XPS Book Review | Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game

3/6/2023 5 min. reading

In this XPS Monday Series, we are reviewing another book worth reading for coaches and athletes, an innovative read from 2017 that’s as relevant now as it was then: Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. 

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success,” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. It was first published in 2017 by Rodale Books and comes in Kindle, hardback, and paperback versions. It’s highly recommended, has great reviews, and is another must-read for athletes and coaches alike. 

Everyone on the XPS team is involved in sports in some way, and most have been their whole careers. Many on the team are athletes who’ve transitioned into professional coaching. 

We are always looking for new ideas, fresh sources of knowledge, and inspiration. So, as we’ve heard Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game mentioned a few times, we thought it best to review it for ourselves. 


Why should coaches read Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game? 

Before we review the book, you need to know something about the authors.

Brad Stulberg researches, writes, speaks, and coaches on health and human performance. He has a coaching practice whereby he works with some of the world’s top athletes, performers, and entrepreneurs. 

He has written on getting the best out of human performance for The New York Times, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Wired, Forbes, and The Los Angeles Times. Before his coaching career, Stulberg consulted for McKinsey and Company. He’s also an avid athlete and outdoor enthusiast. 

Steve Magness coaches some of the world’s top distance runners, including athletes in 15 at the World Championships and Olympic Games. He’s also currently a professional athletic coach at the University of Houston. He’s known for his work on integrating science and practice while putting into practice at the forefront of innovation in sport. 

Magness has published several books, including Do Hard Things, Peak Performance, The Passion Paradox, and The Science of Running. He’s been featured as an expert in Runner’s World, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The BBC, The Wall Street Journal, and ESPN The Magazine. 

He still provides coaching to top athletes and entrepreneurs, does speaking engagements, and now hosts podcasts. 

In 2017, Stulberg and Magness combined their expertise, insights, and knowledge to create Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. 

Let’s examine why coaches and athletes would benefit from reading it if you’ve not already done so. 


Top Reviews for Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game

Some of the world’s leading athletes, coaches, entrepreneurs, and sports scientists are praising this book: 

“As I read Peak Performance I found myself amazed that there is actually science to back up what I have found true as a sought to maximize my abilities throughout my professional running career. The reader is sure to be perplexed by their surprising findings and empowered to make some changes to their competitive mentality so they can achieve their own peak performance.” Ryan Hall, United States Half-Marathon Record Holder

“Peak Performance is a must read foranyone hoping to grow and achieve success in any area of their life. Relatable and readable, it identifies the skills and disciplines successful people have in common and teaches us what we can do to achieve the success that we want. I am excited to put what I have learned to use in my running and beyond.” Kara Goucher, Two-Time Olympic Marathoner

“Brad Stulberg is one of the most gifted science writers of our times, a master at translating fascinating findings into concrete strategies. Peak Performance provides actionable insights from the cutting-edge research on how people excel. This book will be a must-read for anyone who wants to up their game, transcend their boundaries, and get out of their comfort zone.” Kelly McGonigal, Stanford psychology instructor and author of The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress

“This is a transfixing book on how to sustain peak performance and avoid burnout. Stulberg and Magness have worked with (and been) elite achievers, and they combine that rich experience with the science of success to share actionable insights.” Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

And there are many more like that. It’s been published in 15 languages and sold over half a million copies. 

So, what lessons can coaches and athletes take from this book? 


Key Takeaways: 4 Lessons from Peak Performance for Coaches and Athletes 


Stress + Rest = A Powerful Growth Catalyst 

Stress, when used correctly, can be a powerful growth catalyst. 

Stress can cripple. Even top-performing pro athletes can be crippled by stress and anxiety. 

However, when it’s the right amount of stress, the authors encourage athletes to see this as a source of growth, not pain. Especially when you combine that with rest after completing something that’s challenged you, such as a workout that’s taken you to the peak of your physical limits. 

Combined, stress and rest are powerful performance growth catalysts for athletes. 


Reduce Decision Fatigue: Be a Minimalist To Achieve Your Athletic Potential 

Making decisions depletes our mental energy. It’s why many people (even athletes at times), give up and order an unhealthy takeaway on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s a symptom of mental exhaustion from making decisions every waking hour of our day. 

As coaches and athletes, we can do more to reduce the mental fatigue from decision-making. 

Depending on your personal or the team’s budget, it might be possible to get professional help in certain areas, such as having healthy meals cooked, getting clothes washed and dried, and anything else that gets in the way of achieving peak athletic performance. 

If that’s not possible, there’s a lot athletes and coaches can do to reduce decision fatigue, such as batch-cooking food and getting clothes ready for the next day. It might sound simple, but it makes a difference to the mental energy available for what matters. 


Practice Performance Rituals 

What do you need to do to get in the zone? 

Whatever it is, the authors of this book encourage athletes to create or improve their pre-performance rituals. Whether running, jumping, or another activity that gets you mentally and physically ready for a game or training, it’s worth developing this. 


Find Your Purpose 

One of the final lessons is to drill down on your “Why?”, your “self-transcending purpose,” as the authors put it. Purpose is crucial for pushing yourself to new heights and achieving performance levels you never thought possible. 

As with all these lessons, Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game is worth reading because it backs up everything with science, psychology, and examples from the sporting world. 

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