Peak Performance | Seven Steps to Vibrant Health

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, personal trainer Courtenay Shurman discusses the seven key elements to focus on for a healthy mind and body.
Courtenay Schurman Courtenay Schurman
Personal Trainer, MS, CSCS, PN2
October 16, 2018
Peak Performance | Seven Steps to Vibrant Health

As a Mountaineer with summer objectives, you may already have a solid exercise program that includes a weekend adventure, weekday trainings, and weekly strength and flexibility workouts. But a healthy lifestyle is more than your exercise routine. If you’re like a lot of people I know, you may be cutting corners on sleep, stressing about work or school, eating in the car to fit everything in, and skipping social commitments with friends.

Rather than adding more workouts to reach your objective, the answer may actually lie in looking at what you’re doing with the other hours of your day. 

1. Sleep Quality

Sleep is crucial for recovery and repair down to the cellular level, for brain health, stress management, hormonal function, mood and wellness. Exposure to blue light late at night, not getting adequate exposure to sunlight midday, and increasing levels of stress have all disrupted our ancestral circadian rhythms. Do you get enough sleep when relying on sugar and caffeine?

2. Nutrition

The vast majority of our health problems are caused by poor nutrition, and the processed foods industry has greatly compromised our choices, supplying us with toxins, empty calories, and too many processed, high-sugar, high-fat choices. Focus on choosing single-ingredient foods like those found around the perimeter of a grocery store rather than packaged goods in the center aisles. Choose local, organic, and grass-fed (for meat and eggs) whenever possible.

3. Movement

An hour of movement five times a week cannot undo the other choices we make outside of our workouts. Many people sit most of the day at work, in the car, or in front of a TV or computer. Simply getting out of your chair for a minute every half hour can help minimize the effects of sitting. If you view daily workouts as the tip of the iceberg, how might you enhance the rest of your daily life?

4. Breathing

The way we breathe modulates our stress levels. Shallow upper chest breathing contributes to stress, whereas deep belly breathing reduces it. Over half of Americans are mouth breathers; if we can train ourselves to nasal breathe, we can improve our stress response and VO2 Max and ward off sniffles and allergies. For more on this fascinating topic, read The Oxygen Advantage, by Patrick McKeown

5. Rejuvenate

The harder you train, the more you need to prioritize adequate recovery. Make sure you include fun things that help restore energy like photography in a local park, playing around in a pool, visiting a comedy club, getting a massage, or hanging out with friends.

6. Direction

Having a compelling purpose or personal mission statement gives us something to strive for, a compass to help us find our north star. If you don’t set goals for your training or your life, you will never know when you’ve reached your destination.

7. Connection

We are social beings. In today’s era of Facebook, Snapchat, and cell phones, we’re losing the ability to connect with others face-to-face. Studies on those who live to the age of one hundred and beyond show that live connections with other people make a huge difference in overall satisfaction and longevity.

Try finding those gaps that need adjustments for increased well-being, happiness, and balance. If you would like to discuss any of these areas in more depth, feel free to contact Courtenay at She is an NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Nutrition Supercoach, and co-owner of Body Results. She specializes in training outdoor athletes. For more how-to exercises and tips, visit her website at

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2018 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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