Achieving Peak Performance: Your Mindset Matters

One of the most overlooked aspects of training for sport specific events (besides recovery) is mental preparation. Too often, I’ve seen a well-trained athlete fail to meet their performance expectations due to neglecting this training target.

When you embark on training for a marathon, triathlon or obstacle course race, every training checkbox has to be checked. Starting with a carefully laid out program accounting for your unique lifestyle is critical. Whether you’re competing just to finish or to stay healthy and fit, consistent training and recovery are key habits to create. After getting that down, most athletes stop there. They fail to look at the bigger picture.

Think about taking it one step further.

How does training for this event connect to your life? Who or what are you going to think about as the distance increases?

Recently, I addressed this mental dilemma with one of my long distance athletes. An “under-performance” in his first race of the season; a “low priority” race have you, we discovered that something needed to change. Headed into the weekend, he was beat down from a busy week of work and training that had not been his typical consistency. He showed up to the race late and had to rush the staging, barely being able to get his goggles set before the start of the swim. How do you think this story ends that day? Not so good, but still a PR.

Needless to say, we regrouped. After a lengthy coaching call and uncovering all aspects of the experience, I knew I could do better to prepare him mentally. I knew it was time to adjust his expectations … he knew it. Yet it wasn’t just the expectations, it was also his mindset entering the event. He had to dig a little deeper.

Performance is about mindset.

If you’re racing for just a PR, you’re not getting it. The first step in mental preparation is creating your mindset. Discovering the intrinsic motivation behind your training commitment and identifying it from the beginning becomes a make-or-break moment. Who or what are you racing for? How does this commitment make you a better human being?


Going out there because it’s something to check off your bucket list is going to leave you walking at the end of an Ironman event. What I’m suggesting is that you think deeper. What’s the point? You’re going to face your best self (hopefully not your worst) thirty-five miles into your fifty-mile ultra marathon, whether you like it or not. What are you going to call on? As your butt and legs are cramping at mile ninety of the Ironman bike leg, don’t you think you’ll need a mental boost?

How you approach training sessions matter.

Secondly, how you approach training sessions each day matters tremendously. You must stay positive and optimistic as you approach each day, develop rituals. Understand the performance goals for each workout are important, but they don’t dictate your mindset. Athletes who struggle seem to have high expectations of each and every performance. Never letting one bad day go. Unfortunately, approaching your training in this way leads to disappointment after disappointment. It’s your own fault. Train your mind to be positive. Look at each race as an experience. An experience you’ll probably never get again.

Personally, when I race these days, I think about the people who inspire me the most. Not just with my training, but those who push me to live a better life. The athletes I’m fortunate enough to coach and the exciting opportunities I have to keep growing professionally. What I know is, gratitude can cultivate the athlete’s mindset and our perception of everything matters. For me, the majority of my thoughts are cued to the people who are most important in my life. Like many of us endurance junkies, my wife has supported me at just about every endurance event. Waiting around on an Ironman course takes training in itself. These are the types of thoughts that keep me going, the deeper motivation to work my hardest. My best advice for you is to think about what truly matters as the distance gets greater and as your training progresses.

The results may surprise you.

Sharing this perspective with my athlete, he took some of my thoughts and executed at his last Olympic distance triathlon. Mind you this was his first Olympic distance, he finished in 2:45 blowing expectations on all three of his projected paces for each sport. His paces were almost faster than his first sprint, which is wild because the distance was almost double. Most likely this was a testament to his self-reflection. Where do you think his confidence is now?

What you can take from this is that your mindset matters. Create your mindset around the important things in your life. Apply it to game day and in your training sessions. When you begin to approach your workouts with positivity, you will dictate your own success.

Testimonial: Creighton Kelly & the Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman

Testimonial of SH//FT

Written by Creighton Kelly.

About a year ago, I was completely freaked out. After signing up for a 70.3 Ironman event back in February, there was no clear line of sight for a training plan to get me to September successfully. Signing up was easy enough. Talk a little smack with my college buddies, add in a couple of beers, enter a credit card number, and just like that I was signed up for Augusta 70.3. The rest is the challenge.

My attempts to cobble together my own version of cross-training and traditional long slow distance methodologies created too many conflicting programming variations that wouldn’t serve me well in the long run and could possibly lead to injury. I was trying to adapt the Power Speed Endurance programming and just didn’t follow the rhythm or the methodology behind the training. I attended a Shift seminar and that helped clear things up, however, I wasn’t still confident that I could stick to the training plan and adapt to it as I needed. Not only that, I have no real background in any one discipline of a triathlon, much less the understanding of how to do all three in a meaningful way. I wanted to have fun in the 70.3 and didn’t want to just suffer my way through it.

I’m the prime demographic for Ironman events. A husband and father of three boys, in my mid 40s trying to knock off a few bucket list items, and a busy corporate professional. Between family, work, and travel I have about 8 to 10 hours a week to commit to training and I needed flexibility to adjust as needed. Press the lack of knowledge in the three disciplines together with my lifestyle, and it was difficult to see how to get to the finish line efficiently. So I did something I never expected to do, I hired a coach.

Hiring a coach was probably one of the most interesting and worthwhile things I could have done. It was interesting because my coach is fully committed to SH//FT and also the technique work required to make it through the training while minimizing injury, both short and long term. With the SH//FT methodology, my training would incorporate strength and endurance training, which was important to me for my return to my normal CF class after the 70.3.

When one commits to an event the distance of an Ironman 70.3, unless you have been through it, you don’t know the amount of commitment and discipline required to train properly. You use all 8–10 hours in multiple daily sessions throughout the training period. During that training, you need someone to help with support around the sessions. You need someone to help you understand why you are doing certain cycles in the programming, and someone to keep you grounded and guided towards the greater goal.

During the training cycle, my coach, Jeff Ford, asked me to sign up for a sprint and an Olympic distance triathlon. After the sprint, I had improved my time a couple of minutes. My expectations were much greater than that. I sat down with Jeff to review the performance and talk through my expectations. As my frustrations were flowing, Jeff asked me point-blank, are we training for a sprint or for a 70.3? Humbled, I recomposed myself and let my coach find the positives in my performance that I was ignoring due to my own ego. The fact of the matter was, my performance was much better considering the change to a pose running technique, my overall bike time, and improved swim technique. If it weren’t for Jeff, I most likely would have stopped my training and looked for an out, or prolonged my return to training while I sulked in my own dirty diaper. I took coach’s guidance and jumped back into training.

Using Shift, you find yourself in the middle of two different training programs, and you get a few stares and questions in a result. The people in my box fully supported me and often inquired about my training and when the next event would occur. They also poked a little fun when I was standing in a corner working on technique. It’s hard for anyone to ignore someone running in place for minutes on end. People were interested and asked a lot of questions because they saw the intensity based training combined with strength, and technique at work. Still, I was questioned about why anyone would want to go the long distances in an endurance event and never touch a barbell, in a good spirited way. “You are going to swim how far? Ride a bike, how far? Run how far?” was a common set of questions followed by, “Why”?

My endurance friends thought I was crazy to change my running technique and to move away from long, slow distance training, which they typically incorporated into their programming. They still supported me and gave me the proper ribbing when it was needed, but I found it difficult to pair my programming with theirs. A couple of friends jumped in with me on long rides and swims where they could, and that was greatly appreciated.

During all of my training, there was this thing called life. My work was requiring that I travel once or twice a month for multiple days or a week at a time. There were also family vacations, sports events, and moments with my family that I couldn’t miss. Jeff adapted and flexed the programming based on those events and changes to the schedule.

The other key part of my training was how he could adjust the training to how I felt. Making the shift to a lot more running and sitting on a bike took had an effect on my adaptation to training. We fought through challenges with my hip mobility and a previous back injury by tailoring the programming to how I was moving. Still, we stayed within the 8–10 hours.
A typical week looked something like this.

Monday: Mobility and Strength training a.m. / Technique work and Endurance training p.m (Swim).

Tuesday: Mobility and Strength training a.m. / Technique work and Endurance training p.m (Run or Bike).

Wednesday: Train with the CF class. This was a move by Jeff to keep me sane and connected to my CF Community. / Endurance Training where I could fit it in.

Thursday: Mobility for 1-hour and rest day. I can’t tell you how important mobility is to training for an endurance event. I’m actually shocked at how endurance athletes warm up, cool down, and mobilize pre- and post-workouts, because they don’t. The activity is a warm-up.

Friday: Strength and Endurance back to back sessions.

Saturday: Longer swim or run intervals paired with longer bike intervals.

Sunday: Rest day, mobility, hang with the family, go barefoot as much as possible.
Each session was typically an hour long, with Saturday sessions ranging from 1 to 3 hours based on the timing of the programming.

Going back to the events that we planned as part of my training. A month after the sprint triathlon, I participated in an Olympic distance triathlon. The results of that event is where I started to truly commit to the Shift methodology. My swim time was faster, partly due to swimming in a river. My bike time was 3 miles per hour faster, and my run time for a 10K was the exact same pace as the 5k of the sprint. The results were revealing. Two months away from the main event, and my motivation to finish the training with a strong effort and get through the 70.3 was the best it had been.

September came and I was ready for Augusta. My training was locked in, and my confidence was at a high level given my training and events over the two months in the lead up. Instead of providing a blow-by-blow of the event, I’ll give you a recap of the results via the text I sent Jeff during the week after IM Augusta 70.3.

The text read:

“One of the many things that have impressed me the past week. The fact that you could dial in a race time based on the quality over quantity training methodology. I was completely within a 6:15 to 6:30 range. Take out a pit stop for a GI issue and a little better fueling on the run, and I’m closer to 6:20 (my actual time was 6:27).

I never swam more than 600m intervals, never ran more than 10 miles, and never rode more than 35 miles. Trusting the methodology is hard. I never had any doubts in my ability to finish the event (1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, and a half-marathon). Most likely I just had the same mental fight that everyone else was having in such a grueling event. There’s a lot more that I’m still processing. Pose running etc. I will get those thoughts down later.”

It’s important to keep in mind that I have no proficiency in any of these events, translated I’m not fast at any of them and have never trained one above a recreational level. My training over the past 6 years has been CF focused. My personal desire to train for a 70.3 with no real background in the three disciplines, a crazy life schedule, and wanting to keep my strength numbers maintained using the Power Speed Endurance methodology was a success. I couldn’t have had more fun.

Shift works. Give it a try.

Running for Hope: Working with Inheritance of Hope

Year after year, it seems like there is a new set of races to attend. No matter where you live nowadays, if you desire to hit a road race, it’s entirely attainable every weekend in the good weather months of the year. According to Running USA, growth in road running has been exponential since the 1990s and peaked in 2013. In 2014, Female athletes accounted for 10.7 million finishers nationwide and males represented over 8 million finishers. Overall, there were 18,750,000 finishers in the U.S. in 2014 down only 250K from 2013. With the rise in road races and hike in registration fees, it leaves athletes wondering where to prioritize. Not to mention the addition of obstacle course racing, relay races and trail running exploding in popularity.

My early running.

When I began running in my early twenties, fees didn’t matter. I had the desire to race every weekend, no matter the cost (body included). I was young, excited, and couldn’t get over the rush received from crushing the streets. Primarily a road specialist, I’ve now found myself (as an athlete) prioritizing quality events over the quantity. With shifts in my career and the opportunity to save money and time for my family, racing has become less important. The difficulty now is deciding which races deserve priority? How many do I need to race in order to keep that rush and enthusiasm?

Running for a cause.

As recreational athletes, we all race for different reasons, but as we evolve, it’s important to take a deep look at what races really matter and the events that correspond to your long game. Always looking at racing as a metaphor for life, I’ve carefully carved into the athlete I am today. A couple of years back, I did my first and my last 50 milers, all with the motivation of raising money for a little girl named Livia. Livia was born with Bronchomalacia, which is a collapsed bronchial tube, requiring Doctor’s to put in a trachea tube at birth.

She has lived with this condition her entire life, so the least I could do was start racing for something greater. Collectively, my friends and family raised over 5K, all with this little girl in mind and my willingness to tackle an Ultra run on less than twenty miles a week of training. Out of all my race experiences, it has truly been the most memorable, not because of the distance or result, but the purpose behind the event. It was certainly an event that can be added to my legacy.

Finding Inheritance of Hope

With my recent move to Brevard, North Carolina, I have stumbled across an amazing cause: the Inheritance of Hope. This has become more important to me as I continue to dive into its mission. Only hearing about this non-profit a month ago, I’ve learned that 1 in 20 children will lose a parent before turning 16. What an unimaginable circumstance for any family. Inheritance of Hope inspires hope in young families facing the loss of a parent and approaches achieving their mission by providing life-changing Legacy Retreats®, Legacy Scholarships, outstanding resources, and individual and group ongoing support.

Reflecting on my own life.

After learning their story in a 4 Minutes or Less episode, it pushed me to take a closer look at my relationships with my family. How much time am I truly devoting to my loved ones? Can the time be considered quality? I’ve instantly become connected to their vision. I’m excited to share that they will be leading their first half-marathon on April 30th. In conjunction with their already established 5K Legacy Run. This is certainly a race that will leave a legacy every year. And is a prime example of a race that fits with the fees as the road-racing scene grows greater.

Half-marathons are growing at an annual increase of 4% finishers (2.046 million, another new high) so it’s fantastic to see races popping up with deeper meaning in this market. As I mentioned, my racing career has switched away from solely being results driven or motivated by personal records. At the end of the day, I ask myself, why does it really matter if I finish first in my age group? Or achieve a PR? Yes, these are still important goals, but have an intention for pursuing them. Simultaneously, you can positively impact your community with how you approach racing. Too often we forget about that the memories and race experiences, the things that we’ll actually remember. Prioritize your legacy and how you impact the people around you.

Parasympathetic Responses: the Building Block for Relaxing

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to the bridge between the neurological side of working out and the physical side, but I know that if the first thing that you’re doing when you enter the gym is grabbing a foam roller and laying down, you’re wrong.

Let’s talk about the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). The PSNS is essentially the building block for relaxing activities such as sleeping, eating, and watching TV. To strengthen this system immediately prior to working out is counterintuitive and could be destructive in the long run.

Try this example.

I want you to put yourself in your dog’s shoes (I like dogs… A lot); If it’s time for a stroll through the park with your little pal, the first signal is usually asking the little guy or gal if they’re ready to go for a walk, right?

Now, I want you to imagine changing the routine. If every time you’re going to take little Fido for a stroll, you have him lay down on his bed prior to your adventure, do you think that he’s going to be as enthused to run free as he would if you psyched him up prior to the walk? The answer is no.

What I’m trying to get at is that if the first thing that you’re doing is laying down onto the floor to “mobilize” (you’re really just being lazy), you’re pretty much priming the body to react in a way that would form into a mindset of not wanting to be in the gym (i.e. laying down on your couch after a long day of work while dinner still needs to be made). Primarily, we want to strengthen our sympathetic nervous system (more action-required tasks) during our time in the gym, not our PSNS.

To be clear, I’m not saying to not mobilize upon your arrival in the gym… You need to. It’s good for you. It has to be done the right way.

“So, how do I prime my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system the right way?”

I’m glad you asked, it would be beneficial to do something that will stimulate the mind as well as the body upon the start of training. Have a plan. A blueprint, as well as a positive mindset, needs to be established before you walk through those doors. The mind is everything. If you’ve decided that you’re mobilizing before your dynamic warm up/workout, make sure to know exactly what you will be tackling and how you will be tackling it. Lying down and being passive on a foam roller probably isn’t the best way to tackle things.

So, the next time you walk into your wonderful affiliate or track, be excited (stay tuned for what to do on days when you’re having a hard time getting motivated about training). Be ready to attack the workout with unparalleled vigor and dedication. I promise it’ll pay off in the long run.

Happy training!

Overcoming Poor Running Technique

Learning how to run properly after years of poor running isn’t an easy task. You’re unraveling a nasty habit that wasn’t created overnight. It takes constant repetition of drill work over at least a six-week period to truly hone in an athlete’s form. You must get hands on feedback as well as consistent video footage to ensure change. The intangible aspects include receiving “buy in” from the traditional endurance athlete. Technique has never been the focus. Distance and volume has taken precedence. Switching the mindset is step number one. After that, it comes down to proprioception. Can the athlete feel what you’re talking about? Do they begin to understand strong running position over weak?

As someone who has coached hundreds of athletes on running form, it has never been a one-size fits all approach. At Power Speed Endurance Clinics, we encourage athletes to connect with the drills that make the most difference for them. Throw out the ones that trip you up. It’s about creating awareness and uncovering a feeling. The book of running drills is not short of options, but what happens when an athlete simply cannot connect the dots? Constant video and cueing just doesn’t seem to do the trick?

Like any good coach, you need to keep working until the light bulb turns on. You have to get tactical, and I suggest using a few of these insider technique tactics…

The ShoeCue

This is the only insole replacement I would ever recommend for a runner. The ShoeCue is a smart product fulfilling a NEED for runners, helping them understand right from wrong.

Over the last month, I’ve messed around with these in my warm-ups and drill work, receiving immediate feedback from the insole. Obviously, I’m not a heel striker by any means, but the smooth bumps on the heel let you know where you’re landing. It is the perfect tool for someone first trying to regain proprioception.

Foot strike is a result of remaining in the proper position and successfully pulling verses pushing, so we often don’t cue it as coaches. However, imagine something that buzzes you when you complete an incorrect movement pattern? The ShoeCue does just that without punishment.

My recommendation is not to get too crazy with these insoles (such as run with them in a marathon), but use them as a training tactic. Implement them with your drill work and during your warm-up runs. It is a quick way to have you or athletes explore right from wrong. Not something to rely on, but certainly a quick and seamless way to transform the most wrecked running form.


When time allows, I’ll have athletes go barefoot and video their running form. Typically, it’s a nice transition on day two to show them what happens when we take the cushion and impeding shoe away. Immediately the feet start landing further underneath the hips, form instantly clears up, and they receive feedback.

If you run two hundred meters barefoot, you quickly realize what’s right from wrong and where your feet are designed to land. You instinctively make the correction. This can be a huge sell for athletes and becomes an outstanding way to rebuild foot strength. Think of implementing this with your or athletes from the very beginning. Find a safe surface to run six to eight fifty meter repeats and progress the volume week after week for the first six weeks. Monitor you or your athlete’s tissues as the volume builds and space out the sessions. Getting up to ten hundred meter repeats at smooth pace usually does the trick. Remember you’re using this as a technique tactic not for developing cardio-respiratory endurance.

Jump Rope

Let me ask you, can you heel strike when jumping rope? How about land outside your general center of mass (hips)? Jumping rope is a flipping fantastic technique tactic. It puts together every drill we preach and doesn’t allow you to proceed unless you’re hitting the correct positions. Although it requires requisite single under abilities and a little bit of coordination, practicing this one will do wonders for your technique.

As one of our most advanced drills, I recommend throwing this one in after learning or teaching a few of the basic running drills. This becomes a great compliment to a warm-up, and it’s easy to layer up the difficult, such as running with the rope. Check out this video for the full breakdown…

Well there you go, a few technique tactics to implement in your own training or with your athletes. Don’t ever believe that one drill is the end all be all for creating change with running form. It comes down to learning teaching and uncovering awareness more than the actual drill itself. Create the connection and always go back to the basics when it starts to feel off.

Sleep Well – Part 2

Sleep Hygiene

Last week you learned about why sleep is so important to your performance, health and wellness. This week, I’m going to cover exactly HOW to get a good night sleep.

  • Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time as much as possible every day of the week (including weekends). This will help keep your body’s clock regular.
  • Ensure a good sleep environment; Room temperature should be between 18.5 and 23 degrees Celsius, (65F to 73F, with men generally liking it a little cooler). The room should be as dark as possible. Use blackout curtains or blinds, cover up any standby lights on electronic devices or better still, get them out of the room. An eye mask can assist with ensuring a dark environment and is something I have used for several years.
  • Avoid electronic devices, especially smartphones, most e-readers, tablets and laptops for at least 1-hour prior to bed. As I wrote in Part 1, these devices emit short wavelength blue light. This stimulates your brain and prevents the release of melatonin. I can’t recommend enough, steering clear of these devices before bed. Just keep them out of the bedroom, full stop.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex (and when staying in a hotel, work at the desk and not in the bed). This eliminates non-sleep-related associations with the bed.
  • Develop a soothing and consistent nighttime routine. Take an easy walk, take a hot bath, read (fiction) for a while and then go to bed. Following this sequence every night sets up a behavior chain that prepares the body for sleep. I have read a fiction book, as non-fiction will stimulate your brain more, every night for around half an hour for the past couple of years. It’s now part of my routine, and I’ve been able to work my way through some amazing books.
  • Resolve daily dilemmas before going to bed. If something’s on your mind, decide a course of action, write it down, and then forget it until tomorrow.
  • Once in bed, avoid watching the clock, even if you have to put it in a drawer. Worrying about what time it is will only create sleep-robbing anxiety, and it won’t add another minute to the night.
  • Avoid all caffeinated drinks; coffee, tea, colas energy drinks and caffeinated foods in the afternoon or evening. Caffeine’s stimulant properties affect some people even 12 hours after consumption. And don’t forget that some medications interfere with sleep.
  • Don’t consume alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime. Although alcohol can effectively promote sleep, the sleep is highly disturbed because of alcohol’s effect on sleep architecture.
  • Stay away from big meals late in the evening. While the food may be great at the time, subsequent discomfort from a heavy meal will have a negative effect on sleep quality.
  • Lastly, if you can’t fall asleep within approximately 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing for a while. Then, when you feel sleepy again, give the bedroom another try.

A big thanks to one of my athletes, Ian Dunican of Sleep4Performance. As weird as it sounds, I learned everything I know about sleep from Ian. The knowledge I gained from Ian was instrumental in this and my previous sleep article.

Sleep Well – Part 1

In 2012, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a new policy stating that nighttime light exposure is hazardous to human health.

“The primary human concerns with nighttime lighting include disability glare and various health effects,” a summary of the AMA’s policy read. “Among the latter are potential carcinogenic effects related to melatonin suppression, especially breast cancer.”

Even low levels of light, the report said, could suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that’s secreted at night, which signals for our bodies to sleep and can also suppress the growth of tumors.

Modern day life, with our electronic devices, fluorescent lighting and busy schedules, can mean many of you are struggling to get sufficient sleep. Continue reading “Sleep Well – Part 1”

Before You Switch Run Technique: 10 Things to Know

Updated: February 5, 2024

1. You can’t keep your regular weekly mileage.

When first switching run techniques, this is a hard one for endurance athletes to understand. Our athletes often say (with a significant degree of exasperation, mind you!) in the beginning, “Wait, I can’t do my weekend long run?” Yes. That’s true. Let’s take a comparison with lifting weights. When you learn to squat for the first time, is it intelligent for you to load a bunch of weight on the barbell and just go? Of course not because squatting is a skill, one that can always be worked on and refined over time. Running is also a skill. Running, like all human movements, has a defined starting and ending point. The awareness of the in between is the difficult part in running. Immediately ramping up volume will not allow you to keep your form. This will lead to misunderstandings regarding the skill and possibly injury. If you’re seriously treating running as a skill, you have to back down your weekly mileage tremendously until you get it right. Continue reading “Before You Switch Run Technique: 10 Things to Know”

Gravity and Movement

Updated: 5 Feb 2024

What is the most important factor in movement? If you come from a traditional fitness community, you might be tempted to say “strength”, or “power”, or even “motivation”. In actuality, it’s gravity.

Our long relationship with gravity.

Gravity is one of the first challenging forces we encounter as we grow up, since literally all movement is directed by it. Newborns trying to crawl, trying to stand, or trying to walk are facing it head on. Remember that movement, in essence, is the shifting of body weight in order to change from one position to another. What are you working against in order to complete these shifts in body weight? Gravity. Continue reading “Gravity and Movement”

Silent Running

By Brian Mackenzie

Ever heard the saying, “Never heard them coming”? While this may apply to many things, most of which being stealth or under the radar, this could not be more applicable to human movement. Running plays one of the most functional roles in movement. Especially for Military or Law Enforcement Personnel whose lives may depend on this fact.

If you show up to any foot race, you will get a greater understanding of this quickly. Continue reading “Silent Running”