What is OPTIMAL?

You may remember me mentioning that Mr. Balancing Act and I have recently finished watching a 2-day workshop with Kelly Starrett (check out www.mwod.com) filmed by CreativeLive. There were many excellent segments and I learned quite a bit. One idea which Kelly pushed is the concept of shooting for "optimal" health, fitness, and performance.

Kelly made the point that often when we visit the doctor because we feel sick, the tests administered will show whether or not we are "normal" in terms of our iron levels, or white blood cells, or thyroid hormones. But normal might not be good enough. A number in the "normal" range could actually be slightly low which would have a negative effect on mood, energy, and performance. Instead of trying to be normal, what we really want and need is to be OPTIMAL.

Here's one example. I have had clients before who tell me they hate drinking water and could never give up their diet coke or pepsi habit. (Don't get me started on this water-hating business! Nothing drives me crazier! Never mind that we would all shrivel up and die without water!) You probably know people like this. They never, ever have even a sip of plain old water. Every beverage that enters their bodies must be flavored and sweetened in some manner. Can they survive? Of course. There are loads of these people walking around. But can they THRIVE? Are they performing at an OPTIMAL level? Are all the organs and tissues of their bodies amply hydrated for maximum performance? Um, no. Not by a long shot.

Breathing is another good example. All of us are currently breathing. (I hope!) But most of us breathe quite shallowly almost all the time. We take in enough oxygen to survive, but not much more than that. When we take time to focus on our breathing and deepen it, we can easily double the amount of air we take in with a single breath. Breathing more deeply will instantly change the way you feel, bring you into a calmer and more peaceful state, simultaneously raising your energy level. So simple, yet so easy to ignore. 

Just to drive the point home, here's another example. Can a student stay up all night cramming for finals and then make it through the next day, gulping gallons of coffee and Mountain Dew, taking the exams and getting decent grades? Maybe. Can a middle-aged parent burn the proverbial candle at both ends, rising early to pack lunches and get the children off to school and then staying up late at night to finish a project for work? Sure. And if these occurrences are rare, then missing out on sleep does little if any serious damage. But can an athlete expect to compete at the top of her game without consistently giving her body enough high quality sleep? Absolutely not. No way. Sleep is crucial for recovery from stress. Deprive your body of sleep for long enough and you will cease to function.

So my point today is that there is a HUGE difference between surviving and thriving. There is a vast difference between "normal" or "average" and OPTIMAL. Sure, you can get by with drinking less water and getting fewer hours of sleep. Yes, you will probably live if you eat a pile of processed junk food which has been deep-fried and then drenched in corn syrup. People manage to live despite all types of very poor choices. But will you thrive? Nope.

To me, thriving means feeling GREAT! Not struggling through the day. Not dragging ass. Not wondering what happened to that woman I used to be! So if you are not feeling fantastic, start with the basics. Go back to the posts I wrote earlier this week and read about the Daily Stuff and More Daily Stuff. Decide which of these 8 basics need some extra attention in your regimen. Then get on it! And get better in every way.