Under the Covers with Paul Vincent
Elizabeth: Hi, Paul, thank you so much for being here today.
Paul: Hey, there. Thanks for having me.
Elizabeth: Absolutely. So, we met, I believe last year at an event called the National Day of Rest when you were a speaker. And I loved everything you were sharing about your experience, living with tribes and studying human behavior and what really makes us tick. I thought that it will be interesting to speak to you today.
But just a few, quick introduction before we go too far into it. You've been in the fitness industry for over 15 years and have cultivated a reputation for being one of the top athletic trainers in your field with a strong following of clients ranging from professional and Olympic athletes, celebrities, executives, and everything in between. Paul Vincent is co-founder of Altus Health, a renowned health management team with medical and athletic professionals, providing the tools and treatments for your clients to live their healthiest lives. Paul, can you tell us just a little bit about how you got started in the health space and a bit more about your practice Altus Health?
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. So, I used to compete in different sports. So, I was track and field, and then I got into expedition length adventure racing. And so I was getting really in touch with the body and what it took to kind of achieve health and fitness. And that led me to study kinesiology, biomechanics, and I got a master's degree in human performance it's called, which is basically just nutrition, everything that makes a human healthy. That became sort of my interest. And I really enjoyed working with people and having them live sort of optimally.
And me and my brother, my brother is a sports chiropractor. And so him and I were referring a lot of business. So then we decide let's partner. And we came up with the concept of Altus Health. Because what we saw was that people try and compartmentalize their health. They go somewhere and they take care of their nutrition. They take care of their exercise, or they take care of their sleep, but it's all one unit. And so we wanted to create a system that looked at everything in unity. And so we could untangle where they were having trouble and put into one unified program. And so that's the concept we came up with Altus.
Yeah. So, that's basically the concept we came up with was to look at the body as one organism and create a program that gets everything in tune. Because there can be the best program in nutrition, the best program and exercise, best program whatever part of health there is. But if it's not unified, it won't really have that much effect. And the other factor is, if I spend an hour a day, three days, four days a week on exercise, it's only 3% of my time. So, I'm not really going to change my health with that. So we also had to look at habits and behavior. And so that's what Altus is really about. Is about lifestyle adaptation. And so the by-product of that lifestyle becomes the goals you want to have.
Elizabeth: And how do you see sleep as being a part of that for your clients and where maybe in the process do you address that with people?
Paul: We address it right away. It's critical. So we look at lifestyle. And one of the biggest factors we're talking about is, when you go to sleep? When do you wake up? What's your quality of sleep? All that hygiene around sleep. And most people don't know this, but the brain is actually more active when you're sleep, because it's going through all these cleansing processes. And there's another process that's called apoptosis. That happens when you're sleeping in or in a fasted state. Which it purges all the deformant cells, all the old cells. So you can regenerate new ones. And so all this happens in sleep cycles. And so it's such a critical time and people aren't sleeping well. So they're waking up in this, their body's in a stress state, so it's not recovered. So when you're not recovered, you're in a stress state. And so then that's just struggling through their day. And then they're trying to layer on top of that exercise and, or force themselves to eat a certain way. And it's just a struggle. And so we start with sleep.
Elizabeth: Very cool. Are you using any tools to measure sleep, or how do you look at that with people to know if improvements are being made?
Paul: There's a lot of like wearables and stuff. And if people have them, we'll check on them. But often what I find is that, that becomes an added stress. So now they're measuring their sleep. I even tell people not to count how many hours they slept. To be responsible for it, for going to sleep. But what happens, and I used to do this. I used to wake up in the morning and count backwards. Okay. How many hours of sleep? Oh my goodness. I'm going to be tired today.
Elizabeth: And you're judging it.
Paul: And then you're judging it. And so now I've decided that's what I'm going to be today. And then I need stimulants, coffee and whatever it is to kind of get me going. So what we do is we talk about setting routines. So the time you go to bed and the time you wake up, being really consistent with that. Because your body works on a rhythm. It's called circadian rhythm. And once your body's in that rhythm, that rhythm triggers all internal processes of the body. So it even affects microbiome. So what bacteria is released in the gut to digest what kinds of food. So even things like that are thrown off if sleep's not in order.
So, instead having all these measures, what I do is just really just consistency. Hey, create a routine before you go to bed and then we'll get your body processing. What happens when you're in sleep is actually the wavelength of the brain is changing. And you're going from beta, alpha, theta into delta. And Delta is sleep. So you want to get the brain to slowly come down into that state. So we create routines and then they go to bed consistently at the same time and wake up at the same time. What most people do is if they, there's something comes up at night and they have to stay step later, then they'll shift their daytime. Now what happens they're not tired until later that night. So what I have people do is wake up at the same time, no matter what time you go to bed. Do your best. And you might be tired, but you're going to get right back into that cycle, that rhythm. You're going to stay in that rhythm, as opposed to then now the rhythm is completely off.
Elizabeth: Well, that was the question I wanted to ask you about was there has been so much keeping us up at night this year. Google searches for help with sleep or insomnia related issues are double, triple, what they were a year ago. So we know this is a major issue people are dealing with. How do you give yourself the room you need to rest either by creating physical space, mental space, or is it just come down to discipline with going to sleep early?
Paul: Well, it's just sort of all of it. So first of all, sleep, the environment you go to sleep in is critical. And it's got to be free from clutter. It's got to be, there shouldn't be a lot of activities there. It should be very comfy, very welcoming. It's almost like if you think of an animal creating like a little, their little hovel or something where they go and sleep. And you want to have that. We're animals. And so we like that cozy routine and the blankets and especially the weighted blanket that you guys have is so fantastic for that. Because you get that cuddling effect. You get that feeling of safety. And that's really important for us when we sleep. Because we have a part of our brain, the amygdala, which operates faster than the rational part of the brain.
And it's searching for potential danger, even when we're going to sleep. So if you think about it, if you close your eyes, you're still hearing what sounds are going around. So, if you're in bed and you heard a loud bang, you'd wake up. Your mental is still active. And so the more safe you feel, the more that part of your brain can sort of calm down. So that aspect is really critical. So the environment is critical. Now, the other part, which is interesting is, when we worry, when we have stress, the danger is not usually happening in that moment, right? We were designed for immediate danger. We're designed for, if a lion's attacking me, what do I do? Or a baboon, do I run? Do I defend myself? We have a third, so humans, they flee or they fight or they freeze.
So that's three aspects. The brain goes through like a shock and it just stops. So those aspects happen. And so we want to with getting into this sleep routine is, understand, are we actually in danger in that moment? So I always asked myself and I tell my clients, ask yourself, am I in danger right now? Or am I safe right now? If you're safe right now, what's happening is you have gone off into your thoughts into your mind and you're worrying about stuff out there. Now, what I also explain, and this, it gets a little interesting, this part. But thoughts don't happen in the dimension of matter, right?
So we live in the dimension of three-dimensional worlds, right? Of space. There's physical things. Thoughts don't happen in that dimension. Dimension just means a measure of a space. So it's not some sci-fi thing. It's just, how do we measure the space? We measure with depth and height. So in the dimension of thought, there isn't, it's a different dimension because it doesn't have the depth and height. If I said, "Hey, think of a pink elephant." You could, but you couldn't show me that pink elephant, right?
Paul: Electrochemical reactions in your brain, there'd be electromagnetic signals. But you couldn't show me that because it doesn't exist in this dimension. So what people do, they get into bed when it's quiet, then they start drifting off to this other alternate reality. And they start worrying about it. Now the brain, the body, can't tell the difference. I don't know if you've ever had an experience where you've gone for a swim in the ocean or somewhere and you've thought about a shark or something and got nervous.
Paul: There might not be a shark there, but you get the physical sensation as though there might be. So you get adrenaline, cortisol, all this stress hormones. And so now you're in a stress state. It's not a stress state to, the body doesn't doing it to stress you out. It's preparing you for fighting or fleeing.
Paul: So, when we go to sleep, we do the same thing. We think of all these things and we worry. And that triggers these processes, the stress processes which won't let us go to sleep, right? Because it wants you to be alert. It's like, oh my God, there's danger. Don't go to sleep now. And so that's such a critical part,is that you don't go off into this fantasy world. And thought can only be fantasy made up or they can be past or future. They can't be present. If it's present, you're not actually thinking. You're not in that dimension of thought. So, developing a practice around that. But there are some tools you can do.
Now, one of them that I teach is to have a place to strategize about these things you worry about, right? A time and a place. It's like going to work, going to the office. In my office, that's where I think about work. When I leave the office, I don't think about it anymore. Now that's where it takes the discipline. Because the brain it's, it feels like it's automatic. And it is for a lot of us because we haven't, we've allowed our minds to sort of take control. But we can quite easily get that control back. So, I have a place to strategize and strategizing is thinking. That's really what the brain is good at, is strategizing how to solve this problem.
Not just conjuring up scenarios that could be risky for you. It's almost like gossiping in your mind. So you want to leave that alone. So find a place to strategize. I even have a client who he has a hat that he wears. So he can only think about work when he's wearing this hat. So when you're not working and another thing comes up you let it go. Oh, I got to run and put my hat on. Which it just separates when it's time to think about this stuff and when it's not. And so that's not conditioning your brain. Now, the other thing I do is I keep a journal by my bed. So before I get in bed there's things I need to remember, I need to do, I can just write it down. Hey, tomorrow I want to accomplish this. Oh, remember to call this person. And so now I'm not worrying about it. So that's the second part.
Now the third part is, getting into a mindful state. So a meditative state. And so these are the routines that I do before I go to bed and I have a very rigid routine. It only takes a few minutes, but I'm consistent with it. And that separates me from my waking time, what I have to accomplish in the day and my rest time, my sleep time. And it's really important we have that transition. And I use catharsis, which is just releasing energy. So I do catharsis every day. And I also do breath work and a little meditation before I go to sleep. And that transitions the wavelength of the brain that I mentioned earlier. And so then I'm in a sleep, ready for a sleep state. And then I fall into sleep.
Elizabeth: And how long have you had that as a consistent practice?
Paul: I would say a few years now. I've been teaching it... We really got into sleep and stuff maybe three years ago. We were teaching aspects of help, but sleep became really important to us. These routines, they're sort of like the now the bedrock of our programs at Altus, are these routines. And we created an online platform that just takes you through morning and evening routines. So probably been developing for about three years. And I vary them because I'm testing different ones. But they're all within the same parameters. So probably about three years, I'm pretty rigid with mine, even when I travel and stuff. And it's not like some big thing that you miss out on stuff. I still live a very full life.
Elizabeth: I mean, I think the fact that you said it's short is really powerful because that means that you can't find excuses not to do it.
Elizabeth: You can always find excuses but you can keep that be part of your life every day.
Paul: Absolutely. Yeah.
Elizabeth: I think, I mean, habits are so powerful. They're extremely powerful.
Paul: Everything. If you look at your life and what you do, if you do like an assessment of your day in life, there's a lot of things that you're doing that aren't in alignment with what you, the life you want to have. And really taking inventory of that is so important and then creating these rituals or habits that attain or align with what you want.
Elizabeth: And the fact that they sound so simple might make us think that they're not that impactful, but sometimes it's those small things that you do or don't do that makes such a big difference.
Paul: Totally. And we're so used to an impactful change in our society, in the modern sort of Western society. We want big impactful things. It's like, if I have a pain, I want it taken away right now. I want it numbed or gone as opposed to developing that movement and getting alignment better, which might take more time. It's the same with whatever nutritionally or medicine or whatever. I want it to have an impact.
Elizabeth: A big fix.
Paul: A big fix. Exactly. And so with my clients, I tell them, hey, try this routine. You might not notice that you feel anything the next day or the day after that. But I want to talk to you in a few weeks down the road and go, "Hey, now what is your life like?" Our programs are usually a year. We develop these habits over a year and we have them in 21 day cycles. Because it takes about 21 days to set a habit. So, every 21 days we change the habit a little bit. So by the end of the year, you were living a completely different life, but you didn't really notice that you were because it's so, the changes are so, they're not so impactful. So you're just like doing it.
We don't want to come in like a sledgehammer and go, "Okay, change your whole life." We're like, "No, let's adapt it gently." So you don't have this big immediate kind of reaction, but very gently you have these changes and you look back and go, oh, wow. I used to be more stressed. I used to kind of stay up at night. I used to have these things and they just sort of disappear out of your life.
Elizabeth: It's so powerful to have someone keeping you on course, because I think that it's simple, but it's definitely not easy to do that by yourself.
Paul: No, because we're the ones taking us off course. So, and then what we try and do we try and come and discuss it in this dimension of thought, right? We have a little conversation with ourselves and motivate ourselves, but it's not in this physical world. So, having someone else there or having a program that you follow, it makes it real. And so it's like, okay, I can't convince myself not to do it. I can't justify myself out of it. Or at least it's harder to do it. So, it's super helpful to have these sort of guides and these parameters around it.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Thinking about we're at the new year and a lot of us we all know we're all making resolutions for health and wellness, especially 2021, I think. Are there some simple, easy, like to break it down for people tips that you would offer to people?
Paul: Totally. There's a very simple evening routine. One important element is to remove blue light. So this rhythm I've talked about the circadian rhythm it's triggered by light. So it's supposed to be sunlight. So our body is designed to be in alignment when the sun rises and it starts to trigger processes in our brains. Internal processes get triggered from that get started. So in the evening, start to think about making the room or your house if you can mimic like sun setting with orange and amber colors. That will tell the brain, hey, daytime sort of ending, start to get ready for sleep. Then when I do this, I do, the next very simple thing is you can do this ratio breathing. So you breathe in for four counts and then out for an eight count.
And you just do that for a few minutes and your brain will start to shift. So that ratio of inhale to exhale, being a longer exhale will actually shift the rhythm of the brain. There's another really interesting one if people do have trouble sleeping. Which is to create a rhythm with your hands. So you're just tapping and you're just tapping fast. And then over time, so you do that, this for about three breaths, this fast, and then you slowly start to diminish the speed of it. So I don't know if you can hear that, but it's getting slower and you just keep going. It's probably over a few minutes until it's really slow and it stops.
The brain follows rhythm. That's why, I don't know if you've seen any of these like indigenous people. They do ceremonies. They use rattles and drums. Because the brain follows those rhythms or chanting. You can get into a rhythm. So that tapping actually starts the brain at this sort of fast, fast speed. And then it slowly slows it down. And that drops the wavelength of the brain. It's why when people guide you in meditation, they speak slowly and they slide off. So, you're getting relaxed now.
Elizabeth: That's something I haven't done. I've never heard of that before, but this exercise, but I can even feel it as I could hear you patting your legs, I could feel that change in the tone and the speed. That's amazing.
Paul: Yeah. So that's a really good one. So, they're great. And then the next, I would say waking up in the morning. If you can, the most critical one, there's breath work and meditation, all that stuff in the morning. But what I like to do is go outside and if you can barefoot stand on the ground. So that's groundings, you connect in with the rhythm, which there's a scientific explanation of that, too. So it's not just…
Elizabeth: So, you feel magnetic field of the earth, right?
Paul: It's that. But also we are... Everything in the universe is made up of atoms, right? And atoms, they have a positive nucleus and negative electrons. What happens when we go through our day and the stresses of our day, we lose these electrons. Nature produces extra negative electrons. And so when you get into nature, you're actually picking up these electrons, it's charging you up.
And so in Japan, you might've heard it's called shinrin-yoku. I'm probably pronouncing wrong, but it means forest bathing. So what happens when you go into forest or into nature, you start to absorb these negative ions and it balances out, it makes us calmer. So if you start the day sort of getting in tune and also the magnetic fields for sure, and you get in tune, but what I do, I have my eyes closed and I face the sun. And so I'm getting sunlight on my face now that's starting to trigger these processes in my body. And so now I'm waking up and I'm feeling alive and I'm connected with nature. So I start off in a calm state.
Elizabeth: Of course.
Paul: So there are lots of rhythm, there are lots of routines and stuff, but I would say just to give a little nugget, those two are really, really important ones.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And I'd love to ask this question. I think that it's easy to sort of talk about how horrible 2020 has been, but it has been very challenging, brought up a lot of disruption and change, but what would you say has been your biggest learning or a silver lining this year?
Paul: There's a few of them. I've think about this a lot and talking to a lot of my clients about it. We don't like change as a species, as humans. We like rhythm, routine familiarity. But everything was just disrupted. Completely fell apart for a lot of people. I talk to people about this like, it's an opportunity in that. Maybe we don't want to piece it back together exactly the way it was. It's the same with my business. Part of my business is the physical space, actual personal training session, physical therapy session, chiropractic session, that just fell apart. And so I'm like, "Oh, should I put it back together the way it was or this is an opportunity to rethink it." And I know people who are rethinking their whole lives, where do I, where can I live? Do I need to work from the same place?
Companies are now doing a lot online, meetings online and stuff. So, it's an opportunity to reassess everything to look at, okay, what is it that I want in my life? Is this an opportunity to go get it? There's another element that I really liked. And this happened mostly at the beginning when this first happened. This is the first time in the history of humanity that we have become one species. And what I mean by that is that we bond together, right? And to bond together, we have to have a common enemy. That's why like sports teams work. Hey, this is my sports teams. That's yours. And we feel we're part of a tribe being part of a sports, supporting a sports team. But for the first time we had one common enemy as a species. We've never had that before. So we had, COVID-19 was the one thing against humanity. And so it brought us together. And I thought that was really nice. Very quickly we separated back into our own…
Paul: Country whatever. Tribe, exactly. And tribes. But I think it was really nice. It showed that there's that possibility of us coming together.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah. That's really true. What is it that you are the most optimistic about or looking forward to, for going into 2021?
Paul: I think people in this really got present to how important health is. And maybe the lifestyle they were living weren't healthy. And so I feel there's going to be a renaissance of health, of fitness, of people really sort of taking that on. It's already there people have the desire, but right now it still doesn't feel safe to do it.
Paul: And so as we kind of crossed that hurdle we, people are comfortable sort of going out and discovering these things. I think there's going to be a big renaissance of health. And I hope that it does, especially the people who didn't have access to it before, to healthy foods, to sleep, to exercise. Hopefully, they'll get it into their life and it will become part of their habits and routines.
Elizabeth: Yeah. It's been so much fun speaking with you. It's always inspiring. I want to thank you for being here. It's great to catch up. Where would you recommend that people go to find you?
Paul: You can go to our website. So, altushealth.com and check that out. And there's even access to these routines and stuff that I talked about. So that's probably a good place to start.
Elizabeth: Okay, perfect. Thank you.
Paul: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It was great.