Smoke jumpers - the people who fight forest fires - don’t have a universal saying to cut and run when a fire gets too hot. They don’t need one. They’re trained to never put themselves into a position of extreme danger. This, of course, is strange since their job is to fight some of the most ferocious fires around. All without water.
They’ve spent countless hours carefully studying the physics of forest fires so that they will be well equipped to analyze their safety at any point in an operation. If things start to change outside of the plan, they will analyze the potential risk and ‘cut and run’ well before any danger appears. Forest fires rarely get put out in a day and smoke jumpers know this very well so they work to control the fire. Holding their ground against terrible odds is not an effective way to manage a massive fire.
We often use small problem strategies to manage the larger problems in our life. Putting your diet off tomorrow is an ineffective way to manage your weight. Working on your resume later because you have other more pressing things to do is also a poor way to find a new job. Instead we need to take a page out of the smoke jumper strategies for the big problems we face. Work to control the situation. Need a new job? Spend time (more than you think) analyzing your goals - money, lifestyle, work hours - and tailor your resume to represent that. Set aside time each day to apply for positions or practice interviews. Never miss this time or the fire may get out of control. Same with your diet. Spend time each day reviewing your diet and analyzing the food you’re eating.
Even if you spend 30 mins a day, that’s 3.5 hour a week and 14 hours a month! After a while, you’ll gain control of the situation and begin to push back, eventually taking the attack to the problem. Forest fires never really go away. Same goes with your problems. However, good strategy can keep things under control.
The new year is now in full swing and resolutions are being broken everywhere. Somehow it’s easier to slip back into our regular routines than it is to form new ones. Why is this? Obviously, the answer is because it’s hard to change. Exactly how hard is it?
The last post talked about benchmarking yourself. This is an underrated activity. Writing down your goals is good, but actually writing a life plan is even better. In our short-sightedness we often assume that going to the gym for a few weeks will ultimately stick because we’ll feel better and see the benefits. That’s wrong. Often these goals of improved fitness, better diet, improved relationships, feeling happier arrive at the end of a very long marathon. Real lasting change occurs drip by drip and is almost unnoticeable. You’ll looking the mirror after six months and realize that where you came from is much different than where you are today. Lasting change.
So how do you make it happen?
Write down what your idea life would look like. Keep the dream anchored to reality. We all want that billion dollar lifestyle with personal jets and mansions, but unless it can be realistically achieved within 5 years, keep it off the table. A more appropriate vision would be to reduce/eliminate your current debt and have more financial stability.
Add in as much detail as possible. Use as many adjectives as you possibly can. This will help make the your dream the most vivid.
Here’s a small expert from my life plan:
…being financially stable enough to send my kids to private school and have the opportunity to travel with the family at least once a year.
…speaking in front of an audience at least 5 times a year on topics that interest me (motivation, education, fitness).
A life plan should be long enough that it reads like a detailed story, but short enough that you can quickly review it to ensure you’re still on the right path. Since the life plan is your creation, you can add as much or little information as you’d like. Just remember, murky details are the easiest ones to abandon. Make it SMART - or at the least the first two letters - specific and measurable.
Write down the worst case scenario. What if you did nothing? What if a few certainties in your life disappeared (ex your job)? What would your life look like? Don’t hold back - doom and gloom is the name of the game.
This is the bad life plan. This is what you don’t want your life to become. It’s just as important (perhaps more) than the life plan because it shows you where you’re going to end up if you DO NOTHING. Goals don’t fail because people do them incorrectly, they fail because they do nothing. They stop. Thinking of a life that has you in the dumps can help motivate you to do because doing is the name of the game.
More will be written in the coming weeks about life plans. In the meantime, the best thing to do is get started!
Discipline = Freedom
Says Jocko Wilnick a former Navy Seal commander. His photographs of a Timex watch reading 4:40 am have become legendary. He’s not waking up to take the picture, that’s the time he begins his daily workout.
“I like to get it done before the sun rises.” says Wilnick.
Why on God’s green Earth would someone get up that early to workout?
Discipline = Freedom is why.
Not only does waking early give you an opportunity to get the most difficult part of your day (well for most of us) out of the way early, it forces you to remained disciplined. It takes commitment to follow such a tough and well, early schedule.
By conditioning yourself to follow such a regime, it will inedibly spill over to other parts of your life. You may find the grit needed to finish that last email before the day’s done much easier once you’ve adapted to an early morning workout.
You’ll also find yourself reinvigorated knowing that you’ve seized the day. Invitations and opportunities will now be easier to accept knowing that you’re one step ahead of the rest of the working world.
For me, it’s been an emmesly positive experience. Don’t get me wrong, when my alarm goes at 5 am there is nothing but pain. Once I’m able to bury those emotions, stepping on the treadmill becomes a piece of cake. I find that simply ignoring my thoughts and getting to it makes it much easier to endure. Speed is important too. The faster I can get on the treadmill, the more likely I’ll have any second thoughts. I’m simply a robot doing what robots do best - follow instructions. After about 5 - 10 minutes of sweating, my body and mind can’t tell if it’s 5 am or 5 pm. The rest is a piece of cake.
The best part of the morning workout is the time it frees up in the afternoon and evenings. I get more Freedom to spend time with my kids. I’m open to more activities after work. I’m finding that I can get lots more done.
Yes discipline = freedom. Try it out for a month and see what happens.
Full disclosure: I have no intention of living to be 100 years old. However, I am fascinated with longevity. The subtle yet important difference between living to be old and longevity is health. Obviously someone who lives into their 90s has to be healthy, but there's more to it. Longevity is the ability to remain as youthful as possible for as long as possible. Who wants to be a 95 year old that is confined to a bed all day? To you, healthy aging might mean playing golf everyday when you retire. To others it might be relaxing by the ocean with a good book. For me, healthy aging means that I remain active well into my 80s. I hope that by the time I hit 60 I'm still able to run a 10k under an hour. I'd like to be able to live 130 lbs over my head. I'd like to be able to put my socks on without sitting down. It all sounds wonderful doesn't it? Problem is we can't (easily) slow the aging process. There are four pillars to healthy living:
The video below focuses on diet and why fasting is a key component for longevity. Calorie restriction is a hot area of research for ant-aging scientists. Results have shown that fasting can extend the life of monkey's, mice and even worms!
This article by Vox media got me thinking about obesity and all the baggage it carries (no pun intended) in western culture. Dr Jason Fung is a doctor in Toronto who’s treatment of obesity goes against traditional methods. He took a tremendous amount of heat for a tweet which appeared to "fat shame" two speakers at an obesity conference. Some of the blowback came directly from Yoni Freedhoff - an obesity doctor who I greatly respect.
There is little debate about the current state of obesity in the world. A recent article in the Guardian even suggested that China is now experiencing an obesity crisis. Not only is it on the rise, it seems to be accelerating, especially among youth. As a result of this epidemic an explosion of profit seeking endeavours have appeared. From the Atikin’s diet to the Wheat Belly movement, there is a plethora of information - most of it not so good - on how to lose weight and prevent diabetes. My favourite is The Glueten Lie where a religious history professor just tells everyone to chill out about the foods we eat because nothing is going to kill us. Just eat in moderation he suggests.
The reality is that we really don’t have any solid evidence pointing out why we’re getting fatter and fatter. When science can’t help us, pseudoscience usually takes its place. We’re not sure why life arose on this planet so religion fills the void. We can’t really grasp the reasons why people commit terrorist acts so the conspiracy theorists give us the answers we need. The same is happening with obesity. We just don’t have any solid evidence to suggest a weight loss plan - and more importantly - keep fat off. Nobody argues against the idea that we’re moving less and eating more, but the obesity crisis seems to have a very loose correlation with physical activity. There’s a portion of the population who can move less, eat more and have a healthy weight which inevitably puts a kibosh to any theory suggesting we need more exercise.
Fung contends that it’s insulin that’s the culprit. More specifically it’s insulin resistance that causes us to have difficulty maintaining a low weight. This is a result of constant eating during the day which sends our insulin levels on a roller coaster ride. By fasting and simply not eating, we’ll lower our insulin levels making us more sensitive and therefore improving our body's ability to burn fat. On top of that, well we’re not eating so we can’t overeat!
Freedhoff and company take a more traditional view towards the causes of obesity. He feels that calorie intake should be lower than calorie expenditure in order to lose weight. One can increase their calorie burning rate by exercise. Move more, eat less. This is by far the most popular means to treat weight loss.
Here’s the paradox - both ideas work. It seems silly to me to flame each other when there is no credible evidence suggesting that one theory is better than the other. I get where Fung is coming from when he points out the irony of obesity doctors being overweight. Freedhoff counters with more of a cultural rebuttal believing that obesity is increasing because we don’t empower the obese to help themselves.
If you’re looking for advice on losing weight, be careful what you read. The human body is extremely complex and treating it with a simple black and white diet program is risky. Throw in the fact that we’re living busy and complex lives and you have a recipe for failure. It’s important to find a program that fits with your lifestyle and commit to it. Check out my blog on commitment if you’re not sure how important that aspect is.
Running is the best. Honestly, it’s simply the best way to activate those endorphins that keep us coming back to fitness and a healthy lifestyle. No matter how you feel before a run, afterwards it’s always worth it.
Long and slow, short and intense, your bodies ability to recognize exercise is amazing and it rewards you with a high that’s on par with drug use.
So why don’t more people do it?
Hard to say really. Running culture is one the most welcoming, friendly and supportive atmosphere’s one can experience. It’s on par with joining a church! No matter how big, small, slow or uncoordinated you are, a running group would be more than happy to have you as a part of their team. Heck, even the lanky, uber-fast ‘elites’ are excited to see new runners at their clubs.
Running groups have coaches that will help you set realistic goals on an achievable timeline. What’s really cool is that you can apply the same goal-setting strategies to other aspects of your life. In an era of instant gratification, we want results that are evident in the short term.
Running is hard, but the results show up fairly quickly for those who stick with it. Especially if you surround yourself with friendly, supportive and encouraging people.
When’s your next run?
An article in the Saturday Star uncovers the truth (or lack of) behind the common misconceptions in fitness. Here’s what they are and here’s what they said:
No Pain, No Gain
Fitness experts say pain is a sign something is going wrong – maybe it’s your form, or you’re pushing yourself too hard. Whatever the case, it’s not a good thing. “The idea of negative, harmful pain being positive is never true,” says Trotter.
Feel the burn!
There’s pain (bad) and then there’s that burning sensation that often accompanies a workout (not necessarily bad.) It’s fine to push yourself to the point of fatigue during exercise, says Robichaud.
You are what you eat
If you’re opting for cake instead of broccoli, you’ll definitely feel different after. But experts say the truth is more nuanced that this cliché. “If you’re eating foods that are heavy and fat-laden, and sugar-laden, you are going to feel heavy and you will develop fat on your body,” says Robichaud.
It never gets easier, you just get stronger
This cliché depends on the situation, says Trotter. A beginner runner, for instance, might run 5k in 40 minutes. “In a year, hopefully you can run it in 30 minutes, and that’s going to feel like what you’ve done in 40,” she says. “It’s easier – because you’re more fit.” When you’re pumping iron, things get easier as you strengthen your muscles.
The only bad workout is no workout
All three experts the Star spoke with agreed with this cliché. “Any movement, even if you just go for a walk and get yourself out of that sedentary mindset, is better than nothing,” says Joanne.
What do you think?
Isn’t this what the core axiom of all fitness should be? You should be working out to fatigue, eating healthy and working out frequently. These tenants are common knowledge even among the uninitiated (love that word).
Fitness and good heath are all about lifestyle. If you’re not wiling to make a 100% long-term commitment to improving your health than it likely spells doom. In a world of endless choice, it is ironic that the ‘choice’ of working out is easy, but the act requires much more energy and commitment.
As Jocko Wilnik says: Discipline = Freedom.
Get after it!
Read the full Toronto Star article here.
I gave up on going to the gym over a year ago. Best thing I’ve done. After an initial investment of about $1500, I had myself a decent home gym including a commercial treadmill, rower and pull-up/dip/boxing station. While I wouldn’t call the basement Goodlife Fitness, I found that my workouts were just as (probably more) intense than at the gym.
The gym is a cult. Every gym is a little different, but you can be guaranteed that you’ll have your stereotypical people no matter the gym. The meat head, the hot chick, the tries too hard and the elliptical monster will all be there in full force.
It never really bothered me too much. Everyone I met at the gym was friendly and generally unjudgy. Still, I felt that it was important to conform to the gym norms if I had any chance of fitting in. You know, simple things like don’t lift too much, don’t stare, don’t hog the equipment and for goodness sake don’t do anything extreme - like handstand push-ups.
Having shed the burden of a gym membership, I have found that I need to be more self motivated. That’s made easier by the fact that I can walk down the stairs or throw on a pair of running shoes and go outside instead of packing up and commuting to the gym.
Most importantly, I can workout at an extreme intensity without anyone judging me. If my form sucks, I can work to fix it at my own pace. If I want to try a heavy lift, well I can go for it and not be scared to fail - or look silly. Headstand push-ups? Well, I’m getting better...
I’ve been dabbling in the art of ketosis since the start of the new year. It’s not my first crack at it, probably 3rd or 4th. I’ve always struggled to keep my energy levels up while ‘low carbing’. For those not familiar with ketones, you can think of them as alternative fuel source for your body. Normally we use glucose to power our brain, muscles and essential organs. Glucose can be easily obtained from, well, most foods in the western diet. Anything with carbs will give you glucose. When your body is starved of glucose it switches to this ancient back-up plan of burning fat so you won’t die (easily anyway). Most of us have a good amount of fat to spare, so the body is happy to do this. The challenge is when you start to get into the single digits of body fat that there’s an issue. Your body is smart enough to know that the fat reserves are low and it begins to slow your metabolism to a crawl. This unfortunately leads to unintended weight game. What an amazing and annoying adaptation.
Why cut out carbs?
To lose weight is the most common reason. Carbs add up fast and your body loves to store any excess as fat for a rainy day. The other reason is to maintain decent insulin levels and prevent the massive ebbs and flows of energy levels. I’ve personally found that with my schedule, it’s nearly impossible to eat small frequent meals throughout the day. Instead I end up skipping breakfast, having a massive lunch (carb LOOOOADED) and well rounded dinner. What hurts me is the lunch. After fasting for breakfast, I’m borderline hypoglycaemic and the big lunch just destroys my energy levels. I’m asleep by 1:30. Not good when you’re responsible for educating tomorrow’s leaders.
So hear I am. 4th time’s the charm! I have to admit, after listening to Dom D’Agstino (ketonutrition.org) on the Tim Ferriss (4hourworkweek.com) podcast, I was convinced to try it again. Apparently he deadlifted some astronomical weight (like 400 lbs) while in ketosis. I learned that calories are hard to come by and I likely was in an unwanted deficit. Thus my energy levels sucked. Especially in the gym.
As of now, I’m doing well. No afternoon crashes. The gym is hard because my body has hardly any glycogen to work with, but I’ll keep at it for another few weeks.
If you're interesting in following me, stay tuned under the Keto tab above.