Sleep Advantage

The degradation of performance due to sleep depravation and working in stressful conditions is one of the most immediate concerns that affect sports performance, military readiness and productivity in business.   Gaining a sleep advantage is the basis for optimizing health, energy, and performance.  Lack of recovery and not getting enough quality sleep depletes body resources and creates a greater opportunity for accidents, injury, poor decision making, illness and lifestyle diseases.   The problem is how do you know where you really stand without expensive tests or drawing incorrect conclusions based on perception?  Fortunately, advances in technology now make it possible to take the guesswork out of how real life affects the body.  Mobile ECG monitoring of the nervous system provides reliable feedback of stress reactions during sleep, the % of recovery, and the amount and quality of sleep.   In our testing we often discover a significant gap in how people perceive sleep quality and where they actually are.  
Self-reported sleep quality in the case below was reported as high (green smiley face).  The person slept long enough, but the amount and quality of recovery was very poor revealing stress overload and exhaustion.  Achieving sleep advantage is more than getting the recommended “length” of sleep.   It starts with being able to obtain reliable data to draw meaningful conclusions about what promotes rest and recovery and aligning factors that matter. 


The Thanksgiving Ingredient

In the midst of the ads for Black Friday, the Christmas lights and the gift exchanges lies one of my favorite holidays- a time where we are reminded of the importance of food, family and most of all gratitude.

Thanksgiving has this unique ability to create traffic backups, flight delays and a high level of stress associated with cooking and entertaining. Yet, when Thursday rolls around none of that matters. In that exact moment you are grateful- you are grateful that your mother made your favorite green bean casserole, that your brother (an enlisted marine) was able to be sitting next to you and that you are surrounded by people cultivating and expressing an attitude of gratitude.

Why is it that too often Thanksgiving is the only time we stop to recognize the importance of being grateful? Emmons and McCullough, prominent researchers in the field, have done extensive studies on the physiological and physical benefits of practicing gratitude. In their research, they note that individuals who practice gratitude and weave it into their daily life actually have a health edge on their fellow counterparts.
The concept is simple-making gratitude part of your daily practice has numerous health benefits. Emmons and McCullough suggest that individuals who practice regular gratitude reap the following benefits:

  •  a stronger immune system
  •  higher motivation to take care of themselves physically
  •  better protective health behaviors and maintenance i.e going to the doctor regularly
  • better coping strategies in regards to stress and daily challenges
  •  feel happier and more optimistic
  •  maintain a brighter view of the future

This means that without even having to set foot in a gym or choose between a salad and a hamburger, the act of practicing gratitude can directly influence physical and mental health. It is one of the easiest ways to strengthen your immune system, boost your well-being, increase your feelings of connectedness and build resilience against current and future negative emotions. 

If all this good comes from expressing gratitude why don’t more people do it? It could be that the words “thank you” have become so commonplace that they have become  too simple, too obvious, and  too unworthy of serious attention. It could be that we are just comparing everything we have to everything we don’t have. Whatever the reason, this Thanksgiving I challenge you to turn your attention to the meaning of the words “thank you” , to embrace the feelings of joy and thankfulness and to reframe your state of mind to one of positivity and optimism. Here are some strategies to help get you started:

  •  Keep a gratitude journal and take the time to reflect on the good that happens throughout the day.
  • Vocalize your gratitude and tell the people around you how much you appreciate who they are and what they have done to impact your life.
  •  Grab a gratitude partner. Just like going to the gym is easier with a buddy, sharing gratitude and recognizes positives make it easier if you have some social support.

"Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some". —Charles Dickens

3 E's of Optimizing Employee Performance

Rosalene Glickman said, “ the future belongs to those who bring their best to the present”.  While this quote can fit into a variety of facets of your life- how does it fit in the workplace? As a manager, it is vital to understand how your company is taking charge of their future outcomes by presently investing in their employees. In our practice and the services we have delivered, we have discovered that the secret recipe to optimizing employee’s performance and success can be broken down into three main elements.

Engagement: Getting your employees on board with your company’s goals and vision is a vital part of organizational success. The Gallup organization estimates that companies with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity than their counter parts. Being proactive in creating opportunities for your employees to understand their individual purpose and the overall purpose of the company leverages your human capital and boosts employee engagement. Be creative and unique in your engagement initiatives. The most successful initiatives are those that are customized and tailored to meet the unique needs of your company

Empowerment: Empowering your employees does not happen over the course of one work-day, it is an ongoing process that involves diverse approaches and a unique perspective. Providing them with tools, trainings, resources, motivation and support generates a platform of ownership and pride in their activities and their actions. Understanding how individual contributions help achieve and surpass company goals provides a cooperative environment where employees are engaged and active in the work they are completing.

Evaluation: Understanding the strengths and limitations of your company and employees is a necessary part of growth. Often times, evaluation is captured in one moment and determines if something or someone has been successful or unsuccessful. However, utilizing effective evaluation as a continuous learning tool (not just at one moment in time) will play a crucial role in optimizing the performance of your employees. Regular evaluation helps employees and employers set effective goals, monitor progress and celebrate achievements.

Engagement, empowerment and evaluation are three very powerful concepts that when incorporated into the workplace environment will make a direct impact on helping achieve your strategic goals while building the human capital necessary to creating a culture of success and results. 



How to overcome putting your health on the back burner

Anyone who has ever started a small business and continues to run one knows that it isn't for the faith at heart.  It takes everything in your being to keep advancing.   A small business owner will do everything in a single day from Operations, IT, Marketing, Accounting, Sales, Customer Relations, to Chief Problem Solver and Bottle Washer.   In a fast paced world of competing priorities it is easy to forget about what fuels and creates the capacity to fulfill all those roles. Business owners make great sacrifices to get everything done and serve their customers, but often to the expense of their own health.  The reality is your can't cheat your health for long.  Burning the candle at both ends catches up quick, will suck the life out of you, and open the door for illness, injury, mental errors, and poor performance.   Business Owner David Garrison reflects on his own experience and shares how a Lifestyle Assessment by Firstbeat helped him to get back on track.  


The Heart of a Champion

Rory McIlRoy's victory at Valhalla for the 2014 PGA Championship was absolutely spectacular.  It was a pretty sweet performance that earned him a 4th major championship and a place of honor among golf's greats.  He had to overcome a disappointing pair of bogies at the start of the 4th round that vaporized his lead and left him 3 shots down at the turn.   With some of the biggest names in golf at the top the leaderboard he knew that he was going to have to step it up.  And that he did.  An eagle at 10 and birdie at 13 reinvigorated his quest for the title.  He sustained the momentum when he threw a dart from a fairway bunker on 17 that resulted in a birdie under the threat of darkness.   Caddie J.P. Fitzgerald said "That was all heart coming down the stretch."  

The key to Rory's success was playing with "heart."   It is heart that provides the capacity to persevere no matter what and perform at one's best.   This is more than a metaphor for drive, grit, or resilience.  It is a scientific phenomenon.   With advanced beat-to-beat analysis of the heart you can actually receive tangible feedback on the physiological connection between lifestyle, health, and performance.    Stress response, recovery, energy, fitness, and sleep quality are all part of this connection.   A Renovo Advantage Specialist can assess the impact of these factors and collaborate with you to develop an effective action plan to optimize what creates "heart" so you can live well and perform at your best.    





Memorial Day Salute to Sam Bern

Memorial Day is a sacred time for us to remember those in the military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.   I had several close friends who died while serving the country.  I am grateful for the time we shared in the military together, but even more so for their example to always go above and beyond the call of duty.   There is no question that they made a mark on my life and lives of those who knew them.   Their actions continue to inspire me to live well and seek ways to honor the values of our land that we hold dear.  Today I want to salute a young man named Sam Berns who died four months ago at the age of 17.  Sam suffered from the debilitating effects of progeria and yet was graced with amazing insight into living.  Although he never served in the military, his life inspired the nation and calls us to reflect on what is truly important.   Sit back and enjoy the video.  Sam's philosophy for living will bless your day.

Journey to Wellness

For the better part of 2 decades I have been known for being passionate about performance, weight loss, and reversing lifestyle diseases.   My story isn’t about losing 100 pounds or getting my life together.  My primary motivation for wellness and resilience came from just trying to figure out how to get through the day. 

In 1992, I was involved in a training accident in the Army where I incurred some game changing injuries.  Both of my heals were shattered and all of the discs in my spine from S1 to T10 were damaged.  Thankfully I was able to get up on crutches after 5 1/2 months, and returned to running in about a year.  There is not a day that goes by where I am not grateful to God for knowing that it could have been a lot worse.  However, it didn’t take long before debilitating pain set in and the activities that created happiness in life eluded me.  One failed medical visit after another turned into years of intense pain, stress, and frustration that I wasn’t able to be as available for the people I love, or serve others in my job in a way that they deserved.  For a long time the only way I could get through the pain was to busy myself into complete exhaustion.  I frantically worked 18 hours a day in hopes to crash for 4-5 hours before being awaken by the alarm clock of pain. 

The silver lining was that I became highly skilled at lifestyle strategies that work and improve quality of life.  I experienced great benefit by engaging in focus, attention, positive emotions, faith, prayer, exercise and inflammation free eating to renew energy, overcome pain and transcend stress.  I marvel daily at the power that good nutrition, 30 minutes of cardio, quality sleep, and a resilient spirit have had on my own health and the health of the people I serve.   I have been inspired by thousands of people that have achieved healthier blood pressure, body composition, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugars and autonomic function.  

I am amazed at how the course of my life, career and passion for wellness changed and grew out of the crucible of pain.   This experience revealed in me a great appreciation for people hoping for more than just trying to get through the day.  We all have different drivers that inspire us to action.  There is no question that finding your internal motivation and aligning to it is a great gift and source of strength.  It will help you to press on no matter what.  It is from this foundation that I am proud to be part of the team at Renovo Advantage dedicated to providing the opportunity, tools and care for others to be well.