Sometimes we don’t know where to start, or how to start. We have big plans, plans to change things but how do we do that? How do we make a change that can make things better? Ideas run through our head but they don’t match up to what we want to do. They seem too small, not adequate for the purpose. It has to hit the target right in the bulls eye otherwise why bother?
But I don’t think everything that has ever happened that made a huge impact started this way. Some things maybe, but I think those are few and far between. And always trying to find the perfect solution can lead to nothing being done at all and in the end, what is worse, not having the solution that will fix everything or not having the solution that will start the beginnings of a wave that can potentially grow into a tsunami?
It’s good to think big but thinking big can become overwhelming and take a long time to put into place. Sometimes those ideas that may seem smaller in comparison can end up taking a life of it’s own and end up growing into that large thing you were thinking of. And it can happen without even knowing it was destined to happen.
I went vegan 5 years ago because of someone I know who is vegan. She was the first person I met who I knew was vegan and she opened my eyes to the reality of how the foods we eat end up on our plates and the cruelty, unnecessary suffering and death that is involved in this. I myself know of a large handful of people who have also gone vegan because of knowing me and listening to me talk about animal cruelty, the health benefits and the positive impact on the environment from being vegan. I can only imagine how many people they have touched and have also switched.
Sometimes it’s hard to see or understand the impact of our actions. But one person CAN make a difference, a huge difference. When thinking about this Rosa Parks always comes to mind. When the bus in Montgomery Alabama became full and all the white seats were occupied and white people were left standing, the bus driver told Rosa and 3 others to move to the back and give up their seats from the colored section. The 3 complied but Rosa, in her words, ‘felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night’. She refused to give up her seat and was arrested because of this. This action, the action of one person is said to have invigorated the struggle for racial equality. And now I also think of Greta Thunberg, The sixteen-year-old environmentalist, who featured on TIME’s Influential People Of 2019 list for her efforts demanding political action to save the environment. How many people has she influenced? Probably in the thousands
I don’t think we ever know who we touch, or how many we touch. It can be the subtlest action or a large action like Live 8. But positive change is positive change no matter how small and it will make a difference.
Follow your heart and try not to get overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation you are trying to improve. You’ll never know how it will play out until you take that first step. You got this.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who learns new things about themselves, or discover what they might have suspected to be true.
Back at the end of last year I wrote a post of a goal that I had this year, to run a marathon. I signed up feeling that it was a good goal, a goal I needed and within reach if I trained hard for it. It didn’t happen. I was supposed to run the marathon April 28. Sickness (I made the mistake of running for 90 minutes with a bad chest cold) that set me back, a work schedule that picked up interfered with my training but I think the largest contributor was realizing I need something to occupy my mind for the long runs. Now, it very well could be that doing my long runs on a treadmill is not the smartest thing to do but there wasn’t much of a choice since my training was during the hard cold winter here in Canada. Or if running inside maybe I need one of these to keep the mind busy. Don’t see that happening anytime soon.
But I definitely lack the mental stamina to be on a treadmill for more than 60 minutes, 90 minutes tops. And it didn’t help that I constantly had audio troubles with my phone. I would line up a podcast to listen to and about 50 minutes in it would crap out and I would have to try to get it back on track and yeah, that usually didn’t work. I would be left with listening to rhythm of of the treadmill, the sound of my feet landing. And my mind would get the best of me.
I have run further before. I used to go for 3 hour, almost 4 hour runs a few years back. All outside. It was nice. I chose roads where traffic was light and the mixing up of scenery was a great way of keeping the mind busy. Roads that have forests right next to them would help you forget you were running. I think that’s the trick, keeping the mind occupied. The runs go by quicker and the other win is whenever that event comes up that you have been training for, no adapting to outside elements is needed since you’ve already did all your training outside.
So that’s it. That’s my story about that. I wish I could have updated that I completed my goal and it would have been a good news post but I guess that’s life. Life has it’s failures and this is one of them.
I learned something about myself and I now that’s an obstacle I have to address.
There are a lot of things that impact our performance. Some of these things benefit you when they have been done well before the event, things such as recovery from your workouts, getting enough sleep, your diet and some of these things need to happen at the time and during the event. Things such as hydration, and fuel.
I want to add another to the list of things you can do during your event that will help you tremendously, at least I have found this out myself.
It took me a while to find this one out, and I’m kind of glad I found out myself because I experienced it and when I experienced it that light went off in my brain, ‘Holy shit, what just happened?’ is what my brain said.
I’ve been training in martial arts, particularly karate now for almost 12 years. But don’t look at it in the sense of 12 calendar years. I pretty much live in the dojo, probably putting in about 16 – 25 hours a week almost every week over those 12 years. Not all training, but a combination of training and teaching. You learn a lot by teaching be it teaching a group of students or individuals. You see how others move at each level of proficiency and you understand how you move your own body. Things that you do can make more sense and you can see the way you used to move your body when you are teaching someone of less experience. I find it an enlightening experience. It makes your own martial arts that much better.
But it takes time doing the same things over and over for this growth to happen. Like many students, whenever we run through the syllabus of kata it can be a very tiring experience, sometimes taking up to 2 hours to complete. It’s really tiring when you are a lower belt and are giving it 100% the whole time, and I mean the whole time. Muscles constricted pretty much all the time, slowing you down and exhausting you. But you haven’t yet learned how to move efficiently and also move like the ebb and flow of a tide.
But then it happened. The light went off. It was a Saturday black belt class, the dead of winter, I even think it was snowing that day. I didn’t really want to be there that day but there I was. Tired, suffering from dead of winter depression I knew I had to be there and I had to perform as being head instructor I cannot just not perform and be a poor example to my students. I lined up with my fellow karateka and I told myself to just stay relaxed and only put effort into each individual move itself, not 100% from beginning to end. And that’s what I did. Low block fast and intense, but then relax right away. Inside block fast and intense, but then relax, immediately. I did this for every kata, only being explosive and only contracting muscles when I moved to execute the move. Everything else was just staying relaxed.
I remember having to hold a stance for a long time as my Sensei talked about the move we just did and I remember telling myself to just breathe, relax, and all I did was focus on my breathing:
in, slowly, deeply
out, slowly, deeply
Sometimes I would close my eyes as I did this letting calmness become what I felt instead of anxiousness.
I did this kata after kata after kata. And I could feel the difference. I wasn’t nearly sweating as much as I would have. Ask anyone that knows me, I’m kind of known for my sweatyness. My heart rate wasn’t racing like it usually does. It worked. Although tired, depressed, and usually anxious when training I got through the two hours without feeling like death. You may not know how huge this was/is for me. I’ve done many belt tests, kata reviews and usually am exhausted afterwards. My brown belt test went from 5:30 to 9pm on a Friday night and you could have rung out my Gi and filled a bucket I sweated that much. Did I know the benefits of relaxing? I thought I did but I couldn’t put it to practice I guess. Like a lot of times we know what we need to do but we don’t always do it. Sometimes it takes circumstances, or time for these things to happen, for the light bulb to go off.
It makes sense though. It requires fuel to contract muscle in the form of glucose and oxygen. The more fuel we use the more our blood needs to circulate to provide that fuel to our muscles and the faster our breathing gets and we then get tired. Of course your level of fitness ties into this. The more fit you are the less the heart has to work as one heart beat will deliver more blood to the muscles. But your fitness level is your fitness level going into the event. You can’t change that when you get up that morning and decide your are going to increase your fitness level by 20%.
But, the mind. The mind can be changed, or altered that morning and during the event. You are able to tell yourself to breathe deep and long. You are able to close your eyes and listen to your lungs expand, contract, and the air leaving your mouth. If the mind is not calm and relaxed your heart rate will increase. We all know what happens to our body when we nearly get into an automobile accident having to break hard and suddenly to avoid something. We get that copper taste in our mouth, our heart starts racing, palms get sweaty. These stimuli are processed by our brain and we react. How we react is up to us. This is one benefit of sparring. If you have ever sparred you probably remember the first time, having to stand across from someone who wanted to punch you in the face. Anxiousness, nerves, fear, our breathing intensified and even though the round was 2 minutes we were sweaty and tired. But, after many many sparring sessions you are calmer, generally more relaxed. You’ve been here before and you know what to expect. It’s still the same event as the first time you sparred but through experience you no longer get worked up. Any professional who deals with these things all the time; bouncer, cop, firefighter will tell you the same thing. The core events, or experiences have not changed but the person who is experiencing them have. The mind, or brain is not treating these things the same as it used to.
It’s like the saying ‘It’s all in your head’. Well, in this case it is.
Be calm, breathe deep, relax and tell yourself these things constantly, every moment you can. There’s an old Zen expression, ‘Mushin’, mind without mind, no mind. Think of it as ignoring everything; the person next to you, the sound in the room, someone talking, the sweat on your brow. Think of only calmness.
You can’t change the stimulus coming at you, you have no control over that. But, you can change how you react to it. This is all up to you.
Overtraining can be just as detrimental to our fitness gains and overall health as missing training, or some may argue, even more so. Overtraining can cause lack of muscle / strength growth, sickness, lethargy, and can also cause lack of enthusiasm.
Overtraining is when your training has exceeded the body’s ability to recover. You can also think of overtraining as chronic fatigue, burnout, and overstress. If for a period of two weeks for unexplained reasons your performance has dropped, it can be that you are overtrained.
Let’s look at common symptoms of overtraining:
Persistent fatigue: don’t confuse this with the tired feeling that comes from hard training that day. This is the sluggishness, dragging your butt feeling you get even though you have gotten enough sleep/rest.
Elevated resting heart rate: Another reason to where a heart rate monitor. I’m assuming you haven’t abandoned your fitness program so that’s not why your resting heart rate has climbed back up.
Increased injuries: when the body doesn’t have adequate time/nutrition to recover this happens
Delayed recovery: you haven’t taken a long break from working out but you start to notice that muscle soreness is lasting longer than normal
Does this look like you? Are you overtrained? Alright then, let’s look at what we can do to address this and hopefully prevent it from occurring again. It may never occur again, but if you are aware of the symptoms than you’ll be ready to address it.
Calories: I’m listing this first because I feel it’s often overlooked as the reason and also it’s simple to address. Unless you are an elite athlete, and by elite I mean you are competing professionally, you probably have no idea how many calories you are consuming daily. The fact is the harder you exercise, the more you exercise the more calories you need. And how do you know you are getting more? Weight gain is a good indicator but unless you are monitoring your weight weekly you may not notice. I like the idea of defining a baseline. Take a ‘normal’ day and measure everything you consume and then calculate the calories. If this is a representation of a normal day then you have a good idea of calories in. Then, calculate your RMR (resting metabolic rate). RMR is the amount of calories your body needs to live. Right, to live. This is the amount of calories you need to lay in bed and do nothing. This does not take into account physical activity at all. Now, take the amount of calories you have consumed in a given day and compare this to your RMR. Your calories consumed should be higher. If not, I don’t know how you are still here because RMR is the requirement just to sustain life.
Now, look at an average day of exercise and google the amount of calories required to complete those exercises based on duration and your sex, age, etc. Add that to your RMR. Now, take everything else such as walking, house chores, everything else other than sleep or sedentary activities. Look up the caloric consumption for these things. Add them to your RMR.
Now compare the total of RMR + workout calories + other calories to the calories you have consumed and where do you end up? If your calories consumed are lower than RMR plus the other calories you burned than this could be why you are overtrained. I know this may seem like a lot of work to calculate but you need to do this.
A simpler method is to weigh yourself weekly and keep that history and compare it to your workout log that you have also been keeping. Another benefit of keeping logs. If you have been steadily working out for let’s say the last month, and all other things are pretty much the same, and you have not put on weight despite resistance training; really pushing yourself; experiencing muscle soreness; knowing you have been working hard then YOU ARE NOT CONSUMING ENOUGH CALORIES.
Try it. eat more nutrient dense calories for 1 week. Not junk food, none at all. This is your test to see if this addresses any notion of overtraining and also will provide your body with what it needs/wants to repair the damage done and to also build muscle. Without nutrient dense foods, and eating too much junk foods, the body is not getting what it needs to repair itself and potentially build muscle. Try it. One week. One week to eat as much as you want of high quality whole foods that are plant based. Beans, lentils, greens, whole grains and rice. You know what I mean. But before you do this weigh yourself a couple times that day and take the average weight.
Now, one week later. You did it. You ate more than normal. And hopefully you feel better. Now go weigh yourself a few times this day and take the average. You should see a slight weight gain. If you don’t and if you see a weight loss than you are not eating enough. Maybe some things came up and interfered with your plan. Try extending another week to see if you notice a change. Just as a point of reference, there are professional athletes who are consuming well above 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day just to maintain their training weight.
Lastly, be sure to do this if you are competing in an upcoming event. Just like tapering, you will want to make sure your body has the nutrients it needs that week or two before to be ready for a beat down so it can repair the damage and build on muscle and strength.
If you don’t see any positive changes after two weeks then I would recommend you see your doctor.
Sleep: Makes sense, right? The body uses sleep to repair damage done to it. But it needs to be quality, uninterrupted sleep. It can be tough to get this but try to make it a priority. You will feel better both physically and mentally. If you find on your days off you feel like your legs are twice as heavy as they usually are, and that you are lacking motivation listen to your body. Rest, have a nice long nap. These are cues your body is giving you to tell you to stop and sleep. Don’t give in to guilt and ignore the cues. Be reasonable and if you have had a busy week, worked out hard then take the break and let the body repair itself.
Calories, rest, output. It can be a delicate balance but it can be achievable. You can achieve what you set out to do with proper planning and measuring. A lot of money has been and is being made on taking things that have been around forever and rebranding them. Think of first principles. Put a load on the body frequently and it will grow given the right environment. Create that environment for your body and you will see the change.
I’ve written posts on this topic in the sense of the individual things that can be done to keep on track to a goal be it your goal to lose weight, increase strength or flexibility, run a marathon, or any health related goal you may have. Keeping journals, measuring the food you eat, etc. Without a plan, how do you know if you will end up where you are trying your best to get to?
And it can be broken down into 2 parts, I think: the planning that is needed to get you there ready to rock, and the planning for the actual event itself.
If it’s a sanctioned event such as a marathon, 10k run or something similar where these things happen all the time, all around the world than there should be a wealth of information available to help you plan to get ready for this event. Blogs, podcasts are plentiful for these events with lots of info on what you need to do to be successful and also information geared towards what can be done to complete the event in your desired duration.
If what your event is not a standard event such as above, try to find something similar. If you are participating in an event that is 5 hours long and thus classified as an endurance event than try to find something similar. You could probably equate this to a marathon, or maybe even a triathlon. Use training information for these events to help with your planning.
The lead up
I recently wrote a post on this. Taking it easy for the week or two weeks before your event. Seems contradictory that you’ve worked so hard to get ready for your event that you would take it easy leading up to the event. How could that help you out? With hard training comes many demands on the body. Muscles breaking down, less time for the body to recover due to lack of rest/sleep, running an oxygen deficit.
EPOC. Do you know the word? I sometimes make the mistake of forgetting that something I understand doesn’t mean that others understand it. Let’s take EPOC as an example, Excess Post exercise Oxygen Consumption. In simple terms, when your exercise routine consists of high intense interval training you put your body in a state of oxygen deficit. Hard to believe when we breathe in oxygen all the time. If fact, this oxygen deficit can last up to 30 hours! This is 30 hours of time that you will not perform at your best. You will perform fine, but not at your best, and you want to be your best, you want kill this event and have that feeling that you killed it. Nothing like a big confidence booster knowing you did your best and your best is the best you’ve ever been.
So I guess my point is you need to take it easy that last week or two so you are in optimal condition to do this. This doesn’t mean you stop everything, it means working at a moderate pace so you are still moving and still active but the intensity is less, about 60% of what you are used to. Also since you will be burning less calories due to the lesser work load, you shouldn’t worry about running a calorie deficit. You might even see some gains in muscle size and strength because of this. And if you aren’t sure you are eating enough, consume more food as long as it’s not processed.
And don’t worry. Don’t worry about working less than you have been. You’ve put in the hard work the last number of months and now is the time to slow down and let the body recover so it’s 100% ready.
Well, actually I’ll start on the day before. Try to do what you normally do. What I mean is don’t just sit around the house. Try to keep moving, eat well and if the opportunity is there, do what it is you are planning to do the next day. This keeps the body moving, lubricated, prevents injury due to lack of movement, keeps the mind busy and will also help you settle down that night and get a good night’s sleep. Consume whole foods that are plant based, drink plenty of water so you have your fuel tank full and are also fully hydrated. Pack up the gear you need for tomorrow instead of doing this in the morning. Double check that you have everything you need packed. And err on the side of caution. Better to have too many gels, electrolytes, and food then coming up short. Now is the time to make sure everything is ready to go, not in the morning where if you can’t find something this will bring on undue stress and is not a good way to start the day of your event.
When the morning comes, be sure to eat a quality breakfast. Steel cut oats with berries on top is a really good choice. The oats and berries will give you the carbs and the fiber will also slow down digestion and ensure you have the fuel you need. Try not to load up on protein as you need carbs to fuel you. Protein will come later, after the event to help rebuild the damage that has been done.
While you are waiting to leave for your event, as your breakfast digests, visualize yourself completing this event as you want to complete it. In your mind picture yourself being the best ever, no mistakes, perfection, poetry in motion. This might be the hardest thing to do for you. We all have doubts about ourselves and often times this is the voice we listen to in our head. We push out the voice that says you did well, the voice that says you are awesome and amplify the voice that says you could have done better, you sucked at that, you were awful and don’t deserve this.
Why is it ok to tell ourselves these things but not ok to say the same things to someone else? Why is it we are so good at disrespecting ourselves? Self criticism is OK if it’s constructive but it becomes damaging when it is not based on reality but instead is driven by other reasons, reasons which are usually emotionally based and thus not constructive. Trust me on this one, I know. I struggle with this all the time and I think I always will.
And when the time comes, and you are an hour, two, three into your event keep telling yourself this: You do deserve this, You can do this, You are incredible and You will do this. Mistakes will happen but don’t dwell on them. Forget them right away. The more you pay attention to them the more you will break down the positivity you have built. Set milestones for the event be it time based or event based. As you complete each milestone, remind yourself that you are doing this, you are in it for good!
I know, it’s all bullshit, right? Woo woo bullshit. But why is it we throw out the food that was left out too long and has mold on it. Why not eat it? Because it’s poison and will make us sick, possibly even kill us. Then why do we let ourselves consume poison food for our mind? Throw that poison in the garbage and eat the positive food. As I’ve said before, the mind will quit before the body will. Keep your mind as strong as it can be.
Your time is valuable and should not be wasted. With that, I give you myths and mistruths that for some reason have shown a great amount of longevity. It’s time for that to stop.
So with that, here we go:
Spot reduction of fat: Myth. It cannot be done. This is a common one mainly perpetuated by people doing ab work to get that six pack. Sorry to disappoint but doing a bunch of ab work to get rid of that fat around you belly will not make it disappear quicker. If you do a lot of ab work, along with eating a whole foods plant based diet then you will get there, but not because of the ab work alone, that’s just using up calories. The fat you eat is the fat you wear. Based on your body type the fat will deposit where it wants to, with women mainly in the hips and butt, and with guys usually the belly. That’s just the way it is. So the same goes for these area’s. You can’t target specific areas of your body with exercise to remove fat from that area. By eating correctly and exercising correctly the fat will come off and eventually will also leave those places you want it gone, eventually. But always remember, your overall health is much more important than where you might have some fat. Focus on health and well being, not just looks.
Fat burning zone: I haven’t heard this for a while up until a few weeks ago. The ‘fat burning zone’ was huge about 10 – 12 years ago. Is there such a thing, a fat burning zone? Yes, in the sense that when exercising at a lower heart rate, let’s say a moderate intensity, the body tends to use more fat as a preferred fuel. Not exclusively but it does use fat. The problem is that’s about it. It does not increase the amount of fat used post exercise and doesn’t really do anything to raise your resting metabolic rate. And you have to exercise for a much longer duration to burn the fat you want to. Comparing this to a high intensity interval workout where the primary fuel is glycogen the body will still not use as much fat. With a high intense interval workout the body uses both glycogen and fat for fuel but the big benefit is afterwards the body uses fat as fuel to help replenish the oxygen consumed (EPOC). Sometimes this can take up to 36 hours depending on the intensity. Also, the resting metabolic rate is raised thus consuming more calories (fat) when resting. So why was the fat burning zone so popular? It was a great way to make money. People loved to hear that they could work out in the fat burning zone with little effort and get results. It’s a good example of the echo chamber, people love to hear positive reinforcements of their bad habits. Books, videos, magazines, etc. where sold by the thousands making people a lot of money.
Work abs every day: Another myth. I’m not sure if this one is still popular today but there was a time where people would work their abs every day. Sit ups, leg raises, crunches. Maybe pushups is the new ‘abs every day’. If you are already aware that you need to let your muscles rest, recover after a good workout for up to 48 hours then why would abs, or chest muscles be any different? I don’t know either but people treat them differently. Just like you wouldn’t do legs every day, don’t do ab work, or pushups every day either. Work them hard one day then let them recovery over 48 hours.
Protein after a workout: This is still very common. People have a tough work out, maybe an hour long, or longer. Lots of sweat, lots of work. The body is exhausted. Then, they go and down a protein shake. Believe it or not you are not doing yourself any favours, in fact you are denying your body what it needs: carbs. Most of us have only about 60 minutes of fuel in the form of glucose and glycogen in our body. This is when we are in a state where we are fully fueled, the gas tank is full. Most of us aren’t even at that state when we show up to exercise, we are already running a deficit. So why is this a problem? When you have depleted your fuel, your glycogen stores, you need to replenish them. Glucose and glycogen (the stored glucose) is needed for everything your body does: the brain and other organs functioning, walking, talking, everything including digesting food. If your body doesn’t have the glucose it needs it goes to the glycogen stores and if that is empty because you have just used it all up exercising it will then metabolize muscle tissue into glucose to fulfill it’s needs. So your body is now consuming the muscle tissue you worked so hard to build. It’s awful. So what do you do? After a tough workout consume carbs. Apples, oranges, bananas, berries or anything that is whole foods and high in carbs. I like to have a shake consisting of a banana, a cup of frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries, black berries are great), some unsweetened Almond milk, and some spinach. This gives me both the carbs my body needs to replenish my glucose deficit and also gives me protein the body needs to start the recovery process. An ideal ratio of carbs to protein is 4:1. Later, about 90 minutes I can then have a meal that is more protein focused to also help the body start the healing process. But, if you follow a whole foods plant based diet then you really not worry about this at all as you will be getting the correct ratio of carbs, proteins, fats and importantly fiber.
You need lots of protein: This is probably the largest myth out there. I’m not going to write too much as I already have an article on this. It comes down to money. The protein supplement industry is a multi billion dollar industry and it’s growing. Hard on our body especially when animal based, too much protein can damage the kidneys, can speed up the aging of cells and basically it is not needed. Your money can be used for better purposes then buying protein supplements. What the message should be is fiber. The lack of fiber in people’s diet is evident in the increase of cancers: colon cancer, prostrate cancer and other sicknesses. Fiber is used by the body to flush out the excess hormones and toxins we have in our body. Without enough fiber, the toxins and hormones stay in the blood and are not removed. We can do a lot in our lives to avoid toxins but we cannot get away from them. Eat any processed foods lately? What about the things you put on your body like shampoos, toothpaste, deodorant and so on. Driving, walking, just being outside we breathe in toxins. It’s really unavoidable. But having a diet low in fiber is not unavoidable. Increasing fiber will help the body in removing these toxins and hopefully help in preventing disease.
Those are only a few. If you are serious about your health and wellness it may make sense to challenge the things you do, to seek out more qualified information. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of ‘bro science’ which to me again is perpetuating the echo chamber. A good example is the JRE, the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Don’t get me wrong, I like Joe especially when it comes to Martial Arts as I don’t think there is a better colour commentator out there. But, when it comes to perpetuating misinformation I don’t think anyone reins greater than Joe. Too many times he has had guest on his show promoting Keto diet, Carnivore diet, low carb diet, carbs are bad, veganism unless done absolutely correctly will cause you health issues (veganism is more than just what you eat but yes, a ‘vegan’ diet should be done correctly but why is it always said veganism has to be done right where as a non vegan diet doesn’t?) His guests on his show spew out ‘facts’ from industry funded studies and no one challenges it. Thus more people end up harming their body, sometimes the effects not known until 20 years later and no one the wiser.
But I digress. Getting the results you want isn’t that hard, really. It takes a bit of work initially to find good sources with reliable, accurate information but once you do, it gets even easier. Book mark those sites and go back to see what else you can learn from them. After all, the choices you make are the choices you live with.
It’s a life giving substance and without it we have 3 to 4 days before we will no longer be around on this planet. It is that important to our survival. On the other hand we can go up to 3 weeks without food, but not water. Our body is largely made up of water and every living cell needs it to function.
We are constantly losing water, through bodily functions such as going to the bathroom, sweating and also breathing. In extreme situations the body can lose 1 to 1.5 liters of sweat per hour. If this amount of water isn’t replenished it can lead to death as blood volume can decrease. A loss of water in the amount of 10% of your body weight is considered a medical emergency and if not reversed can lead to death.
But I’m not writing this to discuss extreme situations but more so how water plays an important role when exercising. Especially when it comes to performance and how we feel mentally when working out.
I think it’s a fair assumption to say that 99% of people who show up to exercise are already dehydrated. Busy day, rushing around, not thinking about drinking water results in the body becoming somewhat dehydrated. Most of us consume drinks that have caffeine which is a diuretic which then causes us to pee out the water we do have. And when this happens and we then start exercising, sweating, we are losing even more water. And this can lead to a direct impact to our performance. And you probably won’t even notice or really understand why you didn’t perform as well as you should have.
A loss of 2% of your body weight through water loss can have a negative impact of up to 25% to your performance. Let’s look at an example:
Body weight = 120lbs
2% of 120lbs = 2.4lbs
80z of water = half a pound
Now, let’s look at the average sweat rate. The average person sweats roughly 27.4 to 47.3 oz per hour when exercising. That’s 1.75lbs to 3lbs of water lost, almost close to the 2.4lbs if you are a ‘light’ sweater or over if you are heavy. Heres another way to look at it. Let’s say the average water bottle is 24oz (I hope you know how much yours holds) and you drink the whole contents during that hour. By this example you are still under the amount a light sweater loses during that hour. If you care about performance that should wake you up.
Other performance problems caused by being dehydrated are lack of mental sharpness, cramping, muscles don’t perform as well. This can all add up to having a bad workout and not feeling like you owned the workout. Working out is tough as it should be hard, we all know that but you want to walk away feeling really good, not feeling like you were defeated. A well hydrated athlete will feel sharp, stronger, feeling like they can keep working out. Why? When well hydrated the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood to provide oxygen and nutrients to the muscles thus providing better performance for the same amount of work being done.
But of course you are drinking water when you exercise so you are ok. I hope so but most of us are not drinking enough before and during exercise and as I stated earlier, most of us are running a water deficit when starting to exercise.
Here are some general guidelines to help ensure you are hydrated before, and during your exercise routine:
2 -3 hours before: drink 17 – 20 ounces of water
20 – 3- minutes before workout: 8 ounces of water
10 – 20 minutes during exercise: 7 – 10 ounces of water
Within 30 minutes after workout: 8 ounces of water
Are you doing this? Are you sure? Just like measuring our heart rate to know what percentage of exertion we are exercising at you need to measure to be sure. And I’m pretty sure no one does this. It’s one of those things we really don’t pay attention to. Also, we tend to be light on the water we consume as we are afraid of upsetting our stomach if we drink too much. It’s that whole balance thing. And I don’t think we hear enough about this either. I can talk from experience that I know I don’t drink enough water. I discovered this by measuring out 8oz of water and then drinking it. I compared this to the amount of water I drink when running and and I am way under. Try this to see where you sit. Measure out 8oz of water and put it into your water bottle you tend to use. Now drink it in the same manner you do when you work out? Seems like a lot more?
What can be done to help get the water you need? You need to measure the amount you consume and sweat. How much does your water bottle hold? I hope you know because that’s a good place to start. If you don’t know how much water your water bottle holds measure it.
But how much do you need? Are you a light or heavy sweater? One way to know your requirements is to measure what you lose when working out.
Measure your sweat rate (make sure you are well hydrated before starting):
Start with going for a pee. Then weigh yourself without any clothes on (A)
After exercise towel yourself dry (be sure to dry your hair also) and measure your weight again without clothes on (B)
Subtract your post exercise weight (B) from your pre exercise weight (A)
Weight loss (C) = A-B
Subtract the weight of the water bottles to get the weight of water consumed (Z)
Add the weight of the water (Z) to amount of weight lost (C).
Subtract bodily void weight from total weight lost (C) – you can use .6lb for this per bathroom visit
Here’s an example:
1 hour run:
Starting weight: 160lbs
Ending weight: 158lbs
Fluid consumed = 30 ounces
2lbs of weight loss = 32 ounces of sweat
Total fluid loss = 32 ounces lost + 30 ounces consumed = 62 ounces total
62 ounces of fluid loss for a one hour event = 62 ounces / hour.
Now, this is one example. There are different variables that come into play, things such as temperature, humidity and sea level. It’s always a good idea to measure your water requirements in different conditions and adjust accordingly.
*NOTE – As with anything, too much of something does not make it better. If you are consuming too much water (hyponatremia) it can cause nausea, headaches, confusion, fatigue, and in extreme cases, coma and death due to diluting your electrolytes. This is rare but it can happen.
Working out is exhausting enough. You wan to be able to push yourself as hard as you can and feel good doing it, not feel like you have been run over by a truck. Everyone is always looking for that something that will give them a boost. Here it is and it’s free, water. Consume proper amounts of water and you just increased your performance levels. Can it get any easier?
We live, have been living in a word of excess. Buy, buy, buy is the daily message albeit delivered in a more subtle way. People’s heroes are those who disparage their character for the sake of making more money. It’s cool to post images of your ‘worth’ on social media. It seems to be perfectly alright, perfectly justifiable to fly thousands of miles to Brooklyn to throw a hand dolly into a bus all for the purpose of selling more pay per views. What was the quote from this person during the fight: ‘It’s only business’. Money at all costs.
Things like this unfortunately can influence people to become like these people who do these things. But, it can also be the antithesis for others. The ugliness of acts such as this can move people closer to the understanding that money isn’t everything, and money at any cost is wrong.
More isn’t always better but sometimes more is what we need.
When it comes to our body and what we feel is the body we want all the focus is on losing weight. When has there even been a product, a program, an infomercial on how to gain weight? NEVER that’s when. Yes, there are weight gain protein powders but the main message is to lose weight. Trying to find out how to gain weight in a healthy way could take some research and it can be really confusing and also disappointing. And I think too just like there is fat shaming, skinny shaming is also happening. Guys for years have felt the pressure to be muscular all the way back to the 50’s classic add of the skinny guy getting sand kicked on them buy the muscular guy at the beach all while the girl is laughing at the skinny dude. And the same with girls and women. You need to be thicc. The focus is never health and fitness but instead on no matter what it takes, you need to look like this. Don’t buy into this lie. Focusing on health and wellness instead of appearance will give you the things you need to stay healthy, be sick less, be less susceptible to disease, slow down aging, and ultimately if you do these things correctly you can mold your body like an artist molds clay and do it in a healthy way.
As simple as this solution seems I believe it is all that is needed. It’s not complicated because it doesn’t need to be. So if you are in doubt because it’s so simple, try not to discount it.
Eat a whole foods plant based diet whenever you are hungry
That’s it. Eating a whole foods plant based diet does not require you to worry if you are getting too much fat, too much protein, too many carbs, too much sugar, too much salt. A whole foods plant based diet followed properly means you are not eating processed foods, it means you are eating all the foods you need and you are getting nutrient dense foods, the foods your body wants and needs to repair and grow muscle tissue. If you feel you have been eating enough but aren’t adding the weight than you may need to evaluate what you are eating. Are you eating foods that are processed? These foods will make you feel full but they are not providing the nutrients you body needs to repair and grow. If you are already eating a whole foods plant based diet and aren’t gaining weight, then are you eating enough? Broken down to a basic principle, calories in cannot be less than calories out. If they are you will never gain weight. As an example a professional body builder may consume upwards of 4,000 calories a day.
If you have been working out hard and correctly and aren’t adding weight, this may be what you are missing. I want to keep this simple so I’m not going to get into formulas having to do with resting metabolic rate, caloric requirements based on sex and age. Keep it simple.
If you are not gaining weight and want to, then you have to eat more.
Not many of us have the time, or the patience to count calories for everything we eat. That requires measuring every meal you eat. Keep it simple and always eat when you are hungry. That may mean eating 6 to 8 times a day. Don’t snack on worthless foods such as processed crackers, chips, things like that. If you are doing that switch those foods out for nutrient dense foods, the foods your body will use to make muscle. Besides, these foods that are nutrient dense taste awesome and who doesn’t want that? Substitute a nutrient/taste dense food such as a black bean avocado dip with pita chips for those potato chips you were going to have. Both will fill your craving for food but one gives you lots of fat which doesn’t provide muscle growth where as the other does provide the protein and carbs needed.
Again, keeping it simple follow the rule that your food needs to be whole foods plant based. Avoid processed foods as processing removes nutrients the body needs to grow. Replace this with foods that the body needs and the body will grow.
Whole foods plant based; Calories in > Calories out; Eat when Hungry = Weight gain.
Many of my posts talking about working out usually emphasize the importance of intensity. For good reasons of course, intensity brings the results you need and are looking for.
But, there comes a time when you need to slow down. It’s referred to as the taper.
What is tapering? Tapering is taking the last week or more before your event and tapering back on the workouts, the intensity. Tapering is a very important cycle in your training regiment in preparation for your event that allows you to train less, eat more and sleep more! Tapering will help you perform the way you want to perform in your event. It often gets overlooked as people generally think that they need to train hard all the way up to the event. Makes sense why we think this but this will do you more harm as you won’t be in peak performance shape.
Tapering allows the body to regain glycogen stores, repair any small damage that has been done to muscle and connective tissue. Enzymes, antioxidants, and various hormones depleted during training are given the time needed to return to optimal ranges. Your immune system vastly improves too. Lastly, some studies have shown an improvement in performance of up to 3%. Tapering before your event sets you up to perform as best as you can. It sets you up so you are going into your event day feeling as best as you can too. Performance stress is not only on the physical level but also the mental level. You want to be sharp, confident, and feeling well, not foggy, shaky and feeling mentally fatigued.
Less can be more.
Tapering can be anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks before your event. During this period you will want to cut your training down to 20% – 30% less than what you would normally do on a high volume week. If your workouts are 5x a week, you would then drop down to 3 to 4 workouts a week. Also, that should be the same for intensity when it comes to resistance training. If for your event you are relying on your legs to help you get through it, I guess that’s pretty much anything thinking about it, you want your legs to be fresh. Cut down on any training that impacts the legs. Any leg work should be done solely for the purpose of dynamic stretching, cardio and mobility reasons. You can keep training upper body but be sure to drop the intensity level as you would not want to go into your event with any sore muscles.
Let’s look at tapering and nutrition. Even though I’m not a fan of supplementing it may be wise to err on the side of caution and ensure you are getting adequate protein levels to aid in the repair of soft tissue for that last week before your event. That’s it. That’s it if you are following a whole foods plant based diet. No need to worry about carb loading as you would already be consuming the high level of carbs you need.
Be sure to consume enough water. Peeing more than normal is better than being dehydrated for your event. Cut back on diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine.
Do these things and you might even notice that you have added a couple pounds to your body.
1 – 3 weeks before
Do 20% – 30% less
Drink more water
Keep moving, mobility is important
No killing yourself in workouts
It seems counterintuitive to taper but embrace it. Your body has already made it’s adaptations weeks before and is ready to go. Maybe an experience of mine will illustrate that this works. Years ago when I was in the Navy I would travel back to my old home to visit my family twice a year. Previous to one of those trips I got heavily into body building, working out 6 days a week, 2 hours a day on a 3 day split program. I was a hard core gym rat. My trip home was just over 2 weeks long where I caught up with family and friends which meant a lot of relaxing, eating and no working out. When I returned back to the Navy my friends there couldn’t believe how much bigger I had gotten. That 2 week period was my taper even though I didn’t know it. My body had the time it needed to repair muscle tissue and add the muscle it needed to. When I was back and started to work out my performance levels also increased.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Implement a taper and use that extra time to relax, mentally prepare and I think you will be so much better going into your event than you would have otherwise.
It’s usually the mental aspect of it that gets us. It’s what ends up being our downfall be it that day or worse, our life. Everyone of us is capable of great things but for a lot of different reasons we don’t execute on those great things and end up living a mediocre life. That might be alright for some but for most it means a lost of adventure, a loss of things that ‘could have been’.
I used to struggle with explaining what this meant, what pushing yourself brings to us as individuals. I couldn’t convey it into words. Then I looked into it more trying to understand all things that are rewarded unto us when we work hard, when we push ourselves. I would look back on my own experiences of success and failures and it started to make sense to me. When we push ourselves and work hard towards a goal the end result is the reward. It is what makes us feel alive, feel that we have a purpose and adds a lot of positives to our reflection of what we are as an individual. Self doubt starts to diminish and our confidence starts to grow.
Also, doors may start to open and sometimes those things happen organically. If you are someone who pushes themselves in a group type of environment, maybe you are a competing triathlete, think of all the people you have met along your journey. Coaches, experts in your field, fellow competitors, and so on. You don’t get this exposure sitting on the couch every night and weekend. And then think of the people you meet if you are doing things considered on an elite level. You will be surrounded by people who generally are more positive, outgoing, other people who push themselves hard all the time. We tend to become the people we associate with. Hang out with negative, unmotivated people and you will tend to become the same because those people don’t want to be involved with someone who isn’t: it makes them feel like failures and they will never meld with you if you aren’t also complaining and being pessimistic about things. Surround yourself with positive people and you will tend to rise to that level.
But I digress. This post really is about what can we do to help ourselves do things that are lengthy in duration and can be really mentally overwhelming. What can we do to trick the brain and keep pushing through a long tough event. Here some ideas:
Compartmentalize: Depending on what it is you are doing, never, NEVER look at the event as a whole. This will crush you even before you get out the gate. Let’s take a triathlon. 3 major events: swim, bike ride and a run. Depending on the type of triathlon this can take maybe 8 hours. If you think of this at the beginning as an 8 hour event you have already lost, you have planted the seed in your mind that this is going to kill you and you will never get through it. To start, break this down into the 3 events it already is: swim, bike, run. Then, break it down further if you need to: break the swim into half. Break the bike ride into quarters, or fifths, or more. Same with the run. If it’s a marathon length run, break it into quarters and after each quarter mentally check it off – Done, 3 more quarters to go.
Distraction: Believe it or not you do not always have to think about what you are doing. Have you ever arrived somewhere and you cannot recall how you got there? You’ve driven the same roads, the same route to work for years and it’s all muscle memory. You arrive at work and you can’t recall how you got there. Same thing here. Let the brain wonder off onto some journey, maybe to Alaska to see the northern lights, or maybe thinking about the last book you read. This happens sometimes to me when I’m running on the treadmill. Your mind comes back and nothing changed, you are still running. The muscle memory took over and you probably were running better because of this. You were probably more relaxed since you weren’t tuned in to every muscle twitch, to every foot step. Give this a try and you will find it tends to make a long event fly by.
Hero: Do you have a hero, someone you look up to? Who inspires you, who do you want to be in a sense? Try to be that person mentally. When I run on the treadmill and things start to get tough I think of a person who has inspired me: John Joseph. This guy is the hard ass endurance athlete I would like to be. No excuses get it done kind of guy. John’s first triathlon was done with a fracture in his foot after playing a concert the night before in the band he’s in. Yeah, played a concert (high output as his band is a punk band), fractured his foot, long drive home, little sleep and then completed the triathlon in the August heat of New York. If that’s not inspiring I don’t know what is.
Readiness: If you fail to prepare you have prepared to fail. This is so true. Be ready for your event. Of course long term preparedness means getting in the training. Short term are things like testing any fuel you plan to use. There are many stories of people who on the day of their endurance event change their fuel, they try something new like a new brand of glucose gel. These people typically end up in the porta potty due to GI issues. Always, ALWAYS try what you are going to consume at least a few times weeks before so you know it agrees with you be it gels, sports drinks. This goes for quantities too. Don’t just sip the drink you are going to use to replace your electrolytes. Use it in your training so you know how your body is going to react to it when under stress. Clothing, make sure it comfortable and suits the needs of the event and of you. Rest, rest, rest.
Mind set: Before your event I want you to tell yourself how amazing you are, tell yourself that you are the rock star you want to be. Because if you are doing this that is what you are! A lot of self doubt exists in us for reasons that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Put there by others, put there by false perceptions of what society thinks we should be. And it’s easy to self doubt. It is so hard to pay ourselves a compliment or two. Try this. The next time you doubt yourself, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to someone else and when you answer no, think about that. Think about why you wouldn’t say this to someone else and then ask yourself why then is it OK to think this of yourself.
That’s all I have for today. For now. We all have the ability to do great things, if we let ourselves.