On Aon’s Better Being Series: Physical Wellbeing and Resilience

On Aon’s Better Being Series: Physical Wellbeing and Resilience
Aon's Better Being Podcast

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June 20, 2023 26 mins

On Aon’s Better Being Series: Physical Wellbeing and Resilience

Podcast

Rachel Fellowes, Aon Chief Wellbeing Officer, and guest, Daniel Scott, NFL Indianapolis Colts Safety, discuss the importance of focusing on your physical and physiological health.

Key Takeaways
  1. Resting is valuable in achieving optimal performance.
  2. Practical physical health tips and habits, including intentional recovery, can improve overall wellbeing.
  3. Daniel provides advice for building resiliency and a stronger mindset.

Rachel Fellowes:

Hello and welcome to Better Being with me, Rachel Fellowes. I'm the Chief Wellbeing Officer here at Aon, and I'm passionate about resilience in the workplace and its link with performance and wellbeing. Today, only about 30 percent of us around the world identify as resilient, and this has a huge impact not only on our mental health, but also our productivity, our agility and our sense of belonging. So, in this series, I excitingly discuss what can be done about this issue with thought leaders, subject matter experts and professional athletes as we look at the actions we can all take to build and support resilience, both at the individual level, but also the team and organizational level as we put it into the context of the modern workplace.

In this episode, I'm going to be talking about physical health as a key component of wellbeing and resilience. And my guest today is Daniel Scott, a professional athlete, an American football player, no less, and has a great understanding of just how important physical health is, both for a sense of wellbeing, but also we're going to start to touch on the difference of physiological health and also physical fitness in that definition. So, Daniel, I don't know if you can already experience my excitement, but I'm so excited to welcome you here for our conversation today. And I look forward to diving into that very topic. But maybe before we do, can just get to know you a little bit more and ask about yourself and also just share a bit of your story about how you ended up as an athlete.

Daniel Scott:

Of course. Well, first, thank you, Rachel. It's great to be here, and I am really, really, really happy to have our conversation. But yeah. To give a little background about myself, I was born and raised in Pasadena, California, which is just outside the city of Los Angeles. I was born into a family of four, so I have one older brother. And playing sports ever since I could walk, and it's been a large identity of mine. So, my dad played collegiate football in southern California. My brother played sports all the way until high school until he had a career-ending knee injury. So, that's some of the reason that he's a physical therapist now. But basketball and football have been my two loves since I can remember. I've been playing them year-round until I left for college. I received an offer to play collegiate football at Cal Berkeley, and I got the opportunity to be up there for six years, and all while playing football and getting my degree.

So, I left this last December to train for the NFL draft, which is coming up, and I just finished various rounds of different practices, games, tryouts, interviews, medical tests, more, anything that you can name of. And now we get to see in a short time where I'm going to go. So, I'm very excited for this step in my life.

Rachel Fellowes:

What an absolutely fantastic and inspiring story. And also, what a privilege to capture you at this time of your life. So, we're very grateful. And it sounds like as well that physical health, you touched on it as a deep part of your own identity, but also part of your family's. And maybe I can just touch on that because we've spoken about in previous conversations how wellbeing can have almost three layers, Daniel. So, the individual there, what it means for you and I as humans. But then expanding that out into our team, whether that be in the workplace or at home and then the environment within which we thrive. So, that might be a workplace. It might be on the field. So, you can see the synergies that we're going to draw out together even though we're living and working in different worlds at the moment.

And maybe we can just hone in on that one as an athlete then, Daniel. So, your ability to think about being well, especially at these critical moments. We talk a lot about the language of resiliency, and I'd be really keen to dive into that word more and also explore the connection both physically and mentally about what that means to you.

Daniel Scott:

Yeah. Definitely. I think, first and foremost, as an athlete, especially in the professional football sphere, we are critiqued strictly based off our production. It's a performance-based industry, just like any other job in the world. If you're not on the field competing physically, then you're more at risk to lose your job. There's not as much comfort and reliability that you'll be on a team for one to X amount of years. So, you have that opportunity to get cut. So, physical fitness and being healthy is at an all-time premium. They have a common phrase in the NFL and in the football world that says the best ability is your availability, which basically means you could be as gifted physically as you want, but if you're not available to be out on the field to work out with the team to have that collaboration, then it doesn't mean anything.

So, for as long as I've taken this sport extremely seriously, physical recovery and having that resiliency, as you said, has been at the forefront of all of my thoughts. In order to reach any of the goals of mine, I have to stay as healthy as possible for as many days as possible. Valuing physical recovery and that side of the sport has given me comfort mentally as well. So, knowing that I'm walking into the practice facility or a meeting or the weight room, knowing that my body feels 100 percent gives me more mental comfort and confidence that I can go in each day and attack the workout or the physical activity. So, any anxiety or stress that I would have being sore in the morning. Hopefully, I can lessen that by focusing on stretching before I go to bed or drinking some extra water so I'm not cramping the next day, just diluting how much fatigue I'm going to have the next day.

So, when I think of mental and physical resilience, I think of daily, weekly, monthly and even hourly times to give yourself an opportunity to rest or recover. So, it builds that discipline if that makes sense. And if you're disciplined enough to go through that adversity, you should be fine, and nothing should stop you.

Rachel Fellowes:

I mean, there's so many bits I want to dive into. And I know we'll come onto all in the conversation, especially the rest and recovery bit. But can I just quote back at you because it was so fantastic, "The best ability is availability." And maybe Dan, if I just almost think that through about my role, anyone's role in an organization, our careers are maybe quite a lot longer than yours. So, the average career now in the workplace is probably 50 years rather than 30 years. So, that sentiment of showing up for that long again and again is very much how we're talking about it in the organizational space. There's such great synergy there. And that resiliency, that sustainability of that resiliency, that's what we find people are really curious about doing, which you are talking about career design in that space. And we're thinking about it as like, "Do I stand up today? Am I online or down today? Do I actually call someone spontaneously?" Revolutionary. So, I'm really enjoying the way you are framing that. Thank you, Daniel.

Just to continue on from that then, you mentioned rest and recovery. And I'm also conscious that in the intro, I talked about physical health being almost like an umbrella to potentially some other sub-parts. And if I could play almost the dummy, rest, recovery, physiological health, physical fitness, is this all just about how many times I go to the gym? And I know you've hinted it's not, but maybe we can just go into the language a little bit more there as well.

Daniel Scott:

Yeah. Definitely. Well, for me, I think the easiest way to understand it is physical fitness is having the ability to perform any physical function, right. I think the physiological health is a little bit more holistic, right. It talks about being healthy physically, being healthy mentally, maybe being healthy spiritually and psychologically. So, it's kind of a total wellbeing and an all-encompassing phrase. So, to me, physiological health and personal wellness as I call it as well, is very important, like I shared earlier. And I think an easy way for me to understand it is if we take humans as an example of being a car, if physical fitness is the engine of the car, you still need to focus on making sure your brakes are checked, your tires are rotated, your oil is changed. So, it's the same thing with an athlete or any type of person. If you just focus on your physical health, you're not necessarily valuing your mental health. You're not necessarily valuing, let's say extra sleep or more recovery.

So, as much time as I devote to my physical health, I'm also putting just as much time into my mental health. For me, it's meditation, educating myself in the sport by watching film. So, it's just as important to set aside time away from your sport to feel fresh and make sure that when you are attacking whatever job or sport you're playing, it's as promising and as dedicated as you want it to be.

Rachel Fellowes:

I love that. And even today, so is it all right to admit I'm a little bit tired after a long commute home last night? So, I was even thinking ahead of today, gosh, isn't it interesting how when you are a bit tired, and you haven't necessarily had the recovery the day before, my circulation isn't quite as good. Maybe I've got a little bit of a tummy ache. Your body responds to that balance, doesn't it? So, I really hear what you're saying about that broader sense. Or even though I've gone for a run this morning, it doesn't equate to physiological health or that sense of homeostasis or balance. So, I love that.

Daniel Scott:

And the same thing can go, let's say you're having a tired day, then maybe you add one or two things to your to-do list to do just to test yourself. So, to see if you're disciplined enough to knock those things off of your to-do list, regardless of you battling fatigue and being tired and maybe not fully recovering. So, when you go home, and you reflect, you say, "Yes, I did have a tired day. I did feel a little sluggish, but I got what I needed to do done."

Rachel Fellowes:

No. But then but. I spoke to Daniel Scott, and he solved my life. That was the key. So, on that note, maybe I can ask the question I'm pretty sure everybody wants to ask. What one thing should I be doing that's working for you? So, can we just dive into practical habits, tips, routines? What should we be thinking about?

Daniel Scott:

Right. Well, I think it all depends on what plan you have. So, if I'm someone and I just started doing a little bit more fitness, physical fitness than I've used to in the past, then maybe I should focus a little bit on the stretching side and making sure my body is limber and firing on all cylinders, as sports people like to say. So, for me, I love stretching. I work out every day, obviously, but stretching is just as important. So, I love throwing on a YouTube video of yoga movements, or I'll put on a podcast like this and sit in my room and do stretches or use a foam roller. I also really like to meditate. There's been a lot of times through this process specifically where my mind's been a little racing when I go to bed, or I just have a lot of thoughts on my mind. And I can journal, or I can even just ground myself with meditation. That gives me a little bit more calmness in my head. Doesn't really feel like I'm sporadic.

I also love acupuncture. Specifically to my sport, recharging my nervous system, as some people would say, is really important to me. I go to physical therapy at least once a week as well. I think saunas are a very popular thing nowadays. And I think for any working professional, going to the sauna three times a week, let's say, or just two times a week for 15 or 20 minutes, you would be shocked at what different benefits it can get you. You might feel like it is not fun when you leave the sauna, and you're dripping in sweat, and you get in the shower. But right when you come out of the shower, it's like a breath of fresh air. It's like you took almost a nap even though you weren't napping.

So, I'm also very big on having my nightly routine. So, usually, that's scheduled around when I need to go to bed. So, I value my sleep as a primary importance of mine. So, I always check my WHOOP to see what time they think I should go to bed, how my sleep score is and adjust my nightly routine accordingly based off of that. So, from going to bed a little bit earlier, I may not do as many nightly routines as other nights where I got a little bit more rest with me. So, those would definitely be the physical things that I would focus on.

Obviously, my family and friends mean everything to me. They're my motivation. They're there and allow me to do what I do. So, my oldest brother's a mentor, so I go to him on any advice I need. My mom is my rock, so I can go to her for everything tough, small or big. And then just leaning into my village as a whole, allowing me to grow mentally, whether that's friends, family, acquaintances, whatever. So, just knowing that when I can ask for help and collaborate on challenges, it makes life that much easier. It doesn't feel like the walls are caving in on you. Have a team around you that could help you with being resilient.

Rachel Fellowes:

Isn't it amazing? Because you know, when you almost have a stereotype in your head, you're like, "I'm going to do a thing." My husband over dinner tonight, I was like, "I'm going to do a podcast with a really important professional athlete." And I imagine the dialogue is going to be all about physical health and the obviousness of what you're eating, the hydration, the sleep, the exercise you're doing. And you're saying, "Yes, absolutely." And it's so much more almost to prop that ability up. And I love the fact you're talking about community and relationships, meaning and purpose, spirituality. No doubt there's a dollar sign or a pound sign in that mix as well. And I would also applaud for any British person to use the sauna when it's always so cold. That's an amazing idea. So, thank you very much. But again, it's really interesting how even though we put you on a pedestal as an athlete of physical performance, but to get there, it's so whole.

And we have a model called the Human Sustainability Index, which brilliantly... And I know we haven't talked about it yet. It has eight pathways that underpin it, and you've talked on absolutely every single one for sustainable living. So, that, for me, is just fascinating because I didn't expect the conversation to quite go down that path. So, you did mention a fun word in the mix of that. WHOOP, WHOOP.

Daniel Scott:

WHOOP.

Rachel Fellowes:

What is that? What is WHOOP? Can you tell us a little bit more about that? And I do know you're going to dive into the use of technology on this.

Daniel Scott:

Right. Yeah. So, WHOOP is basically a wristband that...or it's a company that tracks performance and wellness for a person. So, you have a subscription. You have a WHOOP wristband on. So, it tracks your heart rate, your skin temperature and your blood oxygen levels. And with those data points, it focuses on three different criteria. That's your strain, your recovery and your sleep. So, your strain is basically how hard physically you're taxing your body on a day-to-day basis. Your recovery is how your body's recovering and your sleep obviously is your sleep score. So, based each night, you'll have a sleep need, and then based off of that number, how much sleep you're getting, they give you a percentage. So, it's just a one-stop-shop. I think for me, it makes it really easy to understand my body, understand what factors to focus on, and again, focus on that holistic approach, making sure that one gear is not off track, making sure everything is working in unison, and firing on all cylinders.

So, I use it daily. I love it. I've been using it for just over two years now, ever since COVID started. So, for me, being an athlete, I like to see how hard are my workouts. So, if I go to the gym and I want to do a run, am I doing the run to the average that I normally do my run? Or if I'm recovering, it might be Wednesday during the middle of the week, and I might be a little sluggish. I see my recovery score down. And even though that's down, it's again, getting back to that resiliency and discipline where it's like, "All right. Despite my recovery being down, we can acknowledge that my body may not be up to par where it needs to be, but I'm still going to get through X, Y and Z."

So, I check my WHOOP every day to see my sleep performance, recovery score, physical strain. The data's just simplified, and it makes it so easy for an everyday human to track their physical fitness and their mental wellbeing. So, you can set goals for yourself each week. I hit benchmarks for myself as much as possible. I can monitor my sleep on certain days. If I'm moody at work with a little less sleep, I can maybe have a coffee. Or if I know I have less sleep, I may understand that my midday crash might hit an hour earlier. So, noticing that stuff and adjusting accordingly, I think is awesome.

Rachel Fellowes:

And again, I love the idea of this strain and recovery. It's almost like strain is actually stress, and it's really productive if it's used in the right way. And then recovery is almost sort of using my hands, isn't it then, like a seesaw, and actually, we're looking for both?

Daniel Scott:

Right.

Rachel Fellowes:

And that's really interesting for me. I don't know if you've heard, Daniel, the phrase, "We're human beings, not human doings," and most of us know how to strain, but not many of us know how to genuinely recover outside of sleep.

Daniel Scott:

Right. I think what's really interesting... And I wish I did a better job looking at assessment tests that WHOOP gives you. So, they give you weekly and monthly assessment test. And in the monthly assessment test, they have that relationship between strain and recovery. And you need to focus on that middle 50 percentile. So, if you're only focusing on straining your body, straining your body, you're overreaching. So, you're actually hurting yourself just as much if you weren't working out at all or getting any fitness goals. So, it's having that balance to where you can strain and stress your body, but then you can also come right back down to have your body recover to make sure that it's hitting what you need to hit.

Rachel Fellowes:

I love that. And then again, just thinking about it, for those that are listening who are actually in the office, it's often the inactivity that kind of almost stagnates that strain in our bodies. We don't know how to let it out. And so brilliantly, we’ve just actually at Aon formed a partnership with WHOOP, and we’re so excited by this to use it alongside our Human Sustainability Index. And then you have the physiological data and the psychological data, and we’re finding that to be so powerful. But it really starts to resonate in those moments, doesn’t it? So, you get almost like a spotlight of this is actually what you need now.

And again, having that over a longer time period is just such a gift, almost how do we be humans in this model world, let alone professional athletes. Can I also just touch on something I heard yesterday when I was meeting with a client? And it was almost this concept of I’m always on. So, can you help me? I’m thinking about my mental health, my physical health, my recovery versus my strain. So, surely, I’ve got to just switch off my brain. And we slowly started chatting through, well, actually, it’s not about that. It’s more about the observer capacity, which I think is almost what you’re talking about when you refer to rest. Maybe we can go there a little bit.

Daniel Scott:

Yeah. It goes back to exactly what you just said. When someone is always on, they never have times to dial themselves back. It’s like what we were talking about with overreaching and physically straining your body. If you’re mentally always on, you don’t have that time to come back down to become grounded, to re-energize yourself, to reframe whatever you’re thinking or doing in that day. So, rest is easily the number one popular topic now with benefits and its recovery, whether that’s in the sports field, whether that’s in the sports perspective, or regular working jobs. Rest is vital. So, it’s another piece of the puzzle as we talk about it when you look at that holistic approach. But I think it’s a lot bigger of a piece than many people think.

So, for me personally, I try to start the weeks off as strong as possible. So, I know Sundays and Mondays are my nights to get as much rest as possible because God knows what’s going to happen Tuesday through Friday with work. We might get extra meetings. We might get extra job opportunities on your desk. So, God knows what’s happening. So, making sure I start the week off as strong as possible is huge for me. So, I honestly try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. And on those Sundays and Monday nights, I try to get as close to nine hours as I can. I know it’s crazy to say people getting that much sleep, but that’s just what your body needs to recover. And for me, the best way that I can do. It allows me to recover and makes sure that I’m optimizing my gains. So, it’s not just those physical gains, but it’s those mental gains too.

So, from my perspective, it’s when I’m watching football and watching film. Am I alert? Am I focused? Am I paying attention? Am I making sure I’m not losing track of notes that I’m taking or getting off-topic? So, it’s the same thing with someone on a Wednesday. Let’s say you got an 8:00 a.m. meeting, making sure that you're getting to bed so that when you wake up to the 8:00 a.m. meeting, you're not making sure that your eyes are clean and drinking your coffee and making sure you're alert. You're already alert before the meeting happens.

Rachel Fellowes:

I love that. And I know we're probably not going to have time to touch on the use of phones and how that stimulates you almost as if you're trying to maybe even prepare. The last thing you do is you look at your phone, and then that triggers a whole nother, almost a wake cycle for you. But I have really chosen over the last few years in particular since wearing my WHOOP. I had a very different narrative around wanting nine hours of sleep. I used to think that was overindulgence. And being a high performer in our world, not yours, was around six or seven hours. So, I had to try and wean myself off, and that was so ill-educated. It was so fascinating when you wear the WHOOP and how nourishing a whole full sleep cycle is and how much you then get quite protective of that, don't you?

Daniel Scott:

Right.

Rachel Fellowes:

Nobody messes with how I prepare and how I wake up. So, I love what you've just said there.

Daniel Scott:

It's also one of those things that I was always told this by my mom. If I had a long night's rest when I was a kid, I'd be going to her frustrated like, "Mom, I just slept this many hours. I don't like it." And she would always tell me, "That's just your body talking to you." So, it's the same thing with your daily rest. If you don't put an alarm on and you just... Your body will wake up when it's recovered. So, it's just making sure that you're getting those checkups as much as possible.

Rachel Fellowes:

Your mom sounds so wise because isn't it funny that if you've got worries in your head, you always wake up at 3:00 a.m. It's always 3:00 a.m. They call that the anxiety hour, don't they? Where literally your physiological stress or the strain bubbles up, and you probably need a glass of water to wash it out, or you need to go to the toilet to let it go. 3:00 is always... It's like 2:57 or 3:01 every time, isn't it? Very wise. Very wise mom. So, just in the spirit of... Unfortunately, we're coming close to the end of our time together. So, I'm going to ask you for one guru takeaway. Is there one piece of advice that you could offer our listeners?

Daniel Scott:

Yeah. Definitely. I mean, just going back to the point of this podcast and building resiliency not only in your physical fitness but also your physiological health. Excuse me. I think with all of that, it comes mindset. And I think mindset is everything. And for me, what I've focused on as of recently, especially is making sure that my mindset going into everything is where it needs to be. So, when I think of resiliency, I think of having that warrior mindset, like I'm an ancient warrior where regardless of the task in front of me, regardless of the challenges, the peaks and the valleys, it's going to get done. The job's going to get done. I'm going to get through it. We're going to get through it. So, with all of that, it's being process-driven and not product-driven. So, instead of focusing on the outcome, instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the process, your mindset, your work ethic, how you're attacking something.

The product and the outcome should not dictate how we are showing up to work, how we are operating in a meeting, how we do our daily functions. So, making sure that your mindset's in the right place, your focus is in the right place, and knowing that stuff can only help, your mental health can only help, then your physical health, which can only help your holistic health. So, I would just say keeping that warrior mentality, that warrior mindset can take you a long way.

Rachel Fellowes:

I mean, even hearing you say warrior... and it's warrior, not worrier... warrior as in a yoga pose. I stood up taller. I breathe differently. I started to think, it was my choice to put my own physiological health first. And I love that concept of detachment. So, regardless of the outcome, it's your choice. You still stand there with full lungs, with a great posture regardless of outcome. I think that is so powerful. That's almost the stage of enlightenment with this stuff, isn't it?

Daniel Scott:

Right.

Rachel Fellowes:

That's why you're so good at it. So, thank you, Daniel, so much for your time and phenomenal insights and for being our guest in this special podcast series around resiliency and wellbeing.

Daniel Scott:

No. I really appreciate it, Rachel. And thank you. I've enjoyed all of it.

Rachel Fellowes:

Thank you so much.

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