Having spent some time in the UK of late I am struck on a daily basis of the general poor health that exists in the community at large. So much so that the other day I came home excitedly to tell Sue that I had just seen a fit and healthy person in the street.... in fact I stared at this woman like I was some kind of weirdo.
That's how rare it is and I am not exaggerating; obesity and poor health are off the charts, it is truly an epidemic. However be that as it may today's blog is not about that, I won't criticise or judge as I have given enough advice over the years of what to do to improve your health... if you don't get it by now then sadly, you probably never will.
No, today I am looking to the positive and to those who have decided to improve their health, fitness and overall lifestyle. What is it that you need to do to get the best results within an effective and doable timescale.
There is an old saying that to look like an athlete you have to eat, sleep and train like one but what does this mean and how can a normal person with a job, family or other commitments achieve this.
Is it possible?
Well the answer is obvious to those that have done it. They have achieved their goal not with some special talent or ability but with simple, effective habits that they practice everyday.
Some people seem to think that you need to have a Spartan existence with no fun or perks but of course this is not the case as most maintain a normal life, they go out for dinner, they work, they raise a family... they even drink... shock, horror!
Every person is unique with their own strengths and weaknesses, they may be a good runner, swimmer, footballer, tennis player or golfer, maybe they practice yoga or even Brazilian jujitsu! Or, they may carry some debilitating injury or are overweight to begin with or just not used to or even hate exercise. Maybe they feel they are too old too change or they have no spare time or their lives are full of stress.None of this matters as the rules to improve your health are the same for everyone, so let's begin.
EAT..... TO LOSE WEIGHT, CUT FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE.
Everyone I know who eats like this looks great. Here are the basics that you need to stick too:-
2 Protein, salad and/or vegetables, seeds, nuts etc with every meal. (Including breakfast).
3 At least 2.5 litres of water a day. (No Sodas and preferably no alcohol to begin with)
4 No bread, potatoes, pasta or rice for the first 2 weeks (and then only 2-3 times per week.)
5 No cereals or health bars... its all sugar.
6 Very little dairy which is a product of the mammary gland of mammals. (Basically, it refers to milk and anything made from milk, like cheese, butter and yogurt).
7 No extra sugar.. (this does not just mean the sugar in your coffee, it means the sugar in all processed foods. If it comes in a packet, a box or a tin then its full of sugar whatever the label says. If the food you eat doesn't rot when left out, then its crap.
8 A small amount of fruit is okay but fruit is sugar too so be careful... and stop drinking orange juice,its got nearly the same amount of sugar as a coke.
9 NO pastries,cakes, waffles, donuts, pizzas, fries, pancakes, syrup, pies .... obviously!
10 Eat a lot of good healthy food, don't diet... all my clients will tell you that I insist that they have at least three good meals a day.
SLEEP...... TO REJUVINATE AND REPAIR.
This also includes rest in general both for the mind and body. If you train a lot then recovery is essential and 6-8 hours sleep a night is critical or more specifically REM sleep.A sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and during that time we move through five stages of sleep. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the fifth stage is when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs which is the deepest and the last stage of sleep with vivid dreams and high brain activity, you will hope to get about 4 to 5 REM sleeps a night.
But what is actually going on? Basically our bodies all require long periods of DEEP sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. REM sleep repairs the mind and consolidates the information you have learnt during the day helping your memory. To do this it forms neural connections and replenishes it’s supply of neurotransmitters which also emit the feel good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin that boost your mood during the day,
I also believe in a third benefit which concerns the subconscious during sleep. I like to think of this as a place where the body, spirit and mind combine to process decisions and problems that exist in our lives. The answers may reveal themselves to the conscious mind via what we would term intuition or a 'feeling' of what the right path is, these problems and challenges have been 'worked out' during sleep.
Some of these benefits can be achieved through resting, such as a power nap of 20 minutes or merely lying in the sun or on your favourite sofa. There are great benefits to sometimes just switching off from the world. I always take a complete rest from training as at least 3 days a week i.e. every other day. Obviously if you are in some form of athletic event then this situation may have to be altered accordingly but I have always found that the best successes have always come after a period of sustained rest. Its quite hard to make athletes rest but its importance is vital if you wish to achieve your goals.
TRAIN.......TO ENERGISE AND ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS.
Most people who don't exercise think that people who do are a bit obsessed. This is partially true but as I have said many times before; Is it better to be obsessed about keeping fit and healthy or is it better to be obsessed about getting drunk, smoking or partying till dawn? Its your choice, you decide.
I prefer to use the term training rather than exercising, this is because training always feels more purposeful and goal orientated whereas exercise to me is walking the dog. Exercise is a physical activity done for its own sake. Training is a physical activity performed for the purpose of satisfying a long-term performance goal, and is therefore about the process instead of the workouts themselves.
Not that it matters in real terms because doing squats, push ups, running, swimming or even playing golf is all exercise (well probably not playing golf especially if you use a buggy).
So how do athletes train, what is the common denominator ? Well the answer is easy, they all do it with great intensity, simple as that and this is precisely what you must do if you want to succeed in an event , improve your body shape, gain muscle or lose fat.
I find that many people do not do this, they are on the phone in the gym, they do not push themselves enough and go all out. They cycle, swim or run at a leisurely pace. They lift very light weights or they chat whilst doing sprints!... something I find inconceivable but I have seen it. If you are not going at it with full power or intensity then the benefits are limited. Anyone who has ever trained with me will tell you that we go all out. It just doesn't have the benefits if you don't and remember it doesn't have to take long. Many of my workouts will last only 30 minutes which with a rest day is only 30 minutes training over 2 days, that's just over 1% of my time ...and people say they don't have time to exercise!!
Two examples of this was when I was fortunate to attend a Manchester United training session. You would have thought it was a Cup final, tackles flying in, precise passing, speed, aggression and exhausted players at the end of it. The second example was when training an experienced athlete. After one session he was literally collapsing on the track, unable to move, the blood had drained from his face and he was unable to speak... and it was only one of four training sessions that week. His goal was to get below 7% body fat... and after several weeks of training and strict nutrition he did.
The point is he was already super fit but to achieve his goal it was just as hard for him as it is for someone who is overweight and wants to make a positive change.... it takes effort and full commitment.
You have to have a set goal in mind and write it down, be it weight, losing inches off your waist, hips or arms, building muscle or even a charity run. This is where personal trainers are of benefit because they can specifically design a program to help you target and achieve your goals and they make sure you train with intensity .... and that you do it consistently.
The time to take action is now ...... Buckle up!