“0.4% improvement is competitively significant.”
High stakes decisions, performance expectations, ambitious projects, adversity, balance, prioritisation, transition and change. We’re all living and working under uncertainty, stress and pressure.
Rather than just surviving, what can we do to thrive in these environments as individuals and teams?
Dr Chris Gaviglio is the Head of Strength & Conditioning at the Queensland Academy of Sport with nearly 20 years of strength and conditioning training experience with Olympic sports and professional codes (Wallabies, Gold Coast Suns, QLD Maroons Rugby League). He’s an applied sports science researcher (performance biomarkers, blood flow restriction training, warm-up and peri-competition strategies) and speaker and consultant on enhancing human performance: From World Class to World Best. He’s also a product designer/entrepreneur (Thera-wedge, Backsak, Sports Rehab Tourniquet), husband and father of two.
Jonah Oliver is one of Australia’s top performance psychologists. He combines sport psychology and neuroscience to facilitate peak performance with experience ranging from Olympic gold medallists, executives, professional codes (Brisbane Roar, Gold Coast Suns, Essendon), to car racing teams (Porsche – Le Mans World Champion, V8s), indigenous performing artists and surgeons. He’s an executive coach, author, speaker, consultant on talent identification, leadership and organisational performance around the world. He’s also a husband and father of two.
Both of these guys have had a huge impact on me (personally, professionally and in my sporting career) and I thought this was a great opportunity for an in-depth exploration of the principles, tools and strategies for physical and mental recovery. While recovery is front and centre in any sporting endeavour, it is almost either completely ignored, or at worst, often seen as a sign of weakness, particularly in business and career contexts.
I love the interplay of the physical and mental and that’s why having both of these guys’ perspectives was really interesting and the way they both think about recovery for both daily life and major events was fascinating.
We spoke about lessons learnt from elite performance for individuals and teams and how they can be applied at work, at home and in our daily lives.
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You might also be interested in my interview with Tatiana Grigorieva (Olympic silver medal, Pole Vault) on Transitions, Fear and Willingness.
Tools, Links and Resources
- Flotation tanks
- Antifragile – Things that benefit from chaos and disorder – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Rate of Perceived Exertion
- The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
- Mindfulness/meditation Apps: Headspace App (free to start then subscription), Waking Up App (free), Pocket Meditation Timer (free) [Toby: I’ve used all three of these and found them really useful]
- Periodisation – an article explaining how to apply the periodisation model to work and how to balance work commitments and physical activity
- Tudor Bompa (the father of periodisation theory in sports)
- Weekly planning template – BLANK (XLS). This is a really basic overview which highlights an overview way of planning. It’s just to make sure that all of the correct elements are included throughout the week – for example, having it colour coded you can see if there is too many of the same element (e.g. gym) too close together or alternatively it’ll highlight if you’ve forgotten something.
- Dani Stevens – annual plan (XLS). The first tab is a “traditional” yearly periodisation template that most S&C coaches will use. Tab 2 is the weekly planning template filled in.
Conversation Notes (with time stamps for video)
Chris’ background – trainer to the stars
Jonah’s background – working in a prison, retraining
[12:00] What is Recovery and why is it important?
AFL: track, watches, wellness each morning, cortisol levels, urine samplesRecovery: it’s not about the amount of stress you’re exposed to, it’s the amount of recovery you have to to balance it.
State of Origin: How can we provide an environment so that they can perform at their optimum? From the language that we talk about to ambient vision, colours etc.
How do we get someone back to their optimum as quickly as possible? So many options out there but ultimately it’s all individual: cryotherapy, flotation tanks.
The brain rules the body. Don’t want to spend hard energy in recovery. How can we potentiate or prepare our body for performance?
[16:48] How has the idea of recovery changed over the years? Have there been any surprises?
Used to be passive (eg: go on holiday).
The evidence has transitioned to favour active recovery.
Do something more active and tap into more domains.
Athletes do better with doing something on their day off – sets up the week better. Cryotherapy: -100 degrees gas
The rocks of recovery: sleep, work/life balance, nutrition – unless these are dealt with, there’s no point doing all the fancy stuff.
[22:29] What are the common misconceptions or mistakes you see people making around recovery?
Cold water immersion and the risk of blunting your growth response to the stress. Stress and reflection can help to grow and improve. Be sure to debrief experiences and stress with the right people.
[24:30] Chris’s reflection process in the car on his way home. What was I happy with today? What did I like? What didn’t I like? What can I do better?
[Toby: I reflect most days in the evening just before bed. I write down 4 things I’m grateful for, and then journal notes for the day starting at waking up and then work my way through the events of the day and what I’ve learned as a reflection process.]
[24:55] Jonah’s cup vs water jug metaphor for stress management Stress reduction vs stress expansionInterpretation of thoughts lead to elevated cortisol and adrenal response
[28:35] Antifragility (from Antifragile – Things that benefit from chaos and disorder Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
[28:50] Good stress (Eustress) vs Bad Stress
Strong emotion as an alarm clock
Pain is the only way to grow
[31:40] Stretch vs overload
[33:19] Chris – Taking people to the edge – putting stress into context – the right debriefing the right people around you. In times of stress you can draw on that experience. The brain
[35:25] Jonah – Good high performance director explains why the pain is going to occur.
[36:15] Broken glass metaphor – humans are crap at feeling pointless pain. Stress and recovery – not coping, struggling, suffering – lost the spotlight on the why. Not a deficit of recovery, it’s a loss connection to the why and meaning.
[38:42] Managing major life events
[40:50] Chris’ view of handling major events – load management – cognitive, physical, emotional, Rate of Perceived Exertion. The importance of support team and how that can be used. Being clear about the bare minimums of a session.
What is the 1 thing I want to get done? Prioritise tasks
[44:44] Jonah explains the “Duality of experience” – if you can realise that we are able to feel grief, fear, anxiety, joy, happiness all at once. Giving yourself permission to feel them. And then I can still choose to do the things that matter.
Finding the balance.
[47:02] Preparing for key moments
Plan: work back from the event. The role of testosterone in peak performance for power, cognitive function, determination, assertiveness. Short sharp heavy lifting.
Passive ways to increase testosterone.
Getting in the zone: Watching videos, music.
Planning back from meeting: prep, decompression, caffeine, nutrition
Preparing for energy requirements.
Maintaining body heat.
Do you have the right tools with you? What happens if…? Preparing for the unexpected
Haphazard caffeine consumption – 45 minutes until caffeine peak.
Homeostatis and the homeostatic response to caffeine dosing – why athletes yawn before big occasions.
[58:40] Tools and tips:
Fish oil and mindfulness
Book: The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
[1:01:00] Jonah’s 4/8 breath mindfulness exercise
Breath in for 4 secs and then out for 8 secs.
Do this 3 times.
Then really notice the chair you’re sitting on. How is your body weight is distributed? What does it feel like?
Repeat this 3 times each day for a total of 3 mins of mindfulness.
Neurological changes will occur within 6 weeks of practice in the prefrontal cortex leading to improved focus and attention.
Le Mans driver 1.2 seconds of mindfulness @ 370kms/hr
Book: How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Exercise as the 1 recovery technique
Even a 7 min walk still has a huge impact.
[1:05:33] How to take physical lessons into a corporate environment to get into a peak state?
- Work back from event.
- Acute period of time prior (1 hr) – What time are you arriving? What are the key elements you’re focussing for the meeting. Plan a decompression time.
- Day of: What time are you waking up? Are you getting the right fuel in? Exercise done in the morning. Lower cognitive load of the tasks prior to the meeting. Get rid of distractions – eg shutting down email. Walk
- Day before: Travel the night before
- Reflection process post event is crucial to develop an individual plan and continue to refine it.
- Process vs Outcome
- Get nutrition right
- Phone off
- Look at diary – critical meeting and the week that leads in.
- Where’s down time?
- Where’s active recovery?
- Meeting requests for well being and recovery that can be moved but not taken out.
Chris:What’s happening 3 or 4 days before is just as important. What is your weekly flow? Hard session – where is your down session? 3 weeks on, 1 week off (later start, decompressing staff)
[1:12:41] Sustainable practices of CEOs to navigate daily stresses
Reading/learning – don’t shut down your learning time.
Definition of happiness – doing things that are challenging.
Finding things in day and week that give us a sense of challenge
Pinball effect – what did you used to do?
Stacking is about combining the answers to the below 4 questions to architect energising, fulfilling situations:
- Who is most important to me?
- What is most important to me?
- What are my values?
- What do I do when I’m at my best?
[1:18:20] What should we be tracking as a layman?
Sleep: quantity and quality
4 nights of impoverished sleeps = a 20% increased risk of a hamstring tear.
[1:19:37] Hacks for sleeping
No caffeine after 2:30 in the afternoon
Reducing screen time
Mindfulness – don’t “try to sleep” – practicing mindfulness will take you to stage 3 sleep anyway.
Try to get a good sleep 2 nights before a major event
Movement and exercise will improve the quality of sleep.
[1:23:21] How do we create psychological expansion
Basic principle: Change the relationship to your internal dialogue – the stuff that’s traditionally been not wanted eg anxiety, fear etc.
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