Burn Brightly

Managing our energy, and our performance by Sion Stansfield

How do we achieve amazing performance more often than not? The right balance of energy will allow us to think, feel and act at our best, maximising our performance in life.

Understanding how we make that energy and how we burn it – having this awareness – will ensure that we have the energy to thrive with all that life throws at us.

It has taken me many years to start to truly appreciate how our energy and thus performance is affected by every aspect of life. Not simply by how much physical exercise we do or don’t do or what we eat.

An analogy I regularly use is that of the matchbox. Now for me this simplifies energy into two key areas:

  1. Creating energy – when we fill our matchbox with matches
  2. Using Energy – when we burn those matches

Now it’s not possible to have a full box of matches every day. If we want to improve ourselves, and our performance, then we need to burn some of those matches; using energy to put our bodies under stress, so that we break it down a little, allowing it to reform stronger. 

So, let’s say we have had the most beautiful, relaxing and recharging holiday. At the end of the week we come back with a box full to the brim of matches, of wonderful energy. 

We now move back into everyday life. The hectic nature of life leads us to burn matches. But what is it that’s burning those matches, aka using energy?

The obvious… 

Physical activity. Of course physical activity in all guises is so powerful for our performance, but it does use up energy.

The not so obvious…

A busy day at work. Starting to look outside the box, we often don’t attribute things such as a busy day at work to being real energy drains or burning of matches.

Socialising, Nutrition, Sleep – A late night out with friends, over a couple of beers also eats into our stores of matches.

All of the above are positive. They can really support our sense of wellbeing from a sense of purpose and personal development perspective. From sweating through a spin class, being a high achiever at work, through to time spent with friends.

In this world of constantly looking to achieve, we often don’t take a step back to think about how many of the things that we fill our lives with are burning matches, and are therefore surprised when we don’t feel that we are showing up with as much energy as we would like. 

So, how do we collect matches?

  1. Sleep – for me the absolute fundamental pillar to wellbeing and energy. Get a great night’s sleep and there is a better version of yourself waiting on the other side… get a bad night’s sleep, and we all know the saying ‘getting up on the wrong side of bed’. Sleep is the ultimate ‘legal’ performance enhancing drug, in my opinion.
  2. Nutrition – eat healthy, fuel well, reduce highly processed food and alcohol, and the energy will start to flow from the inside out.
  3. Movement – low intensity exercise i.e. yoga, walking, gardening etc.

In recent years people have become overworked, overtrained and under recovered. We have been burning more matches than we have been creating, and this has of course meant that we are running on less energy, and in turn our performance has been dropping off. 

By thinking of it in this manner we can start to understand that:

  1. We have a finite amount of matches that we can burn each day and week.
  2. It isn’t just in our physical training that we burn matches. In all aspects of wellbeing and life – physical, mental and emotional – we are lighting those matches.
  3. Rest and recovery points need to be factored in to replenish those matches. It’s just as important as burning them in the first place.

There will be days when we need to bring our best performance, and others where we are building up, or recovering. This of course is in all walks of life, be it sport, work, relationships…

By getting a handle on this we can start to plan our load more strategically so that we keep a healthy amount of matches in our armoury – allowing ourselves to burn brightly and have our best performance when it matters most.