As an operator we tend to be highly motivated and driven individuals who will sacrifice anything for the team, including our own health to achieve a specific mission or goal. We all know that the ‘burnout’ is inevitable whether it be banging out operations or even in a training environment where the unrelenting pursuit of excellence is prioritized over our own well-being. What I am about to cover is my perspective on the 5 pillars I try to dial in to avoid burnout which will prolong your career as a soldier, sailor, airman, marine or operator.
Depending on where I am and how I am employed I will structure my day to optimize sleep. In our role, day tends to be a rehearsal for night and night is a rehearsal for operations. This wreaks havoc on our sleeping patterns. There is a reason that over the thousands of years of sapiens evolution that sleep in still a massive priority of our daily existence and yet we pay it off more than we should.
As an operator it is good to have an understanding of the effects sleep deprivation so you can best optimize your performance. I measure sleep cycles with devices such as Fitbits and Oura rings to further understand and create healthy sleeping patterns. Don’t get me wrong caffeine and nicotine can be used as tools up an operator’s sleeve but that is another rabbit hole in its own.
I prioritize my day around getting 8 hours of quality sleep. I set a sleep time goal for example 2130 and work out my daily routine from there. No heavy meals or exercise at least 2-3 hours before bed as well as no caffeine after midday has vastly improved the quality of my sleep. Exercising in the morning and having a wind down routine where you shut down devices also shortens sleep latency, which is the time it takes to fall asleep. Efficiency and quality of sleep is key to be able to perform at your peak every day.
In reality we tend to not have the luxuries of sleeping under a roof in a bed every night. Becoming intimate with the darkness is our specialty but knowing how to hack you sleep is crucial in maintaining high performance.
Nutrition is a beast in of itself. I don’t want to delve into ideal fueling due to the subject being vast and controversial. However, it is a crucial pillar so it will get a mention. In an ideal world we would dial down on our nutrition to support healthy function of all the body’s systems. We may also have specific goals we are trying to achieve whether they be performance based or not. We have all been in situations where all we’ve had for fuel is some Giardia infested water and 2 licks of a dried prune. These situations are not ideal but knowing when, how much and what kinds of fuel your body needs is crucial for not only recovery but maintaining and improving performance.
Regular training has been proven to improve productivity, health, sleep, energy and morale so it’s a no brainer that exercise is another pillar. Training incorrectly can also lead to burnout so it is highly recommended you stick to a well rounded and developed program to help achieve your goals. This also ties back to sleep and fuel, are you rested enough to smash 2 sessions in the day or should you hit the pool/sauna and work on mobility with a ROMWOD. By listening to your body and prescribing a well periodized program will increase your performance in all aspects of your day. No one wants to start punching in a keyboard without getting a dose of endorphins that are released from your heavy sets of back squats or your rowing interval session. If you don’t know what your doing, ask someone that does or better yet educate yourself with proper practices and techniques.
Cleaning up your environment is the next pillar for a long successful career. Applying the 5x5 rule has helped me grow exponentially. Simply put it is “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with AND the average of your 5 most common habits, the 5 most eaten foods, the 5 most common thoughts, etc. Simply raise your average.
You may not have the strongest deadlift or the fastest 2.4k run time or the quickest EL PREZ shoot but having the growth mindset will be your greatest ally and it really ties all the pillars together. Pursuing Excellence is a choice, motivating yourself to put your best foot forward in each and every situation isn’t easy. But when was anything ever worth while easy?? We surround ourselves with hard working high performing warriors, we feed off each other, we pick each other up when we are down and we always strive to be better than we were yesterday. That’s what makes us different. We are willing to suffer, in fact the suffering is guaranteed but with great suffering comes great reward pride and honor. We are all lucky. We don’t have to walk a generic mediocre path, we get to choose to forge our own. Its all up to us. Having the warrior mindset is one of your biggest strengths. Learn to use it, the more you use it the more you literally are re wiring your brain to think and act in a certain way.
Look out for one another.