“I find my greatest pleasure and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.” ~ Thomas Edison
Over the years, I have observed the importance of deliberate goal setting and planning. Whether it be personal, health business or sports, goal setting is critical to success, or sometime failure. Goal setting is tricky, if you are going to climb the ladder towards a goal, you better make sure you have leaned it against the right wall. Modification, reassessment and occasional improvisation are critical to successful attainment of goals. Many have difficulty with this. We call it change, and we know how most of us deal with that.

With all of that said, I find the most succesful people in business, health improvement and sports are more focused on the process rather than the outcome or goal. That does not mean that you lose focus of it, but that you only “glance up” and occasionally check that ladder.

If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in 4 months and this extrinsic goal ( remember pros and cons of extrinsic vs. intrinsic goals from previous post?) is only deemed successful when you get there, you probably will experience some un-fulfilling days.  My goal each week is to train my guys to generate sub 13 second pit stops, which will hopefully contribute to the outcome of winning a race. That sub 13 only happens about 30% of the time.  It’s like being a .300 hitter in baseball, which makes you a superstar, but you are still “failing” 70% of the time. Analyzing and learning from the over 13’s creates the sub 13’s. It’s a process and you must pay attention to it. You must absorb it. Experience it. The process is how you get better. It’s where you improve. Most of us have no idea it’s happening, because we are staring up the mountain at the ultimate prize.

Failure to experience and appreciate the process is not just common to sports. I have seen this in weight loss and fitness improvement programs as well. A person is so focused on the far off outcome or goal, that they fail to realize and celebrate the process on the way. Why? They feel better, cloths fit better, people compliment them, but…I have not reached the final outcome, the weight goal.  Many become discouraged because they are not getting “there” fast enough. They quit.  If I want to summit Mt. Everest and all I do is stare at the peak, the ultimate prize, I will die by falling into a crevasse or off the mountain completely!

We need to embrace the process, because ultimately, it’s where all of the good stuff happens. Believe me, some of the most depressed athletes I have ever coached, are the ones who have just “won” or reached the “summit”. As a coach, it’s some of the worst and most difficult times I will have with athletes. I call it the Now What Syndrome. Lance Armstong mentioned that he felt down after some of his big Tour de France wins. No one loves the process and preparation more than Lance. I have seen it after big weight loss goals have been reached. A woman who had just lost 60 pounds told me she was miserable after hitting her weight goal. When I asked her why, she said “My boyfriend still thinks I am a loser, just a skinny one”. Of course. Being overweight did not make her a bad person, but  she had set an extrinsic goal of making someone like her more vs. an intrinsic one of feeling better, gaining control of her life and enjoying the process of mastering lots of things. When we went back over all of the data (heart rate information from all of her training logs, tests,  the miles of riding her bike etc.), she finally realized she missed out on the really good stuff.) It’s the same with athletes who compete simply to make lots of money. These athletes seldom succeed long-term.

I have experienced the same feeling of being down after reaching big goals. The picture below,  from about a week ago, when I was cleaning out a drawer. I found  2 championship rings and one Brickyard 400 ring buried in the bottom.

The Buried Rings

I have never really put any of my “winnings” on display, not because I am not proud, but I just don’t feel like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love setting big goals and winning, but I believe that the ultimate feeling of success comes from embracing the day-to-day process.

“Chop Wood, Carry Water” Zen Saying or Do Work SON

8:30 -11:00 – Today is my off-day prior to the Richmond races. I slept in, caught up on reading from my iPad, played a video game on iPhone “Left Brain, Right Brain”, and worked on a new sleep improvement strategy I want to implement starting next week. Ate a handful of macadamia nuts.

11:00 – 1:00 pm Starbucks grande red eye. Took time to mingle and interact with the best baristas in the world, and went outside to sniff for honeysuckle. Went to JGR office and reviewed notebooks and pit stop data from last years races at Richmond. Philosophized to Paul for a bit. I do that sometimes. Packed my Oakley backpack with my road stuff.

2:00-6:00 – Came home, at lunch of scrambled eggs with fresh spinach, guacamole and some bacon. Caught up on some shows on DVR. Barca v Real Madrid game from yesterday.

6:00 -8:00 – Grocery shopping. Dinner of fresh ground beef patties, steamed spinach and asparagus, home-made blue cheese cole slaw, Dos Equis, fresh strawberries with coconut milk.

8:00 – 12:00 NFL draft for about 5 minutes, then self administered weekly haircut, packing, reading a magazine article.


Today was my Friday! What does that mean? Thursday is my Saturday and Friday is my Monday this week.  Saturday is my Tuesday and Sunday is my Saturday. Put simply, I fly to Richmond for Nationwide race on normal people Friday and I have Sprint Cup race on Saturday. Sunday is my Saturday Does that make Monday my Sunday? I have a headache.

630 to 800 am Read news on my iPad, loaded the backpack, ate some almonds and macadamias and took off on my hike to work with intermediate stop at Starbys for the Grande redeye. Listened to Butthole Surfers playlist. “You never know how to look through other peoples eyes”.

8-11 am – Worked on 30 cup car logistics and putting together pit stop “playbook” for crew chief. David Stremme drives this car. I like David.  Started to break down heart rate software for various monitors I will use this weekend. Meeting with our PR director on various appearance logistics for May. There is a ton of them.

11-1:00 pm – Reviewed data we get from Toyota on pitstop metrics. Interesting. Produced some spreadsheets from this data. Can’t share.

1:00 – 2:00 Lunch and Barnes and Noble with my partner in crime, Paul Alepa.

2-3:00 – Meetings with travel, credentialing of 30 car pitcrew. Report from our team doctor on various injuries. All good on that front. Making sure I have rental car at airport in Richmond.

3 – 5:00 – Practice. Meeting with crew chief during practice. Confirmed with crew chief that he knew what car he was crew chief for. (See stupid rumors on Jayski, and why I ignore media when they are irresponsible) Brief meeting with my boss and engineering.

5:00-6:30 – Meeting with recruit. Told him why he was great and that we were great. We will see if he believes me.

7-9:00 – Dinner at Red Rocks (top-secret)

9:00 – Reading all emails (43 from today). Responding.

Day in Life of Lepp 2.0 Day 1

Posted: April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Many of my followers and readers come here from getting to know me via my role as athletic director and coach at Joe Gibbs Racing. Yesterday one of those followers sent me an email saying I was too serious lately. (FYI, I post my email addresses, so I invite anyone to “invade” Lepp world”) All of this health stuff, eating right, medical scares, physiology etc you are boring us! Through my posts on Twitter, many follow me because I was “amusing” and shared some behind the scenes information about my most recent primary sandbox, – NASCAR.

Well, sorry to disappoint! Earlier this month, I turned 55 years old. 55 seemed like a good age to reflect a bit, and during this process I realized 2011 was also my 30th year as a “professional” at something! I finished grad school in 1981 , and since then I have worked/played in medicine (cardiology), health and fitness, professional soccer, NBA, pro cycling/endurance, own my own company, and now motor-sports, specifically NASCAR. I drove my father, who grew up during the depression, and worked for one company his whole life, absolutely crazy. Dad was not a risk taker. “Michael, you have to do one thing good and stick with it, find a career and company and stick with it.” Sorry dad. Its kind of funny, I still deal with this perplexing paradox. When I came to JGR, many in my endurance coaching sandbox wanted to know why I would move to that “blue-collar” world of driving cars in a circle. Snobs. What could my eccentric, quirky constantly innovating (or trying to) mind contribute to making 7 guys fill a race car with 18 gallons of fuel and change 4 tires in less than 13 seconds? You make people pedal and run fast. What the hell are you doing with your life?  As you would expect, racing people wanted to know the same thing. One pit crew coach, who still goes “over the wall” for another team and posts a popular blog, actually said he would never pit a race car for a coach who had never actually competed in a race. http://www.thenascarinsiders.com/tag/trent-cherry/
I still love you Trent. 5 years into this phase, I still face many in this sport who think that I can’t do this job. I am over it and let our results at JGR speak for themselves. We have some of the best crews in the sport and I am proud of Paul and all of our support staff who have made this a fun adventure.

So, that said, a little deviation for the next few days. I am going to make my emailing friend happy. Not sure if its going to be funny. Beginning with this post I will give you and idea what 7 days is like for me, the good, the bad and ugly. Not a ton of detail. Most of you who know me personally realize I can talk for hours (I think my phone # is still on my FB account, but don’t call me, I hate talking on phones.) These posts will integrate my continuing journey of health improvement and my current role as JGR athletic director and coach. 7 days in the life. One post a day.

This link will give some of my followers who don’t realize what I currently do and/or do not follow racing a general framework of JGR and racing. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/graphics/gibbs/gibbsracing.pdf

Day 1
This week is atypical  for me because we did not race in the cup series and had last week “off”. One of 3 during the marathon season lasting from Valentines Day to Thanksgiving.  Off meant I still worked 5 days and put together contingency/development pit crews for our 3 Nationwide series cars that raced at Nashville.
6-8 am – Wake, read the news on iPad, and head for work. I decided to park my car this week and walk to work (about 1.225 miles) Starbucks is on way, so I get my grande Red Eye with heavy cream, eat a handful of macadamia nuts, drink a bottle of Dasani (NASCAR people plug their sponsors)

8am – Usually take about 30 minutes to review my notes from earlier in the week or previous race. (I keep tons of notes. I write everything down, mostly ideas, random thoughts, but also specifics on my athletes, competitors, previous race observations. Basically anything to get a potential advantage over the competition or make my athletes better.
I met with my assistant and partner Paul to go over yesterdays practice and what was on the practice plan for today. Since all of our cup teams will pit the Nationwide cars this weekend, that’s 3 practices in the afternoon. We are also providing a pit crew of our development team to Inception Motorsports – David Streme. This loan program gives us the ability to develop talent and give live “reps” to our young talent.

10 am – Travel is huge part of this sport. Took an hour to work on travel schedule for our crews along with hotel etc. and reviewed projected rosters for races in June.

11 am – We get new talent from 3 sources. Athletes (often from other pro sports) that we teach and develop, free agency (yes, we track talent on other teams via various methods – top-secret) and training guys who are currently “unemployed”. We have a relationship with Kyle Busch Motorsports and use this team as a “minor league” development opportunity. This morning, I looked at our talent pool for KBM and the arrival of Kimi Raikkonen at the Charlotte race at the end of May. May seems like it would be easy since we are racing at “home” in Charlotte, but it is the hardest month of the year. Reviewed appearances schedule etc; for teams related to Pit Crew Competition. Ordered some new top-secret stuff. I am Dr. Evil.

Lunch – Walked home. Lunch of some scrambled eggs, spinach and bacon. Enough said. Dasani water with Nuun tab.

1-3 pm – Worked on human resource paperwork, looked at new shoe prototype from HiTec (our shoe sponsor), reviewed some new hi-definition helmet cams that can possibly be live blue toothed to iPad (very cool), more travel issues for Richmond.

3-5:30 pm – Watched some of practice, final details for 4th crew (Streme), met with engineering department on miscellaneous issues and special projects, developed protocols for new heart rate monitors being worn this weekend and protocols on how to use Zeo Sleep monitors on crew starting in June. Got ride home with my best friend and colleague Paul.

7-10pm Watched DVR replay of Champions Cup Soccer. I am a fan of Manchester United and we won. Grilled burger, guacamole, homemade slaw, bowl of strawberries with cream. Corona. Reading. I read all the time. See my previous blog. Briefly scanned DVR for Nascar Now. I typically avoid Nascar media, and specifically just look for human performance recon on other teams. I look for information on other crews anywhere I can. One of our number one recruits for next year was discovered by me seeing a pit crew practice shown on Inside NASCAR on Showtime. My favorite. Keep up the good work NASCAR Media Group. Shhh. 10-midnight – Goodnight.

“It takes guts to get out of ruts.” Brad Brewer

We left off at my starting a period of health improvement after a serious 14-month health scare. Many have asked me if fear of death motivated me start down the path of health and personal performance improvement. The answer is simple: Not so much.

My health issues were more likely genetic rather than lifestyle driven, though I made myself worse despite possessing the knowledge from both my extensive education and experience (30 years) as a coach, health care professional and teacher. The fact is, most people will not successfully change their health habits despite the extreme risk of not doing so. I witnessed it first-hand during my years working in cardiology. Research showed that patients following coronary bypass surgery most often return to the destructive habits (smoking, diet, lack of exercise) that caused their health issues to begin with. Having their chests cracked open and heart stopped while new vessels are being sewn in was not enough to promote changes. The initial shock and fear usually results in some short-term aggressive changes, but over 80% will not “stick” to positive lifestyle changes over the long-term. The fear of death does not motivate most of us.

My changes in lifestyle were more motivated by challenge and mastery over inertia flowing in a bad direction. I was leading the lifestyle of a professional coach, which involves long hours, stress, bad eating and no time allocated to physical activity. Intrinsic motivators drive long-term mastery. Over the years, I have noticed that extrinsic motivators such as better health or promised longevity, looks, and financial incentives were not very successful as positive change agents. Intrinsic motivators such as the flow state attained when mastering a complex task or simply having more energy (accidental side effect) were what made people stick with changes. Put simply, living better rather than promise of living longer.

I also wanted to experiment with some things I had never done… test new techniques and methods… question old paradigms i.e. higher fat/protein diet vs. my typical endurance athlete carb biased diet. Sprinting vs. my long cardio approach. I wanted to incorporate more strength training and play/sport/athletic activities. Ageing causes lean muscle mass loss, coordination issues etc. I wanted to curb this. The way I trained in Lepp 1.0 would not work. I wanted to stimulate a more general fitness vs. a specific targeted one.

Well, it’s the middle of April and I have lost 25+ lbs with phase I of my program. I extended the diet-only phase another month. My only physical activity was occasional play/drills with my soccer ball plus the addition of the increased activity on race days now that my season is in full swing.

Diet has obviously played a critical part in my initial health improvement program. Calorie reduction can’t be a big part of the weight loss, because I am still consuming a good number and certainly not counting calories. I still have my beer and wine. I do have my intermittent fasting (see below) but it is not that significant. I will discuss the fallacy of calorie in/calorie out in another blog.

Here are the primary changes I have implemented:

  1. A “Paleo-type” eating plan with 7 intermittent fasting periods per month.
  2. Selective supplements
  3. Kicking the soccer ball around now progressing to more formal physical activity including heavy weight training, circuit training and cardio intervals.
  4. Now that the racing season has begun, covering a lot of ground at the racetrack each week in lower heart rate zones
  5. Measuring and controlling some select physical metrics

“Now eat a good breakfast, men. For we’ll all be sharing dinner in hell.” Leonidas

Paleo Eating Plan: Basically I have combined /integrated Mark Sisson’s , Art DaVaney’s and Rob Wolf ‘s approach to eating with a bias to Sisson. These guys are at the forefront of the Paleo/Evolutionary/Primal diet and activity movement. Remember, I am a physiologist trained in the 70’s. I have been prescribing the low-fat 60 % carbohydrate, 20% protein, 20% fat diet for years. Fat is evil and the cause of all that is bad. I watched my clients and a nation get increasingly obese over 30 years on that approach. If this approach was subject to FDA approval as a pharmaceutical agent, it certainly would never be approved. Some will argue that it is a drop in physical activity levels, but I firmly believe that it is more related to diet. Not the quantity of diet, but the quality.

During this phase, my diet staples are basically all types of meats, vegetables, fruits (not as much as I need or want), occasional dark chocolate as a treat, and a desert of cheesecake (without crust) 2- times per week. This approach definitely makes me eat fewer whole foods and less processed ones.

In the morning I have a Starbucks Grande Red Eye with heavy cream as my caffeine fix and maybe 6-10 diet cokes per week, usually with my lunch. For whatever reason, I can’t drink water with my lunch.

Since the race season started, I am wary of dehydration and accompanying potassium depletion. Low potassium and heart arrhythmias are good friends. I usually drink Dasani water bottles with Nuun (a small electrolyte tablet). I like Nuun- they provide a “fizzy carbonation”.

Fizzy Goodness

Along with the diet, I also wanted to try some intermittent fasting. I have noticed positive findings on the benefits of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction in the scientific literature. I have been hesitant to try this, because it has been believed that calorie restriction can possibly reduce your resting metabolism and loss of metabolism promoting muscle tissue. It has been promoted that frequent small meals keep metabolism elevated and decreae hunger pangs. My intermittent fasting regime consisted of skipping breakfast 2 times per week and eating only 1 big meal per day 3 times per month.

Recently, I decided to quantify and measure my actual resting metabolic rate (MedGraphics O2/CO2 Metabolic Analyzer) 3x during the day It directly measures O2 consumption and CO2 production. It is the gold standard measurement. No guessing here. Why? I wanted to precisely know: 1) How many calories I was burning per minute at rest & 2) My Respiratory Quotient (RQ). RQ is an indirect measurement of the mix of fat and carbohydrate the body is burning during the metabolic process

Results: Resting metabolism of 2763 calories per day. That’s about 41% above normal for a male my age. The RQ was .70, which meant that approximately 80% of my calories burned were from fat and 20% sugar or carbohydrate. The relatively high metabolic rate surprised me. I expected the lack of exercise (particularly strength work) and the intermittent fasting to have a negative effect on these numbers. The scientific literature is loaded with “studies” that indicate fasting leads to lean body mass loss resulting in metabolic rate decline. The RQ did not surprise me. I believe that reducing carbs and/or eating a low glycemic/slow carb diet greatly shifts the body to more fat utilization as fuel. I have seen this over the years when performing serial metabolic testing my clients and athletes. For more on metabolic testing information, check this out. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_metabolic_rate My initial conclusions were that lack of formal exercise training (particularly strength exercise) and intermittent fasting was not negatively affecting my resting metabolism. My RQ in the past had been .74 to .78. I was burning more fat calories at rest now.

Selective Supplementation

  • Vitamin D –RX level 5000u 1x week
  • High Quality Omega 3 Fish Oil- 3000 mg/day
  • Green Tea Extract on days that I am most active

I had tested Vitamin D-deficient during a recent physical. The research on the importance of vitamin D is persuasive and I recently had it tested again. It has improved, so I am staying on it.

Research on benefits of fish oil supplementation is becoming very convincing. Studies have demonstrated improvements in mental function, blood lipids, arrhythmias, and bone health. This one is a no brainer for me and I highly recommend.

Green Tea extract only when I am going to exercise. I have tested this and it definitely lowers RQ (increases fat burn during and post exercise) during exercise. I use the decaffeinated version.

Physical Activity: Kicking the Soccer Ball Around

“Play is where life lives, where the game is the game. At its borders, we slip into heresy, become serious, lose our sense of humor, fail to see the incongruities of everything we hold to be important…and we lose the good life and the good things that play provides.” George Sheehan

Since testing the diet was my initial goal, I limited physical activity to “play time”. This would allow me to selectively evaluate the effectiveness of the diet alone vs. diet and formal exercise together. I have never “dieted” and not accompanied it with increased exercise. I love kicking a soccer ball around. My first job in professional sports was in pro soccer, and I started playing this wonderful sport at that time. Considering that I did not grow up playing soccer (I played baseball in college) this could have been “my sport” if I had started in my youth. I was not bad at it and actually started as a goalkeeper in the Charlotte Amateur Soccer League in the 80’s. I get “lost” in it. Chasing the ball, shooting it, juggling it. This creates a “flow state” for me, and this unique state has proven to be important for long term “sticking to it”. My Garmin HR monitor showed I was averaging about 120 beats per minute for about 40 minutes of this “play exercise”. With race season started, I have also increased moving around fitness each week. Using my Garmin GPS, Nike and ANT technology, I have been able to quantify my activity while working at the racetrack. I have been covering an average of 6 miles on Saturday and Sunday race days. About 600 calories burned at an average heart rate of 110 beats per minute.

In March I started more formal physical exercise. It includes one day of hard sprinting (6×40 yard sprints), a heavy weight-training day, a circuit weight training day and one easy cardio day. I also include one day of casual playing around with easy soccer skill drills. The longest exercise session has been 35 minutes.

Measuring select physiological metrics. Along with the select metabolism measurements, I have also started monitoring my sleep with the Zeo Sleep Coach-monitoring device. I am very intrigued by this technology. I really believe that sleep plays a critical role in how we adapt to exercise, metabolism and mental function. It is the most important recovery agent. I learned about this simple device via some experiments that were done by some sports science friends of mine. It can measure the times you spend in various phases of sleep, including the critical deep sleep phase (where physical training benefits seem to absorb) and REM sleep (where important mental function restoration occurs.) I will blog more about this later, but I need a lot of improvement in this area. Bottom line: a sleep score of 70 is good and mine has averaged around 50.

Love the Zeo Sleep Coach

My 12-Month Goals

(These may surprise some of you)

  • Stop 5 of 10 shots from penalty spot against my brother/nemesis Paul Alepa. (Summer)
  • Run 100-yd dash in under 13 sec. (Winter)
  • Kick a 40-yard field goal (with my damaged right leg, I decided to have one goal that was totally dependent on it.)
  • Run a 16-second or less pit stop as a rear tire changer (Fall)
  • Paddleboard from Davidson to Blythe Landing on Lake Norman (Summer)
  • Juggle 3 balls for 2 consecutive minutes without dropping (Ongoing)
  • Climb Camelback mountain (Phoenix) in less than 25 minutes (Fall)

Great Total Body Training

Big Goal - Love Vertical Work

Soccer - Love It

All of the goals require mastery of skills I don’t have right now. I need these for my “flow state” and mental and physical fitness. I call this my integrative approach to health/performance improvement, incorporating long lost underdeveloped childlike curiosity approach.

I am also incorporating quantification of lots of things I have not measured on myself in the past. How bizarre is that for an accomplished sports physiologist. I have lots of athletes that would like to see me suffer the pain I inflicted on them!

What I Will Be Measuring

  • Resting and exercise metabolisms monthly
  • Daily calorie expenditures incorporating actual measured metabolism numbers programed into Garmin 410.
  • Sleep cycles from Zeo
  • Blood Lactate Levels (to insure proper exercise intensities)
  • Blood Glucose levels during dieting and exercise changes
  • Heart rate/GPS data during all types of activities

Measurements Made Easy

Technology I will use
  • DigiFit, Nike+/Ant Technology
  • Garmin Heart Rate Monitors
  • New Leaf Metabolic Analyzers
  • Zeo Sleep Coach Analyzer
  • Touch 1 Blood Glucose Analyzer
  • Arkray Lactate Pro Analyzer

Blood Lactate Measurement - Critical Information

Heart Rate and GPS Measurement

“It is difficult to do with more what can be done with less.” William of Occam

I read the above in Tim Ferris’s new book, The Four Hour Body, and find it quite interesting. Over the years, I have casually observed much of what he refers to in the book. How much exercise is enough for athletic improvement, optimal health and fitness, weight loss etc.? Do we really know? What has research really demonstrated vs. systematic observation over the past 40 years? Habitual and formal exercise programs really came into vogue with Dr. Ken Cooper and the “aerobics” movement in the 1970’s. Low fat eating became the way to eat starting in the late 70’s driven mostly by observational and animal studies combined with the US Congress and various “special interest groups”. During my running and cycling days, I sometimes exercised 4-6 hours per day. I really found it hard to believe that I really didn’t not lose much weight and it was not one of the periods in my life when I was the leanest. When was I the most lean? When I played soccer and went through a phase when I windsurfed a lot. One of the themes you have noticed from the above is that I am taking a very minimalist fitness approach – nothing really formal. One of my major experiments over the next couple months is finding the minimal effective dose or MED for diet and exercise. How little can I do and still lose weight, improve functional fitness and increase quality of life. So far I have lost 25 pounds and overall energy is massively improved. How low can I go? How low should I go?

If you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment section or email me. I know much of this is may seem complicated, but one of my goals through this self-experimentation is to come up with some solutions that can help others, along with making me a better teacher and coach. I am also looking for possible case studies for my blog. Share with me people!

Start following my journey on twitter @z1physiocoach I am in the process of transitioning my coaching to this address and keeping the rest of my life (me, NASCAR etc). on @mlepp also check back here for shorter and more frequent updates.


  • Thermal manipulation (ice baths)
  • MED exercise
  • 14 day acceleration plan
  • A week in the life
  • How much does this approach cost?
  • The critical role of recovery and restoration

What I am Reading and Like

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

4-Hour Body – Tim Ferris

Nerve -Taylor Clark

The Steve Jobs Way – Jay Elliot

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team for Worst To First – Jonah Keri

Mentored By The King: Arnold Palmer’s Success Lessons for Golf, Business and Life – Brad Brewer

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts Minds and Actions – Guy Kawasaki

Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything – Josua Foer

The Element: How finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Ken Robinson, Ph.D.

No Magic Helicopter: An Aging Amazon’s Climb of Everest – Carol Masheter

The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA – Chris Balard

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World – Jane McGonigal

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less – Barry Schwartz

A Few Seconds Of Panic: A 5-Foot 8, 43 Year-Old Sportswriter Plays In the NFL – Stefan Fatsis

Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons – Jay Greene

Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination – Hugh McCleod

Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles – Richard Courtney

Game Frame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success – Aaron Digman

Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds – Kevin Dutton, Ph.D.

Soccernomics: Why England Loses… – Simon Kuper

The Primal Blueprint – Mark Sisson

In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks…And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle Aged White Guy – Adam Carolla


The Green Bay Packers Super Bowl victory culminated 3 years of clear and decisive decision-making. General manager Ted Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers stuck to a mission and reached the ultimate goal for an NFL team – a Super Bowl ring. It was not an easy path. Here were my 3 observations from Green Bay’s Super Bowl triumph.

Leaders often have to make tough and unpopular decisions to reach the big prize. In 2008, Coach Mike McCarthy became engaged in a controversial struggle with Brett Favre, when the quarterback decided to back out of his announced retirement. The Green Bay Packers are a storied franchise, and other than Vince Lombardi, no one Packer was more legendary than Favre. Favre felt entitled to his old starting position, but McCarthy had moved on and was grooming Aaron Rogers as the future quarterback. GM Ted Thompson backed his head coach. It was certainly not a popular decision with the fans in Green Bay. Ultimately, the Packers traded Favre to the Jets for a 4th round draft pick. This was a very unpopular decision that took conviction and guts by the Green Bay organization. McCarthy and Thompson had a plan and they believed that Aaron Rodgers, who had been Favre’s back up for the past couple years was their man. McCarthy was willing to take the criticism, realizing that if he failed, he would probably lose his shot at being a head coach. Despite his unproven pedigree, Aaron Rodgers was Thompson and McCarthy’s choice to lead their team. I am sure they had to convince not only the fans and media, but also veterans on the team. After two seasons as a starter, Rogers has developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The rest is history. Lesson: Believe in your plan, deflect criticism and hit your target.

Mental toughness is as or no more important than physical abilities. In 2008, Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre as starting quarterback with the Packers. The weight and pressure of replacing a “legend” must have been immense; from his teammates, media and fans. Denver has never been able to replace John Elway. Miami has not replaced Dan Marino. I am sure that the prospects that tried to replace these quarterbacks faltered partly due to the pressure. Rogers was sacked over 50 times in 2009 and suffered through two mediocre seasons from a record standpoint. His quarterback rating was good, but I am sure he was hearing the grumbles. This is a team sport and your record defines you. In 2010 Favre was now playing for divisional rival Minnesota. I am sure this created even more pressure for Aaron Rodgers.

The gamble on Aaron Rodgers paid off last week. He did not crumble under the pressure of his “inheritance” or the big game. He also showed class by not reminding every one of their lack of faith in him when he took Favre’s place as the field general of the Packers. He accepted the Super Bowl and MVP trophy with class. Lesson: Mental toughness and focus rule. Throw in a dose of humility, and you have a champion.

No one player is more important than the team. This is true in sports and just about any endeavor that requires a group for overall success. Brett Favre is a sure bet, first ballot hall of fame player, but unfortunately his last few seasons will be remembered for his selfishness. Putting himself and his ego above the team. Don’t get me wrong, the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings are partly to blame. They let him get away with it. McCarthy and Thompson called his bluff after he had “unretired” on the Packers in 2007. His teams did not know who to draft, how to set up their offenses, and practice repetition was limited due to his showing up for training camp late. The Jets and the Vikings sacrificed long-term success for possible short-term outcomes. One player effected multiple decisions. Ultimately, the Packers moved on and they have the trophy and the ring. Lesson: Individual goals are important, but they have to match the overall team concept and mission.

Posted: February 12, 2011 in General

For all that have forgotten, I am a sports performance coach/physiologist and athletic director at Joe Gibbs Racing. My job consists of recruiting, training and engineering fast pit stops. Simple. How I got to where I am today is covered in this new blog. I hope to update a couple times per month. Bear with my writing skills. I am an awful writer. I will get better. It is a goal.



Memorial Day 2004.  I was enjoying a great late spring Carolina day with my beautiful daughter. Other than the “flu like” symptoms I was feeling, I was having a great time.  Along with the fatigue and malaise was an aching in my right leg. I had done a pretty running session on the treadmill the day before, but this felt different from a typical muscle strain. Over the next 72 hours, I would find out that these symptoms were more than the flu and aching muscles.

I was 48 years old and not really a competitive athlete anymore, but had been cross training and using weights a lot for the first time in my life. I came from a team sport background in baseball and soccer when I was young. In my 20’s, I transitioned to being an endurance athlete and also windsurfed quite a bit. Running and cycling became popular and I became a pretty good middle distance runner, with an occasional sub 16 minute 5k times not uncommon. In my thirties, cycling became my sport of choice. I was never that good at it, but I was passionate about it. I put in lots of miles on my bike over a 15-year period.

In 2003, cross training in the gym became more conducive to my lifestyle, which included much travel for my coaching practice. I had clients all over the Carolinas, and met many of them at gyms that I contracted with. Why not take advantage of this type of training environment? I had been and endurance training junky for years, and had been taught that, if you had time, cardio was what you did. Strength training was secondary. I started to change my thinking on the mix of cardio and strength training. As we age, we lose muscle tissue. I noticed a difference and I liked it.  I felt better and my weight was easier to control. I had never understood how easy it was to put on weight despite all the miles of predominantly aerobic exercise.  This more balanced training approach was one of the first self-experiments on the effectiveness of my training, and in what I prescribe for my athletes today.

While I worked with and partnered with medical doctors over the years, I prided myself (not good) in never seeing them professionally. Other than seasonal allergies and some sinus issues, 46 years had been pretty event free. Other than some Achilles tendon issues, I don’t even get nagging injuries.

Two days after that Memorial Day in 2004, I found myself in the hospital with a 104 fever and my right leg purple and swollen to nearly twice its size. Red streaks ran up the inside of my leg towards my groin area. IVs poured powerful antibiotics into my system to stem, what was apparently a serious infection; MRSA, a type of staph infection that has become common in the last 20 years. Since I was working out in a lot of gyms, it probably entered my system via a blister on my foot from a dirty locker room floor. I had never been admitted to a hospital in my life. I helped design services for them, visited people in them, managed people in them, but never on the “victim” side of the IV.  I was not in control of the situation and very scared in a way that I had never felt. . The doctor told me that they had started the IV just in time to save my life.

I have experienced my share of success/failure cycles that come with life. I was enjoying the journey, but this incident was the beginning of a passage that I did not expect. Being sick and not in control. Two weeks out of the hospital and the color to my leg was returning, but it was still very swollen. It looked horrible to me. The right leg was appreciably bigger than the left. I figured it would go away, but my doctors told me that, by delaying getting into the hospital, I may have destroyed the lymphatic tracks to that leg, and swelling would be something I would deal with the rest of my life. It could be managed and not painful, but would not completely go away. At the time, that did not bother me very much. What was a little swelling? I could deal with it. They were wrong about the pain part too.

Summer 2004 to 2009. An hour after getting up every morning, (see foot below)  I would need another size shoe on my right foot! By the end of the day, the swelling was up to my knee. Prescription level compression stockings were helpful, but a difficult to put on every day. Diuretics helped, but I started having cramps all the time. The socks hurt more than the swelling. Both treatments were discarded.  I was told I could exercise again, but an atypical fatigue also set in. I was not recovering from workouts.  I was told this could be side effect of the illness, and it could last indefinitely. The “patient” end of medical care was frustrating me. I hated it. I stopped viewing myself as an athlete. I started to view myself as a victim. I started to understand what I had been failing to recognize and acknowledge for years – being a patient can suck. Maybe this was pay back for my impatience with patients/clients over the years.

I began to get horribly out of shape. I decided to bury myself in my work and ignore my health. I had begun consulting at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Charlotte. Traveling from Chapel Hill, to Greensboro, to Charlotte, sometimes all in one day. 5 am to midnight on many days. I made other people better at the expense of my own health.

JGR made me a full-time offer in 2006 to help improve the human performance side of their motorsports programs. Specifically, improve pit crew performance. I accepted. I had always followed motorsports, and had done some consulting work with Humpy Wheeler back in the 80s. Humpy was working different programs related to driver and crew fitness. Way ahead of his time! I also enjoyed the atmosphere at JGR. They were innovative. I liked that.

Over the next 3 years, we started to enjoy some real success on our pit crews. The changes I brought came with much work and time. I enjoyed the challenge of week-to-week competition. Mentoring and coaching made me happy. Problem solving with a measurable weekly outcomes was a great high. I still ignored my health and at the end of workdays and especially the weekly races I worked, my leg and foot would swell to nearly twice its size. I figured if I ignored it, it would get better. How often had I seen and heard that from patients and athletes?

September 2009. I decided to fix the past 3 years of sedentary living in one day, by riding my mountain bike on the easy JGR mountain bike trail. I had denied my being fat and out of shape, and I was going to solve it starting that day. Funny, my athletes and patients had argued with me over the years that I could not “identify” with them. I did not understand how hard it was to “comply” with my programs. I had never been fat and out of shape. They were right. I now understood, and would even more at the end of this day.

Before I go on, I need to relate this special story to help put my current situation in perspective. My past work had included many years working in cardiology. I had directed non-invasive cardiology programs; cardiac rehab programs and helped develop a heart program for a hospital. I had administered thousands of cardiac stress tests and watched thousands of hours of cardiac ECG monitor tapes. I could identify and read cardiac arrhythmias in my sleep. Cardiac arrhythmias and physiology is how I got involved in pro cycling years before. I had helped pro cyclist Bobby Julich identify his arrhythmia and he subsequently finished 3rd in the Tour de France. I had cyclists from Europe calling me for help. Type RSVT (re-entrant supraventricular tachycardia) into the Google search engine and an article I wrote on it years ago is still the number one hit. http://www.bobbyjulich.com/?p=46 This article resulted in hundreds of requests for information on this condition from athletes and patients around the world. It was amazing. We helped a lot of people with this condition seek help and proper care.

Stive Vermaut was a Belgian pro cyclist referred to me by Bobby and pro cyclist George Hincapie in 2002.  This was not uncommon. My colleagues and I had helped resurrect pro cyclist Nico Mattan’s career a few years’ earlier following an arrhythmia diagnosis. Stive was on the US Postal Cycling team with George and Lance Armstrong. He had been on a routine training ride and noticed his heart rate suddenly skyrocket to over 230 beats per minute (on his heart rate monitor.) He felt lightheaded. Medical studies indicated cardiac arrhythmia and he was forced to delay his career until a possible procedure could be performed to possibly fix it. He came to the US for a consult with our cardiologists and me. Unlike Bobby Julich and Nico Mattan, his condition was not repairable at that time. Stive had a hard time with this. He had devoted his whole life to his craft. He had a wife and they were expecting a child. Stive wanted to ride and continue to race. A few months later, Stive passed away while training on his bicycle. I was devastated, but understood why he could not stop riding. Stive could not identify with being “sick” He was a world-class athlete. He was in denial, which is very typical of athletes with health issues or injuries. His passing should have been a lesson for me.

I made one lap on the mountain bike. My heart rate monitor showed 170 beats per minute. In my fitter days it would not have broken 100 beats per minute. I was embarrassed by my horrible lack of fitness. What happened next, I probably can’t definitively say. I was on the ground. I sat up very light headed. My heart rate was well over 220 on my Polar monitor. How long had I lain there? 10 seconds? 2 minutes? I knew this must be serious because I had felt some “extra heart beats” right before falling. We all have them occasionally and I thought: No big deal, I was probably a bit dehydrated. But with my background, I knew was possibly a sustained arrhythmia. Maybe it was benign. The heat caused it. Maybe I was dehydrated. Yes, that’s it. No big deal. Denial would be my only friend on this one. How could I possibly have the condition I had come to be known for helping other people with?

I went inside and showered. I would try to forget about this episode. It can’t be serious. I had seen many elite athletes with heart issues. How could I at 53, living such an exemplary, healthy lifestyle have anything wrong with me? How powerful are the thought processes of denial and rationalization? I have a race to travel to tomorrow. I can’t think about this. No doctors for me.

I finished the season 2009 with no more issues, but I really never pushed myself physically. I know I was chronically dehydrated and sleep deprived. I could not show weakness. That’s the racers way. That’s what they call it in this business. Being a “racer”. All sports have their term for it: Being a “gamer”. It’s probably very dysfunctional. Look what Jay Cutler is going through. His leg could have been hanging off by a string, but even his peers ridiculed him.

Spring 2010. I had to get a physical and I had been noticing more and more “extra heart beats”, especially at night. Some tests confirmed what I knew. I still refused to do anything about it. The season had started and I was on a mission to

I am going to leave out most of the 2010 season. I basically played Russian roulette with my life from about June 2010 to December. I was luckier than Stive. I repressed any possible consequences of the denial I was in. I was being very selfish and foolish.

December 2010. Lets just say I am fixed for now. I have a clean bill of health, other than the obvious obesity and sleep deprivation.  That’s all I will say. Arrhythmias often take people in their sleep, so I did not get much sleep in 2010. I was not going to be attacked in my sleep! I did come to a conclusion that sleep was overrated for me though. I had also avoided exercise of any kind after that day on the mountain bike in 2009. Stive had died exercising. Those were poor excuses. My diet had turned into a disaster. I ate anything and everything. I guess it made me feel better. Well, I had the clearance. I’m ready.

In late December 2011, I embarked on a 6-month plan of self-experimentation in the arena of personal health and performance improvement. I was motivated by a lot of things. Tim Ferris’s new book showed me a lot of things that I have personally observed as a physiologist and coach over the years. I am going to implement some self experiments based on some of my personal observations from 30 years as a “prescriber”. I would not simply just follow unquestioned research. Hey, I have learned something from 30 years. What had worked for me over the years? What had not? Had I been prejudiced by what I was coming to believe was a crappy and biased “system and industry”, afraid to push the limits for fear of being ostracized? Well, after living in fear for a year, I am no longer going to let that stop me.

Over the next year, I will document my experiences as I start to follow the programs I have previously prescribed for others along with some new stuff. I will either succeed or fail, but will enjoy the journey. I always do.

I believe the lifestyle I live, as a coach in a professional sport, is very hazardous. I know it is. The coaching lifestyle is littered with terrible heath stories. Cancer, heart disease, and anything stress can be associated with. This landscape will provide a challenge. I love what I do. I am passionate about it. I want to do it for a long time.

Hopefully other may benefit from my stories and future blogs. It is tough to admit shortcomings, but I am feeling good about it.  There are more lessons on what not to do already revealed. Don’t do what I did! I was wrong and selfish to ignore and deny the health issues I dealt with. I did have people who helped me through it all and I believe that’s why I am still here despite my stupidity.

Update: Phase 1 of my program was a low glycemic/slow carb diet revision with little or no exercise for 30 days. I also started a very selective supplement program, which I will talk about in a later blog. Full exercise training starts the last week of January. The diet alone has resulted in 17 lbs. of weight loss. I have been prescribing low glycemic eating programs since 2003. After years of the “fat consumption will kill you”, I switched to this approach with both clients/patients and athletes. There is no question that this type of eating has produced the best results for health and weight control for me and with my athletes. There are many approaches to a slow carb/low glycemic diet, and none of them include the Atkins type diet that most people associate with them. More specifics later.

Coming soon:

  • The goals
  • The first 60 days- what am I doing? Eating, training, supplements
  • Week in the life
  • The role of tech in getting better
  • Why can’t we remain children
  • Human performance and motorsports

Ankle and foot post race 2009. It hurt a bit.

Life in 2010. Not any more.

February 2011