Six Foundational Principles

In his continued efforts to help you find balance between life and sport, in this episode, Colby focuses on the six foundational principles of a well-balanced life, as prescribed by Paul Chek of the Chek Institute.

Colby Pearce Cycling in Alignment Podcast

As a proponent of Chek’s methods and philosophy, Colby will walk through the practical applications of each of these for cyclists.

The six principles are:

  1. Eating
  2. Drinking
  3. Sleeping
  4. Movement
  5. Breathing
  6. Thinking


Water Calculator:


Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Cycling in Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and right relationship to your life.

Colby Pearce  00:25

Greetings and salutations listeners. Thanks for returning to another episode of Cycling in Alignment. Today I want to talk about Paul Chek’s six foundational principles. These should be considered fundamental to health and the bedrock of a health practice. A  health practice envelops and contains a cycling practice. You’ve got to be healthy to be an athlete, you’ve got to be a healthy human first before you’re fast on a bike. And the reason that I think these are really important to speak about is, in my 15 years of coaching, I’ve come to see many athletes who approached me about writing them and training program or begin a conversation about how we’re going to direct their training. And the concern frequently is about things that are farther up the chain. Things like functional threshold power, or improving sprint speed or improving the ability to pedal more quickly. And of course, these are metrics that we can track and influence the performance of an athlete and the outcome of a bike race. But frequently, what I find is that athletes aren’t really concerned with the underlying essence of what’s going to get them that extra speed or those extra watts. They’re missing the concept that there’s something more fundamental that needs to be paid attention to a more basic aspect of their preparation. And until that’s taken care of the highest expression of their athletic potential won’t be possible. It’s just like building a house and not taking the time to build a proper foundation. If you don’t lay that concrete slab in the ground correctly if you don’t research a quality of the dirt if you don’t understand the earth that you are laying the foundation of your home on. Then when you pour the concrete and the earth collapses underneath the home, or if you don’t make the foundation level Then when you go to build the walls and the kitchen and install the refrigerator, everything will go sideways. This is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been drawn to Paul’s teachings is because his school teaches us to look holistically at the athlete from a very 30,000 foot view we’ll say, this means that you can see really what the biggest rate limiting factors are an athlete’s performance and very, very frequently, when I work with riders even at an elite level. The biggest reason they’re not winning bike races or maybe they are winning bike races. The biggest reason they’re not expressing themselves as their best athlete has nothing to do with how we’re training. It has to do with life choices they’re making off the bike and many of these are fundamental They underlie everything. The six foundational principles are eating, drinking, sleeping, movement, breathing, and thinking. And for anyone who takes their health seriously which should be everyone, it ought to be everyone. These are considered or shall be considered non negotiable. In Paul’s I-we-all model. First, you administer your own oxygen mask before applying it to small children or other people who need your help. Meaning you look after your own health as the first priority. Then you move to the we which is any two people in your life you and one other usually a family member or a loved one or a dear friend. And then the all includes, well, really everyone on the planet Earth. My only tribe is the human race. I try not to draw distinctions or boundaries around different groups of people to the best of my ability. So the priority here is to look after your own health first, which may seem selfish or solipsistic. But if you think about it, the most honest and truthful way for you to be your best self is to look after your own health first. It’s the way you can be the best father, the best husband, the best girlfriend, if you don’t have your own acting, get and together, you’re not gonna be able to serve others effectively. You’re not gonna be able to really express your love for them. Health is everything. If you don’t have health well Walking through the world and giving other people love is going to be more challenging. That’s what makes these foundational principles fundamental to health and the expression of the highest potential of any athlete.


Colby Pearce  06:16

The first one, eating, eating is a complex topic. And I have already produced a podcast, or I unpack some diet thoughts, but I’ll just say that eating can be the most challenging aspect of a person’s behavior to change and also the most impactful if you are training hard as an athlete, and you are fueling your body with crap food, you’re going to run into constant barriers and ceilings to performance. training for athletics is an inherently physically challenging undertaking. That’s obvious. What that means is you are Constantly subjecting your body to stress and inflammation. You’re tearing the body down intentionally so that it can repair itself and get stronger. If you don’t give yourself the proper fuel and tools to rebuild that machinery, and you can see where this is going, you’re never going to get to the highest point that you’re capable of expressing as an athlete. The challenge is that food choices are highly emotional, and really indoctrinated. We can all identify certain smells, or flavors that remind us of our childhood. Maybe in good ways, maybe in not so happy ways. We all grow into adulthood to adopt certain food preferences. Some foods repulse us some foods We find highly pleasurable.

Colby Pearce  08:02

A couple points here that may find some utility in this project. One, keep in mind that diet is not about perfection. We’re not looking for everyone to live like a monk. We’re here on this planet to live life, not to live in slavery. So, undertaking a practice of improving your diet is not about constantly flogging yourself for imperfect choices. Diet is about making better choices. Diet is about making conscious choices that requires education, both about the food you were eating, the nutritional content of it, the macronutrient content of it, but also examining carefully Why you are eating foods you’re eating. What is the emotional payback? Are you selecting a food because it’s good for you? Or are you selecting a food because it brings you to a different emotional state.

Colby Pearce  09:21

Let’s take milk for example. A simple example. There are people who really love dairy products, especially cow’s milk. And what is the first thing we all had as a child, the first source of love and sustenance? Well, if you were breastfed, it was mother’s milk. So when you have a strong craving for that giant bowl of ice cream it’s a bit of a return to warmth, security, unconditional love. Now, I’m not saying you should never have ice cream, although it’s a food I don’t actually consume, which doesn’t have anything to do with the psychology of it has more to do with the impacts ice cream has on my digestive tract. What I’m saying is think about why you’re eating the foods you’re eating, and consciously select them or deselect them accordingly. That’s one really powerful method to help advance your dietary choices.

Colby Pearce  10:35

The other thing I’ll say about diet is that foods are such powerful motivators. It’s worth it to think about how food impacts your psychology. food choices are frequently made based on pleasure. Food tastes good, people like to eat. They are social components to eating food and there are individual opponents eating food, meaning the individual experiences different things when they eat the food. It’s easy to see food only for its hedonistic value. Its pleasure value.


Colby Pearce  11:28

Sleeping is the single most important recovery modality. There are all kinds of ways that athletes recover from training sessions and get massage, cryo therapy, acupuncture, gentle stretching, inversion tables, you can use compression devices, ice baths… Sleep is by far the most important. And sleep is really what sets up our recovery pattern over a long period of time. So it’s something that should be treated as sacred. Your sleeping space is sacred space. And if you’re serious about practicing the six foundational principles and adopting them in your life, defending your sleep space, and just defending your sleep time is essential. And when I say defending sleep time, I don’t necessarily only mean the total duration of sleep you have in an evening. What I mean is the start time of your sleep. A consistent bedtime is very important. There probably times and that’s really hard to control Life, especially if you have kids and pets and family members. And also if you’re racing, there are times when it’s harder to get to bed at the same time and when you’re on the road. That said, it should be a priority. And it’s a constant chance to, it’s a constant opportunity to improve your sleep performance by having a consistent bedtime every night, and by adopting a sacred ritual around asleep, that helps foster an environment for sleep.

Colby Pearce  13:40

There are lots of resources and discussions on sleep hygiene. I won’t repeat a lot of what is readily available out there, but I’ll just give you a very brief outline of some of the concepts: reducing EMF exposure, reducing blue light exposure, the temperature of your bed and of your room, and obviously noise levels. Also exposure to stimulus in the few hours before bed, specifically after the sun goes down, the time between when the sun goes down and when you actually lay down to go to sleep. This is a really important time to cultivate a quiet and restful mind. If you’re watching Game of Thrones on a HDTV before you lay down and then you expect to hit the pillow and crash – you’re kind of ice skating uphill a little bit. Understand how this type of programming influences your mind and how it doesn’t. lay the foundation for a good night’s rest if you’re using some type of sleep tracker HRV device or otherwise, these can be powerful tools to change behavior. I’ve had many of my athletes use a whoop strap or an aura ring and comment immediately about how they see the negative impact of even a single beer or a single glass of wine on their deep sleep or slow wave sleep. So if you’re the type of person who needs to see data in order to enact change, this might be something you can consider. But there’s no real way around it. Drinking destroys your sleep. So that’s another one to keep in mind. Having that beer after your ride, you’re pretty much undoing a good bit of what you just accomplished on the bike for the day. Three steps forward, one step back. And most of my athletes train really hard. Those are three challenging steps to take forward at every training ride so shooting yourself in the foot by drinking beer afterwards, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. This would be the equivalent of embracing the archetype of the saboteur, or in this case, the self saboteur. It’s really saying, I’m going to train really hard in the bike, but I’m unsure of my ability to really succeed in the sport. So I’m just going to get myself a built in excuse. It’s the same thing as going to the start line and talking about how you haven’t trained enough or neglecting to lube your chain or inflate your tires before the race.

Drinking Water

Colby Pearce  16:35

Moving on to drinking. And specifically, in the six foundational principles, we’re talking about water, we’re talking about hydration of body tissues. Paul’s rule is that you should drink approximately half your body weight in ounces of water per day. I know ounces aren’t a metric unit of measurement. Don’t shoot the messenger man. I’m just quoting Paul. It’s a good guideline. I’ll also share a water body water calculator in the show notes that I found to be useful. And when I fill it out using metric units, it actually gives me a bit of a higher number half my weight and body, half my body weight in ounces per day would be about 75 ounces. But this gives me 107.5 ounces which is 3.2 liters. It’s quite a bit of water, and that would be not really including strict time on the bike during hot weather. Now this calculator has an activity level drop down. And the options are select between sedentary, moderately active, active or highly active. I chose active. I’m riding about, I’m probably exercising about 12 hours a week right now plus or minus, including kettlebells hikes, runs, some riding other physical activity.

Colby Pearce  18:12

If you are chronically dehydrated, you are impacting bodily systems on a global level. Water’s the center of everything. When you’re born, you’re around 70% water and the percentage goes down a little bit from there based on how old you are. But think about that for a minute. You’re 70% water. If you’re not replenishing that pool of hydration every day. There’s no way that’s going to allow for optimum body performance. Everything in your body depends on water. Your body is basically a giant bag of salt water. And to that end, the electrical impulses that travel through your nervous system Well, water is a conductive material. So when we reduce the amount of water in your tissues, the nervous system is not going to work as well. It’s pretty simple. I don’t need to be digging deep into science here to illustrate this fact.

Colby Pearce  19:18

Also, I’ll point out that glycogen stores are one of the most fundamental predictors of performance. If you are glycogen depleted, no matter how fit you are, you will not be able to express that fitness while you’re riding your bike. So if you’re under fueling, you’re going to get to the line and not be able to race to your best ability. But remember that for every molecule of glycogen that is stored in the liver or the muscles, there’s a corresponding amount of water that needs to be there in order to store that glycogen. So if you eat all the carbs, You need to in order to refill your tank, but you’re not hydrated, you’re not going to be able to store that fuel. Water is an essential component of storing glycogen in the muscle and in the liver.

Colby Pearce  20:12

Also, one of the bigger predictors I’ve figured out in cycling performance is blood volume. Simply put, the thicker your blood is, the slower you will go. The thinner and more fluid your blood is, the faster it will go. This should be pretty obvious if we think about it to think about your venous system has a series of tubes. And those tubes get tinier and tinier and tinier. As they go more and more into the muscle tissue deeper into the muscle. If your bloods really thick, it can’t make it into the tiniest tubes and at the very far end of those tubes is where The magic happens. That’s where the oxygen exchange happens at the muscular level at the cellular level, in the capillaries. If your bloods really thick, that doesn’t work as well. Again, this is not rocket science. We don’t have to dig deep into Physiology or anatomy to understand these basic concepts.

Colby Pearce  21:22

How do we make water actionable? Find yourself a nice glass container and fill it up with water three or four times a day and just work on it all day. Some people don’t like to drink water during the day because the inconvenience of going to the bathroom outweighs their feelings about hydration or their perception that hydration is important or fundamental to health. And for me, this is just a great example of someone who’s got some priorities that are a little bit out of whack. Because they really don’t understand how much hydration impacts the quality of their life and their health, their long term health. If you’re chronically dehydrated body tissues, this is going to result in all kinds of long term health problems. Not the least of which is chronic connective tissue problems. If you’re a person who’s got kind of a long list of ligamentous or tendinous issues, one, one thing you might consider is that you are chronically dehydrating your system.

Colby Pearce  22:40

One final point on hydration and water. It’s 2020. And just about anywhere on the planet Earth Unfortunately, our water is contaminated. It’s filled with microplastics and glyphosate and Other people’s prescription drugs, homeopathic doses of other people’s prescription drugs. They’re almost 8 billion people on this planet and most of them are taking hormones and statens and Boehner pills and god knows what else. And no matter how good your water treatment plant is, that stuff doesn’t come out. So find the highest quality water you can. And the solution to this is simple and hopefully actionable. Local spring water delivered to your house in glass bottles. That’s the perfect world solution. This is what you drink every day all day. Ideally. If you don’t have access to this or you’re not in a position to afford it, tap water is better than no water and the best solution to pollution is dilution, so drink more. I’m not suggesting anyone feel bad about drinking tap water. I’m sure most of it passes basic health standards, but it’s not our optimal choice. Our optimal choice is local springwater.


Colby Pearce  24:19

Principle number four is movement. I’ve already unpacked this in a previous episode about cycling life balance. The concept I want to get across here is simply that as endurance athletes, we tend to think of our movement practice in a more is better paradigm. But just like anything, practicing movement in an ideal fashion is about having right relationship with your movement practice. Was that mean? Well, one really good illustration of this concept was my episode with Jessi Stenslan where she described how her paradigm changed as a professional triathlete when she began to train at exos. In her training volume dropped dramatically. Her intensity went up. And her performance went through the roof. And I think Jessi would agree with me that one of her primary takeaways from that experience was simply that she was training more than she needed to. And that was getting in the way of her peak performance as an athlete.

Colby Pearce  25:33

I’ve had this lesson many times in my athletic journey as well. There were seasons where I decided I was just going to pile on crap tons of volume and just ride myself into the ground and guess what the result was? I rode myself into the ground. I’m not saying that high volume training is never a good idea. Nor am I saying that hard and long rides have no place in any athletes quiver of workouts. What I’m saying is strive for balance in all things. And the most effective way to train an elite athlete is to constantly rotate different variables. That doesn’t mean we don’t do blocks of training that specifically focus on one aspect of conditioning. But if you repeat the same thing over and over again, the body and the mind will eventually stop responding. So, having a rotating arsenal of workouts and stimuli is important in any athletes long term development or even interested in development.

Colby Pearce  26:41

Also consider that most of the time when we think about training, we’re thinking about it in a Yang respect. That is dividing conquering catabolic, we need to counterbalance that movement with yen movement. movement. That is correct. drives by Yin energy that is rejuvenative, restore – restoring, multiplying. Now, sleeping is the most important Yin activity we have, it is the most rejuvenative thing we can do to bring ourselves back online after long days of work or long days of riding. That said, there are also activities you can do, training activities you can do that are Yin, that are rejuvenative. My go to example is Tai Chi, but it can also be a barefoot walk for 20 minutes while you focus on mouth closed box breathing, perfect example. You can also go ride your bike for an hour and keep your mouth closed and focus on slow diaphragmatic breath. This would be considered a yin activity or Paul would term working in instead of working out.

Colby Pearce  28:20

Another point I’ll make about movement practice is that looking globally at an athlete, especially a cyclist, we want to design a training program that complements and offsets these cycling sports specific adaptations. These include, commonly, reduction of the lordotic curve and the lower back increase of the kyphotic curve, rounding of the shoulders, forward head posture…you get the idea – So, it comes down to Know thyself, understand what your postural compensations are both on and off the bike, build a movement program to help deal with these. Otherwise, you end up walking around like ecopod crane. When you’re optimizing movement practice, don’t assume that more is better.


Colby Pearce  29:32

The fifth foundational principle is breathing. Breathing is also so fundamental to basic health. There are a lot of good books out there right now on breathing and breath work. If you’re unsure if your breathing pattern is functional, or not more healthy, I strongly encourage you to look into it. It’s really common for people to come through my door and have either an inverted breathing pattern or a chest breathing pattern or a shallow breathing pattern. If you have a breathing pattern dysfunction, the chances of you having a core muscular dysfunction during exercise are extremely high. probably close to 100% correlation there. If you’re not breathing, right, while you’re on the bike, how are you ever going to perform at your best Cycling is, I’ll agree with Andy Coggan in this respect, Cycling is dominantly anaerobic sport. There are many other aspects that govern and limit performance on the bike. But if you’re missing that foundation of respiratory function, You’re just not going to perform at the highest level possible.

Colby Pearce  31:03

A couple of good books to look at. We’ll link to these in the show notes. One is called the Breathe by Belissa Vranich. Another is the Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McGowan. These are two pretty good basics and will get you a long way. There are also some podcasts out there that both belissa and Patrick have done. So go forth and make the internet searches and thou shall find the information thy I seek. Both of them have a lot of simple practical, actionable advice on how to assess your own breathing pattern and how to improve it.

Colby Pearce  31:49

Breathing and breath are a gateway into the autonomic nervous system. We breathe about  25000 times a day. So if you’re doing it wrong, that’s a lot of opportunities for improvement. But the reason breath is so powerful is it can help us control our emotional state. This is because normally we think of all muscular or physical actions as either voluntary or involuntary. For example, I can reach over to my desk corner and pick up my glass water bottle and take a drink of local springwater. But I can’t consciously control my digestion. I can’t consciously control my body putting glycogen back into my muscles, or repairing damaged muscle tissue. I don’t consciously control my heartbeat. Those things can actually be controlled by some people, but it takes years of training. And you’ve got to be a interbody wizard. I’m not there yet. breath is the window between these two worlds. You breathe unconsciously through most days, unless you have a breath practice. And so 25,000 times a day, you inhale and exhale. How are you inhaling and exhaling? What is the emotional attachment or state of your breath? As you walk through the world? How does your emotion influence your breath? What’s magic about the breath is that we can also consciously decide to focus on it and we can control it. This is why it’s such a powerful window into emotional state. breathwork is the key to beginning to develop a deeper relationship with your own emotional world.


Colby Pearce  34:00

That’s a perfect segue into the final foundational principle which is thinking, thinking. And the way we think the relationship we have with our mind paints our picture of our entire universe, the mental chatter, the internal voice that’s bouncing around in that skull of yours. It can have a very powerful impact on your perspective of the day. Do you have negative self talk? Do you say things to yourself like, I probably am not good enough to do this, or I’m not as strong as that rider. Or I’m probably going to get my ass kicked in this bike race. Developing proper relationships with your own thinking patterns is a critical aspect of having a complete health practice. The first step is simply observing your own thought patterns. Witnessed them. And by witnessing them it’s possible to understand that thoughts can be seen as clouds in the sky. There are times when you can just observe a cloud floating by and sometimes it looks like a dragon and maybe sometimes it looks like a snail or horse. And an untrained monkey mind will produce thoughts that are like clouds, it will spit them out. random thoughts, thoughts about all sorts of things. Other people’s arrow wheels whether or not you ate enough food, whether or not you’re going to run out of gas on the way to the race. whether or not you’ve done enough intervals, the monkey mind goes on and on and on with seemingly miscellaneous lines of thought that are not productive and lead to a distracted chaotic mind.

Colby Pearce  36:04

When thinking is a priority in a holistic life practice, the tempo of thought and the content of thought become congruent with the intent of the person. Having congruency and focus on your thoughts will help you coalesce your desires and your intent into a cohesive message. It is particularly important in 2020 to vigorously defend the boundaries of what you allow in your mind. Having the internal discipline or practice To keep the mind relatively calm is important, to keep thoughts tidy, to let troubling thoughts go. But part of this practice also involves understanding that the world we live in, offers many opportunities to pollute your mind with negative thoughts or simply content that is not constructive. We’re constantly assaulted by advertisements on our computers, on our phones, on our televisions, or radio stations standing in line at the grocery store – junk food for the mind. To a certain degree, all of our environments are eco generators. Social media is one good example of this. You will find what you’re looking for in social media. And if you use social media with a certain bias, it will present you with exactly what you thought you would find. The same is true on television. The same is true in media.

Colby Pearce  38:28

There’s balance in all things and it’s important to keep up on the news but it becomes really easy to poison your thought process and influence your perspective on the universe in a way that is dark or without hope. So I invite you to be aware of your environment and consider the influences that you have. Consider how media influences your mental perspective on your world and shifts the tide of your mind.

Colby Pearce  39:30

I hope you can understand that the six foundational principles play into all aspects of your global health and your performance as an athlete. In my experience as a coach, athletes frequently tend to almost forget about these concepts. And whenever a rider comes to me with a problem: I’m not feeling well, I had a bad race, I had a terrible workout – One of my first responses is almost always to rewind and ask them about these basics: How have you been eating? Have you been hydrating regularly? How’s your sleep going? Been sleeping okay. How is your movement practice? Meaning, are you sticking to the plan we talked about? Or did you decide to add volume to your ride? Did you decide to double the amount of reps in your strength and conditioning program? What’s your emotional state like? What are the thoughts going on in your head? Are you breathing okay? I wouldn’t necessarily ask these questions directly to my athlete in every case, but having an understanding of what their relationship is to these principles, helps me make great progress with them as a coach and it’s lesson that I constantly recycled to them.

Colby Pearce  41:06

If we take care of these six concepts, and we look after them regularly, daily, we treat them as non negotiable. Probably 95% of all training quandaries and problems end up taking care of themselves. It’s kind of the coach’s equivalent of take two aspirin and call me in the morning, except it’s a superior method, because when a doctor tells you take two aspirin and call me in the morning, what they’re saying is either I don’t know what’s wrong with you, it’ll probably work itself out or you’re probably having a psychosomatic issue. And if we just give it some time and a good night’s sleep, you’ll get over it. The sixth foundational principles are actually dealing with the problem at its core. They are addressing health from the foundation, and this is what enables us to have better longevity, better recovery, better expression of high end as athletes, and as people more importantly

Colby Pearce  42:18

Thanks for listening to my thoughts on these important concepts. I hope you found this discussion useful. If you want to ask me some questions, or give me some feedback, good feedback, bad feedback, other feedback you can email me, I’ll do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you soon. Next week’s episode is going to be a big one, and it won’t just be me talking. So thanks for patience, Ride and flow.

Colby Pearce  43:05

Thank you for listening to the Cycling in Alignment podcast. I hope you enjoy today’s show. If you have some feedback about the show, you can email me at That’s all just like it sounds We will also put the link to this email in the show notes and some links to some socials in case you want to hit us up. We appreciate the positive feedback if you like the show, if you didn’t like it, well, that’s okay. And let me know about that too. Thanks. Have a good day.

Colby Pearce  43:43

The thoughts and opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the guests or me. They do not represent the Fast Talk Labs, Fast Talk, Chris Case, Trevor Connor, Santa Claus or anyone else thanks.