As the world has shut down over the last couple of weeks many industries have already been shaken to their cores. The fitness industry is one of them.
With studios being shut down most fitness people have scrambled to get online in order to keep their client bases during this time. I understand we all need to try and keep ourselves in business but for you, the consumer, there is more to think about.
I have seen some really scary stuff the last couple weeks as online training IS NOT the same as training in person. Exercise selection, programming, instructions, and pretty much everything else needs to be changed in order to deliver a safe and effective fitness program.
What I see instead, is a mass of quick high intensity workouts being haphazardly thrown together with no thought at all. Not just in the workout design but no thought as to who the workout is for and what long term strategy is being employed.
Especially at a time when physiotherapy, massage, and other health services are either closed or overwhelmed, now is NOT the time to hurt yourself.
Instead it is HIT challenges, burpees till you puke and a plethora of other fitness bullshit that should have died out 20 years ago. Literally, every social media platform is filled with workout after workout filled with the same stupid shit in a different combination. It’s scary.
Remember: the BEST fitness won’t leave you sore, hurt, and broken. The BEST fitness will leave you feeling awesome, moving well, and energized.
How can you tell the great from the crap if you are not already in my online platform? (<– see what I did there??)
Here are things that will tell you right away when you should run away. If you see any of these things…DO NOT DO THE PROGRAM OR WORKOUT!
#1 – Burpees
It is time for these things to die. Stop doing them.
For the vast majority of people, no matter how fit you are, the risk of poor form far outweighs any perceived benefit of this exercise. ANY fitness ‘professional’ who knows the slighted bit about what they are doing should be able to effectively build a program to target your whole body and your cardio system WITHOUT using burpees.
Programming a shit ton of burpees is lazy and stupid.
#2 – Dips
Bench dips are everywhere. They are terrible for you!!! PLEASE DON’T DO THEM!!!
On a bench, a chair, a stair or wherever else your insta-trainer is posting their FAT BLASTING sessions, doesn’t matter. This exercise puts your shoulder into a VERY precarious position and then ADDS load to it. It’s truly fucking stupid.
Don’t do these.
#3 – V-sits
The chance that you are maintaining good form on this exercise is around 0.01%. (No, not link to a study on that, just my 20 years of, you know, doing this day in and day out plus a master degree in human movement…).
You are going to put you back into poor position and that is why SO MANY PEOPLE complain about how much their back hurts during this movement.
Then every fitness ‘pro’ hands you a med ball (load) and tells you to tap it to the ground beside you (rotation) or has you pass it back and forth with a friend (again, rotation). When you add rotation to the lumbar spine when it is in a loaded and not properly positioned is a recipe for disaster.
#4 – Bicycles
This is hip flexors. It bends your spine the wrong way. It is the posture we lambaste constantly as we sit too much. There is nothing good about this and no benefit over 100 other exercises.
#5 – Ab Workouts
You should never, ever, ever, never do an abs only workout. Ever.
I know why you do it and why fitness peeps program them. Because deep down you all think that if you ‘blast your abs’ you will get a flat tummy and sculpted six-pack and everything in your life is going to be just so much better.
It won’t work. Flat tummies and six-packs have NOTHING to do with training the recuts abdominus (that is the muscle that makes the six-pack…) and is completely dependent on your level of body fat, which in turn, is completely dependent on your diet.
AGAIN! You spend enough time anteriorly flexed (hunched forward…think sitting…) and ab exercises exasperate this immensely. You need to train your posterior chain (your back) which might not have the same sex appeal but will keep you happier and healthier!
#6 – HIT Workouts
Look, when you’re fit and exercise regularly HIT workouts are awesome. But if you are new to training they are WAY too intense. And for EVERYONE right now, you need to be careful. When rehab services are closed and doctors are over-worked they don’t have time to deal with your strained back or tweeked shoulder. So why take the risk?
Train with an intensity appropriate to you and your level of fitness. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and steady work everyday will payoff in the long run!!!
Yes, I will plug me. I have been building an online platform for the last 3 years and have 20 years of experience. I am not the only one. There are good quality options out there.
How can you tell?
If the program or the coach includes any of the above listed items, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE.
Staying active at home with little to no equipment is absolutely possible and when done right it is very effective! When done poorly, well, it is a disaster.
The internet is populated with lists and I am about to add another one!
Lists are popular because people like quick and actionable things that they don’t really have to think too much about. I understand. Sometimes my writing can become a little verbose and if I want to really hammer home a message of great importance I must adapt to the times!
So here is a list.
A list of things. A list of things that you should do everyday. A list of things that you should do everyday that you will think is stupid. A list of things that you should do everyday that you will think is stupid but will make your life better. A list of things that you should do everyday that you will think is stupid but will make your life better, not now but in ten years. A list of things that you should do everyday that you will think is stupid but will make your life better, not now but in ten years, if you actually do them everyday.
Verbosity. It can be problematic for me. I will keep this brief. You won’t have to read too hard. But if you take it seriously you will end up living a better life 10, 20, 30 years from now and beyond.
Let your mind be free
We all spend far too much time staring at phones or computers. Little moments. Waiting in line. Waiting for someone to come out of a store. Sipping tea in the morning.
Long ago you would stand bored watching the world go by. Seeing other people move, laugh, get angry. We noticed birds, clouds, trees, the new bread counters at the grocery store.
Don’t fill every moment.
Just look around. Watch. Have many moments, everyday, where you are just being in where you are.
Daydream a little
My wife sometimes is perplexed by my seeming absentmindedness. I will be sitting at the table staring out the window. She asks what I am looking at, the answer? Nothing. Literally, nothing.
Sometimes I just sit and stare into nothingness. You should to. It’s good for your brain. We should encourage daydreaming, not chastise it.
As often as possible. Be barefoot. Walking around the house, the backyard, the gym (if your gym is progressive and understands being barefoot is not akin to urinating on the floor), anywhere and everywhere that you can.
Sit on the floor
There is a correlation between the amount of time people spend on the floor and long term health. The more time you spend on the ground the better.
Read a book, daydream out the window, play with your kids, have a snack, whatever. Just sit on the ground a little everyday.
If you can’t get there comfortable, you had better start working on it.
One of my team says this all the time. Tummy time. Spend time daily on your stomach. Reading, watching internet videos, staring out the window, or anything else you want to do.
Again, if this isn’t comfortable, you had better start working on it.
Put on your socks standing up
Does this need a description? Socks, shoes, whatever. Do it standing up and not leaning on anything. ALWAYS.
You pet your dog, clean snot off your kids face, pick up something that you have dropped, or any one of a hundred things that pops up during the day on the ground.
Instead of bending over to do it, drop down into a deep squat. The adage move it or lose it is significant here. And again, if you cannot currently comfortably deep squat, you had better get working on it!
Get on the ground
You’re seeing the theme here right?
Cleaning the floor, get down there and do parts by hand. Have a picnic in your kitchen with the kids.
I keep coming back to this because I really think it is THAT important.
Add some stretching while dressing
Getting dressed can be SO hard, I get it. And now I want you to add more complexity to it. I am SO, SO, sorry!!!
You know that great stretch first thing in the morning? When you reach overhead, arch your back, and make your dog jealous of how good it feels to stretch out?
Do that. Every time you get dressed. And go old school, when you put on your pants, grab a foot behind you and stretch your leg, both sides, no, not at the same time… BONUS, you will be getting in some one leg work!
Pick things up with your feet
You need to be barefoot to let your feet live. You also need to keep the muscles in your feet strong and mobile, just like the rest of your body! You don’t need fancy equipment!
Literally pick up things with your feet. Something you’ve dropped, something that needs to get moved out of the way, whatever. We have buckets of marbles that we pour on the ground and make people pick up and put back in the bucket using only their feet. It is really, really, really good for you.
Stand on one leg whenever you can
Not much to say here. On the phone, in a line-up, washing dishes, anywhere. Stand on one foot. Alternate sides. Who cares if people think you look crazy.
If it is fewer than 10 floors take the stairs. For the rest of your life. ALWAYS choose the stairs.
I always laugh after getting off a long flight. People are stiff and sore and just want to move around. Get into the terminal and start walking to the exit and what does everyone do? Takes the damn escalator.
REALLY? There are literally stairs RIGHT beside it and weren’t you JUST complaining that you were stiff from not moving for hours? Walk up the damn stairs.
Go up and down stairs differently every time
Now that you’re walking more stairs, make it fun! Forwards is for the mundane!
Go sideways, backwards, take two at a time, take two at a time with one leg but one at a time with the other leg, or maybe try three at a time with one leg and two at a time with the other leg. Or maybe two stairs forward, two left side, two forward, then two right side. The variations are endless.
Again, who cares what anyone thinks? When they can’t get themselves out of bed anymore in the morning and you are walking stairs for fun we will see who looks ridiculous.
Hang from stuff
Life isn’t like the movies. Most people couldn’t hold themselves on a rope, tree branch, or bar of any kind. Sorry, but you aren’t going to be catching your friend falling off the building with one hand and save them by pulling them up to safety.
You hang from things. Whatever you want to hang from is fine as long as it will support your bodyweight. Let’s be safe here ok?
Even if you only hang with one arm to get started while your other hand braces onto something. Although being able to hang on a tree branch with only one arm at a party is going to make you look super badass.
Step over things
Stop going around obstacles. Tackle them. Step over curbs, railings, branches, whatever. Pick up you damn feet and step over them.
Walk on elevated things
You see kids running along the top of a short wall or the curb dividers in a parking lot and we think, oh kids being kids.
Stop being an adult. Adults are really NO fun.
Walk on narrow things, in every direction. Great for balance and proprioception. And it is just WAY more FUN.
Jump between things
This can become a little higher risk but it is seriously good for your life. Jump fro one curb to another. One tree stump to another. It doesn’t even have to be elevated. Just pick two points and jump from one to another. Daily.
Remember hopscotch? Do kids still play hopscotch? I don’t know but if the don’t they should be. And you should to.
No need to setup a game though. Just hop a few steps here and there. Two feet, one foot, any direction, just, hop. Kids do this all the time.
Are you seeing ANOTHER recurring theme here? Kids know how to keep their bodies healthy naturally. Why do we train this out of them???
Do some spinning
Spinning around is how you train your balance. Not to beat a dead horse but kids do this all the time. You should too.
Before going up your next set of stairs spin around in a full circle. Going from the sink to the fridge? Don’t turn towards the fridge, turn the opposite direction and spin around before heading over. Again, there are a MILLION ways to add some spinning into your life.
This is arguably one of THE most important things on this list.
Walk on uneven surfaces – on purpose
Stop walking on the path. Walk over the grass, across that little mound of mulch, choose to walk across the rocks, walk one foot on the parking lot and one foot on the curb, maybe go back and forth, left leg ground, right leg on curb, then next step put the left leg on the curb and right foot on the ground on the other side.
Now you have also added stepping over things! Get really creative and add a spin to this!
Shockingly, the human body is able to move through many different movements. Yet we all tend to do two: forward walking and sitting down. Literally, that is the majority of your daily movement.
Really just sit and thing about it for a moment while you are daydreaming sitting in the car waiting for someone. How many other movements do you do in a day besides sitting down and getting up and walking forward?
So walk backwards, even just a few steps, or try sideways or do some crossovers with your feet. Whatever. It doesn’t have to be all day, just a few strides here and there.
Remember, move it, or lose it.
Crawl around – it’s important
Yes, crawl. On your hands and knees, crawl. Bear crawl, which is just crawling while not letting your knees touch the floor.
Add this to your life daily. DAILY. If you cannot do this comfortably, you have some physical training to get at!
Add some holds to your day
Plates, groceries, kids, dogs, logs, shoes, jars, paint cans, chairs, books, whatever is around and has at least a little weight to it. Hold it up overhead. One arm, two arm, on one leg or two, mix it up.
Hold stuff overhead for a minute or two a day. Hug it to your chest and hold it (this better be heavy though). Carry your groceries by your side instead of using the cart back to the car. Hold stuff.
Turkish getups. I love them and you should to. Do these daily for the rest of your life.
If you are being a stubborn bastard and refuse to learn how to TGU then do our old standby, the lay down getup.
What is that you ask? Simple. Stand there. Lay down on the ground on your back and then stand back up. No rules. ANY way you want to get back up. Now lay back down right away on your left side. Then back up, then down on your right side, and up, and them back down on your stomach and back up.
Try to do that for two minutes. It is…more challenging than it seems.
While you’re down there on the ground, just roll over a couple of times. Two times left and then two times right. Or whatever you want, I won’t judge.
Rolling is just spinning but on the ground! And this is VITAL to your long-term health. Seriously. We build all sorts of rolling into all of our training programs. Do it daily and you will be physically healthier for the rest of your life.
And there we go, 25 things you can add to your life daily that will, very truly, make a more significant difference over the next 30 years, than any bootcamp class you take or supplement you can buy.
No, they aren’t flashy, they aren’t sexy, but they work. They WILL keep your body fit, capable, and more resilient to accident and injury. If you do these little things every single day the accumulative impact will be like investing $100 in Apple stock in 1980. Except better because it is your health.
Blasphemy echoes the chorus of insta trainers and newly minted college certified personal fitness gurus.
Of course you do they synchronize in a beautiful harmony, barbells and dumbbells have been and always will be, without the leg press and the preacher curl apparatus you would be lost and alone. They begin to chant rhythmically, ‘progressive overload….progressive overload…progressive overload,” it begins as a whisper, “progressive overload,” gaining volume, ‘progressive overload!” swells to a resounding boom! The group sways side to side with lighters in the air, moving as a group to respect the knowledge that only fancy machines and structured equipment can ensure each workout another kilogram is maximising muscle growth. The final nail in their argument is hammered home by the great idea of the importance of muscle isolation, without which no muscle can ever reach its true potential!
Without equipment you are doomed to never hit a fitness goal. Your body will,, WILL, be doomed to wither away and send you to the great realm of the UNFIT.
It is preposterous to be sure. Somehow the human race managed to stay strong and survive the last 100,000 before the advent of Nautilus and the rise of the Keiser hydraulics.
The group above will quickly step up to highlight that while they didn’t have equipment before technology made everything better, our ancestors DID stuff. Picked up heavy things, moved stuff, travelled, hunted, built things. Now that we don’t do that we need all the fancy machines to replace these efforts and develop us.
To a point, I am in agreement.
Modern life is devoid of physical hardship that would have forced us to remain mobile and strong. However, the idea that complicated equipment and muscle isolation is the right way to work our modern bodies is preposterous. It isn’t better, it isn’t safer, it isn’t useful.
I am not saying there is NO equipment that you can learn and make use of. I am a HUGE advocate for kettlebells, the TRX, indian clubs, the Mace, Bulgarian bags, and the good old jump rope. What I AM attempting to say is that you do not NEED any equipment to be healthy and fit.
The list of equipment I just wrote all require some practice, some space, and of course, access to the items themselves. If you can arrange that, do it! But, to stay healthy and strong it isn’t necessary. Your body is this amazing and beautiful machine that becomes stronger and more resilient based on ONE thing – work.
Your muscles get stronger when they have to do work (engineering and physicist friends, back off! I KNOW I am going to FAR over simplify this concept). What is work? Basically, work means the application of force to move something. You pick up something heavy and move it, work. That is what your muscles know, what your body in general knows.
What your body DOESN’T know is what exactly is causing the work. A deer carcass, a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a baby carrier, a rock, a tree, a friend’s couch, or a great book. In fact, your body doesn’t even know if what it is being forced to do work moving, is itself!
And this is why you can be fit, strong, and healthy, without ANY equipment.
Have you heard of: pushups, pullups, stairs, hills, or the floor? What do all of these things have in common?
You can utilize them for all of your training, using the body itself as the implement to create work. I know, crazy concept.
A list of exercises (yeah, sometimes there is no set name for what I am describing):
-jumping onto things
-walking up stairs
-walking up a hill
-sitting down on the floor and getting back up
-yoga and animal flows
You’re welcome. I just gave you everything you need to do for the rest of your life to keep strong and healthy. Seriously.
But what about progressive overload? Challenging yourself? How do you make it more work to get stronger?
Sprint up a hill instead of walk, jump onto something higher, jump over something, sprint faster, do push-ups on one foot, or with one arm, do pull-ups with one arm instead of two arms, or do pull-ups faster, or do more pull-ups, or do muscle-ups, or walk up stairs faster, or do more stairs, or jump up the stairs, or jump up the stairs three at a time, or do a handstand and do inverted push-ups, or jump squat, or jump lunge, or…….
I could literally just keep going on and on and on ad nauseam. I think you get the point.
Your body doesn’t know if the work the arms are doing is resulting from pressing a barbell overhead or from doing a handstand push-up. It doesn’t need to. The muscles respond to the act of doing the work and differently to the impetus creating the need for the work.
Why am I bothering to meander through all of this with you?
Because I want all of you to know, to understand, that anyone can have access to great fitness, at anytime, in any place. There is no reason, no excuse, not to move your body and keep it strong.
You do not need fancy programs or elite equipment or the newest product being hawked on Shark Tank.
This doesn’t mean you CAN’T use equipment (I mean there IS a hierarchy of equipment that is better for you or worse for you, as I already listed earlier in this article). By all means incorporating good equipment and following well crafted programs, like those found at evolutiononlinefitness.com for example, can be fantastic.
I merely want to highlight that you don’t NEED to. Your body only knows work and as long as you force it to do work it will be stronger and more resilient.
I keep hammering on this question and have probably lost half of my audience because of it. I don’t care because the question is simply just too important.
What is health?
See, half the people reading just closed the window. Those who are still with me, however, are embarking on a journey that is going to, literally, change the rest of your life.
The question really should be: what is health, to you?
Culturally, a very fucked up definition of health exists both in scope and definition. The scope of what we perceive health to be is so narrow, so exclusive, and so wrong. Always, ALWAYS, health is equivocated to the appearance of a person’s body. How big we perceive it to be, how lean, how fat, how muscular, how skinny. The fact that this is a completely arbitrary observation and totally subjective to the viewer is irrelevant to everyone.
What a person looks like cannot tell you about their overall health. You getting skinnier does not mean you will be healthier. Just ask those who have suffered from anorexia. Oh, but that is too skinny you say, that isn’t your goal at all. Well, how do you know when you go from skinnier than you are now to too skinny?
Any definition of health is hard to discuss. I have been asking people for weeks to define what health is to them and I have received one response. It is good response and from of my favourite people.
To me, “health is true happiness and feeling your very best.”
I like it. There is truth in. But could this serve as a definition of health? I am not sure because how to define ‘feeling your very best?’ How do you define ‘true happiness?’ And without definable outcomes how can we ever answer the question, what is health?
Yet it is a course that must be pursued because without a greater understanding of what health actually is it will be impossible to ever help people move towards improving the quality of their health.
This is why it IS SO DAMN IMPORTANT that you ask yourself this question and spend time putting together an answer. The definition of what this means to you is what will guide and shape the future.
So let me take a stab at it. Let me share with you how I currently would answer this question. Note my use of the word ‘currently.’ Why that ambiguous little descriptor? Simply, because I believe that this is a subject and a topic that will be continually evolving with new information and the wisdom that only time can teach.
What is health to you, Coach Taylor?
Health is the ability to move well in order to do the things you dream of doing and to fuel yourself in a way to minimize the risks of chronic disease while maximizing the full potential of your body.
To be more concise: Health is the ability to move well, while you eat well.
Even this definition has a wide scope of what could be included. And this is precisely the point I am trying to make.
Health, and better health, doesn’t have a definition. It can only have a definition of what it means to you. This is why the topic so engrosses me.
What you probably think of as health right now is actually a culturally mediated image that has been rammed down your throat the majority of your life in a purposeful effort to keep you just unhappy enough to buy more products and buy into a fictionally created ideal. The supermodel and the rugged masculine athlete are not actual objects of health by all objective means.
I have watched real health for two decades with my clients. And guess what? Hitting a new one rep max or completing a marathon have never led to long term happiness, contentment, or good health for a single one of them. And I have trained thousands of people.
Those achievements improved their health for about as long as the last failed diet attempt. It was fleeting and in the long run left them with new feelings of stress as they compared their everyday abilities to the pinnacle of their abilities in the past.
Health is changing and evolving. It ebbs and flows as we age, as we deal with traumatic life events, or even as our personal goals change.
There are constants when it comes to our health, however, that are just behind everything else that we do in this unending quest to take care of ourselves as best we can.
How well can you move?
Without being able to move well everything becomes harder. Opening doors, shovelling snow, caring for a sick loved one, hiking on vacation, enjoying a day at the cottage, cooking a meal for your family, competing in a sports event, or playing with your grandchildren and all predicated on how well your body can move.
So why isn’t our fitness focus on improving peoples quality of movement?
I can tell you this very definitively: if you improve how well you can move you will improve a host of actual objective measures of the health of your physical body. And it isn’t just squatting, rolling, flexibility, and jumping when we talk about the quality of your movement. How well blood moves through your arteries and veins, how well your digestive system works, and how well your internal organs are able to function are part of your movement. I bet you never considered those aspects before when you thought about movement.
What about food and nutrition Coach Taylor? Aren’t they important to your health?
Absolutely. The quality of the food you eat is directly linked to the health of your body. And guess what? This can be seen in the quality of your movement. Eat a processed diet of pseudo-food that was packaged in a remote factory and has a shelf life of a decade and it will negatively affect your health. Your body’s tissues and function will be impaired.
I am not saying never again eat an Oreo or indulge in a bucket of Haagen-Dazs because if these things bring you pleasure then that is a component of maintaining good health. But ensuring that your body has access to high quality nutrition is vital to your health.
What is high quality nutrition? Yeah, you know. Vegetables. Fruits. Nuts. Seeds. Whole grains. Legumes. You know, stuff that grows in the ground and then you eat it. And when you eat it, it still kinda resembles the thing that grew in the garden. What about meat? For sure adding some animal protein in your diet can be healthy. Ethically raised farm animals, eggs, butter, and some cheese can all be included. Necessary? No. Nutritious? Yes.
That is high quality nutrition in a nutshell. As Michael Pollen succinctly stated: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
As you ponder this question of what health means to you, try and focus not on some audacious objective in the future. Think instead of your everyday. What would you like to feel like? What would you like to be able to do comfortably? What would you like to eat?
Once you know that you will find making decisions to serve your health becomes completely different.
This is a seemingly simple question and in reality it has a very simple answer, yet it is still a regular topic of discussion even amongst the more astute individuals who focus on their health and fitness.
I am not sure why this is, I mean, I know WHY it is a question in modern times, I am just not fully sure why this ever became a ‘thing’. What am I talking about?
The question of ‘what is healthier?” It is extraordinarily common in a myriad of forms in countless conversations every single day. Carrots or peas? White bread or whole wheat? Quick oats or steel cut oats? Apples or bananas?
Sweet potatoes or regular potatoes.
Often I am completely stymied by the magnitude of such perplexing questions and become unable to begin fathoming a retort. Not because I am unsure of an answer to the underlying nutritional science required to answer the questions but because I am unsure how these questions are even being asked in a time when most of our food comes delivered, pre-cooked, in nifty little packages.
Everyone has an opinion and is happy to espouse that opinion to you, particularly if you happen to be cooking or ingesting a succulent tuber. When we talk about the Dunning-Kreuger effect I don’t think there could be a better example than these conversations about what are the better options for human health. It can get quite heated with friendships on the line and family events often reduced to nuclear rubble before a dinner is even served.
As the debates rage on becoming more and more heated with the alcohol lowered inhibitions that often precede the jousting the infamous ‘they’ make an appearance. THEY say that sweet potatoes are better for you. THEY say that potatoes are too high in starch. They say this. They say that. Upon request to describe THEY stutters and blank stares ensue.
It is because THEY say it is.
What is the answer Coach Taylor?
What should I eat?
I love potatoes but sweet potatoes are so much healthier for you!
How can I have what I love and still take care of my health? Sweet potatoes are tasty but potatoes….oh….potatoes are just so good.
As readers of my material the answer I provide should really not be surprising. Alas, I know this is still an article that needed to be written.
The answer is that they are both healthy for you. Equally. As are carrots and peas, brown rice and white rice, whole wheat bread and white bread, apples and bananas.
How? How can this be Coach T?
The problem with our western diet is how processed a food it and not so much which food it is we are eating. A baked potato from your garden is far superior nutritionally than deep fried sweet potato fries at your local pub. That delicious sweet potato mash with maple syrup at holiday gatherings is healthy food, while that bag of crispy potato chips is literally taking you one step closer to your death.
These debates between the health benefits of real whole food are insane. Literally, insane. Especially as most of the people having the debates have no problem slamming back the booze as a side to their deep dish stuffed crust pizza. But yeah, don’t eat those potato’s because they are going to be the end of you.
Simple answer: all whole foods are good for you. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, eggs, and fish. There you go. Stop debating between them.
The real culprit destroying our health is what we manipulate these foods into. Chips, baked goods, deep fried who knows what’s, pastes, jellies, spreads, alphabets, and most of what is probably in your pantry right now. These aren’t food. They are gross manipulations of the things we were designed to ingest. The real debate should be about whether we should be living on processed diets consisting of items that you would be hard pressed to figure out the origins of.
Stop fretting over the minutia of difference between potato’s and sweet potato’s or any other real food that can easily be identified as a vegetable, fruit, plant, or animal. That is not the problem with your diet. Stop telling me carrots aren’t good for you while you scarf back a box of chocolates.
Focus on what is really important: eating a diet of whole food and avoiding the processed revolution as much as you can!
I have been contemplating this for a long time, years actually, and the truth of the concept has only grown stronger as it has percolated. You probably won’t like it very much and most of the fitness industry will most likely disagree with the utmost vehemence because the truth I am about to speak will make already challenging sales tactics seem wholly insurmountable.
It is important to applaud anyone who desires to improve the quality of their life through physical movement and healthy nutrition. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that I am fixated on helping individuals do that every single day. I write, I post, I make videos, I’ve built an online fitness platform, I have run a brick and mortar fitness facility for more than a decade, and I have travelled the world seeking more information, all in the quest to better assist anyone who truly strives for a better lifestyle actually achieve it.
Discovering truths is sometimes more of a shock than it is a revelation. While it may actually be revolutionary it isn’t always desirable. Alas, I cannot control the laws of the universe no matter how hard I endeavour.
Now we must begin the unenviable task of sharing the truth.
Potential Client: “How long will it take?”
Coach Me: “How long will what take?”
Potential Client: “How long will it take to get into shape?”
Coach Me: “Haha, that is difficult to answer! It depends on a lot of things, like what you consider to ‘be in shape’ means, how dedicated to change you are, what you are willing to do, and how long it has been since you last participated in physical exercise and ate a healthy diet!”
Potential Client: “Haha, I haven’t worked out in 30 years!! I eat well during the week but weekends I like to relax a little and enjoy whatever food I like! I don’t know, I want to FEEL better! I want to wake up and not have back pain, not get out of breath walking up a set of stairs, it would be nice to keep up with my kids on the bike this summer, there are some trails they want me to ride with them. And there is a reunion at a cottage this summer, so you know, I wouldn’t mind losing 10 pounds!”
Coach Me: “There are some great goals in there and definitely all of this is possible!”
Potential Client: “But how long is it going to take? Do you run any good 4 week bootcamps?”
Coach Me: “sigh.”
This is only a partially hypothetical conversation. The basis of all of it comes from the thousands of conversations just like this I have had over the last couple of decades. This article is not intended to answer the intricacies of how to achieve the goals but is dedicated to answering the question, ‘how long will it take?’
Everyone wants to know when it will all be over. Firstly, this is a horrifically bad way to start a health and fitness program. This simple implication of this common question is that people are looking for a finite program. They do this for X length of time and then they have achieved their goals and can go back to what they were doing before essentially setting themselves up for long term failure before it has even begun. Secondly, no one wants to hear my answer. Because I have discovered a truth.
I have discovered the rule.
How long will it take to truly change your life with exercises and healthy food in a way that is sustainable and will be more likely to become permanent?
One Month One Year Rule
You might surmise the answer from the tittle. One month per year.
For every year that you have no exercised and given little to no thought what food you put into your body it is going to be a full month of dedicated practice to achieve your goals.
Let’s define dedicated practice. I mean this to be daily movement and exercise, only healthy, unprocessed food, conscious practice to reduce stress, and no ‘breaks’ from this. So a month of dedicated practice is between 28 and 31 days. Not conscientious dedicated Monday to Thursday and then Friday to Sunday indulging in all modern society allows us to imbibe.
For every year you have not taken proper care of your body it is a month of dedicated practice to truly achieve long term health success.
Omg you are thinking. I have exercised in, like, 20 years!
This is why my compatriots will disavow this rule and why most of my ‘potential clients’ head down the road to the cheaper 6 week bootcamp designed to bust tummy fat and change their life!
Because, yes, you are thinking right. If you haven’t exercised or eat well for 20 years, according to my One Month One Year rule it is going to take 20 months of dedicated practice to truly effect lasting positive change.
20 MONTHS! But Coach Taylor, that’s almost 2 whole years!!!
Yep. It sure is.
You’ve been an asshole to your body for 20 years I don’t think just under two years is unrealistic penance for you to pay. There is so much damage that you have done to your body needing to be sorted out and repaired this is the kind of timeline we are talking about.
We are talking about 20 years of bad habits.
20 years of your joints and tissues being neglected.
20 years of too much stress.
20 years of ignorance.
That DOES NOT get fixed in 6 weeks. As much as the fitness industry loves to promise the quick fix, and the easy painless guaranteed system that will change your life in no time at all, it is all one big fat fucking lie.
Oh sure, in 6 weeks you’ll think you did something useful. Your scale might change, you think your stronger, you feel accomplished, but it is all a charade, a fakery. Nothing has changed.
You’ve lost water, not fat, despite what your new gyms super fancy bioimpedence scale is reporting. You haven’t gotten any stronger, muscle doesn’t develop strength in 6 weeks. Your sense of accomplishment is about to disappear in a celebratory indulgence of cake and a night…or two…celebrating your pathetic 6 weeks with your friends.
But nothing has changed.
You are still the you you were before the six weeks and you will be right back where you were before the six weeks.
Real. Sustainable. Change. Does not happen that quickly. You cannot wipe out 20 years of bad habits in 6 weeks. You cannot truly change your movement, strengthen your tissues, increase your mobility, improve your blood work, change YOUR LIFE in a few short weeks when you have neglected all of it for years and in many cases for decades.
Why do I write this?
I want to let you know the truth. I want you to change your mindset to reality. I want you to approach making positive changes to your life in a way that is far more likely to actually lead to you changing your life.
Short-term thinking is not reality. It is a band-aid solution to a mortal wound. Literally. It is putting a band-aid on a spurting femoral artery puncture. It might seem efficacious but it is not going to work.
Many people are going to go off the fucking deep end at me on this one.
Coach Taylor, my friend did a 6 week bootcamp and it changed their life!
Coach Taylor, you need to be more supportive of people, at least they are trying to make a change!
Coach Taylor, no one can be that dedicated for months, you have to live a little.
The truth is that real and permanent change takes dedication and practice. The longer you have been an asshole to your body the longer it is going to take to change that.
Yes, I get it, there is always an exception to the rule. Your friend of a friend who changed their life with their 6 week bootcamp is an exception. How many hundreds of people have done that bootcamp and NOT changed their life?
I am very supportive of people. I want them to make a change! It doesn’t mean I have to lie to them and give them false hope or unrealistic expectations. In fact I think that is the most disingenuous thing I could ever do. I think all the fucking idiots selling quick fix solutions and promising things are going to be easy are the truly unsupportive assholes.
Anyone can be truly dedicated for months. Live a little? I don’t want people to live a little. I want people to live a lot. For a long time! I want people to move well, sleep well, eat well, enjoy everything life has to offer. As a culture we consider sacrificing a party, alcohol, and trays of pastries as somehow denying our inalienable right to live! Like living is somehow positively correlated to the volume of deep fried overly processed pseudofood we can stuff into our insatiable over indulgent gullets washed down with a few cocktails.
You have a choice.
I don’t care which you take.
Take care of your body or treat it the way mass media says is the best way to live.
I hope you choose the former.
But I need you to recognize that is isn’t a quick fix. It isn’t easy. You will have to make actual changes that will require a conscious decision to be different than the masses. The masses are massive and if you act like them you will be them.
The One Month Per Year Rule is designed to give you hope, realistic hope, that you can achieve anything you want in life if you approach it with a realistic timeline and a reasonable set of expectations. It is the inevitable failure of the quick fix that derails most people from achieving their goals.
Set yourself up with the right expectations and dedicate true commitment to your health and fitness instead of hunting for the quick fix that money can seemingly buy.
I promise that on the other end you won’t regret it.
Jan 2: Factoring Humanity,Robert Sawyer -Science fiction novel
Feb 1: You can’t hurt me, David Goggins -Want to know what being truly tough and resilient is like? Want to find out what you are capable of?
Feb 12: Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson -An interesting look at the history of eating
Feb 13: The Grand Design, Stephan Hawking -Brilliant human, deep thinking book!
Feb 19: Walkaway, Cory Doctorow -Science fiction novel
Feb 24: The future of humanity, Michio Kaku -Very interesting read about where we might be going
Feb 27: Moral Tribes, Joshua Greene -Where does our morality come from?
March 3: Essentialism, Greg McKeown –II would recommend this for anyone who recognizes that our modern lives are far too complicated!
March 9: Play, Stuart Brown –This was hugely impactful on me and will be shaping a lot of my future coaching
March 18: The Laws of Human Nature, Robert Greene(not good) -I thought this book was garbage, overreaching, crap.
March 18: An Edible History of Humanity, Tom Standage -History from the perspective of food and resources
March 21: Binti, Nnedi Okorafor -Science fiction novel
March 26: The Omnivores Dilemma, Michael Pollin -READ THIS BOOK.
March 29: Ferment For Good, Sharon Flynn –Great for anyone who wants to get into fermenting
March 29: The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben -Honestly…this book will blow your mind. What you think you know about trees and forests is not even close!!!!
April 3: Final Days, Gary Gibson -Science Fiction novel
April 4: Walden, or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau – A literary classic and blew my mind. The things we think are the downfall of society today haven’t changed since Thoreaus time.
April 8: America: The Farewell Tour, Chris Hedged –Interesting read on the state of America
April 13: Just Babies: The Origins of Good And Evil, Paul Bloom -It was OK. Simplified and not a unique thought in the entire thing. But if you are unfamiliar with basic human psychology this is a decent place to start
April 15: Ghost Walker, R.D. Lawrence –Interesting read from a true naturalist
April 19: I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong –Your body is not your own. This is an awesome look at how important your microbiome is, and WHAT your microbiome is!
April 28: Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday -Read this. You will never read the news or the internet the same way ever again!
May 1: Beyond Religion: Ethics for the Whole World, The Dali Lama -Interesting, somewhat meandering
May 6: Meat Eater, Steven Rinella -Smart guy and the most ethical hunter out there. More an autobiography than anything else
May 18: The Primacy of Movement, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone -This. Is. Dense. It is a textbook of movement and philosophy and required a lot of vocabulary expansion. It will stay with me for a long time.
May 19: Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss -You have to read this book. You won’t look at processed food the same way again.
May 20: The Genius if Birds, Jennifer Ackerman -Birds are way more amazing than you think they are
May 22: Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper -Very interesting philosophy of what leisure actually is and what it has been bastardized into
May 25: What Makes Olga Run, Bruce Grierson -Competing at almost 100 years old, a very nice book on the science and psychology of why you should stay fit
May 27: Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport -Declutter your digital life, the how to guide.
May 30: Bullies, How The Lefts Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans, Ben Shapiro -Not a single legitimate idea or factually relevant idea in the entire book. But hey, important to understand all perspectives
June 6: Mans Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl -While based in the holocaust it is not about that. This classic is about how you can overcome anything.
June 7: Range, David Epstein -Specialization isn’t always the best idea
June 14: From Here to Eternity, Caitlyn Doughty -Or western ideas about death and the body after death are, a little weird. Caitlyn is really fantastic at looking at death and death rituals around the world in an entertaining and very informative way. -Def recommend!
June 22: The Way We Eat Now, Bee Larson -This is a MUST read!!!!!
June 22: The Outsider, Stephen King (Worst King book EVER) -I used to love Stephen King. I no longer do. Terrible.
June 29: The Woman Next Door, Sue Watson (Terrible terrible book) -I will no longer trust online reviews for ‘awesome psychological thrillers with a twist’. This book was worse than the Stephan King book.
August 1: The Third Plate, Dan Barber -brilliant man, amazing chef, changing the world. If you’re not really into cooking and the intricacies of our food systems you probably won’t like this. I loved it! And I got to meet Chef Barber at his restaurant !!!!!
August 12: Blue Remembered Earth, Alastair Reynolds -Science fiction novel
August 23: There there, Tommy Orange -A very interesting read recommended by a dear friend.
Sept 7: The Second Mountain, David Brooks -I don’t know why this is so highly recommended. It is pure puritanical, biased, bullshit.
September 14: The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi -Science fiction novel
September 23: A Man Called Ove, Frederick Backman (Easily one of the best reads of my life) -One of the top of the year and top 5 books of my life
September 23: The Wisdom of Wolves, Jim And Jamie Dutcher -Very good book on Wolves and what they can teach us
September 25: Indistractable, Nir Ayal -Not bad. Again, nothing original or ground breaking.
Oct 9: The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday -I love this author. A great introduction to ancient philosophy.
Oct 10: A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles -An interesting novel
Oct 24: Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell -Great author and interesting book. Not an uplifting book but a necessary conversation to be had
Oct 25: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Change the World, William McRaven -Watch his famous commencement speech, skip this book
Oct 31: One, None, and A Hundred Thousand, Luigi Pirandello -An old novel but if you can dig this type of stuff it is mind blowing
November 3rd: Ten Drugs, Thomas Hagar -A VERY good read about the history of drugs in the world with no agenda
November 5th: The Peter Principle, Lawrence J. Peter -Work in an office or for a large organization? Read this.
November 7th: The Lives of Bees, Thomas Seeley -More of an actual academic thesis than an interesting read about bees. Don’t recommend.
November 9th: The Soil and Health, Sir Albert Howard -This book is very important. Maybe a little dry for most. This is the father of the organic movement.
November 20: Last and First Men, William Olaf Stapleton -Science fiction novel
November 20: The Sports Gene, David Epstein -Just how much do your genetics play a role in what you are capable of?
November 27: The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrain Russel -Early 20th century psychologist. Interesting…have to forgive some of the stereotypes!
November 27: Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday -Yes. Good. Yes.
December 8: Guitar Zero, Gary Marcus -Can anyone learn to play music? At any age? Yes.
Dec 10: This is Your Brain On Music, Daniel Levitin -If you want the detailed neuroscience of music and the brain then this is your read!
Dec 15: Underland, Robert Macfarlane -A very poetic author and a very interesting read
Dec 19: The Supernova Era, Cixin Liu -excellent science fiction novel from a Chinese authoer
Dec 20: American Buffalo, Stephen Rinella -the history of the Buffalo, very interesting. This is from a hunter and yes they do hunt a buffalo
Dec 21: The Death of Grass, John Christopher -Science fiction novel
Dec 29: You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, Janelle Shane -You probably don’t really know what all this AI is people are talking about. This is the truth in it.
Dec 31: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of The Dead, Olga Tokarczuk -Excellent novel
There we go. My list of reads for 2019.
It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. —S.I. Hayakawa
Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx
Yeah, it’s a tongue in cheek tittle because that is what is expected. That is what everyone wants to know, to focus on, how could you go a whole year without drinking?
Forget the fact that I have completely overhauled the entirety of my life, lol, just focus on the fact that I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol for an entire year.
If you have followed my posts and podcasts over the last year you are well aware I have been on a journey, a physical, sometimes spiritual, and always interesting journey of discovery.
The premise was simple: what would happen if I were to follow every single piece of health advice that I purport as efficacious for ultimate health? Would it make that big of a difference to my life? How much of a difference? Physical? Spiritual? Mental? Or would it make no difference at all? Is the constant bombardment of ‘you should be doing this for your ultimate health’ messaging merely rhetoric?
How do I succinctly summarize an entire year, a true odyssey into human health, into a piece of writing that anyone will actually read? The answer is: I cannot.
This is going to be long. I wasn’t going to write it as I don’t think the people who truly need to hear what I have to say are actually going to listen, to absorb, to contemplate, to consider the truth’s about their health via my journey.
So this won’t be succinct. Reading it is going to be an odyssey for some! If you are serious about changing your life, about living as long as possible with good health, movement, enjoyment, pleasure, happiness, and everything else that makes for a human life well lived, then this is what you need to read. This is the message you need to hear. These are the actions you need to contemplate. Contained below is a roadmap to everything you need to do to live. Because living should be beautiful, exciting, enjoyable.
2019 marked my age at 39 and early in 2020 I will enter my 40’s, while this is still not quite at the geriatric threshold it is most definitely a significant milestone in our lives, with the intent of improving my health as I move into the next decade.
Seven years ago my mom died suddenly in her sleep and receiving the phone call the next morning with the news fundamentally changed life, changed me, altered me. I would love to say it was unexpected but I had warned my family for years that obesity and too much alcohol was putting an end stamp on her life. I hate being right sometimes. At 56 years old she was gone.
After that my passion for many things eroded away especially health and fitness. Here I was, a professional coach who couldn’t even save his own mother. Couldn’t even affect her health enough to save her life. I watched, I warned, I predicted her death with more accuracy than I wish I could. I knew. I tried. I did what I could. It wasn’t enough.
The years that followed I worked out sporadically. I ate too much. Not health food either. Pre-bough fish sticks and fries are not health food, no, even though it’s seafood it isn’t healthy. We fell into drinking wine with nightly meals, or a beer or two. I discovered tequila is actually a hard liquor that I enjoyed sipping. I smoked weed most nights of the week then enjoyed the munchies with cinnamon buns, chocolate, pop, bags of chips, maybe some Oreos, or a tub of ice cream. Five nights a week by 2018. I stopped really caring, lost interest in fitness in general and most other hobbies I enjoyed.
One day I called my wife in an emergency and had her leave work to take me to the ER. I thought I was having a heart attack. Literally. Turns out it was an anxiety attack. Nothing brought it on but chronic use of marijuana can do this to, especially couple with all the other unhealthy habits, which also came with high blood pressure, foggy cognition, lack of ability to focus, lethargy, paranoia, and a few other health effects I won’t discuss here.
I couldn’t wear size 40 pants any longer, I had maybe 4 shirts I could still fit into, didn’t really need jackets in the Canadian winter as I had my own insulation, and felt…heavy. And I snored. Loud. Some nights my wife would make me sleep in the basement so she could at least get some sleep because even with her need to wear earplugs nightly apparently the vibration reverberated through the mattress.
That’s where I was.
In October/November of 2018, while travelling through Namibia, I suddenly had a thought: what would happen if for one year I took every single bit of advice I dished out as a health coach? Would it make that big of a difference? How big?
I debated over it for weeks. Could I do it? Did I really want to do it? What all would it entail. I mulled, contemplated, searched, wrote, and eventually decided to go ahead with it.
Almost everyone I shared it with thought I was crazy. Always for the same reasons. I was taking all the fun things out of life, all of the things that made life worth living, and for a whole year, why would anyone do this? How could anyone do this?
The more I received this feedback the more steadfast became my course. It reinforced for me just how insidiously cultural norms had been established that were truly destroying our health. Abstention from many things seems an impossibility to most people and I have discussed many times over the past year just how scary this is. There is a lot of money in keeping us sick and we can’t break free. No, there isn’t a cure for cancer being held captive my Merck, but there is a very real knowledge that the food we are sold is terrible for us and there is a complete lack of preventative health care, which could save millions of lives. This is real.
I will not digress into a tirade on the sociocultural structures and influences currently destroying our bodies.
Onward. I was in. I made the decision. The Odyssey would happen. The 2019 Health Odyssey. My family will tell you I am like a freight train. When I have made up my mind, when I have committed to a path, I will not be dissuaded. Those close to me may call it stubborn and extremely annoying but I think it is one of my superpowers. They can disagree all they want, I will not be dissuaded on this topic.
One year. All the advice I doll out I would enact. January 1st it would begin.
What all did this journey entail?
This is where I really, REALLY, want you to pay attention for a moment because this is THE SINGULAR most frustrating thing I have had to deal with over the past year and even now, December 31st, it hasn’t changed.
MOST of the advice I give out, that majority of my coaching, is focused on adding healthy things, be it exercise, food, or psychological aspects of health. Noone really notices that.
What everyone does pay heed to are the restrictions. The things that must be CUT out of life. This invariably leads to fear, frustration, avoidance, panic, and instant acquittal of the possibility of an attempt at embarking on similar life changes for health.
99% of the questions I fielded were always about the restrictions. This would always be followed by an explanation of why they could not do the same thing. To be fair a good portion of people are just stubborn fucks and were honest, they just aren’t WILLING to make any kind of sacrifice for their health. They want to stuff their pudgy cheeks with chocolate while incessantly bitching that they just have such a hard time losing weight. What can I even say to that?
Not once. Let me repeat: NOT ONCE during this entire year was I ever engaged in a discussion about the health aspects that were ADDED into my life during the Odyssey even though they outnumbered the restrictions tenfold. No one gave a fuck. No one could get past the restrictions.
This is the reason why so much of my attitude has changed. Sorry Karen, but those who aren’t willing to commit to change I actually no longer care about. This journey has shown me a hard truth: there is nothing I can do to make the health of our population better. I can have an influence over a select few who are willing to put in some effort and make some sacrifices but my dreams of truly changing our culture at large are gone.
The true power of this Odyssey was adding healthy activities and foods into my life, which is why there were far more additions than restrictions for this journey. I don’t know how to get this message actually absorbed through the thick heads of…everyone…but if I ever figure that out maybe I can change the world!
Fine, fine, fine! The details already!
As I am inclined to do, the band-aid needs to get ripped off quickly. What did I give up for an entire year.
Marijuana (and recreational drugs, of which there are none I partake in)
That’s it! Only three things were excluded!! Alcohol and drugs are easily understood. What about processed food?
For me that meant no potato chips, chocolate, pop, cookies, ice cream, cinnamon buns, and other salty snacks. Now let’s be a little bit clear. Actually this just meant no pre-made processed versions of these foods (also including cakes, cupcakes, pastries, breads etc, things I just really don’t care much about anyway), they could still be had if I wanted them. The catch? I would have had to make them from scratch with real ingredients. Which at times I did, however, as the journey progressed I desired these things less and less so by month four I didn’t bother with any of it.
Now what did I ADD to my life?
Minimum 15 minutes a day of physical activity
Use of all the following equipment: hackey sack, mace, indian clubs, evolution flows, breath work
Weekly inversion training
Daily Cold exposure
Prepare all of my food from scratch (nothing processed)
Intermittent fasting (I eat dinner and a small meal a couple hours later)
Fermented Foods Daily
Seafood 3x a week
All proteins ethically and organically raised from local farmers
One new food or recipe weekly
Read at least 20 books
Learn one new advanced skill
That’s it! That’s the entire Odyssey. Do all of the above for one year.
Let’s break it down point by point.
No Alcohol for a Year
I would have a glass, or two, of wine nightly with meals the last couple of years. Then started learning to sip tequila because EVERYONE on TV and in every movie is always sipping ‘a drink’. Maybe a beer or two once I realized I liked Guiness and what’s taco night without a Corona?
I do not miss it. Any of it. At all. In anyway. Seriously.
In fact, I don’t intend on ever drinking alcohol again. Why? My life today is far better than it ever has been, alcohol free. I have eaten at one of the best restaurants in the world and had an incredible experience, alcohol free.
I enjoy other beverages more than alcohol, such as kombucha, and these beverages actually provide a health benefit. If I am going to ingest calories why would I not ingest calories that actually provide some health benefit that I enjoy more?
The longer I go without alcohol the more I realize how much I don’t want to partake. The scarier it becomes to me. Our societal addiction to ingesting a poison it actually horrifically frightening. The more removed I am from social alcohol culture the more turned off I have become from ever wanting to drink booze ever again. This is a sentiment that I have discovered is shared by many others who have made the decision to abstain.
The calories I have not ingested, the better sleep I have had, the days I haven’t lost to feeling ill from purposefully ingesting a poison all lead me to have no desire to drink alcohol.
Note that I have no desire and that it is not something I am forcing onto myself. I don’t WANT to. That is something in the Odyssey that is truly powerful; it actually changes you.
You keep seeing me use the word poison. Remember that. Because it is true. Alcohol is a poison. It has no health benefit. Sorry not sorry. I am just the deliverer of the truth.
No Marijuana or Recreational Drugs
I’ve never partaken in any recreational drugs other than weed so that wasn’t too hard. But getting high has been a part of my life for a very long time and the last few years I probably smoked up 5 nights a week. I wouldn’t say it was an addiction as I had no trouble or issue abstaining if I was travelling or had other events coming up that required not being weed stupid. I just simply LOVE being high. It is a mind expanding and totally awesome state of being.
At first it was no issue because I am a stubborn old man and once I make a decision to do something I am doing it. Period. So embarking on this journey I literally just stopped (after getting really really high last New Year’s Eve…). About a month in I had some cravings, not so much for the weed, but for the experience of being high.
The truth is weed makes you stupid and lazy. Anyone who argues that simply doesn’t understand how much sharper they could be and how much more productive they could be if they weren’t chronically high. That is what I really noticed after about six weeks.
My mind became sharper. I started to get more done. My focus and attention started to come back. It was like a fog slowly dissolved out of my brain and I could think clearly again. Weed is funny like that. It makes you think you are on these amazing mind journeys filled with ideas and granted some stellar insights have come to me while high as a kite. But a year later I can tell you this: I have just as many stellar insights now as I did then and they are actually a lot sharper, a lot more refined, a lot more…intelligent…than anything I ever thought stoned to oblivion.
Now instead of being high and seeing insights on TV shows or sitting and watching the world go by, I have insights reading books. Not like harlequin romance books, but real literature from throughout history and around the world. My knowledge base and skill set have grown substantially this year and it is an even better feeling than being high as fuck.
Will I ever smoke weed again? I do not know how to answer this. I won’t say no. I mean if you said to me that I had to make a choice right now that would dictate this for the rest of my life I would say no, I would never get high again. Not because I somehow think I will be healthier for it but because I…just don’t want to.
I don’t want to lose even a single precious day feeling sluggish and groggy. I don’t want to miss enjoying a sunrise or not feel like enjoying a book or skip cooking a meal because I was feeling lazy.
The verdict is that maybe I will, maybe I won’t but the desire to is simply gone. The interest has waned. Other things have become more enjoyable.
And there is a nagging little voice inside me that is scared of reverting to old habits. I don’t want to ever be again the person I was just a year ago.
No Processed Food
This by far is the most challenging. While many will believe that it is the abstention from alcohol that is the most difficult aspect of a year long journey like this I can tell you it is not. Eliminating processed foods from our diet in the western world is very hard and requires forethought mixed with a complete reallocation of your time.
It takes time to prepare all of your own food. From scratch. Sourcing ingredients, preparing them, cooking them, storing them, and learning how to enjoy them without the additives and sauces and pre-made spice packets takes time and effort. Something so many of us have completely lost is the basic ability to cook. This is then compounded by the loss of desire to cook and the complete fallacy that our society builds into us that we don’t have the time to cook.
Then we are forced to talk about flavour. Our pallets have been hijacked by chemists. What we think food tastes like is not what food actually tastes like, nay, what we think food tastes like is an enhanced version, distilled, accented, and concentrated to elicit extreme reactions from our physiology. When we then eat non-processed foods they tend to taste bland, to be less stimulating, to lack a visceral flavour. Add to this the lost art of cooking and it is not surprising that people opt for processed foods and tend to dislike like unprocessed foods.
What I noticed over the last year is that this can be fixed! Taking out processed foods at first can be challenging and you will think that you won’t enjoy it. But after a couple of months something happens, it is like your physiology resets itself, your taste buds wake up. Food suddenly tastes different.
I literally cannot explain to you the intense flavour of greek yogurt covered in berries with a drizzle of honey over it. You are probably thinking that is so boring, so mundane, so not as good as a piece of cake or a great piece of chocolate. All I can tell you is that you are so incredibly wrong. But the only way you’ll ever understand is to take out processed food.
This has been life changing.
I feel SO much better. More energetic, more interested in food, and it is all so much more satisfying. The thought of processed food now really turns me off. Fast food, 99% of restaurants, chips, chocolate, cookies, pastries, and so much of what we eat, just…no longer appeals to me. The idea of putting these things into my body is almost repulsive.
I have always considered myself a connoisseur of potato chips. Like, I actually love them. Thinking about them now actually increase my saliva flow (this is actually a brilliant example of how food has been chemically engineered to be addictive). But on January 1st, 2020 I won’t be rushing out to grab a bag of chips. Not because I am forcing myself to avoid them but because I don’t want to. There is no desire for them. Again, the idea of putting that into my body is slightly repulsive to me.
The question keeps popping up in my mind: why? Why do I want to put that into my body. I feel fantastic, I love the food I eat, I know this shit is not food, why? Why do I want to put it in my body? Are those few moments of chemically engineered pleasure really worth it? Will they truly improve my life? My health?
The answer is simple: no.
So then why? Why consume it?
After a year I can tell you this: your desires change, your mindset changes. Everything is different.
I will spend less time here than I would like because frankly I know there is less interest. If you have any questions, send them my way!
15 Minutes a Day Min of Physical Activity
Every single day. No matter what. In this category I will include all the workouts and the training tools listed above as well. I did full workouts 3-4 days a week but daily added activity. Taking the dog out daily was always a guarantor of this as rain or shine, the German Shepherd needs time outside!
I added a few things to this Odyssey as time went on and one was the Turkish getup and pushup challenge. Everyday TGU’s and pushups. TGU’s one per side per day for the month that I was in (1/side/day in January, 2/side/day in February…12/side/day in December) and then double the number of the month daily in pushups. This wasn’t too bas the first part of the year but let me say that as I write this on New Year’s Eve I am pretty sick of doing TGU’s. More than 4800 for the year.
Does it ever feel awesome to have accomplished this, however! And it has helped restore my shoulders and back to optimal functioning! Bonus!
I am already planning the challenges for 2020 because I couldn’t imagine NOT having something like this to do. It is often a huge pain in the ass and there have been some late night Turkish getup sessions! But I didn’t miss a single day. Fuck yeah.
Weekly Inversion Training
I do love being upside down! And it is great training for your vestibular system and a few other great benefits. I developed some issues in my ankle from the foot holders on the inversion table so the second half of the year I more relied on headstands to be inverted and sometimes the table.
Obstacles always present themselves and forcing yourself into a commitment like the Odyssey is a brilliant way to teach yourself that all obstacles can be overcome with patience and diligence.
Daily Cold Exposure
This is an important one. Yes, I think adapting to the cold is beneficial and there is mounting evidence for this, however, that is by no means the true power of adding this.
Being cold builds fortitude. It is uncomfortable, it hurts, it can just plain suck. And that is the true power it has. To willing put yourself in an uncomfortable position and fucking handle it. You always come out the other side stronger and invigorated.
I live in Canada so the winter makes it easy. There is nothing so character building as standing naked outside in the snow in -20C and deep breathing to control your body. Trust me, I know!
The rest of the year cold showers work! Come on, it’s only one minute of your life. Turn off the hot water and go full cold. It sucks. It really does. But don’t think about it. Just breathe.
It has been awesome and I will continue to keep myself strong with purposeful cold training.
Prepare all Foods From Scratch
See above section on no processed food!
Not only is it healthier but it is so delicious. And learning to cook is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I have ever done. I will continue on this journey as I have developed a strong passion for amateur chefing. And what a better way to take care of my health and my families health than to personally prepare all of the food we eat?
Everyone should be adding fasting to their lives. I wrote an extensive blog on the topic and the New England Journal of Medicine recently published an awesome review article of all the reasons why you should definitely be adding fasting to your life.
I east dinner. Usually around 630pm. Then around 9or 10pm I have something to eat. That is how I get all of my calories. Yes, I do not eat all day. No, I am never hungry. No, I do not have a recently developed eating disorder. No, I am not deprived. No, I would not ever change this.
I feel fantastic. Part of the journey was to have full days of eating during the year 20 times. I don’t like those days as much. I don’t feel as good, as sharp, as energetic. The days I fast all day I feel my absolute best.
I workout in the morning. Yep, no pre-workout meal, no post-workout shake. Horror of all horrors!!!! Lol. Amazing.
There is no fixation on food. I don’t have to prepare three meals a day plus snack. That is the eating pattern that leads to a fixation on food!!!! And when you get all your calories in a limited time window there is no room for crap food, for unhealthy snacks, for mindlessly filling time with stuffing shit in your mouth out of habit.
You eat well. You have to get adequate calories in limited space. Check my personal Instagram (taylorsimon_renaissanceman) if you want to see the terrible gross food I have been forced to consume the last year…
Fasting the one of the BEST things you can do for your health and everyone should incorporate it. I love how I eat now and would NEVER change that.
Fermented Foods Daily
Our microbiome is just beginning to be explored and is still very poorly understood. What we do know is that it is vital to our health in so many more ways than we ever imagined. It is imperative to our health that we nurture and support the thriving communities of bacteria that live in un and on us.
Fermented foods have been a staple in the human diet for all of human history and are very important in maintaining the health of our microbial communities. The western world has almost completely eliminated them from our diets and it is to the detriment of our health.
This year I have made my own sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, jun, fermented veggies and fruits, sourdough, water kefir, and yogurt. I am just getting started. Once you get into the wonderful flavours of all things fermented it just keeps sucking you in further. I love them.
I didn’t always. It has taken time but they really do become a staple of your diet. I will be diving even further into my fermenting journey!
One New Food or Recipe Weekly
My mother would have been SHOCKED by this. I have always been a very fussy eater. She literally wouldn’t know who I am anymore!
I eat mushrooms, fermented foods, mussels, octopus, cow tongue, cow heart, chicken hearts, any vegetable, and even more. Well, not tomatoes, I don’t know why, I just can’t.
This Odyssey has pushed me out of my comfort zone by having to experiment with foods and recipes. The modern western grocery store is filled with almost every food on earth and yet we eat a very narrow list of items. I eat so many more healthy foods now that I am pretty sure my body doesn’t even recognize who the hell I am anymore.
Seafood 3x Weekly
Done and done. I have eaten more fish and shellfish in the last year then in my entire life combined before that. It is good for us and while I love red meat I have always consumed too much of it!
Ethically Sourced Meat Only
This year I have purchased a ¼ cow and a half lamb from a local farm in addition to taking immaculate care as to where my meat comes from. This has been helped by my increased vegetable intake and increased seafood intake to be sure! I eat a lot less meat than I ever have.
This also led me to enact other changes like decreasing my use of plastics and purchasing compost bins. I can’t change the world myself but I will continue to strive to treat the world around me better.
And to only ever eat animals who have been treated well. This will continue for the rest of my life.
I actually journaled daily for the first three quarters of the year and then gradually fell down to every few days and then to weekly. Why? It became the same thing over and over again as every aspect of the Odyssey became habitual.
Keeping a journal is something that has been proven to make a positive impact on peoples lives and I am unsure how I will proceed with this in the future. My blogging and podcasts etc. act as a blog for me as well as the rest of my posting for work and for personal stuff (have you seen Heisenberg_gsd on Instagram yet??).
I am going to start focusing on more writing this upcoming year so most likely will not keep a journal as such but will be constantly getting my thoughts out in other ways!
Done and done. Will continue through 2020.
Read at Least 20 Books
I read 68 by last count. Unofficially I missed my goal of 100 books. I got into a couple very dense and long books which took more time than I had allotted for them and I moved to a new home in July, which ate up an exorbitant amount of free time.
This didn’t include all the cookbooks, hunting and fishing manuals, podcasts, blogs, articles, and other forms of reading I did over the year.
Felt amazing to get back to being a voracious reader as the last many years I had not read much. As this year went on I began to devour literature at an increasing pace. In the last month I organically stopped watching most TV at night and replaced it with even more reading. A truly great trade off and something I just wanted to do versus forced myself.
The discovery of audiobooks also was a gift. I listen at 2x speed so can really get through books that are lese dense faster than I could physically read them.
I would like to read 100 books a year, however, I will see how 2020 goes. I intend to do a lot more writing and may have to do a tradeoff.
Meditation is good for you. That is what all the date says. I don’t care about it that much and don’t particularly enjoy it. I have done it and feel like it has more of an impact now than it did at the beginning, however my mind feels no more settled than it ever has during meditation. It wanders and flows and gaining any type of focus is extremely challenging for me!
I may or may not continue to develop this skill going forward. I recognize that it has only been a year of practicing something that can take a lifetime which leads me to believe I should continue to make the effort.
The jury is out still!
Learn One New Advanced Skill
I set out with one in mind but ended up doing a LOT more than I ever could have anticipated.
The violin was my skill of choice for the Odyssey. I started before I googled ‘what is the hardest instrument to learn to play’, finding that every single list was topped by this little beauty. I have been enjoying it immensely and will continue to take lessons and develop my skill. One day even enough to let people hear me play! Maybe…it is pretty fucking hard to learn.
As I learned the violin and continued guitar lessons and developed my cooking skills through courses, something unexpected happened.
I wanted to do more. I wanted to learn more. I became more efficient. My capacity to learn grew exponentially. My interests expanded. The things I needed to learn swelled.
I got my gun license, completed my hunting certification, bought a boat and fishing gear, built gardens and devoured literature about that, dramatically expanded my knowledge of human nutrition, changing my diet even more.
I stopped watching or reading the news filling my time instead with actual learning.
The more I took on the more I realized I could take on. It was an exhilarating rush that is still growing.
Who knows what I will be able to accomplish in the next year, in the next decade, in my life!
This is what everyone wants to know: did you lose weight?
I have no idea. I haven’t weighed myself in about 8 years and I never plan to again. What about before and after photos? Measurements? Body fat? I will say that the first few months I was doing before and after photos and somewhere around July I stopped. Realizing that this was just feeding into the same old tired mantra of the fitness industry I simply quit doing them. I do not regret it.
Yes, my clothes all started falling off of me. I have a new wardrobe. Does that make this all seem more interesting? If it does, please don’t bother with the undertaking. You have missed the point entirely.
My goal was to enter my 40’s in the healthiest state of my life. And I believe I have accomplished that.
I have no cravings any longer. Chips, chocolate, fast food, alcohol, marijuana, cookies, pastries…nothing. It is not that I think they are bad for me so I am going to try to keep them out of my life, I actually do not have any interest in any of those things any longer. I just don’t want them. When I really dial into it the thought occurs to me: why would I ingest that stuff? Does the brief hit of dopamine warrant the negative health effects? It just doesn’t.
I get so much happiness and joy from so many places now. There is so much satisfaction I derive from food, conversations, reading, gardening, sipping my tea, cooking, and a host of other activities. I don’t feel deprived or hard done by. I feel good.
No more sucking back bottles of tums, feeling like I am walking around in a daze, high blood pressure, poor bowel movements, lethargy, anxiety, mood swings. I feel awesome. Why would I do anything that would take away from feeling like this! Even for a day.
I learned more and experienced more in the last year than I have in the last many years. Learning the violin, the guitar, cooking skills, gardening, fishing, boat driving, photography, writing, and so, so much more.
Answering this is very difficult. I am not normal in this respect. When I commit to something I am unwavering. I think it comes from my grandfather who, smoking over a pack a day since he was nine years old, quit cold turkey at age 72. I believe I get my fortitude from him.
As I started feeling better and better, it simply became the way life is. It was never a sacrifice, I never found it hard. Because I had made the decision to do it. To commit. For me there was no alternative.
Making it easier for me is definitely my personality. I have never much cared what other thought of me and I have never been one to conform to societal norms or what was ‘expected’ of me. Not drinking at a party when everyone else does is easy for me. Always has been.
The best thing I can say here is that the hardest part for most people would be the societal pressure. It is amazing how unsupportive those around you can be. The sidelong looks when you don’t drink, the constant questions about why are you doing this vs. support for why you are doing this. It is remarkable how people want you to fail, to do all of the things that are really bad for us. They might not even realize they are doing it themselves but nonetheless they are.
Add to that the constant dialogue of people telling you how they could, or would, never do this. They would never give up their nightly glass of wine or chocolate, or cake on their birthday, or holiday baking. They would just NEVER do that. Why would you do that? This constant barrage of statements would be hard for most people I think. Constantly questioning why you are making these choice, wondering if you are missing out on something, losing friends and invitations to things.
You might find that hard.
In our modern world making the decisions that are truly best for our health requires an immense amount of fortitude. Maybe you could build it if you gave this journey a chance. I don’t know. I am not you.
What would I do? I would cut everyone out of my life that didn’t support and encourage me. Period.
Did It Change Me
How could it not? What would the purpose of all of this be if not to create some kind of change in my life?
This is where most people lose it. People start things with the intent of finishing them. This defeats the entire purpose and I believe sets you up for failure before you’ve even begun.
A year is the shortest amount of time to make a commitment that will lead to actual changes to your life.
Did this change me? Yes. It did. Although I have contemplated another perspective as well.
Did this year long Odyssey change me or did it allow the real me to emerge? Was I masking my potential though poor lifestyle habits, processed food, drugs, and mindless activity?
My belief is that of the latter. I think I have always been who I am now and the last many years have been a mask sublimating everything I had the potential to be.
Esotheric? Maybe. But it is the truth.
Yeah, this has been life altering. My life is better today than it was one year ago. Substantially.
I am happier, fitter, healthier, wiser, and more relaxed than I have ever been. I am more disciplined, more accomplished, more…better.
Where to Now?
It is an obvious question I have received numerous times in the last couple of weeks: what now? Will you keep doing this?
I get it. You are used to people making healthy lifestyle choices until they ‘reach their goal’ and then ‘stopping.’ That is the norm.
That is some fucked up shit.
Where to now? Onward and upward my friends.
I crave it. I want more of it. I want to see how far I can take this. What can I accomplish? What can I learn? What can I do? What skills can I acquire?
How good is it possible to feel?
If I feel this good right now, is there another level? Could I feel even better? Could I accomplish more? I didn’t think I could get to this place, I didn’t think I could be the person I am now. What else is out there that I haven’t discovered yet? I need to find out. I need to explore, practice, train, learn, push, experiment, discover.
There is a lot of perceived mystery in the world of human health and fitness. Every person you talk to will have different opinions on how to best manage our health. Every doctor will recommend something to improve your health and more often than not these messages contradict each other.
What would happen if we took all of the best health advice from the best sources and abided by that advice habitually for one year?
Would we feel THAT much better? What would we feel like? Would it make any difference in our lives? How hard would it be? Would it ruin our social lives? Would we be able to have any fun?
Would it be WORTH it?
Welcome to the 2019 Health Odyssey.
After 17 years in the health and fitness industry, 15 of which as a full time profession, I have decided to embark on a health quest, the purpose of which is to answer these very questions. I want to know if it would really and truly make a difference in our lives to adhere to the best health recommendations out there and to refrain from the cultural practices relating to modern Western living that we know are detrimental to us.
As I have expanded my knowledge and understanding within the world of human health I have come to understand that there are components of what makes us human currently void from many affluent cultures. We all know better quality nutrition and increasing overall physical exercise is good for us but I believe there is a huge component missing from our efforts to be healthier. It all relates to sacrifice and pain.
The real change to the lives of those living within affluence (we refer to this as first world living) is the increase in comfort. We have central heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, our groceries can be delivered to us, our food pre-made and stored in our refrigerators, our cars can almost drive themselves if the uber cannot pick us up, our dogs get walked for us, and our yards are cared for by others. I could continue this list for a very long time. The point is that we have the technology and resources now to live in a zone of comfort that precludes us from any form of discomfort and hardship.
As a result we are weaker and sicker than ever. There shouldn’t be more than 60 pharmacies in my small city. That’s right. More than 60 pharmacies for a population of just over 100,000 people. How many people rely on medications? It’s appalling and truly frightening. We are seeing huge increases in depression, suicide, and other mental health related disorders that I fully believe are mostly resultant from affluent living.
My 2019 Health Odyssey is an exploration into a deeper understanding of the questions I posed earlier and the new ideas of how to truly maximize our health based on the last few years of my personal learning and research.
And I invite anyone along for the ride.
Most of you won’t do it. You don’t have the mental fortitude and you aren’t willing to truly sacrifice. You aren’t willing to be uncomfortable.
And I would be confident in saying that 99% of the things in your life that make you unhappy or you constantly feel the need to change actually stem from the fact that you are not willing to make sacrifices and to give up some of your comfort.
Being uncomfortable and experiencing pain are integral aspects of the human condition and I firmly believe the lack of these things are detrimental to us all. In the summer you are going to be hot, in the winter a little cold. It isn’t always comfortable but your body has integrated systems to handle these types of environmental fluctuations and you need to use them.
Pain. Some things hurt. No, I don’t want you grabbing a knife and stabbing yourself. But pain is just a part of the uncomfortable scale. I have been learning to play the guitar for a few months now and guess what? It hurts. My fingers hurt a lot. Well, they don’t anymore because I have built up callouses but getting to that point was painful. In our culture the first inclination is to create a product that will prevent this form happening. “You can play the guitar without your fingers ever getting sore!” We spout that mantra like it’s a good thing!
We NEED to experience these things. It is what builds fortitude. It is where our sense of accomplishment comes from. It is, at its heart, the essence of what makes us human. And we continually create ways to make thing easier and remove any sort of discomfort.
It scares me.
This odyssey is a year-long journey and it will not be easy.
Rites of passage have been a significant aspect of human culture since the beginning of human culture yet has been removed from most of modern affluent society. Our fixation on comfort and the explosion of technology now providing that comfort has all but eliminated the age-old journey of overcoming hardship and emerging as a different person. I believe this to be one of the most overlooked aspects of modern affluent society.
A year is a long short time.
It seems daunting at first but on a daily basis I have conversations with people about how fast time goes and inevitably they say something like, ‘where do the years go?’ So while a year can feel like an eternity in the moment it will feel like a ripple in the pond over the totality of your life.
Yet the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits gained from accomplishing something truly extraordinary will have an effect on the rest of your life, forever.
Many aspects of this odyssey are going to instantly prevent most people from participating in the undertaking. And this speaks to my point that we are weak and unwilling to get past hardship in our lives.
I will save most of you from reading any further. There will be no alcohol for the full year.
‘Oh, I am not doing that!’ 95% of the people who read this far just decided they would never do this. They have made a list of reasons why they need to have alcohol, how they can’t live without it, or have convinced themselves that there are health benefits to consuming alcohol.
The fact that most people won’t take alcohol out of their lives scares me. Like our entire culture is addicted to a poison that literally kills us and everyone is OK with it. That’s fucked up. And NOONE SEEMS TO CARE.
The odyssey will involve sacrifice, hard work, commitment, and it will be a challenge. Rites of passage aren’t easy. That is the whole point of them. It has to hurt, to be hard, to be a struggle. It has to push you past your comfort – FAR past it.
It is through overcoming these obstacles that we become better, that we grow, that we learn, that we become more than we currently are.
There is no pill, no program, no piece of technology, no amount of money, or anything else that can ever replace or replicate this process. You must go through it and you must survive it to truly benefit your health and your life.
This is the next step in my journey and I am happy to share the experience with anyone. I am also happy to act as a guide to others who wish to explore what they are truly capable of.
Let’s get to some details.
Time to pull off the band-aid. I will do it quickly for you.
What will be excluded for the full year?
• Recreational drugs
• Processed and mass manufactured food
o Ex.: chips, pop, gum, crackers, most restaurants, chocolate, flavoured teas, pastries, bakeries, pretty much all of Costco, cereal, pre-prepared meats, veggies, etc. (this list is not exhaustive)
• Processed and manufactured chemicals
o Scented candles, air fresheners, most cleaning products, tap water, (this list is not exhaustive)
o While hard to define and harder still to remove, a large focus of this odyssey will be about minimizing stress in life. Most people have no concept of the deleterious effects high stress has on the human body. Toxic relationships, bad jobs, shift-work, focusing on negative news are just a few examples.
o Obviously many things cannot simply be removed so most of this aspect of the odyssey will rely on the lifestyle inclusions that will be listed later
That’s it!!! Lol. The examples I have listed are simply to give people an idea of what will be excluded. Chemicals and manufactured foods are so integrated into our lives that it is impossible to think of them all and list them right here. Removing these things will be an ongoing process that will have to evolve as the odyssey progresses. It is the prevalence of these things into our lives that makes them so insidious. Anyone who embarks on this journey with me will be able to discuss with me at anytime to explore if they should be avoiding a specific product or not.
I don’t want you to think of this as an odyssey in what you can cut out of your life. The VAST majority of this odyssey is about ADDING things to our lives that will improve them. I think we spend far too much time as a culture stressed over all the things we shouldn’t be doing while at the same time indulging in everything. It is a hypocrisy that very few people even notice.
As soon as I recommend adding a few things into life I am met with the same response – every. Single. Time. ← That. Time Always out of people’s mouths is, ‘I just don’t have the time.’
Funny. You know what the kardashians are doing, and the latest Trump tweet, plus are current on a couple of TV shows. And were drinking a couple of nights last week….
We all have time. It is where we choose to spend it. As a culture we also have a misguided belief that anything positive for our health is going to take an hour a day everyday. That is not necessary. I will list some options later on.
For now, I simply want to make sure you understand the true point of this odyssey is to INCLUDE more healthy things into your life for the next year. Some daily, some weekly, some sporadically.
While the exclusions may seem daunting to most, I believe that over the course of the year it will be the INCLUSIONS list that provides the most challenging.
It is important to recognize that the VAST majority of this odyssey is about adding positive things to your life vs. restricting things from your life. Our culture does not value health. This may seem like a shock to some, however, it is the truth. Our culture values medicine, treatments, and fixing things that have gone wrong. We do not value prevention nor activities dedicated to maintenance of health. That is what we will be adding to daily life.
Because the truth of the matter is actually simple. You’ve heard your grandparents say it your entire life: ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ This has been lost. And for almost two decades I have given my entire life
This is the list of things that will be ADDED to life for the year.
This will be broken down into three categories; Fitness, Nutrition, and Lifestyle. I will also provide some basic details when applicable.
This is a base list of things you must include. It does not mean you cannot expand upon this! Skiing, rock climbing, hiking, swimming, OCR races, whatever – add fitness to life. Fitness needs to be based on human movement and full body conditioning. We can explore as the year progresses.
However, the following is required:
• 15 min of exercise and movement daily
o Yes, even if you’re sick or on vacation
o You can also exercise far more than this!
• Hacky sack,
• Indian Clubs
• Animal flows
• Breathing work (harmonica)
• Inversion work (1x per week min)
• Cold exposure
o Minimum of 1min daily
o Winter is easy, go outside (that’s where I train). Cold showers are the easiest way to accomplish this
• All food must be purchased whole, prepared and cooked from scratch. No pre-bought anything, no packaged foods, no prepared meals. YOU must make your own food.
o Those with children, yes, this could be a challenge. See it as an opportunity to do a new activity with them – this means better food and great learning!!
o Restaurants: there won’t be many you can go to! Must be able to verify that they cook all of their food from scratch! Impossible to know how they source all of their ingredients however most places of this calibre do focus on great ingredients!
• Intermittent fasting
o I will recommend warrior style ideally. Eating within a 4 hour window 95% of the time. This means that about 20 days throughout the year you will eat throughout a 24 hour period. Times of feasting are important!
o Any other fasting protocol is fine as long as it includes a minimum of a 16 hours fasting period at least 5 days a week.
• Fermented foods daily
o Our western culture is so poorly exposed to fermented foods it is scary! And I believe this is a huge health issue.
o Kombucha, sourdough, kimchi, cheeses, and sauerkraut are the most well known. But there are tens of thousands ferments around the world. I will be exploring many of them and sharing.
o Minimum of 3x per week
o Fish, shellfish, shrimp, octopus, etc – it’s all fair game
o Grass fed, ethically raised, locally sourced or sourced from small farmers (for example my butcher brings in beef from the East Coast that is grass fed from a small farmer – that’s ok!)
• This is for beef, chicken, eggs, pork, lamb, or game
• ONE NEW FOOD PER WEEK
o For the entire year. Something you have never eaten before or something you think you don’t like.
This section are activities designed to stimulate your mind and expand your life. This is a basic list because I know people like a little direction.
• A MINIMUM of a once a week journal documenting this odyssey. Can be a written journal, blog, insta feed, FB page, audio recording, digital journal, whatever! But you have to journal this experience.
• Read 20 books
• Weekly educational podcast (minimum)
• Learn one new and advanced skill
o A musical instrument, pilot license, scuba certification, diasaster emergency search and rescue volunteer, etc.
o These examples seems like big projects – they are. That is the whole point.
That’s it! ☺
The 2019 Health Odyssey.
If anyone would like to join me on this epic experience I am happy to share what I am doing and assist you.
Can you make your own version of this? Sure! But beware – if you are starting this and trying to make it less challenging, less painful, then you are not doing it.
You are either in or you are not in. There is no halfway in. That is simply a re-creation of all the shit programs everyone starts in the New Year. It has to be a year. If you miss anything or slip up, that’s ok, but you’ve failed.
What will the result of this grand experiment be?
I don’t know. But I want to find out. I want to know – if we do that much to take care of our health, our mind, and our spirit – just how much of a difference will that make in our lives?
I know, it’s a bold statement, the GREATEST training tool on Earth. However, I do not jest! Diversity is uber important but that doesn’t mean there is not a place for consistency and focus, for taking the time to truly master something and to pursue advancement of your skills.
Kettlebells are literally just that awesome. Why? What would make me proclaim such a bold statement? In a word: versatility.
The pillars of your health are strength, cardio, stability, and mobility (I consider flexibility to be a primary component of mobility because in order to be mobile you must be adequately flexible). In order to adequately train each of these pillars has traditionally been considered a full-time job and I think this is what has caused people to shy away from fitness. It can be daunting to start exercising when you think you have to dedicate 2 hours a day in order to fit everything in!
The truth is that this is not necessary!
Enter the versatile kettlebell.
In a single training session, nay, in a single exercise flow, you can effectively target EVERY pillar of your health. You can build strength, increase cardiovascular ability, create stability, and improve your mobility. Additionally, kettlebells are cheap, take up almost no space, don’t require much space to use, and with the diversity of exercises possible they will last a lifetime.
Now exercise purists are going to say that this is not possible, that we must train each individual aspect of our health separately in order to maximize how well we can develop. If you are an Olympic or professional athlete I might agree. You are not. So there is no need to train that way.
The goal is to be strong, healthy, and fit to accomplish life. And that is truly where the kettlebell excels.
This is pretty simple actually. Make your body move heavy things and it will get stronger. Seriously, it is actually that simple.
The kettlebell very easily accomplishes this objective. They are heavy and can be made very very heavy! You move it around. Mission accomplished: you will build strength.
Oft forgotten is the versatility and variety of kettlebell movements. Dumbells and barbells stay in a very fixed position throughout movements and if you are training on exercises machines movements are completely fixed. With kettlebells you can perform these fixed position movements but you can also let things get really awesome and let the kettlebell do what it was meant to do: move!
The ability to swing the kettlebell through a variety of arcs means that you can really play with physics and give your body a far better workout than with traditional barbells and dumbells. Without getting too technical it is all about levers and moment arms. As the kettlebell moves around you the forces on the body are constantly changing which adds a huge amount of work to the body, the result? You get even stronger.
You do not have to run or cycle to build cardiovascular health. In the research shows time and again that short bouts of high intensity exercise builds better cardiovascular health than long bouts of steady state exercise.
Get off the elliptical and start swinging a kettlebell.
Most ketllebell training is done in circuits, meaning you put multiple movements together to make an exercise vs. the traditional one movement training of dumbells, barbells, and machines. Add to that the fact that kettlebell work is best done in intervals as opposed to sets and reps and you have a cardio blasting machine.
If you have never done 5 minutes of kettlebell swings or 2 min intervals of kettlebell clean and press you don’t really know what cardio training is!
Our joints need to be stable and there are dedicated muscles surrounding each of them to provide this stability. There are two ways to train this stability, 1) isometric, and 2) resistive.
Isometric stability is stationary. Grab something heavy, stand up, and hold it overhead. Just stand there holding it until you are too tired to hold it anymore. THAT is isometric stability. You do this all the time carrying your child, or a purse, or groceries. A static position where your joints need muscular support to keep them healthy. Without this support the joints themselves take on the job and wear out faster.
Resistive stability (this is my own term FYI, scientifically it would be called proprioception) is joint stability during movement. When we walk, throw a ball, jump, pick up something or lift something heavy, we are thinking of the specific task at hand. Getting the ball across the field or picking up that box of supplies. You are not thinking about each and every joint and which muscles must turn on and work to make that movement happen.
You throw the ball but are not thinking about what your hip and ankle are doing!
Kettlebells create dynamic movement in a way that is much more similar to the things you do in daily life or during sports and physical activities. This in turn trains all of those ‘other’ things that you aren’t thinking about!
How much range can you move through? Can you sit down on the floor and get back up? Can you reach overhead? Can you shoulder heck while you drive? Can you pick up your dog? Can you carry your dishes across the room and put them away?
This all requires mobility. Every joint you have has ranges of motion that they are designed to go through and kettlebells challenge them all! These ranges are dynamic and very rarely happen in exactly the same path twice. The nature of moving kettlbells aroud directly mimics this and keeps your body mobile and stable in much more natural movement patterns.
What about flexibility? If your joints are mobile enough then they are flexible enough. There is no need for a static stretching program when you are doing the right kettlebell movements. In fact, if you become flexible without developing the stability in those positions you can do far more harm than good!
We now know kettlebells are awesome. Here are my top kettlebell exercises that you SHOULD be doing regularly.
The Top Kettlebell Exercises
The Turkish getup. Literally a full body mobility and stability master. Do it with weight and you get strength, do it quickly and boost your cardio. There is no better all around exercise in the world than this!
The classic and most basic kettlebell exercise. Perfect the swing as it is both awesome and the base movement of many of the other to kettlebell movements.
WAY harder than they look. A fantastic exercise to improve back mobility and shoulder stability at the same time. You NEED to do these properly and might have to do some work before attempting them if your back is not currently flexible!
Clean and Press
You want some serious strength? This is your jam! Either one side at a time or get crazy with a double clean and press, this is the exercise to really work at moving heavy loads! Master the swing first!
A great combo of strength, cardio, and stability, with a side of coordination built in! This is an advanced exercise that will challenge every muscle and system in your body. Like the clean and press can be done one sided or two at a time!
Racked Squats and Lunges
Getting the legs working is important! Holding kettlebells in the racked position ensures that the core is challenged while you go through the movements. Don’t get stuck in one direction! The best way to leverage these exercises is by varying the direction, load, and depth on a regular basis!
Simple as the name sounds. Pick up kettlebells and carry them. Overhead (waiter), at your chest (racked), or by your side (farmer and suitcase), are the main ways to carry the ‘bells. Mix it up between one kettlebell and two kettlebells and don’t get stuck with boring walking. Go forward, backward, sideways, up and down stairs and hills, over obstacles, around obstacles, mix it up ALL the time!
I love kettlebells. You should too. They are awesome and they will take care of every aspect of your health and fitness.
Get a great coach to make sure you are doing it right and to build you some programs. Even better, join my online training platform where I have an entire kettlebell training program!