This I Know

This I know, everything else is speculation. (It’s a post, and a page)

The more I learn and the more I read, the more apparent it becomes that I lack and real foundation of experience that the people disseminating that information have. In my attempts to filter and redistribute I feel I come across as confrontational and know-it-all, rather than helpful. My approach to most things in life is both analytical and flexible, and as such I tend to lose people when I start to ask what they perceive as loaded questions or my train of thought jumps the tracks and heads in seemingly random directions.

People ask me for advice in person. Those around me assume, due to my dedication and the meager results it has granted me, that I know something of great import. It was those questions that prompted me to start this blog, which I feel has now gotten me in over my head. I can speculate that good things will happen if those people ever see fit to do what I recommend, but since most of them are still looking for a quick fix and don’t follow it,  I receive little feed back both here and in real life. So I can’t say for sure. This uncertainty often cause me to re-think and question the past year. In the absence of feedback we often assume the worst.

I know that five basic things have changed my life for the better. I’m stronger, more fit, healthier and I can run faster and longer than before. I posted them as off the cuff comments in a past post that also  launched into self examination. I’m going to elaborate on them here because they are to me, universal. I see them everywhere in bits and pieces. An essay on a website here. An informative article there. Much it is present in books that never make the bestseller rack because they don’t offer people six weeks to lean and sexy. They just lay out the facts. Everyone has some kind of list. This is mine.

1. Learn to cook.

Prepare your own food from whole ingredients. This is a basic life skill that we as a nation are loosing. It is the simplest and most effective way to to take control of what you eat. If you want bread, bake it. If you eat vegetables, buy them raw. Salad, make four days worth and seal it up well in the fridge. It’ll keep. What ever diet you’re on, eliminate processed foods as much as possible. Cook things that keep well in the fridge ahead of time and re-heat them for quick eats. Every few days I spend an hour or so in the kitchen, it saves me hundreds over eating at subway two meals a day, I eat a larger variety of foods and I know exactly what I’m getting. It’s light years easier to manage a diet if you simply commit to preparing most of your own food.

2. Weigh yourself daily.

Keep track of how much you weigh. Even if it you don’t write it down, you’ll get used to those normal fluctuations in body weight and be able to spot when you really are gaining a few pounds. It’s much easier to loose three or four pounds than 10 or 15. Weight yourself with a good scale, at the same time of day, every day you can. You can kick this up another notch by keeping track of a belly measurement for men or a hip measurement for women. Weather your goal is to gain muscle or loose fat, this is the first signal that your program is working, or isn’t.

3. Re-learn to run.

Yes it’s going to hurt, yes you’ll loose full minutes and miles off you best time, but if you run with heavy heel strikes you’ll do yourself a lot of good by slowly changing your stride to a forefoot strike. For you bodybuilders out there I added a full inch and a half on my calves just by learning to run properly. Heel striking, no matter how well padded your feet are, is both unnatural and inefficient. The best runners, no matter the distance, run with a forefoot strike. If you’re going to sustain running as a habit for longevity, you owe it to your knees, hips and your older self to run properly.

4. Basic Barbell/Weight Training.

Strength improves everything. Coaches in nearly every single sport have found that some kind of resistance training improves athletes in ever sport. Including marathon runners. The discussions of the best programs are long, numerous and often full of a surprising amount of vitriol. The only widely accepted principle is that compound movements are best, whole body workouts are the way to go and that you need time to recover from any weight training. There are literally hundreds of programs out there. You can find one that fits your goals. Just get a barbell and get lifting.

5. Do the first four consistently.

Nothing works if you don’t stick with it. If you’re realistic about goals, if you don’t attempt to go from raw novice to elite power lifter in a year, you can be healthy and active for life. It is possible to go from a life of obesity, sloth and disability to one of being active, healthy and fit. You have to find a program that works for you and stick with it. it make take you years to find that what you’re currently working on works okay, but something else will work better. At a minimum, you should try something for at least 12 weeks before giving up.

The key to number five is to never stop asking the question “What then?” If you’re goal is to loose 40 pounds, what are you going to do when it’s gone to keep it off? If your goal is to turn a caber, do you retire once you’ve done it and return to cheeseburgers and the couch? You need a long term plan, implemented and carried through, that can be adapted to what ever it is you need or want as a goal. The old cliche is that it’s a lifestyle, not just a diet or workout. Learn to see that as more than just empty words. For all but the genetically blessed few staying fit and healthy means doing these things for the rest of your life. The time to whine about your genetics is long past for most of us.  Get moving.

The above is everything I know directly, because I’ve lived it and learned it all through trial and error over the last 20 months. It will likely change, or be modified, but the essence is will always remain.

This I know.

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