“Now recovery is the yin to the yang of physical training. A training plan without a plan for recovery is a plan to fail.”–Mark Divine
In the third and final podcast of the series, Mark talks about the crucial importance of recovery, sleep and integrated training. He points out that we can’t just train without learning to rest properly in between workouts. He also shows us that our best performance is connected to the 5 mountains of Kokoro. Will you be able to re-adjust your thinking about rest and connect your training into other parts of your whole person?
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Transcript & Shownotes
Hey folks, this is Mark Divine welcome back. This is the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks very much for joining me again this week. This podcast is going to be a solocast so I will be interviewing myself. And we’re gonna finish up our discussion of the three pillars of longevity with the second and third pillars of rest and recovery and integrated training. So you may recall that I mentioned earlier that a lifelong practice of three pillars of excellence can be both extremely rewarding and alter the quality of your life significantly.
The first pillar was proper fueling. We dove into that a few weeks ago. Proper fueling revolves around effective breathing, hydration, macro- and micro-nutrients. Now the second pillar which I’m gonna cover here is on recovery, which also includes sleep. And the final, third pillar, is on integrated training.
Recovery[1:24] Recover. The words recover were music to the years of my fellow SEAL trainees and I. After being dropped for first endless rounds of push-ups, or the infamous forty-five minute leaning rest, which looks surprisingly like a push-up without any rest, the words were an order to stop what we were doing and just to stand up. Now just changing from the leaning push-up position to standing or whatever came next was a huge relief and gave us critical time to restore our body and minds to prepare for the next fight. Now ever since SEAL training, I’ve gained more and more appreciation for the importance of that word “recover” as a pillar of longevity. Now recovery is the yin to the yang of physical training. A training plan without a plan for recovery is a plan to fail.
Effort expended depletes energy stores which need to be recharged through some form of effective recovery. Now there are many forms recovery, some can be for performed in an instant. Others require minutes, hours, days or weeks.
Let’s talk about events working recovery. Now many blazed through workouts thinking of the pain and getting it over with. But they miss opportunities to recover mid-workout. Elite athletes will plan their work in a rhythm that allows for recovery of different systems our muscles during the workout. During a workout, the primary tools for recovery are relaxation of the body through by breath and visualization. Pausing after a high-intensity interval with five deep tactical breaths, the body completely relaxed, eyes closed, while visualizing energy rushing into the body is an example of event working recovery.
An executive taking a minute of mindful awareness and a breath while visualizing a positive outcome before an important meeting is another. Now I call these “spot drills” in my book, The Way of the SEAL. And they are an important way to weave recovery and training into an integrated process during your performance. This level of nuanced recovery has a powerful effect on one’s overall energetic state bringing balance and a positive charge to your internal batteries while you’re in the fight.
Let’s talk about post event recovery. Now there was a time when I would finish a grueling workout, take a shower, and hit the next evolution with equal intensity. Since it didn’t usually involve more physical work, I assumed all was okay. But what I was missing was another opportunity to reset my nervous system, pull energy back into my body, and recharge my mind. After the work, whether a single workout, challenging events, or a big project, it’s natural to need some downtime. So don’t ignore that urge. Plan and take time to recover. You’ve given all you have, push the limits, put out. Now retreat, draw in and rest.
The methods for post-event recovery largely depend on the tools that you have available or you’ve been trained in. I like a recovery sequence from Kokoro yoga, but any stretching can do. Recovery breathing is also a must, and perform it for at least twenty minutes after a demanding workout. After a twenty mile, fast-paced ruck, or a long ocean swim, time in an infrared sauna, hot tub or ice bath is nice. Deep tissue massage is even more of a benefit.
So, how much you put into post-event recovery depends upon the intensity and duration of the event. I recommend ten minutes for every hour of training as a rule of thumb. A two-hour workout would require twenty minutes of focus recovery. An eight-hour rock means an eighty minute session of breathing, massage, stretching, sauna or hot tub. Fifty-two hours of Kokoro… Well, you get the picture…
What about training cycle recovery? Now we’ve discussed recovery from a workout and a focused event, or what about a training cycle or other cyclical period of focused work? Well designed strength training will have a de-load week programmed in after the maximal effort week. This is an example of training cycle recovery.
Often a training cycle will end with an event, so the post-event recovery can kick off a training cycle recovery. Changing up the training plan is a great way to recover from a cycle. The variety and newness will bring energy and momentum, so if you finish a Wendler’s strength cycle, try Westside Barbell, or German volume training if you’re up for it. If you complete three months of advanced operator WOD/S take a break and do shorter CrossFit WOD/S for a month or two. A lower work volume will allow you to increase your intensity and help your body-mind system recover to a new level of possible.
For a busy entrepreneur or executive, pay attention to cycles in your work patterns. After a product launch take a few days to nurture yourself on a retreat. If you feel burnout coming on, schedule time to go into nature and just do nothing. Nothing in nature is one of my favorite recovery tools and it is free, most the time.
Now this last point is a good one for my me to reinforce. There are a ton of recovery tools, methods and hacks. Most are useful, but if they don’t stand the test of time and simplicity I find they can fall short. I was recently asked to test an electro-stimulation device. But I found it cumbersome to use so I don’t really often use it and my infrared sauna is great until it broke. That hot tub I’m installing is going to be sweet, but it must be maintained. And that hot yoga studio across the street is packed with grunting, sweaty and nosy people. So though these are all really effective methods, I find that my best recovery comes from the free and simple tools, such as a meditation session, a mindful walk on the beach while breathing deeply, spending quality time with my family, or being in any natural setting without my iPhone. The bottom line is to have a plan to reset your nervous system, draw energy in after expending at and taking time to recover homeostatic balance during and after hard work.
Sleep[7:18] Now let’s talk about one of the topics that a lot of people struggle with, and it’s related to recovery. And it is sleep.
Sleep has gotten little attention in the past, but it is crucial for you to sleep well to perform at an elite level and to achieve the optimal health you deserve. “But I only need five hours,” I hear. I’ve heard that from many SEALs and high performing executives, and “I only sleep five hours and that’s all I need.” This is self-deceit. Not a lie, mind you, because if you believe this, then I believe you that you believe you only need five hours. But, chances are you’re feeling burned out and out of balance and your don’t appreciate the importance of sleep for recovery and balance of the neuro-endocrine, nervous and mental health systems. It might seem obvious but recent research is finally revealing that sleep deformation leads to performance degradation which can only be rectified by getting more sleep.
Kirk’s research shows that anything less that seven hours–give or take a half hour based on individual needs–of quality sleep a night will lead to gradual degradation in performance and health. Five hours a night will give you the mental state of being mildly drunk the next day and will lead to an extra pound of more of weight packed on for every month of deficit. Wow. A larger nightly shortfall will have even more negative impact leading to serious health and performance concerns. So if you’re a high performing individual yet your schedule only allows for five hours of sleep, or that’s all you can muster, then you need a plan to get that extra fourteen hours of restoration every week. Now that plan can include napping, sleeping late on weekends, or a sleep vacation. An even better plan would be to figure out how to get the requisite number of high quality hours of sleep each night.
How?[9:56] How do you sleep well? Well, the first four hours of sleep seem to be the most critical for physiological recovery. This is when you’re gonna dip into the level of brain activity associated with deep, dreamless sleep when your hormonal balance is restored. After these first four hours, we’re going to move into and out of other layers which address other recovery aspects of our physical and psychic well-being, such as allowing our subconscious mind to process with dreams. If you want to geek out on the science check out Kirk’s website docparsley.com.
Now there is a number of tactics that you can apply to reinforce your sleep, but ultimately this issue comes down to lifestyle choices. But elevating this crucial aspect of recovery to the same level of importance as fuel laying and training is key. First, black out your room. This may seem obvious, we sleep best in totally dark places, but too often there’s ambient light. A nightlight or outside lights that can affect the timing of our melatonin release, disturbing the process of strapping into that deep sleep. So blackout curtains, turn off all lights and a night mask are all good ideas.
Block the blue light. Using blue light blocking glasses, screens or bulbs is a good idea too. I’ve got a pair of blue light glasses I use if I intend to read using my iPad or watch a movie on Netflix with my wife. A blue light blocker prevents the light from tricking me into thinking it’s still daytime.
Turn off electronics and TV at least an hour before bed. The simulation will also delay melatonin release and the onset of that crucial first four-hour sleep cycle. I believe reading before bed is a better option, one that never fails put me to sleep pretty quickly.
Don’t eat anything at least two hours before bed. If you’re unwilling to give up that late night snack then stay away from sugar and carbs which are going to stimulate cortisol production. Also limit your water intake an hour before bed so you don’t have to get up to use the bathroom during the night.
Sleeps supplements. You can use a sleep supplement such as Doc Parsley’s to augment that melatonin and other micro-nutrients that will promote healthy sleeping. And keep your room cool. A cool 65°. Because warm environments or too many blankets overheat you and keep you from going into that deep, deep sleep.
Develop an evening ritual. I saved this one for last. Evening rituals where you really set your mind and body system into a trajectory toward optimal sleep that would be hard to interrupt. Our Unbeatable Mind evening ritual includes a recapitulation, visualization and journaling exercise that helps to eradicate any regret from the day. It will also prevent restful sleep where your subconscious mind has to wrestle with problems from the day. Additionally, will use specific breathing and meditation exercises to help prepare the hormonal and nervous systems for the work that they need to do during the sleep cycle. Developing an evening ritual is a silver bullet for sleep, though the other tactics are important support tools.
Integrated Training[14:25] Alright, let’s move on to the final pillar of these three pillars of longevity. The final pillar is integrated training. Let’s talk about the five domains of the whole person. Contrary to how we are taught to think–that we have a body and the brain and the soul, which operate as separate systems–the reality is that our body/mind/spirit is an enmeshed whole. The innate intelligence that we come into the world with exists in every cell of our body. And the energy that enlivens our body is the same energy that powers our mind and our spirit which resides in our spiritual heart center, silently guides and observes our thoughts and actions. One way to look at it is that we have five key aspects of our being which we call the five domains, these are:
The physical: the physical domain is the structure and the systems and the physiology of the body.
The mental domain is the intellectual and thinking and personality: a.k.a. our ego.
Now the emotional domain is that feeling aspect of our being, which also includes our shadow self.
And then there’s the intuitional. This is the sensing and perceiving of the innate wisdom that’s inside us and a connection to thoughts and feelings of others and may be universal intelligence.
And then finally there’s what we call… What I call the Kokoro domain. This is the mind joint with the spiritual center which then infuses the remaining domain with our spirits willed wisdom. We can call attainment or mastery in this last domain integration or enlightenment.
So these five domains are all naturally interwoven. But if we cut off the experience of integration through distraction or an overly stimulated thinking mind then we lose out on the experience of integration. Fortunately, I found that through training these five domains over the years through Unbeatable Mind that they can be experienced independently and then re-integrated through a developmental process. A process that refines each domain in a progressive manner and unlocks the potential that each holds. This is the form of integrated training that I call five Mountain training.
Five Mountain training[16:38] So what is five Mountain training? If we take each domain and begin to train it with the explicit goal of integrating personal development, then when lock an accelerated process of growth to and through higher stages of consciousness. Each stage which transcends but includes former stages. A discussion of the stages is found in my book “Unbeatable Mind” and if you want a deeper dive I recommend Ken Wilber’s exceptional book “A Theory Of Everything.”
Our aim here is to take personal responsibility to evolve our ourselves to an integrated level. All the great wisdom traditions agreed that there was a stage of consciousness that was experienced as unique perspective, a world-centric, peaceful, non-attached, energized and spiritually aware perspective.
Now really who wouldn’t want that to evolve to that level? Well, I guess the answer to that question is those who aren’t ready to put forth the effort don’t really want to evolve to that level because it does require work. But I’m trusting that if you’re listening to this you were not in that category. So let’s take a quick look at some of the training methods for integration along the five Mountain path.
The physical Mountain includes functional fitness, breathing properly for fuel, mindful movements such as a yoga asana, and physiological control through the breath. These are all training methods for the physical Mountain.
The mental Mountain includes the witness process, mindfulness development, concentration training, breath control meditation, mantra and contemplation among others.
The emotional Mountain is strained through recapitulation, visualization which is kinda like perfect personal death therapy, reframing, EMDR, authentic communication, and crucibles. All are very effective for training the emotional mountain. And that… By the way, I’ll also recommend that you get an emotional coach, a.k.a. therapist to guide you along the emotional mountain journey.
The intuitional Mountain is trained through breath awareness, sensory deprivation, immersion in nature, silent retreats, chakra and nadi clearing and other forms of breath and meditation training.
And the Kokoro Mountain. Kokoro Mountain is something that we spend a lot of time working on here at SEALFIT and in Unbeatable Mind. This is about living your ethos. Defining your ethos, getting a clearer vision for what your purpose and passion and principles are here on this planet. A deep commitment to a cause or omission, a heartfelt service are the resulting effects of this. And surrendering to a higher power, learning to forgive and to deeply connect to all people are methods that we practice on this mountain journey.
So this clearly seems to be more of a way of life than a training method, and it is true that it is. This entire philosophy is a way of life and it has daily, monthly and yearly practices and training routines and with rituals. Trust me it is a powerful developmental model which is grounded in ancient warrior tools for unlocking maximum human potential.
But I’ve designed it for the busy, modern professional. And when integrated training is combined with the first two pillars of effective fueling and sleeping recovery it will unlock potential leading to elite level performance in anyone who locks onto the three pillars. And allow one to achieve self-mastery in service to something amazing in this lifetime. And that is powerful medicine.
Thanks for your time today folks. I hope everything’s going great. Stay focused, train hard. And I will talk to you soon.
Coach Divine out.