I loved the fact my Heart Rate was that of an Olympic athlete
I hated the fact my Heart Rate Variability was in the lowest 2% of the population
(Plus I now knew exactly when to work out..I mean that’s awesome)
This was back when I was approaching the BIG 4. 0. and I’d just decided to take my life by the balls and not go gentle into that good night…
But I still found myself dangerously close to the “letting it all go and just accepting I was getting old” stage…
So I finally asked my trainer…
“Hey um, Carlos…listen, I’ve been thinking about doing an Ironman…what do you think?”
First he laughed (not ideal) and then he said…
“Oh, you were serious!?”
And then I started crying…
The End. … … …
Well not quite…
Finally after a lot of convincing (and even more eye rolling) he actually believed I was serious.
He told me, “Look if you’re serious about this we have a lot of work to do, but we need to start tracking certain things.”
We need to track so we know what’s working and what’s not, so we can make the absolute best use of our time and not waste time doing things which don’t work.”
He gave me a list of things to track.
This was the game changer in my training, suddenly I knew exactly what I had to be doing, for how long and could measure the exact effects on my fitness.
I’m sure you can see how this works, “what gets measured gets managed.”
Which is exactly what I do in our 5 Day Reboot. I run you through all the things you should be measuring after 40 (and how to improve them) to ensure you can keep on performing like you’re 20 years younger.
We look at what to track, how to track it and how to improve it so you can build fitness and stamina whilst burning fat and sending your general performance through the roof.
There are tonnes of discussion online about HIIT vs Cardio after 40 and which you should be doing. Today I take a deeper dive.
Take 2 athletes.
One of them trains every day for 4 to 5 hours. Training this much means most of the exercise they do is steady state, lower intensity training.
The other trains for much less time but does much higher intensity workouts when they do.
For the first few years the first athlete does REALLY well. They win loads of competitions and moves quickly up the pack. The second doesn’t do quite as well but still puts in solid performances.
But within a few years athlete #1 is starting to pick up a few injuries, they look older than they should, they’ve starting noticing gut problems.
As a result their performance starts to decline and their punishing training schedule starts to have an effect on their relationships. Their partner starts getting pissed and they don’t see as much of their kids as they’d like.
…continues to train in the same way and slowly their performance is improving. They’re enjoying their training and their sport and still have plenty of time left over for life. What’s more due to the reduced training load, their body is actually getting stronger, they are getting injured less and less and look and feel great.
By the time they’re 50 athlete #1 has had to give up, their knees gave out and they now can’t really run. Athlete #2 is still going strong and is now competing in the veterans section and loving it as much as ever.
But I thought exercise was good for us?
The problem with huge amounts of exercise is the wear and tear it puts on the body. Repetitive often fairly high impact activities (running I’m looking at you) place an incredible strain on predictable areas of the body. Over time this leads to joints simply breaking down under the stress.
The other issue with this type of exercise is it can cause the body to quite literally eat itself.
Ever wondered why marathon runners are so skinny?
It’s because as you run for extended periods the body actually runs out of resources (glucose/ketones) to fuel itself. When this happens it assumes this is a survival situation (ie it’s being chased by a Tiger) and the fact you’re telling it to keep running means it’s serious, so it’d better find the fuel from somewhere.
So it does. It scavenges energy from anywhere it can find. To start with it mobilises fat stores, however after a while even they don’t prove sufficient, so it has to look else where.
It starts to break down muscle, connective tissue, it robs the gut lining, it steals energy and resources from your reproductive system.
In short it steals energy from anywhere it can under the rationale that it will be able to rebuild these stores later. Once you’ve escaped from the Tiger.
It figures, quite rightly, if you don’t escape from the Tiger, you’ll never use your digestive system or reproductive system (gulp!) again. So for the moment they’re not it’s priority.
In short, it does what the Starship Enterprise would do.
Diverting all energy to phasers. It diverts energy and resources from these currently inessential systems (reproductive, digestive, emotional) to the systems it needs RIGHT NOW to get away from the Tiger (muscles, heart, lungs etc).
When repeated over and over again, without allowing the body time to rebuild these precious systems. These systems slowly become compromised. Leading to hormone imbalances, digestive issues, mood imbalances and other unpleasant conditions.
Now I know I’m picking on running here. But it’s not the act of running itself which is bad (hell running is one of my favourite activities). It’s the amount of time and the level of intensity we can maintain whilst running which is the problem. We could replace running with any other similarly stressful, low intensity activity and the result would be similar.
So what’s the answer?
Well I go much deeper into this and reveal ALL the secrets to maintaining a health, fit body into your old age so you can keep on doing the sports you love no matter what your age in my FREE book “Post 40 Secrets.” You can grab your FREE copy here >>
But to summarise, it depends on exactly what you’re trying to achieve but for many of us a great place to start would be regular HIIT sessions to maximise results and minimise time with occasional long, steady state sessions thrown in.
So for example 3 HIIT sessions a week and every fortnight a 3-4 hour hike in the mountains.
Will this get you to Olympian levels of fitness? No, but it will give you the fitness you need to do everything you want whilst building health rather than destroying it.
BUT AREN’T WE DESIGNED TO RUN?
Running is an interesting one as many people argue when I mention this…
“but the human body is designed to run”
…yes and no.
If you look at the really top level runners, the Ethiopians for example. At first glance they would seem to be just genetic freaks.
When you look a little closer you notice something very interesting. The major difference in the way the Ethiopians train isn’t the amount of the distances they do, they’re pretty similar to the rest of the world ( a little less in many cases) what is different is the intensity at which they train.
Like many athletes they utilise the 80/20 method of training.
They spend 20% of their time exercising at a high intensity.
They spend the other 80% of their time exercising at a low level.
The major difference with the Ethiopians is the level this 80% is performed at. A much LOWER level than almost everyone else on the planet. A level which most Crossfit enthusiasts wouldn’t even consider exercise. In fact the major challenge people have when trying to replicate their training patterns is not pushing themselves too hard in this 80% phase.
The human body excels at long distances. It’s our natural advantage. It’s what enabled us to hunt down big game back when we lived on the plains. But when you actually look at how humans naturally hunt, we walk (or at least slow trot) the animal down. For most of the time the hunters remain in that magic 80% zone the Ethiopians have so successfully identified.
All of us over 40 have heard the terrifying statistic that we lose 1% of muscle mass a year naturally and that it becomes increasing difficult to build muscle after 40.
How do we prevent this so we can keep on performing at our highest level as we age?
Most of the solutions I found when researching this focused on which type of exercise to do to counteract this decline. Which makes sense, what better way of stimulating muscle growth?
However pretty standard for the Health & Fitness industry, no one could agree on which form of exercise was best.
Some said you had to lift lighter weights but do more reps (up to 3 sets of 30-40 reps) so you recovered faster.
Others that you had to do heavy training to build bone mass.
Others that you need to up the intensity and the duration. Basically do more and harder.
And others that you need to do less and focus more on recovery.
Given these inconsistencies could it be that the exercise you actually do isn’t really important at all?
What if instead we looked at WHY we are losing muscle mass and addressed those factors.
Let’s look at some examples.
As we age metabolism slows down. This mean’s if you were to eat the same diet at 40 as you did at 20. It’s the equivalent of eating an extra Big Mac a day compared to your 20 year old self. A sure fire way to pile on the pounds.
Add to this the fact that most of us are less active and more stressed (as we generally have more stuff going on) at 40 than we were at 20. And that both of these are known causes of weight gain. You can see the likelihood of us carrying more weight around at 40 is high.
Carrying extra weight means extra stress on the joints. Which leads to more wear and tear and a higher chance of aches, pains and injury. Injury which stops you exercising, leading to muscle loss and decreased performance..
If you’ve had a desk job for 20 years (which is generally impossible at 20) you’re more than likely going to have structural problems. ie. a skeleton which is slightly out of shape and so imbalanced.
This leads to a reduced efficiency of movement and reduced strength through the movement. This also gives you a higher risk of injury and simply means that the same action of doing a bicep curl or practicing your favourite sport is less efficient at 40 than it is at 20. As your levers aren’t working as effectively.
Over time as your body ages, your muscles, tendons, fascia and surrounding tissues tend to become more rigid, have more knots in them and lose elasticity. Which can contribute to an overall loss of strength and a hugely increased chance of injury.
Combine this with a reduced amount of something called Systemic Enzymes (the body slows production of these down from the age of 25). These are the chaps which go in and eat up scar tissue on the muscles. Scar tissue which causes weakness and brittleness.
This causes the recovery process to slow down. Especially when you overload your muscles and joints with heavy weight training. Making those little aches and pains you feel every morning just that much more noticeable the day after a workout.
We have naturally lower testosterone when we’re 40 than when we’re 20. Testosterone which is essential for not only feeling great in general (in men AND women) but also for putting on muscle.
If, rather than focus on which workout we were doing, we instead focussed on raising testosterone. It wouldn’t matter which workout we did as we’d gain muscle (and feel a lot better!) effortlessly.
By the age of thirty, you have achieved peak bone density, when you’re young your body replaces damaged bone with newer healthier bone. As you get older your body doesn’t replace it as quickly.
Between 30 and 40 years old your body replaces as much bone as it loses. However once you hit 40 a smaller amount of bone is replaced which can lead to them becoming thinner and brittle.
Again this is something which is easily reversible and stronger bones mean a stronger frame on which to build functional muscle.
One thing you HAVE to realise.
There is absolutely no reason why we can’t gain muscle at 40 like our 20 year old self.
University of Oklahoma researchers compared people of different ages who followed the exact same program for eight weeks. They found that guys between 35 and 50 years old built just as much muscle as those between 18 and 22 years old. DEXA scans showed that the college-aged men gained around two pounds of muscle, while the middle-aged men put on 2.5 pounds of muscle.
Moreover, strength gains in both the bench press (7 pounds for the college-aged men and 14 pounds for the middle-aged men) and leg press (55 pounds for the college-aged men and 40 pounds for the middle-aged men) were similar in both groups.
In our free book “Post 40 Secrets” I dive deep into how you can build muscle and fitness after 40. Addressing each of the issues I’ve mentioned above (and a load I haven’t) so you can build the body you want whilst having it perform exactly as you want no matter what your age.
When it comes to upgraded performance after 40 there are 2 roads you can choose. The difficult and well worn one or the easy but less well travelled road.
“God damn, piece of junk…”
That little spinning circle appeared again and my entire computer froze…
I looked longingly towards the nearest window, visualising using it as a launch point for the over sized paper weight my laptop had become.
When your computer slows down, you have 2 options. You can contact all the companies which write software for it and ask them to improve the code, to make it more elegant and hence more efficient. So it requires less processing power to run.
Good Luck With That One!
Software development is expensive, slow and difficult to do, taking teams of highly skilled developers years to do.
Alternatively you could just plug in a bit of new memory, change up the motherboard and improve the CPU.
It’s much cheaper, it’s fast and easy to do if you know what you’re doing and once it’s done your computer will run like greased lightning.
Why am I talking about this?
I went to a conference on high performance at work. They talked about how to increase employee learning and performance using the latest neuroscience, advanced learning techniques and understanding peoples true motivations…
The food they served at lunch time was absolute shit.
I was doing work for a top sports team (you’ve heard of them) they wanted me to improve the players mindset to push their players to even higher levels of performance on the pitch.
Looking in their changing rooms they were full of traditional deodorants, shower gels and other endocrine disruptors. All of which increase oestrogen and disrupt testosterone balance. Definitely not what sportsmen or women want.
In short, they were all focussing on the software…whilst totally ignoring the hardware.
And it’s something I see being repeated across all walks of life…all industries.
The simplest most effective way to improve your performance in ANYTHING is to…
Upgrade The Hardware.
Want to improve your employees performance and raise the bottom line of your business? Get rid of the vending machines in the office and improve the food served at the canteen. Want to improve your teams performance on the pitch…look at their habits off the pitch first.
By working on the hardware first it gives people much more bandwidth to install any software they like…and have that software run properly.
Your brain like your body is a biological machine.
If your brain doesn’t have the resources to create the chemicals to ensure neurons fire effectively.
If it lacks the building blocks to make myelin. The stuff which coats your neurons and allows them to fire faster and more accurately.
If your brain is inflamed so neurons fire slower and with less potential so any message is much more likely to get lost.
If your body lacks the hormones to grow, to give you energy, to power your muscles and your brain.
I don’t care what software you try to install on it…
IT WONT RUN PROPERLY
Once their hardware has been upgraded most of my clients see such huge performance increases they don’t really care about the software.
But if they do, we can now take the time to really install software which works in concert with their newfound hardware and takes their performance to stellar levels.
But without that hardware, any software we install is like trying to run the Googleplex on a ZX Spectrum….it might run but you’ll be seeing a lot of that spinning wheel.
So if you want to improve your performance in ANYTHING…
Want to earn more and work less.
Want to have more time to do what you love.
Want do it all better than you ever thought possible…
Start with the hardware…it’s easier, faster, much simpler to maintain and once you have it set up, you can run any fancy software you want on it.
I’ve written a book called “Post 40 Secrets” where I show you exactly how to upgrade your hardware so you can perform like your 20 when you’re 40, 50 or 60 +, it’s free and you can grab a copy here >>
You might think it’s obvious, after a tough day at work you’re going to have a worse than usual session on the water or on the slopes afterwards. But what if I told you there was a way you could improve physical performance after 40 by playing computer games?
What you may not realise is just how closely related those two things are.
In a study by S. Macora, subjects sat and played a simple and fairly mind numbing (I’ve played them) computer game for 90 minutes. The game was ridiculously simple. Shapes or letters appeared on a screen and subjects had to press a button depending on what they are shown.
Well yes, but the point is that you have to pay attention for 90 minutes.
What’s incredible is that after these 90 minutes were up, the subjects reached physical exhaustion 15% sooner in an all out cycling test.
The implications of this study are huge and indeed are being investigated by the British military. Who are looking for a way of extending physical endurance by subjecting candidates to repeated “brain endurance training.” Thus building mental and by implication physical endurance. (It’s not currently known if this works in the other direction so to speak)
But the possibilities if it does are pretty amazing. Meaning that by increasing concentration and focus we can also build physical endurance.
The more immediate takeaway for us is to leave a gap between heavy mental work and our sessions.
Or don’t do your accounts just before you do your favourite sport.
I’ve written a book called “Post 40 Secrets” where I walk you through you in how to upgrade yourself so you can perform like your 20 when you’re 40, 50 or 60 +, it’s free and you can grab your copy here >>
You were born with 2 brains. One of them holds the secret to enable you to perform better at everything…
The other one sucks..big time.
The awesome brain I call the animal brain, the sucky one, the human brain.
The animal brain is incredible at pretty much everything, it’s faster, more accurate and requires much less looking after than the human brain. It is however a shy and timid beast.
The good news is you have your own animal brain…
Unfortunately you also possess the human brain.
The animal brain is our instinctive brain…
The brain we share with lizards. It includes not just parts of the actual brain but also the nervous system and any intelligence held within our body, muscle memory and the like.
It’s responsible for all our instinctive actions, the actions which happen without you thinking about them and thus have very little control over.
The withdrawal reflex when you put your finger in a fire.
The instinctive flinch when someone raises their fist to hit you.
The uncontrollable laughter when your mate smacks himself full in the face whilst trying to pull his wetsuit on (well maybe not, but I for one don’t have much control over this one).
It does it’s work under the hood and we have very little access to the controlling mechanism.
Your human brain is your rational mind. This is the part of the brain that we use for planning ahead, for rationalising, for analysing past events and predicting future consequences, the inner critic.
Now, each of these brains has a separate connection to each sense (except the sense of smell, but that’s not relevant to our discussion here). So from your eyes you have one connection running up to the human brain and one connection running down to the animal brain.
The important thing is this: The animal brain connection response time is 10 times faster than the human brain connection response time.
Because your human brain has to think about its response.
All that awesome technology that goes in to making the human mind the most powerful supercomputer in the known universe has to swing into action.
It has to workout what the incoming information means, pass it through various filters, determine what it means to you now, come up with an appropriate response and send the response back to you, so you can do something about it.
The animal brain doesn’t do that. Whenever an incoming stimulus matches the correct pattern the appropriate response is automatically fired.
No thought, no hesitation.
And thank God it is
In a survival situation where every split second counts this is crucial.
So to gain true mastery of any skill we have to transfer its processing from the human brain to the animal brain (thus speeding up it’s processing by a factor of 10) and making the whole thing automatic so we do it on autopilot.
First off though we need to get one thing straight…
Your human brain doesn’t trust your animal brain.
It thinks it’s a bit of an idiot.
The human brain likes to think it’s very intelligent because of it’s higher reasoning capacity. It loves technical, results based, how to, style information. It wants detailed instructions telling it EXACTLY what to do in every single situation.
It then uses this technical know how to browbeat the animal brain, constantly telling it what it should be doing. You experience this when you’re learning a new skill.
It’s that constant voice in your head saying.
“Ok keep your eye on what your doing, dummy…”
“And watch out for that other person over there…”
“Keep your knees bent…”
“God damn! You T***, why can’t you just do it right!?”
The problem is when your human brain is commanding the animal brain like this, your animal brain doesn’t perform very well, it crumples under the pressure.
Compare and contrast that experience to changing gear in a car.
The first time you tried changing gear (if you’re anything like me) it seemed like an impossible task. There’s all these different things to do, in the correct order, coordinated over feet, eyes and arms and you’ve got a split second to do all of it, whilst keeping your eyes on the road.
Your human brain was constantly on at you to “do this, don’t forget that, push the clutch you idiot,” and as as result you got stressed out and the whole experience felt clunky as you waited for the human brain to tell you what to do next.
Now, if you’ve been driving a while, I bet you can’t break it down into its separate parts. It has become one action that you do not think about. You human brain does not get involved. It’s learned to trust the animal brain on this one and as a result you perform the task effortlessly.
And if you do try and think about it, and I challenge you to do this (make sure you’re on a quiet, wide road at the time) often the action doesn’t feel natural at all.
When you’re on a roll, in the zone, deep in the flow state, lost in the moment. Just doing it…
You’re not thinking about what you are doing AT ALL.
Your animal brain has taken over and you’re operating on instinct alone. When we leave the animal brain to just get on with it…
It does really well,
So what we’re actually trying to do when we’re teaching you a new sport is to get your human brain to shut up. To stop it feeding this information, these endless instructions and criticisms to the animal brain…and just let it get on with it.
“Ok great,” you might be saying, “but when changing gear for the first time I wanted to have the human brain telling me what to do. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue what to do in the first place.”
Yup I’m right with you.
And herein lies the paradox at the heart of peak performance.
We need to try really hard and then not try at all
You see, I’m not saying that all that technical information is of no use…
In fact I would advise you to swot up on as much technical knowledge as you can BEFORE you start.
Watch all the YouTube video’s you can, visualise your move over and over, have a perfect picture in your head of what you are trying to achieve, feed the human brain and let it transmit this knowledge (osmosis style) to the animal brain.
But when you actually start to do whatever it is, forget it all and let the inner animal do it’s job…believe me, it’s much better at whatever you’re doing than you are.
Interested to know more?
I’ve written a free book where I delve in to this and a load of other stuff in much more detail to enable you to perform like you’re 20 when you’re 40, 50 or 60+, you can grab your free copy here >>
When I first started getting serious about optimal human performance and wanted to ensure I could perform better after 40 than I currently did, I had no idea where to start.
So the first place I went was my doctors, after all, who knows more about health?
I asked him ”Doc, I feel ok, but I want to feel amazing, can you help?”
My doctor looked at me and said, “Ok great, what symptoms do you have?”
“Hmmm…nothing really I guess”
“Well I’m afraid I can’t help you young man.”
(I was 25 at the time!)
I must have looked pretty disappointed as he went on to tell me something which has stuck with me all these years.
”As doctors we are only trained to cure sickness, you get ill, you come to us, we fix you. But if you’re not sick there’s nothing we can do.
We have a model of what is called health care when in fact it’s sickness care. Health care would be ensuring people never got sick in the first place! How’s this relevant? Well…
Most of us peak in our natural performance between the ages of 15 – 25. Some of us, the athletes and those who look after themselves or win the genetic lottery manage to stay there a bit longer, maybe up to 30.
After which it’s generally a long, slow decline towards death…”
“Cheery thought huh?”
“What most people don’t realise is, this isn’t inevitable. In fact there are some people who seem to totally avoid this decline altogether. It can certainly be prolonged long after what is currently considered natural.”
I thought of the various athletes I knew who were considered outliers as they were considerably older than the norm and still dominating their game.
Tom Brady the 43 year old star quarterback and superstar of the NFL being a prime example.
“You see, declining performance in ALL areas is a process of death by 1000 cuts. We eat crap, we neglect sleep, we work too hard and for too long, we party too much, we don’t exercise or over exercise, we spend too much time being stressed or don’t apply the right kinds of stress to the body.
In short we abuse our bodies which slowly, slowly, slowly get worn down as a result.
So by the time most of us reach 30, we are operating at 50% of our full potential, at most.”
Then he flashed a grin at me and said…“That’s where I come in,
It’s at about this stage people start coming to see me, lack of energy, can’t sleep, gaining weight, feeling tired, depression. If they’re unlucky it might be some industrial disease, CFS, IBS or something else with a name. It might be simpler, just not being as fit as they feel they should be or not being able to bring it like they used to.
There’s still not a lot we can do as doctors at this stage as they generally don’t have any medical symptoms for us to work with.
So they start to self medicate.
They drink coffee to wake them up in the morning, alcohol to knock themselves out in the evening and energy drinks to get through the day.
They throw down painkillers, start doing crash diets which, although they may provide temporary relief, actually throw the body into greater chaos. Further reducing their long term performance by adding a few more cuts to those 1000 we talked about earlier.
The insidious problem here is, all their friends are showing similar symptoms as well. So they think their complaints are normal and chalk it up to old age.
One of the major problems in the western world today is the belief symptoms are normal and simply a sign of growing old. I’m telling you after 30 years as a doctor, symptoms are common in our western world…they are NEVER normal. It’s just, we pretty much ALL suffer from them and so believe they are.”
“Wow,” I thought this is interesting. So I asked,
“Ok, now you come to mention it, I’ve been noticing I’m not as energetic as I used to be. I struggle more at the gym and on the water. I don’t sleep as well, I get bloated after eating and I’m starting to put on a few pounds. Do you think this means I’m not performing as well as I could be?”
“Young man…” he said, looking me up and down, “I believe you are currently operating at somewhere around 50% of your true potential…”
I was the healthiest person I knew!
He continued, “Right now you have 2 choices. You can carry on as you are and continue this inevitable, slow decline into death or do something about it and take your performance back up to 100%.”
“Is that even possible?” I said.
“Oh God yes…
Think of your body like a car, a high performance sports car.
If you take this car and put crappy fuel in it, drive it like a maniac, crash it a few times and never take it for a service or to see a mechanic, in 20 years it’ll be ready for the scrap heap.
But if you take this car and put a new engine in, replace all the parts with new ones and lovingly restore the body work, you can restore it to its former glory. What’s more because technology has advanced in those 20 years, it can actually be rebuilt better.
Biology works in exactly the same way, but it’s easier because it does all the work for you. You just have to give it the inputs it needs to do its job…which is actually a lot simpler than people think.”
I go over those inputs and walk you through exactly how you can use them to rejuvenate your biology, knocking years off your biological age in my latest book “Post 40 Secrets”
Giving up booze is often touted as the miracle cure, for me it turned into something quite different…
A Journey Into One Mans Dysfunction.
I hadn’t drunk alcohol in 6 months…
and I felt terrible for it.
Sure I hadn’t suffered the hangovers, but I’d developed something much worse…
Before I gave up the bottle I was working 16 hour days and doing the work of 6 people.
I thought my ability to do this consistently was a sign of my high performance lifestyle. I was eating well, exercising plenty, taking handfuls of supplements and following the advise of a bunch of Peak Performance gurus, I thought I was Bulletproof.
Now the fact that I was sleeping for around 4 hours a night, waking up with my stomach in knots and my mind racing only forced to reinforce this fact in my misguided mind.
I was resilient and could take it.
I knew however, I still had one crutch. I’d go out most weeks, get absolutely smashed and then spend the next few days feeling terrible. I realised if I wanted to be truly high performance this habit had to go. So I gave up.
Suddenly I started falling asleep the instant my head hit the pillow, didn’t suffer the apathy and depression of hangovers and had a TONNE of energy…
Well that all sounds great Sam, well done…
And that’s exactly what I thought, but…
Let’s Explore The True Depths Of My Dysfunctionality.
What did I use this new found energy for?
Did I go kitesurfing and set out on crazy adventures like I really wanted to?
Did I use it to spend more time with friends?
Did I maybe just use it to read more and feed my brain?
Of course not…
I used it to work even harder!
I was now doing the work of 8 people…not only was I a high performance human being I was now a high performance human being who didn’t drink…how incredible was I? Just look at me you mere mortals as I run around from 4 am to 12 am and never stop…
What a perfect example of a High Performance Human Being….
What An Idiot!
The short story is giving up booze drove me towards burnout even faster….it gave me the energy to bugger myself up properly!
And for that I am actually grateful. Had my journey towards burnout been slower I’d still most likely be living that way now.
Now funnily enough the message I want you to take from this post isn’t that giving up booze is bad, when I actually sorted my life out this proved to be one of the most empowering steps I’ve ever taken, but instead to highlight my fundamental problem with the world of high performance at the moment.
Nootropics, bio hacks, handfuls of supplements…all these are great if you have the fundamental foundations to build on…ie a healthy biology and a healthy lifestyle which supports high performance.
Mainly one which combines ample recovery time in-between your bouts of high performance.
If you don’t have these you’re just…
Putting Rocket Fuel In A Skoda.
And can just sit back and watch as the poor vehicle shakes itself apart when you put your foot on the gas.
The key here is to build a lifestyle of high performance first. And that doesn’t mean running out and ordering all the latest nootropics. The most important aspect of high performance isn’t high performance itself is how you recover from and prepare for your next bout of high performance.
Just like a top class athlete knows the time between training sessions is where the magic happens (as this is where your muscles grow and your brain lays down new neural pathways) so the same is true of high performance. We must learn to recover effectively, to prepare the body for its next bout of high performance.
And the way we do that? By switching off, powering down, chilling out and giving our body time to do the heavy lifting it needs.
I’ve written a book called “Post 40 Secrets” where I walk you through how to upgrade yourself so you can perform like your 20 when you’re 40, 50 or 60 +, it’s free and you can grab your copy here >>
When you ask most people what they are doing after a session on the water or the mountain the reply is surprisingly similar, normally involving the sofa, Netflix and a few beers whilst they recover and mull over the days action.
“And why not” I hear you say, “I’ve damn well earned it.”
And I wholeheartedly agree.
Here’s the thing, since 1960 the number of jobs involving sedentary activity has increased by a massive 83%. Not just that but the increasing comfort of our lifestyles coupled with technology which makes our lives easier at every turn has led to most of us being sedentary for the majority of our lives, even when we’re not sitting in front of a screen.
Dr. Richard Weiler, who’s credentials include physician for a British premier league football club and Senior Sports Physician at the British Olympic Association, looked into what his footballers did off the pitch.
What he found was surprising.
About 80% of off pitch time was spent in sedentary states.
His findings have been confirmed across other sports including American Football and Rugby. I would bet the same holds true for most of us as well…in fact a short survey I did at the beach recently certainly seemed to point in this direction.
Scientists have known for a long time that not moving much for long periods of time is inherently bad for us. It changes the expression of a multitude of genes which in turn leads to rising inflammation, a down regulation of cardiovascular health and a whole host of other effects, none of which are good.
The bad news…
All it takes is around 2 hours of sitting and these effects start to manifest themselves.
Most of us are sedentary for much more than this on a daily basis.
In fact having tracked my own inactive time using my Oura ring I still average around 5-6 sedentary hours a day, and I’m the most active person I know.
“No worries,” I hear you cry, “I work out.”
Well here’s the real kicker.
It seems a short burst of exercise doesn’t help.
Indeed it seems these changing gene expressions and the effects they cause react to low level physical activity levels over the entire day. So a sudden burst of exercise wont fix it. You can’t do cross fit in the morning and then hit the sofa for the rest of the day, you need to be constantly micro moving to keep that low level of physical activity high to keep these genes switched off.
However for most of us when we’ve done a good workout or done a bit of sport we think we deserve a rest and so tend to take it easier for the rest of the day. It’s called the “compensatory effect,” similar to how you think you’ve earned that chocolate muffin after a session at the gym.
Now, this is actually good news (especially for those of you who hate formal exercise) as the solution is relatively simple.
Move for 5 – 10 mins every hour.
Get up and go for a toilet break, do some press ups, get a standing desk or even better a walking desk, go for a walk on your lunch break. Hell, you really don’t need me to tell you how to do this, just try to build things that work for you into your day.
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In my last post we talked about how static stretching isn’t what you want to be doing if you’re looking to stretch properly before sport. If you missed that post you can check it out here >>
So what can you do instead?
Well the first thing I recommend for my clients is dynamic stretching.
Dynamic (or ballistic) stretches stretch the muscles through movement. Repeated studies have shown they can improve power, strength and performance during a subsequent exercise session. Unlike static stretching which involves just pulling on a specific muscle group. Dynamic stretching incorporates posture control, stability, balance and ballistic, explosive movements such as swings and kicks.
Take a simple quadricep stretch, the traditional way of doing this (the way I was taught when I used to play football) was to simply stand on one leg, grab the ankle of the other leg and pull that heel towards your bum. A classic static stretch.
Instead of this, imagine you were to take a giant step forward with your right leg and then grab the ankle of your left foot pulling it up to your bum. Now drop it down and take a giant step forward with your left leg, grab your right heel and pull it to your bum. Suddenly you are incorporating stability, balance and mobility whilst actually contracting the muscles.
All of which makes this a far superior way to stretch.
I would recommend warming up before doing dynamic stretching. Due to its ballistic and explosive nature you are more likely to injure yourself if done from cold than with static stretching. So a good 10 min cardio based warmup is mandatory.
The other method I use and have most of my clients use, is…
Deep Tissue Work.
This catch all term refers to anything which gets deep into your muscles and connective tissue. Now there are loads of ways to do this, Rolfing, Muscle Activation Technique, Advanced Muscle Integrative Therapy, Point Therapy. But my favourite (mainly for its ease and accessibility) is foam rolling and simply making love to a spiky Death Star! Or if you don’t want to buy one of the specialist devices, rolling around on a tennis ball to really get it into all those spots which hurt.
Think of it as a self applied (or inflicted!) deep tissue massage.
Why do this?
When you have areas of chronic tightness or tension, or a history of injury or muscle overuse, adhesions (bands of painful areas) usually form in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. These adhesions block circulation whilst causing pain, inflammation and limited mobility.
Which is turn means when you exercise (or just sit around for too long) you create tension in these muscles. Tighter muscles tend to weaken, and a weak muscle tends to tighten. So you get a viscous cycle which increases inflammation, reduces blood flow and lessens the ability of the lymphatic system to remove waste material from the muscle. Increasing the risk of injury.
Deep tissue work gets in and breaks these adhesions down by applying direct pressure or friction across the grain of the muscle.
The best thing about Deep Tissue work? It doesn’t have to be done directly before or after sports, but can simply be something you include in your daily routine. I tend to do 20 mins every morning and evening when I can and the differences after just a few months are HUGE.
Interested to learn more?
I’ve written a book packed full of stretching and workout plans which includes all of the techniques mentioned to ensure you never get injured again…