Bet you can’t wait to organise your health and fitness!
Like so many other aspects of our everyday lives, our fitness and health can be boosted tremendously if only we get it a bit more organised. But unlike most things, our fitness and health are of vital importance. If they are compromised, our perception of everything else changes. What seemed so vitally important just yesterday now seems hardly worthy of a second glance. It’s often said of other things, but in the case of your health and fitness it’s so very true – you never realise just how important it is until it’s gone. So what’s needed is to organise your health and fitness, instead of leaving it to chance.
Here’s a few health tips and suggestions to help you get your attitudes to health and fitness on a more even keel, and may even result in you getting a new lease on life.
Take a deep breath!
Breathing is so important for your fitness and health it needs no explanation or introduction, and yet we’re all guilty of taking it for granted. The first thing we do when we’re born is take a gasping breath, and the last thing we do on this Earth is take another. In fact, under normal circumstances, the test for whether a person is actually alive is to check whether he or she is breathing. It’s so deeply identified with life, you might just as well say that breath is life. And yet we blithely carry on, barely breathing, hardly ever taking a full, deep breath.
Pay just a little more attention to your breathing. At least for a minute or so, every day, breathe consciously and deeply. Really pay attention to the breath that’s entering your body. Follow its progress down into your lungs, and visualise it enriching your blood with life-giving oxygen and life force. Feel the vitality spreading throughout your body. Imagine each and every cell of your body being enriched and enlivened. Relish the feeling of vigour and energy, and feel the sparkle flashing right down into your very bones, and imagine it enlivening every tiny region of your brain!
This simple action (and it’s so-o-o easy!) constitutes one of the most important of all health tips.
Enjoy a drink of water – first step to organise your health and fitness
Water is another of the things we take for granted to a ridiculous extent. Young people, in particular, seem to shy away from it as though it’s an unnecessary and unappealing drink, when there’s so many other, more tasty (and sugary!) drinks available.
We all desperately need water, and if we don’t get it we can’t survive for more than a very few days. Take a little more water, and a little more often. You don’t need to be desperately thirsty to enjoy a drink of water – at the first sign of thirst, pour yourself a glass of cool, clear water and treat yourself to a drink of what your body craves more than virtually anything else. The human body is about 70% water, they say, and your brain is an even higher percentage. Water really is absolutely essential for good health, and for your brain to operate optimally. Just taking an extra glass of water now and then is one of the greatest, and most underrated, of all health tips.
Sit up straight!
Pay attention to your posture. Whether you’re sitting or standing, make an effort to keep your spine fairly erect. You only need to do this for a short period and it becomes a habit. In my case, I learned the hard way. I suffered a severe back injury a long time ago, and allowing my posture to relax back into its former, miserable state was actually painful. Several weeks of that nagging pain whenever I slouched soon taught me to stand tall.
Your spine carries the central nerve pathway to and from all parts of your body, and if you want the messages from your brain to reach your extremities (which, let’s face it, is always a good idea!), it might be as well to allow it as much freedom as possible. Your internal organs also suffer if your posture is poor. Instead of a healthy torso, you end up with what is essentially a bag of squashed and impeded abdominal organs, barely getting enough blood flow to sustain life, stuffed underneath a pair of squashed and flattened lungs and a struggling heart.
In fact, a guy I used to work with was off work for a while, and we found out that he’d been rushed into hospital. Apparently, he’d been watching TV (and slouching, I guess), and he just collapsed. When he was examined he had a ‘creased’ liver. No, none of us had ever heard of such a thing either, but it doesn’t sound good, does it.
Make it a habit to pay attention to your posture (standing or sitting) as much as you can for a few days. In a surprisingly short time you’ll feel the benefits of it and you’ll find that it’s starting to feel natural, not forced.
Exercise every day!
There are thousands of different exercise plans on the Internet, or available at your local gym, and most of them involve training two, three or four times a week. Where is the rationale for this? Who decided that we only need to exercise on certain days? The fact is that animals exercise every day, one way or another, and (in case you forgot) we’re all animals. We need daily exercise! And incidentally, nobody tells animals how to be healthy, it’s just instinct.
Animals in the Serengeti don’t have personal trainers to prepare them for the rigours of the day on the plains. We’ve got the same instincts, though they’re not so obvious anymore. We don’t need someone to tell us how to train, or how to be healthy. Our most important advisor is within us. We still have the same instincts we had thousands of years ago, we just need to become more aware of them, that’s all.
I remember reading somewhere that, in Africa, when the lion wakes,
he needs to be ready to run to catch a gazelle, or some other prey.
The gazelle, when it wakes up, has to be ready to outrun the lion.
Whichever way you see yourself, whether lion or gazelle,
when you wake up you’d better be ready to run!
I’m not saying you should spend an hour a day at the gym to get yourself in fighting shape. I’m not even saying you should even go to a gym, if you’d rather stay home. All you have to do is spend a few minutes a day using your body, rather than just letting it go to seed. Do some simple stretches, do a few press ups if you feel that’s good for you, do a few crunches to exercise your abdomen (you can do these lying on the bed!), and if you have somewhere suitable, hang from a bar and let gravity stretch your whole body. You don’t even need to do any pull-ups if you don’t want to. Just hang, and let your body realign naturally. Allow your ligaments to stretch and your joints to open. Feel your muscles and tendons stretching and easing (and if you can’t support your full bodyweight, stand on a stool and just take a little weight off your arms).
That’s pretty much in line with what animals do in the wild. It keeps them fit, and they need to be fit to survive. Nowadays, with all our modern conveniences, we can survive even if we allow ourselves to become desperately unfit. But do you want to let yourself get into that state, for the sake of a few minutes exercise a day?
Get out in the fresh air
We weren’t designed to live in houses and offices 24 hours a day. It’s unnatural. Among the top health tips is this: take every opportunity to get out and breathe fresh air. Go for a walk after a meal – it helps the digestion. Walk at a steady pace, and let your mind get into the rhythm and routine of walking. It will help you relax mentally and clear your mind. It will also give you time to think. Not forced thinking, struggling to find answers, but relaxed, almost meditational thinking. This is the time when you’ll find answers tend to come to you, unbidden, when your mind’s at rest and your body is just busy walking.
We can’t help being impressed when we see strong, supple, agile animals in the wild state. Yet we sometimes forget the obvious – they achieve all that without exercise machines, weights, training shoes, special diets, and all the rest. Take a gorilla, for example. Surely one of the most fearsome looking, most muscular creatures in the wild. Unless they have a very good reason to be angry, they’re actually very calm and peaceful animals. They manage, quite well it has to be said, on a vegetarian diet (so much for the theory that you need huge amounts of animal protein to form muscle tissue!). And the only exercise they get is what Nature dictates – climbing, hanging from branches, pulling themselves up, and so on.
Stands to reason then that bodyweight exercise, which is the only type of exercise animals get, is hugely effective. Look for ways to use your body, like an animal does. Climb, if you have somewhere to climb, hang from a bar, do pull ups, crawl, squat up and down (without weight), and do anything else you can think of that puts your body under a bit of strain. Make it work (it’ll love you for it!).
The human body, like any animal body, wasn’t made for endless lounging around – it needs to work, and to be put under a certain amount of stress. So don’t be afraid to make a bit of a monkey of yourself – monkeys are proportionately far stronger than humans, and it’s all down to working with their own bodyweight.
Don’t be a slave to the scale
You know, there was a time when the scale hadn’t yet been invented. People who wanted to look and feel better watched what they ate and did some exercise to tone up. When they felt better, and looked better, that was the goal they’d been going after. They didn’t know they’d lost a certain number of pounds in bodyweight, or particularly care. They just felt better, and liked that fact that others clearly felt they looked better.
It’s good to have goals, and if one of them is to reach a certain target weight, that’s fine. But don’t be a slave to the numbers on the scale. They only tell part of the story. You can be in great shape at a certain weight, and yet be heavier than average. Someone else can be the same weight as you, but be in a poor state. So try to keep in touch with yourself and gauge how you’re doing by the way you feel, and what you see in the mirror. In the end, no-one’s going to tell you you look great because you’ve hit this magical target weight. They won’t know what you weigh, or care. Neither should you, really.
Be happy in your skin
Many people these days have trouble with the way they look. They worry about the shape of their cheekbones, whether their hair is glossy (or maybe, horror of horrors, greying!!), or if their teeth are white enough. At the bottom of it all, there is usually a problem with their self image. They see photoshopped images in magazines and they feel compelled to try to match the standards of these false images. The truth, of course, is that the models themselves, and the celebrities, would love to look that good, and they know very well that if the public saw them in their natural state they’d be quite disappointed. These images are unreal, and the standards they set are unattainable.
Reminds me of a comment Cary Grant made in an interview – he was reminded that virtually every man that saw him on screen fervently wished he could be Cary Grant. You know what he replied? “Me too!” He totally understood and acknowledged that ‘Cary Grant’ was just a construct, a set of carefully arranged images and actions and clever ‘off-the-cuff’ remarks that he (good ol’ Archie Leach) could never match up to any more than any other guy.
Be happy just being you. I’m not saying don’t bother trying to look good, or be the best you can be. But don’t reach for the impossible. Don’t try to be something you can never be. Just try to be the best you can be, and be happy with that.
Remind yourself occasionally that there are people who are disfigured in various ways, and they are living perfectly fulfilled lives, because they’ve come to terms with the way they are. If you have average looks, and you aren’t disfigured in some way, be grateful. Life’s been kind to you.
Use the vacuum!
There’s a simple and much underrated exercise that does wonders for your midsection. It’s called the stomach vacuum. Take a deep, deep breath, and while you’re inhaling, draw your abdomen in tight, all the way to your spine (at least, that’s how it should feel). You’ll be exercising internal abdominal muscles (the transverse abdominis, to be precise) that, when they’re taut, hold your abdominal organs firmly in place. This is really good news for your health, and your waistline.
Hold the position for a few seconds (up to about 20 seconds, if you can manage it), breathing gently through your nose all the while, then exhale and relax. Repeat the exercise a few times.
Do this exercise every day (preferably in the morning) and see, and feel, the difference. By the way, this exercise will do more for your waistline than hundreds of sit-ups, and without the risk of hurting your back. Or the boredom.
Grab a sly bit of extra exercise
For the sake of your fitness and health, why not get off the bus a stop earlier occasionally and walk an extra few hundred yards … or walk up a few flights of stairs instead of taking the lift. Instead of grabbing every opportunity to make things easy for yourself, grab every opportunity to do just a bit more exercise.
A few thousand years ago, humans had to be fit and energetic to survive. Physically, we haven’t changed much since then. Our bodies still yearn for exercise and to be pushed to the limit once in a while. If you want to get fitter, not fatter, and if you want to organise your health and fitness, then treat your body right. It’s designed for action, not sitting around all day long or slouching in front of a television. Be more active, and you’ll very likely live longer. And enjoy life more!
Run for your life!
There’s really not a great deal of evidence that distance running is particularly good for you. Jogging, or running five or ten miles a day might seem like a great fitness regime, but it has its downsides – it puts a huge strain on your body, it creates repeated jarring impacts to your joints, it massively depletes your energy, and it tends to lower your resistance to infection. I’ve been there and done that. I’ve run plenty of marathons, and I must have covered hundreds and hundreds of miles in training. Take it from me, it’s hard on you, in so many ways.
But don’t let me put you off running, that’s not my intention. It’s just that I’d advise a different style of running, that’s all. Warm up with a five or ten minute jog and then crank up the pressure. Really go for it, running hard and fast, for a short distance, then follow with a cool-down jog. Repeat the process a few times. A few sprints like this and you’ll have a great running experience, and it’ll only take you about 10 or 15 minutes, and you’ll feel energized after it, not washed out.
Train hard and fast!
Forget about taking specific rest periods between exercises. Whether you’ve decided to train at home, or visit the gym occasionally, make it count. You don’t need to train for long, extended periods of time, and if you’re training hard you can’t anyway. Just train hard, and rest enough to get your breath back, then move on to the next exercise. Keep up a brisk pace and you’ll get a lot more out of what will become a very short but productive exercise session.
Oh, and if you want to chat and socialize, do it somewhere else – the gym (or wherever you’re training) is for work, and so that you’ll achieve some real results.
Save the chat for elsewhere! Stay focused.
There are other pages devoted to helping you get organised, and they’re not scattered haphazardly all over the site. The links to them are all conveniently organised in the sidebar!
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