If you work with athletes, you know they are always pursuing excellence. But achieving excellence isn’t just about building muscle or running faster. As a coach, helping an athlete perform their best is about seeing them as a whole person. This means looking at not just their physical training but their diet, their stress and their mental/emotional states.

For an athlete to truly excel, we need to consider every part of their life.

Most of the time, training focuses mainly on the physical side of things, which might help in the beginning, but this approach misses out on so much that contributes to an athlete’s performance – both positively and negatively. If they’re eating inflammatory foods, for example, that will affect core stability in a way that no amount of training can compensate for. By taking a holistic view, we start to see how everything is connected. 

More deeply, as a coach, it’s not enough to just give instruction. We’re here to be mentors, to guide our athletes through their journey towards a lifestyle that supports peak performance. By weaving overall lifestyle modifications like diet changes, improved sleep and rest strategies, and stress reduction techniques, we can unlock the true potential of our athletes, guiding them not only to success in their sports but also to a healthier, more balanced, and fulfilling life.

Understanding the Athlete: Beyond Physical Training

When we step into the gym, we’re not just stepping into a place where muscles grow. We’re entering a space where people grow. Each athlete carries a world within them—a world that stretches far beyond the sweat on the gym floor. They bring their hopes, their fears, their stresses, and their dreams. And as coaches, it’s our job to tune into that, to really listen and understand the whole person we’re working with.

Inspiring your athlete

There are lots of excellent body mechanics out there that can do a decent job of training the body. But training the person? That’s where the true art and science of coaching come in. It’s about looking at our athletes and seeing more than just their physical needs. It’s recognizing that their performance is tightly woven with their diet, their sleep, and their mental state.

So, how do we, as coaches, step up? How do we make sure we’re nurturing every aspect of our athletes so that they can tap into their true potential?

Action Steps:

  1. Listen With All You’ve Got: Start every session by checking in. How’s their energy? Are they sleeping well? What’s going on in their lives? This isn’t about being nosy; it’s about making sure that they are actually ready to exercise. Exercise is a stress and if they’re sleeping poorly and stressed out from relationship or financial issues, their body may not be in a place to handle another stress.
  2. Make It Whole: Integrate advice on sleep, diet, and stress management into your sessions. If you’re focusing on the gym, consider partnering with a CHEK Professional who can bring in that holistic perspective.
  3. Customize the Plan: No two athletes are the same. Their training shouldn’t be either. Use what you learn from them to tailor not just their workouts, but their recovery strategies, their diet, and their de-stressing techniques..
  4. Keep the Conversation Going: Encourage openness. Make your training space one where it’s okay to talk about mental health, about struggles and triumphs beyond the gym. This is the reality of training athletes – they are great at BS’ing themselves and others about what they can tolerate. Honesty about how they are feeling is paramount.

By broadening our approach and embracing the complexity of the human being in front of us, we open the door to deeper, more meaningful progress. We start to see transformations that go beyond physical strength to resilience, confidence, and a sense of well-being that permeates every part of their lives. That’s the power of holistic training. That’s the journey we’re on together.

Integrating Diet and Lifestyle Coaching

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 40 years of coaching, it’s that what we put into our bodies plays a monumental role in our performance and health. Our diet isn’t just about fueling the body; it’s about nourishing  the mind, and improving focus and mental clarity.

So, how do we bring this into our training? How do we make sure we’re feeding not just the muscles but the whole person?

Action Steps:

  1. Food as Medicine: Start conversations about food. Not just what to eat and what not to eat, but why. Talk about the power of whole, organic foods. Introduce the idea that food can heal, can energize, and can transform. We are what we eat. Don’t make yourself out of McDonald’s!
  2. Hydration is Key: Water isn’t just water. It’s life. Encourage your athletes to hydrate, not just during training, but all day, every day. Make them aware of how hydration affects not just their performance but their mood, their skin, their focus. And educate them about water – not all water is the same! Avoid tap water and go for high quality water like Evian or Fiji.
  3. Sleep Like a Champion: We don’t get stronger in the gym. We get stronger when we rest. Sleep is when the body heals, grows, and rejuvenates. Teach your athletes about the importance of sleep hygiene, about creating rituals that prepare them for a restful night—a foundation for a day of high quality training..
  4. Stress Management: Let’s face it, the world we live in is stressful. And that stress? It eats away at performance, at motivation, at health. Introduce practices like meditation, deep breathing, or my work-in exercise. Show them that managing stress isn’t just about feeling better; it’s about performing better.

By weaving diet and lifestyle coaching into our training programs, we’re doing more than just preparing athletes for the game. We’re preparing them for life. We’re showing them that to truly excel, to truly shine, they need to look after every part of themselves. And as coaches, we’re there to guide them, every step of the way.

Remember, it’s not just about the hours in the gym. It’s about the 24 hours in the day. How your athlete eats, rests, and manages stress all adds up. It’s all part of the training. And it’s all part of being the best, both in their sport and in life.

Becoming the Catalyst for Peak Performance

Your athlete wants to be a champion – to unlock their absolute peak performance. That’s your objective as a coach. But as their coach, you need to understand that this journey goes beyond the typical metrics of success. It’s about understanding what it truly takes to excel.

What I’ve described isn’t just an alternative approach; it’s a strategy that addresses the complex interplay between training, diet, rest and stress – between all the elements that factor into a healthy, functional body-mind. It’s about fine-tuning every aspect of the athlete’s life to create a harmonious, high-performing machine ready to conquer any challenge.

As coaches, our role is to be the catalysts for this transformation. We’re here to push the boundaries, to inspire and to innovate. By integrating the principles of diet, rest, mental resilience, and stress management into our training, we provide our athletes with the tools they need to reach their highest potential.

The path to peak performance is multifaceted. It requires a commitment to honesty, hard work, and smart work—knowing when to take the athlete’s foot off the gas pedal because they’re going too hard. (Trust me, that may be the most important skill you learn!)

In my experience working with professional athletes in a huge variety of sports, olympic athletes, and extreme sports athletes, the best athletes aren’t just champions in their sport of choice. They’re champions at managing all aspects of their lives.

If you’re working with athletes or that’s your career goal, learning how to take an integrated approach to performance like the one I described will give you a powerful edge over your competitors and an edge for your athletes against their competitors – and they will love you for it!

CHEK Academy