Within the past couple of weeks, I reached out to a few of my dear friends and readers just to reconnect and see how things are in their world.
There were many subjects discussed, and a frequent topic of correspondence was fitness, namely, what we’re all doing or not doing about our own. Since I’ve learned that so many of you are interested in the subject, I figured I’d take the answers I gave to different people’s questions and combine them into an easy list to share.
Here it is. 🙂
1. You can do it.
You don’t need anyone’s permission or support. The only thing stopping you is yourself. You can decide right this very instant to make a positive change in your life, for yourself, and no one else. You don’t need a partner, or a trainer — if you see someone in a shape you’d like to be, ask them for pointers. (This applies to more than just diet and exercise.)
My journey into fitness started ten years ago. I was in a band with a guy who was in great physical shape, and I asked him if he would teach me how to exercise properly. He was happy to do so. Simple as that. It’s only hard in your mind (see #9), and it gets easier over time, through consistency.
2. Consistency is the key to success.
There has to be some sort of physical activity every single day. It doesn’t always have to be cardio, or heavy lifting, but the body requires movement on a daily basis. The body wants to exert itself. Your body wants to exercise. You don’t. You have to honor your body’s request every 24 hours somehow.
How do I get my physical activity in? I do these exercises 25 minutes each: kettlebell workout and jump rope at home (Sundays and Wednesdays); jump rope at home and shoulder exercises at the gym (Mondays and Fridays); jump rope at home then train for 90 minutes at Ambrose Academy (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays).
3. Sleep has to be the top priority.
So much growth and recovery happens during sleep. And different ages require different amounts — i.e. a 3-month-old baby needs at least 12 hours a day, whereas a 35-year-old requires 7-8 hours at a minimum. By neglecting your sleep, you are impairing your ability to function in many ways beyond simply being “a little tired” — decision-making, emotional balance, qualitative results, interpersonal communication, and more are all impacted by lack of sleep.
I used to believe sleeping fewer hours and working longer hours was a badge of honor. I now know it’s a badge of ignorance. Sleep was the first commitment I made to myself: get seven hours of sleep minimum per night, no matter what. I also do my best to adhere to my circadian rhythm — I dim and turn off lights in the house once the sun goes down, stop looking at screens by 11:00pm, sleep in darkness, and wake at 7:00am daily. I feel refreshed and focused at the beginning of every day, and adhering to a consistent sleep schedule has radically changed my energy levels, along with the benefits of making better decisions, being more emotionally balanced, getting great results, and nurturing more relationships.
4. Diet is more important than exercise.
Consuming nothing but water for an hour after waking up; a 2:00pm caffeine curfew; staying away from sugar and grains as best as possible; eating organic, free-range, cage-free, grass-fed and -finished meats and dairy products; consuming fresh, organic vegetables and fruits; supplementing with important vitamins, oils, herbs, roots, and minerals; …these are my new ways of eating.
Input dictates output, and what we consume directly informs what we see in the mirror, far beyond anything exercise can accomplish alone. If you keep eating the same food as you begin your journey toward achieving your fitness goals, you’ll become frustrated when you see minimal results even though you exercise consistently. In fact, you may even appear to have gained weight, because in addition to the inflammation already in your body from eating inflammation-causing foods, you’re causing inflammation through exercise. What you eat, and when you eat it (see #6), is much more critical than how much you can bench press or squat, or how many calories you burn on the treadmill. Garbage in, garbage out.
5. Sugar is the enemy.
The first piece of trash most Americans need to take out? SUGAR. Fat is not the problem. Sugar is. It’s terrible for you, and it’s incredibly addictive — the same spots in the brain light up in sugar eaters as do cocaine users. And when sugar is combined with saturated fats, it wreaks havoc on the whole body, causing all sorts of fallout from cortisol-cycle deregulation to insulin production issues, storing excess fat, diseases, sleep problems, emotional imbalance, etc.
My guideline is no more than 25 grams of sugar in a day, if I even have sugar. Most days, I don’t. It’s tough, because I love sweets, and sugar is in a lot of things you wouldn’t expect. But bottom line, sugar screws with your mind and makes you fat. Eat healthy fats, stay away from sugar.
6. Intermittent fasting promotes quicker results.
If you want to get faster results, fast. Too many people think that “fasting” means “anorexia,” or “hunger strike.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying go for days with nothing but water, though that is a good thing to do perhaps once a year to hit the body’s reset button, according to studies I’ve read. I’m talking about intermittent fasting: By shortening the time period within which you eat each day — that is, anywhere from a 9- to 12-hour window — you can kick your metabolism into high gear.
I get up at 7:00 each day and do my morning thing, then at 8:00 I sit down with my cup of coffee to work. If I eat breakfast, it’s at 10:30, and my dinner will be at 8:30, giving me a 10-hour window; if I’m not going to eat breakfast, I blend my coffee with a tablespoon each of butter, MCT oil, and grass-fed beef collagen protein powder, which gives me fuel and energy for 6-8 hours, and tricks the body into thinking I still haven’t eaten. I’ll have lunch somewhere around 2-3:30, and I don’t eat past 10:00pm, which gives me a 6 1/2- to 8-hour window, like hitting a turbo boost.
7. A jump rope is the best piece of fitness equipment.
“I’ve never seen a boxer who didn’t jump rope,” my mom once told me. I bought a jump rope the next day.
A jump rope works your upper body, lower body, and core, and strengthens your skeletal and muscular system. It’s an aerobic exercise, so you’re getting cardio, and it increases your hand/eye/foot/ear coordination. It’s lightweight, portable, and can fit in most purses or shaving kits, so you can take it anywhere (my last one went to Europe with me on tour). It’s safe, doesn’t break easily, and is simple to use, no instructions necessary. And it works, regardless of gender.
You don’t need a gym membership to start working out, or buy an expensive piece of equipment or a few dumbbells, or get a pricey Blu-Ray set, or hire a personal trainer. At first, just buy a jump rope. It’s the best. One final thought: Most runners run heel-toe, because running shoes are designed to absorb shock in the heel. That’s because we’re not meant to run on our heels, but on our toes. I’ve found that by jumping rope, I’m getting the cardio benefits of running without the knee pain, and I’m jumping on the pads of my feet, which is strengthening my knees (or so I think).
8. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s pure entertainment.
Speaking of “or so I think,” that’s the real question — what is actually going to work for you? It depends. I’m not a doctor by any means, but I have intimate experience with my body (gross). Through trial and error and research and study, I’ve found what works and doesn’t work for me. This list is based on my personal experience.
You have to do the same for yourself. Don’t jump on every exercise or health food fad that comes around, but do look into what makes most sense to you and try it out. Does the Atkins diet work? Should you become a pescatarian? Should you do the butter coffee as I do? Perhaps. I don’t know. Take what you know, apply it to what you don’t know, and figure it out. It’s about whatever works for you, because as Sijo says, if it doesn’t work for you, it’s pure entertainment.
9. It’s a mental game.
The folks who achieve their fitness goals do so by getting their minds right first. This isn’t just about positive self-talk — which is important, too — it’s about everything I’ve already listed above.
Knowing you can do it hits the brain’s delete button on the old program; being consistent reprograms the brain’s subconscious to run the new software you’re installing; getting a good night’s sleep improves the brain’s cognitive function; consuming the right foods promotes a healthy brain; staying away from sugar vastly reduces brain inflammation; fasting causes the brain to adapt and become more efficient; exercise improves memory and thinking skills.
And finally, if something isn’t working for you — a relationship, a job, a particular situation — it usually results in a certain amount of anxiety, however great or small, which can damage the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory.
Get the mental game right, and you’re halfway there before you lift a single weight. Find out what doesn’t work for you — don’t let the tooth rot; extract it.
10. The benefits exceed physical health.
Beyond keeping your body healthy, it helps your sleep, sharpens your mind, and improves your sex life. Case closed.
That’s what works for me. What works for you??
P.S. Good news! Spotify finally got me my own Artist Page! 😀 You can follow me on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7Lx9QDuqrvKCyr1jr1Q324
P.P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the books Fitness Confidential and The Bulletproof Diet, as they are two major influences on my views above.
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