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Better Health, Better Productivity – Emily Schofield and Chris Foy

We invited in the experts from Vision Personal Training - Chris Foy and Emily Schofield to talk about their top tips for becoming more productive, managing stress and gaining control of your health.

While most of the coaching sessions have been focused on skills that directly relate to real estate, such as prospecting, listing, goal setting and productivity, just about every coach from Josh Phegan, to John McGrath, Claudio, Jet and others have talked about this one topic. Tom Panos talks about it all the time. It’s the one thing that money can’t buy and and that is your health.

Your health, fitness and ability to manage stress have a major impact on how productive you can be during your working hours, and a major impact on the results you can produce.

Thank you our Week 9 sponsor: 

Vision Personal Training. Click here for more information.


Susanne King will be speaking at AREC 16 this year, to book your tickets visit arecconference.com.

Chris Foy and Emily Schofield from Vision Personal Training

Coaching Links:

  • See Emily’s regular contributions to her regular Health Science column in Elite Agent magazine here
  • To find out more about the services that Vision Personal Training offer, click here

Video Notes/Transcript

00:00 Introduction and Session Overview: Samantha McLean

01:15 The Relationship Between Health and Productivity

Emily: Chris and I today are going to be talking about the relationship or the connection between health and productivity and being in good health and really being able to produce optimally. I think a lot of people aren’t 100% aware that your mental focus, your attention span, your energy, all that kind of stuff re directly correlated with your health and they’re things that you actually have a lot of control over. There are a number of factors influencing your ability to be your most productive and successful you. You might have the drive and the passion for your industry, but if you don’t have your health, then chances are that you might actually not be performing optimally or producing optimally in terms of your work.

I’d say that 90% of clients when they first come to me, they lack energy, they have stagnated work generally, and they’re not performing at their best. That’s something that could have started years ago, but it’s gotten to a point now where they need to do something about it, so they’ve come to me. Needless to say if you don’t exercise, you don’t look after your health, and you live a stress driven life, it’s not ‘will that happen to you’. It’s ‘when’ because that just happens to people eventually. We’ve not really evolved to live sedentary stress burdened lives and there are health consequences to doing so.

02:33 Body composition and understanding neurotransmitters

Today I’m actually going to share with you some of the methods that I use with my clients in improving health, productivity, and body composition. I’ve just included body composition because when you’re improving health that’s just something that tends to happen and that’s something that a lot of people want. My single best dietary tip for optimal leanness, energy levels, mental focus, attention span, improve body composition is having a high protein and a high fat breakfast. What does that include and why? Usually I’ll say you can have any of the following: any meats, any poultry, so chicken, fish, nuts, green vegetables, or black tea or coffee. The reason for that, and I know that doesn’t necessarily sound like most people’s breakfasts, is because it has to do with your neurotransmitters.

Basically, when you eat proteins and fats, you make two neurotransmitters, dopamine and acetylcholine. Those are your two excitatory neurotransmitters and they’re the neurotransmitters that you need for mental focus and attention span and neural drive. When you eat carbohydrates, for example you eat bread, muesli, cereal, milk whatever, you make neurotransmitter serotonin and serotonin is for sleep. That’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter, so it’s no surprise that people eat breakfast, they eat a bowl of cereal, bowl of muesli, whatever, something that’s high in carbohydrates and high in sugar and five minutes later they need to reach for the caffeine bottle because their blood sugar is crashing. Because they have just made a whole lot of insulin and their blood sugar has gone up and down. Whereas when you eat protein and fat in the morning, your blood sugar is much more stable. You do not have that up and down, you’ve got less cravings throughout the day, you’ve got better mental focus. Definitely. They’ve done studies on this, number of studies showing that people who eat high protein in the morning eat less throughout the day and are more productive generally.

04:29 Cortisol and stress

That takes me to stress which leads on from cortisol because cortisol and stress are definitely related. I work with mostly corporate clients because I just work in North Sydney and I’d say that very few of them when they first come to see me are actually managing their stress well. Stress is often the reason that cortisol is completely out of whack because when we are stressed we make more cortisol. To be productive and healthy we know that stress should be managed and that’s obviously easier said than done at times. It’s said that today we actually have 100 times more stress than our grandparents did and that’s because we are always contactable. We’ve got phones, emails, it never stops, right? Stress makes us tired, it affects our quality of sleep, it accelerates the aging process, and it’s certainly not conducive of peak performance or optimal productivity. Because we’re mammals we have the fight-or-flight response hardwired into us.

I think it’s important for people to understand physiologically what stress is. You may get a bad hair cut or your USB fails, or whatever happens to you, and your body is literally perceiving that as an attack or threat to your existence. Because we are mammals and that is how we’re designed to function.

Your USB fails and you’re stressing out and your body is literally preparing you to fight off a bear. Basically, your blood pressure goes through the roof, your heart rate goes up through the roof, your digestion slows down because digestion’s not a priority if you’re under attack, your immune system down regulates itself, and your cortisol goes up to the roof. Obviously there are people who are walking around under chronic stress, so they have those mediators elevated or down regulated all the time. Needless to say, that is really bad for you especially over a long period of time. Chris is going to talk more about exercise, but exercise, in particular strength training, is really, really good for stress management. It’s so, so important and so Chris will go more into it.

06:31 Improving quality of sleep

I also recommend that my clients supplement with the mineral magnesium. It’s fantastic because it helps calm the nervous system and it helps lower cortisol. It assists in your quality of sleep and improves your quality of sleep. Apart from that, it protects against things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, all sorts of things like that.

In terms of supplements, when I recommend supplements, it is a basic and it is one that everybody needs to supplement with. It’s hard to get enough because the soil’s over farmed and a lot of people are deficient, so that’s very, very good for helping with stress.

For the ideal sleep, you want to be in bed by definitely before 11, but ideally 10pm, falling asleep within five minutes, and waking up between 6 and 8am without an alarm. Out of all the clients I’ve seen I could probably count on one hand the amount of clients that have met that criteria when first starting up with me. I’d say that there’s probably nothing more important to your metabolic health, energy, mood, body composition, and overall, would be getting a good restful night’s sleep every single night. I think a good quote that highlights that is, the general who sleeps the most will win the war. Improving your sleep length and quality is going to have a huge effect on your ability to perform optimally, produce your best work, and go above and beyond for your clients and the people you work with.

In terms of recommendations, the time you spend before go to sleep is really important. Looking at a TV screen or a smartphone is not a good idea, their blue lights keep your brain activated. Look, if you have to do work at night, there’s actually a program you can download for your computer and I’m pretty sure it’s on Android as well, called Flux, and it puts an orange tint over the screen so it dims those blue lights, so it’s not as bad. However, ideally you do want to be trying to do something relaxing and not sending emails five minutes before you go in to sleep.

08:27 ‘Gut health’ and listening to your gut

The last thing I’m going to touch on is about gut health. It’s definitely a topic of significance when it comes to productivity because 70% of your immune system is actually in your gut. I don’t think many people know that. Your microflora in your gut have a lot to do with your immune system and how your health and your immune system is performing.

There’s also new evidence showing that there’s a very, very strong association between gut health, brain function, and mood. I always like to highlight that by the fact that when we drink alcohol where does it go?  Into our stomach. What does it affect? Our brain. Food and other things, all affect our brain. The things you eat affect your brain definitely.That could mean lot of things. Maybe you don’t recover well from injury, maybe you don’t recover well from illness, maybe you get like five, six colds and flus a year, maybe you feel like you’re really foggy-headed, like you’re pushing your thoughts through jello. All of those are a reflection on how your gut health is performing.

It’s rare that I take on people who have literally no issues with their gut health. Simply because there are so many things in today’s life that really negatively affect our gut health like taking antibiotics, for example. Antibiotics literally wipe out huge amount of the good bacteria in your gut and studies show that it can take up to one year for your gut to actually rebuild them.

It could be one year after taking a course of antibiotics until you are fully back to where you should be in terms of your immune system and your gut. I would say, if you are going to take antibiotics, you should definitely be taking a probiotic in that time. My last point is that, probiotics are fantastic. Probiotics means ‘for life’. It strengthens your natural defenses. A lot of my clients do supplement with probiotics and they reap the benefits of strong immune system, sometimes it helps with weight loss, mood stabilisation, all sorts of things. Good gut health is essential to anyone who’s looking for good health, optimal productivity, less sick days.

10:30 The effects of having an exercise routine

Chris: Well looking at stress, we can’t just remove stress from our lives unfortunately, unless you were to just quit your job and move out of the country, but for the record, I’m not recommending that. What we can do is obviously like Emily said is help manage stress better, buy you can also equip your body to deal with stress better. We’ve got a two-pronged attack when it comes to exercise with the effects on stress. The first one being that, that immediate effect. Has anyone ever had an exercise session and felt really good afterwards? Yeah, good. Very good. We all know that we, you know, ideally we can’t feel really good, we actually feel energized, we feel more mentally focused, we feel that stress release, we feel good, right?

You get those endorphins released which are these chemicals on the brain which actually act on your opioid receptors. It’s actually your body’s own shot, giving you a shot of morphine. How’s that for destressing, right? That in itself, just getting a shot of morphine. We know there’s that immediate effect straight away, so you can get back to the office and have a clear mind and feel good, but then we’ve got more of a long term effect when we’re looking at embarking on a long term fitness program. Stress actually atrophies the brain. Especially the hippocampus which is important. It has many functions, but memory being really the important one. It actually atrophies the brain. It’s been proven that obviously if you embark on a regular exercise program, it can actually reverse those effects and actually improve your cognitive function, which I think is absolutely incredible.

We know that it has a huge effect on the brain. Then when it comes to the body, your body is always wanting to be in a really nice balance called homeostasis, where everything is working in harmony. Obviously when things are out of whack, the body doesn’t like that. If you equip your body, the stronger you are, the fitter you are, the healthier you are, the more easily and more efficiently the body can return to homeostasis. Exercise can actually help flush out the bad products of stress. We’re stronger, we’re fitter, we’re healthier, we’re functioning better and more efficiently, that way your body can get back to those normal levels which it should be at. Less sick days! I think the stats are loss of productivity and absenteeism costs the Australian workplace ten billion dollars a year. You’re gonna be at work more often to actually get the work done hence you’ll definitely be more productive, so your boss is going to love you. You’re going to sleep better. There was a study by the National Sleep Foundation saying that, or concluding that 120 minutes of exercise per week improved sleep quality by 65%. Not just getting to sleep, but obviously the quality of your sleep is obviously very important as well. 65% which is once again an incredible number.

Also I think sometimes just taking the time to be out of the office. For a lot of clients, like Emily said, we’re at North Sydney so we’ve got a lot of the high pressured jobs and really high stress environments. Sometimes people just need that time to actually get out of the office and be out of that environment to just de-stress and then sometimes the exercise is just a bonus on top of that. Just removing yourself from that environment and have those cortisol levels come down and let’s get back to homeostasis as quick as possible.

Also looking at the type of exercise. Once again the studies have shown that light to moderate cardio doesn’t have quite the impact as a heavy weight session or even a high intensity interval cardio session to release those endorphins and get that shot of morphine that we all need.

14:20 Resistance training, and building muscle

On that topic of exercise, resistance training is what we would call the fountain of youth and the holy grail of exercise. Every single person on this planet, absolutely no one, I don’t care how old you are, what your gender is, what your training background is. Everyone should be following a structured weight training program. There are so many benefits. The list, honestly goes on and on. It increases your strength, we know that, that’s in our brain. Strengthens your ligaments, your joints, your tendons, it increases your bone mineral density. So for women especially, it is an absolutely essential benefit.

It’s going to improve your body composition. If you want to improve body composition that’s a really key exercise factor rather than cardio. It’s going to increase that lean tissue, that muscle tissue, which is active tissue. It requires energy to maintain it, right? Compared to the fact that it’s just sits there, the more muscle tissue you have, the more energy it requires to maintain, so the high your metabolism, so the more you can be burning fat while you’re sitting at your desk.

Basically building muscles is the best thing that you can possible do for your body. One thing to note though which is really important is that muscles grow while you’re resting and not while you’re exercising. You don’t need to go busting your butts in stupidly long sessions in the gym or at the studio because you need to be getting enough rest as well. For example, let’s say you start off here and you do a training session and you put yourself into a state of fatigue, you end up down here. You go home, you rest, and you recover, you eat lots of great food, you get lots of sleep, and you’re feeling good. In theory when you come back to training you’re little bit better off than when you started. That’s the whole idea behind it and you’re going to keep going on a direction upwards.

However, if you fatigue yourself, you’ve trained really hard and you go home, you don’t get quite enough sleep, you may be drinking alcohol, you’re under a lot of stress, you’re not getting enough rest, you’re eating really nutrient-poor food, you’ll recover to a certain extent, but you might not recover enough. When you come back to training, you might actually be worse off than when you started, if that makes sense, and you can actually end up going in a downward direction.


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Emily Schofield

Emily Schofield is an Exercise Scientist, having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science. She is a Personal Trainer at Ultimate Performance in Los Angeles.