Health Hacks 4/26/2017
Two weeks ago I broke my own rules about warming up properly to avoid injury. I was running late, I didn’t want to make my training partner wait, it was early morning and we were starting off with squats. Translation: it was a disaster waiting to happen. I had not sustained an injury (to the point of keeping me from working out) in years. I realized my mistake instantly, but too late. As Bruce Lee says, it is not enough to know, we must act.
I would encourage you to re-read my writings on Injury Prevention here http://bit.ly/2lW0n0D. If you are injured, you are often limited (although not as much as people think – injuries are often used as an excuse for not working out at all even if there are many things you can do. I pedaled a bike with one leg the day after I broke my ankle, and there was nothing keeping me from doing upper body exercises. I even crutched around town which was an amazing workout. It all starts with the mind…) to the activities you can undertake, which can set you back on your path towards fitness. Thus preventing injuries is key to being consistent and making progress in your workout routine.
Last week we discussed the powerful tool of visualization; this week I’d like to suggest meditation as a useful means to improve your mental health. The two are often confused, and there are several definitions of/ways to practice meditation. In general when you visualize you are picturing very clearly a future outcome you want to occur, whereas when you meditate your goal is to be completely in the present (hence the focus on breath) and to empty your mind of thought (often by being aware of your thoughts which in itself brings you to the present…very meta). There are many great resources on meditation, as with most things in life, taking the first small step is the key.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Many people skip breakfast, or at best consume some sugar laden meal with little nutritional value. How you start your day sets the tone (about a year ago I started making my bed every morning, something I hadn’t done in…ever, and it is amazing how this one simple, 45 second task, helps start the day with some positive accomplishment, sense of order, and positive physical/emotional feng shui) for the ensuing 12 – 16 hours. So eat something healthy shortly after waking. I start each day with a nonfat, plain Greek yogurt topped with my favorite protein and/or superfood powder to give it flavor and texture. Other healthy breakfast options include green juices, steel cut oats, fruits (in particular dark fruits) and shredded wheat cereal. Just avoid processed foods and those containing a lot of added sugar.
Negatives are a great way to tax your muscles very efficiently. If you are doing lat pull downs for example, rather than just letting the bar back up (always controlled – I see people let the bar whip back up which is a ‘great’ way to get injured), do so slowly, counting to 5 (so from the time the bar touches your upper chest count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…as you slowly let the bar go back to the up position). Keep very strict technique. Contract your muscles hard as you slowly let the weight back up. As with drop sets (discussed last week), make sure you are well warmed up before incorporate negatives into your workout. You will find you can’t lift as much weight when you are doing negatives, and you don’t need as much weight to get the same effects. When you do negatives correctly, your muscles will fatigue very quickly, so this is a great tool to use when you want to get in a solid weight workout quickly – or you just want to bring your workouts to a higher level.
Has this ever happened to you? Several times a week you perform cardio for 30 minutes or more – a run on the treadmill, an elliptical session, some time on the bike. You are proud of yourself, you even break into a sweat and burn a few calories. Then you get wrangled into playing basketball, or your 12 year old challenges you to a game of soccer. After 3 minutes you are sucking wind. Steady state cardio has its place, but sprinkle in – liberally – interval training into the mix. I know I’m harping on this, but it is an incredibly effective, efficient way to burn calories, get your heart pumping, build/maintain muscle, etc. There are countless ways to get in interval type training – just pick one and do it (run sprints, bike intervals, jump rope intervals, bag work, burpees, swim sprints, etc.).
Do something nice for someone, preferably someone you don’t really know. As the saying goes, giving is living, and to give of yourself to another – without expectation – is a truly spiritual act. It can be planned or spontaneous, but you need a level of awareness, consciousness, intention. This one doesn’t require any further explanation.