7 Costly Pre-Competition Mistakes to Avoid

What you should NOT do to be mentally prepared for competition

It is almost universal for athletes to feel some sort of anxiety before a competition. Is this a good, or a bad thing?

Well, you have got to decide. If you decide that it is good, you will probably welcome the “butterflies” as a sign that you are ready for competition since some anxiety is necessary for us to perform at our best (positive game jitters). Besides, one of the main reasons why athletes compete is due to the tingling excitement and anticipation that a competition brings!

Anxiety or Excitement?

When athletes decide that pre-game jitters are a bad thing, they will start to over- think, compare themselves with other athletes, get overly concerned about results and even start worrying about how others may think if they do not perform well. When this happens, pre-game jitters will snowball into performance anxiety – a sinking feeling in your stomach (some even feel like throwing up), which is sure to deter you from performing at your best.

Of course, dealing with performance anxiety is not as straightforward as simply “deciding” to feel excited rather than anxious. However, it is easier for you to perceive pre-game jitters something positive and to generate the optimal level of mental activation if you could avoid these pre-game mistakes.



Having Strict Expectations about Your Performance

“I must score in every game!”, “I have to win this race”! In spite of what has been taught of positive expectations, maintaining high, strict performance expectations can actually restrict your success.

Using the first two statements as examples, a soccer player who has yet to score a goal will begin to question his ability and get increasingly anxious as the match progresses. A distance runner may get overwhelmed by adrenalin, resulting in loss of cadence, strength, and confidence when he starts getting overtaken by other runners.

In short, having strict expectations puts yourself up for a win or lose proposition, you either make it or you don’t. Consequently, if you are unable to achieve your preset expectations, you will question your ability that day – be it during or after a performance. Hence, expectations set you up for failure before you even begin, and in most cases, the expectations translate to pressure and in turn cause pregame anxiety.

“Know the difference between happiness and goals…”

~ Coach Hansen

So what should you do when you find yourself dwelling on such expectations? Aim to replace expectations with manageable objectives (also known as process goals) instead. For example, the soccer player can focus on checking into passing lanes and making decisive runs into the box. Meanwhile, the marathon runner could refocus on maintaining his breathing pattern to be in sync with the pace that he has trained at.



Leaving Self-Confidence to Chance

Self-confidence is paramount to performing at your best. If you have belief in your ability, you are less likely to become anxious before big games or
high-pressure situations.

Many athletes leave their confidence to chance. They get confident only when they have made a couple of great plays at the start of the game. Subsequently, their performance suffers when they make mistakes or lose the first couple of points. They begin to react with self-doubt and are less likely to remain composed and recover from mistakes. This is known as reactive confidence.

You want a proactive approach to confidence and not a reactive approach.

“I’ve always thought that confidence was some- thing you either have or don’t. One thing I’ve learned from Coach Hansen is that confidence is something you can grow, but it doesn’t increase overnight. It takes weeks, even months, to build confidence and it takes a whole damn lot of practice.”

Aisyah Saiyidah
Olympian and SEA Games Gold Medalist (Rowing)


Proactive confidence means creating a stable level of belief in your skills that is not easily shaken and that is based on your years of practice and play. I teach athletes to do this by getting them to remind themselves of their past accomplishments and reasons why they deserve to play with confidence. You should write down past accomplishments, small successes or awards, and abilities you possess. Your confidence should be stable and based on your lifetime of training. It should not change due to one mistake in a game. Try to recall the reasons you have to be confident in games and practice and bring them into competition.



Carrying Life’s Worries into Sports

Some athletes have problems putting aside life events or daily life troubles when they enter a competition. Whether the issue is a term test or an argument with a friend or family member, one goal of mental preparation is your ability to separate your life from sports.

The pregame warm up is the time to start focusing on the sport. Think of the routine as the shift from class, work or usual activities to competing in sports. Some athletes are disoriented by life issues when they compete, and this disturbs their concentration and gameplay. Use the pregame routine to put aside daily distractions, such as deadlines and chores, to become fully focus on the competition.

Besides the pregame warm up, another method that I use with my athletes is to write down these problems on a piece of paper and keep it away. They will then remind themselves mentally that they are now entering the role of an athlete, and will deal with the problems after the game instead.



Over-Thinking your Game before Competition

Perfectionists in individual sports, such as golf and tennis, spend too much time in a training mindset just before a competition. Let’s use the analogy of cramming for a coming examination. Your best bet is to study every day instead of burning the mid- night oil on the night before. In sports, you never want to cram during the final week before the competition.

Your goal is to feel ready when you compete – both physically and mentally. Yet, you do not want to panic just days before and begin to rethink your techniques to make sure you perform well. To avoid overthinking, do not practice your techniques during warm-up. Remind yourself that your practice is complete and it is now time to express yourself and have fun!



Psyching yourself Out before the Competition

Do you compare yourself to your opponents before a competition, or worry about performing poorly because it may affect what others think about you? These are two guaranteed ways to psych yourself out before a competition.

Confidence usually takes a dip when you make comparisons to other athletes who you think are better than you. If you feel intimidated by the competition, take some time during warm-ups to take slow breaths and think about your strengths and talents. You have more important things to do during warm up than gawking at the competition.

Some athletes have the need to be admired, accepted or respected by other people. These athletes are more likely to become tensed and hesitant during competition. Remind yourself that you are ultimately competing for yourself and stop trying to ‘mind-read’ what others are going to think about you.

If you have the tendency to psyche yourself out, refocus your mind on manageable goals (process goals) instead. Also, focus on your own strengths and talent by visualizing a time that you played your best. Think about the game plan or anything that will help you prepare for the game.



Worrying about the Result or Outcomes

Do you worry too much about winning or losing the game or, to be more specific, the consequence of it? This is a common trigger for stress or anxiety. For example, a golfer might worry about shooting a high score, but the real pressure might be the fear of embarrassment or letting someone down. Worrying about the consequences of shooting a poor score in the most stressful part. You might be most worried about your perceive others might say or think about you should you not play well. If you focus only on avoiding mistakes and failure, you’ll underperform and not reach your potential. You will also feel more doubt, which sabotages your confidence.

“ Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. ”

~ Babe Ruth, Baseball Great

When you catch yourself fretting over the outcome of the game, refocus your mind on manageable goals (process goals) instead. Also, focus on your own strengths and talent by visualizing a time that you played your best. Think about the game plan or anything that will help you prepare for the game.



Poor tactical planning or lack of a game plan

You should never participate in a competition without a game plan or strategy. In team sports, most coaches give you the game plan. However, individual athletes must come up with their own game plans and strategies. You want to have a game plan that guides you to play to your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses.

“ Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”

~ Bobby Unser, Automobile Racing Legend

Your pregame preparation should also take into account the unanticipated events that could happen during competition. Examples include unexpected equipment faults and even intimidation tactics by your competition. By preparing yourself for the unexpected, you are more likely able to maintain your confidence and composure when faced with uncertain challenges.


Article brought to you by Mental Edge Singapore

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Alleviating Hypertension Naturally

Life Lesson

Blessed with a solid build and bulging biceps, the ruddy-faced Kheng, an entrepreneur in his mid-30s, looks like he’s in the pink of health. Many people are thus surprised to learn that the fit father of one, who counts fencing and jogging among his hobbies, has been grappling with hypertension for over a decade.

“I first realised that I suffered from borderline hypertension during my pre-National Service enlistment medical check-up,” Kheng recalls. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, a normal adult’s systolic blood pressure should be lower than or equal to 140mmHg (18.6kPa), while his diastolic blood pressure should be lower than or equal to 90mmHg (12kPa). He invested in a blood pressure monitor and kept to a healthy diet and exercise routine. However, as stress built up over the years, his condition deteriorated. At 31, after suffering from a double whammy of work-related stress and his mother’s death, Kheng found himself in the hospital when his systolic blood pressure shot past the 180mmHg mark.

Since then, he has been popping Atenolol daily to curb it. “But once I miss a dose, my blood pressure goes right up, laments Kheng. Although he is still faithfully taking his medicine, he is hoping to find alternative treatments to complement and, hopefully, cure his hypertension. NATURA asks Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda practitioners how they can help Kheng and other patients with hypertension.

*Not his real name

Causes of Hypertension:

According to Mr VC Ajith Kumar, a physician with Ayush Ayurvedic who has 24 years of experience, blood pressure varies from person to person depending on the age, gender and amount of physical and mental work one does.

Males, the aged and those who are exposed to more mental and physical work normally maintain higher blood pressure than others. Physiological conditions, such as fear, anger and excitement, also cause blood pressure to rise. Conversely, a person who is resting or sleeping will maintain a lower blood pressure,” explains Ajith.

Ayurvedic practice also believes that blood pressure rises because of the Vitiation of Vatha (vatha is one of the three doshas, which maintain harmony in the body). Excessive intake of salt, lack of exercise, worry, sleeplessness, kidney diseases and other conditions corrupt the vatha and result in high blood pressure. This is particularly evident in old age, especially when the kidney is affected. The Principal of the Singapore College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr Xiang Ping, a veteran Chinese physician who has 44 years of experience under his belt, shares several other risk factors for hypertension. These include family history (when both parents have high blood pressure), excessive fat intake, long-term excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity. In addition, long-term mental stress due to occupational and environmental factors (such as constant exposure to noise) and even adverse visual stimulation can also raise one’s blood pressure.

As a result, a patient with hypertension usually can’t sleep well and may experience palpitation, headaches, vertigo and insomnia. He may also suffer from numbness of the limbs, exhibit forgetfulness and an inability to concentrate. When high blood pressure becomes chronic, the capillaries supplying blood to the eyes, especially to the retina, are affected, which results in local bleeding and impairment of vision. Arteries supplying blood to the brain may even rupture, causing cerebral haemorrhage and resulting in paralysis. “Repeated bleeding may occur in different parts of the body,” warns Dr Xiang.

As hypertension is a silent disease, some patients may not notice symptoms for years. However, diagnosis is simple, and appropriate treatment can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.

Treating Hypertension the Ayurveda Way

Medicines that alleviate vayu, (or breathing) and strengthen the nervous system are useful, says Mr VC Ajith Kumar, a physician with Ayush Ayurvedic.

These include garlic and Sarpagandra (rauvolfia serpentine).

Sirodhara therapy may also be considered. Boiled medicated oils with sida rhombifolia (白背黄花稔) and milk are used in this therapy. This oil is kept in a vessel hanging from the pedestal or the roof of the house. The patient lies on the ground on his back and the medicated oil drips from a small hole at the bottom of the vessel onto his forehead, between the eyebrows. This helps the patient sleep soundly at night, and can lead to lowered blood pressure.

As for the diet, avoid hot and spicy foods, salt and hydrogenated oils. Cook with almond oil and eat plenty of vegetables—especially bitter gourd, patola and bimbi—to ‘smoothen’ your bowels. Avoid colicasia and yellow varieties of pumpkin. Instead, choose dried fruits, orange, banana, guava and apples to improve your condition.

In terms of lifestyle, avoid late nights and mental strain, and rest as much as possible. While the patient can undertake physical exercise, lifting of heavy weights is to be avoided. Keep to regular meals and bowel movements. Ajith also recommends devoting time for meditation to gain mental peace and tranquility.

Treating Hypertension with TCM

TCM calls for a comprehensive regime to tackle the root of the problem. Dr Xiang Ping, the Principal of the Singapore College of TCM, recommends complementing anti-hypertensive drugs with Chinese medicines, prescribed according to your afflictions. For example, those with deficiency in the liver-yin and kidney-yin can try Liuwei Dihuang pills (六味地黄丸), while those who have deficiencies in both yin and yang may benefit from Guilu Erxian glue (龟鹿二仙胶) and Jingui Shenqi pills (金匮肾气丸).

Dr Xiang also advises patients to keep calm, maintain a disciplined lifestyle and an appropriate exercise regime, such as walking, gymnastics, taiji and qigong. Stick to a light diet rich in vitamins and protein, but cut down on salt and cholesterol, and avoid smoking and alcohol. Dr Xiang recommends incorporating more potassium-rich vegetables such as celery and carrots, and calcium-rich items such as milk, walnuts and fish. A simple diet he recommends includes three bananas daily, a ‘snow soup’ cooked with 100g of jellyfish head and 250g of water chestnut, and taking 200g of tomatoes on an empty stomach every morning.

Liu Xing, a senior physician from Eu Yan Sang Premier TCM Centre with 29 years’ experience, says treating hypertension with prescriptions is not enough. “There’s a saying that goes ‘30% medication, 70% maintenance’,” she reveals. “It is just as important to change one’s lifestyle.”

Senior Physician Liu encourages everyone to stop smoking and cut down on alcohol and salty, fatty foods. Instead, one should take more lean protein and fibre. One should also take up a suitable exercise such as walking, swimming or taiji, especially if one is overweight.

Her dietary tips come in groups of threes: three vegetables (eggplant, celery and shitake mushroom), three fruits (water melon, apple and water chestnut) and three teas (hawthorn berry, chrysanthemum and cassia seed). For TCM herbs, she recommends Gastrodia (tianma) and Gambir Vine (gouteng) (for those with weak yin and strong yang), Ji Ju Di Huang Tang, a soup containing Chinese wolfberry, chrysanthemum and foxglove root (for those with weak liver and weak yin), and Er Xian Tang (for those weak in both yin and yang). However, you should always consult a TCM practitioner for a personalised formulation.

Liu warns, “If symptoms of hypertension are not addressed, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, renal dysfunction and diabetes can develop.” She also advises older folks to be particularly careful. “According to a 2004 National Health Survey, 60% of males and 85% of females above the age of 70 suffer from hypertension.”


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12 Sport Parenting Tips from a Non-Parent

Its universal, young athletes seek approval from their parents, and parents, for the most part, have their children’s best interests in mind.

However, against the current climate where early specialization is the norm and Direct School Admission (DSA) often the main motivation, it’s easy for parents, coaches and young athletes to get overwhelmed by the competitiveness of youth sport.

Over the years as a PE teacher and later as a Sport & Psychology coach, I’ve observed how expectations placed on athletes by their parents have not only undermined their enjoyment but their confidence as well. As a result, many aspiring athletes suffer from performance anxiety, burnout and give up on sport altogether.

Make no mistake, parents have the best intentions but they may not know how best to help their children strive for success without undue pressure.

I’ll attempt to share how we can address this challenge over 12 related tips that are built on each other.

The first 3 tips will help parents reflect on the WHY, specifically,

1. The purpose behind youth sport and,

2. How we ought to define success in youth sport (or even in life!)

This understanding will provide you with the guidance when you start applying the remaining tips on HOW to help young athletes do their best without being over- whelmed by the pressures to win and to look good.

Specifically, the focus is on how we can help young athletes build resilience in sport and life through a constructive Parent – Athlete relationship.

Tip 1: Remember Why…

“Why do children take part in Sport?” vs.
“Why do parents want their children to take part in Sport?”

I was at the National Youth Sport Institute (NYSI) conference for Sport Parents. One of the speakers Andrew Pichardo reminded parents to remember why kids take part in Sport. Children take part in sport to have fun and to make friends.

Andrew Pichardo at the NYSI Conference for Parents


Tensions will inevitably arise when parents overemphasize on winning and worse, start influencing their children to perceive their peers more as competitors rather than friends.

Parent ought to also spend some time reflecting on why they want their children to take part in sports, and if these reasons are aligned with their current behaviours.

Tip 2: Success without happiness is NOT Success

It is challenging to have a healthy outlook on success against a “must win” aka “Kiasu” backdrop where the definition of failure and success is so narrow – you either win or you lose. Since there is only one winner in any competition, does that mean the rest of the competitors are losers?

This narrow definition kills the joy of competition and little wonder why kids are dropping out of Sport!

“There is no point telling a 10-year-old kid ‘you have to win’, and every day he carries on his shoulder the burden of winning and trains in order to win. It takes away the joy of sports participation. Let him grow, learn and enjoy the sport.”

Mr Ong Kim Soon,
Director of Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch.

Parents who want to raise successful achievers view success and happiness as mutually inclusive. They often have a long term perspective and are able to define success in a way that taps into their children’s intrinsic motivation.


Tip 3: Success = Effort and Learning

School competitions are mainly won by the early developers – the taller and stronger kids and those who have access to better resources. Specifically, an early bloomer with (or even without) better resources will almost definitely beat the late developers.

Both students are of the same age


Pause and think about this for a moment. If success is only about winning, where does this leave the late bloomers? Most of them would give up without developing their potential. Nothing is more discouraging to effort and persistence than knowing that you are deemed a loser despite your best efforts – it’s an invitation to helplessness.

Success = Winning OR, Success = Effort and Learning?

Would it be more worthwhile for us to adopt a longer-term perspective to success? One that helps kids develop a love of learning and resilience in the face of obstacles beyond sport.

When we focus on the effort that leads to progress and improvement, not only would this help the late bloomers who’s athletic abilities will only become appar- ent later, but we are also equipping our youth with the attributes to succeed in the game of life.


“So HOW exactly do we raise successful and happy athletes?”

Tip 4: Stop “Should-ing!”

Imagine a parent who’s driving his kid to competition while relentlessly reminding her about what she must, should or should not do.

What’s that going to do to her mental game? Not only is this annoying, but she is also going to bring all these perceived demands into the game and she’s either going to try too hard or become too tentative and cautious. Both are opposite sides of the same coin stemming from a fear of failure and judgement.

What is this parent likely to do right after the game? No prizes for guessing! He will go into a barrage of “You should have-s” and “I told you so-s”.

No wonder sports is no longer fun and the young athlete suffers from performance anxiety!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that feedback and reminders are important but there has to be a better way to do this.


Tip 5: Ask instead of Tell

Instead of saying “You should grip the club with your fingers instead of your palm.” Try “What’s the best way to hold your club?”

Instead of saying “You should really start scoring.” Try “What have you learnt from your coach that will help you shoot more accurately?”

“The brain that does the thinking, does the learning…” Ms Penny Crisfield, Inter- national Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) Master Trainer

Is it wrong to Tell? You are the adult and you are simply using your knowledge and experience to teach your kids what to do. What’s so wrong with that? Well, it’s not wrong to tell and it really depends on whether your instructions are based on the process or outcome.

Telling is associated with Teaching while Asking is related more to Coaching. Good coaching is a combination of Telling and Asking. The problem is that we are relying so much more on Telling rather than Asking to coach athletes.


Tip 6: More Coaching and Less Teaching

This is related closely to Tip 5. Teaching is primarily a one-way interaction. The teacher is the expert and shows or tells the learner how to do something. The learner either gets it right or wrong.

Indeed, Coaching requires practice and experienced coaches use a range of techniques to encourage learners to become confident and independent thinkers. How- ever, this does not mean that you can’t coach. Now, I don’t mean interfering with the Sports Coach. Let the Coach do his job on the field. In fact, you ought to respect the coaches’ role instead of giving contradicting pointers.

What I’m suggesting is a better way to do a review (after practice or competition) with your young athlete instead of going into a tirade of ‘I told you so-s’!

You will learn how to praise effective effort and progress in the Parents As Coach E-Course.


Tip 7: Review with the ESL Reflection Model

The ESL reflection model (scroll down to the infographic) is a feedback tool that I’ve developed for both coaches and parents. They have found it to be simple, intuitive and effective!

It is based on the three behaviours associated with the Growth Mindset – Effort, Support and Learning. Under each behaviour, you will find questions or thinking routines intended to help align your athlete’s thoughts with the Growth Mindset.

Remember to do a review only when the athlete is receptive. Attempting to do so when the athlete is feeling emotional after a loss is definitely a bad idea! Athletes will learn more about the ESL Reflection Model during their 1-to-1 Coaching Program.


Tip 8: Praise Effort and Learning

You’ve probably heard this one before but it’s a worthwhile reminder. Praising talent and ability actually pushes your young athlete towards the Fixed Mindset where she is more likely to be overly concerned about how she looks, be more likely to suffer from performance anxiety, and gives up easily.

Specifically, we are helping athletes develop confidence and resilience by focusing their energies on what they have control over (e.g., process goals, effort and learning from mistakes), rather than feeling helpless and anxious over things that they have no direct control over (e.g., winning and how others will perceive them).

They are also more likely to be reflective independent thinkers who have fun while pursuing their sporting goals.

Learners who are praised for effort tend to value hard work and striving to learn far more than looking smart. Meanwhile, I’ve summarized Tips 7, 8 and more with the infographic on the next page.


Tip 9: Do Not be rude towards players, other parents, coaches and officials

This one seems like common sense but the often ultra-competitive and sometimes fanatical context of youth sport makes these parents completely lose perspective. We sometimes see parents arguing with referees, coaches and even secretly scouting other competitors.

“If we want young players to be composed on the field then we adults ought to be able to do the same as we guide them through sport and life…”


Tip 10: Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!

This is going to sound really challenging especially in our local context – the best thing that a parent can do is to have an absolute absence of concern for results. Be supportive of them when they are winning and be even more supportive when they have the courage to fail.

It’s hard to be encouraging when we are constantly focused on the score though. When adults do that, the kids are learning that mistakes are NOT OK and that your love is conditional on winning. This has also implications on their composure, confidence and even their mental health.

Sometimes, being encouraging does not mean that you always have to be at all the training and competitions. I know more than a few youngsters who actually prefer their parent to not be present at games.


Tip 11: Model the Growth Mindset

If we want children to be composed on the field, we adults need to get a grip of our own emotions as we guide them through Sport and Life.

When we are deliberate about making use of the ESL (Effort, Support and Learning) reflection model to provide feedback and to guide our own thinking, our own thoughts and emotions soon begin to shift as well. We are more likely to remain calm, supportive to model composure and the Growth Mindset.


Last but not least…

Tip 12: Don’t take yourself too seriously

As I am dishing out this advice, myself a psychology coach no less, have been guilty of losing it at games too. I wanted my team to win so badly and I went “wtf was that??!!!” I had to remind myself that I was an adult and that the players were going to get even more nervous if I behaved like a wreck.

We all mess up sometimes and these are opportunities to remind ourselves to be less reactive to our emotions and refocus on why children take part in sports (Tip 1), and that success without happiness is NOT a success (Tip 2).

That’s it! This is the final piece for ‘Sport Parenting Tips from a Non-Parent’. I hope that they’ve given you some insights into youth sport.



I’ve worked with hundreds of youth athletes and some have achieved success at regional and international games. For most, it simply meant achieving the goals that they set for themselves. For almost all, it meant a remarkable experience that positively shaped their futures.

For every one of those athletes, there were parents who were committed to being the best sport parent they could be. There were parents who had the strength to resist the unhealthy messages that are so prevalent in youth sports these days. And there were parents who were determined to send messages to their children that would help them becomes successful achievers not only in Sport, but in Life.

If you’re reading this e-book, chances are that you love your children and want to give them every opportunity to experience all that sports participation has to offer. I would suggest that you look into enrolling in the Parent as Coach E- Program.

The Parent as Coach E-Program has been developed for sport parents who are keen to help their young athlete achieve their athletic and life goals, while raising them to be happy and resilient!


Courtesy of Mental Edge

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Let’s talk about Dietary Control

Last night I read a social media post that is stuck on my brain. It involved a topic that I feel very strongly about, and one that I encounter both personally and professionally on a daily basis: dietary control.

If you follow triathlon, chances are you’re familiar with Holly Lawrence. If not, you can read about her accolades on her website. The Cliff’s Notes version: she’s a firecracker of a triathlete, having earned herself a World Champion title and several 70.3 wins over the past couple years. Then she had a startling DNF at the World Championships in Chattanooga this year. (For my uninitiated friends, DNF=Did Not Finish.)

It wasn’t until yesterday that Holly bravely shared the series of events that led to her DNF. I invite you to hit up her Instagram page to read the two-part explanation of her experience.

I have never met Holly, though I’ve eaten her dust a couple of times in Oceanside. But her post yesterday made me an instant super-fan. It is not often that pros of her caliber open up so courageously about their struggles. And with her candor comes an opportunity for others to learn and avoid similar pitfalls.

Here’s why I feel so passionately about this topic and why we need more athletes like Holly to share their experiences.

You are a human being first. Whether competitive athletes or not, the vast majority of my clientele come to me seeking to lose an extra few pounds. I operate under this mantra: they are human beings first, athletes second. There are basic needs for optimal health that must be satisfied whether you’re an athlete or not (and sometimes more so because you’re athletic.) Adequate calories, a nutrient-packed diet and other wellness behaviors like sleep, stress management and self-care all contribute to a healthy human being. Only after we address these vital health needs will we then start monkeying with calories, macros and body composition.

Dietary control does not equate to increased performance. If you’ve ever worked with me, you may recall that our first conversation involves an exploration into priorities: are you set on an arbitrary number on the scale, or is optimal health most important? Many clients are taken aback by this discussion, assuming that moderate weight loss and leanness equate to health and performance. Not so! In fact, I have seen more negative performance outcomes from strict dietary control than I have seen performance benefits. And this is coming from someone who engages in a little self-experimentation on the subject. I may not have the street cred of a world champion. But I can 100% relate to the mindset which draws one past the realm of optimal performance into a world where control, extremes and impeccable discipline are paramount.


The illusion of perfection has a strong pull. Like a mysterious creature that feeds off of doubt, comparison and ultimately fear, it lies in wait until the right scenario presents itself. Only then does it emerge to seduce you into its world. Once you’re in this world, all you can see is control. Focus. Black and white or conditional thinking. Rules around eating become paramount. Social situations are profoundly influenced by these rules and the praise that comes with how “fit” or “great” you look only feeds the beast.

Stop and think for a moment about some common triggers for this cascade. In Holly’s case, it was an injury. Another culprit is a disappointing outcome in a race or even an entire season. In contrast, sometimes a breakthrough performance can initiate extreme dietary control.

It knows no gender. So often we associate dietary control with females. Sure, disordered eating is more common in women, but when it comes to athletes the pendulum doesn’t swing so strongly in favor of one gender. Notably, Jesse Thomas has shared his past struggles with balancing nutrition and performance. Just this past season, I had a conversation with another accomplished male pro who asked my opinion on supplementation to increase his iron and stabilize his hormone levels. It took about 5 minutes of listening to his typical dietary patterns for me to provide my prescription: “EAT MORE!” I have also worked with a number of age group athletes and weekend warriors who are blind to the connection between adequate nutrition and mental, emotional and physical health. We’re talking about health, remember? Not just performance. And just because males don’t menstruate doesn’t mean they avoid grave health consequences from aberrant dietary control. (See RED-S for more info).

We “should” know better. No judgment here. But this conversation has been blasted ad nauseum yet we still go rounds with it. Especially at the elite level, it might seem surprising that athletes still fall victim to the mentality that lighter=faster and dietary control=dedication to sport. We’ve heard all the warnings, so why do some still stumble down this path?

Even I, the nutrition expert preaching on her soap box right now, have the occasional battle with the mental demons who promise that a little more discipline will make things all better. Having struggled with a running injury heading into Ironman Arizona, I became aware of some detrimental thoughts creeping in. “Just keep yourself light while on this running hiatus and it will be easier to bring back the run.” And “Maybe whittling off a pound or two could ease the impact on your body, thus preventing running issues in the future.” Thank goodness for my training as a dietitian, which counters these thoughts with impartial facts: restricting nutrition and losing weight, especially during a healing period, can lead to prolonged injury, undue mental stress and weakness upon return to sport.

The pressure to perform. The desire to compete. The need for control. These influencers lead to actions based on emotion rather than rational thought. As I was once told by sports psychologist Gloria Petruzzelli (whom I profoundly respect), “feelings aren’t facts.” Understandably, it is incredibly difficult to distinguish between the two when your brain is experiencing an emotional hijacking. And this battle between what we are feeling versus the evidence and facts is what can lead to the downward spiral.

But hopefully if it ever happens to you, you’ll remember a cautionary story from an icon like Holly or Jesse. Or perhaps you’ll recall that blog you once read on some dietitian’s website. Whatever message brings you back to reality, my hope is that this continual conversation promotes healthy attention to dietary control and total wellness- whether you’re a world champion or not.


Article from our friend Erin Green

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3 Simple Shoulder Moblility Moves To Do At Your Desk


We sit hunched over at the desk for hours on end. We’re typing and slouching and slowly sinking into “bad” posture.

Our shoulders are paying the price for this, but is our 1 hour at the gym here and there helping us improve that?

Is our personal trainer constantly barking at us to “get your shoulders back and down” helping?

What does, “get your shoulders back and down” even mean anyway?

If we think of our body as a map that our brain is trying to read, then for most of us this map is smudged at best. We’re not able to get a clear message to our brain about our body’s parts in space. So when we hear “back and down” often times we don’t have access to the “STUFF” that’s supposed to do that.

But did you know that the more you move your “STUFF” around, the more we’re able to learn about our body? I say “STUFF” because I want to keep this as simple as possible for anyone who’s reading this, without getting too far into the science jargon.

Being more mindful of our experience changes the information that we are able to recall

When you move your joints through the range of motion that you currently have, it’s like you’re exploring the places on a map that you’re uncertain about. It’s like going to a place you haven’t been in a long time. You have an idea in your mind what it looked like, but you may not be able to pick out the details. It could even be a place you go regularly but are never mindful of when you visit. For example, you know what the street of your hometown is like, but can you remember the color of each of the homes on that street? You may not even know the color of the homes on your own street. Being more mindful of our experience changes the information that we are able to recall.

A similar process happens when we move our stuff around. We can move around mindlessly all day and our body has a general picture, but when we become mindful about the space we’re exploring, we’re able to pick out the details. The more frequently we do this, the more we’re able to clarify the details.

Your joint health depends on movement to imbibe new fluids and flush out waste. Our movement acts as a pump and limitations in range limit the ability to do this.

Our body works in a “use it or lose it” sort of way. If you don’t go somewhere in a long time, there becomes less of a need to recall specifics. How often do you squat past the height of your chair, sofa, bed, or toilet? Eh… no need for my hips to work past that point so for most people this slowly begins to become a limitation throughout life.

Back to your desk.

We’re sitting.

We become fatigued.

We do very little to expand and explore our full range of motion.

Shoulders and Spine round and we end up in a vicious cycle leading towards compromised posture. The only “bad” posture is the posture you spend too much time in. The body should be fluid so let’s create more opportunities to move daily with these 3 Simple Shoulder Mobility Movements you can do at your desk.

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Have a look at the video breaking down the 3 Simple exercises below.


Check out the video below with 3 Simple Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk.



This article is brought to you by

Richard Thurman

Fitness & Mobility for Executives

Appetite Suppressants from the Kitchen


Condiments such as vinegar or apple cider are appetite suppressants.

Vinegar contains the diluted form of acetic acid, which keeps food in the stomach over a longer time, so the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, is delayed. Also, the vinegar makes the brain feel that it is being rewarded. Be mindful that moderation is key. Given its acidic quality, vinegar may irritate the esophagus and stomach, while too much acid over time may leach calcium from the bones and damage tooth enamel.

In a study published in the online version of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects were served vinegar of varying strengths together with their carbohydrate (white bread in this instance). It was found that the higher the vinegar level, the lower the blood glucose response and the stronger the feeling of satiety as compared to a meal of the white bread without vinegar at all. A similar experiment conducted at Arizona State University and published in the American Diabetes Association website also reported comparable results.

In effect, taking vinegar before meals lowers the glycemic index of the foods you consume. This means they are absorbed more slowly by your body, thus helping you stay full longer without an attack of the munchies.

It is known to stave off food cravings for up to 90 minutes. Furthermore, the effects of increased fat metabolism in the liver can extend more than three hours after a meal when vinegar is consumed.

Other appetite-suppressing foods to consider include pine nuts and green tea. Which food and method works best for you depends on your body and your willingness to create that lifechanging habit of adopting a good diet plan. Of course, in the search for weight-loss foods, one should be mindful of one’s state of health and dietary restrictions, such as when you’re pregnant, plagued with skin breakouts, recovering from the flu, or suffering from a gassy stomach.

Majmudar advises, “Pregnant women should avoid raw honey, raw vegetables, unpasteurised cheeses and raw fish because of the risk of food poisoning and dangerous exposure to food-borne infections. For clear skin, a healthy diet that cuts out skin-clogging fried foods should do the trick. For an already gassy stomach, choose light natural foods that are good for digestion, and avoid refined foods like cakes and pastries.”


This article is brought to you by Eu Yan Sang.