Live life now. Why wait for your “moment”? Beat the wake-up call and get back in shape now.
By Paul Robinson.
We’ve all had a moment of clarity at one point or another, that moment when you suddenly become aware that all is not well. It’s almost as though the world is standing still and you’re the only one in it. I imagine, for some people, their moment happens sitting in a doctor’s surgery when they’re given the news they’ve been dreading. Others may have had it over the phone with that call you never want to get about a loved one. For many, it isn’t so dramatic, just a realisation that they aren’t where they want to be in life and are unhappy. You know the moments I’m talking about. You have forgotten to live life.
Me? I’m one of the lucky ones. My moment didn’t come in the form of a life-threatening disease or the loss of a loved one. In fact, it happened while I was watching my two young sons run around at a friend’s barbecue a few months back. They were screaming around the yard at full tilt, squealing with delight as they narrowly escaped being tagged “it”. I watched them live life.
Then, like a lightning bolt, it struck. It was my moment. My time to live life again. I’d become one of those fat dads that you see at barbecues, drinking booze, complaining about the ageing process, growing waistlines and yet doing nothing about it. My gaze dropped to my midsection and the reality was unavoidable: I was fat. That realisation was about as enjoyable as hitting your shin on a car door. For the rest of the evening, my mood was blackened by a mounting number of other realisations: I was fat, unfit, weak, tired and lazy. Worst of all, I was a statistic waiting to happen.
“Unfortunately, for some people, their wake-up call can be pretty scary,” says 34-year-old Katrina, a registered nurse in a cardiothoracic intensive-care unit at a Sydney hospital. “It can be either genetic or poor lifestyle choices, or even a combination of both that will lead you to our ward,” she says. “It used to be that most of the guys coming in were in their 70s or 80s. These days, more and more men in their 40s and 50s are filling our beds. They’re getting younger all the time. You’ve got to make the right choices in life. Don’t wait until I’m looking after you to make them. Some guys wake up and make a decision to turn their life around, especially once they’ve seen the effects they’ve had on their families. They see their wives and kids absolutely shattered and terrified and it gives them a real kick-start.”
Committed to turn my life around, I began an intense training regimen, stopped boozing, and ate “cleaner” than Jenny Craig herself. (Actually, has anyone ever seen Jenny Craig?) Anyway, I digress. I went at it like a man possessed. Big mistake. Three weeks later, I was injured, sick and back to square one. Sound familiar?
Feeling deflated and pissed off, I thought about Katrina’s warning. Rather than throwing in the towel, I decided to bring in the big guns to help. I had one burning question that needed answering: “Where the hell do I start?”
“That’s the million-dollar question,” laughs Scotty, a former Royal Marine commando and current strength coach for the Sydney Swans AFL team. “It really comes down to what you want out of life, but let’s start with the three basics: exercise, rest and nutrition.”
Live life: Do Exercise
“Most people can benefit from strength training,” Scotty insists. “It’s a scientific fact that resistance-training adds beneficial pressure to your bones that greatly reduces the chances of developing osteoporosis. It’s not just women who get osteo, so don’t be fooled. If you’re trying to lean up, you’ll love this point: if you train intensely with weights for about 40 minutes and do the same length of training on any piece of cardio equipment, you’ll burn not only the same or more calories during the weights session but also up to 48 hours after the session is over. Effectively, strength-training is much more efficient at burning calories than cardiovascular training.”
That’s great news to me, because running bores me to tears, and old injuries in my knees flare up after each long stint.
“Strength-training doesn’t damage your body as much as running,” Scotty adds. “Ask any osteopath or chiropractor about the damage that continued years of running can do to your joints in your lower limbs, lower back and hips and it’ll send shivers up your spine — no pun intended. If you want to get some cardiovascular benefits during your weights sessions too, just shorten your rest periods and see how that feels.”
Live life: Rest Too
“Sleep is so underrated,” says Helen Padarin, a nutritionist, naturopath and all-round health guru. “It’s the one chance your body has to really rest and regenerate. If you’ve been racking up sleep debt you’ll also
have been depleting your Human Growth Hormone (HGH) production. You need HGH for muscle growth and to keep looking and feeling young and fit. Lack of sleep also increases your chances of having a heart attack or developing type-2 diabetes.
“Ideally, you want to be getting eight hours of sleep a night,” Helen continues, “with the most valuable hours being between 10pm and midnight. Any hour of sleep you get before midnight is worth two after midnight, so if for whatever reason you’re only going to get in six hours, you’ll feel much better by sleeping from 10pm till 4am as opposed to getting to bed later at 12am and sleeping until 6am.”
Live life: Good Nutrition Helps
“First of all, forget what you’ve been told about healthy eating,” Helen says matter-of-factly. “It’s no coincidence that the more we eat according to the traditional food pyramid [see MF’s “New Food Pyramid on p.132], the more of us end up that shape ourselves! Go back to the way we used to eat. Go Paleo and eat like our human ancestors did during the Paleolithic era: meat, fish and fresh vegetables, nuts and fruit. Conventional wisdom, if you can call it that, tells us to eat lots of grains, but grains equals starch, which in turn equals sugar. Anthropologists have found that since grains made their way into our diets 10,000 years ago, it has resulted in shorter stature, shorter lifespan and reduced fertility. Scary stuff. Sugar plays havoc with our insulin function and basically gears your metabolism to store these sugars as fat. That increases your risk of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and polycystic ovarian syndrome in women, to name a few. The dysregulated [impaired] insulin activity places extra demands on your adrenal glands, causing exhaustion and fatigue; your pancreas, creating insulin resistance and poor digestion; and your immune system — hello colds and flu, hayfever, eczema and asthma.”
“When it comes down to losing your gut or building a bit of muscle,” Scotty adds, “it’s predominantly up to what you shove down your throat. Sure the training helps, but you can train all you like and get nowhere if you’re still eating crap. Again, it depends on how serious you are about changing and what your individual goals are.”
Mastering the rebuild
Since my chat with Katrina, Scotty and Helen, my life has improved dramatically. My training program is much more focused and sustainable, with plenty of rest. All my meals are based around Paleo principles, I’m off the grog during the week and I’m sleeping eight hours a night.
So far, I’ve dropped from a super-tight size 36-inch jeans to 33s. The biggest change, though, has been a massive increase in my energy levels throughout the day.
Isn’t it about time you began to rebuild your life? Do it before you have your “moment” or you could find yourself in Katrina’s ward — if you’re lucky.
For more on Scotty, check him out at realcommandofitness.com.au. For more on Helen, check out nourish-Ed.com. For more on Katrina, have a heart attack and survive.