Optimization, Beliefs, and Atomic Habits

The mission at Alliance is to help you Optimize your training in the gym, as well as, your life outside the gym. My passion for optimization is at an all time high. My excitement is fueled by the fact that, with all the current knowledge, tools, and resources we have available, human potential is nearly unlimited.  The Alliance programs are designed for both optimization in specific areas,as well as, overall optimization. It is up to you to decide what you value and which areas of your life you choose to pursue optimization.

Here are what we focus on specifically through our core Alliance training programs.
1.
FITFLO– Health and functional fitness
2, Parisi Speed School– Speed, power, agility and athletic attribute development
3. Brazilian Jiujitsu– the art of Jiujitsu for self defense and sport

These are the specific areas we are aiming to help you optimize. There are numerous other benefits associated with the work done in each of these specific areas. Each program lends itself to be a program for self development which can carry over into other areas of your life. The lessons you learn and the confidence you gain can sometimes be a greater benefit than the original stated purpose for training. For example, you may start a program because you needed to lose weight either due to health concerns are the fact you want to look and feel better  However, you may eventually find that the increased energy, confidence, and comraderie associated with training are a  greater benefit than the weight loss. As stated in the book, “Zen in the Art of Archery”, the author says that the art is not undertaken for the mere sake of learning the art but as a portal to enlightenment.

Regardless of the area you would like to optimize, I have found beliefs and habits to be integral in the process. Let us first look at beliefs.What I have witnessed in 30 years of coaching is that one of the biggest obstacles stopping people from reaching their goals is the true belief in themselves that they can achieve that goal. To take this a step further some people will not even set a goal or commit to optimization due to the fact that they believe they may fail. in many cases this is not even a conscious decision. Through self reflection we can uncover some of these limiting and often unconscious beliefs. One exercise I have mentioned previously is to simply take some quiet time to reflect and write down all the beliefs that come to mind about any particular area of your life. Don’t make any judgement on these beliefs just simply record them as they come to mind. You can do this over several days just spending a few minutes each day being introspective. Take a couple of days off and then go back and examine each of those beliefs more closely to determine if they are empowering beliefs or disempowering ones. Then of those disempowering ones examine where those beliefs originated and if they are actually true. The second exercise is the is the “Future Self” exercise. If you want to change, you need to visualize yourself as the person you wish to be. If you cannot see yourself in that light then the change will difficult.

Having belief and seeing yourself as the person you want to be are a step in the the right direction but are not enough for optimization. You also need to take action. Again to use the simple but not easy example of weight loss. You may believe your can lose weight and you may see yourself as a leaner version of yourself but you need to change your behavior if you want to be successful. You need to have a plan or a system and take action i order to effect this change.

If you really break it down, we are for the most part where we are in area of our life as a result of the decisions and actions we repeatedly make. Another way of thinking of this is that we are culmination of our daily habits. If we want to change or optimize in area we need to take a look at what our habits are surrounding it. Again if we look at the area of weight loss. Most people don’t gain weight over a short period of time but rather do so over a period of months or years. The habits surrounding their eating and moving eventually led them to where they are. To make a change they must change their habits. This is the basis of our 12 month nutrition program that helped Victor lose 80 pounds. It is ultimately developing one new habit on top of another or stacking habits. Brian Johnson’s, “Optimize +1”, program is based off a similar principle. Each day Brian provides something a thought upon which you can take action on to help optimize your life. James Clear’s book, “Atomic Habits”, does a fantastic job of explaining how we develop habits and how we can choose and change habits to help us become our best.  He breaks down the process of developing habits into four simple steps:
1. Cue
2. Craving
3. Response
4. Reward

We will be working more diligently to provide future challenges as a group to help you develop the habits that will help you optimize your life. In our individual training program “Optimized Self Upgrade” we are able to fine tune these habits to meet more specifically with the client. Keep an eye out for our next challenge coming up in December.

Mastery Revisited

Man Wearing White Pants Under Blue Sky

 

If you have been receiving emails from me for the last several years, you may have noticed that the sign-off of each of those messages has evolved. The original message was “Show Up, Don’t Quit.” Over time it has become “Commit, Show Up, Don’t Quit, Be Uncommon, Be Your Best Self.” The theme of my primary message has evolved somewhat over time as well. For instance, much of what I used to write about was being a warrior and the “Warrior’s Path.” More recently I have been writing about the path to mastery, being your best self, self-actualization, or arete. Ultimately, they are all the same, and their path is indeed a warrior’s journey.

What I would like to discuss today is a different perspective on this journey. It was one I was reminded of during our recent workshop with Coach Gwint Fisher. These are the typical steps we go through when learning any new skill. Although we will focus on physical skills today, these steps are not limited only to physical skills. The steps are as follows:

1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence

If you set out to develop a skill such as moving better or learning Jiujitsu the first step, Unconscious Incompetence, simply means you don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t desire to learn or get better at something you could consider it as ignorant bliss. However, if you want to learn or get better, this is where a coach can be very valuable. At this stage, the coach is going to give direction and demonstrate the technique or movement and then have you repeat it while bringing your attention to where you may not be performing competently. Not everyone responds well to this stage. Some people may think of having attention brought to their incompetence as a negative. I would recommend viewing it as a positive. It gives you an opportunity to improve. In our Jiujitsu program, we have a beginner and intermediate class which helps students learn the fundamentals of Jiujitsu. In the old days, we simply had new students spar the first day where they discovered they were incompetent by getting tapped out. Looking back, this was not the best, and definitely not the safest, way to learn.

Once you have become aware of the areas for improvement, you have a choice to make. You can ignore the incompetence and continue to do what you have been doing, or you can begin working on making the corrections. This choice may seem evident, but I have seen on many occasions people not understanding this process choose the path of ignorance. I like to recall a specific example from Jiujitsu to demonstrate. Years ago (before our fundamental program) we had a student who said he wanted to learn Jiu Jitsu to be better defend himself in case he was to ever be in a physical confrontation. He had been training a few months when he called one day and said he wanted to cancel his membership. We asked why and he answered that he got tapped out by a 16-year-old kid. He said that he decided he was going to begin training to run marathons instead. Now he may have changed his strategy for self-defense to merely running away from physical confrontation, but instead, I think he just chose to turn a blind eye to his incompetence rather than working on it. By the way, that same kid, who I taught back then teaches me now and taps me out. My view of this is that he helps me realize where I need to improve and as a result makes me better every day. We sometimes see the same faulty thinking in fitness. If you perform a workout that exposes your weakness, lack of mobility, or the fact that you were not in as good a shape as you thought, you can choose to begin working on these weaknesses or you can just go back to whatever your routine was before and be guaranteed not to improve. In this phase, a good coach will continue to give feedback to help you perform more optimally. You may not be there yet, but you are aware of what you need to do.

In the third stage of conscious competence, a good coach will continue to give feedback and cues to help you perform better. As you learn, you eventually will be able to perform competently, but you still have to think about it. Using myself as an example, if you watch me squat, you may notice that I sometimes will adjust my feet after each rep or at least at some point during a set. Somewhere along the way, I created a faulty squat pattern, possibly from training around and compensating for an injury over 30 years ago. My right foot will externally rotate and point out further than the left unless I consciously focus on it and even then I sometimes have to correct it. I have been working on this for at least five years (never said I was a fast learner).

In the fourth stage, you are not only able to perform competently, but you do so unconsciously. You do it as second nature and without even thinking. It is wired into your nervous system. Our goal as coaches at Alliance is to help get you to this stage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a kid running effortlessly with perfect technique, an adult picking up an odd heavy object demonstrating a perfect hinge with no back pain, or a Jiujitsu practitioner transitioning from one position and technique to another in a seamless flow, this is what we hope to help you accomplish. This is mastery.

I hope this has given you a different view of the path to mastery and that it helps you on your journey.

Should You Drink Alcohol While Training?

Should You Drink Alcohol While Training?

It’s a question that we get frequently, and it can be confusing, especially when there is so much information available on both sides of the issue. Primal Health expert, Mark Sisson, used to recommend red wine as part of his Primal Health plan but now has changed his stance after abstaining from alcohol himself. Here’s some helpful info from the Primal Health coach course regarding some of the adverse effects of alcohol.

Alcohol’s Impact on the Body

As a source of  “empty calories” (seven calories per gram) and a potential contributor to insulin resistance, alcohol has a negative effect on body composition goals. However, contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not convert into fat upon ingestion. Rather, alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and has an immediate effect on the brain and other tissues; hence the resulting “buzz.” Since alcohol is a toxin, the body works quickly to metabolize the alcohol through oxidation. This detoxifies and removes the alcohol from the bloodstream before it damages organs and tissues. In the liver, enzymes convert alcohol into acetaldehyde and then acetate. This is what happens to most of the alcohol consumed, but some alcohol escapes metabolic process and is excreted unchanged through the breath or urine.

As the “first to burn” calorie source, alcohol . . .

  • Inhibits fat metabolism.
  • Makes carbs more likely to be converted into fat.
  • Can stimulate increases in appetite.

While alcohol is being burned or converted into acetate, the metabolism of other fuels is put on hold. That’s why alcohol calories are known as the “first to burn.” Not only is fat burning put on hold while the alcohol calories are burned through, but any carbohydrate calories consumed with alcohol are more likely to be converted into fat and stored instead of burned. Similarly, fat calories consumed with alcohol will more likely be stored as fat instead of burned (if they are consumed without insulin-stimulating carbohydrates).

Alcohol inhibits lipolysis (fat burning) and glycolysis (glucose burning) because it is the first to burn. Not surprisingly, studies correlate frequent consumption with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In fact, according to Enoch Gordis, MD, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the stupor commonly associated with drunks could often be more due to hypoglycemia than to the effects of alcohol. A pattern of frequent alcohol consumption can also result in decreased insulin sensitivity.

Appetite

Not only that, alcohol gives you the munchies, triggering an area of the brain that controls hunger. And when you do eat, those calories are more likely to be stored as fat. Alcohol ingestion thus detracts from fat loss goals by contributing empty calories (that you will burn before tapping into stored body fat), interfering with other ingested calories (promoting the conversion of ingested carbs into fat), and increasing appetite. Along those lines, if alcohol is to be consumed, it is best consumed alone to mitigate fat storage concerns, and, of course, in a sensible and moderate manner.

Body Composition

Alcohol can also affect body composition by altering the healthy balance of sex hormones in both males and females. Alcohol is known to be directly toxic to the testes, lowering testosterone levels in males. Frequent consumption can disturb hormone functions in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, damage sperm, and compromise fertility in both sexes. In premenopausal females, frequent alcohol consumption can cause an assortment of reproductive problems, including abnormal menstrual cycles, delayed ovulation, and infertility. These negative effects are well associated with alcoholics, but reproductive issues can also occur in “social” drinkers.

Athletic Performance

Alcohol can also compromise athlete peak performance and recovery in varied ways. It can mess with your deep sleep cycles, and the critical hormonal processes (especially the release of Human Growth Hormone during deep sleep) that repair and rejuvenate your body for the next day. All-time triathlon great and current coach Mark Allen suggests that alcohol preoccupies the liver, hindering the liver’s crucial role in processing nutrients for performance and recovery (including interfering with testosterone production); interferes with water balance in cells, which hampers ATP production; and hinders your ability to perform in the heat.

In postmenopausal women, alcohol has been found to promote elevated levels of estradiol (estrogen), which commonly falls dramatically after menopause. The elevated blood estrogen levels from moderate alcohol consumption can deliver some health benefits by helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease without increasing the risk of bone loss, liver disease, or breast cancer. Due to the toxic effects of alcohol and its negative influence on the healthy metabolism of other calories, anything beyond occasional, casual drinking will have an adverse effect on healthy metabolic and hormonal function.

Take the Sober October Challenge

This challenge, like many of our challenges, is designed as an experiment to take you out of your comfort zone and help you gain a fresh perspective of your current health. The challenge comes from an idea I got from Joe Rogan. I have been told by a few respected clients and friends that this is the stupidest challenge ever and that October may not be the ideal month for such a challenge but there are no other months that rhyme with “sober.”

The challenge consists merely of abstaining from all alcohol for one month and is not an indictment of alcohol but an opportunity to experiment and learn about yourself. If you choose to take on our challenge, send us some feedback and let us know how it goes.

Who Wants to Optimize?

Much of my focus for the last couple of years has been on how to best optimize training in the gym and life outside it. The FITFLO system encompasses just that. Ultimately FITFLO is about life optimization. I also realize FITFLO is my perspective on life optimization and that it is based on my own specific values and beliefs. Not everyone has the same set of values and beliefs and there is nothing wrong with that. You can still benefit from training at Alliance even if your values and beliefs differ. Simply take any aspects of our training and utilize them where they fit in with your specific goals.

First, I want to give you a clearer view of where my idea of optimization comes from and what it means to me. From that, my hope is that you may see how it fits for you.  As far back as I can remember it was engrained in me that I should do my best. Honestly, I don’t specifically remember where this idea originated from, but my parents certainly played a role in instilling this concept. What I do recall is sitting in church at an early age and hearing the parable of talents. In this story where a wealthy master gave his servants a certain number of talents before leaving to go away for a period of time.  One servant receives five, another two, and one servant received one. When the master returned he was please with the two servants that had taken the talents and invested them to create more while one simply buried his to avoid losing it. He rewarded the servants who had invested while he took away the talent from the one who simply buried his and did nothing with it. I remember being young enough to not really understand but thinking that it was okay to bury it for fear of losing it. I would say this was my first true memory of optimization. My belief became that we were meant to go out and develop what talents God has given us. Of course, along the way there have been many coaches and teachers that emphasized this same idea of applying work ethic in order to become your best. There is also the Theory of Human Motivation from psychologist, Abraham Maslow, known as the “Hierarchy of Needs”. There are eight levels of development where each level must be satisfied before moving to the next. The two top levels have to do with self optimization. The seventh level is self actualization and the eighth is transcendence, where after self actualizing you have the need to help others self actualize.  We also have the word from Greek philosophy, “Arete”. This is a word I have mentioned previously which means being your best self from moment to moment. I learned about this from Brian Johnson of Optimize.me. I have become a big fan of Brian and follow his  Optimize.me  website daily. These are just some of the origins from which I have developed my belief of the importance of optimization.

What I or anyone else considers to be optimization will be based on what they value. Let me use a few examples to illustrate this point. When we first started our Jiujitsu program I made the assumption that everyone had the same goals for training as I did and I quickly learned that was not the case. Therefore I decided to create a handout questioning what the students goals were. I remember one particular response which, at the time, baffled me. One student’s response was that “he did not have any goals in particular and that he was pretty happy with where he was.” Another example comes from Tony Robbins. At one of his trainings he quizzed two people about there goals and what it took to make them happy. The first, was a man who most would have considered to be very successful. He had a successful business and was a millionaire, he was healthy, and had a great family. When asked  what it took to make him happy his answer was that he had to make more money, get his body fat from 15% down to 12% etc. The second guy was known at the workshop as the guy with the most energy and when asked what it took to make him happy his answer was simply, “Every day above ground is a good day.” Part of me wants to say that the guy with no goals and the guy who looks at everyday as a good day need to be more motivated to improve themselves but who am I to say. If they are actually happy and are productive members of society then more power to them.The guy who had very defined goals and by most peoples standards was super successful was unhappy. Maybe happiness is as Mo Gawdat puts it in his book ,”Solve for Happy”,  simply a combination of your expectations and perceptions. What I consider to be an optimized life is one where we are happy, healthy, and strong. What I am looking for is to help those with similar values and beliefs optimize.

So what is the FITFLO approach to becoming happy, healthy, and strong? To reiterate, happy is an individual thing but to me revolves around finding a balance of mind, body, spirit , and connection.  So optimization revolves around those things. To optimize we need to focus on the following five critical areas:
1. Mental
2. Physical
3. Nutrition
4. Spiritual

These are many of the same areas that human potential coaches such as Mark Divine, Dave Asprey, and Ben Greenfield emphasize in their programs. We have been providing group challenges in each of these areas this year in order to help you optimize and we will continue to do so. What we are doing next is providing a more individualized approach to this process where we create specific action steps and hold you accountable to their execution. Last year we began working on this more individualized approach but it was more related to the physical area and movement. We are now ready to help you take it to the next level as we move towards Arete and an optimized life.

More details on this program to come this month.

More on Sleep and Human Nature

More on Sleep and Human Nature

Last month, April, was our sleep challenge month. I am happy to report that I have had several people tell me that they made an extra effort to get more sleep. I also know from my experience that this means that many people didn’t make the attempt to get more sleep. This could be because they really don’t believe it makes a difference, don’t care to make a change, or haven’t found a way to make that change. That is a normal part of human nature. Change is not easy. If you don’t have a big “Why” to ignite the will to change or don’t have the tools to make the change, then it probably won’t happen. In this last email on sleep, I want to give you a few more “Whys”, which may ignite the fire to change.

In a recent podcast #1109 with Joe Rogan, neuroscientist Matthew Walker covers the importance of sleep. He discusses many of the same things I have mentioned in earlier emails but I wanted to emphasize a few more. Specifically, he talks about the correlation between all cause mortality and lack of sleep. In other words, those who don’t get adequate sleep (between 7 and 9 hours each night) tend to die at an earlier age. He also talks about the correlation between lack of sleep and cognitive decline, cancer, and Alzheimers disease. Here are a few other ideas he discusses related to lack of sleep:

1. 30% decrease in physical performance
2. Negative Effect on emotional well being
3. Reduced cognitive development
4. Reduced skill acquisition
5. Increase in injuries

The second part of the email regarding human nature was sparked by a conversation I had regarding the above podcast. I was told about the podcast on sleep from a student who mentioned how he was amazed by how important sleep was. I jokingly said, ‘Have you not been reading any of the info I have been sending out this month?”. This reminded me of when Donnie Thompson first came to Alliance for a workshop several years ago. We had a turnout of about 30 people. Donnie was very happy with the turnout and said he would never have gotten that many people for a workshop in Columbia, which is where he lives. I then deemed this type of human nature the “Donnie Thompson Effect”. The moral of this story and what I consider to be part of human nature is that we sometimes overlook the advice from those we are the most familiar with but instead hold in higher regard those far removed. For those with kids or spouses, you have experienced this phenomena. Have you ever offered advise in an area where others consider you an expert but can’t get your loved ones to listen. This is not a judgment but  simply an observation of human nature. Last year, I was trying to get my son to listen to me about training when he was talking about going to the “Y” to workout. I told him we had a new coach coming to the gym and some of his credentials were as follows:

Athletic Accomplishment and sports background;
High School:
Football – all conference lineman
Track- 4:46 mile, 2:05 800 meters

Bodybuilding competition 3 events
Powerlifting: Competition- 320# bench, 500# deadlift
Gym PR’s:
Bench Press- 350
Squat 315 x 20
Deadlift 365 x 20 touch and go
Trap bar Deadlift 367 x 20 for 3 sets
Kipping Pullups  1x 50
1,000 pushup in 45 minutes

Endurance and Crucible Events:
Kokoro Graduate
20X Graduate
Completed 24 Hour Walk

Martial Arts:
Aikido – purple belt
Tae Kwon Do
Jeet Kune Do
Brazilian Jiujitsu- Black Belt
Pan Am Gold Medalist at Black Belt
Medalist at blue, purple, and brown at Pan Ams
Atlanta Open Gold Medalist
Arnolds Gold Medalist
NAGA Gold Medalist

Coaching Certifications:
AFAA personal training certification
Nautilus Training Certification
Super Slow Level 1, Level 2, Master Instructor
Cossfit Level 1 Certification
Crossfit Kettlebell certification
World Kettlebell Club Fitness Trainer certification
Crossfit Endurance Certification
Crossfit Kid’s Certification
Crossfit Powerlifting
Training for Warriors level 1 and 2

Bioforce Conditiioing Coach
Sealfit Basic Certification
Personal Defense Readiness Certified Coach
Parisi Coach certification
Circular Strength Training certification
Precision Nutrition Coach
Primal Health Coach

Other courses:
TacFit
FlowFit
Clubbelll Strength
Plan Strong
Functional Movement Screen
SealFit Academy
Kokoro Yoga
Boris Sheiko Seminar
Crossfit Mobility

When hearing the credentials, he said, “Yes.”, he would listen to the new guy.  I had to then inform him that the  “new guy” was me. I have often caught  myself doing the same thing. This is just another interesting example of human nature. As humans, we are certainly not always logical. If we are aware of this it can help empower us in making better decisions. If we are unaware of this or ignore it, we will sometimes be left with making decisions that, unfortunately, we will have to learn from the hard way.