How to Build an Integrated Approach to Training

The Everest Principle

From professionals to amateurs, it's no secret that every athlete wants to perform at the highest level. To reach a personal best at a chosen sport/activity is often an athlete's ultimate goal. A little-known secret is the importance of incorporating an integrative, multi-disciplinary approach into your routine. After training athletes through the Peak Performance program at Canyon Ranch, we found that individuals who used our multi-disciplinary approach were the most successful in accomplishing their goals.

This integrative approach focuses on multiple areas at the same time: medical, behavioral, exercise, and nutritional. We do not consider each area as a separate entity, but feel all the components need to be evaluated and dealt with to improve an athlete's overall performance. Leaving one area out would be like trying to drive a car on three tires instead of four; it can drive but certainly not at the level it is capable of.

Building Your Integrated Approach

To start, you need to designate a "quarterback" of your interdisciplinary team to bring everything together. At Canyon Ranch, we designate a particular person to take that role, but for you that quarterback can be your coach, trainer, or yourself. The quarterback's responsibility is to know what everyone else is doing to help take care of you. Make sure the quarterback has a clear idea of your goal so he/she can best guide and support you in attaining realistic and achievable progress toward this goal.

  • Medical: Before embarking on any exercise regime, it is important to meet with a physician to ensure your body can handle the rigors of a training program. The medical evaluation for the athlete, competitive or not, is more scrutinizing and detailed than a routine history and physical exam. Very small physical maladies can add up to big problems. This is particularly true when you push yourself during your training program. For example, a minor tendonitis can become a significant setback if it isn't addressed as soon as possible. Some other things to look out for:
    • Lab work: When looking at an athlete's blood analysis, the reference ranges we use are often different from the average individual. Iron levels are one example. One of iron's major uses in the body is to help make red blood cells and carry oxygen throughout the body. Ask to test your serum ferritin level (which measures iron storage). Most labs feel it should be above 30ng/ml. For the athlete who needs to maximize their oxygen carrying capacity, our goal is to have it higher than 50 ng/ml.
    • Peripheral vision: This is another major component of the athlete's physical exam that is not usually focused on during most routine physicals. Athletes who have an expansive peripheral vision have a significant competitive advantage. If you have an average or poor peripheral vision then you would be advised to do daily exercises to improve it. One exercise to try: look in one direction and try to catch an object that is being thrown to you from the opposite direction.
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