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Episode 3: Progress Tracking: Basic Health Markers

by Shaun Kober
May 26th 2020

Welcome to the Launch series of the Live Train Perform podcast.

Progress tracking tools are essential in tracking the data to identify how your lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, training progra... More

What's up guys? Sean Cobra here of the live transform podcast. Over the next two weeks while I launched this podcast, I'm going to be dropping one episode per day, then I'm going to drop back to one episode per week. The first episode is an introductory episode explaining who I am, my background, my knowledge, my experience. The second episode is all about goal setting. That's going to be followed up by progress tracking, then building habits, doing the things that you enjoy doing consistency, restricting, temptation, meal preparation, accountability, crap foods, getting started and building momentum along with hierarchy of value, motivation, direction and your environment. Now, if you go back and listen to each one of those topics again, they are all relevant Or optimizing your performance and your everyday life. It's not just to do with health and fitness. Yes, I am a strength and conditioning coach that is my background, that is my specialization. However, I'm a coach first and foremost and I need to optimize the other 23 hours of the day so that I can get the most out of my clients for that one hour that I'm with them.

I'll also be answering some of my followers questions that have posted questions on my Q and A memes and I'm going to incorporate those answers into the pertinent episodes. Mhm Hey guys, welcome to episode three of the two week launch series during this episode, we're going to be going through progress tracking the many different types of progress tracking and why progress tracking is important. So we're going to be talking about setting checkpoints along the way to go through our progress tracking protocols, We're going to be talking about general progress tracking and specific progress tracking. Then we're going to discuss data information, knowledge and wisdom why those things are important and what the difference is between them. We'll also discuss are certain health markers that we can use to kind of have a look at where our bodies are, how much stress are under in the state of our nervous system. Will be discussing heart rate, variability, blood pressure and waking heart rate.

Then we're going to be going through the different progress tracking tools, looking at objective progress tracking and subjective progress tracking. Let's get started. So first up, why is progress tracking important? Well, it's essentially going to give us information to tell us whether we're moving in the right direction or not, what is the state of health of our body? And is the training program, nutrition protocol, lifestyle changes and habits that I've implemented into my life, pushing me in the right direction or not. If what I'm doing is working and I'm moving in the right direction, I'm taking those steps, then that's awesome. I just simply tweak and refine and make minor adjustments as I go if it's not pushing me in the right direction. However, then I need to take a step back and have a look at the habits and routines and changes that I've implemented and maybe I need to make some adjustments to those. Maybe I need to change my training program, maybe I need to change my diet protocols.

Maybe I need to have a look at my lifestyle. Am I getting enough sleep? Am I drinking enough water? Am I eating enough vegetables to support micro nutrient levels and all those processes that go on behind the scenes to support one recovery. But then adaptation. Now it's important to note that we don't make adaptations in the gym. We go to the gym, we drive the sympathetic nervous system which will discuss a little bit more details soon. Then it's only when our parasympathetic nervous system up regulates and we can then break down our foods and our nutrients and start pushing them in the direction they need to go to support those adaptations. If you haven't listened to the previous episode All about goal setting, I highly recommend you go back and listen to that. So this episode makes a lot more sense. Once we've got our goals after we've set our values, then we need to do progress tracking along the way to recap last episode. If I have someone who's looking to lose 10 kg in one year, for example, then I'm going to break that one year goal down into quarters.

So every three months what I'm going to do is test their body composition, test their weight, then we can refine their protocols, their training program and their nutrition. Maybe look at lifestyle. But then I'm going to break those three month increments down into one month increments and then I'm going to again break those one month increments down into weekly increments and daily increments. When it comes to progress tracking, we need to take a baseline. We need to have a look at what our start point is and then progressively track along the way and again, if we're making, if we're moving in the right direction, that's awesome. Tweak and adjust. If we're not, then something needs to change. Let's now discuss the difference between general and specific progress tracking tools. So general progress tracking tools are all about your overall health. This is where we're looking at your heart rate, variability, your blood pressure, you're waking heart rate, how much sleep you're getting, how much water you're drinking. Are you getting enough nutrients in the form of calories? Are you getting the right macro nutrient ratios? Are you getting the right micro nutrient ratios, etcetera.

So I've said it once, I'm going to say it again and again and again, healthy organism is an adaptable organism. So if everything's dialed in and you think that your training program, your diet plan is fucking awesome. It's the bee's knees, then That's great. But if it's not bringing you the results that you want, maybe your body is not in a healthy place and it's not going to adapt a simple analogy that I like to use to explain to my clients. This process is a car. Now, let's say you're driving 1000 km. If you have four flat tires, your timing belts off, your engine roars low, you've got no brake fluid, you've got no power steering fluid. One of your spark plugs is not working. So now your car is only running on five cylinders instead of six. Then putting your foot on the accelerator is not going to get you there faster. It's just going to be revving the engine out. Your car is going to be working a lot fucking harder and going nowhere fast. It's the same thing with our body. We need to make sure that we service our body. We make sure our body is healthy and we go back to the car and we pump up those tires and we put our engine oil in, we fill out brake fluid and our power steering fluid and get everything running correctly.

Then when we put our foot on the accelerator, then we're moving a lot faster. So you need to tick the boxes, make sure you've got the prerequisites set first and ensure that you're in a healthy space. So then your body wants to adapt Specific progress tracking, on the other hand, is all about making it specific to the adaptations that you're trying to achieve. So the person who is looking at losing 10 kg of body fat, I need to be testing body composition. I need to be testing weight and progressively tracking that as I go. I'm also going to maintain and continue checking on those general health markers and those general progress tracking protocols. Now, if I have someone who is training to be a power lifter for example and wants to compete in their first meet, then I don't necessarily need to test their body composition. I'll probably test that anyway just to see how the training program and nutrition protocols are affecting their body. But the progress tracking I'm going to be using with them is going to be all about strength, All about force output, power output.

How fast is the bar moving? What's the rate of force development? What's their strength capacity? So, those specific progress tracking protocols need to be in line with what your goals are. We'll discuss this a little bit more detailed later on in the episode. As mentioned earlier, some of the markets that are used to measure overall health is heart rate variability, blood pressure and waking heart rate. So heart rate variability is a snapshot into your autonomic nervous system. I'm not going to go too deep into the autonomic nervous system. However, I will give a brief overview of what is responsible for the autonomic nervous system controls 80-90% of your body's physiological processes. This happens at a subconscious level. You don't even need to think about it. This is what keeps your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your digestive system, doing its thing, your regulation of hormones, your neurotransmitters. Pretty much everything that happens behind the scenes that you don't need to really pay too much attention to. Now. That's a really good point is that people typically don't pay attention to the autonomic nervous system until something happens when they end up basically getting really stressed out.

We have acute stress and we have chronic stress. Acute stress is something let's say you're driving along at 100 kilometers now and someone pulls out in front of you. Right? So that's an acute stress. There's going to be a physiological response that goes along with that. Now let's say you're driving along at 10 km now and someone pulls out in front of you. It's going to be a little bit of a stress but it's nowhere near as heightened as the acute stress. However, if you're driving along and every five minutes someone pulls out in front of you. All right, that's going to add up to chronic stress. So that's an important thing to note is that we have acute stress which is a high threat and that gives us a high response and then we have chronic stress which is basically low level stresses that add up over time because they're not dealt with and that builds up to chronic stress and that can impact your sleep, that can impact your ability to perform, That can impact your ability to recover to train to think correctly to regulate your hormones be able to digest, absorb assimilate fuels coming from foods and drink and things like that. So that can potentially lead to decreased health markers and other potential health issues.

So the autonomic nervous system is basically all about balance. Okay we have two branches the sympathetic state which is fight or flight. And we have the parasympathetic state which is rest and digest. Now. These are both important but they work together. They're synergistic. If we have too much drive in one state then that can cause some health implications. So what we wanna do is balance everything out. The sympathetic state or the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for short term survival. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for long term survival. So it's important to balance these out. Now I'm not going to go into the individual physiological processes that occur in the cascade of hormones and everything else that happens in each one of these states because it is quite dense and I will spend an entire episode on this in the future. Um but essentially think about riding down two columns in your life. Okay, on the left column we have things that cause you stress and on the right column we have things that cause you to or allow you to be able to relax.

Now that's essentially the sympathetic on the left, the fight or flight which is stress and the parasympathetic on the right which is relaxed. Now if you add up the things in your life that um cause you stress, you might have low level stress is it might be finances might be a two out of 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 relationship might be having some relationship issues at the moment. That might be causing your four out of 10 stress. You might have Children that you're having some issues with or they're playing up at school or you know they're just being little shits. So that might be causing you one out of town or two out of town. Then you obviously with this day and age we're living in right now. Everyone is in lockdown. Everyone has restrictions. People have lost their jobs and things like that. That might be causing a level six or seven in stress. And then you're concerned about you know your mortgage repayments and car repayments etcetera etcetera etcetera. So these things are adding up to overall stress. Your body can only take so much stress and the more you add up onto that sympathetic side and the higher that stress level becomes, the more you need to go back in the other direction and find things that help you relax.

So Every single person is going to be different here for me. I really love scuba diving. It's therapeutic for me but for other people it's probably not going to be therapeutic. Most people probably don't enjoy breathing through a tube 30m underwater because things that are outside their control. So for me that allows me to drive my parasympathetic nervous system. But for other people it's probably going to create a stress response and drive their sympathetic nervous system. So you need to find the things that are going to help you relax. I'll give you some options here, some ideas. It might be some yoga um Typically some yin style yoga or some light movements and technique work. It might be riding your motorbike, it might be scuba diving, it might be reading a book or listening to music or a podcast or just doing some walking. It might be a long distance run. It doesn't really matter what it is. But if you've got high level stress in a lot of areas in your life then you really need to balance everything out and do some things or do a lot of things that help you relax so that you can chill out. So HIV gives you a snapshot into your autonomic nervous system.

What I use is a heart rate monitor, a chest strap, which I connect to my phone and there's an app called elite HIV. I did the Elite HIV course which I will link in the show notes. But essentially what it does is connects to an app and then it takes my heart rate variability which is different to heartbeat or pulse rate. Now let's use 60 beats per minute. If my heart rate is 60 bpm beats per minute then my heart rate variability is the difference in time between the contractions of my heart. So the heart doesn't beat like a metronome. If it's 60 beats per minute it doesn't beat on the one second mark, the two second mark, the three second mark. Okay, it's going to have a little changes in time and variations in time. Where it contracts sensory receptors within the body are constantly providing feedback to the vagus nerve which sends a signal to the brain and tells your brain to regulate your heartbeat, your respiratory rate, your ph balance of the blood, your core temperature etcetera according to your environment.

So heart rate variability measures the variance in time between heart contractions. So let's take that example of 60 beats per minute. It's not one second, one second, one second between contractions, it might be 978 milliseconds and then the next one there might be 1236 milliseconds. And then the next one is going to be 874 milliseconds. And the next one is going to be 1078 milliseconds. And the next one to be 876 milliseconds. Okay, so Basically what that's doing is your vagus nerve, your brain is sending signals to the heart to the respiratory rate to start adjusting depending on what's going on. So a good score is 65. For heart rate variability 65 and above Mine is typically around about 77, depending on what's going on. So high score is good. That means that your body is able to adapt to all the different stimulus that's coming in and make adjustments, physiological adjustments to all those processes going on behind the scenes to keep your body healthy essentially.

Now, low heart rate variability is detrimental to health. That essentially means that your body is under a shitload of stress and it can't make the necessary adjustments to adapt the heart rate and the respiratory rate and the hormone regulations and all of these other processes that are happening. Now when we're training, when we're going through stressful times in our life, our heart rate variability is typically going to start dropping down. An example of this is one of my UFC guys PTR number four in the bantamweight division in the UFC. I got him to start taking his heart rate variability so that we could both see what was happening with how training was affecting him and how run down he was getting and things like that. So then we could schedule in d load weeks where he could essentially rest, recover and adapt to all the training that we're putting him through um and then come back and be relatively fresh and be able to train harder and harder and harder to adapt to the responses that we're trying to create. There was one time where we pushed hard for roughly 4 to 5 weeks and I can see his heart rate variability was decreasing.

Week after week after week, and I got to a point, I was like, all right, that's it. We need to have a d load week next week. I want you to chill out. I want you to I still want you to train, but back the intensity of practice skill, practice technique, allow your body to rest, recover and adapt to what we've been doing now. He's Russian, he's a professional fighter, he's an elite athlete. So his mindset was fuck that I'm going to get after it. And what actually happened was he didn't listen to me and he started training hard again next week and within 3 to 4 days he was sick. He was bedridden for 4 to 5 days because his body had literally pushed so hard into a sympathetic state and he was becoming run down. His body was stressed out. His heart rate variability, or his ability to adapt to stress had been compromised and his body won't fuck this. You need to go into a parasympathetic state. You need to chill out. You need to be bedridden for the next couple of days so I can I can recover and get back to baseline, which is home. You know, stasis. So essentially heart rate variability is all about measuring our body's ability to get back to homeostasis, which is balance or equilibrium.

Again, I'll dive into this in a lot more detail in a future episode. Very important. The next general progress tracking tool that is going to track our overall health is blood pressure. So blood pressure is a great way and it's a very simple way of having a look to see how much stress the body is under. Typically going to take blood pressure. We have two numbers. We have systolic which is the higher number and we have the diastolic which is the lower number. The systolic number is the peak contraction of our heart which is a muscle. The diastolic number, which is the lower number is the pressure that remains in the arteries when the heart is at rest. So both of these numbers are important for giving us a snapshot into what's happening with the body and how much stress it's under. And as I said earlier, it's a very simple way of having a look at some basic vital signs to determine if there's any underlying conditions that we need to potentially have a closer look at.

And this is why when you go into a doctor's office a GPS office, that's one of the first thing they do is they test your vital signs by putting an inflatable blood pressure cuff on. So you can have a look at what your systolic pressure is and your diastolic pressure. Now, why are these two numbers important? Let's think about a fire hose. Okay, let's say you crank that fire hose up to its maximum output. Okay, so there's a fuck load of water running through there. The pressure within the hose becomes high. This is the same thing with our blood vessels and the walls of our arteries. They can only withstand a certain amount of pressure for certain periods of time. So if those arteries are still under an immense amount of tension and strain, then at some point something's got to give. So this is why it's important to track your blood pressure and see your GP or some sort of professional that's going to help you make adjustments to reducing or managing your blood pressure. And like I said earlier, looking at blood pressure can also help you identify anything else that might be going on because again, your blood pressure is regulated by your brain which is controlled by your vagus nerve, which gets signals from all of your sensory receptors.

So, if there's an issue with your blood pressure, if there's a problem with your heart rate variability. If there's some concerns with your waking heart rate, which will go into in a moment, then we're potentially looking at some underlying health conditions or concerns that we need to have a closer look at. So high blood pressure and even low blood pressure is one of those times where we're potentially shining a spotlight on some underlying health conditions that need to be looked into a little bit deeper. And the numbers that we're aiming for roughly after the systolic and diastolic is 1 20/80 and that's a good baseline to target or at least start pushing towards if you're not quite there. Next up let's discuss waking heart rate. So you're waking heart rate is what your heart rate or your pulse rate is first thing in the morning. Now this is obviously the best time to test it because we've been sleeping throughout the night, our bodies gone through its recovery processes, recuperation, etcetera. So I'll talk about the best times and days and protocols for all of these programs, tracking tools to round out the episode.

But basically, first thing in the morning is a great time to test our waking heart rate. And I do that by using my Fitbit that tells me how well I've slept. It gives me a score, asleep score. And it also tells me what my waking heart rate is. If you don't have a Fitbit or an activity tracker, a simple way to do it is to place two fingers on your carotid artery, which is the one on your neck. Or you can use your radio pulse, which is down by your wrist, just below the palm of the hand, on the thumb side of the forearm. Now the best way to do it is to set a timer for one minute and count how many times your heartbeats during that one minute. Okay, that's the most accurate way of doing it. You can count 30 seconds and multiply that by two. Count 20 seconds multiply that by three, 15 seconds multiply that by four or 10 seconds multiply that by six. But the less time you actually take to take this measurement, the more potential inaccuracies there are going to be. So I'd recommend doing 60 seconds counting how many times your heartbeats during that time.

These numbers give us a really good understanding of what's happening with your body as well. And maybe if you had a poor night's sleep then your body hasn't had a chance to recover rest, recuperate, then maybe your body is under a little bit of stress and it might be worth adjusting your training session and your day accordingly. So I'll give you guys an excellent example of something that happened to me recently. So I went back to Australia in august last year to get my tattoo done. Now I spent six days in the chair and was roughly 4-6 hours per day. I got that tattoo done on a Thursday Friday. Then I had Saturday Sunday off, then Monday Tuesday back in the chair, Wednesday off Thursday Friday back in the chair had the weekend and I flew back to Thailand now My waking heart rate every morning for the week prior to going home was roughly 52 beats per minute. Now that's a really good place to be obviously the lower the heart rate or the waking heart rate. The better that means my heart is not having to work as hard to continue pumping blood and pushing oxygen around the body.

Once I go back to Australia, I started getting tattooed, I was in the chair and it took a few days for my body to adjust to that. Now when I was getting tattooed, my body thought it was under threat. So it created a stress response and I talked about heart rate variability earlier and autonomic nervous system. But essentially what happened was because there was a foreign substance being injected into my body through the tattoo ink, my body mounted a stress response and immune response. It created inflammation. It adjusted my heart rate variability, It adjusted my blood pressure, et cetera, and it adjusted by waking heart rate. So it took a few days for this to happen. Like I said, Thursday Friday started in the chair by Saturday, my waking heart rate had gone from 52 beats per minute up to 55 beats per minute. And then a couple days later, Or over the next couple of days, it bounced up to 58 beats per minute, then 61 beats per minute, then 64 beats per minute. Okay, and this basically happened right up until I flew back to Thailand and even a couple of days after I got back to Thailand I was still up around about 64 beats per minute because my body had essentially thought that it was under threat.

So it created an inflammation response. Now point to note here is that my heart rate went from 52 beats per minute Up to 64 beats per minute and roughly 10 days or so. Now, Why is this important? Okay, there's 12 beats per minute more than my heart is having to work, that's per minute. That adds up over an hour. That adds up over a day. That adds up over a week. That adds up over a month, etcetera. Now important to note here, is that I was doing everything else, right? Okay. I wasn't training because that's a stress. I wasn't having shitty night's sleep because that would have added more stress. I wasn't eating shitty food because that would have added more stress. Okay, so all of these other stresses, if I was still training and I was getting on the piece of my mates and eating shitty food and having poor night's sleep on top of getting tattooed for 4-6 hours every day, okay, It would have put my body into shock, okay, And it's way too much going on there for my body to be able to adapt to that. So I knew what was going on, I knew what was happening because I was testing my waking heart rate every morning, and I can tell that my body was under fuck load of stress.

So for me, it didn't make sense to then train and you get on the peace and all these other things because my body would not be able to recover and then adapt and I would have left myself in a pretty shitty position. So I'm going to wind up the episode there. This episode is already been quite dense and I've covered the general progress tracking tools which is focused primarily on looking at the health markers. I've said it once, I'm going to say it again and again and again, healthy organism is an adaptable organism. So we need to make sure that we're healthy first before we start putting all these other processes in place and asking the body or putting the body under stress and asking it to adapt in a positive manner. Now think about it like this. I've used this analogy before. If I'm driving along and my car has, you know, four flat tires, no engine oil, no power steering fluid, no brake fluid, my timing belts off, et cetera. And I put my foot on the accelerator and I'm trying to go harder and faster than its I'm just gonna burn the engine. Now, I'm not going to get anywhere any quicker. Okay? However, if I service my car and I make sure that everything is running smoothly, then I go and put my foot on the accelerator, I start putting all these other processes in place, then I'm going to get to my destination a lot more effectively, a lot more efficiently.

So it's the same thing with our body. Make sure your body is healthy first, then put it under stress. Ask it to adapt in a positive manner and then you'll be moving in the right direction. So in the next episode I'm gonna be talking more about the we'll be going through some general progress tracking tools, but we'll be getting a lot more specific with it. And we'll be discussing objective tracking and subjective tracking. All right. Thanks for listening guys. If you enjoy the content that I'm bringing to you guys, please help me spread the message and life safe, share and subscribe and pass this off to your friends, your family, anyone that's relevant in your life that It could potentially help. And please make sure you leave a five star rating and review much. Love Guys piece

Episode 3: Progress Tracking: Basic Health Markers
Episode 3: Progress Tracking: Basic Health Markers
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