60 years ago or so, the sciences of physics, biology, chemistry and geology were separate. No scientist from one discipline would speak let alone collaborate with a scientist from another discipline. Egotism and pride kept scientists apart, hence science was kept from advancing, kept from evolving our understanding of our world and our universe. That all changed when NASA astronauts returned from the moon with the first samples from beyond our planet. All of a sudden, physicists, biologists, chemists and geologists were all in the same room at the same time and realized that they all needed one another in order to truly study and learn and understand what there was to learn. Now as a result of the collaboration, space travel is ‘normal’ and space exploration is soon to be the next new ‘normal’.

60 years ago is where we are today in human health, in human peak performance, in our understanding of the human body. Physiologists, biomechanists, psychologists and all health professionals rarely if ever collaborate, each too proud, too egotistical in their own discipline to admit that to advance science, for our understanding of the human body to truly evolve requires collaboration amongst all, hence the humility amongst all is required admitting that alone each discipline has failed to find the ‘holy grail’ of health and peak performance.

How can I say this? Watch the video. The results from this “Poison Ivy” Research Study dates back to the 1960s yet today, 60 years later we still have not integrated this knowledge into our model of human health and human peak performance.

Think about the significance of the findings from this scientific research. Rubbed with leaves from a poison ivy plant, the chemicals from the plant leaves having come into contact with the skins surface, yet there is no reaction even in subjects known to react to poison ivy plant chemicals! Conversely, when leaves from a plant other than a poison ivy plant come in contact with the skin, despite no chemical irritant to cause a reaction, a full blown rash develops. How is this possible?

These results contradict every foundational concept in all the human health sciences because it disproves the longstanding belief we maintain of cause & effect is purely from physiological action, and attitudes, narratives, mindset being incapable of overriding what we would call ‘reality’. Case in point, today with the Covid19 pandemic, health professionals and Public Health officials still cannot come to grips with how the virus can behave so differently; meanwhile, the explanation is 60years old! How we perceive, what we believe, and the evidence before us is what determines infection rates, severity of illness, hospitalization admissions, and number of deaths. Post the number of new infections and number of deaths from the common cold and you will get a shoulder shrug from the population. Why? Because our perception of the common cold, our beliefs regarding the common cold and the evidence as to what the common cold entails fails to trigger pandemonium. When Covid19 first broke out, we had no ‘Covid19’ narratives…. hence infection rates and more importantly the severity of the illness, hence hospital admisions and death rates reflected our lack of evidence, and the immediate fears of this being a deadly disease. What has happened? Did Covid19 become less infectious or less severe in its effects? No. Our perception, our beliefs regarding the virus, and the evidence in our communities has reshaped what we believe about the disease. The world is ready to move on, yet politicians and public health officials are sending us into a second lockdown.

Why? Because science that is 60years old has still not been integrated into our understanding of human health, of human performance!

Why? Because it would take medical doctors down off their thrones of ‘knowing it all’ and being the go-to for all things health & health related. Because egotism and pride are at the forefront of science.

This explains equally why 40years of health & fitness facilities, of personal trainers and personal training, of a massive rise in participation in various sporting events has all failed to turn the tide on the true pandemic of our time: obesity.

What this research should help explain is why everything works, until it doesn’t. It explains why….

  • Athletes are capable of willing themselves to higher levels of performance, until they are no longer able to ‘want’ or ‘will’ themselves sufficiently to rise above a prior level of success and being unable to climb higher, decide to quit or retire early (failing to ever reach their fullest potential).
  • Athletes switch from one training concept to another, obtain temporary success with the ‘new’ training theory only to find their results to be fleeting.
  • Athletes switch from one coach to another, obtain temporary success with the ‘new’ coach only to find in time that the new coach is incapable of delivering consistent peak performance results like their ‘old’ coach and every coach before.
  • Athletes switch from one bike fit to another, from one nutrition product to another, from one pair of shoes to another, from one thing – anything – to another, always in hopes that the ‘new’ will provide the solution (which it does temporarily), until it doesn’t.
  • Coaches take on a new rising-star of an athlete only to find the athlete stall out, unable to rise to a higher level of performance.

Why is this the case?

While the brain can believe what it is told to believe, it will manifest physiologically whatever it is that the individual believes. Problem is that this lasts only as long as there is no contradictory evidence [to the beliefs held]. Once evidence exists to suggest that the belief is invalid; then what? Exactly… what then? That’s when the proverbial shit hits the fan, and at this point the fan is usually at turbo speed sending shit flying in every direction imaginable.

This is why the health & fitness industry is infamous for pumping out new workouts, new training tools, new, new, new! Because once the old belief of how to get fit, get strong, get fast starts to tarnish, when a few rusty spots show up the buy-in to the wisdom health & fitness professionals claim to have starts to wane. To prevent the population from realizing that health & fitness professionals are truly wearing the ’emperors new clothes’, a new improved ‘how to’ of exercise, of training for sport, of preparation for peak performance is packaged and sold. This is why one exercise machine, or one exercise routine, or one fitness professional is all the rage… and then they aren’t. Remember Tae-bo? What about jazz-ercise? Which was replaced with Zumba, which will be replaced by something else, and then something else, etc…

Its time for the sciences of physiology, psychology, biomechanics, and all health professionals to truly start to collaborate and take our understanding of human health, of human peak performance to its current potential.

In the meantime, if you truly seek your peak potential find a coach who has the education, the experience, and the evidence demonstrating that they have solved for the variable that is the brain’s belief. As a physiotherapist myself I learnt that my skills in assessing and diagnosing physical impairment and dysfunction were insufficient to truly help my patients heal. To truly rise to the level of professional I felt my patients needed I enrolled in additional physiotherapy courses hoping to expand my knowledge base, but it wasn’t until I obtained a certificate in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that I came to appreciate how anxiety, depression and anger re-wire the thinking of my patients. I then began to understand how the mental state that my patients were holding was holding them back from healing, and in some cases preventing their return to full health. Taking this to athletes the parallel was undeniable: athletes like patients were being held back by their beliefs of themselves and of their potential. It doesn’t end there! In many cases, the failure of the coach to understand how the athlete’s training was further adding to the evidence against their beliefs of greatness was the true source of failure of far too many athletes. Yet coaches still think that harder and harder training will ‘harden’ the athlete yielding their potential. How’s that working out? For a few, it does… for those for whom the training didn’t blow up all their beliefs regarding their potential. As for the majority… destroyed by illness or injury, destroyed by over-trying and over-training, destroyed by the conflict between being unable to do the workouts asked to perform and their understanding of how to rise to their potential in sport.

To gain an appreciation of the scope of this consider in the workplace the issue of low back injuries. Low back injuries in terms of business losses in productivity and output, losses in sales and profit, and health care costs related to the employees recovery and rehab adds up to billions of dollars in the global economy. After years and years of attempting to innovate rehabilitation medicine processes that would result in the penultimate low back injury recovery and rehab routine, new research shows that the failure to resolve low back injuries in the workplace has far less to do with physiological aspects and far more to do with the psychological state of the injured worker. Plainly… if a worker hates their job, hates their co-workers, hates their  boss, then the recoverability of this worker is exceedingly low regardless of the quality of orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists involved in the physiology assessment, diagnosis and treatment of the low back pain.

Translation: the best health care in the world will fail to heal someone who doesn’t want to heal, who doesn’t believe there is value in being healed.

Translation into sport: athletes with the potential to become world champions will fail to develop to their potential if their beliefs fail to align with reality. Since beliefs change and develop no differently than an athlete’s physical body, the ‘training’ and development of beliefs is as crucial to success as all other aspects; problem is… who does this today in sport? Yes, some athletes have psychologists in addition to their coaches, but that is not sufficient. The coach must have the ability to adjust training to suit the changing attitude, mindsets, and narratives of the athlete. Any coach incapable of doing so, in my mind, is no coach.

We have evolved to the point of developing athletes by providing them individualized training plans, but like with low back injuries, athletes fail to consistently and systematically develop into champions. We maintain – well, physiologists, biomechanists and coaches maintain – that either the training plan wasn’t right or that the athlete wasn’t right (i.e. wasn’t tough enough), meanwhile… its neither. The mental state of the athlete – what the athlete believes and what they can believe based on the evidence surrounding their performance in training and racing – is the variable that sport has failed to solve for. Physiologists and biomechanists do not want to admit that the psychology of the athlete in training and racing is way more important than what they do in training and racing, meanwhile psychologists fail to connect the physiological state in which the athlete trains & races hence the state in which they think their thoughts. Without connecting the physiological state to the psychology of the athlete, sport psychology becomes based on little more than the hope that thinking happy thoughts will solve every problem an athlete will ever come against in their career.

In the workplace this is much harder to solve as the question comes down to who is responsible for the employee not liking their job, their workplace, their fellow workers, or their boss… and if the employee does in fact hate all these things, then how as a society do we deal with employees who refuse to move on in their career, instead remain adamant that they are victims of the system, a system which must pay for their (self inflicted) pain & suffering.

In sport, the solution is simple. Athletes must find a coach who takes their mental state, their beliefs and their narratives into consideration with each and every workout. Athletes who must find a coach who understands that what is truly being trained is not the athletes body, but the athletes brain (i.e. their thoughts) and the process to training the brain is by the actions performed by the athlete in their physical training. Athletes who collaborate with a coach who understands that workouts are pointless unless there is a symmetry between what the athlete believes or needs to believe about themselves, and how the training session serves to move them in the direction of thinking and more importantly believing what they need to believe in order to truly succeed by achieving their fullest potential.

We’ve gone too long in this era of harder training being sold as “better” and the cure-all. Hard training/HiiT is the snake-oil of the modern athletic era and it along with all the stupidity in sport needs to go so that the next generation of athletes can truly take us where astronauts took us and our imagination many decades ago… to the stars and beyond.

Seriously, stop for a second to think what most athletes/coaches believe is the process to achieving success in sport…

Its training to ‘rip’ muscle, in order that it heals bigger, hence stronger/faster.

This is a Neanderthal level of how to achieve in sport yet this is the predominant mindset!

FYI… if you did in fact ‘rip’ muscle you would end up so full of scar tissue that it would be a miracle that you could even move any muscle, joint or limb in your body. Furthermore, if you did ‘rip’ muscle you would be repeatedly releasing damaged muscle tissue (i.e. rhabdomyolysis) into your bloodstream which over time causes kidney damage at best, and kidney failure at worst. Seriously, do you think children develop by ‘ripping’ muscles as they play on playgrounds developing abilities to jump, climb, catch, hop, skip and run. No, children ain’t stupid like adults. Adults will fall for the insanity where hurting oneself will somehow yield results, and superior results at that. Children on the other hand develop in sport by leaps and bounds without ever deliberately hurting themselves (and when they do or are told to do so by parents/coaches, its only a matter of time before they quit).

If you are still training like a Neanderthal or being coached by one, consider that just maybe sport has advanced beyond beating everything with a club and calling it ‘mine’ in victory.