Build Your Personal Performance Team Red Light, Green Light 1, 2, 3!

Last week I received an email from a new subscriber named Bruce. Bruce is in his 50’s, plays hockey year round, sails, runs, cycles and plays tennis in the summer, skis, hits the gym in the winter, and has some other sports mixed in here and there.

Bruce told me how he is often seeing his physiotherapist for one injury or another and I immediately thought, “Excellent, this guy gets it!”

If you’re going to demand so much from your body you need a team to help keep it in good working order.

I mean, if you don’t expect much from your body, then you don’t have to put much into it. It’s like the Buick that only gets driven around town to the grocery store and other errands. But if you have a 1967 Mustang Fastback that you like taking to the track twice a month to burn petrol and spike your adrenaline, than I suggest you do more than fill the wiper fluid and change your oil every 5,000 miles.

If you want to live a very active life without your minor injuries becoming major surgeries, I’ve got 2 rules for you.

Rule #1

Red Light, Green Light – Know When to Go, When to Back Off and When to Stop

Last week I wanted to start a new running regimen but something was going on with my knee. The bones felt out of alignment, so I did some extra sled pushing at the gym instead.

When my squat day arrived, the knee was even worse. Just walking bothered it, so I did upper body pushing and pulling instead. The next day I saw my chiropractor and he said the fibular head was out of place. He did his thing and within 5 minutes I felt 95% better. The day after that, I tested out a new A.R.T. practitioner and was then at 99%. I gave it 1 more day, went to the gym and had a great squat session.

I’ve known people who take pride in not backing off. They ignore the pain as much as they can and continue as planned, which makes things worse. When the pain becomes too intense, they get a cortisone shot. But that just allows them to ignore the issue even more and charge ahead.

Eventually what began as a structural imbalance is now arthritis and a meniscus tear.

Don’t ever think that ignoring serious pain as you grind through cartilage is some heroic feat, cause it’s not. It’s just foolish.

Listen to your body and learn when it’s good to go, when there’s something funky you need to work around, and when you need to drop everything to go see a doctor, pronto.

Rule #2

1, 2, 3 – Assemble a Personal Performance Team And Use Them

I don’t know why, but having 3 people on my Personal Performance Team seems to be magical for me. The combination changes depending what my needs are at any point in my life, but anytime I have seriously trained for a new accomplishment, there were 3 professionals on my team.

The first two positions never change.

Team Member 1 – Tasked with Maintaining Good Nerve and Joint Function

This position can be filled by a physical therapist, osteopath or chiropractor.

At a minimum, I like to see this individual every other week, depending on how I’m feeling. I have stretched it to every third week, but I notice old aches and pains creeping back into my body and my performance drops off.

But that’s me. You’ll need to find your own sweet spot between where you feel best and what you can afford. Even if you have health insurance be prepared to pay cash. Insurance is usually set-up to patch you when you’re broken, not fine tune a healthy machine. I never wait till I break down to get help and neither should you.


This position can be filled by a massage therapist, physical therapist, osteopath or chiropractor, but ideally someone with advanced soft tissue training. Think Structural Therapist. Additional training as an acupuncturist, Rolfer, A.R.T. practitioner or Neuromuscular Therapist is ideal.

Getting a nice, relaxing, deep tissue massage is great from time to time but that’s not what I’m suggesting here. I used the term Structural Therapist a moment ago because it better alludes to the true goal here.

You want someone who has the skills to:

  • assess your overall structure in both dynamic and static posture (moving and not moving);
  • can identify restrictions in your muscles, ligament, tendons and fascia;
  • treat those restrictions;
  • and then reassess your posture to determine if the treatment worked.

Team Member 3 – Tasked with Whatever Else is Impeding Your Success At That Juncture

This position can be filled by a whole lot of different people at different times in your life. You need to take stock of what your present limitations or weaknesses are and how best to bolster them up. This may even stretch to Team Members 4, 5 and 6.

Here are some examples:

  • General practitioner
  • Dentist
  • Eye doctor
  • Drug & Alcohol counseling
  • Lacking sport-specific skills – club, team, one-on-one or online coaching
  • Poor diet – nutritional consultant, food prep service
  • Grief counseling
  • Having an overbooked schedule – family member, personal assistant, babysitter, dog walker, personal chef or food service, housekeeper.

When I set out for my first Olympic distance triathlon it was right after a terrible break-up. There were many aspects of that relationship that were very unhealthy and my insecurities played right into them. I never wanted to make those mistakes again and it weighed heavily on my mind, so my 3rd position was filled by my therapist, Sherman Pheiffer in NYC.

I started with Sherman at the end of the relationship as my couples counselor, just as we were spiraling into a ball of flames. I then continued seeing him one-on-one for about 18 months to better understand myself. I even joined a therapy group he formed which helped me take what I was learning about myself and apply it to how I interacted with others.

The time and money I spent with Sherman was probably the single best investment in myself that I’ve ever made. I am by far a better partner, friend, brother, son, coach and, hopefully someday in the near future, father, because of the lessons learned in his office.

When I ran my first  9+ mile Super Spartan race in 2011, the 3rd position was filled by my oesteopath, Evan Rubin. His efforts, combined with what my almost mystical chiropractor (Network chiropractic still boggles my mind) was doing, helped correct a functional leg length discrepancy that had given me all sorts of problems.

Next year I’d like to compete in my first powerlifting competition and my gut tells me, literally, a Naturopath will fill my 3rd position for that one. I have some gut issues that appear to wear me down enough that anytime in the past 4 years when I’ve tried training really heavy, my health breaks down.

The people on your team need to embody what you want to be. They need to understand the value in elevating your body from feeling good, to feeling great.

You may know that I moved to the Hudson Valley two years ago. When I did, I had to find a new team of people to help me perform well. There were a few health professionals that I saw who simply didn’t understand why I was in their office because I was so healthy… some even seemed annoyed that I was asking for their help in becoming even healthier.

I got the impression that they are accustomed to helping sick people get kinda healthy. But I was healthy and wanted help getting very healthy. They were at a loss.

Find people who embody your goals!

Currently, my chiropractor is a powerlifter, my Rolfer is a competitive Olympic lifter and the A.R.T. practitioner I just started with, is a Triathlete and works with the Army football team at West Point. When I lived in NYC, my osteopath regularly competed in triathlons and my structural therapist was an Olympic lifter and competitive cyclist. As for my therapist Sherman, he had a great way of listening, relating, and setting appropriate boundaries. I think you get the idea.

I highly encourage you to always be keeping an open ear for great additions to your team. Any time a friend mentions someone that they’ve seen for help, always ask their opinion of them, good or bad, and make a mental note.

Is there someone you think does fantastic work and think others would benefit from having on their Personal Performance Team? Take the next minute to show your appreciation and send them some business by tagging them in this post on Facebook.