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My Philosophy on Health and Fitness

(These statements are my own and do not constitute an endorsement by or opinion of the Army or the Department of Defense.)
The brain – The most complicated biological structure in the world and possibly even the galaxy.  It contains billions of individual cells called neurons and sends signals across billions of internal “highways” millions of times per day. There are on average about 1 billion connection points between neurons in every cubic millimeter of brain space. The firing of those neurons and flow of information controls all of our organ systems and musculoskeletal movement. But they do much more. Those neuron signals determine how we perceive the world, our emotions/reactions, and ultimately every decision we make day to day, moment to moment.  It determines what shirt we choose to wear to work to who we decide to marry; it determines our motivations for pursuing fitness as well as what training regimens we will follow.  It establishes core beliefs and values and our reactions to adversity that ripples throughout our behavior. The brain is where we “get into the zone” to perform our best, or where we can make a critical mistake in judgment that costs us our life, our job, our reputation. In short, the brain determines our performance, motivation, behavior, mood, relationships, communication, commitment, and is the “operational control center” for all choices beliefs, responses and decisions that ultimately affect not just who we are, but how healthy and fit we live. Ultimately the brain determines everything about who we are as a human.

Areas of Total Fitness Affected by the “Operational Control Center”: The Brain

The figure here shows the human brain as the driver for key areas of health, resilience, and performance.  There are certainly environmental and medical/genetic factors that also affect these areas but it still our brain’s response to conditions out of our immediate control that we find our individual capability to thrive rather than just survive, despite limitations beyond our experience.

By understanding the brain as the physical anatomical structure that drives our entire fitness and resilience “cycle”, we can begin to understand an approach to fitness optimization, which maximizes that fact.  We can create an approach where there exists a perpetual cycle of fitness with each area driving the other, cascading into all areas of our personal and professional life. By ignoring the brain we oversimplify. We might become physically fit and even an optimal performer, but we will not be optimally resilient and fulfilled. Ignoring other dimensions we will be denying ourselves powerful access to tools leading to a life that delivers on performance but is also maximally fulfilling, healthy, and resilient. That is why I am honored to be the Medical Director of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness was developed by the Department of Defense through collaboration with world renowned health experts in wellness and health. The US military, caught up in two wars in two different countries saw the need, but also the benefit, of a novel approach that looked at all the key aspects that drive health. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is a model that will revolutionize soldier performance and health by increasing multiple types of resilience to various types of events.  I also think it is key to helping our returning wounded men and women restore their quality of life after traumatic injuries.

Comprehensive Soldier/Human Fitness involves 5 pillars that support total human health and performance: Physical (which Nutrition is part of), Emotional, Social, Family, and Spiritual.   Through a dedicated understanding of how each pillar can make you more resistant to the stressors of life and improve your total health, your life too can be transformed. I have witnessed it happening time and time again with soldiers; whether at home or in combat and in the lives touched by Challenge Ameica. The 5 pillars represent the culmination of human wellness as we know it and each one affects our day to day performance; in the boardroom, on the professional playing field, or in the middle of Afghanistan isolated from loved ones. When the tough situations do strike, no matter in what area (and they are guaranteed to come), the 5 pillars will keep you resilient and able to “bounce” back and overcome. When one pillar cracks, the others support; so the roof doesn’t come crashing down; but each one must be vigilantly maintained for optimal health. Learn more about Comprehensive Soldier Fitness by clicking here: www.army.mil/csf

Areas of Total Fitness Affected by the “Operational Control Center”: The Brain

The figure here shows the human brain as the driver for key areas of health, resilience, and performance.  There are certainly environmental and medical/genetic factors that also affect these areas but it still our brain’s response to conditions out of our immediate control that we find our individual capability to thrive rather than just survive, despite limitations beyond our experience.

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