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Lance Armstrong’s trainer shares winning tips

Chris Carmichael tells how to get the most out of your workout – and life .
/ Source: TODAY

Every year around this time, many of us realize that you’re not keeping up with all of our New Year’s resolutions — and the year is only three weeks old. Well, don’t despair. Chris Carmichael, Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong’s trainer, was invited on TODAY to talk about his new book “5 Essentials for a Winning Life,” and share some of his advice for getting the most our of your workout — and your life. Even though he had been an Olympic athlete and had been the coach for a two-time Tour de France winner, Carmichael knew he had to devise a new approach to fitness and health. In his new book, “5 Essentials for a Winning Life,” (Rodale Press, 2006), he writes:

“The signed yellow jersey was the last straw. Lance Armstrong had just won his second Tour de France in 2000, and he gave me a yellow jersey that read ‘Happy 40th. Man, you’re getting old!’ Ten years earlier, I was a professional bike racer myself and fitter than 99 percent of the people on the planet, but it had been a long time since I’d fit into my skintight racing jersey. In fact, as I approached 40, I was unhealthy in a lot of ways. I was fat, out of shape, and dealing with the stress of starting my own business. My employees didn’t know if I was going to hug them or fire them when they saw me marching toward them, and I was growing more disconnected from my wife and children. I became a slave to my cell phone. It was always on, and I stopped whatever I was doing, including having dinner with my wife or playing with my kids, to answer the phone or return an e-mail.

How did I get into this mess?! I wondered. My life had been about performance — achieving it myself and developing it in others. I still saw myself as someone who was only a few years removed from my racing career — still fast and strong but now more focused on performance in other areas: as a coach, business owner, and head of a family. Outwardly, I was very successful. I had been an Olympian, a professional athlete, the US Olympic Committee’s Coach of the Year, and coach to a Cycling World Champion and two-time Tour de France winner; a husband and father; and a successful entrepreneur.

But in reality, I wasn’t performing at a high level in any aspect of my life. In response to rising challenges and greater demands, I wasn’t actually excelling at anything. I was, in fact, disgusted with myself. I didn’t do all that work and make all those sacrifices to end up fat, out of shape, unpleasant, achy, and chronically tired.

Somewhere, I had lost contact with the high-performance aspects of life and replaced them with mediocre stand-ins. Instead of taking stairs two at a time, I took the elevator. Instead of relishing stimulating conversation over nutritious meals, I gobbled takeout on the drive home. Instead of participating in my kids’ activities, I checked the family calendar so I knew what questions to ask about events I missed. The scariest part was that I didn’t even know I had changed, because it occurred gradually. The hours I spent on my bike exercising, in the kitchen cooking, and in the backyard playing catch were slowly siphoned off as I spent more time building a career, providing for my family, tending to my home — you know the drill.

And that’s just it. You know the drill the same way I do. You may have the great wife and kids, the high-paying job, the big house and fancy cars, but you’re pulled in so many directions that you’re putting in only the minimum amount of attention necessary to keep everything functioning. Somehow you ended up with an exhausting subsistence lifestyle instead of the high-performance, fully engaged lifestyle you started out with and still desire.

If you’re feeling off-track or frustrated with where you are and you’re looking to upgrade to a high-performance life, I’m here to cut through the wasteland of useless information and show you how to get there.”

Here are his basic tips
Challenge yourself consistently. Exercise has to be challenging for you to make progress. I see a lot of people going through the motions — doing the same exercises, at the same pace or resistance, as they have for years. Your body adapts to stress, and once it adapts you have to increase the load to continue moving forward. And when people stagnate, that’s when they stop exercising.

Now, challenging exercise means different things to different people. If it’s a challenge to walk around the block — then that’s what you need to do. But once that is no longer challenging, you have to step it up — walk faster, or farther, more frequently, or move on to another challenging activity.

Get rid of the clutter. After analyzing thousands of people’s diets through my coaching company, I kept finding one amazing theme: a lot of people are already eating good, nutritious food, the problem is that they pile all this worthless garbage on top of it (peppermint lattes, 500-calorie muffins, super-size fries, and gallon-size cokes). If people stripped away the dietary clutter, they’d see that they don’t really have to make wholesale changes to what they eat – the good stuff may already be there.

Two foods that people especially need to cut out are sodas and fancy coffee drinks. Sodas are full of empty calories from high fructose corn syrup and you can easily walk out of a coffee shop with more than 500 calories in a single cup. These two items account for thousands of useless calories every month for people — and cutting back just on those can save people 5 to 10 pounds a year.

Be proactive. Make an appointment and talk to your doctor about being screened for life-threatening conditions like prostate cancer, breast cancer, hypertension, and high cholesterol. The medical system in the country is patient-initiated. It’s set up to deal with you after you get sick, but early detection increases your chances of survival. You might have to spend some money out of pocket, but it’s worth it if it saves you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. More importantly, give your doctor the opportunity to catch and treat something before it destroys your quality of life.

Audit your relationships and cut out the dead weight. The most important relationships you have are with the people closest to you — your family, your lifelong friends, and supportive colleagues. These are the people who will be there with you and for you through thick and thin — but you have to be there for them as well. And that’s why you have to stop supporting relationships that are a drain on your time and emotional energy, and that deliver no value. It seems harsh, but I think it’s the ultimate form of respect; you’re choosing to consolidate your energy so you can better support relationships that are the most meaningful to you — that sends a powerful message to the people you’re closest to, and they’ll respond in kind.

Career: Recharge your batteries. There has to be a time in your day when you give your mind and body a change to recuperate. Athletes perform at their best when I make them work hard and then make them recover, and the same holds true in the office. It’s not that you can’t sit at your desk and pound out reports dawn to dusk; it’s that the quality of your work, the brilliance of your ideas, and the depth of your creativity, are all enhanced by taking time out of the day to rest.

I treat work like an athlete in training. Training is about building your stamina through a cycle of intense and productive periods of work followed by total recovery. Your productivity at work follows the same pattern. You can focus and accomplish a lot, but you need to take a break, a total break from the chaos of your desk. Likewise, don’t think of the weekends and vacations as a luxury — the rest they offer is vital to the quality and volume you can produce at the office and your long-term contribution to your business. Take them.

Excerpt was from “5 Essentials for a Winning Life” by Chris Carmichael. Copyright Chris Carmichael, 2006. Reprinted with permission from