There are six Foundational Factors which, if followed correctly, can give virtually everyone a life of health and happiness.
BREATHING: it’s the first thing we do when we’re born, and it’s the last thing we do before we die. The healthy human body can survive weeks without food and days without water. But we can only last a few minutes without oxygen. Breath IS life force! Yet we’ve recently twisted the simple act of breathing into a task which directly or indirectly accounts for 70-75% of all doctor visits. We have begun to breathe exactly the opposite of how nature intended. This inverted breathing pattern creates a host of issues from trigger points in the neck and upper back to hormonal responses that affect literally every cell in the body. And know this: the average person breathes an amazing 25,000 times a day! This practice makes permanent, not perfect, so we better make sure we’re breathing correctly.
Our mouths are designed for eating, communicating, and love making (a form of communication), not for breathing. Unless you’re being chased by a saber tooth tiger, you should be breathing through your nose. This warms and filters the air. And that breath should be drawn in diaphragmatically, or into your belly. But most of us are chest breathers, taking shallow breaths in though the mouth in rapid succession. Consequently, our accessory respiratory muscles (i.e. the scalenes) become overworked, resulting in tonic painful musculature which your massage therapist LOVES to find. Even worse, our subconscious keep looking for that tiger, and a cascade or stress hormones continuously circulates through the body. And even though that tiger’s really just in our subconscious, the body is innately tied to what and how we think.
THINKING is the next Foundational Factor. The average person has 60,000-70,000 thoughts running through his/her head a day. And since 80-95% of stress comes from your thoughts, it would behoove us to make those thoughts positive instead of negative. Heaven and hell have the same address as the only difference between happiness and unhappiness is a choice. So choose to be happy. When you wake up in the morning, choose to be healthy. Think proactively such that your life is molded by your thoughts rather than your thoughts being manipulated by your life. As is often said, why water something you don’t want to grow?
Speaking of water, HYDRATION is the third foundational factor critical to health. Our bodies are 72% water, and every physiological task the body performs depends on both the quality and quantity available for those processes. For example, one of the key roles water plays in the body is to aid in the elimination of the waste which gets produced in cells as a byproduct of daily functioning. The average adult has some ten trillion cells, each performing specialized functions. And if the liquids consumed only contribute to their pollution, just like mopping the floor with a bucket of dirty water, our cells remain contaminated. Health cannot thrive in such an environment.
So how much should you drink? Dr. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, states that optimal hydration levels occur when one drinks half of his/her body weight in pounds in ounces of water each day. So 150lb person would need to drink 75oz of water every day. This amount would, of course, increase with exercise or in hot climates. And if you think you can reach this daily total by dinking soda, coffee, or pasteurized juice, think again. These beverages actually contribute to dehydration as well as a host of other adverse health effects ranging from Syndrome X (i.e. insulin resistance) to tooth decay. Our bodies were meant to drink water and nothing else. Fresh squeezed juices, in moderation, can be used judiciously by some metabolic types, but they should really be designated not as hydration but as...
NUTRITION, the fourth Foundational Factor. It’s the one on which people focus so much, trying to make it rocket science. But it’s so simple your grandparents could do it. In fact, our generation is probably the first which has really deviated from what our ancestors realized was common sense:
--if God didn't make it, don't eat it.
--if you cannot pronounce an ingredient in a food, don't eat it.
--if it hasn't been on this earth for 5000+ years, don't eat it.
--if it won't keep your dog alive, don't eat it.
--the more ingredients in a food, the worse it is for you.
--the longer the shelf life of a food, the worse it is for you (the exceptions to the rule are raw seeds/nuts and fermented foods like sauerkraut).
--stay away from HYDROGENATED /PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED foods (baked goods are a major culprit).
--stay away from ARTIFICIAL COLORS/SWEETENERS/FLAVORS or PRESERVATIVES (just about anything pre-packaged).
--eat organic/local—it’s better for you and the environment.
--eat a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrate/fat/protein) at every meal/snack.
See, what we put into our mouths is recognized by the body as either a food or a toxin. Food supports and nourishes the body, allowing a miraculous array of chemical reactions to take place to run our metabolic machinery. Toxins, on the other hand, must be eliminated before they can reach dangerous levels and threaten the very survival of the body.
Of course, it takes nutrition from REAL food to “take out this trash.” When these nutrients are unavailable, as so often happens from eating typical, processed to death non-foods (foods so void of nutrition that they take more from the body than they give), the body cannot get rid of these toxins. Nature has provided us, however, with an ingenious method to store these toxins safely until such factors are present that allow us to eliminate them. It’s called FAT! That’s right—one of fat’s major roles in the body is to attract toxins and store them away from essential bodily organs. So just like a farmer fattens a cow more quickly by feeding it grains instead of grass, humans, too, get fat when we consume things we weren’t designed to eat.
The average American eats approximately 150lbs of carcinogenic food additives each year. Our nutrition is so poor that we could not hope to assimilate and metabolize all of the C.R.A.P. (Caffeine, Refined sugar/flour, Alcohol, Pasteurized dairy/juice) not to mention pesticides, artificial colors/flavors, and preservatives commonly found in the American diet. The result is weight gain as the body shuttles this barrage of toxins into our fat stores. Additionally, all of these processed non-foods actually rob us of nutrition: to digest this
EXERCISE! Is this really the panacea which will nullify the effects of a crappy diet? Well, while it may help offset some of the harm done by the two greatest weapons ever developed by man—the fork and spoon—done incorrectly, it only magnifies the dietary destruction. The three most common mistakes made by gym goers are working muscles in isolation, exercising exclusively on machines, and doing a workout not designed specifically for you. The last of these errors you’d think would be common sense. One man’s medicine is another man’s poison. So why are people copying the workouts done by some guy in the gym or some model in a magazine? They’re getting their prescription from their subscription! Again, if you look at how your grandparents (or at least your great grandparents) stayed healthy, you’ll realize that papa and grandma knew more about fitness than the junk you find on the pages of some health rag; or being espoused by your average personal trainer. You would never catch either of them hammering out five sets of seated bicep curls or destroying their knees on the leg extension machine.
Some may argue that their grandparents never even worked out. But if you analyze the common movements in their lives, you’ll realize they got a “workout” every day. After she woke up, grandma would probably hurry to the kitchen where she’d squat down to get a pan out of a cabinet, bend over to get meat out of the ice box, pull the breakfast table out of the corner, push chairs into place, and twist back and forth as she pulled utensils out of the drawer to set the table. Heck, the only movement she hadn’t performed by six a.m. was a set of lunges!
The above actions are all primal patterns—movements in which our caveman ancestors needed to be proficient in to survive. The saber tooth tiger wasn’t just in their heads! If you couldn’t squat, lunge, push, pull, bend, or twist, natural selection made you the best choice for that tiger’s lunch! Admittedly, the modern conveniences we enjoy today have made the cost of faulty movement patterns less severe. Now the price for an inability to squat properly is the going rate for spinal surgery which results from over using your back. But you’ve got insurance, right…
The take away message here is to get up off machines and perform compound movements which will actually lessen the likelihood of meeting your yearly medical deductible. Use free weights and cable systems which work in all three planes of motion. Also use body weight exercises which force you to maintain your center of gravity over your own base of support. And if you’re not currently working out and really de-conditioned, just perform the same activities you do daily/weekly and take it up a notch. For example, park farther away from your work or the mall or the post office or the grocery store and simply walk to your destination. Try to work up to a minimum of twenty minutes each day. It takes energy to build energy. So simply moving more is an investment in your self. As you become fitter, you can progress to more traditional forms of exercise. But remember, a tradition is something which has been done for a while. So stay away from those machines—they’re so new and unnatural that your grandparents would probably have nightmares about them.
SLEEP is the final Foundational Factor crucial to health. Now I love Thomas Edison—he’s one of my boys—but his invention of the light bulb precipitated an epidemic of sleep dysfunction from which many disease states manifest. See, our bodies are rhythmic, following predictable cycles which have become deeply ingrained in our physiology. One of these cycles is sleep. For generations, humans have gotten up with the sun and gone to bed within a few hours of sunset. Our bodies are literally designed to function on, not just a sufficient amount of sleep, but on a specific time for sleep, as well. The release of growth hormone and other anabolic hormones happens predominately between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. while the second half of the sleep cycle is devoted to psychogenic repair between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Staying up until midnight to watch T.V. or work on the computer robs the body of two hours of physical recovery. This error results in an inability to recover from exercise or the activities of daily living. Aches and pains soon become chronic and the immune system weakens, allowing the body to become susceptible to pathogens from both inside and outside the body. In fact, medical professionals recognize shift work and ignoring our circadian rhythms as second only to smoking in the number and severity of adverse effects on our health. So turn off those lights, shut off the television, get into bed by 10 p.m., and turn those dreams of health into reality.
All six of the Foundational Factors are the basis on which wellness is built; only with a solid foundation in every one of them can we build high levels of vitality and peak functioning. Of course, each of the subjects above has only been briefly introduced. For a more thorough discussion on how you can take responsibility for yourself and be in control of your own health destiny, catch me on my soapbox (which I stand on often—and not just because I’m short), treat yourself to a session with me, or visit my website at www.triumphtraining.com.