Trevor Harrison’s Life Mission: Put Athlete Health First


Trevor Harrison’s Life Mission: Put Athlete Health First.


This could be a very short piece.


If it were strictly about the amazing ethos of Trevor Harrison’s Athlete Health First, then the statement found on the Athlete Health First website (athletehf.com) would say it all and I’d put down my pen:


“At Athlete Health First we don’t just focus on the next game, the next race or the next season. We help you play better, play longer and play healthier by finding the right balance in your body. We use evidence-based performance analysis to determine the right training solution for your body.
Then we partner with you to help you achieve the range-of-motion, balance and strength your body needs to recover and find peak performance.”

But this isn’t just about Athlete Health First. It’s about why AHF exists in the first place. It’s about what lead Trevor Harrison, AHF’s founder, to the desire of understanding anatomy and biomechanics at its very core.


For that we’re going to need a bit more time.


First of all, Athlete Health First is not a training program, as Harrison is quick to clarify. It’s a scientific approach to an athlete’s anatomy, to the unique ways we’re all built. Once an athlete is individually assessed to determine where he or she may be overcompensating ­– due to a tightness and/or weakness somewhere else ­– Trevor and the AHF team craft an individual, holistic, and unique approach to increasing range of motion, improving strength & conditioning, and enhancing an athlete’s performance after they have rehabbed an injury – but also to make the athlete more effective while helping them to achieve ultimate fitness.


Don’t assume that it’s just about being game-ready. You can build muscle, and you can run and break all kinds of personal bests. But if you’re overcompensating somewhere, you possibly set yourself up for a career full of injuries or even a potential career-ending injury – much like Trevor Harrison did himself before he turned 30.


A professional rugby player for over a decade, Harrison suffered injuries as all do. He’d follow the advice of his physical therapists and trainers. He’d work hard to rehab the injury, and the therapists would work hard with – and for – him as well. But the key component always seemed to be missing: the understanding of biomechanics; the understanding of anatomy and how it relates to the individual.


We know that no two people are anatomically the same; It might surprise some to also realize that no one person is built identically on both sides. If you’ve ever had one hip that just isn’t as flexible as the other, or one ankle that tends to niggle when you overtrain, then you’re likely nodding right now. We are – by our very nature – lopsided.


With that knowledge — and a keen drive to continue to learn and evolve — Harrison has spent the better part of the last twenty years delving deep into the science of anatomy, to (as he puts it) re-balance bodies. So simple in theory, it’s a lot of work. And it also yields remarkable results.


After being selected for both Canada and the USA (playing both 15s and 7s), Harrison found himself in a time-out from the game to rehab an injury. During this stoppage of play, he gave a lot of thought to the next chapter of his life and realized he wanted it to be meaningful. He’d been getting bigger, faster, stronger, but felt that something was missing in the equation. At the same time, he was experiencing more hamstring injuries and blew out his knee. In the back of his mind he felt it wasn’t right. It kept nagging at him.


He returned briefly to the game but knew his playing career was nearing its end. “At a certain point, it felt like my life was going backwards,” Harrison says. He’d taken some time off at Christmas to help a friend open a gym in Pennsylvania, which was so rewarding that it made him consider what he’d be going back to Vancouver to post-break: Construction during the day, bartending and bouncing at night, partying on the weekend. He knew it was time to break away. He wanted more, and he wanted life to be meaningful.


Retirement from Rugby was bittersweet for Harrison, but his path forward was clear. He wanted to learn all he could to help athletes stay in the game longer. Furthermore, he wanted to help them not just get through their playing careers but out the other side — without spending the rest of their lives in chronic pain.


Enter former mentor Mike Clark, Phoenix Suns trainer. Clark spent two years starting Harrison on the path of learning how to treat the sum of the athlete rather than just the part. Harrison recognized that there had been elements missing in his own rehabilitation. It was a lightbulb moment that would lay out the path to his life’s work. Harrison admits that at the time “I didn’t know the basic anatomy of the human body, but I knew how to throw a weight on the bar, and how to beat athletes up and get them bigger.”


LISTEN TO DALLEN STANFORD AND ROBIN MACDOWELL ON THEIR RUGBY HIVE PODCAST


The passion for taking what he learned and expanding on it fired Harrison to get going on his own to help individuals who don’t feel ready to shelve their careers. This desire to put an ‘Athlete’s Health First’ is the very foundation of what his company strives to achieve with every single client, whether or not they’re at the top of their game.


One of Harrison’s first really high-profile athletes was Shaquille O’Neal. He still remembers where he was when he received the message – in his car, as it happens – and he’s kept the message to this day. Considering the places AHF has been and the people Harrison has met, remembering that first message keeps him grounded and focussed on the ‘why.’ His ‘why’.


Professional sports teams do care about their players, but their mandate is to care for 15 plus players at once. The Team. In this regard, AHF’s ability to focus on working with individual athletes rather than with entire teams makes them unique. They can train with an individual and focus on what needs the most attention.



In working with Detroit Pistons’ star forward Blake Griffin, Harrison is grateful that the Pistons organization has embraced his ethos, and he’s pleased to say he works well with their Medical and S&C team - in tandem - to assure Griffin is feeling as he should. Harrison has enjoyed this partnership with the Pistons’ staff. Their work is complimentary to one another, and he and his team have learned a lot from them. How they care for their players is top notch, and the AHF team is grateful for organizations like the Pistons who understand how the holistic approach can really put the athlete at the top of their game, and their overall health and fitness to the fore.


Harrison and his AHF team have worked with Griffin for the last three (plus) years with success, and with the same organic approach they’d have with any client, no matter if just starting out, or a sport – or occasional Hollywood – icon.

Griffin says: “Trevor’s overall approach when it comes to performance and recovery is unlike anything I've ever experienced. His attention to detail, paired with his ability to identify, address, and strengthen "problem" areas, have helped me tremendously throughout our time working together.”

The sentiment is echoed by Blake’s brother Taylor, his manager and also a former NBA player. “Trevor has been incredible to work with over the last several years. His communication and professionalism is unmatched, and he has been a huge aid in helping streamline Blake’s recovery, performance and strength training plans,” he says. He’s quick to add that the unique approach of putting the athlete first is what will continue to set AHF apart.


“I believe there will be tons of opportunity for Trevor to continue to grow the AHF brand, but it will never be at the expense of the individual athlete and the care and attention that they need.”

Staying close to his rugby roots, Harrison has also worked with elite rugby players, including Canada Sevens star Patrick Kay. As Kay says, Harrison helped at a time when the young player was preparing for a lifetime of pain. “I met Trevor in Hong Kong 2018 at a time when I had basically accepted my chronic leg pain. It was a nagging injury that would flare up at random times throughout the season. Three years I had been dealing with this off-and-on injury that was affecting my ability to perform consistently at the top level. After meeting with Trevor, he put me through some workouts and different strategies to battle this unique injury.”


Of course, in true Trevor Harrison fashion, he says it was an honour to work on the young talent. Harrison has humility in spades.


After working through AHF’s program, Kay saw positive results – and relief.


“I am always very appreciative of Trevor because of the time and knowledge he provided to me that eventually got me into a position where my leg issue is completely gone. Trevor is one of many trainers who have helped me along the way, but I am especially grateful for him because of the time he put into me.”Kay adds that Harrison “continues to be an outlet during my pursuit to the Olympics.”

If a joint doesn’t move to the degree it should move, something is going to break down. It’s a science – “and an art,” Harrison says – to what AHF does to get to the root of what’s causing an athlete pain.


Harrison regularly checks in. He and his team make sure that their program continues to work. It’s part of the package – they never ‘sign off’ on a client.