Todd Nief, owner and head coach of South Loop Strength and Conditioning (SLSC), came to West Monroe Partners (“WMP”) to teach us how to get the biggest return on our health investments. SLSC offers group and individual CrossFit classes, personal training programs and design, Olympic weightlifting, and even kid’s CrossFit classes. In addition to running a small business, Nief also focuses on individualized program design for clients, as well as lectures and interviews of a variety of athletes. At WMP, Nief spoke to more than 70 West Monroe employees about a much more holistic view of health which includes exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and social connection. The top 5 “aha!” moments that West Monroe Partners had during our time with Todd were:
1. Getting enough sleep at night increases your ability to manage stress during the day!
Todd believes one of the big wins that someone can achieve to improve their health is simply to get enough sleep every night. He suggests at least 7 hours of sleep and cites several studies that offer evidence that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night have worse health. Sleep not only reduces your propensity to be stressed during the workday, but also boosts the progress you can receive from your nutrition and exercise efforts.
Todd stated that some evening rituals intended for relaxation are not only taking away from time one could be sleeping, but are also hindering the ability to sleep once one chooses to get shut eye. We all know that light from screens (phones, computers, and televisions) interrupt the body’s production of melatonin and in turn inhibits the ability to fall asleep, but did you know that even two glasses of wine can impair your ability to sleep for the entire night? Being aware of the types of evening activities you participate in and choosing sleep as a priority is an important first step to achieving the best ROI on your health.
2. When it comes to exercise, the first step is whether you do it. The second is doing it consistently.
Todd said, “the best routine is the one that you will do.” Think about it. It doesn’t matter if you have a professionally designed workout routine if you never do it. Todd repeated it, so I will too, “the best routine is the one you do.” Anything that gets you up from your couch, chair, desk, bed is better than being sedentary. Furthermore, anything that you will do consistently will help you get better results than a monthly, bi-monthly, semi-annual… you know where I’m going with this… workout.
Once you establish an exercise that you will do consistently, you must progress. This means that whatever you do, do it a little faster, longer, harder each time. This will keep your progress from reaching a plateau and inspire you to continue your regimen!
3. 90% means that you can maintain that weight/speed/stamina for every repetition.
If you’re like me, it seems self-explanatory that 0% of your physical capacity would be something like laying on the couch, while 110% would be something like being rushed to the ER in an ambulance. But what is in-between? I asked Todd, and he gave a pretty clear answer. When you’re working out at 90% of your physical capacity you are able to maintain that level of effort for the entire workout. That could mean the same speed for the entire run, the same amount of weight for every set of repetitions, or the same number of repetitions in every set, etc. Working out at 95% of your physical capacity means that towards the end of your workout you start tapering off; you are slowing down or can’t complete all of the reps in your last set. 100% means that you can only exert that level of effort very briefly, or one time.
4. Certain types of physical training can actually be a stressor – if you’re already stressed at work, you might not need a stressful exercise regimen.
When I’m feeling stressed I often try to get a hard workout in to “let off some steam.” However, Todd shared a different sentiment with us. He explained that exercise can be a “stressor” too. When you’re mentally stressed out, it might be better to choose a less physically stressful exercise. So, next time something is weighing on your mind, try a stress-relieving exercise like walking and stretching or yoga.
5. The all or nothing mentality is the biggest crippler to successfully reaching your health goals.
Whether it’s your diet, your exercise routine, or the number of hours you sleep per night, just because you fall short at one instance does not mean you can or should give up! Todd’s advice is to let go of your failures quickly, without too much self-blame, and move on to focus on what you can do in the future.
To be the most successful, Todd suggests that you clearly define your goals and realize that you will have trade-offs depending on what your goals might be. For example, if you want to be an Olympic weight lifter you might need to sleep less and train more than a person that simply wants to lead a healthy and happy life. With clearly defined goals, a good night’s sleep, a consistent routine, and a forgiving attitude, you can be on your way to achieving your health goals.
Todd spends a majority of his time managing his gym, designing individualized programs for his clients based on their goals and lifestyle, and interviewing athletes. If you’re interested in learning more about SLSC or want more information about health and wellness, visit his website at South Loop Strength and Conditioning.