Getting Personal – Coop’s Daily Strategies plus Blood Tests/Biometric Results
56th Birthday Episode #216
Dr. Bradford Cooper:
What would happen if you were to pull back the curtain on a middle-aged health & wellness CEO’s own health & wellness? What if you could get a birds-eye view of their daily habits, routines and strategies over time AND also had the chance to dig into actual biometric records to see if those choices/routines were potentially leading to positive outcomes?
Welcome to the Catalyst Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Brad Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute – and today I’ll also be your subject. This week I turn 56 years old and thought it might be of interest to not only share some of my own personal strategies but also open the book on my core biometric data to provide a potential connection between actions and outcomes or at least encourage you to get your own tests completed so you have a solid baseline from which you can grow.
It is important to note that as much as we’d like to look at this as cause/effect, no straight line exists between actions and outcomes. I’ll do my best to share what I do. However, the evidence is clear that things like genetics, living situation, and plain old good luck play a significant role when it comes to health, wellness & performance. So let me state clearly that while I hope what I’m about to share provides some potential ideas and encouragement, none of this is medical advice and I am not “the” example to follow. Rather, I’m simply one example. That’s why we believe in credible coaching so deeply – as it takes ideas and helps format them based on the individual. Hopefully what you’re about to hear helps make your life – and your future – a little bit better in the way that fits YOU – and doesn’t simply become a checkbox of “what Brad does.” Sound good?
On the coaching front, if you’re looking to earn your certification through an NBHWC approved coach training, the next opportunity kicks off in early June. If you’re already a coach, now is the time to get registered for the Rocky Mountain Coaching Retreat & Symposium, the coaching event of the year, which takes place in gorgeous Estes Park, CO in September. Details about both are available at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com or feel free to reach out to us anytime and we can set up a time to discuss your questions. Email is [email protected]
Now let’s pull back the curtain on this 56 year old N-of-1 and see if maybe something I’m doing can be an encouragement to someone out there as we look to Be A Catalyst on this latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching podcast.
Let’s set the stage with a brief history before we jump to current day. As much as I’d love to tell you I’ve always been focused on health & wellness, that simply wouldn’t be true. Back in high school – which is now 40 yrs ago – I bagged groceries at the local grocery store and often worked the 3-11:30 PM shift. It was not unusual – in fact it was quite common – for me to purchase a dozen recently marked-down donuts and a cheap, chemical-laden frozen pizza on my way out the door at night, head home and down it all in one sitting. On the sleep front, I remember telling Suzanna early in our marriage that one of my goals was to train my body to get by on <6 hrs of sleep so I could get more done, clearly an unhealthy goal. And exercise? I spent several years in my 30’s integrating running into my routine only when my jeans were getting tight. Once they fit again, I’d put the running shoes back in the closet until it got tough to fasten that top button again.
In my late 30’s, I got lassoed into trying my first triathlon and was immediately hooked. I dropped 25 lbs as exercise and healthy eating became part of my identity. Instead of “what I did” (as in running to get my jeans to fit), exercise and smart fueling became “who I am.” I continued that path for about a dozen years, competing in 11 Ironmans, including 4 times at the world Championship in Hawaii, numerous marathons, the Race Across America cycling race and well over 100 other races along the way. When I started my PhD work, I put the racing to the side, where it’s continued to remain the past several years. That probably makes this review more valuable, as I’ll be sharing details – not of an extreme endurance athlete – but rather basically a regular guy.
On the personal and work front, I’ve been married to an amazing woman, Suzanna, whom many of you know, and am fortunate to have 3 amazing adult kids, all of whom married incredible men and women we love very much who are now important members of our close family. On the work front, after being laid off from a somewhat high stress corporate executive role on the eve of my 41st birthday, we launched our company and are now entering our 16th year of being a small business owners. As all of you entrepreneurs know, that often carries with it long hours and elevated levels of stress. However, it also provided a level of flexibility that has provided many health benefits along the way.
Ok – so enough history. I just want to be clear from the outset: I get it. I’m lucky. While my life is far from perfect, I’ve been fortunate in more ways than I can count – and that has clearly had a positive impact on some of the biometric health results I’ll be sharing. I also realize that our health can change in the blink of an eye as a result of something out of the blue with no apparent cause and I do my best to appreciate each day I’m given. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the core results. Oh yes, and it’s important to note that I am not currently taking any medications, nor have I ever taken any medications or had any medical treatments that would affect any of the results I’ll be sharing today.
Out of the gate, I’m just over 6’ and weigh 144 lbs, putting my BMI at 19.5. Based on a Garmin 935 that I wear essentially 24/7, my stress score averages 19 on a 100-point scale, my average resting heart rate is 44, at times dropping into the 30’s and I average ~12,000 steps/day, which includes my running.
Blood pressure is healthy, sitting ~115/75. My LDLs are 79 and HDLs 99 for a ratio of 0.8 to 1 (for comparison, a ratio below 3.5 to 1 is considered healthy so 0.8 to 1 is encouraging). Testosterone is 780 with free testosterone 68.6 and Vitamin D level is 84.
Those are encouraging results for someone at age 56, but what are some of the things happening behind the scenes to drive these results beyond genetics? Those of you who have been tuning into the podcast over the years know I’m a pretty open book, so let’s open that book! Keep in mind I work from my home office on most days, which obviously provides additional flexibility and extra time due to not having to schedule a commute. However, even if you’re working in a more traditional office setting, you can likely integrate the majority of these strategies in some format.
Let’s start with sleep, as it’s a cornerstone for so many other aspects from daily energy levels to blood pressure, testosterone and so much more. I’ve struggled in this area for a long time so am constantly tweaking my approach and always pick up a new tip from the various sleep experts we’ve had on the podcast. In terms of tools, I’m a big fan of the Bose Sleepbuds to cover external sounds, especially when traveling. And eye covers are a must on the road too. Speaking of waking, in my mid-50’s, the need to urinate in the middle of the night is almost guaranteed. However, by eliminating fluid intake after about 6 PM, that frequency is at least minimized. Scheduling-wise, my goal is to give myself the chance to get 8 hours/night by having lights out before 9:30 and up around 5:30. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s a general target we’ve built into our lives most nights of the week.
If sleep cooperates, then I wake without an alarm, usually around 5:30, sneak out of the bedroom, drink ~18 oz of water, start brewing a cup of black coffee and greet our happy Australian Shepherd puppy Sky, who is certain every day is going to be the best day ever (great way to start the day!). From there, I break the day up into various blocks lasting 1-3 hours.
First, the pup and I head down to the office, where I’ll scan a couple of daily newsletters and dig into one of the 3-4 books I always have going until ~7 AM. By the way, the coffee I made earlier stays warm in my Yeti cup until 6:30. Why wait until 6:30 when getting up at 5:30? Cortisol levels are already highest first thing in the morning. Coffee raises cortisol further. So instead of loading one on top of the other, I’ll hold off the first hour of the day or more before enjoying that first cup to help balance out those levels.
Around 7 AM, I’ll move to my stand-up desk with a bright ring light to my left turned all the way up and 4 large windows facing east to my right. I keep the ring light on and the desk in standing position about 60% of the day to optimize circadian rhythms, enhance focused energy and keep me from spending all day in an unhealthy seated position. Mid-afternoon, I’ll then lower my desk to accommodate sitting and turn off the bright light. The sunlight has also shifted, reducing the level of sunlight through the windows by the afternoon.
My first priority at my desk in the morning is to dig into either the project requiring the most concentration or, if I don’t have one of those ready to roll, then I knock out the project I’m least excited about. This is a strategy I’ve used for decades. I call it the “Nows and Wows” approach. It’s always easy to knock out the high motivation projects – the WOWs – so by tackling the one w/ the least natural energy (the Nows), knowing it’s done provides an immediate boost to the remainder of the day. By the way, if this first work block does involve something that doesn’t require high concentration, I’ll typically throw on the headphones and turn up some classic rock or similar music for the first 30 minutes or so to get the juices flowing.
That first block of focused work will range from 2-3 hours, depending on the project and the day’s mtg schedule. Once this first big win of the day is done & dusted, I’ll spend the next 60-90 minutes on the fitness side. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not “training” for anything these days but I’m not hanging out on the couch either. At age 56, my goal is to be fit enough to do fun stuff, whether that’s hopping into a half marathon w/ one of our kids, paddle boarding w/ Suzanna or climbing mountains and living life w/ our family. To improve the odds of being able to do so in the decades to come, my daily fitness generally focuses on one of the following 3 aspects:
1. Endurance. Sky and I generally run 30-35 miles/week, somewhere around 7:30/mile pace and then I’ll occasionally throw in a gravel bike or trainer ride into the week.
2. Intensity. While I may not be hitting the track for any 20×400 session these days, I do include hill efforts and faster paced sections of our runs to nudge the heart rate.
3. Strength training & balance. This has been new for me over the past year but it’s more critical than ever at this point in my life. We run 4 days/week and I hit our garage gym the other 3 days for an hour. It’s a mix of heavy bag (great warmup), core work, squats, pullups, dips, bench, dead lift, balance and other miscellaneous. I’m not going for any records – but men lose 3-5% of our muscle mass per decade after middle age. Adding strength training – along with balance training – minimizes those and has a significant impact on quality of life as we age.
If no mtgs or interviews, I throw together a big smoothie w/ all sorts of fruits/veggies and protein and then hit the office again for block #2 of high energy, focused work until mid-day. Then it’s a quick shower, including a few minutes of cold water to provide an afternoon boost in dopamine and a brief lunch while I catch up on news that is pertinent to our work or lives. Lunch is almost always a massive salad – usually with the spinach/kale/lettuce/chard coming from our indoor Tower Garden – with a variety of veggies and a protein source. By the way, on the fueling side of the equation, I’ve been gluten free due to stomach issues (likely celiac) for a decade and have generally followed a 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule for the past few years.
After lunch, it’s back to the office for a 60-90 min block #3 of work. Then, around 2:00, it’s time for recess.
Recess? Yes – recess. This is the latest tweak I’m fiddling with regarding my schedule. I’ve been “talking” about cutting back on the long work hours for years, but frankly I love most elements of my job and was raised in a family where hard work was just what we do. So I always seem to allow myself to get pulled back in. After speaking with my coach (yes – we have our own coach too – it’s not just something we encourage others to do), I started scheduling a 2:00 recess into my day. This might be anything from digging rocks out of the ground, clearing brush or hitting golf balls here at the Catalyst Ranch to hiking up the hill with Sky, paddle boarding with Suzanna, trying out the archery range, fiddling on the piano or just reading a book. If the weather allows, the goal is to get outside for at least a few minutes, both for vitamin D and circadian rhythm benefits each afternoon. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes. Other times it’s longer. There are obviously times it doesn’t make sense due to prior commitments but in the short time I’ve been trying it, it’s been a valuable addition.
Interestingly, I’m finding my overall productivity for the day – even with this time carved out for recess – hasn’t changed a bit. We all have different energy patterns, but over the years I’ve noticed mine is lowest around 2:00 or 2:30 and then rebounds around 3:30 until I end my day ~ 6 PM. By scheduling this recess concept for that time, the block leading INTO recess as well as the post-recess period has become far more effective.
When it comes to snacking, I’m pretty consistent. Around 3:00 it’s a few handfuls of almonds and other nuts along with 2 squares of 90% dark chocolate with a refill of water. Speaking of water, I don’t consciously drink a certain amount as I think a lot of people overdo it in that area. But in general, I probably drink about 80-100 oz of fluid/day.
After recess, I’m refreshed & ready for the final 3 hr work block of the day. This is the period I generally reserve for phone calls, email follow-up and other outreach. If not on the phone, I have an old-school turntable in my office with a growing vinyl record collection and they generally get most of their playtime during the last hour or two of the day.
Suzanna and I typically shut down work projects around 6 PM and enjoy dinner together. Dinner is typically a protein source like fish or chicken with some veggies and potato, quinoa or similar. I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner 4-5 days/week and will occasionally have a gluten free beer if the family is together to watch our Colorado State Rams or other sporting event.
On evenings we’re home, Suzanna and I will typically read for a bit and/or watch a show or two before starting to wind things down for sleep between 9 & 9:30, which takes us back to where we started.
So there you have it. The biometrics and strategies of an average guy doing his best to walk the talk and be a catalyst through this journey of life. I hope you found a nugget or two in there that will be helpful to your own life. Again – none of this is intended to be medical advice but it is intended to be encouragement and idea provoking. Speaking of thought-provoking, one easy next step for you might be to do essentially what I just did – but for yourself. When I sat down to jot down notes about my own routine and habits for the purpose of this episode, it brought to light patterns I hadn’t previously been aware of. How do you start your day? What patterns do you notice regarding your energy levels? What time do you go to bed? When is that last drink of water? Why have you chosen the exercise routine you’ve chosen? What are you eating for lunch and why? Do you schedule your day in blocks? Or does it “just happen”? Are you using a stand-up desk and extra bright lighting during portions of your day? When do you integrate music? What books are you reading?
Last year, we invested in a coffee machine that would make it easy to grind our beans on the spot for each cup. Suzanna reminded me recently in a card she appreciated the fact that when we bought it, I said “hey – if we’re going to drink coffee everyday, we might as well love it!” Why not take a similar perspective to as many aspects of our lives as possible? Who knows if I have 40 years to live or 3 days. But regardless of the answer, why not reflect on each aspect of those things that fill our days and look for ways to move each piece toward BetterThanYesterday? There are hundreds of opportunities each day to make a little tweak toward better. I’m still tweaking… hopefully something in this episode encouraged you to do the same.
Thanks for tuning into the #1 podcast for health & wellness coaching. As always, if you have any questions about coaching, enhancing your career or integrating best-in-class coaching into your organization’s wellness strategy, please reach out to us – [email protected] and we’re always happy to set up a time to discuss.
Now it’s time to be a catalyst! This is Dr. Brad Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. I’ll speak with you soon on another episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching Podcast… or maybe over at the Youtube Coaching Channel.