Raising Resilient Athletes


The Perfect Protocol


Athletes, Coaches, and Parents often look for the perfect setup.

The best plan to train, the right food to eat, the best way to sleep, the latest discovery to follow, to one and only way to stretch, and how to peak at the perfect moment.

Please don´t get stressed out too much about all of it. 

Instead of finding the perfect protocol, the key is to avoid doing the stuff we know is not beneficial for good development and performance. Also, keeping an eye on the overall picture more than some nitty-gritty detail may have a better impact.

As an example, we all know enough sleep is important. Do you need to track your sleep when you know already that an hour more every night would be very helpful? I´m not saying a tracker can not be useful, it will provide information about sleep. If this information is not used to make recommended changes, the tracker doesn´t help. Now you may ask, how long a young athlete should sleep? At least 8 hours, 9 would be even better! If this is not an option because your young athlete has trouble going to bed and falling asleep, it is more important to look at everything that happens during the two to three hours before going to bed. I will write an extra blog post about this and link to it.

Now let´s say your athlete has the perfect coach and training protocol, proven by other successful athletes that took the same pathway. If your athlete doesn´t sleep enough or only eats processed food, the best proven training plan will not work the same way. 

But is there really only one way to train to be successful? No! If this were the case, athletes from different training groups and from different nations would not be able to compete at the same level. Not all of them are doing the exact same thing. It is about What Are You Getting Out of Your Session and that the athletes are actually training the way it is necessary for the age not more and not less. Of course, some training plans have room for improvement, but even my coach told me one time better bad training done well than good training done badly.

What should my athlete eat on a race day? That´s a question I get a lot. I would say the perfect pre-race meal plan doesn´t matter when all other days don´t matter. I cover this topic in my blog post Nutrition Awareness. Of course, athletes want to have a routine to follow before a competition, but also to give them calm and confidence, next to good nutrients. Still, sometimes this routine leads to incredible success, and sometimes it just doesn´t. It doesn´t mean the protocol isn´t working. It just shows that humans are complex, and one plan, even for the same person, doesn´t necessarily lead all the time to the same result. So what should we do instead? Provide our athletes with healthy food all year long. Healthy most of the time are foods with 1-5 ingredients. Real, unmodified food, mostly unprocessed or only processed in a way we can do it in our own kitchen. Eating a wide variety vs. following one protocol unless the protocol includes variety. My “protocol,” for example, recommends at least 25 different plants a week. Is it perfect? No, it can be more than that.

I want to cover one more aspect. All the new tools and helpers, like heart rate variability, pressure socks, massage sticks, you name it. All of them are good, some better than others, but none of them replace training. There are all helpful, but only owning them doesn´t do it. No athlete has tight mussels because of a missing massage stick or massage therapist. Both, especially the therapist, are incredibly valuable, but only a massage isn´t doing it either. No tool can take the responsibility from the athlete to train, so sleep, fuel properly, rest, and all the other things.

When we give a kid a protocol to follow, it should also be seen as an orientation on what it takes to become the athlete they want to be. Making the guiding light and fun is and stays crucial for long-term success. Having the best-ever protocol might lead to early success. There is nothing wrong with that. But this perfect protocol is only perfect when it allows athletes to have their own experiences and learnings, room to deal with wins and setbacks that allow them to grow.

Let´s not worry about perfection and little details unless the basics are already covered and don´t leave room for improvement. The basics are: being committed to the process and training (including smart recovery) a good night's sleep, and healthy, nutritious foods.

Let´s guide athletes in a way that they don´t do something crazy, something they even know can not be helpful.

Do you have a Dream? Keep going towards it :)


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