Health Hacks for 2021
As we exit the challenging year that was 2020 and look forward to a healthier, happier, more prosperous 2021; consider implementing some of the following ideas in the various ‘pillars’ of your life:
1) Create an image board. Google images of people who inspire you – athletes, business people, the Dalai Lama, some historical figure…people who have qualities you aspire to. I find 8 – 10 images that motivate me, print them out in small sizes, and tape them to a single 8 X 11 inch piece of paper. I look at this each day as part of my morning routine (see Spirit below).
2) Drink less alcohol. You might think this would be under nutrition (it could actually be under any of the pillars). Consuming less alcohol is the single best thing you can do to improve your brain cells, clarity of thought, etc.
1) Drink more water. You’ve heard it many times before; it’s true. Having more water throughout the day is the simplest, cheapest way to lose weight, improve your skin, etc. In addition to more in general, drink at least 1 glass when you wake up, and before dinner. The former will help your dehydrated body get off to a great start for the day, and the latter will lead to smaller end of day meals and less alcohol consumed.
2) Eat small portions. I know, I know, easier said than done. But when it comes to weight loss, the single biggest variable as we get older is how much food we consume (vs. how much we workout, etc. – yes you need both but you can’t ‘out workout’ a terrible food plan). The point here is that instead of depriving yourself of things you like, just eat a little less of it. Drink water before a meal, eat slower, cut off a slice/portion and give to someone around you, etc. There are many tricks to allow you to have your cake and eat it too (albeit a smaller amount).
1) Do circuit training. The time we have to dedicate to weight training is limited, but very important for total health as we get older. So, use your time wisely. You do not need to hammer out lots of weight and sit around for 5 minutes between sets. Maybe if you are looking to become an Olympic weightlifter, but not if your goal is to add a few lbs. of muscle, get lean, etc. If you are lifting for 45 mins, for example, you should literally be moving about 40 of the 45 minutes. I probably lift more weight in a single 1 hour session than most people do in a week’s worth of workouts because I keep moving from 1 exercise to the next. Pick 2 or 3 body parts and do an exercise for each but go back to back to back. So it might be 10 reps of military press (shoulders) followed by 10 reps of lat pull downs (back) followed by 1 minute of ab exercises. This latter exercise gives your muscles the rest they need to go right back into the military press. You will get double the results in half the time by lifting this way.
2) Do forced reps. Every few workouts find a training partner. Instead of stopping at 12 reps (or whatever is the number where you just about can’t do anymore), do another 3 – 5 with your partner helping you. Of course, make sure you are well warmed up (do these later in the workout) and maintain good form. These extra few reps which take less than 15 seconds will be the difference between muscle growth and atrophy.
1) Do Interval Training. Rather than hopping on the elliptical for the yet another slow moving, 7 calorie burning 45 minute ‘workout’, spend 20 minutes doing some type of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). With a long distance (Iron Man Triathlons, Marathons, etc.) cardio background, it took me a long time before understanding the benefits of short, intense intervals. Now about half my cardio is in the form of interval training. I spend less than half the time I used to doing cardio and I am faster/leaner than ever. Interval training is simple and can be done anywhere. A basic example is a 10 minute warm up followed by 30 seconds very hard of running, biking, etc. and then 30 seconds easy (as in walking or spinning slowly). It is important that the ‘rest’ period is as easy as the interval period is hard. Build up the number of reps over time, but it does not take much to get some serious benefits. I typically do a 1 ½ mile run warm up followed by 10 very hard hill intervals ending with a few minute walk cool down. The whole thing is done in under 30 minutes, but boy is it effective.
2) Pick 2 – 3 songs on your music device and run as hard/far as you can until the songs end. I noticed a few years ago that when I played 2 songs by Big Audio Dynamite (google E=MC2 it will take you back to the 80s) that I would just about reach the turnaround point of my run when I was going hard. This became the basis for my hard run days. Now, when I want to challenge myself, I put on these 2 songs and run as fast as I can and see how far past my turnaround point, I can run until the 2nd song fades. I set a new personal best last week – and I started this nearly 10 years ago (meaning I’m only getting faster).
1) Start a morning routine. I have written about this previously so you can click the link below for more info. How you start your day can have a big impact on your state of mind and productivity. (see article: The Morning Routine)
2) Read one of myriad books within the realm of spirituality. See link below on my annual reading list for some ideas. You need to feed your mind – and soul - with good information in the same way you feed your body superior nutrition. Spend a few minutes each day (I read before I go to bed) getting some perspective on this important aspect of total health. (See List: TDW Mind Food)