Coach Caleb’s Corner – Ever-ready for Action!

Coach Caleb’s Corner

Ever-Ready for Action!


The results are in! Check out all the amazing scores our StrongFirst athletes achieved from around the world at the Fall 2017 Tactical Strength Challenge.  As always, it was a great event at Breakthrough Strength & Fitness, and we are privileged to host it a couple of times each year.  Most of our competitors achieved several personal records and a few new records for the gym were even set as well!


One of the most satisfying results of this fall’s TSC training has been seeing just how well all of our competitors held up under the stress of preparation and competition. We were fortunate to be implementing the latest StrongFirst protocols which Pavel Tsatsouline revealed to us just this summer at his ground-breaking Strong Endurance seminar.  Breakthrough athletes experienced much less wear and tear on their bodies than in previous preparation cycles for this challenging event, and even more amazing has been how quickly they have recovered after the tough day of competition.

With less central nervous system fatigue and muscle soreness than ever before following a TSC, our athletes are already sinking their teeth into their next phases of new programming!  Think about that for moment.  How is this possible?  Achieving personal records and pushing one’s fitness limits while experiencing less overall stress? This must be too good to be true… but the results are in and our members are living proof that it’s a real thing!

Managing the stress of a busy lifestyle along with the stress (albeit a more positive stress) of hard physical training can be quite a juggling act, but thankfully our methodology excels at taking an ultra-minimalist approach.   The minimum effective dose of hard work in the gym balanced with an appropriate recovery strategy is the key to avoiding overtraining and being ever-ready for action; able to take on a Tactical Strength Challenge, a 10k race or a Spartan Race one weekend and not be wiped out for a whole week afterwards.


Many of us prioritize the active stuff, but we are not so good on prioritizing the recovery part.  (I must admit I am personally challenged by this myself which is why this topic is so fascinating to me!)  We need as many of the obvious recovery elements as possible to maximize our results; adequate sleep, proper nutrition, massage, etc. If you’re anything like most of the athletes I have the privilege to train, it’s already pretty difficult to keep those up.  Let’s assume that for most of us, ample sleep is hard to come by, nutrition isn’t always perfect and it’s been awhile since that last massage.  Should we even dare to push ourselves in training?  Fortunately, with proper programming and coaching, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The stress reaction in the body is necessary to promote adaptation.  In normal stress situations, the body channels resources to the system dominant for the given adaptation at the expense of other systems.  The stress of consistent physical training causes the body to prioritize the resources needed to recover from the training and we become stronger, faster, better conditioned.  All is good!  That is until we do all this “good” stuff so persistently that the body perceives that we are being exposed to a “no way out” situation.  Our structural and energetic resources get excessively mobilized and have nowhere to go.  If we are overly exposed to a stress reaction that lasts too long, our “rebuilding blocks and energy” become utterly exhausted.  The positive healthy adaptive reaction we were trying to create becomes a pathological one and can possibly lead to serious problems like diseases of the digestive tract, cardiovascular system, dermatological etc.  Scary!  The “Go hard or go home” mentality so prevalent in the modern fitness landscape has not helped with this, unfortunately.


Good news!  The cost of adaptation to physical demands and it’s associated negative cross effects are not unavoidable.  Sensible load selection and the use of “combined adaptation;” being simultaneously stimulated to adapt to several factors at once, is a key to success.  As such, our training and recovery strategies seek to promote “Cross Adaptation.”  By adapting to all sorts of stress situations we increase the power of our stress limiting systems.  These systems neutralize free radicals, fight inflammation, reduce pain, improve mood, lover blood pressure etc.  A program that includes the right balance of anaerobic training, active recovery and aerobic conditioning can help promote this cross adaptation.  Another more elaborate example of this would be to train in a cold climate, or at high altitude.  The body then has to learn to adapt to the cold or oxygen deprivation stress and the regular training stress all at once!  Sounds like fun to me, but I come from a cold climate in the foothills of the Canadian rockies.

With all this discussion on getting just the right amount of stress and how to adapt to it, it seems like a prudent time for a deeper dive into the skill of relaxation and a “Stress Less” discussion.  Training to be quicker to relax is another key factor in athletic development, and is the reason for many of the somewhat meticulous and odd intervals we’ve been using lately in our programs.  The magic in the ratio of work to rest for each exercise and it’s associated load selection all works even better when the athlete has the skill to relax quickly.  Hmm… fortunately we’ve got an event coming up that will address this exact topic and it’s free for all to attend!   Hope to see you all there next Saturday!

Cheers – Caleb

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