It’s been a while since I’ve written anything but training sessions, but since I’ve been fielding a lot of interesting questions lately, it seems like it might be about time to put some of this down before it gets away (you know us “old” folks don’t have such good memories!).
I will preface this list with a disclaimer …. this is certainly not a list of the things that I do religiously, day in, day out to keep me on track. A few I’m pretty good at .. a few I manage to be good at for short stints but wish I could do better .. at least a couple are things I know I should do but rarely if ever manage to follow through and well, there’s a couple here that, at least for the present are just out of reach. So .. in no particular order…..
1. Read a lot but realize that 9 out of 10 things folks are trying to get you to buy you already know or have in some form. There ain’t no magic pill. At the end of the day, keeping yourself well is common sense and follow through.
2. Eat real food. This one is a little tricky .. I have a large family and will readily admit that the sheer number of lunches we pack drives us to more convenience “food” than I really like to keep in the house. A few things should be painfully obvious though. “Food” does not grow in factories … fields, farms, forests, waterways, etc is where food comes from. If it comes out of a factory in a box or bag that will last in your pantry for years .. well, tread with caution. The steps taken to make that possible for the most part involve things that we’d do well to stop putting in our bodies. I should note that even in the best of conditions, it is quite challenging (if even possible) to get everything you need in terms of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids from our food supply. Nearly all of us can benefit by supplementing to fill the gaps. I’ve gone both ways on this one but have concluded that I feel much better when I am filling those gaps then when I’m not. Many options to accomplish this!
3. Hydrate. Another curious one and the requirements vary person to person. If you are active and sweat, you’re losing fluids and essential minerals and you need to put that stuff back. These folks need to be drinking BEFORE they feel thirsty. There’s been some (not very well executed) studies lately suggesting otherwise but, especially for active folks, if you wait until you are thirsty before taking fluids, you’ve waited too long and are putting yourself at risk. Can you drink too much water? Probably. Kind of a general rule of life is that too much of even great things is often not a great idea. I can think of some notable exceptions, but they have little to do with food and drink!
4. Move. We are engineered for movement. If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, movement will help you back on the path to being well. Perhaps it is painful to move. Again, if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, that pain is quite possibly self inflicted but the good news is that it is also quite possibly reversible! A starting point is to walk. Not run… walk. I’ll cover some problems with running in another post. Walking is low risk and high benefit and we’ll leave it there for now. When you start to feel able to move better, consider ratcheting up the intensity of your movement. There are more ways to do this than I could possibly list … if you need some ideas, drop me note.
5. Rest. For those of us in the phase of our lives that involves sometimes overwhelming volume of activities, time for rest is often neglected. I don’t get near as much sleep as I either should or want to — if this is you as well then at the very least be conscious of it and look for ways to improve!
6. Recover. Rest above is more geared toward hours sleeping. Recovery (and I’m speaking to the active folks…) is much more. Much info is available about what you should eat before you exercise but I have a number of issues with most of what you’ll read … 1) we start early .. really early .. so pre workout eating isn’t much of an option, 2) the literature is geared toward eating to fuel traditional workouts of an hour or more .. given that I think for just day to day wellness that just plain silly, suggestions based on it don’t really apply to high intensity, short duration workouts and 3) there is good evidence to suggest that there is benefit to working out in a fasted state. So.. how about AFTER the workout … no controversy here! To optimize recovery, you’ve got a pretty narrow window of opportunity .. about an hour .. to nourish your body in a way that will decrease soreness and get you fully recovered quicker. Get something in your system with carbs and protein (3-1 ratio is something you’ll hear often and I’ve found personally that it seems to work pretty well). Not sure what that actually looks like? Stay tuned .. tomorrow I’ll give you my 5 go to choices … or give me a shout directly.
7. Avoid the scale. The scale gives you a number. That number represents your relationship to gravity — and not a whole lot else. You’ll need the scale to do a quick body mass index (BMI), but that measure is terribly inaccurate for a lot of folks as well. How’s your energy level? Can you do things now you couldn’t do a few month ago? Are your clothes fitting better or maybe you’ve changed sizes? These are better questions to assess whether you are traveling in the right direction.
8. Take some quiet time. If you a person of faith, this is part of your practice of that faith. If not, perhaps this is some form of meditation. Just like we need to do things to recharge our bodies, we must do the same for our minds.
9. And last .. don’t compare yourself with others. Flowers in a garden don’t compete. They just bloom. In their own good time. Your journey is never the same as someone else’s. Assess your progress against where you’ve been. Goals are great, but be careful with them. A goal to lose X number of pounds might turn out to not be appropriate. I like concrete things like being able to execute a movement that eludes me. Goals are a good thing. They keep us striving but bad goals can discourage us.
These are a few of the things I like to keep top of mind. I’m better at some than others. There are several dozen more things than on another day might make this short list. But if you’re feeling less than optimal and half decided you’re not happy about that, well, this is at least a starting point. Some of this you can buckle down and attack on your own. Some of it is more easily (and enjoyably!!) accomplished in the company of a supportive community. If you need the latter and need some direction, give me a shout.