Couch to the Summit

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About James

Hello and welcome to my website Couch to the Summit


My name is James Stewart. I'm an Australian born 41-year old avid nature enthusiast, adventurer, health and fitness advocate, adventure photographer/film-maker, vertical-focused mountain endurance athlete and performance coach! 

I'm excited to share with you my vision for health success and creating a life filled with health and adventure. I believe we are all capable of doing far more than we think we can. However, many of us barely ever tap into our true fitness and endurance potential. My website and coaching services aims to help people to rise to their highest health and fitness potential - whatever that may be.

I am an experienced short distance vertical mountain and stair racer, medium distance skyrunning marathoner and ultra endurance athlete. I have raced all over the world in stair climbs, in vertical KM races, in the world's hardest trail marathon races and ultra-endurance events. You can see my sporting CV at the bottom of this page. 

With my performance coaching, I haved worked with people of all varying health and fitness levels, from absolute beginners to hiking/running to elite athletes - and everyone in between.

I've achieved a lot of great feats without being gifted with the most elite level natural abilities. Sedentary for 10 years, I only began trail running at age 28, and have had to work hard to build up my body's strength and fitness - overcoming numerous health setbacks and injuries - to eventually rise to a high standard. With hard work and dedication this pathway is possible for many people. I have dedicated myself to working hard and building a consistent base of fitness without wearing myself into the ground, while getting every inch out of performance I could achieve. Even at 41, I am still climbing to the highest levels of performance I have reached through my life. I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon!

Many people mistakenly believe getting healthy and fit takes a lot of pain and suffering. Far from it, it does take discipline and patience though. Consistency is the most important factor, if you can commit to doing something small everyday, you will go further than doing something big every once in a while. Also, getting really fit invovles a lot of effort at relatively low levels of intensity. Many people have been programmed to believe that fitness only comes from smashing yourself against the wall regularly. While this is prevelant in gym culture at the moment, almost all top-level performaning elite endurance athlete's do most of their training at easy intensities. This is where most of the metabolic benefits accrue, plus it wouldn't be sustainable to go hard every single day. Off of a strong aerobic base, your high intensity work will be at a far higher level, meaning you get more "bang for your buck" when you do eventually push hard. It is important to have the right foundation in place so you don't get injured, burn out and give up too soon. Finding the right balance is really hard, especially for novices. It is really worth investing in a coach to teach you the right way early on, so you don't waste a lot of time, effort and years trying to figure it out on your own. Let me help you - you can learn more about my coaching by clicking here.

My goal at Couch to the Summit is to help educate people to take greater steps to achieving better health and fitness and hopefully blow away some of the old myths about exercise and running that its bad for the body, the knees, burns you out and so on...  


Running in the mountains has been my salvation from physical pain, chronic stress, depression and many other health issues. In my 20's, I felt like I was 80-years-old, and I tried numerous interventions to get rid of chronic back pain and also overcome debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome. I turned my life around, taking up running at 28. By 35, I was competing against the world's greatest endurance athletes in the mountains of Europe, completely blown away by how my life had turned around. None of this would have been possible if I didn't decide one day to take action and to push outside my comfort zone.

I now try to share the beauty of all the amazing places I have visited through my photography and videos to help motivate people to make a similar change.


Reaching the summit is about breaking through the mental prison we lock ourselves in, but its very hard to take the first steps off the couch and get started on taking action. 

I am motivated to assist people of all ages and fitness levels to develop an active lifestyle allowing them to truly experience the gift of movement in nature.To me one of the most important components of living a fulfilled life is EXPERIENCE. The latest science shows humans are more removed from nature than ever before, and this is causing problematic health. People are understandably frightened of nature the more they become removed from it. I will never forget investing my money and my time to visit so many of the beautiful landscapes and mountain ranges across the world.


I have 15 years experience in absorbing myself in the world of health and fitness. I have experimented with a variety of differing methods toward training the body to function at the highest level.

I truly believe to develop the most all-round fitness and health should feature a diverse focus on several elements including: capacity endurance training with selective application of high-intensity utilization training, functional bodyweight calisthenics and compound weight training, stairs and plenty of time absorbed in nature and mountain trails.

My approach to fatigue is very considered, careful and science-based, having suffered the debilitating affects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome previously. I work hard to ensure all my athletes avoid the debilitating affects of Overtraining Syndrome.

I work hard at educating people to blow away the myths that running is bad for the body and to help beginners avoid the many mistakes they fall victim to when trying to begin a running program without the appropriate knowledge or help.

I have a keen interest in personal development and psychology. I research and write extensively on topics surrounding these fields, so my information is far broader than just fitness related advice.

I believe in a wholistic approach to health which encompasses all areas of life. The mind is just as important as the body, so too are our personal responsibilities and core values.

In my 20's and for period's in my early 30's, I suffered through problematic biomechanics and nearly every sports related injury you can list: including back stress fractures, extreme hip muscle imbalances, chronic back pain, neck pain and extreme TMJ, shattered knee cartiliage and more. Over the past 7 years, I have managed to develop a range of self treatment techniques that has allowed my body to become capable of sustaining large amounts of volume on steep vertical terrain. I am proud to say I have managed to stay injury free in this time. I believe I have valuable advice to share on how to correct poor biomechanics and self-treatment techniques that maintain an Injury Free Body.


My approach to nutrition is inclusive and sympathetic to personal preferences, understanding the principles of what works well for health and performance regardless of specific preferences (i.e. Vegan, vegetarian or meat-eater). I have experimented being all three at various periods of my life for long-periods.

One of my most treasured hobbies is photography, which I began because I was in so many beautiful places but it was hard to share the beauty of those places adequately. I use my photography as a way to show the beauty of nature and to inspire people to get outside and achieve more than they think they are capable of doing.

I don't believe fitness is something you have to struggle with and its important to find something you love to do so getting out and moving the body is something you do for fun because it is your passion, not a chore. I understand not everyone will be motivated by the same passions that I have, but many universal principles apply to health and fitness that I hope to inspire in people so they can find their own passion and way forward to health and adventure.


I have travelled extensively and have experience in a variety of terrains including Australia, United States, the European Pyrenees & Alps, and Canada. Safety in the mountains is my number one priority and sometimes see inexperienced hikers unprepared and caught out due to lack of knowledge, poor choice of clothing and equipment. A little knowledge and effort can go a long way to avoid a fun adventure becoming a serious life risk.

My photos have been featured by companies such as Salomon, Hoka One One, Cathay Pacific and Hillsound Equipment. 

Please find me on Instagram to view my Daily Adventure Photography: @couchtothesummit

Couch to the Summit also has a Youtube Channel. Please subscribe!

And follow Couch to the Summit on Facebook:


James' Athletic CV:

1st - Vancouver 100km - (100km / 5500m) North Vancouver, Canada
5th - Run Ridge Run - (25km / 1400m) Belcarra, Canada
FKT - Golden Ears - West Canyon Parking Lot to Summit (12km / 1700m) 2hrs2mins  (Now surpassed).
FKT - Double Howe Sound Crest Trail (54km/4500m), 10hrs58mins (Previous time 13hrs49mins) BC, Canada [ Video ]
3rd - Hallow's Eve Trail Marathon (42km / 1800m) Vancouver, Canada
July/August/September: Three months daily adventure photography hiking and trail running. Alps, Europe. [ Instagram Portfolio ]
37th - BEI K3 (9km / 3000m) Susa, Italy
2nd - Multi Grouse Grind Challenge - 18 Grinds in 19 hours (beyond the previous record of 17) (48km / 14650m) North Vancouver, Canada [ Article ]
11th/500 - Seek the Peak (13km / 1300m) North Vancouver, Canada
FKT - Howe Sound Crest Trail North to South route - (28km, 3000m) BC, Canada (Now surpassed).
June/July/August: Three months daily adventure photography hiking and trail running. Pyrenees and Alps, Europe.
14th/4000 – Taipei 101 Stair Race (90 floors) Taipei, Taiwan
12th – Grouse Grind Trail Race (2km / 800m) North Vancouver, Canada
13th/4000 – Taipei 101 Stair Race (90 floors) Taipei, Taiwan
Mt Fuji Summit 5hrs starting from 6 Chome Fujimi (23km / 3000m) Japan [ Video ]
1st – Crackenback Challenge (2km / 600m) Thredbo, Australia
3rd/1400 – Q1 Tower Stair Climb (77 floors) Gold Coast, Australia [ Video
2nd – Mt Bogong Conquestathon (20km / 1300m) Mt Bogong, Australia
15th – Buffalo Stampede Marathon (42km / 2900m) Bright, Australia
8th – Milla Vertical d’Areu (4km / 1600m) Areu, Spain
2nd – Verticale du Criou (4km / 1500m) Samoens, France
31st/400 – Sky Running European Championships Mont Blanc Vertical KM (3km / 1000m) Chamonix, France
21st/2500 – Mont Blanc Marathon (42km / 2900m) Chamonix, France
23rd – Vertical KM Val-d’Isère (2km / 1000m) Val-d’Isère, France
58th – Dolomites Vertical KM (2km / 1000m) Canazei, Italy
69th – Dolomites Sky Race (21km / 1900m) Canazei, Italy
18th – TPS Vertical K2 (7km / 2000m) Sainte-Foy-Tarantaise, France
31st/400 – Red Bull K3 (9km / 3000m) Susa, Italy
13th – Eureka Tower Stair Climb (88 floors) Melbourne, Australia
1st – La Sportiva Bon Accord Vertical KM (7km / 1300m) Harrietville, Australia
3rd – 2014 Verti-cool Black Mountain Ultimate Stair Climb Challenge - Canberra, Australia
9th – Bright 4 Peaks - 4 day Race - Bright, Australia
8th – Eureka Tower Stair Climb (88 floors) Melbourne, Australia
6th – Tour de Ridges Half Marathon (21km / 600m) Canberra, Australia
27th – Mont Blanc Vertical KM (3km / 1000m) Chamonix, France
55th/2500 – Mont Blanc Marathon (42km / 2700m) Chamonix, France
65th – Sky Running European Championships Dolomites Vertical KM (2km / 1000m) Canazei, Italy
99th – Dolomites Sky Race (21km / 1900m) Canazei, Italy
2nd – K2 Summit Half Marathon Auburn (21km / 700m) CA, USA
5th – ACT Mountain Running Championships (11km / 1000m) Mt Tennant, Australia
3rd – ACT Mountain Running Championships (Tidbinbilla, Australia)