Cannons and Canoes


Cannons and Canoes

One of my favorite quotes as it relates to power creation in the human body I read many years ago in Stuart McGill’s “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance”. When speaking about how the body can generate the most power the book says, “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe”. This image has stuck with me ever since I first read it and seems to simply explain how we need to address the athlete’s conditioning if we want to ultimately create maximum power. The absolute, crushing power of a cannon ball shot from a cannon is unmistakable. If you decided one day that you wanted to create a cannon with more power that could ultimately create more force, the first instinct would be to build a bigger cannon that used a bigger cannon ball. This is often the same instinct that we have as athletes when it relates to our sport. Getter faster on the bike means getting a better bike, a lighter shoe, a lighter wheel, or more aerodynamic frame. To get faster, runners want to get the best shoe and just run more miles. To get bigger muscles athletes think only to lift heavier weights and lift them more often. While all of these things do help to improve the performance of the athlete, the most important piece of equipment is often neglected: the body.
Let’s look back at our example of the cannon. What if all the focus was placed on building a bigger cannon and heavier cannon ball without paying much attention to the stability of the cannon. This is eloquently illustrated by thinking about firing a cannon from a canoe. If you put a powerful cannon on a canoe and fired it, the explosion would cause more energy displaced in the movement of the canoe rather than in the propulsion of the cannon ball. This same principle can be seen with athletes. Too often athletes are narrowly focused on big muscles and better gear, rather than focusing on the stability of their cannon. Remember that the more you stabilize the cannon, the more power you can create when shooting the cannon ball. Any loss in the stability of the cannon directly relates to loss of power in the firing of the ball. This is no different than the human body. If athletes lack proper stability then maximum power can never be created. This goes for every sport: golf, running, cycling, basketball, football, etc. Taking the cannon off of the canoe and putting it on the ground obviously yields better results. For the highly competitive athlete this needs to be taken one step further. Not only does the cannon need to be on solid ground, but it needs to be completely immobilized so that no energy is wasting moving the cannon when fired. This ultimate stability of the cannon allows for maximum force dispersed to the cannon ball.
For the athlete, this ultimate stability needs to be realized not only through the proper fitness training, but also through optimizing the stability of the internal health. Let’s briefly discuss these two:
Proper fitness training for the athlete needs to be very specific to what muscles and movements are involved in the sport. It also needs to build an athlete from the ground-up. This means making sure there is a proper base strength and muscular control from which power and strength can be built upon. It is far too common to see athletes who focus on power and strength, but have very poor stabilizing capacity and fine motor control.
Optimizing internal health is probably never even considered by the athlete as a way to ‘stabilize the cannon’. This is where I find true performance enhancement can really be achieved. Getting bigger, stronger, or faster is completely determined by an athletes ability to recover. This was discussed at length in a previous blog (read here: so we’ll keep it simple here. Just know that improving your overall health is the absolute best way to be able to train harder and recover faster. Using specified lab work, precise nutritional intervention, and high-quality supplementation can give athletes huge advantages in competition.
If you are a serious athlete that either wants to compete at a high level or stay in the sport for many years, start to consider that optimizing your health is the first priority to achieving those goals.

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Peppers

posted in: Recipes | 0


  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano 
chile pepper, seeded 
and chopped
  • 2 lb ground chicken 
or turkey
  • 1 14.5-oz can unsalted 
fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 4 red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers
  • Lime wedges


  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron


  1. Prepare seasoning: In a small dry skillet on medium-low, toast cumin seeds for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant, shaking skillet occasionally. Remove from heat; cool 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a spice grinder; grind to a powder. Transfer cumin to a small bowl and stir in remaining seasoning ingredients.
  2. In a large skillet on medium, heat oil. Add onion, garlic, and chile; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chicken; cook until no longer pink. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp seasoning mixture (reserve remaining mixture for use in Meal Plan); stir well. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; then simmer, uncovered, 5 to 7 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in 1/4 cup cilantro.
  3. Meanwhile, cut 
bell peppers in half vertically (from stems to bottoms). Remove and discard stems, seeds and membranes. In a large pot, blanch peppers in boiling water, 2 to 
3 minutes or just until tender; drain. Fill peppers with chicken mixture.
  4. For each serving, arrange 2 pepper halves on a plate. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

How to Avoid Overtraining

One of the biggest problems I see with my patients who do a lot of training is that they overtrain. They vastly underestimate the importance of taking time to recover and let their bodies heal. It’s easy to think that more is better, so they are constantly pushing their body to the max. Unfortunately, that’s when the most injuries occur.

how to avoid overtraining, overtraining for a marathon, endurance sports overtrainingDuring training you are actually breaking down the muscles in your body. Your body intelligently responds by rebuilding them stronger than they were before. However, your muscles don’t get stronger while you are working out. It’s when you are resting that you get stronger, faster, bigger, etc. That recovery time is so important for increased performance, as well as for avoiding injury.

It’s pretty simple when it comes down to it. If you are constantly breaking your body down and not allowing sufficient recovery time, you are going to injure yourself. The most common times I see this is with people who are training for endurance sports, like a marathon or triathlon, as well as people who do a lot of weight training. Quantity is not as important as quality.

All of the endurance athletes know the importance of tapering before a competition or race. The reason taper is so important is for the same reasons I described above. However, few people take that mentality into the rest of their training. If you don’t allow yourself time during your training to recover, you run the risk of injury. Increasing recovery time before a big race allows your body to be 100% for race day. Don’t you think it would be wise to try and be 100% for each training day? The more recovered you are for each training day, the harder you can push yourself, which results in making quicker gains in speed, power, and strength. Too often, endurance athletes get to their taper period injured. This time in the training schedule should be used to make sure the body is 100%, not crossing your fingers that your pain will go away.

Another key factor that intensifies over-training is lack of proper nutrition. What you eat and put in your body is the fuel your body uses when you are training. Proper nutrition plays an immense role in how you are going to perform, how effective your training is, and your likelihood of getting injured. Just like a car that needs the right fuel to run properly, if you aren’t putting the right fuel in your body, you put yourself at a much higher risk of getting injured.

Overtraining is much more common than people think. It’s something that I see frequently. Some common symptoms of over-training include always feeling tired or sluggish, having an increased heart rate, not recovering from previous workouts, chronic pain, and/or not feeling energized after you exercise.

As you are training, be sure to build in time to recover. You have to listen to your body to know what it needs. This will help you avoid injury and increase performance.

Have questions about this? We would love to help. Feel free to give us a call at 949-916-9742.