The Secret to Oska’s Training

This is my first post proper for Oska and the Frontrunner team.  And it just might very well be my last.  Because in a shameless click-baity grab for attention and popularity, I am going to blow the lid on all of Oska’s training secrets.  If this post disappears as quickly as it appears and you never see another post from me again, then you know what has happened.  You will probably be able to find my body in a sack full of bricks in the lake in Hagley Park.

I’ve known and worked with Oska for a few years now.  I also know and work with many folk who are card-carrying members of the Oska Baynes Fanclub, most of whom would give up their first-born child to be able to run like Oska can.  Well, now you can keep your kids AND Be Like Mike (Oska), because I’m about to tell you exactly what it is that he does that makes him so goddamn good.

To keep the word-count trim and without further ado, Oska’s Secret Sauce is…


I know right!?

I was shocked too.

My specific question to Oska was this:  “What 3 things do you do, week in, week out, that you know helps you perform, but which many people seeking your advice struggle to come to grips with?

His answer covered, perfectly, the three key domains I try to help people with in the coaching I do - sleep, eat, train, repeat:

Consistency of Sleep

Oska maintains a consistent bedtime and wake time, prioritising plenty of sleep most nights.

Consistency of Food & Nutrition
Oska eats the same variety of foods in the same amounts across the week, ensuring he gets plenty of high-quality carbohydrates and proteins to fuel his training and recovery.

Consistency of Training

Oska has a very well-rounded approach to his life balance.  He generally doesn’t try to cram everything into each week.  When a long way out from a goal, he will do more or less some weeks in order to accommodate life.  However, when approaching his target goal, he creates more space in his life for training and recovery.

I love Oska’s attitude and approach to his training and performance, and indeed his life in general.  He takes a no frills approach, and puts a lot of weight in the core ‘big rocks’ of consistent sleep, nutrition, and training.  As passionate as he is about the latest shoe tech, he knows the best shoes aren’t worth a damn if he is underslept, underfed, and not managing his training loads and life stressors well.

From my perspective, I would love to see people develop a deeper understanding that nutrition and training are dependent variables.  That is, nutrition influences training, and training influences nutrition.  Sadly, and all too often, people treat their nutrition and training as independent variables.  

We can throw sleep into this mix too.  Even only 1-2 night’s poor sleep (let alone the chronically poor sleep habits I see in many folk) are enough to have a significant impact on our appetite and metabolism, changing not only the types of foods we want to eat, but also how our body digests, absorbs, and partitions the energy from that food.  Being underslept changes our training performance, generally reducing power and endurance, whilst increasing the perceived effort - we go slower and it feels harder.

A poorly thought out and executed diet can be problematic for our sleep.  Undereat during the day then attempt to backfill that energy hole in the 2-3 hours before bed, and you will struggle to settle into a comfortable night’s slumber (and will likely not be hungry in the morning, seeing you start the undereating process all over again the next day).  It is not uncommon for me to see people underfuel themselves across the day, and find themselves unable to unwind in the evening prior to bed.  This can be directly related to the stress hormones the body is releasing in an attempt to mobilise some energy.  These same stress hormones will make it difficult to initiate sleep, as well as sustain sleep across the night.  Early morning awakenings are often a sign of being underfuelled.

Poorly managed training loads - typically too much volume and/or intensity - can drive nutrition demands which we struggle to meet (e.g. higher protein requirements for recovery), and can drive cravings, especially for the likes of carbohydrate, which we may fall victim too through periods of binge eating.  Falling face first into a tray of donuts can lead to issues of self-loathing and disgust, which we then attempt to self-medicate with even more training.  Excessive training loads, despite the fatigue they induce, can also put us in that tired-but-wired state.  We’d love to sleep, but our nervous system just feels on edge all the time and we can’t relax.

Hopefully you can see just how intertwined sleep, nutrition, and training loads are.  When any one of these core pillars is out of balance, consistency of training starts to falter.  Oska knows this, and knows that it is his consistency - his ability to show up to almost every training session, week in, week out, which drives his performance beyond anything else.  Indeed, the number one performance driver for nearly all endurance sports is total annual volume, and it is consistency across all the domains mentioned here, which allows that volume to build.

It is important to acknowledge here, too, that Oska doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  It would be easy to dismiss what he does and how it is not attainable for most mere mortals because he is a “pro”.  Except he isn’t.  He has a family, staff, runs a retail store in a tight market, and gives A LOT back to the running community.  He has much the same pressures on his day as the rest of us.  What Oska has done is build good structures, systems, and schedules around himself to support his goals.

Our structures are the environments we have around us - built and social - which either help or hinder us in our daily endeavours.  Perhaps a good example of Oska’s structures is the team he has supporting him.  This includes his coach, Matt, his training partners, and perhaps the most important member of his support team, his wife, Katy.  If Oska had to be a lone wolf in his passions, I am almost certain he wouldn’t be as successful as he is.

Ask yourself who or what needs to be around you in order to support your goals? How can you make your structures easier for yourself?

Work towards building those structures.

Systems are the processes and practices we use to make things happen.  Oska has put in place various systems, allowing greater consistency with fewer barriers.  I know he invested in some good strength equipment for home, allowing him to hit this important aspect of his training without needing to go to a gym and be away from home and his family too much.  But perhaps his favourite system is his beloved airfryer, allowing him to quickly and easily prepare and eat high-quality meals while he is at work, ensuring his energy levels remain high.

What needs to happen for you to be more effective in your day? What processes and practices need to be in place?  Create and do those things.

Our schedules are exactly what is says on the tin - the things we have booked in (scheduled) at certain times.  You are scheduled to start work at a certain time.  If you need to go to the dentist, you make a booking and schedule it in.  There are two patterns I see, when it comes to schedules (and I am guilty of both myself):

  1. Saying something is important and a priority, but it is never scheduled and is just left to see where it might fit in your day.
  2. Scheduling something in, but due to a lack of structures and systems, it can’t actually be done consistently well.

In his response to my original question, Oska states that his sleep is sufficiently important that he sticks to a consistent sleep and wake schedule.  He also schedules in his training, prioritising it - when it needs to be prioritised.  He also ‘de-schedules’ other aspects of his life in the final build up to a key event or goal.  He has enough experience and awareness to know that he can’t do everything at once, and manages his weekly and monthly schedules to suit.

Book your sleep, training, and nutrition just like you book any other appointment.  Make it a time priority, put it into your calendar, and stick to it.

It is important to understand here that schedules are built on structures and systems.  Oftentimes, we people come to me for nutrition, what they are expecting to get is a nutrition plan (schedule), which they do.  But such plans are difficult to stick to, consistently, if you don’t have good structures and systems in place.  Indeed, it is the lack of structures and systems which sees the whole lot fall over and sees people exclaim that “the plan just didn’t work for them.” 

So there you have it.  Oska’s secret to training is consistency.  This consistency isn’t a case of good luck or good genetics.  It is, however, the result of good intentions, the willingness to try, fail, and try again.  It is the result of building a little on a little - those structures, systems, and schedules - week after week, month after month.  It is the result of chasing progress rather than perfection.

Want to improve your consistency game?  Give this a try:

  • For each of the 3 domains we have discussed here, take a sheet of paper and along the left hand column, write the numbers 1 through 5.
  • At 5, write down what perfection would be like for that domain, e.g. falling asleep easily at 10pm and waking up at 6am feeling refreshed and energised.
  • At 1, write down the single easiest thing you can do right now to improve yourself in that domain.
  • Between that 1 and 5 identify 3 more steps you can take which help you to make progress in that domain.  Maybe it is something structural, maybe it is a system you need.  Or maybe you just need to schedule something in.

There are no perfect answers here, just solutions to the problems you encounter.  Build towards these solutions.  Soon enough, you too will be consistently consistent, and everyone will be wondering what your secret is.

Now don’t tell Oska I let his secret out.

August 26, 2022 — Oska Inkster-Baynes

Leave a comment