When it comes to health and fitness, most of us don’t want change to be thrust upon us. But for some that’s the only way they will change. The important thing is not whether or not to change, but what to change. Below are 7 little changes that will have the greatest effect.
- Drink Water
- Eat Slowly
- Move More
- Sleep Well
- Take Time Out
- Find Your Balance
At the end of the day we are just a hairy bag of water as someone once said. So fluid loss of 2% of body weight will reduce circulatory functions and lower performance levels. With thirst alone being a poor indicator of how much water is needed.
Sedentary men should consume 3L (13 cups) and women and 2.2L (9 cups) of water per day. Those after fat loss should drink another 8 ounce glass of water for every 25 pounds they carry above their ideal weight. Water should be increased if you are exercising briskly or in a hot climate.
Benefits of adequate water include improves endocrine function, reduced fluid retention and better liver function, In addition your natural thirst returns, greater metabolic function, improved nutrient distribution to the body, body-temperature regulation and blood volume are normalized .
So drink 1/2 – 1 Ltr 2 hours before exercise. Drink 6 to 12 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. Fluids should be cold because of more rapid gastric emptying.
If training over 1 hour use a sports drink (containing up to 8% carbohydrate), for less than an hour, water is experts’ choice.
2. Eat Slowly
This is a part of mindful eating, a subject that has been getting a lot of press of late and not without good reason. I want to go a little deeper with you in how it works.
First of all, by slowing down our eating we allow the body to register how much we have eaten. This allows the brain to tell the stomach we are getting fuller. It takes around 15 to 20 minutes for this to happen.
Secondly, it enables us to better digest our food so we get more of the vitamins and minerals from it.
Last but not least is a reconnection with the eating experience. Eating would have normally happen in times of low stress, after a hunt maybe. Gathered around with family and friends relaxing and enjoying the flavours of what was in front of us. When you do this food often takes on new flavour and meaning.
3. Move More
NEAT (non exercise activity training) accounts for a large number of or daily caloric output, it’s reckoned that people with a healthy body composition tend to do 10,000 steps a day or more.
Try a simple pedometer to see if your getting your feet moving enough. A lot of my clients use fitbit watches which they can pair up with other apps like myfitnesspal to monitor their intake and output.
Sounds obvious really doesn’t it? But we tend to do it badly! We breathe through our ribs, when we should breathe through our stomach. Let me explain.
Our main breathing muscle is the diaphragm, it’s a bit like a dome; it lies between our lungs and our gut as we breathe in it tightens and flattens pulling air into the lungs. At least that’s what’s meant to happen, except with most of us if you’re asked to take a deep breath the first thing we do is expand the rib cage. While this still pulls in air it also increases stress levels in the body, something we all get plenty of with help.If you’re stressed try taking just 10 deep breaths using your diaphragm rather than your ribs. Breathe in and out though the nose drawing the breath down so your stomach expands.
5. Sleep Well
Let’s look at quantity first, 8 hours is the normal recommended figure, but if you’re getting 7 hours you are probably doing ok. The exact figure is different for all of us but you don’t want to go much below 7. Some of the things that will make you need more are stress and physical activity. While older age requires less.
So now let’s look at time. Our body works on its own internal clock whether we like it or not so at certain times of day or night it tries to do certain things.
10:00ish to 4ish is body repair time
4ish to 6ish is mind repair time
If you are a constant early riser your mind may not be functioning quite as well as it could be, if you’re a shift worker on nights the lack of recovery can create enormous stress.
Last up on the subject of sleep is environment. Our brain receives melatonin at night to help us rest and recover better. Melatonin is affected by light (even little ones on the bedroom TV or plug socket). Try to blackout your room as much as possible, you may want to try a sleep mask, I don’t like them personally I find them restrictive.
6. Take Time Out
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We all need time out now and again. With this in mind the way you should look at it is recovery from work done and preparation for work to do. Taking your mind off a stressful matter can often give you a new perspective on it, daft as it sounds a lot of great ideas and solutions where thought up when they weren’t the focus of attention, because you’re relaxed.
So, time off training can also be a good thing if not overdone. Our bodies like our minds progress during recovery. With the mind it sorts and analyses the approach we took to a task and tries to come up with alternative better solutions even if the task is complete. With the body it’s about repairing the damage exercise or injury has done.
Try to plan into your day a 5 minute window you can just sit and contemplate. Morning is work well for early birds, while I prefer just before bed. You may find you want to expand the time after a while.
7 Find Balance
This isn’t about standing up straight when you’re drunk. It has more to do with the balance of your inner self. We all have areas of our life that need a level of fulfilment. These being:
Comfort – Challenge – Significance – Belonging
Comfort is security but it can also be stagnation, while challenge is excitement but also risk. Significance is standing out from the crowd but standing alone can be lonely, on the other hand belonging is being part of the crowd but you can feel unimportant. So finding the right balance will enable you to do all four to operate at a higher level. E.g.
Done badly –
You stay late at work every day avoiding your family, belonging suffers. You become overworked and ineffective at your job, risking your job as well as family, security also suffers. Your efforts aren’t noted by anyone, only your lack of results, significance takes the hit. You now no longer enjoy your work, giving challenge a massive kick where it hurts.
Done well –
Fully rested you improve your productivity at work you fulfil the Challenge part of your balance possibly resulting in promotion. This in turn increases income, your security goes up and significance at both home and work. You use some of the extra funds to treat your family, belonging benefits and it’s all good.
1 NASM Study Guide – National Academy of Sports Medicine
2 Precision Nutrition – Helen Kollias
3 FitBit – Lara Rosenbaum
4 PubMed – The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults
5 NHS – Why lack of sleep is bad for your health
6 The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod
7 Become a life coach – Jeffrey T Sooey
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