Practical Wellness Strategies From a Former Federal Agent

Terry Clark Performance Expert
Terry Clark Performance Expert

by Terry Clark, Performance Optimization Expert

As a former federal agent of ATF (Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco Firearms and Explosives) optimization is our lifeline. Some may have received the class on Wellness at FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers) as a brief discussion during Criminal Investigative School as I did back in 1989. There was a short reference to a frog in a pot of water on a hot plate. Some old (seemingly to us) agent stood up there and said that the job could cook you like that frog so that you are being boiled but not jump out as the change is incremental. The heat and pressure build up over time. Many of us listened with no compassion, empathy, or vision of our own destiny. After all, we were young, vibrant, and strong; how could he be warning us? 

Flash forward about fifteen or twenty years. Compare waistlines, sleep quality, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. Did the work of ATF, whether the actual investigations, inspections, analyses, forensics, auditing, and vital support jobs, wear you down? How about the politics (small “p”), management and supervision disagreements, short-term travel, or multiple moves? 

Most of my peers are now retired from ATF in their 50s or 60s, with a few in their 70s. It’s hard to name many that haven’t had surgical work done on their joints. Or to talk to one that isn’t on blood pressure medication, statins, metformin or insulin, or hormone replacement therapy. Not that there should be any stigma for receiving medical treatments for ailments. These are just indicators of humans in the fight against aging and premature death.

In the table above, you can see the latest CDC table for the top 10 causes of death for 2018/2019. The fact is that most of those can be prevented or delayed by the lifestyle choices we make every day. The chart for 2020/2021 will have a higher rating of COVID-related respiratory disease. The most significant point is that the leading comorbidities for COVID deaths are nearly identical with causes of early death. We not only need to look at our lifestyle choices in regular times but even more so in these pandemic conditions.

Lifespan, as we all know, is the length of time your life spans. That endpoint of your life is primarily determined by how long you can put off atherosclerotic disease (Coronary Heart Disease), stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident), cancer, and neurodegenerative disease. Delay those, and you live longer. 

Healthspan is about preserving three elements of life as long as you can: 

  1. Brain—namely, how long can you preserve cognition (i.e., executive function, processing speed, short-term memory)
  2. Body—specifically, how long can you maintain muscle mass, functional movement and strength, flexibility, and freedom from pain
  3. “Spirit”—how robust is your social support network and your sense of purpose.

The more significant objective isn’t to only extend the time you are alive; but to also ensure you have a more outstanding quality of life, or WellSpan, in your healthspan.

Who wants to be immobile, in pain, and demented but live to 120 years? Not me. Scientists predict the first person who will live to 120 is currently alive today. By optimizing our lifestyle choices, we can extend the time we can enjoy an excellent quality of life, spend time with those we love, and have a more significant impact on the world. 

There are several categories of lifestyle choices we can look to optimize our wellness. 


Effective rest rejuvenates the brain nightly and sets you up for peak performance. 

• Have a wind-down routine; avoid alcohol and caffeine too close to bedtime

• Ensure your bedroom is dark, cold, and quiet, with no clock faces or electronic screens; 

• Get 8.5 hours of quality sleep per night;

• Wake within an hour of the same time daily; and 

• Avoid checking your phone first thing upon waking.


Stimulates Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), an inducer of synaptic connections. Aim for sixty to ninety minutes a day.

Multi-modal aspects are best:

• Stability work (foundational, i.e., Pilates)

• Strength

• Aerobic (Zone 2), 

• High-Intensity Interval Training (Zone 5)


• Selecting a diet consistent with your genome (to be expanded on in another article) is critical;

• Match calories with body composition targets through intermittent fasting/time-restricted eating;

• Reduce/eliminate processed, baked goods, and fried foods typical of the Standard American Diet;

• Look for foods sources with Carnosine, Omega-3 fatty acids, Curcumin, Flavonoids, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Choline, Vitamin C, Astaxanthin, Selenium, Copper, Iron (young women); and

• Limit saturated fat to less than ten percent  


A daily practice of breath entrainment 

Methods can be as simple as box breathing, observational breathing, pranayama breathing, or Wm Hof. All systems have value. Find the one that is suitable for you.


• Transcendental meditation

• Mantra meditation

• Movement meditation

• Focused meditation

• Spiritual meditation/prayer

• Mindfulness meditation

There are many mindfulness options available; individuals need to choose the one that works best for them.


Blood tests can confirm individual deficits of nutrients required to support brain function, including Carnosine/Beta-Alanine, Choline, Tryptophan, Tyrosine, Glucose, Vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12, C, E, Folic Acid, Pantothenic Acid, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, and Vitamin D3. 

These steps are a first start. In the interim, do your best to dial in your sleep. It is foundational to all other aspects of your wellness. To dial in a performance plan specific for you, let’s set up a discovery call.

Be well.


Why Employers Should Invest in Brain Training

Law enforcement officers are called on to make split-second decisions that can have life or death consequences. Researchers posited that faster and more accurate decisions under tighter control could affect these outcomes.

Independent researchers randomized officers into an intervention group (assigned training in visual speed, accuracy, and inhibition control exercises) and a control group (assigned training in visual memory and spatial relations exercises). The officers were asked to train for 10-15 minutes per day for four weeks.

The officers went through a pre-training ‘shoot/don’t shoot’ assessment on a shooting range with live ammunition. Each officer was told to shoot at a target of a man holding a gun and to withhold fire from a target of the same man holding a cell phone. Targets popped up and down across the range at a speed of less than a second per target. Initially, there was no difference between the two groups.

After the training, the researchers found the intervention group was significantly better (29%) than the control group in overall accuracy. More, importantly, they found the most common error in a live fire situation was not withholding firing. Looking at that error, the researchers found the intervention group had a 60% decrease in shooting the unarmed target.

The Zone of Optimal Functioning & Flow

Reach peak performance — the zone of optimal functioning and flow. There are science-based methods that have been developed to help manage the physical and mental stresses placed on executives, law enforcement, and first responders. And these methodologies can be adapted to help manage the physical and mental stresses that are placed upon you by these professions. Experience…

  • Better Cognitive Function
  • Enhanced Decision Making
  • Greater Emotional Control and Management
  • Improved Reaction Times
  • Optimized Physical Performance
  • Better Response to Crisis
  • Improved Response to Stress
  • Better Overall Resilience

Terry Clark is a high energy professional with extensive experience in Federal law enforcement and intelligence.

Terry’s route to epigenetic performance & lifestyle coaching emerged from a lifetime of reaching for his own biological optimization. As a lifelong athlete he was tickled to refer to himself as a “professional athlete” because, as a Federal Agent for 24 years, he got 4 hours per week to work out. An insatiable curiosity and a passion for the hard sciences built a basis of knowledge that is very valuable in identifying patterns and trends and the significant anomaly in client’s challenges in achieving their own best life.

While his talents for investigation and analysis were critical to success as a Federal agent, the study and practice of Gestalt as learned in Organization and Systems Theory became increasingly important as did the advanced interviewing body of knowledge in understanding the human way of relating to ourselves and others.

Terry understands first hand how a stressful and taxing career can challenge your body and mind’s ability to perform at its highest level. Identifying the links between a client’s current lifestyle and impediments to optimization is just a first step in the epigenetic coaching model.