Benefits of a Bedtime Routine

Discovering the power behind sleep has been one of the most important findings of my life and I wanted to share a brief breakdown of some of the things I’ve learned in recent years and how they have impacted my overall daily performance.

Back a few years ago I would sometimes struggle with getting a full night’s rest. I’d either take to long to fall asleep, wake up during the night, or not get enough rest and feel horrible the next day. I uncovered that when I get a great night’s rest I normally have a ton of energy the next day but I didn’t know where the inconsistencies were coming from. Around this time I started to add meditation to my life and found that I liked doing it more in the evening before bed as that helped me wind down and relax. All of a sudden, my sleep quality improved. I was hooked on learning and discovering more.

Shortly after, I came across the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast episode with Dr. Matthew Walker who wrote the book “Why We Sleep” and is a world-renowned sleep expert. I started to implement a few of his recommendations but it was only after purchasing his book and fully grasping all of the reasons we sleep poorly that I was able to form a new bedtime routine.

I’ve kept it simple.

  1. I try to go to sleep around 10-10:30 pm every night
  2. I turn off all devices
  3. I read a book for 20-30 minutes once in bed
  4.  I meditate, sometimes, if my brain is very active that day
  5. I try to lower my body temperature by making the A/C lower or removing blankets (might even be a shower prior to reading)
  6. I shut off the lights and calm my mind

Some of the keys I’ve added to this routine like going to bed at the same time each night and trying to remove devices 30-minutes prior are paramount to gearing your body up for sleep and building consistent routines into this practice. By adding this routine into my life I feel more energized in the morning and I’ve had a lot easier time falling to sleep at night. Nothing is worse than laying in bed for an hour or two and trying to fall asleep and typically those nights happen when I am off a routine like where I might be out late, had a drink, got right into bed after doing work on the computer, etc. Being mindful of the things that prevent me from a good night’s rest has been beneficial to making the right choice most of the time and setting myself up for success with my sleep.

Again, I highly recommend Dr. Walker’s book if you are interested to learn more about sleep and sleep patterns and are trying to improve your overall health and well-being. Here’s a link to find it on Amazon: “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matthew Walker

If you’d like to hear the full audio version on this topic I recorded a One Mic Session on my Just Get Started Podcast.  Click here to go to Apple Podcasts-> Benefits of a Bedtime Routine or you can listen on any major Podcasting platform.  This episode originally aired on October 22nd, 2020.

Benefits of a Bedtime Routine2021-03-19T10:41:49-04:00

Overcome Your Pain Wall

Fitness & Nutrition

Has anyone else ever had a needle stuck in their eye?

Weird question, I know. But there’s a point, I promise.

I had a corneal transplant when I was 21 years old that went very well and I was healing fine until one morning 6-weeks later I woke up and had a hard time seeing out of that eye. I went to class and still had trouble. I immediately called my surgeon and went into his office. Apparently, I rubbed my eye too hard during the night and 30% of the stitches in the healing cornea came out. I needed surgery again.

Being a bit stubborn, I didn’t want to wait for a day or two to get into surgery and asked if it was possible to get it done now, in his office. I wish I hadn’t asked.

It turns out it was possible. I was given a couple of Advil and told to lie down on a table in one of his office rooms. What ensued turned out to be the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life. 

I was awake, barely, if at all, sedated from the Advil, and watching my surgeon stitch my cornea back to my eye. Yes, you read that right. I literally could feel the sharp pain of needles in my eye and realizing I cannot move an inch or something really bad could happen.

As an aside, I give tremendous credit to the surgeon. How someone could have that steady of hands I’ll never understand. But I digress…

I reminded myself of this today on a run where I set a goal of 4-miles while wearing my 20-LB Weighted Vest.  First, I hate running. Second, I never have run more than 2 consecutive miles wearing the vest.  

So why does this all matter?

It matters because as I was hitting the 2-mile mark I could feel the fatigue in my legs set in (I had just done 200 Air Squats with the vest the prior day) so that was starting to take a toll on me and my feet were starting to cramp a bit.  I had every right to stop and pat myself on the back and feel good that I accomplished a PR by surpassing the 2-miles.

But then I remembered the eye surgery and I remembered the pain tolerance I had built up through that whole event. Oh, I forgot to finish the story. After he completed it and it went well, I had to go back 5 hours later at midnight to his office because my eye pressure had risen to a level I can’t explain. I couldn’t even think straight and was puking, that’s how bad it got. If anyone has ever dealt with immense eye pressure you know what I am talking about. 

I remembered I had relished taking pain and not having it bother me and using that as a badge of honor to push me through things.

This run was no different. I had to go deep down to help get me over that “pain wall” that I had put up in my head. The one that says it’s too painful, too rough, too hard to keep going. I had to find a way to overcome it and fight it.

My solution is creating a distraction. I distract my mind and divert the attention away from the pain to something else for just a minute until it passes. And then I thought about writing this article and how much the story would suck if I didn’t finish the 4-miles. See, I think the internal motivators are needed as well and I used them strategically when I need that kick of energy.

We all have a “pain wall”. Everyone is different and nobody can compare theirs to someone elses.

Do you break down that wall or stop at it every time you approach it?

Nobody can answer that but you and the only encouragement I can give is that deep down there is so much more pain tolerance we all have and just need to give ourselves that excuse or permission to pull it out. Use whatever method you like or try mine from above but I hope next time you encounter your wall you’ll be able to break right through it and form a new vision in your mind of what pain you can manage and overcome.

Overcome Your Pain Wall2021-03-19T10:42:27-04:00

CrossFit Journey – 2018 Year in Review

2018 has been an incredible year for my health and fitness and I couldn’t have done it without the help of CrossFit.  The goals I set at the beginning of the year have been met and I am excited for the next chapter in my fitness journey come 2019.

2018 was a great testament that consistency wins.  I certainly didn’t see the big gains out of the box but after months and months of consistent hard work, reshaping my nutrition, and seeking out valuable advice, I was able to improve dramatically and reach new PRs along with become more technically savvy with some of the complex moves.

A couple notes to bookmark for the year end:

PRs

1 RM Split Jerk – 135 lbs (12-16-18)

1 RM Clean – 145 lbs (12-12-18)

1 RM OHS – 100 lbs (12-10-18)

1 RM Deadlift
– 307 lbs (12-20-18)
– 300 LBs (9-20-18)

1 RM Front Squat
– 175 Lbs (12-16-18)

1 RM Back Squat
– 200 Lbs (Nov)
– 170 lbs (7-9-18)

5 RM Back Squat
– 165 lbs (12-18-18)
– 135lbs (4-16-18)

Strict Pull-ups
– 8 (7-9-18)

Karen
14 LB Wall Ball – 8:19 (12-23-18)

14 LB Wall Ball – 9:20 (July)

14 LB Wall Ball – 9:40 (May)

I have some sights on huge gains next year but overall it’s that my body and mind are in the best position they can be in to crush each day.  I think that is the overall motivation so when I continue to age my body doesn’t break down and limit me.  That’s one of the big things that keeps me driving forward.

What about you?

Hope you all have written down your goals for 2019, both long and short term, and are focused to achieving them.

Have a great new year and start to 2019!

Brian

 

CrossFit Journey – 2018 Year in Review2021-03-19T10:40:06-04:00

Weeks 38-41: CrossFit Journey – Back and Hip Health

Now that I’ve gone to write these CrossFit posts once a month it’s giving me a chance to sit back and reflect a bit more on the bigger picture.  My life has changed a lot recently and it has made me have to alter my entire schedule and has completely shaken up my world.

However, when you have motivation followed by an intent to achieve certain goals nothing should keep you down.  You have to keep pivoting and make it work and do whatever it takes.

One of those areas is around your overall fitness health.  I’ve never seen a Chiropractor but with some encouragement from neighbors I decided to at least go to a sesh or two and see what they had to say.  It was quite an eye opening experience.  First, Dr. Staker and his staff are phenomenal and really know their stuff.  I knew I had a family history of back problems but didn’t realize until I got X-rays that my L4 and L5 vertebrae were fused together from birth.  Certainly explains a few things but Dr. Staker did compliment me on my overall back health and that I didn’t have too much to be worried about if I was smart about it.  My main issue was my right hip that was just overturned inward and probably why I felt imbalanced at times.

So, taking Doctor’s orders I’ve been stretching and foam rolling a ton over the past month and after a couple sessions recently he’s been pleased with the improvement in that hip and lower back area.  I have to say, I can definitely tell.  My workouts seem easier especially with my squat and I just feel I don’t have as much pressure in that area any longer.

Only time will tell but the morale of the story is this.  Don’t think you know it all.  If you are curious about something go seek out answers and find the truth as you never know how it might impact your life for the better.  I never thought I needed to go see a Chiropractor but my newfound knowledge will help me reach my fitness goals and give me overall better health in the lower back / hip region for years to come.

I hope you continue on your journey to better health and seek out wisdom in areas you might struggle or need more insight.

Keep grinding!

Weeks 38-41: CrossFit Journey – Back and Hip Health2021-03-19T10:40:07-04:00

Week 33-37: CrossFit Journey – Triangle Invitational

I had been dogging it on my CrossFit journey posts lately due to some personal challenges on this end and only getting to the gym 2-4 times a week the last several.  But, my focus is back and I was reenergized today by spectating at the Triangle Invitational hosted by the gym I belong to, CrossFit RTP.

It was amazing to see the teamwork and camaraderie across the various events and was awesome to see our team, the RX team from CrossFit RTP bring home 1st Place!

I believe the reason I was so inspired is that it reminded me that getting in great physical shape and becoming more healthy is not a short sprint but a long journey through many obstacles.  These athletes competing didn’t just show up but they had been working toward this for many months and years.  It was a culmination of perseverance, patience, and positivity…all factors leading to success.

I’m proud to call CrossFit RTP home and it was a tremendous effort by all of the volunteers from our gym and our winning squad!  Excited to be involved some way next year…heck, maybe I’ll even compete!

Keep grindin’

Brian

Week 33-37: CrossFit Journey – Triangle Invitational2021-03-19T10:40:08-04:00

Week 32: CrossFit Journey – Be Smart!

This past week was a short week due to Hurricane Florence ripping through North Carolina and that brought about cancelled/postponed classes.  However, it did teach me an important lesson about overexerting yourself.

On Saturday, they had an open gym as the weather was starting to clear up but there was still a threat of bad storms.  I went in for a short period of time and did the prescribed WOD.

The first part was to do a 5 Rep Max of Deadlifts.  This was another milestone day for me with Deadlifts as my 1 Rep Max 10 weeks ago was 300 LBS and on Saturday I did 5 Reps at 295 LBS.  I felt good and was pumped that I was able to push that out.

However, here was my mistake I learned from.

The next series of exercises were Over the Shoulder Stone throws followed by Pull ups in a 15 x 12 x 9 breakdown.  I’ve always had problems with the Over The Shoulder Stone Throws because of my height and I tend to not always get into a full squat but cheat as I get tired by using more upper body/back.  And, I am trying to go from the 70 LBS weight to 100 LBS.  Well, I sure did something to my back after completing this because when I got home my lower back was really sore and couldn’t move it for most of the rest of the day.  Luckily, I iced it and stretched it out and by Sunday night I felt pretty good again.

Lesson learned: Proper form is the most important.  Don’t try to be a hero and lift heavy weights just because you have confidence.  Your form might suffer and that might knock you out for several days or longer if you get injured.  You can have great gains even with a lower weight and still get a tremendous workout it.  Be smart!

Until next time, keep grinding!

Brian

Week 32: CrossFit Journey – Be Smart!2021-03-19T10:40:09-04:00

Week 31: CrossFit Journey – Back Squat PR

Well, this weeks post spilled over by a day as I wanted to share a quick story that was a big accomplishment for me.

It was only 6 weeks ago when I stopped doing squat therapy (normally squatting with plates under my feet) and was able to move to no plates and doing a normal squat.  The squat was tough for me and my 1 Rep Max for the Back Squat (with plates) was 170 LBS.

But, with continued practice AND now having the proper nutrition I have been able to crush numbers especially my squat.

Tonight we were working on Back Squats and I just went for it because I felt good and energized.  Not only did I beat my PR but crushed it by 15 LBS from 170 to 185 and with no plates to support the squat.

If you couldn’t tell I was ecstatic over the result but more importantly it gave me confidence to know that I am continuing to make smart choices outside of the gym as it relates to my overall health including sleep and nutrition.

Moral of the story: Don’t be settled with status quo and the way you have always done things.  If you feel your energy is low, for example, investigate and try to A/B test how you can improve it with changing up your routines or habits.  It will only help you in the long run and the gains you might have could be incredible to your performance and your lifestyle.

Keep grindin’!

Brian

Week 31: CrossFit Journey – Back Squat PR2021-03-19T10:40:10-04:00

Week 30: CrossFit Journey – Motivation

Anyone that strives for anything needs motivation.  That is certainly a blanket statement but it is important to remember.  Motivation, the cousin of Momentum, can help you excel to another level and improve your performance beyond your current capabilities.

The reason I bring this up this week is a conversation I had with a fellow CrossFitter this week.  She had been away all summer in NYC but has now returned to town to go back to school and, of course, get back into the CrossFit RTP scene again.  I had been very confident this summer with my change in nutrition and gains I knew I had but it was a simple kind gesture and comment by her that helped keep me motivated.  She said something along the lines of “You’ve really improved this summer…your deadlift has gotten much better…”.  We all strive for our own internal motivation and “chip on the shoulder” mentality but often times, if we aren’t afraid to admit it, it is the compliments of our peers that can bring about additional motivation and that extra to reinforce all of the great work we’ve been doing.

I think many of us are capable of much more but it is generally the “negative talk” that we listen to and often follow…the “You can’t do this” or “You’ll never make it” appears to have a much greater impact on us than the positive reinforcement.  What I have found through many years of listening to this negativity, often by others and my own internal doubts, is that there is no place for it.  No need for it at all.

We need to focus on the positives and present an attitude that is positive to combat the negative but also fuel the motivation that we might be given by others to ultimately help us to that next level.

To end on a funny note, a classic scene that often gets lost in a classic movie, -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAs2PBL1RsA

Keep grinding!

Brian

Week 30: CrossFit Journey – Motivation2021-03-19T10:40:11-04:00

Week 29: CrossFit Journey – Consistency

Over the last several weeks I have started to think about different aspects of fitness and how they all work together and will certainly get back to the training aspect in upcoming weeks but I did want to layer in on the topic of consistency.

My schedule has been a bear and very weird.  Somedays I was going to CrossFit at 5:30am while others I had to make it to the 6:30pm class.  The word “consistency” comes up time and time again when you are looking at successful individuals and that “success” can be a number of things.  What rarely happens is someone try something for a short period of time and think all of a sudden they will see a huge leap.  It never happens.

This is why diets don’t work.

But, anyways, the reason I thought this post was relevant was that whatever you are doing you must stay consistent with it even through the tough times especially if other competing priorities come into play.  You need to be looking at the long game and understand that some sacrifices will have to be made or changes may have to happen but you need to stack rank what are MOST important and what can be brushed aside even if it feels like you are giving up something really cool.

In regards to CrossFit, being consistent with 4-5 days a week always me some flexibility where I am not going all 7 but also keeps pushing me later in the week if I have new things pop up on my schedule.  I wouldn’t have near the gains I’ve had in 6 months had I not been committed and stay consistent with my schedule.  I’d encourage everyone to take a look at their day or week outlook at what things will set you up for long term success and which ones are merely “time robbers” in the short term.

More to come on this in the future but certainly relevant at this point as Football is starting back up, kids are back to school, and holidays are right around the corner.

Stay focused!

Brian

Week 29: CrossFit Journey – Consistency2021-03-19T10:40:12-04:00

Week 28: CrossFit Journey – Reflection

This week was a big learning week for me and it made me reflect on the last 6 months and this CrossFit journey I am on.

I look at my progress and where I came from and it again reinforces that old Tony Horton saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was your body”.  The commitments I make each and every week to get to classes and my increased focus on nutrition has allowed me to accomplish many new goals that I never thought possible.

From squatting heavy weights to my endurance, I’ve been able to get in the best shape of my life and do it by learning a tremendous amount about proper technique, work ethic, nutrition and having a lot of fun doing it.

Short post this week but one of the cool things was I did get to talk with Dr. Zach Long from the industry leading fitness website, BarbellPhysio.com as I had him as a guest on my Just Get Started Podcast.  Check out the episode here -> https://brianondrako.com/podcast/drzachlong

Keep grinding!

Brian

Week 28: CrossFit Journey – Reflection2021-03-19T10:40:13-04:00
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