Last week we continued our discussion of implementing systems into your life in order to optimize your life and be the best you can be. There are five areas that we want to focus on to accomplish this.
This week I want to focus on sleep. First, you have to accept the fact that quality sleep is necessary for you to be at your best physically and mentally. I have met many people who are hard-driving and successful that view sleep more as a luxury rather than a necessity. They almost view their lack of sleep with a sense of martyrdom and those who get 8 hours of sleep each night as being lazy.
As with almost everything, there are outliers. There are people who can consistently function at a higher level without much sleep. However, I think these are few. My view on sleep changed a couple of years ago when I heard Dr. Kirk Parsley speak at the Unbeatable Mind conference. Dr. Parsley, a former Navy Seal, spoke about working with the Seals and how even this hard charging group experienced negative effects from sleep deprivation. He also said that with a return to better sleep they began performing better. You can listen to his interview on the Unbeatable Mind podcast or listen to a shorter Ted Talk.
Getting more sleep is something I have placed a high priority on this year. As a result, I’ve been experimenting with the OURA Ring to monitor my sleep (actually Louise gave it to me for Christmas). It was very eye opening in that I thought just because I was getting to bed earlier that I would automatically get more sleep. When looking at my actual sleep patterns it makes sense why I feel tired on some days when I think I should be fully rested. If you are like me, you can definitely benefit from more and better quality sleep.
Here are some ways to improve your sleep:
Go to bed at the same or near the same time each night, even on weekends.
Avoid caffeine after 2 pm.
Avoid alcohol at night.
Avoid heavy meals right before bed.
Avoid intense exercise at night.
Avoid television or blue light (computer, phone, etc.) before bed.
Have room temperature between 60-68 degrees.
Use blackout curtains.
Do five minutes of box breathing before bed.
I hope you find this helpful on your path to optimization. Next time we will be taking a look at improving your nutrition.
As we continue our discussion on 5 Ways to Optimize Your Life, our goal is to help you optimize your training in the gym, as well as, your life outside. We want to provide an integrated training that encompasses not only the physical but the mental and spiritual. It is, however, the physical that most often brings people to Alliance. Our training system continues to evolve as we gain new knowledge and make new distinctions. Since I am a firm believer in giving you the “WHY” behind our training, I would like to give you an update on our training system today.
Keeping It Simple
Although there are many pieces to each of the components involved in developing a complete and optimized physical training system, my intention here is to keep it simple and go into more detail in each of the components in the future. The three components that make up our physical training system in order of priority are:
The Priority of Movement
Movement quality is the number one priority in our training system. Just as the mental work lays the foundation for our training in general, proper movement sets the stage for all our physical work. First, you must move safely, then work on moving better, lastly move faster and stronger. Another way of thinking of this is learning to crawl, then walk, then run. Whether you are learning the squat or a new technique in Jiujitsu, this principle should be applied to any movement practice.
I can’t say that this has always been my priority. Up until the last couple of years, I would have prioritized strength as the number one focus. I have always emphasized form but was willing to sacrifice some of the that in order to get stronger. My realization is that if you sacrifice movement quality for more speed, weight, etc then there is a very good chance you are going down a road that will eventually lead to poor movement quality and injury.
Strength has always been a priority in our training. For the longest time, I would say that it was our number one priority. Your muscles move your body and if you have established good quality movement and become stronger then everything else improves with those strength gains. There is not a sport I can think of where increasing strength doesn’t help you perform better. This has not always been an accepted fact. I remember being in high school where the basketball, baseball, and golf coaches didn’t want their athletes lifting weights. Now steroids have become a big issue in baseball which wouldn’t be the case if strength didn’t matter.
Strength not only helps with performance but is critical for fighting the aging process. One of the biggest issues with aging is a loss of muscle and strength. This can be remedied through a good training plan. Some of our older students have made some of their biggest transformations doing just that. Increased strength also provides you with a bigger engine to drive your conditioning to a higher level. This is why I make strength a priority even if your primary goal is conditioning. The stronger you are the harder you can push your conditioning.
Lastly, strength helps protect us against injury. The muscles provide stability to the joints and they also provide armor to our body to protect us during contact sports and life in general.
The Importance of Conditioning
Conditioning is the last component I would like to discuss. Conditioning can mean many different things but in this context, I refer to three types of conditioning:
When most people think of conditioning they are thinking of metabolic conditioning. To keep it simple, I will refer to metabolic conditioning as conditioning that trains both aerobic and anaerobic pathways. I think there is more bang for your buck training anaerobically but there needs to be some aerobic training as well. I mentioned armoring when talking about the benefits of strength but this can also be applied to conditioning.
Some strength and conditioning coaches would say that their job rests solely in getting people stronger and improving their metabolic conditioning and that it is not their job to work on developing mental toughness. I beg to differ and believe that much can be learned about mental toughness and resiliency through hard conditioning sessions.
Stay tuned for more details on “HOW” we incorporate these components.
In our previous post, 5 Ways to Optimize Your Life, we discussed how to optimize your training in order to maximize your results. In regards to the mental work, which sets the stage for everything else, we are working with Thom Shea utilizing the Unbreakable Lessons. Within that framework, we are working on what Thom refers to as the five pyramids. The physical and spiritual pyramids overlap with the physical and spiritual components of five critical areas mentioned in the Five Ways to Optimize Your Life.
I know that I have not reached my potential in many areas of my life. None of us really know what that potential is until we make an effort to go “all in” in any of those areas. In the long run, it really becomes more about the journey than the destination.
The question “why?” is one we all asked as kids and one that, If you are a parent, has been asked many times by your kids. This question and its answer can have many powerful implications. With it being the beginning of a new year and a time many people set goals, I thought it would be a great time to revisit that question. Anytime I meet with a new potential client I always start by asking the question, “Why are your here?” I then encourage them to take a deeper look beyond their initial answer and ask the same question of why at least 4 more times. The purpose of this exercise is to help them connect their goal to a deeper purpose, thereby uncovering the true reason for their goal in the first place. To take full advantage of this exercise requires some careful introspection but it is well worth the effort. This exercise can be applied to any of your goals to uncover their true nature and help light a fire to help you achieve them.
Understanding Your Training Purpose
I have made a concerted effort as of late to make sure I communicate the “why” behind each of our training sessions. I want you to understand the purpose of each training session. It is my goal to provide a training system, coaching, environment, and culture where you can reach your goals. It is important for me to know, that you know how the training fits into you reaching goals. If you don’t understand this and apply the training as intended then we are not being as efficient in our work together as possible. Again it is my goal to provide training, not entertainment. That will be the focus of a future article.
Your Big Why
The question of “WHY?” can also be applied to the big picture of your actual purpose in life as discussed in a recent Forbes article on Finding Your Purpose. I remember making the connection to the power of knowing my “why” during my training at SealFit headquarters and going through the Kokoro experience. We discussed the importance of finding your “WHY” during the academy the week prior to Kokoro but going through Kokoro I got to experience its importance viscerally. I refer to this “WHY” as your “big why”.
Your Little Why
I gained a new perspective on the question of why during our “12 Hours of Unbreakable Jiu-Jitsu”. During one of our discussions, Thom Shea said the question of “why” will kill your performance. What he was referring to is what I will call the “little why”. In the midst of struggle, if you ask the question ‘why?’ and you can’t answer with a big “WHY” then you are done. This is similar to what I have referred to before as “burning the questions”. If you ask the question, you will get an answer. If you have not established a strong purpose ahead of time you may find that during the struggle the answer is conveniently the one that supports your desire to give up in the midst of the struggle.
If you haven’t made a strong connection to your ‘why’ of training I encourage you to do so. If you haven’t discovered your big “WHY”, I encourage you to do so in 2017. Part of our goal here at Alliance is to help you do both.
One of the things I have been focusing on in 2017 is better communicating the intent of our training and how to optimize the training, in order to, maximize your results. So, when I design the program and explain the training, I am doing so from the perspective of someone interested in Peak performance. I realize everyone has different goals and the training can be utilized to different degrees, but I am not watering down the intent of the training. One of my most inspiring groups to coach is my Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9am class whose ages typically range from 65-80 years old. I had this same conversation with them earlier this week. They push the prowler, pull the sled, and do squats to “Sally” just like everyone else while giving a great effort.
When I think of optimizing training, a few ideas come to mind. The first comes from Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs. Maslow originally stated that only 1% of the population became Self -Actualizers. My interpretation of a Self-Actualizer is someone who reaches their true potential. Later in his life, Maslow widened his idea of a Self-Actualizer to include anyone who was good-hearted and energetic but not extremely creative. In his Theory Z, he referred to a certain percentage of the self- actualizers as Transcenders. Transcenders were those that deliberately chose to live high performing lives. This theory points to the fact that, from a percentage basis, that this number is very low. If you look at it from that perspective, it would seem that this level is not attainable for everyone.
Another perspective of optimizing yourself comes from an idea proposed by Thom Shea in one of his recent podcasts. He said that in his experience, about 15% of the people are highly successful and the other 85% are often just floundering and not reaching their potential. What is different about what Thom says versus Maslow is that everyone has the ability to be in that 15%. He also says that those who are in that 15% have to keep working on themselves in order to stay there. I agree with Thom on each of these ideas which are far more empowering.
If you study peak performance, you will find that there are a few common things that come up over and over again. I often talk about developing Mind, Body, Spirit.These areas can be broken down more to include:
Physical (movement and exercise)
Over the next few weeks, we will be taking a deeper look into each of these 5 areas and learn how they can help you optimize your life.