When it comes to health I adopt an approach that gives me the best overall advantage. In short, I cover all the fundamental bases that form the foundation of good health.
However, when I tell people what I do in terms of strategies for health and fitness there is usually a look of “but what else, there must be something else?”
This is because if you break it down it doesn’t look like much.
Sleep in a dark, cool room free from distractions.
Eat a predominantly whole food diet, mostly made up of a wide variety of plants with some good quality animal products.
Use periodic fasting.
Run, row or swim, use simple weights or bodyweight routines for resistance training.
Surround myself with good people, make time for things that make me happy and try to enjoy the journey rather than chase the destination.
Essentially I try and follow what we are basically biologically programmed to do. No mention of taking this or that amino acid. No strict dieting and no complex workout routine.
And I now feel and perform better than when I was working at an elite level within UK Special Forces. At that time I was guilty of doing what many of us do, and what we are sold by the wellness industry.
A focus on individual ‘solutions’ like:
Eating this or that superfood.
Using this latest fitness regime.
Increasing your protein intake.
Etc etc etc. But, your body is not compartmental.
You cannot ever hope to reach a state of good health by only looking at individual factors. The body is far more complex than we give it credit for, which becomes obvious when we experience an issue and try to compartmentalise it.
Yani Burmeister co-owner of Unity Gym summed this up well recently:
“When we gain weight we try a diet. When our knee hurts from running we focus on knee rehab. When we feel pain in our elbow playing golf we search Youtube for tips to fix golfers elbow.
We all tend to compartmentalise our issues. We also tend to compartmentalise our training goals. The problem with this mindset is that the issue is usually deeper than we think.
Clinically, you gained weight because your energy balance (calories in versus calories out) was wrong. That’s what the textbook says … and the simple solution given is to eat less and move more.
So why aren’t we all lean and skinny?
We all know it’s not that simple. Sure, you get fat from overeating and under-exercising. But the root cause stems from problems much deeper than that. If we peel back the layers we might reveal a job that’s killing you and a habit of junk food and alcohol self medication.
The clinical diagnosis of your knee pain might be patella femoral syndrome, or pain in the front of the knee and around the kneecap, and your doctor may suggest a break from running.
But running isn’t your problem! Your knee pain stems from a deeper issue … sure you run every day because it makes you feel good and helps keep you skinny.
But, pounding the same damn pavement everyday means you haven’t switched up your routine for a long time, causing stiffness in your legs that would give a massage therapist nightmares. Now your iliotibial band (ITB) is as tight as a damn guitar string … and your daily run has become more like a guitar smashing rock concert than a run!
And no matter how your pro golf coach slices it, your golfers elbow or medial epicondylitis isn’t just a result of your unusually tight grip or unorthodox swing.
Heck you might not even play golf. In which case you probably think you’ve fried your medial epicondyles from heavy chin ups and bicep curls.
I still think you’re wrong. In my 16 years coaching people I can guarantee you that the issue is much deeper than that.
You’re overweight or injured because your life is out of balance and your daily habits and rituals don’t align with those of a healthy body. And by compartmentalising your goals, failing to see the bigger picture, specialising in one sport, diet, or the same damn routine (staying in your comfort zone) you’re most likely going to remain where you are right now.”
When it comes to health, if you want to gain the overall advantage you need to start training your whole body (and mind) the way nature intended.
The basic idea is simple. You cannot achieve good health or come close to performing at your best if you only focus on one aspect e.g. eat more protein or follow a certain exercise programme.
Every part of your body affects, to a greater or lesser degree, pretty much every other part, which means taking a big picture view is the solution. It is the only logical answer, but it is ignored by wellness companies because it cannot be packaged into one pill, potion or bottle.
When we get sick, the symptoms might be problems sleeping, a gut disorder, issues with our skin or some other complaint.
But they are not the cause, they are just signals that the body is out of balance and that something, or many things are going wrong elsewhere. To isolate and only consider one factor is like fixing a warning light coming on in your car by removing the bulb. What you really need to do is get under the bonnet and understand why the engine is no longer working as one complete system.
Where To Go From Here
We are advancing as a society at an incredible rate and yet for huge numbers of people, achieving a basic state of good health is becoming harder and harder.
Part of the problem is there is so much conflicting advice available, it becomes easy to get caught up in the details and miss the big picture.
The fitness industry is a billion dollar machine and it loves to sell us the ‘silver bullet’ that will make us fit, happy and healthy. This usually comes in the form of something that concentrates on one area, supplements being the prime example.
‘Drink this protein shake and achieve these incredible results’!
The trouble is, by trying to provide a ‘simple fix’ they actually make the situation more frustrating because they are not addressing the ‘big picture’.
The human body is a hugely complex system which has evolved over millions of years to be incredibly robust and efficient.
In a way, great health is already wired into our DNA, we just need to carry out the simple but effective actions that unlock it.
Get enough good quality sleep.
Eat more whole foods & less of the rest.
Move in a variety of ways.
Embrace the people & experiences that bring happiness.
On the face of it this is very simple, and when you are ‘there’ it’s so easy to maintain. But, it can be far from easy to get to this point for a whole host of reasons. And, of course, your starting point (level of ‘health’ right now), combined with your personality type, personal circumstances, genetics, etc. will dictate how this process will look.
But when you get a working balance in the body, each area (mindset, sleep, nutrition, movement) will positively affect the others. This creates a high performance ecosystem which takes your health to level we are all designed to thrive at.
And remember, it is all a process, you don’t need to achieve this overnight. Simply start with small actions in each area and build them up over time.
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