The mission from Breaking Muscle: Go to a local mall and find a random person whose health I can improve through my own creative solutions.
And here I am.
Sitting on a bench above a floor that is sticky with remnants of various soft drinks and candy cemented deeply into the tile grout lines. The air conditioning is no doubt five degrees too brisk for any warm-blooded soul as goosebumps creep across my skin. This barren wasteland is a shadow of its former glory. Yet, even on a Wednesday at 4:15 pm, dozens of bodies still wander through this domicile of shopkeepers.
I close my eyes hesitantly. I count to one hundred to make sure anyone who was in my peripheral vision beforehand, is now but a former figure, far beyond sight. I open my eyes with suspense. Who will this adventure capture?
Garrett, Meet John
There I see John, aligned directly in front of me as if fate meant for our paths to cross. John is a taller gentleman, an inch or two above six feet. Unfortunately, what he has in height, he has more of in mass. His waist pushes the belt on his Dockers to the limit of its tensile strength.
Despite his dreadfully slumping shoulders and forward neck posture, I can immediately tell John is a powerful man in our society. The Omega stainless steel watch on his left wrist is a telling sign of an illustrious career with many successful accomplishments. His Allen Edmond wingtips match the same rustic tone of his belt. John’s deep blue eyes show intent, focused on a mission that he surely will not fail. The fluorescent light from the towering, two-story mall ceiling almost bounces off John’s pale skin. His arms swing violently with his quick stride, even if his legs lag behind. John’s chestnut-colored hair does not create any drag, as it is neatly combed, affixed to his side-part, and well-trimmed.
Just before our paths are about to cross and before John can become a distant memory of my mall reconnaissance, a quarter falls from my hand and rolls into his right foot. And so our relationship begins.
John’s knows his health isn’t what it should be, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. [Photo credit: CGP Grey | CC BY 2.0]
The Trouble with John
John is a part of the corporate world. I sympathize, as I once worked in this environment and know the daily demands office workers face. We begin talking and I realize just how many things John has going on in his life. John is part of the senior management team of a prominent logistics firm. Aside from the 60 hours per week he spends at his stressful job, he belongs to a separate board of directors and a family of five.
I am John:
- I am John’s under-utilized musculoskeletal system: A powerhouse of a frame with broad shoulders lying beneath a layer of hefty lipids.
- I am John’s creaking knees: My cartilage is being ground down from the weight of each step and an improper gait.
- I am John’s shrinking subacromial space: A result from years of bad desk posture slowly pinching me between John’s acromiom and rotator cuff.
- I am John’s adrenal gland: Constantly producing copious amounts of cortisol, which negatively affects my friend, John’s endocrine system, and decreases the amount of stem cells in John’s brain.1
- I am John’s vitamin D deficiency: I have been correlated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases, depression, and lower testosterone levels. I am in utter shock that I exist, since John lives in Florida.2, 3
To put it lightly, John knows his health is not optimal. He knows he should do more about it, but he has been caught up in the chaos of life and has let health’s importance slide by the wayside. We sometimes forget how crazy our lives truly are. We have more responsibilities now than ever before, from our demanding jobs, to family and social obligations, to household chores, to the countless errands that always need running.
It is no wonder why Americans fall into the trap of fast food and a sedentary lifestyle. Our everyday lives are truly exhausting.
John explained to me the many exercise programs he has tried before, and how each of them failed because they went against his lifestyle. These programs were trying to block off strict, one hour timeframes, which don’t work for John’s work or home schedule. Those programs never became personal. They didn’t take the time to dissect John’s life and find ways to work with him. Instead, they were trying to mold John to fit their program.
This is not the recipe for success I envision working for John. Luckily for him, I am an experienced corporate health consultant who is used to working with busy and successful people like him.
I am Garrett:
- I am John’s new performance and health coach.
- I am Garrett’s will to produce a transformation: I will make sure that John begins to view his body as the most vital asset he owns.
- I am Garrett’s cerebrum: Thoughtfully constructing a comprehensive approach to health which will excite John into action.
- I am Garrett’s beating heart: I will care deeply about John’s success, as if we were connected by the blood that courses through my valves.
- I am Garrett’s commitment to excellence: I will ensure that John receives a well-rounded program that encompasses his psychology, lifestyle, habits, nutrition, and fitness, and includes top notch instruction and implementation.
John’s Challenges Meet Garrett’s Solutions
To be successful with John, I need to make his schedule a priority and treat his time as scarce, since in the business world, time is money. I need to create solutions which let him multitask and give him the flexibility to perform these actions throughout the day. I need to create habits with John, not a strict diet or workout program that he ultimately will not enforce. I will integrate these changes into the four most prominent sectors of John’s life: his psychology, lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness.
I am John’s psychology.
While driven, I sometimes lose sight of the other important factors of my life. I am overburdened by the immense amount of information I must process. I sometimes let the stress of my job overwhelm me and make me a negative person. This negativity can spread into my marriage, which creates small rifts causing more stress. I worry more about short-term tradeoffs with my time, than long-term health outcomes.
I am Garrett’s solution.
With a life this stressful and non-stop, John must have a positive outlook. A positive mindset will reduce his stress and keep his family life running smoothly. To incorporate a more positive mindset, John will simply replace his negative thoughts with positive ones. Whenever John has any negative thought throughout the day, he will immediately think of two positive aspects about his day or the changes he is making. This could be as simple as, “It really is nice outside today,” or “I’m glad I took that ten minute walk this morning.” These positive thoughts will actually rewire the synapses in John’s brain to fire positive thoughts more often, and eventually John will become a more positive person instinctively.4 John is beginning to realize the real, tangible losses associated with poor health: healthcare bills, years of life lost, etc. He will begin investing in himself with small, healthy habit changes throughout the day, instead of creating short-term tradeoffs which prioritize mindless entertainment, laziness at home, or extra office work.
I am John’s lifestyle.
I am constantly crammed and revolve solely around work. Stress is a staple of my existence. My sleep is deprived. Sedentary has been used on more than one occasion to describe me. I miss the warmth of the sun and the sound of nature. My mornings are chaotic and my nightly routine involves watching TV, followed immediately with bedtime. I am not an optimal reflection of John.
I am Garrett’s solution.
John will create a well-rounded morning and nightly routine with 3-5 short activities he enjoys. These will encourage good mental, emotional, and physical health. He will stick to this routine every workday. To better deal with the immense stress, John will perform three-minute blocks of diaphragmatic breathing and meditation whenever he feels overwhelmed throughout the day.
John will set aside a seven-hour window in which he will go to bed every night with no exceptions. This sleep will enhance his productivity and make sure sleep deprivation never gets in the way of his goals. John will actively work on maintaining a healthy posture no matter what position he is in throughout the day. He will take more breaks outside during the work day and he will get outside during the weekend to get a change of scenery from his office and home environment. This will make sure he is integrating a more natural, sun-filled lifestyle.
I am John’s nutrition.
I am poor in quality and overindulgent in quantity. Over the years, I have been degraded to mostly contain quick solutions that are convenient, no matter what they may contain. Fast food is a regular item within my regime, and one that is consumed most nights of the week during the drive home at 7pm. I do not give John the fuel necessary to optimally perform. Most days, I am hydrated more with soda than with water.
I am Garrett’s solution.
Strict diets will not work with John’s frantic schedule, and neither will counting macros or calories. John needs to pick up nutritional habits which will be easy to implement, no matter the time crunch. I have picked John’s brain and come up with three easy go-to snack foods that John will carry at the office and in his brief case, making sure he always has healthy options on hand. These snacks are a trail mix containing a variety of nuts and dried fruit, grapes, and carrots. These snacks will keep John satisfied throughout his hectic days instead of eating nothing for several hours and binging on fast food once he goes into starvation mode.
I will encourage John to have family dinners and get involved in the kitchen with his family. John will infuse water with herbs, fruits, and vegetables to create a better hydration experience. He will carry this water wherever he goes and it will be the only drink he has throughout the day besides his morning tea. John will balance of all his meals with an equal amount of protein, produce, and non-produce carbohydrates to incorporate a healthy, balanced diet. He will focus on whole foods and the quality of those foods, rather than the size of his plate.
I am John’s Fitness.
I am quite literally non-existent; John is confined to a chair, couch, or a bed for almost every hour of the day. Programs have not changed me in the past, because I do not have any particular performance goals, nor is this a part of my life that is of concern. I do not enjoy exercise, thus I do not value this as a priority.
I am Garrett’s solution.
I know John does not enjoy working out, he is not a physical person, and he does not have any particular goal other than to lose weight. I am going to incorporate the habit of constant movement throughout the day. John does not want a workout program and he won’t utilize even the most meticulously programmed routine, so I have to think outside the box. I will implement the following habits to create more movement throughout John’s work day:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Getting a standing desk in his office
- Taking small breaks outside to walk around during brainstorming sessions
- Changing out two meetings per week to be walking meetings
- Incorporating a Pomodoro app to make John take necessary breaks to move around every half hour.
I will encourage John to get active with family and friends during the weekend to help relieve his stress and live a balanced life. He will focus on small, continuous amounts of movement throughout the day, not a workout regime.
And now we go to work, implementing the habits laid out above and utilizing creative solutions to ensure John’s success while working with his life.
Make time for your health:
Train at Home on a Time Crunch
1. Bergland, Christopher12. “Chronic Stress Can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity.” Psychology Today. Psychologytoday.com, 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.
2. Miller, Joshua W., Ph.D, Danielle J. Harvey, Ph.D, Laurel A. Beckett, Ph.D, Ralph Green, MD, Sarah Tomaszewski Farias, Ph.D, Bruce R. Reed, Ph.D, John M. Olichney, MD, Dan M. Mungas, Ph.D, and Charles DeCarli, MD. “Vitamin D Status and Rates of Cognitive Decline in a Multiethnic Cohort of Older Adults.” JAMA Neurology 72.11 (2015): 1295-1303. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.2115. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.
3. Kerr, David C.R., David T. Zara, Walter T. Piper, Sarina R. Saturn, Balz Frei, and Adrain F. Gombart. “Associations between Vitamin D Levels and Depressive Symptoms in Healthy Young Adult Women.” Psychiatry Research 227.1 (30 May 2015): 46-51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2015.02.016. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.
4. Stillman, Jessica. “Complaining Is Terrible for You, According to Science.” Inc.com. N.p., 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.