OPTIMIZATION CHECKLIST 2019

This “Optimization Checklist 2019”  is quite simply, a basic checklist of some of the things you can do to optimize your training in the gym and life outside the gym. This list is not all encompassing of everything you could do, but is a list of things I believe to be most useful and things I have tried myself. It is my perspective on optimization and it will and should continue to evolve over time. It is my belief that one of the cornerstones of living an optimized life is to be a life long learner. It is also my belief that each of us has a calling and a purpose and that we should strive to be our best.

I decided to put together this list for several reasons.

  1. It is a checklist for me to personally utilize to stay in touch with the areas of my life that I believe are important for my own optimization.
  2. It is a checklist I am using with my Optimization clients to help them be their best selves.
  3. It is a list that several clients have asked me to put together so they can actually see some of the things I focus on personally.

The goal of sharing this list is that you may find something helpful to apply to your own life.  What it is not intended to do is make you feel inadequate or guilty if you are not doing everything on the checklist. Ultimately, you will have your on list. This list is to give you ideas of things that you may not have considered.

There are many areas we can focus on but I have narrowed it down to five critical areas.

  1. Mental
  2. Physical
  3. Nutrition
  4. Sleep
  5. Spiritual

Mental

All of the areas above are critical for optimization in our lives . To fully optimize we need to integrate all five of these areas. However, I would agree with Bobby Maximus in saying “The Mind is Primary” and also with Mark Divine in his  “Unbeatable Mind” program where his first lesson is titled “Win First In The Mind Before Stepping Onto The Battlefield”.

Here are some areas where you can focus your attention.

1. Goal Setting

2. Morning Ritual

3. Evening Ritual

4. Mental Exercises:

a .BOO (Background of Obviousness)

b. What Wolf Are You Feeding? (positivity)

c. News Blackout (removing negativity)

d. Future Self (creating your identity as you want to be)

f.  Habit Inventory (taking inventory of your current habits as outlined in “Atomic Habits”)

5. Growth mindset (be a life long learner always striving to gain knowledge)

All of these things I have either written about before, will be writing about in the future, or will be having workshops on this year.

Physical 

Coaching physical training is what I have spent most of my day doing for the last 30 years. I have no idea how many training sessions I have overseen over that time. However, when I only did one on one training where the sessions lasted 30 minutes and I averaged at least 80 sessions a week for over 10 years I would have done somewhere in the neighborhood of 32,000 sessions in that time alone. When I meet with new clients to discuss their goals it almost always revolves around something physical. Of course that makes sense since our classes revolve around physical training. What I hope to convey is that our training is much more than just a workout to break a sweat and burn a few calories. What I am most passionate about and get extremely excited about is people who transform, as a result of our training, not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well.

The full benefit of our physical training program is gained when you integrate the mind, body, and spirit. It has many benefits but I’ll break it down to a few major benefits as I see it.

Health 

I still remember one of my Health Science professors at Clemson say, “We can’t always assume people value their health”. I remember thinking, “What?” A few years later I remember being at Duke when my Dad was going through cancer treatment and seeing people outside the hospital with IV’s in their arms smoking cigarettes.  Well, I realized then she was right and I was pissed. Now I know not everyone values their health or at least not until they lose it. If you do value your health then exercise is a critical part of being healthy. Greg Glassman the founder of Crossfit in his article called “What is Fitness” gave an interesting perspective on sickness, wellness, and fitness. Some people say that there is not a direct correlation to health and fitness. That is you don’t necessarily become more healthy as you become more fit. His perspective was that those people are looking at health as simply the absence of disease. He presented the idea of sickness to fitness was on a continuum and that as you become more fit you do become more healthy.

Functional Fitness

The term functional fitness originated from the field of physical therapy. It was used to describe training focused on getting patients back to their normal daily activities. Functional training later became an integral component of and another way to describe training for athletic development. The premise of this method of training is that not all training is necessarily equal regarding its transference of abilities or skills outside of the gym.  In this sense, functional training is meant to transfer to develop a better athlete, especially, as it relates to their sport. I personally believe that functional training leading to functional fitness is important. However, I also believe some people have taken it too far. There are many different methods and philosophies of training. Among some, the debate on which of these methods or philosophies is best can be very heated. Bodybuilding, including movements designed to isolate muscles are often frowned upon by those who espouse the benefits of functional fitness. Machine training is another method of training that is typically thought of by many to be less functional. I made a decision several years ago to move towards what I considered more functional training. At the time, I relied heavily on machine training as a tool to deliver our particular brand of high intensity training. We got good results from this type of training in terms of getting people stronger, leaner, and better conditioned. For those interested in added muscle, we were able to do that as well. Back in my days of bodybuilding I relied heavily on machines as well. One reason I moved away from machines was that I thought the training wasn’t as functional as it could be. For instance, I remember thinking,”What good was it for someone to be able to lift a lot of weight on a leg press or chest press if they couldn’t even squat properly or do a pushup.” What I now know is that you can use a combination of exercises and tools to help people become more functional human beings and athletes. If someone says you are not doing functional training because you don’t do olympic lifts or that if you do curls and machine training you aren’t training functionally, I would wholeheartedly disagree. I consider anything that helps you outside the gym in your daily life or in you sport to be functional training. You could also consider part of my definition of functional fitness to include improving movement capacity. In our FITFLO system of training I list movement as the number one priority. This starts with the basic movements such as squat, hinge, push, and pull. Our program is designed to help you learn to develop these patterns of movement properly by developing a healthy range of motion and engaging the correct muscles in the proper sequence. Beyond that, we want to introduce you to many other movements to help you improve your movement capacity, neuroplasticiy, mobility, and ultimately your freedom to move.

Strength Training

When it comes to functional fitness I believe strength should be a cornerstone. It has been and will continue to be an integral component of our training. If you have good movement and are free to move then adding strength to that movement will improve functionality in whatever you do. In our FITFLO system we have several different methods we utilize to build strength. The more conventional proven method of building strength is our Plan Strong method. We also have our more innovative methods of strength training which include our Master Strength, strongman, and bodyweight methods. It is our goal to help you find the method that not only resonates with you but is the best method to help you optimize your strength.

Metabolic Conditiioning:

To quote from Greg Glassman’s article called “What is Fitness”, there are three metabolic pathways that provide the energy for all human action. These “metabolic engines” are known as the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway.

The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities, those that last less than about ten seconds. The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes. The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes. Here’s an excellent reference for additional information: http://predator.pnb.uconn.edu/beta/virtualtemp/muscle/exercise-folder/ muscle.html

Our goal in our training is to develop all three of these pathways. We do this primarily through engaging in high intensity interval training and circuits. I believe there is more bang for your buck in regards to the benefit of such training especially when it comes to the time required for such training. That is not to say that lower intensity exercise is not beneficial or that it should be avoided. It is just that going for a 30-60 minute low intensity walk, run, bike,etc, can be done on your own and is not the best use of time in a group training session.

Recommended training frequency for optimization

Strength Training: 1-2 days per week

Metabolic Conditioning: 2-6 days per week

Movement work: everyday

Nutrition

Ultimately finding a way of eating and supplementing that gives your body the fuel it needs to become the person you want to be is the goal of optimal nutrition. You have to be willing to experiment to see what works best for you physiologically and psychologically. Our goal is to give you some systems to apply to help you in this quest. Here are four sample approaches to assist you.

  1. Follow general guidelines focused on food quality. In other words, you don’t count calories or macros. You simply focus on eating whole nutritious foods. This includes meat (grass fed beef, fish, poultry) ,vegetables (preferably non starchy), fruits (preferably lower glycemic) and fats (grass fed butter, coconut, nuts, seeds). Avoid processed foods, vegetable oils, sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes.
  2. If you need more direction in terms of not only what foods to eat but more detail in terms of the amounts, then we have a second approach. We recommend following any of Mark Sisson’s Primal Eating Plans. Individual coaching is available to help you implement and integrate these plans into your lifestyle.
  3. Another approach and the system I consider the gold standard in regards to lasting change is our 12 month ProCoach program. As a participant in this program you receive daily lessons, as well as, monthly coaching, troubleshooting and accountability sessions.
  4. Yet another approach which you can use in conjunction with our coaching is nutrition testing. This testing can come in several forms. This can include genetic test to help determine what foods and type of diet may work best for you. It also can include nutrient testing and other blood work to help determine which nutrients you may be deficient in, as well as, looking at hormone levels and other biomarkers of health.

Sleep/Recovery

In my experience, lack of sleep is one of the biggest yet most overlooked components of living an optimized life. I believe this is especially true for hard driving and successful people. The attitude around sleep may be changing but for people around my age it seems that we were taught somewhere along the way that getting more sleep just meant we were lazy. There is the possibility of sleeping too much but I would say that most of us don’t get the amount or quality of sleep we need to truly be at our best.

The general recommendation for sleep is 7-9 hours per night. It is not just about the time in bed or even the time sleeping but about the quality of sleep as well. If you are not sure about your quality of sleep two of the best tracking devices on the market are the Oura ring and the WHOOP. I have used them both and have found the information gleaned from them eye opening. It has motivated me to focus more on my sleep and it has definitely made a difference in how I feel and perform. These devices not only track sleep but Heart Rate Variabilty (HRV) as well.

I would rate sleep as the number one in regards to recovery but here are a few other tools that can be beneficial that I use on a regular basis.

  1. Mobility Work ( yoga, stretching, corrective movements)
  2. Cold water immersion (ice bath or cold shower)
  3. Sauna
  4. Body Tempering

SPIRITUALITY

I mentioned sleep as being one of the most overlooked things regarding life optimization but Spirituality may be the most overlooked or under appreciated. Spirituality can take on many different meanings to different people but my goal here is to give you my simple interpretation of what it means to me.

First, I believe spirituality and religion are two separate things. I do believe you can be both religious and spiritual. However, I also believe you can be religious without being spiritual and you can be spiritual without being religious.

I personally believe in a higher power and to me spirituality encompasses some level of connection to that higher power. I choose to believe we all have a purpose and one of the critical things for optimization, which includes, finding happiness is finding that purpose. I have often talked about finding your “WHY” as it pertains to your personal goals. I usually talk of this in the mental aspect of our training. Here I am talking on a much bigger scale. Finding connection to your purpose and to others is a huge aspect to spirituality in my opinion.

I have mentioned that all the five critical areas need to be integrated and when it comes to the mind and spirit I sometimes have difficulty separating them. So, there will be carry over among all the areas but certainly the mental and spiritual.

How can you work on your spirituality?

Again I can only give you my perspective but here are some of the ways I work on it.

  1. Sitting in silence, either meditating, or box breathing.
  2. Gratitude practice(focusing on what I am thankful for)
  3. Hard physical training. I have to admit some of the times I have felt closest to God were during hard physical training. I still remember my experience during Kokoro climbing a mountain during a 20 mile ruck and wondering if I was going to make the time deadline. I simply had a mantra/prayer all the way up. When I was later asked by one of the coaches where my spiritual awakening occurred I had no trouble answering, “On that mountain”.
  4. It is still one of my greatest thrills in coaching seeing someone overcome obstacles they previously thought they were incapable of and knowing it is not about the physical or even mental but simply their spirit driving them.

Another exercise that can help you work on positivity and can be incorporated into your spiritual work is one that I learned from the Human Potential Institute. Dr. Mark Atkinson refers to this exercise as looking at below ground indicators. You can view the entire exercise here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/thinkific-import/2606/Belowthelineindicators-1516095925081.pdf.

What does my daily/weekly/monthly schedule look like for in regards to optimization.

Morning ritual:

Bulletproof coffee (2 scoops chocolate collagen, 1tbs Brain Octane, grass fed butter, coffee)

Listen to Brian Johnson’s Optimize+1,

5:00 box breathing in the morning preferably or later in the day,

Gratitude practice (write down three or more things I am thankful for)

Physical Training:

Strength Training Specific work:

1-3 days per week

Metabolic Conditioning:

3-4 days per week

Jiujitsu Training:

3 Days per week

Movement and Mobility Work:

(Stretching, Body Tempering, Corrective exercise, movement practice, or yoga) Everyday

Sleep:

I try for at least 7 hours per night. I prefer to get 8. I try to get a nap in the afternoon if I don’t get as much sleep at night.

We starting using black out curtains in our bedroom which have been very helpful. We also got a new mattress this year which I believed helped with my sleep.

Other things I have experimented with to improve sleep:

Supplements: Dr. Kirk Parlsley’s Sleep Remedy, Curcumin, CBD Oil,

Other devices: Oura ring or WHOOP for tracking sleep and recovery, Circadia

Nutrition:

At the beginning of 2018 I experimented with Mark Sisson’s 21 day Keto Reset plan and continued following a Primal Eating plan for the majority of the year. I wanted to compete at 175 for BJJ competition last year. This required a weight loss of about 10 pounds. I was able to do so while maintaining my energy to train. I also, finished my Precision Nutrition certification in 2018 and incorporated the principles from our Pro Coach program into my lifestyle.

I also, did nutritional testing with Dr. Koniver to help determine where I was nutritionally deficient.

Supplements:

Ones that I take daily: fish oil 10-12 grams, vitamin d, CoQ10, Kion Flex, Brain Octane, amino acids

Twice monthly: Vitamin IV

Once Monthly: NAD+ IV

Other supplements  I have tried: Organify, ketones, Biotropic, Qualia

I am sure there are others I have tried this year but I can’t remember all of them at this time.

Other recovery tools: sauna and ice bath or cold shower. I plan to use these on a more consistent basis (daily) in 2019.

Mental:

Optimize+1 daily

“News blackout” avoid listening, watching, or reading news when possible

Listening to or reading something positive or educational daily

Restarting Unbeatable Mind program in 2019

Finishing Unbreakable Lessons in 2019

Educational courses in 2018: Precision Nutrition certification, Primal Health Coach certification, Clubbell Strength seminar, Flow Fit and Tacfit seminar and workshops, Plan Strong seminar

Spiritual:

Box breathing daily, meditation, prayer