Why did you become a Chrono Coach Jacco?
In 2008 the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. For commercial reasons, primetime TV broadcast rights of the Olympic swimming finals in America, the finals were swum in the morning instead of the traditional evening finals. This was a novalty in swimming which, in addition to the well-known phenomenon of ‘jet lag’, required a lot of attention in the preparation.
That is why, a year before the Olympic Games, Toine Schoutens, aka the ‘light doctor’, and I joined hands. By means of training, coaching and scientific insights from chronobiology, we managed to shift the optimal performance moment of the Olympic swimmers to the morning and to another time zone.
This was an experimental but successful start to a journey which, through the many years of collaboration between Schoutens and me, has grown into a partnership that is much more far-reaching than just sport and performance. A journey that has led to a method we call Chrono Coaching.
For over 30 years as a coach in swimming, I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of ‘peak performance’. That is to say, delivering a top performance at the right time, for example at an Olympic Games or, more specifically, in an Olympic final. Then physical, technical and mental aspects must come together at the right time and in such a way that you no longer have to think about it. We also call this ‘flow’.
You can (and must) train these separate aspects and you must plan and coordinate those training sessions in such a way that that flow actually occurs. You can swim a personal best time, or perhaps even a world record, in the week before or after the Olympics, but the point is that you do it during the Olympics and especially when the pressure is mounting.
In addition to all that training, elements such as nutrition, recovery and sleep are also needed to make progress. During the training you give your body a stimulus that disrupts your balance or, scientifically said, disrupts your homeostasis. Only after the correct recovery do you book the intended progression of that training and not during the training itself. This training must of course take place to initiate this process of progression.
Back to Chrono Coaching. We know that light and dark influence our sleep-wake rhythm. That’s why we wake up in the morning when it gets light and sleepy when it gets dark and it’s time to go to bed. If you live a very regular life and, for example, go to bed every day at 10 p.m. and get up at 7 a.m. and also sleep “well”, then there is nothing to worry about and you don’t need anything else. With a night shift and therefore a reversed rhythm, you need some extras to get the same effect, namely light glasses or biodynamic lighting.
But our society, and also the sports community, often has different requirements with competitions at times that do not fall within our optimal biorhythm or with companies and organizations where people have irregular shifts or night shifts.
We also increasingly have to perform in business or sport in a different time zone, for example in Asia, Australia or America if you are travelling from Europe. In that case, the performance is expected at a time when we normally sleep or just wake up. You can imagine that all your good training and planning literally ‘fails’ if you have not prepared for the time of your performance and have not done everything necessary to shift your biological clock, and therefore your optimal performance time. That’s what we can do effectively with Chrono Coaching.
But there’s more. Irregular (night) shifts or a regular jet lag can have a negative impact on your health, well-being and performance. It is therefore important to give people who have to live their lives with such an irregular rhythm the tools and coaching to limit the negative effects.
Also, creating awareness about when exactly light and no light is desired in our abundantly lit world already gives a profit. Just think about your own ‘blue light’ screens (phones, tablets, laptops) that we carry with us day and night which can strongly influence our sleep-wake rhythm.
In Chrono Coaching, the skills of coaching (individual people work) and the knowledge from science (in this case chronobiology) join hands. In all the coaching and leadership roles I have had so far, science has always had a great input.
Of course, that one science does not have to be followed blindly because some effects may be scientifically desirable but practically not feasible and vice versa.
Coaching and leadership are the art of finding the right balance between both worlds, between people and knowledge, between various insights. With Chrono Coaching we pursue that goal in sport and society, in health and performance.
“Shine a light on your preparation and light up your performance.”
Jacco Verhaeren – Chrono Coach