In the third episode of the “Athletes Compass Podcast,” the hosts explore the definition and challenges of being an “everyday athlete,” contrasting them with elite athletes and emphasizing a smarter training approach rather than a harder one. The discussion revolves around balancing training, recovery, and daily life commitments, the significance of health-focused practices like sleep and nutrition, and the mental shift from casual exercise to goal-oriented training. Additionally, the episode highlights the importance of coaching in guiding everyday athletes through their unique struggles and helping them integrate fitness into their busy lifestyles. The insights provided aim to encourage a holistic and sustainable approach to personal health and fitness.
Hello and welcome to the third episode in the Athletes Compass, where we navigate training, fitness, and health for everyday athletes. In the first two episodes, we told our stories as athletes and coaches. We defined health and discussed what makes for a healthy athlete. We talked about how an athlete's health is negatively affected by the no pain and no gain mentality.
We talked about how Dr. Paul Laursen built the Athletica platform with the model of train smarter, not harder. And that mentality is the context in which we discuss everything else, how everyday athletes train smarter. This week, we're talking about defining what an everyday athlete actually is and what makes an everyday athlete different from an elite or pro athlete with their training and fitness.
I am an everyday athlete and all of my coaching clients are everyday athletes, except for a few juniors who are national level cyclists. All of my masters athletes have day jobs and families and they struggle to find that consistent training time. Generally, they do the best training they can given all of life circumstances. So Marjaana, how would you define an everyday athlete?
Marjaana Rakai (02:09.644)
Can we have a break here? Because I can hear Mark eating.
Marjaana Rakai (02:19.522)
Okay, I'll get... ..
What's distracting us, Mark? We're getting hungry. No, no, keep your camera on.
We're getting hungry.
Marjaana Rakai (02:26.388)
No, no, I can just give the fork. Fork hit the place.
Marjaana Rakai (02:36.351)
Sorry about that.
So Marjaana, how would you define an everyday athlete and do you coach everyday athletes?
Marjaana Rakai (02:45.89)
So to me, it was really important to define what an athlete is. And I actually love the everyday athlete, because to me, an athlete is anyone who challenges themselves and hones their skills regularly. And I love that you use everyday athlete in your simple coaching business, Paul.
Marjaana Rakai (03:16.478)
Because you could be an athlete and not train every day, but you're still an everyday athlete. To me, coming from a mom athlete perspective, I haven't really had this conversation with men. But oftentimes, I have this conversation with mom athletes.
Marjaana Rakai (03:44.738)
who don't see themselves as athletes. And there's a lot of like, we moms, we tend to have guilt about everything. We feel guilt about taking time to go and train because somehow we think that it's away from the family, which oftentimes is our top priority.
Marjaana Rakai (04:13.874)
It took me many years to actually define myself as an athlete. And my previous coach and I, we had a discussion about, okay, she was saying you're training like a pro athlete, but you don't see yourself as an athlete. So I had to kind of figure out why did I not look at myself as an athlete. Even though I had.
Marjaana Rakai (04:43.754)
high goals and I was training every day. So I kind of wanted to start this podcast with defining what an athlete is. So I coach a lot of athletes and like you Paul, most of them have high achieving
Marjaana Rakai (05:12.266)
A lot of the time they don't think themselves as an athlete. Although they have really high goals, high stress work, they have family, social lives and all that we all have.
So you're saying that they train like athletes, but they don't necessarily identify as an athlete. How come?
Marjaana Rakai (05:38.818)
I think it comes back to the mindset of what we see as athletes, like pro athletes, somebody who is at elite level, I think. And when our main job is somewhere else, we don't see ourselves as an athlete.
But to me, it can be defined as somebody who is honing their skills, challenging themselves. And it could be endurance sports, it could be power sport like weightlifting, it could be more aesthetic sport like bodybuilding. That's an athlete too.
Paul, what about you? What do you think makes for an everyday athlete?
Well, I, you know, I can I keep stealing the work of Phil Maffetone, but he, you know, he coined the phrase that we're all athletes. So, and, you know, the Lister may be aware that I coach from the highest, the best professional athletes, but I also coach the everyday athlete as well. And, you know, we all we all we're all human beings at the end of the day, we all have that in common.
And maybe I'll just kind of start by defining the, I'll start by defining the professional athlete. And then I'm gonna work back to the everyday athlete in terms of my definition. So the professional athletes that I do coach, that's their job. They, their only job is to train, to recover. When they come to me, they learn how to be healthy.
and all the things that allows them to be a little bit more, you know, recover better, because remember last time we learned about that, you know, the process of training means workout plus recovery. So we all share that in common. And of course, with the, I guess with the professional athlete, they struggle because they're with the balance in their life because they're...
their workout is just so much and they sometimes forget about that sort of recovery. Or sorry, their training is so much and their other balance part in the recovery gets missed. But that's all they really have to kind of focus on, right? That's, is that training and their recovery. And they tend to not have as many other problems with respect to the everyday athlete that's going to have, you know,
potentially families, potentially, you know, maybe more social commitments and these sorts of things work and they are, you know, they can be very selfish. Now with the everyday athlete, they're, you know, again, they've got to train to become, get to where they want to go and there, but again, I think as Marjaana
Yeah, maybe we all realize that they're struggling with that balance sort of aspect. I think with all of us though, is it's time management. And whether you're a professional athlete and you're struggling with training too much and focusing on the recovery, you still need to, we need to still quantify the pieces of the puzzle that we're working on.
to get to the end. And with the professional, it's, you know, it's how do I train, you know, 25, 30 hours a week and then recover from that. With the everyday athlete, it might just be how do I squeeze in 10, you know, eight or 10 hours of training, of good quality training, the right type of training, plus recovery, plus doing everything else. So, if we, you know, if I globally think about
it that way. That's sort of how I think about it. We're all working on our time management. We all need to train and we all need to recover. But then your level or your ability is probably going to be related to how much training you can actually do. If I go back to Elfavica, there's a reason why we have high, mid, and low volume plans.
not to say that you can't be successful, Sammy Inkenham, the podcast and the training science podcast, he came on and told us how he, you know, he became a Kona World Champion age grouper on only, you know, 10 to 12 hours training a week quality. And he tells us how he does that. But, you know, he's a bit of an exception, generally speaking, you know, the elites tend to train more. So, yeah, I think there's a lot of similarities.
and then there's a lot of differences between the two.
So it sounds like the big difference is the training volume, as well as the more kind of singular focus that a elite or a pro athlete can have on their training because they have fewer distractions. Is that what I'm hearing?
Yep, that's what I believe, yeah, for sure. I think you nailed it right there, Paul.
So we spent our first two episodes talking about healthy athletes and given all the time and energy demands of an everyday athlete, how would you define or what makes for a healthy everyday athlete?
Well, for me, a healthy everyday athlete is one that is doing a lot of practices that allow them to be healthy. And I guess some of the big ones that many of us are going to be aware of is number one, and this comes from Alistair Brownlee, the first podcast we did on the Training Science podcast. And he said, you know, recovery.
is 90% sleep and 9% nutrition and 1% everything else. So, you know, this is a two time gold medalist. That's what he sort of believed. So sleep has to be one, number one is a factor. If you are sleeping well, everything else tends to fall into place. And there's a lot of different reasons why. Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep is a great resource and book.
if people wanna understand that, but that's a big one. Remember that everything is a stress, that includes food and nutrition, but we want to keep that food stress as low as we can. So nutrition is a big factor as well. The old adage, you are what you eat. So we need to be, it's just so true, right? You need to be supplying your body with the...
the fuel that it requires to do the work and not sabotaging that recovery process. Now, Marjaana, I hope one day she will give you her story on some of the lessons that she's learned, because I know she has a great journey on that. And I myself as well, and I've told it many, many times on the Training Science podcast, but I used to be a bit ashamed, but I used to be a
you know, a two liter of Coca-Cola per day kind of athlete. And, but you know, I guess that was a great lesson, I guess, when I did that, I didn't get to where I needed to be. Again, that's what I was doing that in my 20s, probably got away with it a little bit more, but it is interesting that I didn't have my best Ironman result until I was in my 40s and I was on sort of a more of a whole food kind of.
Thanks for watching!
kind of process. So I really learned about nutrition as another factor that makes me a healthy athlete. And then not training excessively relative to where I'm at. I think that's another one too, right? The no pain, no gain that we spoke about, already spoke about. So those are my big three, right? So be a nutrition, sleep and proper exercise training.
And then, I think there's other ones around that too, in terms of human connection, social thing, social aspects. Yeah, just wholism sort of aspects. And yeah, like moving towards a purpose in your life as well is also really, really important. That kind of speaks to you, speaks to your health as well.
Marjaana Rakai (14:41.478)
I think part of what is different, part of the difference between an elite athlete and everyday athlete is the lack of opportunities to recover for an everyday athlete. We squeezing the workout early in the morning, we may be cut down on sleep, wake up 4am to get a workout in, then go full day at work.
Marjaana Rakai (15:09.782)
then come home, take care of kids, take them to their sports or activities, and then stay up late, catch up on emails, have a glass of wine to relax. And then we expect to have a good night's sleep. That is, I find that I struggle the most with my athletes is to...
make them understand that sleep is everything. And once I get that across and they start practicing, like prioritizing sleep and rest, then they start noticing the snowball effect. They feel more energetic during the training. They are better able to make those decisions, okay? You know, like that.
zone three that feels good because you're pushing a little hard and you're feeling all the endorphins and you're feeling good you're just like okay I'm gonna I'm gonna hang out here in the zone three even though code said only zone two and then so when we when we've um backed up our brains with good sleep we can make those good decisions and hold back a little bit
on those training rides where we're supposed to be doing zone two, not zone three. And then we feel a lot better during the day too, when, when we have that energy after a good night's sleep. Um, so I, I find like the lack of opportunities to have a nap during the day, because even 30 minutes napping is, I know that I, uh, I just feel so much better during the day when I can squeeze in a little rest. Um.
And oftentimes I start with the evaluation of lifestyle habits with my athletes. Like, how is their sleep? Is there any reason that they get up? Because a lot of my athletes have kids and sometimes a seven year old wakes up their mom. Of course it's a mom, but they wake up and disrupts their sleep. So sometimes I have to say, okay, I don't care what you do. You can bribe the kid with.
Marjaana Rakai (17:28.83)
You know, like every night that you don't wake up mom, mom gives you, you know, I don't know, a dollar. I'm sorry, one of my athletes, she's a partner at Deloitte Norway and she's got twins and one of the twins used to wake her up at night. And I think he was at the time seven or eight. And I'm like, well.
Marjaana Rakai (17:57.334)
There shouldn't be a reason that a seven-year-old is waking up mom. So why don't you have a conversation with the kid and see if he would be able to, you know, fall back asleep on his own. And sure enough, she bribed the kid. So every night that he didn't wake her up, he would get her, I don't know, like five Norwegian crowns, which is, I don't know, at the time it was like.
And so that way she got her full night's sleep and felt a lot better. So it worked. But she didn't even think that would be a big deal. Like the lack of or disrupted sleep.
So it worked? Yeah.
That's huge. Yeah, yeah.
Marjaana Rakai (18:44.519)
It is huge.
I keep thinking about the realities though that when I was teaching middle school, I teach all day, I was tired, I still have papers to grade because I was an English teacher and then trying to train and there are just, and I didn't have a family at the time. The reality is tough. It almost seems like a healthy everyday athlete is almost an oxymoron.
Yeah, it's not easy. It certainly isn't easy. And, you know, I, again, I, I get a lot from Dan Plews, actually, who's he's written quite a few blogs on this. So it's the Endure IQ site and whatnot. And basically, and he, you know, previously, we had a blog together called Plews and Prof.
And it's right on that, but it really kind of comes down to this time management thing that I mentioned, Paul. And granted, it isn't easy, but if you want to be an athlete, if you want to have a performance goal, you need to kind of get your calendar in sync. And just like a meeting gets scheduled.
you kind of have to slot in your training time into that as well. So during the daylight hours in your calendar, you know when you're gonna move from XYZ meetings to XYZ activities, time with your kids, time with your partner. It's a little bit robotic, but that's how.
sort of how it needs to get done. If it's a nap schedule, if Marjaana's 30 minute nap, it needs to be in there. And it's, you know, again, you need to understand a little bit of physiology as well, too, like the circadian rhythm. The ideal time to nap isn't in the morning, it isn't at five o'clock, it's right in the siesta hour time, between 12.30 and 2.30 p.m. That is actually, physiologically speaking,
you will get, you get this little dip in your core temperature that induces that nap. So, and the listener will recognize this because when they have their meal around lunchtime, you kind of feel this little bit of a lag after lunch, right? And it's like, oh, I'm a little bit sleepy. I can almost go for a nap right now. Well, indeed, that's actually natural. And if you feel that and the time is right and you have that opportunity to go for 10 minutes.
to 30 minutes anywhere kind of in that range, you can just get this little bit of a cat nap that to Marjaana’s point, it freshens you up a little bit and then you can be on point and aware again. So I'm not sure where I was going with this, but yeah, you have to schedule everything in. That's what I was sort of saying. And when you do...
Scheduling, yeah. Yeah.
you sort of, you know, you got to go with the flow a little bit, but if, but, but if you can have a general schedule on these various different things, say, say you're, so you've decided to train twice a day, right? You've got your morning swim, say, for example, and you've got your afternoon workout, like those need to kind of be slaughtered and otherwise they're not going to get done, unfortunately. And, and that's okay sometimes if they don't, you've got to let those go, but that's sort of, I believe in terms of how you're going to be.
Lining up your compass, pardon the pun, I'm sure this is gonna come up a lot in subsequent issues, but yeah, you really need to kind of allow that to be your roadmap with your whole calendar.
Marjaana Rakai (22:35.05)
Yeah, scheduling is so important. Like I've become a master scheduler with three kids, their activities. And I realized when I first started scheduling three kids' activities and my own training is that a lot of the times I get some workouts done during their training or activities. So even if it's only 30 minutes or 45 minutes.
it's still a lot more than sitting there and scrolling phone. One of like the same athlete, she started taking her meetings on the phone while she was on the walk.
Marjaana Rakai (23:21.618)
she found one of her business partners who liked to run so now they go for a meeting runs so they go for a morning run and they have their meeting while they run and what a better way to do it.
Perfect, yeah, exactly. Yeah, Zwift writing, I know you can write on Zwift and meet other friends on there and do some social chatting and talk on the phone, et cetera, at that same time or whatever, right? So everything, yeah, meetings can be done during exercise with colleagues that are on the same program as you. So yeah, these are the little clever strategies that you need to kind of...
the everyday athlete needs to take on board to get her done at the end of the day. And again, health needs to be kind of paramount. If there's one thing you probably want to focus on more, the everyday athlete, you wanna focus more on your health than on your performance per se. If you focus on the other one, unfortunately, again, as we learned in the second podcast,
You can be fit, but very unhealthy, right? So remember that. And just because you can crank out a big VO2 max test or crank out a big performance doesn't necessarily mean that you're healthy. And in the long run, remember that we learned that will eventually derail you. So focus on the health first as the everyday athlete, performance second. Performance will in the long run still be better.
Marjaana Rakai (24:59.858)
I just came up with another difference between elite athletes and everyday athletes, which should be a goal for everyday athletes to develop the feel. When do you feel healthy? When do you feel fit? Is there a difference? For example, before I got overtrained or during the period when I was overtrained, I felt like trash all the time.
Um, and I would take longer than 30 minute naps and still feel horrible. Until one of my friends who is, um, Olympic swim coach, she and I had a coffee and we were talking about training and life and she, she told me like, you know, Marjaana, you don't always have to feel trashed and I'm like, huh? She's like, no.
Marjaana Rakai (25:59.783)
No, actually you should not go thrash all the time. Yes, sometimes when you're going through a block of lots of training or heavy training, inevitably you're going to feel a bit run down, but then you rest and recover from it. But you should not go months and feeling just absolutely garbage. And that was such a wake up call to me. I'm like, huh, okay. I think she's probably right.
I want to go back to something Marjaana that's been sticking in my mind since you said it is, because I've noticed this as well, that so many women especially, but I think people in general who are everyday athletes don't view themselves as everyday athletes and view themselves as just people who are exercising. What do you think the difference is between exercising and training and is that, does that matter?
to everyday athletes, if there's a mind shift there that might take place.
Marjaana Rakai (27:04.042)
Yeah, that's a really interesting question. I think training is when you have a systematic plan. Because exercise is just like you go for a run here and there. But when you train, this is how I view it, when you're training you actually have a systematic plan that you and maybe a goal. It could be, you know, better your 5k time or if you're couch to 5k to actually
accomplish that 5k or it could be to accomplish, you know, Ironman or half marathon. So when you're exercising, you just randomly just do stuff. You go for spinning class here and then that's my view.
Paul, what do you think?
Yeah, I think that's exactly it where, yeah, you do have this, I guess, this mind shift towards having a goal. And that's really helpful, I believe, for your health as well, because it does, remember that having physical activity, exercise, is one of the fundamental components of being a healthy human, right? So you don't have to look to too many different international guidelines.
to know that we should move our bodies, we're human beings, we're meant to move our bodies, right? And it helps if you have a, as Marjaana was saying, a systematic approach to that, especially in today's age. So, and again, remember sense of purpose, always sense of purpose in life for all of us is something that brings us happiness and...
you know, completeness, fulfillment in life. So, you know, actually having a goal like, you know, the list that Marjaana gave, it's totally dependent on you, the listener, but that's just a really positive thing to have in your life. And then, yeah, and so it's just that, it is that mind shift to saying, oh, I'm not just gonna go ho-hum, do whatever when I can.
It's like, okay, let's get a little bit more serious about this, let's go up one level from where we're already at. And yeah, and you shift to that mindset that I am. I am an everyday athlete and I'm proud of it. Yeah, and I just wanna emphasize one of the really important points that Marjaana made as well, and that's that training doesn't have to be, you don't have to always be on the bit every single day.
And that's just like, it's just so wrong, but the majority of, you know, the biggest belief that's out there and prevalent is that that's the only way to get to your success. And I just don't believe that you necessarily have to go that, you know, deep into fatigue where you just absolutely, you've got, you know, you don't even enjoy your life.
And you know, Marjaana’s got a great story. She's been there before. I think we've all been there and that's a bit, you know, you can, you know, you can go just as well, if not better by, by training smarter enough.
And that really leads me to this entirely self-serving question for all of us is like, is why do you think an everyday athlete could use or needs a coach?
I think because they need to, you know, they need a reminder. And, you know, there's, yeah, it's just a coach is someone that's gone there before. And, you know, it's someone you can reflect with on your everyday challenges. And,
they can be your guiding compass and get you back on track. We all need a partner in crime to do what we are doing. And yeah, that's the role of the coach is to be there and to hold your hand and walk you through on that journey.
What do you think?
Marjaana Rakai (31:47.482)
I think everyday athletes need a coach to guide them through their journey just because there's so many bumps on the road and so many opportunities to go straight. And honestly, our family members are not that interested in your latest run.
Marjaana Rakai (32:16.518)
So you always know that you have somebody who wants to hear about that run or race or epic adventure somewhere. So sometimes you just need a partner to listen to your race or your run. It could be that simple but honestly like I think everybody can learn from a coach and this is one of my goals as a coach is to teach them.
how to listen to their body, how to read training plans and how to adapt or like adjust them when needed. And thankfully, Athletica is so flexible so that you can change plans if your life plans change. You can squeeze in a 30 minute, 30, 30 VO2 max session when you are short of time.
And you can change your sessions depending on what else you have on the plate. Um, but having a coach to guide you, I think it's so important and like how to interpret. Okay. Today I ran a lot faster than I did last week or today I felt horrible after my bad sleep. So those like small things that.
Okay, you can go and Google them, but you never know what you're getting, what advice you're gonna get. But having a coach to guide you and kind of like interpret what else is going on in your life is very valuable, I think.
I have noticed definitely with the athletes that are working with Athletica is that it's great to have the program and then the coach gets to provide all the rest of the motivation, the nutrition, the switching around the schedules. That's kind of the cool thing because we get to be their support and we get to listen to them but we also get to be their guide as well. It's one thing to have the training plan but it's also to have...
someone who's, you know, holding the compass with you, as it were, and is there for you. Anything that... Go ahead, Paul.
Yeah. No, I just couldn't agree more, Paul. And again, I love looking at the program that you offer, seeing the stuff that you're doing away from the training, you know, with the yoga sessions and these sorts of things. And you know, again, you know, mobility, you know, is a...
is a key one, core strength, all these other different aspects. It's not just about the training sessions. So again, but not everyone will necessarily realize that Athletica can't offer it all. As one example, no training plan can. So, you know, yeah, there's just so much more that a coach can offer based on their experience and the various different other skill sets that they bring to the table.
All right, so three takeaways that I'm getting from our conversation today is that a healthy athlete, a healthy everyday athlete is one who challenges themselves, hones their skills, has a training plan and a goal, and that we are all athletes and that's a mind shift. Second, everyday athletes are different from elite athletes primarily because of training volume and because of
time management. Elite athletes, their only job is to train and recover. And the rest of us have to deal with our family and work schedules. Number three, everyday athletes might want to, and I don't want to put shoulds in here, but you might want to think about training healthy first and being focused on your health first, and then increase, that will increase your performance.
Anything else Marjaana and Paul you want to add to today's episode?
Marjaana Rakai (36:34.559)
I think you nailed it.
All right. That's all for this week. Thanks for listening and join us next week when we talk about why it's so important for everyday athletes to be consistent in their training. For Marjaana Rakai, Dr. Paul Laursen, I'm Paul Warlowski, and this has been the Athletes Compass Podcast.