sleep a night at a minimum, including on weekends.


2. Eat Well - Consistently

This one is like a broken record for a lot of coaches. The athlete spends £100 or more a month on supplements, is frequently on an extreme but short-lived elimination diet, and spends weekends getting shitfaced and eating takeaways. After a month of rinse and repeat, they then wonder why this formula is not resulting in a 200kg squat.


There are any number of real food fundamentals around that can give you guidance on eating wholesome food to fuel yourself properly. Fad diets and movements aside, decent nutrition is general, simple, and repeatable. That’s not the issue.


The issue is that a lot of athletes don’t eat well consistently enough to see results. You need to be eating whole foods within an appropriate macronutrient ratio at least 90% of the time to effectively support your training, and if you’re trying to lose weight, that margin for error decreases significantly. So grub up.


3. Do Mobility Work

You have no business – none – trying to snatch, clean, or squat heavy weight if you can't perform those lifts to an appropriate range of motion with an empty bar. And I will stress this until I’m blue in the face: you will never get more mobile, stable, or supple without doing some general maintenance on your body to compliment your training and increase your movement capacity.


It’s pretty easy these days, so there’s not much excuse. The frantic “can’t squat now what” search on YouTube isn’t necessary anymore. Pull out your credit card, pay a few quid to a site like ROMWOD or MobilityWOD, and do a led class online for 20 minutes a day. It’s like falling off a log.


Hard Work Isn't Exciting Or Easy

Listen: I’m not a demi-goddess of fitness living in a gilded ivory tower myself. This stuff is what I do most of the time and what I’m educated in, but it doesn’t exactly blow my skirt up either. These rules and habits aren’t exciting or easy. But the reason you keep on being told them is because they’re the simplest, cheapest, and most effective ways to your training goals. And before you try anything else, you need to give these three simple truths a good run first.


Teaser photo courtesy of Rx'd Photography.