There is almost nothing I enjoy more than meeting inspiring people who are putting in the time and the effort today to make their dreams a reality tomorrow. As the great Dr. Jordan Peterson discusses in his book: 12 Rules for Life, an Antidote to Chaos, the ability to barter with the future is one of the most distinct things separating humans from animals.
We are the only creature that can work in the present moment for reward in the future. This ability to sacrifice in the present is what allows us to provide for our families, make more money, grow as people, and become more and more influential members of society.
I am a fan and a proponent of hard work, if for no other purpose than to test our own limits, but with that said, there are definitely pitfalls to this mentality. With 40 hour workweeks being considered the minimum for a full-time job, and many of us logging up to 60 or more per-week pursuing greater causes, there are a number of dangers to our well-being that have crept out of the woodwork.
From sitting too much to not getting enough sleep, eating convenient but unhealthy food, to staring at bright screens all day, our high effort lives are in many ways at odds with our biology, but what is there to do?
After all, many people think of health and fitness as things which are separate endeavors from work. Sure, we all know it’s important, but how the heck do we stay fit and healthy while simultaneously working hard enough and long enough to sustain a family, further our careers, and get ahead in life?
I am here to show you that not only is health and fitness achievable within a busy work schedule, but that it is an essential asset to performing at your best in all walks of life.
This guide is made up of 50 tips, 10 for each of 5 major categories of living a healthy life. These categories are: Sleep, Nutrition, Supplementation, Movement, and Mindset. Using the info here, you can identify where you have shortcomings that you could easily fix, and every time you do so, your efficiency will increase.
Furthermore, most of the changes here involve taking things you already do and doing them a little differently, meaning little to no further restrictions on your time.
You can get very fit, and very healthy, without ever going to a gym, and you can boost mental performance, lower stress and inflammation, and increase productivity with something as simple as a short cold shower in the morning.
The goal of this guide, more than anything, is to turn you into the optimal version of yourself without sacrificing huge chunks of time. Through a foundation of health and fitness principles woven into your routine, you will be able to think more clearly, feel more content, address problems with focus or motivation, and become more resilient in the face of adversity.
Even if you are already fit, or consider yourself healthy, there are things here that can get you to the next level, and possibly save you time as well.
In short, if you want more from your life, then this guide is for you.
Section 1: Sleep
Sleep is the first section of our guide for two reasons. First, sleep is one of the most troublesome elements in the lives of over-achievers. In our culture, we celebrate those who work hard and sleep little, and it is common to wear our lack of sleep as a badge of pride. Second, despite this cultural pride in sacrificial sleep (or lack there-of) the research data shows that sleep is one of the worst things you can compromise, and one of the best things you can optimize. Sleep could be argued to be the most important thing to do right for your health.
A few examples why this is: Sleep is the only time your body detoxifies your brain. Using a system called the glymphatic system, your brain washes itself with cerebrospinal fluid while you sleep, and this process only occurs at this time.
Furthermore, performance testing has shown that the loss of efficiency from lack of sleep almost always outweighs the work accomplished during the extra hours the previous day.
Look, sleep is important. It’s big. Don’t skimp on it, especially if you are an athlete. With that said, sometimes it is just not possible to get the sleep you need, and the occasional all-nighter is necessary to hit your deadlines.
With that in mind, the tips in this section will help you improve the quality of your sleep, help you fall asleep faster, and learn how your environment can help or hinder your sleep.
- Take a cold shower, or an alternating hot-cold shower before bed. We’ll return to cold showers later in the environment section, but cold showers and cold exposure trigger a relaxation response in our bodies, as well as increasing endorphins. Dunking your face in cold water is a remedy for panic attacks, and athletes who do a cold exposure before training maintain more stable heart rates during intense exercise. Stemming from this, many have found that a short cold shower helps incredibly for going to sleep at night. If you do not tolerate cold well, or find that the shower wakes you up more than it helps you relax, try alternating between hot and cold water instead. Turn the shower to as hot a temperature as you can bear for one minute, then switch back to cold, and vice versa for up to 10 rounds. Always end on the cold water, not the hot.
- Take an Epsom Salt Bath. In the supplements section of this guide, we’ll talk about the incredible benefits of magnesium. For now though, understand that taking an epsom salt bath is one of the best ways to relax before bed, release muscle tension, replenish electolytes, and recover from injury or exercise. This can also be a great time to do some meditation and relax.
- Journal before bed. Stray thoughts keep us up at night. We lie awake, wondering about the day coming, analyzing the day past, and worrying about the future. This tip isn’t just a throw away suggestion, a studyrecently published in the journal of experimental psychology discovered that writing before bed significantly improved participant’s ability to fall asleep quickly. More specifically, writing a to-do list about your tasks for the next day was effective. The more specific the to-do list, the faster participants fell asleep. Start writing about your plan for the next day, or at least journaling, for 5 minutes before bed.
- Get 8–9 hours of sleep, 10 if you are an athlete. I know, 8 hours is a lot of time to do anything other than work, and this is why sleep deprivation is so common. In a study performed in 2003 by the journal “Sleep,” it was discovered that those who slept 6 hours a night every night for two weeks displayed cognitive decline similar to those who did not sleep at all for two days straight. Furthermore, the 6 hours a night group was completely unaware of their cognitive decline, believed they felt good and well rested, while performing low on tests. This is one of the biggest problems with sleep deprivation: after a couple days of too little sleep, you stop noticing that your performance is declining, but it does indeed keep declining. Some people can perform fine on less sleep due to a genetic variant, but they are rare, and constitute between 1% and 3% of the population. Everyone else needs 8.5 hours or more. If you’re worried about not getting enough done, you can occasionally sacrifice your sleep, just make sure to sleep more soon to make up for it. Occasional sleep deprivation is inevitable, but don’t let it become chronic. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to major cognitive decline, contributes to cancer, altzheimer’s and diabetes, and increases inflammation.
- Sleep Consistency: Sleep at the same times every day, and avoid variance. If you get 8 hours a night, but some days you go to bed at 8, others at 10, and others at midnight, this affects your quality of sleep. Our circadian rhythm is our body’s natural sleep cycle, and everyone has a different natural rhythm. Genetics play a partial role, however, extreme circumstance can “shift” your rhythm. If you change your sleep schedule all the time, however, your rhythm never adapts and you end up with lower quality nights. Whatever your sleep schedule, aim to make it as consistent as possible, including on weekends.
- Turn off Screens Two Hours Before Bed: This subject will come up again later, but light affects our biology. In particular, light affects our circadian rhythm. In a natural environment, our eyes process sunlight, which lets us know what time of day it is. At the brightest time of the day, the sun releases lots of high frequency blue light, along with red and infrared. As the sun goes down, this blue light dissipates drastically, signaling our bodies to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy. Unfortunately, high fluorescence light bulbs emit blue light frequencies. Same with cell phone screens, televisions, and our computers. The result is that our body doesn’t get the “sleep” light signal on time, when the sun goes down. If possible, begin using low lighting and stop using screens when the sun goes down, or at least two hours before bed. If you must work late, consider investing in a pair of blue light blocking glasses, or simple sunglasses with orange lenses. These do a good job of blocking blue light. You can also install software such as f.lux on certain devices, which will darken the screen into a more amber color which is less abrasive.
- Keep your room cold and dark: We just mentioned the effect of light on sleep, now we’re going to expand on that an also mention temperature. In short, it is easier to fall asleep in a cold environment than a hot one. In fact, it is believed that evening shifts in temperature from hot to colder are more influential on circadian sleep rhythm than sunlight. In short, keep your sleep environment somewhat cool or cold, and keep it dark. Pitch black darkness is best, and you can make this happen using special window blinds and by covering or unplugging electronics with LED lights. As far as cold, most people find that a room temperature from 62 degrees fahrenheit to 65 works well.
- Inversion or Foam Rolling Before Bed: Foam rolling and inversion are two great ways to sleep soundly, while also improving mobility and oxygenation. Inversion refers to hanging upside-down using devices such as the Teeter inversion table, or Gravity boots. Inversion tables allow you to hang upside down, which helps the health of your spine, oxygenates the blood and brain, and strengthens your core. Foam rolling, on the other hand, refers to a method of releasing muscle tension and knots with devices called, you guessed it, foam rollers. Foam rolling is great for you, and is one of the best ways to release body tension that even yoga has a tough time remedying. If you don’t want to spend the money on an inversion table, or learn to use a foam roller (price is not really a factor considering you can use a simple lacrosse or golf ball for the same purpose) then simply stretching for a time before bed works well. The theme here is to release tension before bed, and many top performers such as the investor and author Tim Ferris swear by these techniques.
- Use a Sleep Supplement: It’s time for the first shameless plug of this book. We are affiliated with the supplement company Vasayo, but this isn’t just about promotion. Many people use pharmaceuticals such as Ambien to address sleep issues. However these drugs are damaging to the brain, and the “sleep” experienced is more akin to a state of unconsciousness than it is to sleep. Few of the processes that heal your body and mind during sleep occur. Alternatively, a good sleep supplement can work wonders to “correct” circadian rhythm problems and address insomnia without side effects. Vasayo’s Sleep Supplement is natural, uses liposomal delivery for increased absorption, and contains natural sleep vitamins to gently help you relax. If you’re skeptical of taking a promoted product, another great option is Dr. Kirk Parsley’s Sleep Remedy. Dr. Parsley is a former Navy Seal who made sleep research his life work after discovering that sleep deprivation is a major component in the health problems of special forces members. I have used both of these, they have similar ingredients, and my experience is that they both elicit feelings of sleepiness, as though you are ready for a good night’s rest. Vasayo Microlife Sleep and Doc Parsley’s Sleep Remedy (click to go to product pages)
- The “Siesta,” or Power Nap: This is one of my favorite daily habits, and a great way to deal with needing more sleep but not finding time. Take a mid day nap. Just napping for 20 to 60 minutes will refresh you for the rest of your day, and shows evidence to be a more natural way of sleeping. What I mean by this is that our ancient ancestors appear to have slept in “chunks” throughout the day, with a long nightly session, and occasionally daily napping. For my part, this nap left me feeling fresh right up until I went to bed at night, and for every 20 minutes of napping, I felt like I got an extra hour of sleep. As with nightly sleep, keep your nap at the same time every day. Also, if you drink coffee in the morning, this may affect your ability to nap.
Possibly the most complicated and difficult to understand problem in life: What the heck do we eat? Every year, a new food becomes trendy, and another one becomes demonized. However, there is a method to the madness, and these following tips will give you the tools and the mindset to finally eat right.
Before we get into the tips, here’s the general guide to dieting: Eat real food. Some diets work for some people and not for others. There is incredible diversity of factors that result in what people tolerate or don’t. But if there is one thing all of us have in common, it’s that we should be eating real, whole foods, and not processed crap. What constitutes a real food? Can you grow it in a garden, or is it directly from an animal. As Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, would say, if it doesn’t have a face, don’t eat it.
Preservatives and chemicals are good for nobody. You may have a long journey ahead of you to discover your personal optimal diet, but start by cutting the crap.
- Cut the Big Five: As we alluded to in our intro to this section, some foods are not worth eating no matter who you are. For most people, the 5 things you should cut from your diet right away are: 1. Grains, or at least gluten. 2. Dairy products from american cows (goat dairy is fine, and is even good for you.) 3. Processed sugar. It is the most unnatural thing in the world for us to consume this much sugar, and with no fiber (like you get from fruits.) 4. Preservatives and processed foods. I remember a quote from my swim coach in high school. An avid nutrition geek, he found a box of Hostess Zebra Cakes in one of the athlete’s bags. We knew he would not approve, and we were all watching intently. He muttered under his breath, loudly enough for all to hear “Half of these ingredients are used in construction.” Preservatives are in many foods, and they are not compatible with our biology. Avoid packaged, processed foods with strange ingredients. 5. Rancid vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are a biproduct of processing certain foods. They are junk fats that cause inflammation. To save money, companies started recycling these oils into food products for preservation. Avoid them. Don’t use generic vegetable oil for cooking. Avoid fried foods, and (for guys especially) avoid soy products. Stick with olive oil, coconut oil, and grass fed butter.
- Eat (Healthy) Fat: One of the biggest mistakes in nutrition history was the decision to call people a food. Fat is both a state of being that is unhealthy and undesirable when the word describes a human, but is an essential source of fuel when the word describes food. Look, there is a reason our bodies store body fat: to store fuel for periods of fasting or low carbohydrate consumption. Fats in our diet are also the essential building blocks for our hormones, which have a far greater effect on weight gain (or loss) than our fat consumption. Look, overconsumption of sugar is the culprit behind massive weight gain (in most cases.) Living on sugar our whole lives has caused many of us to stop burning fat, which leads to said fat getting stored on our bodies. Shifting your diet to include less sugar, especially processed sugar, and into containing more healthy fats like avocados, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, ghee, nuts, and olive oil, leads to improved hormonal profiles, weight loss, and other benefits. There are bad fats out there, but if you stick to whole foods and avoid processed foods, you should be fine.
- Skip Breakfast, AKA Intermittent Fasting: In a natural lifestyle, all animals experience periods of fasting, including humans. Fasting gives our digestive system a break, where it kills off bad gut bacteria, and our metabolism shifts to burn stored body fat. Studies on fasting have shown incredible efficacy for fighting cancer, losing fat, optimizing brain function, etc. Intermittent fasting simply means setting up your eating schedule to include a period of fasting during the day. You must go at least 12 hours without food to enter a “fasted” state. One of the easiest ways to do this is to skip breakfast, and eat your meals during a feeding window in the evening. Many people noticed increased cognitive function during a fasted state, and the most common habit of male top performers interviewed by Tim Ferris (including military admirals, big wave surfers, actors, and tech start-up billionaires,) is that they all skip breakfast.
- Long Term Fasting: Fasting offers a host of benefits, as I mentioned above. Many of these benefits are amplified by longer fasts, especially fat loss and anti-cancer benefits. Adding in at least one 24 hour fast per month, as well as 2 to 3 day fasts once per quarter, can have significant health benefits. If you have the time and patience, a week long fast is a common habit of health conscious individuals to prevent cancer, increase longevity, optimize hormones, etc. If you are looking to try longer fasts, do your research and educate yourself on the subject. The work of Dr. Jason Fung is a great place to start. Google his name, get his book, or find a podcast interview of him to learn more about fasting.
- The Ketogenic Diet: You’ve probably heard of the ketogenic diet already, as it has become very popular in recent years for it’s ability to shed fat and keep it off, correct blood sugar problems, and fight cancer. Basically, when our bodies enter a fasted state, we become more efficient at burning fat due to the absence of sugar and carbohydrates. When you burn fat, either dietary fat or body fat, a form of fuel called ketones are released. When you get really good at burning fat, your body can use ketones as fuel, and many people find that they feel sharper and more mentally aware in this state of ketone burning, known as ketosis. To reach ketosis, you must be very few carbohydrates and a high amount of fat. Ketogenic diets typically involve consuming 60% to 80% of your calories in the form of fats, with 10% to 30% protein, and less than 15% carbohydrates. You can measure whether a ketogenic diet is working by using keto-strips, or a blood ketone monitor. Like fasting, the ketogenic diet usually works best as a tool, rather than a permanent way of eating. Do the ketogenic diet for a few months at a time and then go back to a diet with more carbs. Everyone has different needs, but entering into ketosis is worth doing for almost everyone at least occasionally. It’s worth learning more detail here as well. I recommend listening to the interview of Dr. Dom D’Agastino on The Tim Ferris Show to learn more. That interview is a great intro to the ketogenic diet.
- What Gets Measured Gets Managed: Learn how to count your macros. Counting your macros simply means measuring your food intake per day and in what ratios of macronutrients. Macronutrient categories are, simply put, protein, carbs, and fats. Many elite athletes count their macros in order to make sure their nutrition is precise and compliments their training goals. However, learning to count your macros is a powerful tool for everyone. I recommend getting a basic digital food scale, and counting your macros for 1 month. When this is over, you should have a much better idea of what you eat on a daily basis, and how much of each food group. This should give you a permanently heightened awareness of what you are putting into your body.
- Eat Fermented Foods: One of the greatest influences on our health and well being is the state of our gut biome. Our gut biome is a community of bacteria which inhabit our digestive system and work cooperatively with our bodies. If you didn’t have any of these bacteria, you would die. However, due to antibiotics, chemicals, poor eating choices, and other factors of modern living, most people have problems with their gut biomes. We are still learning how to fix these problems medically, but one of the best ways to have a healthy gut biome is to eat high amounts of fermented or pickled foods. These include yogurt, kimchi, miso, saeurkraut, natto, and even just pickles. The best option is to eat home-made versions of these foods, as many grocery store brands contain preservatives which detract from the benefits of fermented foods.
- L. Reuteri Yogurt: L. Reuteri is a bacteria strain found in the upper digestive tract of humans and animals. Good levels of this bacteria are associated with lower inflammation, better gut health, and greater longevity. Interestingly, as chronic disease has been on the rise in past years, the presence of L. Reuteri in humans has been declining. Either way, L. Reuteri has been shown in studies to increase testosterone and oxytocin, lower inflammation, heal gut dysbiosis, and improve immune function. The best way to get L. Reuteri into your diet is to make yogurt from it. Right now, there is a swedish company with a patent on the best form of L. Reuteri (not sure how you can patent a bacteria, but that’s another discussion.)Fortunately, they sell tablets on amazon here. The product is called BioGaia Gastrus Chewable Tablets, in case you need to search it. From there, you mix 10 crushed tablets with a quart of half-and-half, milk, or cream, and 6 tablespoons of a prebiotic fiber like Inulin (which I recommend.) Then you keep the mixture at an even 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 36 hours using a yogurt maker or your oven. To use the oven, simply turn the heat up to 350 for about a minute or until you can feel that the heat resembles a hot desert day inside, then turn off the oven, close the door (with the yogurt inside) and repeat this process every 4 hours. This may seem crude, but with dairy products, this method works fine. You don’t have to get up at night to do it either, it’s fine to let it sit overnight. From this point forward, you can make new yogurt batches by using a few tablespoons of the last batch in a new quart of half-and-half and 6 tablespoons of inulin. Each batch will result in thicker, creamier yogurt. On a final note, while normally I recommend avoiding dairy, it is fine for this yogurt. If you’re worried about the use of dairy, you can use coconut milk, but this will definitely require a yogurt maker as coconut milk is a lot more finicky in this recipe. This is one of the most healthy probiotic foods available, and I strongly recommend it.
- Eat Beef and Eggs: Years back, cholesterol became demonized as a contributor to heart disease. Despite folks eating less and less animal products and cholesterol, and eating more and more carbohydrates and plants, heart disease has only risen. Furthermore, research has found almost no correlation between consumption of red meat and higher risk of mortality. At the end of the day, cholesterol is the building block for our hormones. If we don’t get enough good cholesterol, our body cannot produce enough hormones, including Testosterone. It’s making a recovery, but meat has been in many ways falsely demonized. Yes, you should avoid processed meats, and eating hot dogs all day is certainly not a good thing. However, a quality steak is a plentiful source of healthy fats and solid protein. Furthermore, those egg yolks you’ve been avoiding contain great cholesterol for your hormones. It’s the processed foods and excess sugar that are causing us to have heart attacks, not eggs and sirloin.
- The Elemental Diet: Gut health is extremely important. Fermented foods, probiotics, and digestive enzyme supplements have exploded in popularity to address gut health. One of the best and lesser known ways to heal your gut and kill bad bacteria is to do an elemental diet. Basically, elemental diets have you eat food in it’s most basic form for up to 3 weeks. Your protein comes in the form of pure amino acids, for example. You can do a home-made elemental diet, but for the most part you do these diets using packets or blends from a reputable brand. This is one of the most powerful methods for gut healing. In my opinion, the best resource for gut healing and optimization is the work of Dr. Michael Ruscio. He has guides to the elemental diet available on his website at http://drruscio.com/using-the-elemental-diet-to-heal-your-gut/ . This diet is a tool to be used occasionally based on need, so do some reading before trying it out.
I’m a fan in staying healthy in as natural a way as possible, and in an ideal world that would mean getting most of your nutrients from food alone. However, even the cavemen used medicinal herbs and tonics, and as far as nutrition goes, even organic food today contains less nutrients than we need. Besides, if you can keep yourself healthy, avoid cramps, and stave off illness with a magnesium pill instead of a pharmaceutical drug, that’s a win in my book.
This section offers 10 tips for using supplements to get the most out of life. Some of these focus on optimizing your nutrient intake. Others work to combat negative effects of the environment we live in, no matter how healthy a life you have lived. From supporting our energy to detoxifying heavy metals, supplements are a key ingredient in a healthy lifestyle.
- Core by Vasayo: Core by Vasayo is a multivitamin blend that uses liposomal delivery for increased nutrient absorption. Most multivitamins are made with low quality ingredients that do not absorb well, and may even be harmful. Vasayo, on the other hand, uses delivery technology that was previously patented by pharmaceutical companies to deliver nutrients directly into our cells. Core by Vasayo also covers several essential supplements not normally found in a multi-vitamin. On top of your daily vitamins, core also includes a probiotic, digestive enzymes for workout performance and gut health, Omega 3 fats in the form of fish oil, and a superfood blend. It can be found at https://keenanerikssonfitness.vasayo.com/store/product/0008523882486 . An alternative option would be Thorne multi-vitamins, particularly their AM/PM Multivitamin Elite. Thorne is a great vitamin company and their products are NFA certified for sport quality
- Nootropics: Nootropics are supplements that target increasing mental ability. Anything that improves cognitive ability can be considered a nootropic. From caffeine, to modafonil, there are a wide variety of popular nootropics available. The world of nootropics is vast, and technical. For this reason, I suggest sticking with nootropic blends by reputable companies, and following their guidelines. This way you can make sure you’re not over-doing it by using tested blends. If you want to get deeper into it, you can make your own stacks, but this requires a good bit of knowledge about brain chemistry. My favorite all-time nootropic blend is Qualia by Neurohacker collective. It’s pricy, but frankly I’ve never felt better than when I was using that supplement. My focus was increased, drive was constant, and my empathy and ability to hold deep conversations felt boosted. For less expensive options, you could try Alpha Brain by Onnit or Neuro by Vasayo. These blends have a more subtle effect, but can still easily provide you with an edge in life.
- Magnesium: For being one of the most abundant elements on earth, magnesium deficiency is incredibly common. This is in large part due to lower consumption of green vegetables as well as lower magnesium content in soil. It’s a shame too, because magnesium is incredibly important to our health, and is involved in an estimated 700 enzymatic processes in the body. Too low magnesium can be the cause of health problems that range from heart attack to psychosis. Thankfully, magnesium is cheap! I recommend supplementing with 500mg to 1000mg of magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, or magnesium threonate. It is possible to take too much magnesium, though it is rare, but it can help to get a blood test first. Have your doctor perform a magnesium RBC blood test. It must be the RBC test to be accurate. You can also order this test without a doctor for about $60 using services like Direct Labs. Another great way to get extra magnesium is through topical magnesium chloride, and/or magnesium chloride epsom salt baths.
- Mushrooms: No, for those who are wondering, I’m not talking about the psychadelic mushrooms, though studies show that they may be powerful tools for relieving deep mental problems. Thankfully, you can get tons of benefits both mentally and physically without illegal fungus. What I’m talking about are specific medicinal mushrooms, namely: Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Turkeytail, and Cordyceps. These mushrooms all have incredible effects on our bodies, from healing the immune system (Chaga), to growing new brain cells (Lion’s Mane), to relaxing our nervous system (Reish). If you want to get deep into mushroom culture, listen to the interview of Paul Stamets on The Joe Rogan Podcast, and try his Host Defense product or try products by the company Four Sigmatic. Even Onnit academy has a mushroom based athletic supplement called Shroomtech.
- Restore by Biomic Sciences (Redox Molecules): There is an area of biology that has been overlooked in medicine: Redox molecules. Redox molecules are use in cellular communication (body cells not cell phones.) Well, there are a couple products on the market that have been making breakthroughs in helping people heal their gut biome, improve the function of their mitochondria, and heal from stubborn chronic disease, by restoring cell communication. There is a lot of science to unpack, so if you’re interested, listen to an interview of Dr. Zach Bush on The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, or elsewhere. Long story short, his product, Restore, heals the gut biome and also heals communication between the cells in our bodies. You may not notice a change right away. Alternatively many of you will notice changes instantly. Either way, I recommend doing at least a month of Restore, and if you’re feeling like it, up to two years. Things that heal the body at the cell-level, or heal the gut biome, cannot be over-emphasized. Restore is available at https://shop.restore4life.com/ or on Amazon (search restore by biomic sciences.)
- Molecular Hydrogen & Lowering Inflammation: You’ve probably heard about antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent inflammation in the body by eliminating free radicals, which are the molecules that cause inflammation by damaging structures within our cells. Well, hydrogen gas is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world, but what is most interesting is that it appears to leave certain “healthy” free radicals alone, making it even better than other popular antioxidants like vitamin c. For example, when you do a workout, free radicals are released. Some of these free radicals act as “signals” for your body to repair itself and become stronger. If you take a bunch of vitamin c, it can negate the positive effect of a workout by blocking that signal. Molecular hydrogen is so good at this that it is becoming standard medical practice in Japan. You can get machines that inject hydrogen gas into water, or you can get tablets that dissolve in water. I recommend the company; Trusii. These guys not only have great products, but also have a great mission to help the world get more fit and healthy. Visit https://trusii.com/. Another powerful antioxidant blend is Eternal by Vasayo. This blend does not contain molecular hydrogen, but it does contain glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that your body creates. Very few glutathione supplements work due to absorption issues in the gut, however Vasayo uses Liposomal Delivery which allows the Glutathione to survive digestion and absorb directly into your cells. Eternal can be found at https://keenanerikssonfitness.vasayo.com/store/product/NUS001002
- Herbs and Tonics: There are medicinal herbs in every cultural which have been used for thousands of years to deal with health issues. From low testosterone to panic disorder, many of these herbs can even treat stubborn modern issues. Ashwaghanda is a popular adaptogen which heals our adrenal glands. This helps to calm the nervous system from stress. Bulberine can boost testosterone. Etc. I’ll just warn you that not everyone reacts the same to everything (this is true of diet and supplements too.) So if something isn’t helping you, don’t worry about it. Some great herbal blends are Mahler’s Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster, which is the best natural Testosterone booster I know of; Inner Peace and Tianchi by herbworks for relaxation, health, focus, and sleep. If you’re looking to improve something, herbal blends are a great thing to look into and there are a ton of options out there.
- Blood Sugar Regulation: Whether you find an herb or plant, such as monkfruit, or supplement a ketogenic diet using ketone-salts, any methods to improve your body’s blood sugar regulation are powerful. We consume more sugar than at any other time in history, and it shows. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are all linked to over-consumption of sugar. The best way to combat this is to get your body used to using fat for fuel through a paleo, keto, or low carb diet, but there are still ways to improve this process. V-Slim by Vasayo uses a blend of herbs to promote blood sugar regulation, increase metabolism, and ward off hunger. There are also products called Ketone salts, which increase ketones that help improve fat utilization in the body. It may be better to use Ketone salts solely to support a ketogenic diet, and not at the same time as a carb-laden diet, but many notice great benefits both losing weight and with improving focus. V-slim available at https://keenanerikssonfitness.vasayo.com/store/product/0008523882462
- Long Term Detox: Detox is a strange word these days. Often associated with juice cleanses, detoxifying is important but seldom performed well. Don’t get me wrong, herbal or juice cleanses can be helpful, but they barely skim the surface of a big but seldom discussed problem. I’ve written extensively on the topic elsewhere, but the issue with toxins is that they get passed down from generation to generation (especially heavy metals like mercury and Lead.) Meaning you might have never been exposed to a dangerous toxin, yet have dangerous amounts in your body. Furthermore, the medical system typically looks for and treats acute exposure. If you have heavy metals in your body, they eventually migrate into your tissues, including your brain. You can’t detoxify them overnight, or even in a week. Thankfully there are many practitioners out there performing long term detox programs to remove heavy metals and other toxins over the course of months or years. It may seem like a big commitment, but think of it this way: If you and most people have neurotoxic heavy metals in your body, how much better will you feel if you spend a few months removing all of them? How much of an edge will you have compared to before? This can be another big topic, but I recommend the True Cellular Detox program by Dr. Daniel Pompa. Look up interviews of Dan Pompa if you’d like to learn more about detox in general.
- NAD+: Nicotinimade Adenosine Dinucleotide is a molecule involved with energy interactions in our mitochondria. In layman’s terms, it is directly involved with our most foundational energy production. As we get older, our levels of NAD+ get lower and lower. Recently, companies have been creating ways to increase NAD+ using supplementation or IV drips. It is a newer technology, but increasing NAD+ through supplements or an IV has been helping with countless health problems. In fact, it is most commonly used for breaking people’s addictions. It seems to repair the brain so well as to help “delete” chemical addictions. There are many things to be excited about regarding NAD+, but for you and me, the easiest way to increase NAD+ is to use a supplement called Niagen. Niagen, is a molecule called Nicotinimide Riboside that your body uses to increase NAD+. If you search Niagen, it should come up on Amazon. Not everyone notices amazing benefits from Niagen alone, but NAD+ IVs are raved about. These involve having a drip IV for about 12 hours. The result is increased energy and mood for already healthy people, and for unhealthy people, often the resolution of long standing physical and mental health issues. Finding a location to get an IV is as simple as googling “NAD+ Clinic in (enter your city.)”
The environment we live in is a major component of our health and well being. Elements of our environment include the temperature we’re exposed to, the quality of the air we breathe, the light we see or don’t see, pollution in the air, mold in our environment, chemicals and solvents, and electrical frequencies from the earth or devices. Changing elements of our environment to better suit our biology can have great benefits without taking much time or effort. Most of these changes are simple habits, and can lead to a healthier life long term without taking much time out of your day.
- Morning Sun Exposure: As we’ve discussed earlier, light has powerful effects on our biology. Well, in a natural state, the sun is our primary light source. Going outside and exposing yourself to the sun for even 20 minutes a day can help your sleep quality, increase vitamin D and testosterone, and optimize hormone levels. Increasing your sun exposure in general is good, but one of the best times to do so is first thing in the morning. This helps set your circadian rhythm, stabilizing your energy throughout the day and aiding with sleep. It’s also good to expose as much skin as possible to the sun. It may sound odd, but sun exposure to your “private” areas increases testosterone in men, and is the highest producing area of vitamin D. If you don’t have a high fenced yard to do this, your back produces the next-most vitamin D when exposed to the sun.
- Cold Exposure: One of the ways our environment most differs from our caveman days is that we are no longer adapted to cold weather. Believe it or not, people didn’t always deal with the cold using clothes or fire, and many nomadic people’s are far more resilient to the cold even in the present day. Basically, getting used to the cold has a host of amazing physiological benefits. Wim Hof, a man from the netherlands, has developed a training program that is used by many to heal or negate the symptoms of complex diseases like Muscular Schlerosis, Parkinson’s, and even clinical depression by using cold exposure. For the average person, a great way to get the benefits of cold exposure is to simply take a cold shower in the morning. This will release endorphins, aka “Feel-good” hormones, prime your body to burn fat, and relax your nervous system. If you want to dive deeper into the benefits of cold therapy, I strongly recommend The Wim Hof Method course.
- Breathing Exercises: Everyone breathes, but very few people breathe well. Unless you’ve undergone training to do otherwise, you probably breathe with a tight diaphragm, and under-utilize your lung capacity. Learning to control your breath allows you to increase oxygen in your blood, relax the nervous system, and control your energy during strenuous activity. It is also a powerful component of mental healing techniques such as meditation. There are a thousand different forms of breath training, but the most important things are to learn to use your full lung capacity, to breath through your nose, and to stop holding your breath unintentionally. When you hold your breath, you create stress, and many of us hold our breath unconsciously. A great way to begin training your breath is to spend 5 minutes a day breathing through your nose. Do a 5 count inhale, filling the lungs fully, then a 5 count exhale.This can also become a meditation technique.
- Lower Your EMF Exposure: EMF stands for electro-magnetic frequencies, and due to various forms of technology, there are much stronger EMFs in our environment today than throughout most of human history. Now, many people believe that EMFs are harmless, but there have been studies pointing to concerning negative health effects of at least some forms of EMF. In particular, Dr. Martin Pall has extensively studied the relationship between cell phone radiation, and inflammation in our cells. Basically, cell phone radiation increases the presence of one of the most harmful free radicals (molecules that cause inflammation) in our cells. You can read more about the science here. There may or may not be other ways that EMF hurts us, but personally, I’d rather be safe than sorry. You can lower your EMF exposure in some fairly simple ways. For one, turn off your wifi, and place your cell phone on airplane mode or off, at night. You can also get in the habit of keeping your cell phone on airplane mode throughout the day, and turning it on to batch calls and respond to messages at set times. Many busy entrepreneurs adopt this method simply to boost productivity anyway, by lowering distraction during work hours. There is a lot more you could do, but these are some of the easiest and most effective quick changes you can make. If you want to learn more, check out the e-book “Non-tinfoil hat guide to EMFs by Nicolas Pineault.”
- Irlen Syndrome / Fancy Glasses: An estimated over 50% of the population suffers from a condition that many know nothing about. They have lower energy, increased mental fatigue, and are performing less than they are capable, because of light! Basically, many people’s brains have trouble processing all the bright, blue light in our modern environment, which leads to mental fatigue. If environments with a lot of bright, florescent light make you tired (think grocery stores.) or you feel a dip in energy from reading or staring at screens, you probably have Irlen syndrome. Now, personally I think it’s normal, and that people who do not have these problems are the rarity, but either way, the important thing to note is that you can increase your energy by addressing this issue. On the high end, you can take tests from the Irlen institute and get a pair of custom glasses, which will filter the light that affects you most, or you can get a simple pair of orange tinted sunglasses. Wearing shades throughout the day can give you an edge you never knew you needed, especially if you work in an office space or behind a lot of computer screens. Time to channel your inner Bono with some rock-star glasses. Testing at the Irlen institute website is free so at least check to see your results: https://irlen.com/get-tested/.
- Got Nature?: I love this tip. The outdoors is a passion of mine, but I never knew it was directly healthy for us. A study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology discovered that a 40 second break to look at a city-scape of with green roof gardens significantly increased participant’s ability to maintain focus compared to viewing a standard concrete city-scape. Another study performed at the University of Michigan in 2008 tested students in a number of ways, then half the students took a walk through downtown Ann Arbor, while the other half visted the local nature arboretum. When they returned and did more testing, the nature group outscored both the city group, and their own previous scores. Then the experiment was modified, to rule out the effect of noise. Students again performed tests, but instead of going for a walk, half the students were shown pictures of urban landscapes, and the other half nature landscapes. Again the city-scape group lost, and not to nature but to fake nature, at that. The long and short of it is that even brief exposure to nature can help your brain. Visit a park or nature preserve more often, and if you keep artwork in your office-space, add in some nature photos.
- Test for Mold: In the United States, an estimated 50% of buildings have sustained water damage. Basically, 1 in 2 buildings is likely to have mold problems. This may not seem like a big deal, but mold toxins are harmful to everyone, and for sensitive people, mold can cause major health problems. I strongly recommend watching the documentary: Moldy, available for free on www.moldymovie.com at the time of this writing. If you are concerned about your health in any way, or want to protect your long-term health, it is worth the investment to test your home for the presence of toxic mold. Hiring a building biologist can cost anywhere from $150 an hour to a few hundred dollars, but the information you get for a one time consultation can be hugely beneficial in the long run.
- Get Into Grounding: This tip may seem a little out-there, but the data behind grounding is really cool. First of all though, what is grounding? Simply put, it’s the act of connecting with the Earth’s electrical charge by standing on it bare-foot or wearing leather soled shoes. Why is this important? The Earth carries an electrical charge, and when you stand on it barefoot, the electrical charge of your body balances with the electrical charge of the Earth. It might sound a little like pseudo-science, but think about it. At the base level of biology is chemistry and physics, and our bodies operate electro-chemically. Free radicals cause inflammation due to their electrical charge. So something that alters our electrical charge, in-turn, alters our biology. Theory aside, research has shown that grounding causes measurable changes in our body’s response to inflammation, leading to quicker wound healing. Other responses include lowered blood pressure, lower stress, and better blood sugar. So, in short, spend some time just standing in the dirt with your shoes off. You can also stack this with other tips in the book, like when you get sun exposure you can ground too.
- Heat Therapy: We’ve covered the benefits of the cold a few times in this guide. Now it’s time for heat. Heat therapy, such as using a sauna or hot tub, has benefits for recovery, increasing BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor) a hormone that grows new neurons in the brain, increasing testosterone and other hormones, and detoxifying the body. Detox is a particularly potent effect of heat therapy. Any time you sweat, your body detoxifies bad bacteria, heavy metals, fungal toxins, and other manner of bad juju from your body. It seems that the best benefits come from higher heat, so a dry sauna is your best choice. However, you can over-do it, so a good rule of thumb when using a sauna is to leave when you feel uncomfortable but before you feel dizzy. You don’t want to pass out in that environment. Another option that is rising in popularity is the infrared sauna. Infrared saunas, like their name implies, use infrared light that reaches deeper into your muscle tissues and helps to detox at a deeper level. They are somewhat uncommon, but if you have access to one, or decide to buy your own, they are great machines for you health and vigor.
- Float Tanks: Float tanks are devices that allow you to enter a deeply relaxed state. Think meditation on steroids. Basically, float tanks are containers filled with 98.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature water with a ton of epsom salt (to make you float.) When you enter a float tank, you cannot see, your body floats, and after a time you cannot feel your body (due to the water being the same temperature as your core temperature.) The use of float tanks is so powerful that it is a recommended therapy for healing traumatic brain injury, and appears to promote the growth of new neurons in the brain as well as relieving trauma. Many cities have clinics that offer float tank sessions, and adding a session even as little as once a month can be a game-changer for your productivity, focus, mood, and health.
Mindset, Habits, and Routines
Many people think of health as something separate from what goes on in their head, but it isn’t. Our mind is so connected to our bodies that negative thinking has been observed to increase inflammation and risk of injury, while positive, direct, and purposeful thinking lowers health risks. With that in mind, this section contains tips that would normally be considered out-of-place in a health guide, and more at home in a self-improvement book. Luckily for us, creating our best self is not only a fun and amazing experience, but it will help us live longer in more ways than one. Getting your life organized, working on your mentality, and striving to achieve your dreams is one of the healthiest things you can do.
- Meditation: If you don’t have a meditation practice, it is time to start. Daily meditation can lower blood pressure, decrease the stress hormone cortisol, and decrease inflammation. Furthermore, meditation helps us to feel more relaxed and in control, enabling us to see the bigger picture and navigate more smoothly through life. There are many meditation practices to choose from, and I recommend experimenting with a few to see what you like. Regardless, the benefits of meditation are more-so amplified by consistency than intensity. It is better to meditate for 5 minutes every day than to meditate once a week for half an hour. I particularly like the meditations in Mark Divine’s Way of the Seal (he’s a former Navy Seal Commander, yogi, martial artist, and founder of 6 million dollar business ventures.) Another great source is the work of Tara Brach. You can also find meditation practice online, or do guided meditations such as those offered by the Calm app.
- Box Breathing: So we’ve mentioned both breathing and meditation. Now we’ll combine them. Box breathing is a way to calm your nervous system, improve your breathing, and also meditate. In short, box breathing is a four step method of breathing that involves an inhale, a hold, an exhale, and a hold. There are two ratios you can perform with box breathing: a 1:1 ratio, meaning every part of the sequence is the same length. This would mean doing, say, a 4 count inhale, holding for a 4 count, exhaling to 4, then holding for 4. This is a good place to start. The other option is a 1:2 ratio, where the middle two parts are twice as long as the ends. This would be, for example, a 3 count inhale, a 6 count hold, a 6 count exhale, and a 3 count hold. Next, turn it into a meditation. Start practicing box breathing for at least 5 minutes a day. While you are breathing, endeavor to focus solely on your breath. If you notice your thoughts begin to stray, do not chastise yourself. Simply, calmly, return to the breath. As you improve, you will be able to do longer sequences. I like to do a 5 count sequence (5 count inhale, 5 hold, 5 exhale, 5 hold,) because I’ve determined that when doing a 5 count sequence, then every 15 breath cycles is equal to 5 minutes passed. It’s a great way to time your sessions without a stop watch. Remember, always perform breathing exercises with your nose. When you use your nose, your full diaphragm is involved, whereas when you breath with your mouth, you cannot take full breaths as easily.
- The Gratitude Journal: Here’s another mental habit that has benefits on our health. People who regularly express gratitude, or a feeling of thanks regarding their life, tend to experience less aches and pains and health problems. Furthermore, they experience better relationships, engage more in meaningful activity, and feel more happy. Thought is both a habit, and a lens through which you experience the world. If you actively think in a grateful manner, you will subconsciously and naturally gravitate towards better experiences. The best way I know to increase gratitude is to start writing in a gratitude journal. Begin a habit of writing down 5 things you are grateful for, every day, preferably early in the day. You can do this before you plan out your day, or do it first thing when you wake up. Just do it early. I also like to repeat this process at night, writing down what I am grateful to have experienced or learned that day.
- Visualization: Extending from the vein of using meditation to improve your life, visualization is a powerful tool for achieving your dreams. Basically, visualization is a meditation process involving imagining your desired dreams, health, goals, or life, in vivid detail. Athletes use visualization heavily to see themselves winning competitions, and to practice winning in their own mind. If you have a goal or dream you are pursuing, or a desired state you’d like your life to resemble, begin spending 5 to 10 minutes a day visualizing that goal or state. One meditation I enjoy is to box-breathe for 5 minutes, then imagine my life as I’d desire it to be in 3 months. Then I imagine my life in a year, then in 5 years. After spending time vividly imagining these futures, I then picture that I am already the person who is living those lives, with all the tools and capabilities of that person. Repeating this process often can increase your confidence and belief in yourself, as well as tuning you into opportunities to improve. Furthermore, practice in the mind may be as powerful as practice in real life. Countless studies have been done comparing mental practice to actual practice. For example, athletes will perform basketball free throws, while another group simply visualizes practicing free throws. Often times, the visualization group improves as much as the actual practice group. If you’re wondering what this has to do with health, I personally believe that imagining a better version of yourself probably has direct benefits, but at the very least, visualizing yourself achieving your health and fitness goals will help you attain them.
- Read Books: Possibly the most common habit of ultra-successful people is that they read books. Warren Buffet reads over 500 pages a day, Mark Cuban reads for 3 hours per day, and Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. These aren’t just isolated examples either. A study of 1,200 wealthy people discovered that they all share the habit of reading. Reading is how you learn the lessons others had to learn through experience, without taking the same amount of time. It is how we learn and grow, and expand ourselves in one of the most powerful ways possible. Heck, this entire guide you’ve been reading, is in many ways the result of the books and material I myself have read in order to improve my health and my life. If you believe you do not have time to read, then start listening to audiobooks. Do you have a commute to work? Do you spend any time at all cooking or buying food? Do you drive? Do you exercise or go to the gym? Great, you can listen to audiobooks in all of those scenarios. Look at your life, identify the things you want to improve or change, and start reading books about how to do that. Elon Musk was asked how he learned to build rockets. His response: “I read books.”
- Embrace The Suck: This is a mentality I’ve seen most often in books by former spec-ops guys, but it may be the most important mentality for life in general. We grow through stress, and this is true both for our mind and for our biology. The positive benefits of many foods occur as a result of slight inflammation responses that act as signals for our body to improve. Basically, stress leads to improvement. Yes, you can over-stress your body, but growth only occurs through a level of discomfort as well. So embrace discomfort, and stress. Constantly seek to further your limits, and to become stronger, more confident, more capable, and more courageous. It’s better for achieving your goals, and for your mental health. Special forces soldiers have much lower levels of PTSD than common ground troops. It is believed that a big reason for this is that special forces troops are usually fighting on the offensive, taking charge, and embracing the fight, whereas ground troops spend much more time in defensive positions, waiting for something to happen. Don’t wait for life to happen, take it on. This is also the root of the concept of discipline. You must learn to do your best work when you least feel like it. Psychologists believe that the two most important factors in someone becoming successful are their: 1. intelligence, and 2. their discipline. Discipline also does not appear to be biological, but is instead something learned. It is not easy to increase your natural intelligence (though I do believe it’s possible.) But you can increase your discipline.
- Facing Past Traumas: Our experiences leave imprints in our subconscious mind. As we grow, we change, and sometimes things we barely remember affect how we act in the present moment. One of the best ways to improve yourself is to work to address past traumas, and sit with things that you may not even realize have been affecting your life. Even if you grew up happily, traumas can still exist. You don’t have to go through something terrible to have limiting factors on your subconscious. There are many ways to address past trauma, and this, more than any tip, is an area where you’d do well to invest in working with a professional. You can start now with a meditation though. Spend 5 minutes breathing to calm your mind, and select an uncomfortable memory you wish to address. Now, imagine a small movie theater, and watch the memory play out on screen. As you watch it, pay attention to places of tension. These will most likely be attached to how you felt at the time, rather than to how you’d feel now. At first, just observe, then repeat the memory. Over time, begin to insert yourself into the movie, and see yourself responding to the memory in an accepting and relaxed manner. Imagine it happening in a way that you are prepared for, and that you are not disturbed by the experience. If you associate feelings of guilt with the memory, imagine being in a room with your past self, and forgive them for their mistakes. This as well as variations on this method are a great way to clear deep mental baggage. It’s a basic technique, but facing, and letting go of that which holds us back is a powerful remedy for foundational issues in our lives.
- The One Thing: This technique is a great way to keep yourself on track towards your goals. Every morning, take a moment to identify your one thing to accomplish that day. I like to do this by asking myself “what task do I need to do, that makes me uncomfortable, I’ve been putting off, or I really don’t want to do?” Usually this task is also the most important. Write down the first 5 or 6 things that come to mind, and identify the most important one. Which task, if done, will move your life most towards your goals. Now get to work on that task. It is best to identify the one thing, and get it done, both in the first part of the day. If you have work that gets in the way, work on your one thing at the first chance available, even if that’s during your lunch break. Your one thing can be work related, it just has to be the most important thing for changing your life in the direction you desire. Make this a daily practice, and when you get used to completing your one thing regularly, you can start working on your next 2 or 3 tasks as well. This is a powerful way to fast-track your achievement of goals, and keep you vigilant that your actions are really moving you towards your greater mission.
- The Morning Ritual: Simply put, a morning ritual is a set of tasks performed first thing in the morning to prime yourself for your day. My personal morning ritual involves 15 minutes of yoga, going outside into the sun with me feet on the earth, tidying my room, a cold shower, writing in my gratitude journal, meditating, and writing my One Thing. As long as I do at least 2 or 3 of the things on my list, my day tends to run much more smoothly. Part of this is about doing activities that improve your focus, such as having a morning movement session like yoga, and meditation. Another important aspect of a morning ritual is that it promotes discipline. Doing the same thing in the same way each morning frees up thinking power for more demanding tasks. If you wake up every morning with no routine, and no plan, maybe you’ll get around to doing what you need, but I’ll bet you waste a lot of time and if this is how your morning looks every day, well, that can really get disorganized fast.
- The Battle Rhythm: The battle rhythm is a technique I learned in Mark Divine’s book: Way of the Seal. Quite simply, it just means planning out your activities for a whole week, on paper or in an excel sheet. Get specific about what you do every day, down to 30 minute blocks. You want to have a written schedule that you can fall back on when things stop going as planned. Having a battle rhythm isn’t about strict adherence to a strict schedule either. The most important aspect of a battle rhythm is getting a better feel for how you spend your time during the day. This way you can make sure you have time for your most important activities without wasting time on the menial and frivolous. Include everything, from work blocks, to your commute time, to journaling in the evening, to meals, and spending time with family. Time should become a familiar tool and asset, not an ominous and overbearing monster.
Finally! Movement! This section is about the fitness side of health, well-being, and self improvement. We’ve talked about what we put in our bodies in the form of supplements and the way we eat. We’ve discussed the effect our environment has on us, and we’ve even addressed the way that our thinking and routine can improve our health. Now it’s time to discuss how our body moves, and how movement fits into a busy lifestyle
- Break Up Your Chronic Sitting: Sitting too much has been linked to so many health problems that some believe it may be worse for our health than smoking cigarettes. Studies by NASA have determined that maintaining a stagnant position, such as sitting at your desk for 8 hours, leads to loss in bone density, increased risk of heart disease, and other problems. However, the solution is not exercise. Exercise has many benefits, but workouts do not appear to do much to reverse the negative effects of sitting. What did work, however, was breaking up chronic sitting by standing up and doing light exercise throughout the day. Simply standing up, even if you sit back down right away, every 20 minutes was enough to reverse the effects of stagnation faster than any other method in a study performed by NASA.
- Exercise light and often: Going to the gym is great, but health benefits of a workout appear to peak at the thirty minute mark, and exercise that exceeds 90 minutes may be more harmful than helpful. On the other hand, doing short bursts of exercise throughout the day combines the benefits of exercise with the benefits of combating chronic sitting, and better replicates the movement patterns of humans in a natural environment. It also fits much more conveniently into the life of a working citizen. Set up an exercise schedule for yourself, such as doing 5 squats every 20 minutes, and doing 20 push-ups every time you go get water. This isn’t just a preventative measure against the negatives of sitting too much. Moving often at a light intensity can be used to build strength and endurance, shed fat, and increase energy and focus throughout the day. Plus, you don’t have to commute to the gym, or need to change clothes after.
- Grease The Groove Training: Grease the groove is a training method developed by former Spetsnaz physical trainer Pavel Tsatsouline. Basically, you can vastly increase your strength in a given exercise, by training in low reps, often. See a theme here? Basically, you pick an exercise which you want to become stronger at. Now, start doing sets of no more than 5 reps, throughout the day. You also shouldn’t exceed more than half of your max reps. This means if you can do 6 pull-ups max, your sets should be 3 pull-ups each, not 5. This may sound like a training routine developed for people to busy to go to the gym, but it’s actually not. Grease the groove is Pavel’s preferred training style for strength gains, regardless of your schedule. As a special forces trainer, and a powerlifting coach, Pavel’s concern is chiefly and solely building strength.Using grease the groove training, Pavel’s 75 year old father became an american record holder in the deadlift by lifting 407lbs while he weighed 198lbs. If you are worried that you can’t build strength or get seriously fit by training throughout the day, this is proof otherwise.
- Lift Heavy, Occasionally: Yes, it is great to train light throughout the day, and to maintain consistent movement. However, different forms of exercise create different responses in our bodies and lead to different health benefits. If possible, lift something heavy at least once a week. Whether this involves doing some powerlifting work, moving a haybail, or lifting a log, just make sure to work with an object that is heavy enough to make you struggle. Lifting heavy builds muscle and works on our creatine phosphate energy system. This provides our body with more muscle, which in turn lends itself to burning our fat, and also increases our natural energy. Furthermore, the structural benefits of lifting heavy help to prevent injury. Now, you do need to be careful. Learn good technique and hire a trainer if you need to, but learning to do one good powerlifting move and then training once a week, is a great practice for health and fitness. My personal favorite is the Barbell Back Squat. It engages muscle throughout your entire body, strengthens your core and posterior change, and builds muscle in the legs. A study known as the Health ABC discovered that strength, especially leg strength, is a key predictor of longevity. People with higher strength suffered from less disease and outlived those who were less strong. Furthermore, another study found that leg strength was the single most predictive factor of brain health than any other factor observed. It’s not just about living long, but about being mentally sharp throughout your life too.
- High Intensity Interval Training: We’ve discussed lifting heavy, and building strength. Now for good, old fashioned, high intensity. High intensity training has the greatest benefits for our hormones, which in turn leads to fat loss. Many people think you need to do cardio to do fat, since this is the only exercise that burns fat while you’re doing it. However, high intensity interval training doesn’t burn fat while you’re exercising, but it does cause your body to burn fat for up to 48 hours afterwards. Furthermore, you don’t need much of this style training. The book Body by Science by Dr. Doug McGuff recommends a simple workout of sprints, once a week. Go to a track or a football field, and run 400 meters. Now, rest for 90 seconds, laying down. Now repeat for a total of 4 rounds, and 8 if you’re fit. They key is to run as hard as you can, and then rest. This one workout will help optimize your hormones and improve your fitness greatly. You don’t need much of it, and should really only do HIIT style workouts once or twice a week. However, for the time it takes to do 4 sprints you can drastically improve your health, speed, energy, and weight. If you don’t want to do sprints, you can replicate by doing any short, max intensity exercise followed by a 90 second rest. You could do a lap in the pool, or a set of box jumps, or even punch a bag.
- Active Recovery: One of the major mistakes made in training is that people do not recover properly. It is common for people to train too hard on their scheduled “easy” days, and they don’t train hard enough on their “hard” days. If you’re following the tips we’ve outlined so far, you should already have a couple hard workouts in the week in the form of HIIT training and some heavy weightlifting. If you are an athlete who enjoys training, you can add a couple more intense workouts, but if you do, then the rest of your days should contain very light training. The point of your easy days is for your body to recover, not to tax it further. To do this, you should be maintaining a very low heart rate zone. My favorite ways to do active recovery are to do light yoga and mobility work in the morning. A good rule of thumb is that you should not feel sore or tired afterwards. You could go for a light run or walk around the block, and stop before you feel tired. You should almost feel like you are cheating, and that you didn’t do enough. If you are doing light training throughout the day, such as 5 squats every hour, that should work well as active recovery. If necessary, lower your intensity so that your day feels low-key and easy. Your training should feel relaxed, and shouldn’t make you sweat.
- Morning Primer: The morning primer is a light workout that primes you for the day. This should be part of your morning ritual. Basically, every morning you should get up and do some movement. At the very least, do a set of 20 push-ups. This should be something that takes enough effort to warm your muscles and get you breathing a bit heavier, but it shouldn’t be a full-blown workout. Ideally, your primer should engage as much of your body as possible and also work on mobility. This is why I personally enjoy using yoga routines for my primers. A short routine with a few standing poses, a static squat, and a couple sun salutations works great. You can find many great yoga sequences on youtube. You could also do a circuit that engages your body, such as 10 squats, 10 sit-ups, 10 push-ups, and 10 lunges. Resistance bands are a great tool here, as they allow you to work muscle groups such as your back, which are difficult to address with calisthenic exercises. The morning primer also has a positive effect on motivation. By getting up and doing something slightly uncomfortable right away, the later tasks of the day become less daunting. In short, it builds momentum at the beginning of the day.
- Foam Rolling: Foam rolling is the act of releasing knots of tension in our muscle by using devices called, you guessed it, foam rollers. Foam rolling has exploded in popularity in the past decade, and for good reason. You see, simple stretching increases flexibility, but it may actually weaken the muscle. Stretching is like pulling a rope. The rope lengthens because the fibers become weaker, and any knots in the rope only become tighter. Foam rolling is like simply undoing the knots in the rope, increasing flexibility without decreasing integrity. There are many different foam roller devices out there, from spiked contraptions like the rumble roller to more calm, squishy foam cylinders. The harder the material, the better a foam roller can work, just make sure to warm up properly and not over-do it. If you’re strapped for cash, you can foam roll using a lacrosse ball, and this is actually a preferred method by many athletes due to how well a lacrosse ball digs into muscle tissue. There are free foam rolling routines available on youtube. If you want to really learn to roll, I recommend the book: The Roll Model by Jill Miller. If you’re worried about time constraints, start foam rolling while you do other activities. It can be a bit hard to focus and foam roll at the same time, but you can easily foam roll while watching television, or waiting for a meal to cook. Just 5 minutes of foam rolling can leave you feeling looser and more coordinated.
- The Mobile Gym: Some of the best techniques for becoming fit simply involve optimizing your time for movement. One of the best ways to do this is to turn your commute into a workout. If you live near your workplace, invest in a bicycle and start using it to go to work. If this adds too much time for you to do daily, then commute using a bike 2 or 3 times a week. You can also make a habit of biking or running when going to nearby stores, instead of driving. Think of this as creating a mobile gym. You can also begin carrying a weighted backpack, or keeping lightweight but easy to pack gym equipment. There are a host of training items that can be easily carried to work, such as resistance bands, grip strengtheners, weight vests, push up bars, etc. In particular, resistance bands are one of the best items for being able to work out every muscle group in any setting.
- Join the NERDbody Training Program: My father, Scott Eriksson, is a software developer by trade and a discus thrower by hobby. At 55 years old, he holds the American discus throw record for his age group and also has the record throw at the University of Michigan from his days as a college student. As someone who makes his living working from a computer, my father realized early on the importance of movement. In order to stay fit, and to help others in similar work settings, he developed NERDbody. The NERDbody program gives you four “microburst” workouts per day, each of which taking about 5 minutes to complete. The NERDbody gym kit contains a set of many different resistance bands, and the workouts are accompanied by video instruction, often performed by a NERDbody customer. The program also connects you with other folks who work long hours. Many of the training videos are performed by regular people, not athletes. To learn more about NERDbody, check out www.nerdbody.com.
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