Category Archives: Health

The Importance of the Basics… again.

I am still writing from beautiful (although today rainy) Park City, Utah.  And with the need for increased recover between workouts for the athletes, I have had time to catch up on reading articles and well, writing a couple of blog posts.

I read an article last night looking at our ability to recover from the everyday stresses of life, and for some exercise.  We have to understand that every day we are exposed to stressors; physical, chemical, electromagnetic, psychological, nutritional, and thermal.  Yet, we say we are doing everything correctly and do not yield any results from our efforts.  It was stated by Paul Chek, “How can it be that we put men on the moon at will, make laser guided missiles, have the ability to image your insides with incredible reproducibility and perform major surgery through a key hole, and yet last year alone, American pharmacies filled three billion prescriptions?”  Because we screw up the little things, that’s why.  We go to bed late, our training is poorly periodized, and we eat shit and then expect to perform optimally.  It doesn’t work that way.  We need to build the foundation around us so that we can handle the stressors we are exposed to.

I should jump back and explain what I mean by the stressors.  Physical – this could be in the form of an injury but in most cases, it refers to exercise, be it intensity, weights or long slow distance cardio.  Chemical stressors we are exposed to everyday.  Yes we produce chemicals within the body that cause stress however that is part of the adaptation process.  It is when that ability to respond is decreased we end up with issues.  As well, within the body we have parasitic organisms that produce chemicals that could be considered a stressor, but it has been shown without the parasitic organisms, we would have a compromised immune response.  Electromagnetic is something we are exposed to everyday.  Blame the computers, the cell phones, the ipods and the big screen televisions.  And most of these are present in the bedroom, which screws with the sleep patterns leading to psychological stress.  I alluded to the disturbance of sleep patterns in a previous blog post http://deliberateperformance.ca/2010/06/20/the-importance-of-sleep/) so I will not bore you again with the details.  But psychological stress is not just a disturbance in sleep.  It can be the constant chatter that is present in our heads every day, the noise that can cause paranoia and self doubt.  Nutritional, well once again we can start back at (http://deliberateperformance.ca/2010/07/07/the-simple-nutritional-approach-part-1/) and continue through parts 2 and 3.  Thermal really comes down to the body’s ability to adapt to the varying temperature that we may be exposed to in our respective climates.  This tends to be less of a problem as most of us have the ability to dress accordingly to the weather we are about to encounter.

So why do I write this?  Well it hit me at the camp here at Park City.  We are pushing these athletes to the edge, in order to get a desired response.  However in the process, we expose these athletes to physical (workouts), chemical (body’s response to intensity such as an increase in lactate and the altitude of Park City, Utah), and psychological (the stress of performing twice a day).  Electromagnetic is pretty easily controlled.  All the athletes are conscious to the effects of televisions, cell phones and computers have on sleep so they take the necessary steps to eliminate them.  Nutritional is well controlled, as the evening meal is prepared but a chef who is also a triathlete, so I am going to say that the correct balances of carbs, proteins and fats are there.  Is it organic… let’s pretend that it is.  I can tell you that I hit a Whole Foods, and my room is stocked with only organic, as is much of the athletes rooms.  Thermal, well, they are well prepared for that.

Now it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to monitor, and make sure that we are cognisant of the program and planning in recovery for the athletes to combat the physical, chemical and psychological.  Now I need to stress that you do not need to be an elite athlete, or have a team of coaches, physiologists, and therapists in order to manage these stressors.  You need to be aware of these stressors (physical, chemical, electromagnetic, psychological, nutritional and thermal) by understanding them, respecting them and taking care of the basics.  Remember those basics are… high quality foods, clean water and adequate sleep.  Take care of those three first and the rest can to some degree manage themselves.   It’s really not that hard for most people.  It is when you get to the elite level you need to take into consideration a few more extenuating factors.

Just a little thought in my head this rainy afternoon.

Yours in Heath and Performance,

The Importance of Sleep

This week I join a brotherhood, a fraternity, an elite group of men given the duty to raise a good, honest human being.  I became a father for the first time.  I have to say, I have acquired three undergraduate degrees and a masters degree, numerous certifications but I would hand them all in for the feeling that I had the day that Anna was born.  It was the most special time I have ever had sitting on a labour room couch bonding with a one hour old newborn in your arms.  But with great power come great responsibility… and a new level of sleep debt.

I wish I had a reference for this fact so I am going to reference personal communication… myself.  For every year you attend post secondary education it requires six months of recovery.  Most of that due to a lack of quality sleep.  When I heard that I would require six years of recovery from my university career.  Now entering fatherhood that sleep debt will once again being to add up.  I have to say Pam (my lovely wife) and I have been rather lucky that Anna has been sleeping 3 hour blocks at night but it is early and I am sure that will change.  Let pray not.

Back on track.  Through our younger year, or drinking years, we figure we are young and we can sleep when we are dead.  We stay up later than we should be, and figure we can make it up by sleeping until the crack of four pm on the weekend.  Now a few hours later here and there is fine and, yes we could make that up on a Saturday or Sunday, possibly in the form of a nap on the couch with Simpsons on.  But we tend to accumulate many hours of sleep debt in a week.  We stay up too late and get up too early.  The typical person need between six and eight hours a sleep a night, but many of us push the lower end of the limit.

The following diagram is from the Holistic Life Coach Course by the CHEK institute.  Now this is the best diagram I have found to truly illustrate the importance of setting a bed time and sticking to it.

The disruption of our sleep patterns consequently disrupts our anabolic/ catabolic processes.   Between the times of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am the body goes through a process of physical repair.  Between roughly 2:00 am and 6:00 am the body will go through a process of psychological repair.  A disrupted sleep pattern will cause the Cortisol (red line) to elevate and affect the regenerative process.  So it is imperative that we get to bed around 10:00 to 11:00 pm and up between 6:00 to 7:00 am.

Disrupted sleep patterns affect many of the body’s processes.  The act of having a bowel movement is a Parasympathetic act.  But if our cortisol is elevated and we are in Sympathetic drive our bowl movement are disrupted.  We should be having movements on a regular consistent schedule.  If that schedule is off… how is your sleep?  We also know that an increase in cortisol affect short term memory.  So we stay up late and wonder why we are so forgetful in the morning.   The increased cortisol will also drive our adrenal system deeper in to exhaustion and corresponding HPA axis deregulation.

How do you combat this?

  • Listen to your father and mother… go to bed at your bed time.  No seriously, set a bed time and stick to it.  Head hits the pillow no later than 11:00 pm
  • No stimulating foods in the evening.
  • This one I really stress to my athletes.  No electrical devices by their beds (cell phones, televisions, alarm clocks, lap tops, etc).  Move them across the room.  And try to have your bed orientated North/  South.  I could try to explain electromagnetic fields and sleep disruption but that would take more research and that is a post for another day.

I want to stress, this are just suggestions.  This is your Journey, and I am here to foster education and learning.  Don’t go and try and change things all in one night.  Start off slow and see how you feel.  I can say from all the clients and athletes I have made these suggestions to, I have not heard of anyone not sleeping better.  Now, go have a good night’s rest.

Chasing the Unicorn of Health

I have been chasing this elusive unicorn “health” since I was 14 and read my first fitness magazine.  Age 14 to 18 I thought health meant you had six pack abs and big arms.  Well, looking back at pictures of me from that time period, I was not the picture of health at 125 lbs.  18 to 22 I decided to add in a little cardio thinking that that would add to my health.  What the hell do people run for, or from?  I hated almost every minute.  There were the odd days I could keep up to the girl on roller blades in spandex, and that could change my perspective on the run.  23 to about 26 I got back to the picture of health were to be “jacked” so I once again took to lifting weights.

I abused my body in the quest for health.  I force fed myself high calorie foods.  I took supplements (GNC style… not Vitamin S) that I should have stayed away from knowing full well they were not good for me.  I drank Muscle Milk before bed.  And I was by this time a well educated young man.  But still my view of health was skewed.  It was my friend and mentor Andrew, who began to open my eyes to the world that I was blinded too.  And it was not until I was 30, and took Holistic Life Coach level 1, that I became fully aware that I do stupid sh*t. Often and with reckless abandon.  Yet still in the last year I continued doing stupid sh*t.  My shoulder was a mess for a year all because I was chasing this unicorn.  Hell, I mixed my Muscle Milk with full fat cream, thinking it was calorie, right?

But really what was I doing?  Was I healthy?  I was not sleeping.  I constantly worried.  I was not eating well (I had intermittent bouts of proper eating).  I had aches and pains at the age of 31!  And this to me was health.  Yet I looked others and wondered if I was healthy what did they feel like?  I WAS NO PICTURE OF HEALTH, SO WHO WAS I TO TALK.  Health is not an aesthetic measure.  It must encompass the spirit, body and mind.  It starts with the simple thing… good clean water, quality food, and sleep.  Then add in the exercise, but not just cardio and weights.  We need to think of both working out (cardio, weights) and “Working In”; Meditation, Yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi.  I have not met a single person who could not benefit from working in.  Now I have to admit I would not be the first person in the park doing Qi Gong in public, but what is your Qi Gong could be different from mine.  My Qi Gong this summer is fly fishing.  That has been one of the most relaxing past times I have ever done.  I actually suck at it as I never catch a fish, but I just love the peacefulness of it.

And here was the biggest issue.  I was preaching health to everyone yet I was a mess.  I am a representation of my business.  How could I teach health to others if I could not take care of myself?  Well, the path to enlightenment is long, as is the path to health.  I have strayed from the path, and will probably do so from time to time. The key is to maintain awareness, and make the little changes where you can.

Here is the challenge.  What is your picture of health? Is it aesthetic, spiritual, mental?  Or is it well rounded?  Now, are you a living example of what that picture is to you?

Yours in Health and Performance,

Jeff