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Trying to be the best person and Dad I can be whilst helping others along the way. Lifestyle optimisation is about re-engineering your workouts, diet, finances, career and wardrobe to get maximum results with minimum effort - leaving you plenty of time to be a better husband and father.
If you haven’t yet heard of F45 training or workouts by now, I’d be somewhat surprised.
Like CrossFit, veganism, intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet, someone you know is likely to be doing it, and that involves them telling everyone they know (and even people they don’t know) that they’re, well…doing it.
So you’d be in a fortunate bubble of normalcy if you hadn’t heard somebody banging on about it.
‘Functional’ 45 minute HIIT workouts in identical studios are cropping up on almost every street corner in major cities and every suburb elsewhere. Quite literally. There are now around 500 F45 studios in Australia alone and another 300-ish elsewhere around the world. All in around four years. That’s some going.
1. The Workouts Hurt – In A Good Way
You’re going to be working at a fairly high to very high intensity for around 35 minutes which is plenty for anyone whose job isn’t to exercise or train for a sport.
On a cardio day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) your heart-rate will be jacked up and it will stay there, despite brief periods of respite. On strength days (Tuesday and Thursday), you’ll be pushing a weight that should challenge you for between 2-35 seconds which is a decent amount of time under tension. This will also push your heart-rate up.
Either way, you’re working at around 80-90% for the duration of the workout. That will hurt anyone. They frequently ruin me and I consider myself reasonably fit.
2. People Are Losing A Lot Of Weight. Fast.
The amount of collective weight being lost through F45 is scary.
Regular punters now have a mode of training that they can do every day whether they’re in inner-cities or out in the sticks. Combine the intensity of the workouts with the availability and you’re onto a winner.
A woman at #superfitkid’s swimming lessons has lost around 12kg in a year at F45. Another has taken it up another notch and has parlayed her initial interest in conditioning to full-time bodybuilding and bikini comps.
This isn’t exclusive to F45 but, in terms of scale, and at the moment, the collective results are scaling up.
3. It’s Expensive – This Isn’t A Bad Thing
Like CrossFit before it, F45 isn’t cheap. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It costs around $75 per week here in Sydney. A regular gym costs close to $25 per week.
Now, I’m all about “driving the value” as my old buddy Adam Cruiseman used to say.
But…there are two key considerations with this.
Firstly, at $75 a week you can’t afford NOT to go at least 4 times per week. I couldn’t, anyway. So, by virtue of the cost, you’ve locked in 4 workouts per week at a very high intensity. To repeat: for the average punter, that is plenty to tone up, increase aerobic capacity, increase muscular endurance, build some muscle…all the good stuff we want from exercise.
Secondly, you may go to your regular ‘$25 a week’ gym four times per week but, unless you have the single-minded focus and discipline of, say, Elon Musk, you’re extremely unlikely to work as hard as you will at those four F45 sessions.
Frequency x intensity = results. It’s really that simple.
And so, whilst F45 is “expensive”, you could argue that it provides very good value.
4. You’ll Build Muscle
My good buddy swears off F45 because he says he doesn’t have time for “star jumps and aerobics”.
I tell him to try one of the strength days because a) the cardio days would kill him and I don’t want that on my conscience, and b) with the right weights, you’re working your muscles to failure with similar, if not longer, TUT (there’s that time-under-tension, again) than if you were doing a standard 3 to 4 sets of 8-12 reps in the gym.
But with shorter or zero rest breaks. So you’re conditioning whilst building muscle.
5. You Can Train For Free
All F45 gyms offer a minimum one-week free trial where you can go as may times as you like to test it out. Do five F45 workouts in a week (if you’re already reasonably well trained) and you’ll see improvements immediately.
6. Women Outnumber Men. By A Lot.
I include this point mainly to annoy the feminists and pseudo-lefties who see outrage in everything, and (of course) it varies class by class and gym by gym, but F45 does seem to appeal more to women than men, most likely due to misconceptions such as those held by my buddy (outlined above).
But I wouldn’t go there trying to pick up. For starters, the girl you’re paired with is likely to be fitter than you. She’ll also most likely have her game-face on and be there to crank out a savage workout while you’re flailing away with the 8kg weights.
Movement theorists and purists probably hate it because of its commercial viability and success.
My take for what it’s worth (which isn’t much) is that…it gets a lot right.
It’s getting a lot of people, who otherwise wouldn’t be moving at intensity, moving at intensity, and as long as that is coupled with sound form and technique, that has to be a good thing overall.
So if you’re stuck with your regular training, or if a lunch-break workout is the only time you get to train, or you need to lose five kilos for summer, have a look to see if there’s an F45 near your office (preferably) or house, sign up for a one-week trial to see if you like it.
At the worst, you’ll get a few tough workouts to tell you where you’re currently at.
[Disclaimer: I have worked at a couple of F45 gyms and still do some cover shifts to help out. That means I don’t pay for my F45 workouts. But I have nothing to gain from writing this and am always impartial. I’m merely offering my take as a reasonably seasoned exerciser in the hope it proves useful. If I thought it was a sh*t workout, I’d say so.]
The humble burpee, it’s origins steeped in a fitness test designed by Royal H. Burpee, is both brutal and yet somehow comforting.
Like a kindly schoolmaster whispering words of encouragement as he wields the birch to give you the damn good scragging that you no doubt deserved (for wagging off class or smoking a doobie behind the bike sheds), you can sense that the burpee wants you to grow in character & fortitude as he pummels you, challenging your legs, your lungs and your very soul.
Here’s what the original looked like:
But that could just be a rose-tinted and skewed view. It could be that Mr Burpee is just a down-right sadistic son-of-a-bitch who couldn’t decide which part of your mind, body or soul he wanted to crush or in which order, so he decided to go for all three at the same time.
On the plus-side, you can do them anywhere: hotel room, garden, nursery, gym (although how often do you see people doing burpees in a gym and not as part of a class? More or less never).
This makes them great, not only for time-poor Dads who want a hectic bang-for-your-buck workout, but also anybody whose schedule or lifestyle makes it hard to get any other forms of exercise in.
If you only did one exercise for the rest of your ‘moving’ life and it was the burpee, I reckon you’d stay healthy and strong for years. But, of course, I could be wrong.
The burpees we tend to do now bear little resemblance to the original Royal H. Burpee version (below):
We tend to throw them in as a balls-to-the-wall finisher that empties and then destroys your gas tank. Often a burpee will bring in a push-up and a CrossFit burpee simply involves throwing yourself on the floor and getting back up as quickly as possible. Here’s a slowed down version of the CrossFit style.
The Burpee - YouTube
Regardless of how you perform your burpees, they key point is to simply get moving and starting building up the reps. As long as you’re doing them safely, of course.
Here are some sample workouts to get you started.
1. Death By Burpee
Using a timer, do one burpee in the first minute. And then…nothing. Rest for the remainder of the minute.
When minute 2 rolls around, do 2 burpees. And rest the remainder of the minute.
Keep repeating this until you either: a) reach 20 minutes or b) can’t hit your number in the allotted minute.
Then rest for the next minute. And go back down by 1 each minute for the remaining time.
An easy trap for young players is to use the “rest” periods at the beginning to do other exercises, like sit-ups, as I saw a bootcamp recruit do recently.
Do not fall into this trap. It will bite you on the ass later on, I guarantee it.
2. 50 Burpees For Time
A great benchmark workout and one I used a lot to measure my progress once I started doing a few of these and getting into Crossfit.
Starting out I was coming in at around 5 minutes and change but soon got this down to just under 3 minutes using military burpees (as opposed to the Crossfit version). Anything close to 2 minutes is elite.
3. 7 Minutes Of Burpees
Sometimes used as a Crossfit Open workout, this is gnarly because of the time involved and, well, because it’s burpees. There’s no science to it. Just do burpees. Around 100 of ’em is a solid start.
4. Death By Burpee #2
If Death By Burpee is too slow for you in the early stages, then try this variant.
Start with 6 burpees in minute 1. Increase by 1 at a time for 10 minutes. As before, if you hit your wall, rest for 1 minute and then resume but counting down by 1 each time.
5. Partner Burpee Ladder
This is where bromances are born. One partner works while one rests. So I do a single, then you do the same. I then do 2, you copy me. I hit 3, you do likewise.
And so on until you get to 10. And then you count back down the ladder.
6. Burpee EMOM
Pick a number, say 10. Set a timer for 5 or 10 or 15 or even 20 minutes.
And then do your 10 burpees every minute, on the minute, resting during the intervening periods.
James Altucher was a guest on someone else’s podcast. Who is this over-confident New Yorker with a nasally whine, I asked myself aloud in the car.
I’d never heard of him, yet here he was trumpeting views and espousing theories that were being lapped up by the host (I can’t even remember which podcast it was, possibly Lewis Howes).
So I turned it off and listened to something else.
Yet somehow, inexplicably, our paths crossed again. I gave him a second chance and what started in the dumpster has flourished into something beautiful. A friendship of the highest order.
We speak the same language, our lives have traversed similar pathways, we laugh at one another’s jokes. It’s a burgeoning bromance and there’s barely a thing we don’t agree on.
He just doesn’t know I exist because our relationship is based entirely on his podcast, which attracts his friends, or people he knows with something to promote (which, let’s face it, is what powers 95% of the interview-based podcast industry. Which is massive and continues to grow at a frenzied rate).
His network is broad and deep to match his knowledge-base, experience and skill-set. This makes for fascinating conversations.
Altucher’s back-story is here. He makes it more interesting than I’ll be able to. It’s his life, after all.
Here are some of the most useful things I’ve taken from our nascent friendship.
1. Become An Idea Machine
Borrowing heavily from the concept laid out by Earl Nightingale in this video [from around 9:30 if you’re in a hurry but I’d advise you to watch the entire thing], Altucher’s daily practise includes writing down 10 new ideas per day, every single day.
The idea is that creativity, like your bicep, is a muscle that can be grown by daily practise and use. Therefore, just as we workout our various muscle groups, we should take our idea-muscle to the gym every day, too.
At least nine (and probably more) of your daily ideas are likely to be of no value whatsoever. But every so often you’ll have a good one; one that you can turn into income or happiness or free time. Maybe once each year you’ll have a red-hot-smoker of an idea that will transform your life.
2. Get Fun-Comfortable
Altucher has been trying his hand at stand-up comedy. This isn’t a bad shout given he’s funny, self-deprecating and has big, crazy hair. By his own admission, he’s sometimes recognised by his silhouette alone.
This involves performing at comedy clubs in NYC alongside actual comics.
To further his craft and in line with his general M.O of contrarian-ism, he decided to practise his stand-up on the New York subway. Moving from carriage to carriage, he went, telling jokes to commuters.
The outcome of this is yet to be revealed but it talks very directly to a couple of points.
1) Jesus. The guy is obviously insane.
2) I’d imagine to crowd at his next stand-up show seemed a lot less intimidating after the impromptu subway show.
3. ‘Failure Porn’
Alutucher basks in the glowing embers of his many failures.
The 17 of his 20 companies that have failed. The time he lost $15m (after selling his company for that amount) and ended up with $437 in the bank. The divorce. The loss of his family.
And yet he doesn’t glamorise his failures. He tells you exactly how bad they were. He opens up about being curled up in a ball on the floor and feeling suicidal.
Which I guess is still fairly easy to do when you’ve risen, phoenix-like, from the flames, your businesses are turning over $15m per year (at least).
But it’s still a welcome change.
4. Networks Trump Possessions
The calibre of guests on his podcast attests to the network that JA commands.
One of his early strategies (or at least one he recommends) refers back to when he was down on his luck, unable to get meetings. He contacted people he wanted to meet with, not simply to ask for a meeting but to provide them with ideas that they could use to improve their business.
Providing meaningful value over-and-above the norm, is one sure-fire way to get somebody’s attention.
In the early days of superfitdad I used a similar strategy to re-write blog posts that various fitness influencers had written and send them my revised version with the changes marked up and the offer to review and edit future posts. This led to a spell writing content for Keegan Smith’s Real Movement Project which sharpened my writing up and got it in front of an audience of tens of thousands, instead of a few close friends. And the dog.
5. ABC (Always Be Curious)
I’ve listened to maybe forty or fifty of The James Altucher Show podcasts and, alongside his generosity with ideas, it’s his relentless curiosity that teases out some of the best insights from his guests.
He interrupts often, and uses the same technique to make it endearing every time, but usually it’s to ask the questions that you, as the listener, are thinking. He routinely starts questions with: “I’m curious to know…”
He also frequently stops to unpack something a guest has said, normally for complicated topics like the recent episode with Naval Ravikant on bitcoin, which is a must-listen if you’re curious to know more about the creepy, bubbly currency that has morphed from something to buy your steroids with (allegedly), to a completely mainstream store of value.
I could go on but my fan-boy-ism is already topping out. If you’re looking for a new podcast (or friend) to add some Dad-liness to your bro / tech / biohacking gang of mates, then I strongly advise spending a little time with James.
Here is his TED talk that he is clearly using to practise his stand-up comedy. It’s hilarious.
Choose yourself | James Altucher | TEDxSanDiego - YouTube
As the door closes on the football season (and, by football, I mean Association Football, the English version – the only kind), it’s time to reflect on the past six months and jot down a few learnings in the hope that I revisit this as next season rolls around before throwing my hat back into the ring.
But before analyzing the things that might help us through the season, it’s important to accept that there are a few inevitabilities to come over the next few months. By taking note of these we can at least start to brace ourselves for what’s in store.
Things That Are Guaranteed To Happen During The Season
1. One Week You’ll Have 17 Players, The Next Week You Have 9
There’s no rhyme or reason to this, although the strength (or brutality) of the opposition can often play a part.
Some weeks every man and his Grandad turns up for a game, the next week half the team are going to their mother-in-law’s for brunch and can’t make it.
2. Half Of The Squad Will Pick Up A Moderate Injury Within The First Two Weeks Of The Season
Pretty standard in veteran’s football. Pre-season is a relatively relaxed affair but once things kick-off for real, the tackles start flying in and you actually have to start running, then hamstrings, knees, calves start a mass protest as if they’re part of some previously unheralded lower-limb trade union.
Which, given they’re now being asked to do twice the work without any increase in pay is actually quite reasonable, if you think about it.
2. At Least Two Players Will Suffer Serious Injuries
This is the more sinister side of the ‘beautiful game’.
Some serious injuries are innocuous enough; a twisted knee resulting in ACL damage.
Others are reckless and unfortunate. We lost a comrade to a kamikaze goal-saving tackle from an opponent that was just about legal but very vigorous.
And then there’s the freaking nutjobs who can’t see past the red mist when it descends and swerve into leg-breaking territory. Interestingly, the guys are often meek as a mouse off the pitch but something snaps and they’re gone.
Or, as happened to us, once this season, threaten to stab you after the game. That night there was a stabbing at the field where we played our match. I don’t know if these two incidents are related.
3. Aggression Levels Are Inversely Proportional To Skill Level
This is a bit of a sweeping statement but it largely hold true.
The chap throwing himself into a criminally dangerous (literally, often) tackle within five minutes of coming on as a substitute and having spent the preceding minutes abusing opponents, the referee and, often, his own team, is not blessed with an excess of brains in either feet or head.
There’s a reason you’re on the bench, lad.
4. The Inner Mongrel Will Be Released
Having been out of the game for several years I was shocked at just how attritional and abusive the games can get.
Now I’ve fully acclimatized, I sometimes find myself getting stuck in as well.
The referees get paid maybe $100 to manage a bunch of belligerent overgrown babies who argue every decision, spitting dummies theatrically as they go. It’s in no way unusual to see a CFO going toe-to-toe with a law firm partner over some dispute.
What’s especially bizarre is that it’s the quiet ones you have to watch. The gobby loud-mouth is precisely that; all bark, no real bite. It’s the chap silently giving you the thousand-yard stare throughout the entire match who probably has a hammer in his bag.
Or in the case, the most intelligent member of the team.
There has to be some kind of sociological experiment tucked away in it all somewhere…
5. Nobody In Your Household Cares That You’re Playing
You think you’re on a noble quest, battling fierce opponents, relentless old age and the (admittedly mild) elements week after week on your hero’s journey.
Nobody else gives two hoots. It goes something like this.
She says: don’t forget it’s my Mum’s birthday brunch on Sunday.
You say: I can’t make it. I have football.
She says: You can miss this week. It’s only over 35’s Sunday League. It’s just a bit of fun.
You say: Fun? Fun?! One, it’s not fun, it’s far too important to be fun. And even if it is fun, it’s the only bit of “fun” I get to have all week. And it’s much more “fun” than brunch with your battle-axe of a mother.
Then all hell breaks loose, you get threatened with divorce before storming out of the house. And then stomping back in again a minute or two later to theatrically pick up your footy boots.
How To Survive The Season
As the matches themselves sometimes resemble trench warfare, the injury tallies soon mount.
One team we faced off against last year started with 22 men, all fit and true. Three weeks into the season they were down to 12 with injuries ranging from knees, backs and, worryingly, a heart attack.
He are some surprisingly obvious ways to make it through the season unscathed.
1. General Physical Preparedness
A little extra-curricular conditioning can go a long way. Especially at over 35’s level where plenty experience a steep drop-off in fitness.
We had several games this season that featured a hard-fought first-half but turned into a rout as the opposition fell away and our conditioning came into play.
2. Pre-Game Prep Is Key
If it’s an afternoon game I try to get to the gym in the morning and do a light general workout and some upper body stuff.
This means I’m fully warmed-up, firstly, but I’ve also woken up my central nervous system and let it know some work is coming its way, usually in the form of blunt-force-trauma from a hefty centre-half. If I was going into these games straight off the couch, I reckon I’d get squashed.
Early morning games are trickier but we aim for a decent team warm-up.
The one time we didn’t warm-up up thoroughly I picked up an injury, though this coincided with an all-day birthday party so multiple factors could’ve played a part.
Still, my calf won’t let me forget that in a hurry. Lesson learnt.
3. Recovery Can Salvage Your Week
Last season I’d be beaten up for days after a game: sore back, sore ankles, tight hamstrings, a bruised foot where an 18 stone bruiser had “accidentally” stomped on me at a corner. Monday mornings were especially bad.
That was probably because my post-game recovery consisted of a beer or a wine with some chocolate in the bath. Great for reviewing the game’s highlight reel in my head, but not so beneficial for battered and aching joints.
This year I religiously stretched and foam-rolled after games and jumped into bootcamp classes (albeit gently) on the Monday mornings after a game. This combination seemed to work wonders for flushing out stiffness and lactic acid that had built up in the games.
4. Supplement Hard
My pre-game breakfast is usually a 3-egg omelette with cheese and steamed broccoli, and a protein shake. I also take around 10-15g of creatine. I try and have this around an hour or more before kick-off. It gives me plenty of energy and is easily digestible.
During games (at halftime) I drink an intra-workout drink with around 8g of BCAAs.
My post-game ritual also included a protein shake for muscle repair and more creatine for recovery. When I remember I also take 5 1000mg fish-oil capsules.
This was much more disciplined than last season and, whether there’s some placebo effects in there or not, I felt like I recovered exponentially more quickly this year.
The thing is, regardless of the bumps and travails, football is the game that keeps on giving. It’s like an old denim jacket you can’t bear to throw away, or the teenage girlfriend you’ll always hold a torch for.
It’s highly risky and you’re getting progressively worse, but provided you treat it with a bit of respect, it gives you an outlet and a chance to rekindle the glory days, if only for ninety minutes a week, and never quite as glamorously as you imagined in your mind’s eye.
But when it works and something you try comes off, it’s truly glorious.
I caught up with a mate for coffee recently. I know, how Sydney.
Because it was two in the afternoon on a weekday.
Sydney is a city that runs on caffeine & alcohol. And cocaine. As far as I can tell. The Monday-to-Friday of the average Australian corporate worker is actually one long coffee run interspersed with a few ‘work’ breaks in the middle.
Anyhow, my pal is a fit chap, a Dad and he’s into bio-hacking, which means we have plenty to talk about. And we got onto the subject of noise versus simplicity in life, and just how draining this age of information overload is, especially if you’re of a curious disposition. A thirst for information (masquerading as knowledge) is met by more information than you could possibly consume in a swirling vortex of ideas and opinions, some of which are good, granted, but many are worthless.
There’s so much conflicting information about pretty much everything in life, but specifically to us: which exercise program to follow; what to eat & when to eat it; where to invest spare money; what skills to focus on to further our business or career; whether to buy a house or invest in the stock market; what school to send the kids to…the list goes on and on.
And so we got the ruminating on minimalism. Or, at least, keeping things super-simple.
Because if you think about the people who are really successful in a given field, often they hone in on the basics and repeat the same mantras over and over.
Warren Buffett’s investment tips and estate planning for when he dies? Dead simple. And it doesn’t involve Bitcoin.
Dan John’s strength training pillars? Very simple. And not a fad workout in sight.
Jim Rohn’s tips for personal growth. Super simple. The application of basic principles.
There’s a pattern here that a blind chap could see. But simple doesn’t equate to easy. Far from it. That’s the challenge.
Here are some foundational ideas across domains that apply to my life at the moment.
4 Finance Tasks
Asses Superannuation Fees & Switch Funds
I recently did this. It’s a royal pain in the ass, designed (seemingly) to be as difficult to do as possible.
Mind you if I was running a $23bn a year racket (sorry, business) then I’d make it as hard for victims (sorry, customers) to escape, too.
I followed the recommendations laid out in the Barefoot Investor and still found it vexingly troublesome. But I got there eventually.
Every month a day or two after payday arrange for 10% of your net pay to be siphoned off into a savings account or, better still, an low-cost investment fund.
Junior comes along and you’re all: “I’m gonna do right by the kid and invest some money for their future.”
Then life gets in the way and it gets shunted down the to-do list. After all, each day can feel like a struggle to do right by them. That’s all you ever do, right?
Plus, as with most finance-related chores in Australia (and, I suspect, elsewhere), when you do finally get around to taking action, it’s a massive ball-ache, swathed in bundles of unnecessary complexity that becomes so vexatious that you ultimately give up.
Or maybe it’s just me who gets bogged down in this crap.
Either way, I’ve used AMP for something called an insurance bond for #superfitkid. It seems okay. You can read more about them here.
It’s too early to tell if this is a good or bad investment. It doesn’t seem completely shit and has some tax advantages which is good.
But it’s set-up and automated now so will hopefully be a pain-free way to build up a small fund to help towards whatever he needs it for when he’s older.
The other thing to check in on is your life insurance and TPD cover (that’s, total permanent disability). The good news is that if you’re an employee this is usually offered via your work superannuation fund so it’s one less thing to worry about but you should still read the small print to see what’s covered and what isn’ and how much you’re worth should you die.
It will most probably turn out that you’re worth much more dead than alive so maybe don’t tell the missus what the policy is worth. No need to put another target on your back, eh?
4 Life Pillars
Like a faithful hound, exercise never lets you down. It makes the highs seem higher and the lows more palatable.
Then there’s the constant references to meditation or contemplative-practise benefits that guests on podcasts like Tim Ferris and Lewis Howes espouse. By definition, these guests are “top performers” in a range of fields.
The context is clear. If these “top performers” are all doing something they view as beneficial and you’re not doing it, why not?
If have gaps in your life you’re trying to plug, or areas of your life that constantly trip you up, then perhaps you should try this one thing that seems to benefit a lot of the people you might admire. What have you got to lose? Twenty minutes of your time? Believe me, unless you’re Elon Musk, you probably have a spare twenty minutes each day.
An oft-touted aphorism attributed to Jim Rohn is that you become the product of the five people you spend the most time with.
To that end, spend your hard-earned time with those who interest and intrigue you, those who fire you up or share similar interests.
And cut off the dead wood. As painlessly as possible.
What’s driving you forward?
Whether it’s financial freedom, being your own boss, running a cool start-up, becoming the CEO, changing the world for the better, you need something burning inside of you to drive you on.
Aim to be a “meaningful specific” and not a “wandering generality.” Although if you have kids this can be hard, I’ve found, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re in survival mode.
Protein (preferably organic, vegan i.e. brown rice-based etc)
The single biggest contributor to the DadBod (I would argue) is a lack of protein.
Like saltwater eroding a cliff-face, so age eats into muscle mass, and because this happens stealthily, not much is done to arrest the decline.
If you don’t workout, you probably still need to supplement your protein intake.
If you do workout, it’s pretty much mandatory to prevent your muscles breaking down too much.
The key is to avoid putting too much processed,sugar-laden garbage in your body. You know, the stuff that scrams pseudo-science and epilepsy-inducing colour-blasts on the packaging.
I use natural, vegan, brown-rice based protein. A good Australian brand is 180 Nutrition.
I’m no scientist and I don’t purport to be one. But if a whole range of fitness-type people who I have developed trust in are all pointing in the same direction, then I’m going to look in that direction, too.
And that’s the key. I trust these people based on what they are recommending without having an agenda to push.
Another widely recommended supplement that is a) backed up by science, and b) cheap (which is always a bonus for an impoverished Dad like me).
Joking aside (mostly), I found that taking creatine post-game this football season drastically improved my recovery into the following week.
Whether it’s in Epsom Salt baths or in tablet or spray form, “maggers” does a solid job of relaxing muscles and aiding good sleep.
4 Workouts You Should Be Doing Each Week
Strength-based With Weight
Kettlebells, barbells, Crossfit, Strongman classes, heck even an F45 class on the strength days. You need to be lifting heavy objects from the floor or overhead and throwing them around as you get older. With correct form and technique.
The beauty of any kind of high-intensity interval training is that it cuts down the time you spend “exercising”. Tabata training is the purists’ go-to here but any HIIT workout, ideally of around 25 – 45 minutes (but can be as short as 10 to 15 minutes), performed two or three times per week will go a long way to helping you break down stubborn fat and improving your cardiovascular capacity which will, in turn, help you live longer.
Restorative (i.e. Yoga, Pilates)
If you’re an older guy, you’re probably not very flexible.
Your kids will be able to get into positions and hold those positions (like the bottom of a super-deep squat) forever, basically. You can barely even do the movement let alone hold it for any period of time.
The culprits are: sitting in a chair, sitting at a desk, hunching over a computer, life, hunching over a mobile phone.
The remedy (or one of them) is to dedicate time each week to unravelling all the knots you’ve created for your body. You’re not likely to do this of your own volition (if you are, congratulations) so attending a weekly yoga or pilates class is the best reward you can give to your body.
#superfitkid sprints everywhere. It’s his default setting.
I only sprint when a tradie parks on the grass outside my house. I then assess his size before deciding whether to confront him outright or wait until he’s out of site and leave a note on his windscreen.
I also sprint at the park, although not as often as I should.
Sprinting is the king of exercises (along with the deadlift. And the squat). The benefits, coupled with the practicality, are out of this world. Think about it. Have you ever seen a sprinter with a shoddy physique? Nope, didn’t think so.
4 Weighted Exercises
You should be doing each of these at least weekly.
When executed with correct form and a decent weight, a squat will test every ounce of you.
Try 5 x 5 with the first two sets being warm-up sets. Or if you want to go nuts, try 10 sets of 10 reps, although that’s not recommended for beginners.
Deadlift (Or KB Swing)
Focusing on the hip-hinge movement pattern, the deadlift lays claim to being the ‘king of exercises’.
It works your posterior chain (that’s back, hamstrings, glutes, calves) predominantly but also hits the shoulders and forearms. But that does it a disservice as it taxes your central nervous system to the max.
Basically, it’s the heaviest weight you’ll be able to lift in the gym so needs to be treated with respect to ensure you dial in your technique to avoid back injuries.
Bench press / Shoulder press
Monday is ‘international bench day’ in virtually every gym in the world so I’d suggest mixing things up and hitting shoulder press on Mondays and bench later in the week.
The clean is the gateway lift to full-on Olympic lifting. It also hits a ton of major muscle groups (quads, glutes, shoulders, back, heck, even biceps) and smashes your central nervous system and turns you into a beast, frankly.
Do a hang-clean, a power clean or a full-depth squat-clean, Olympic-style.
Squat-clean technique phases
4 Bodyweight Exercises
Hopefully these don’t need instruction or justification. Just don’t take any shortcuts with your form.
Bonus Exercise: Pull-up
4 Personal Finance Books
Think & Grow Rich
This is actually a personal development book with a financial-sounding title. It’s also the gospel of the personal development and growth genre.
Much like a precursor to Tim Ferris, Napoleon Hill was sent out to interview the very best and most successful of men, and identify the habits and strategies that made them so formidable.
The Barefoot Investor
Practical, no-nonsense advice for the Australian punter, featuring half a dozen immediate quick wins.
Money – Master The Game
Written as an populist how-to guide in the wake of the financial crisis, Tony Robbins scrolls through his rolodex of contacts to interview the biggest and wealthiest and share their insider secrets with the man on the street.
This was an eye-opener for me and I’ve adopted a lot of the principles outlined here.
Warren Buffet’s Annual Letters
4 Running Books
Born To Run – Christopher MacDougall
The story of Caballo Blanco and the Tarahumara tribe running for days in the Copper Canyons of Mexico is such a rip-roaring yarn that it’s impossible not to get swept up in the free-rolling anarchy of it all.
Even non-runners will dig this book.
Eat & Run – Scott Jurek
From a sizeable cameo in Born to Run, Scott Jurek reached a mainstream running audience, somewhat belatedly for someone who is possibly the greatest ultra-marathoner ever.
Scott Jurek racing Arnulfo Quimeira of the Terahumara tribe
He tells his story and shares his best vegan recipes in this autobiography-slash-cookbook.
Running With The Kenyans – Amarindhan Finn
The author ups-sticks with his family and moves to Kenya to train with the fastest middle and long distance runners in the world. There is no way this wouldn’t be a brilliant story.
Finding Ultra – Rich Roll
Overweight, out of breath walking up the stairs, drinking too much, stuck in a corporate job that isn’t for you.
This was Rich Roll’s story until he switched to a vegan diet and, in doing so, shifted the trajectory of his life. He also took up the sport of ‘ultra-ironman’ (basically, very long triathlons).
Classic ‘running saved my life’ parable and the book that took ultra running mainstream. Some of the races or stories from this book have gone down in folklore…ordering a pizza to be delivered mid-run in the middle of the night at a set of traffic lights…
The beauty of this list is that it can be expanded easily and whilst there’s always going to be some conjecture around the exact make-up of each list, it’s a good starting point to remind us that, in nearly all cases, less really is more.
I work in, or closely alongside, the financial sector and the sheer volume of ideas and opinions flying about the place is both exciting and bewildering.
But it means that, for the average punter like you or me, it’s completely flawed because we don’t know what to do with our money or where to put it to best effect.
There is an overwhelming information asymmetry that self-perpetuates because it serves the financial services industry best if we don’t ask too many questions. Or that, if we do have the temerity to scratch beneath the surface, then we are met with the exact opposite of a wall of silence; we become engulfed in some more paperwork and such dense product disclosure statements that we simply give up and go back to the default option.
But what if we herded up some of the brightest & best financial minds around (guys who have a generally high ‘trust’ rating in our collective psyche) and collated their advice.
Would we go for it then?
Well, we’ve roped in some heavy hitters from a range of backgrounds and levels of experience but one thing remains the same: their advice.
The Super Scam
Take superannuation (the good old Australian pension). This is, on the face of it, the greatest giveaway in history.
Your employer is legally obligated to set aside 10% of your salary into a pension fund because you aren’t deemed trustworthy enough to do it yourself and the Government doesn’t want you to be destitute in your old age.
This is insane(ly good). This sh*t doesn’t happen elsewhere to the same degree.
And yet. And yet, most of us take that money and deposit it in the ‘default’ fund with barely a glance. The money is subject to fees for things like ‘investment management’ and ‘administration’, some of which is legit.
But some of it is totally poxy.
You’re basically paying fees for some fund manager to underperform the market.
Yep, that’s right. Studies have shown that an untrained monkey could perform better than a lot of fund managers, especially if the monkey was au fait with index investing.
Superannuation fees in Australia are around $23bn per year which means we’re paying $23bn for someone to underperform the market. Every year.
And we keep on doing it.
Here’s what paying 3% in your super could be doing to your nest-egg compared to your financiall savvy pal who is paying just 1%:
The impact of fees on fictitious ending account balance:
Jason: $100,000 growing at 7% (minus 3% in annual fees) = $324,340 Matthew: $100,000 growing at 7% (minus 2% in annual fees) = $432,194 Taylor: $100,000 growing at 7% (minus 1% in annual fees) = $574,349
Why do we keep falling for this BS?
Have you ever tried to change your superannuation fund. Or read your superannuation statement.
Jesus, even the so-called decent and transparent ones have thirty page product disclosure statements that make getting to the bottom of what exactly their fees & charges are like solving the The Fourier transform:
Nope, me neither.
The truth is ‘super’ is just an easy target; a bright pink pair of punching bags that I (and countless others) can slag off with a swift kick and an easy metaphor.
Regular investing is just as shady. Yet because in this case, we’re not forced to do it, most of us choose not to, instead sitting on a few sheckels at the bank paying a parsimonious 1.5%.
Or perhaps taking the plunge on a few well-chosen shares that our mates recommended down the pub.
There Is Another Way – Following The Financial Gods
The average stock-market investor makes around 3.3% return per year which is barely enough to cover the cost of inflation.
Yet the stock market itself historically has increased at an average rate of 9%.
And this is why every expert, no matter who they are, or what field they come at this from, recommends low-cost, index-linked funds as the way to go.
The Financial Hall Of Fame
The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, whose book I reviewed here has this to say about index funds.
Tony Robbins through interviews with Jack Bogle (founder of Vanguard who developed the index fund concept), amongst others, for his book ‘Money – Master The Game’, says this:
From 1984 to 1998 — a full 15 years — only eight out of 200 fund managers beat the Vanguard 500 Index.
So instead of buying all the stocks individually, or trying to pick the next high-flying hotshot fund manager, you can diversify and own a piece of all 500 top stocks simply by investing in a low-cost index fund that tracks or mimics the index.
One single investment buys you a piece of the strength of “American Capitalism.” In a way, you are buying into the fact that over the past hundred years, the top tier companies have always shown incredible resilience.
David Swenson who oversees Yale University’s $24bn endowment fund took it even further, saying this:
“When you look at the results on an after-tax basis, over reasonable long periods of time, there’s almost no chance that you end up beating the index fund.”
Warren Buffet himself gave the following advice to LeBron James when he was sought out.
The Oracle of Omaha said athletes are often approached with investing ideas tied to restaurants or real estate, but James should buy a low-cost index fund, while also keeping a significant cash reserve — “whatever makes him comfortable.”
“Just making monthly investments in a low-cost index fund makes a lot of sense,” Buffett said.
He added: “Owning a piece of America, a diversified piece, bought over time, held for 30 or 40 years, it’s bound to do well. The income will go up over the years, and there’s really nothing to worry about.”
So why aren’t we all up to our knackers in index-funds?
Well, they’re not especially sexy, and they’re something of a slow-burn which doesn’t exactly rev the engine in a world addicted to gratificatione instantia.
Compared with an online shopping site that will deliver your shiny new trousers this afternoon, deflecting money away from that into a 20-year saving plan (albeit one that which reap massive rewards) is a tough sell.
Setting up an automated savings plan that squirrels money away each month is the way to go, based on the advice being proffered by the expert mentioned above (and countless others).
The day after payday is a great time to do it, before you have time to miss the dough.
This may not be new financial advice. In which case, keep doing what you’re doing.
And yet, I know from conversations with friends, that most of us aren’t doing this. At least, not regularly. Not yet.
But if you didn’t start doing this ten years ago, the next best time is now.
Like Money – Master The Game by Tony Robbins before it, this book is written for the little man. For you and me. For the average punter who is unconsciously paying for the Fat Cats’ Breitlings, Masaratis and boats.
You see, author, Scott Pape, used to be one of these chaps before realising the error of his ways and turning to teaching others how to live financially abundant lives. He’s a no-nonsense straight-shooter with an avowed dislike of the Big Banks, profiteering and people earning top dollar for delivering poor results. [For more on ways that you’re likely being ripped off, read this post].
Unlike Money – Master The Game, however, this book is staunchly Australian which means the lingo is wholly recognisable even if the messages are largely similar.
The lessons here are dead simple super-effective, and, whilst this Buffet-esque approach to saving and investing is hard to jazz up, this solid tome gives a decidedly bold nudge at making personal finances sexy, despite the slightly twee front cover that seems like it was dreamt up by a publisher.
2. Cosmos, hosted by Neil De Grasse Tyson – Netflix docu-series
I reckon Neil De Grasse Tyson (or NDGT) could present on any subject, no matter how prosaic, and I’d watch captivated as he lulls me into some kind of half-trance with his sonorous enunciation.
That he’s discussing the Cosmos and our place in it in this riveting Netflix documentary series really is the cherry on the icing on the cake. I’m spellbound throughout.
Based on Carl Sagan’s original series of the same name, this hits on some heavy topics that you probably covered in school but didn’t pay much attention to. Light, sounds, time, space all see plenty of action in the first half dozen episodes.
If you have a passing interest in science or just want to make yourself feel a bit more intelligent, this is a must-see.
Wherever it was, something about his story made me look up his own podcast and website The Art Of Charm.
I haven’t done a deep dive on the site yet but I’ve listened to a lot of his podcasts.
The guests are the great and the good, but what I like about the way he interviews is that he a) clearly does his homework before each one, and b) he’s not afraid to ask the challenging questions or put guest on the spot. He does this in a wholly non-confrontational way which, I guess, is what you’d expect from someone with a site called The Art Of Charm.
This one has been running for 10 years which is a long time in podcasting and guests have included: Cal Newport, Scott Adams, Adam Grant, Pat Flynn, Chris Guillebeau, Daniel Pink.
I’m still scratching the surface but I’m liking what I’m hearing so far. I also listened to AOC exclusively as I ran the SF marathon recently and it was a much-needed distraction, I have to tell you.
4. Hexagonal Dumbbells
I’m a kettlebell guy. For a home gym (or even a small spare bedroom, a balcony, a patio, the living room) there’s not much better bang for you’re buck in terms of getting a solid, all-body workout that builds strength but also sets you up to burn fat.
Tim Ferriss builds one of his minimum-viable-product workouts around KB swings in the Four Hour Body.
But recently I’ve acquired some hexagonal dumbbells and have been enjoying the variety they can bring.
Here’s a complex you can do in less than five minutes [without a warm-up and using 10kg bells this took me 2:23 as a nice little break from the desk. If you have time, rest for 1 minute and then repeat].
10 x squats
10 x shoulder press
10 x thrusters
10 x bicep curls
10 x front raise
10 x lateral raise
The permutations here are endless, maybe even more so than with the KB. Dumbbells also allow you to bring in some snatches and cleans without smashing your wrists.
Personal development books, self-help books, new skills books etc are all well and good, but they only take you so far. And that is, not very far if you’re unable to execute on them.
The other problem is their sheer proliferation. There’s just so much information out there and a lot of it is super-useful in the same way that a bunch of it isn’t.
So increasingly I find myself retreating to fictional stories so that I can simply immerse myself in a story, someone else’s story, rather than deal with the narrative in my head that tells me I. Must. Keep. Learning.
Golden Hill was tossed aside by Super Fit Mum (she hates the name but until she comes up with a better one, she’s stuck with it). Or perhaps I purloined it whilst she was out at yoga.
Regardless, it serves a dual-purpose because it is a historical novel, telling the story of early New York when it was a mere backwater of the world in 1746. So you learn the history as you enjoy the tale. Very clever, huh?
Into that story rides a young Mr Smith who, in the process of collecting some monies owed, wreaks havoc on the place, risking life and limb on ore than one occasion. This is high-brow literature that had me reaching for the dictionary a couple of times but intermixed is a ribald story with plenty of base humour, much of it centred on an old dame by the name of Terpie Tomlinson.
That should tell you all you need to know about which end of Terpie, our young hero ends on. Or on. Either way, this is a fun read that will educate you as well.
I’m always on the lookout for new stuff to check out. Talking books, podcasts, regular paper books (yep, they still exist), music and, of course, workout or different training modalities.
Things weren’t looking promising. Less than two miles into the 26.2 mile (42km) run (a standard marathon) I was attempting, somewhere towards the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, my hastily scoffed pre-race breakfast – 1 banana, 1 sachet of Justin’s nut butter and 2 glasses milk – was starting to re-appear in my mouth. I was also feeling decidedly delicate in my stomach.
I figured I’d have other things to worry about, given I hadn’t done a single training run ahead of the marathon. Sickness / stomach issues were the last thing I needed, especially fifteen minutes into what was likely to be four hours of suffering.
The Minimum Effective Dose – How To Hack The Training
Conventional wisdom dictates that a full marathon requires a 16 week training program, comprising shorter midweek runs at varying speeds and a weekly long slow run that builds gradually to be somewhere around 20 miles +. Another solid rule to follow is that you’re adequately prepared if your five longest training runs add up to 100 miles.
In the past I’ve often liked to run the full marathon distance in training, figuring that if I can do it in training, then it’s nailed-on that I’ll be able to complete the course on race day.
But today I was going in blind.
Zero training runs. None. Nada. Just praying that I’d be able to wing it and a bit of ‘muscle memory’ would kick in and guide me through.
No matter how you looked at it, this was an ill-advised idea. And it was proving to be so.
A Little Bit Of Previous (The Back Story)
The reason I was here in the first place was a return to the scene of the crime. Back when I started to dabble with some running, inspired heavily by Dean Karnarzes’ book Ultramarathon Man, I decided to run the New York marathon and raise some dough for charity.
Before I could do this, I decided, I needed to have run another marathon first so that I wouldn’t fail in New York and bring shame on myself, my family and the charity.
So I set about looking for other marathons that I could run as a ‘test’ and combine with a jolly good holiday. San Francisco sounded nice.
So I came to SF, met Dean Karnarzes at a book-signing, completed the race (slowly), and decided to recover by taking in a Matisse / Picasso dual exhibition at the modern art museum, which was both a bizarre decision and turned out to be futile as I could barely walk. So I bailed on the exhibition, went to the movies and watched the first Transformers film instead.
Shortly after that I slipped a disc in my back which derailed the New York preparations badly.
That race itself was both ‘the best of times and worst of times’ (I hit the dreaded ‘wall’, back in the days when gels didn’t exist and ‘the wall‘ was an actual thing. It was fucking hellacious – we’re talking tears, gibbering, a 10 minute rest in a portaloo somewhere on First Avenue) to paraphrase another keen runner, Charles Dickens.
The crowds in New York are like no other (a bold statement given my experience is limited to 10 or so marathons, but I’m happy to stand by it).
As you run over the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan, you’re greeted by what can only be described as a ‘wall of sound’ as the crowd, at least ten deep, goes berserk. What made this all the more bizarre was that, amongst the cacophany, I heard my brother call out to me from somewhere in the crowd and was able to spot him in the throng of people. Highly surreal and very encouraging.
Now, electrolyte drinks and energy gels mean the ‘wall’ is hard to come by.
Has marathon running gone soft? Maybe.
The marathons led to a few ultramarathons (here’s how I hacked a 100km ultramarathon), which were fun until a baby came along. Apparently going out for a three hour run on Saturday followed by a four hour run on Sunday isn’t acceptable behaviour when your baby is a few months old. I ran a 100km race as what I imagined to be a valiant tribute to #superfitkid when he was six months old.
It was a great effort, no doubt, but equally doubtlessly my efforts belonged elsewhere. That story sort of tells itself, sadly.
Full Circle / Back To The Scene Of The Crime
Now I was back pounding the pavement in San Francisco, ten years after my first marathon in the very same place, ten kilos (at least) heavier than when I last ran it, and 10 x less prepared.
The plan was to treat it as a casual, long, Sunday jog; enjoying the sights of a cool city. With 10+ marathons in the bank, this wasn’t my first rodeo so a lot of the nerves and newbie-ness wasn’t going to affect me.
But, still, not a single training run. Not cool and definitely not sensible.
What I had done was try and stack the deck in my favour. And this simply meant consuming a savage amount of food in the 48 hours ahead of the race to turbo-charge my glycogen levels and ensure I was fully carb-loaded.
This meant one thing: unlimited Chipotle! With a sushi side-order.
You see, I’d read in another runner’s account of running a marathon sans training that he dosed up on burrito bowls before the race; them having the perfect mix of protein and carbs.
I was also hammering down between-meal snacks comprising a banana, a sachet of Justin’s nut butter and two glasses of full cream milk for a 500 calorie smash-and-grab, the same as my good friend, Jim, consumes in a entire ‘fast’ day.
I’d force down four of these a day for the three days pre-race.
If I wasn’t going to be trained physically, I wanted to give myself a fighting chance nutritionally.
Race Day Breakdown
The course map – you can probably see me still out there somewhere
Miles 1 -5
Aside from the aforementioned stomach wobbles, this was steady cruise along the wharves and out through Crissy Field heading up towards the bridge. Steady miles off the base training you’ve done to prepare for the marathon. Oh, wait.
Miles 5 – 10
Running across the Golden Gate Bridge is the key drawcard of this race. It looks so elegant and stately in the pictures, right?
Doing it at 5am – not so much. It’s dark and drizzly and the wind bites through you, making you wish you’d worn a ski jacket. Luckily I tucked in behind a chap running with a portable radio so could distract myself with some Flo Rida and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis tunes. If it wasn’t for this musical altruist, I’m not sure what I would have done.
At the 10 mile mark I thought I was at 80 minutes but that may have been wrong.
Miles 10 – 13
Lulled into a false sense of speed by my Aldi watch, at this point I thought I was home and hosed.
For about five minutes.
In actual fact, this was where the wheels started to come of the wagon. A little niggle in the ITB led to a loss of power in the right leg.
In runner’s parlance, I was dragging the leg. If you’re a non-runner, the only thing I can liken it to is when you see a three-legged dog running. The heart is willing but somehow it just doesn’t look quite right and your heart pulls for this poor creature.
Right now, in this moment, I was the three-legged dog.
At this point, I had 15 miles to go, well over two hours of running (at best) and with each step my mind was telling me I couldn’t carry on.
I began to consider ways of bailing but was so deep in the Presidio park that I wouldn’t have known how to exit the course. Plus, if I stopped whilst still wet from the bridge, I’d be chilled the bone in minutes.
So I plodded on, lamenting the stupidity of the idea whilst trying to appreciate my good fortune to be there.
Miles 13 – 19
Six miles of zig-zagging through the Golden Gate park – a truly beautiful place I should have stopped to photograph – punctuated with some two-minute walking bouts. This was truly interminable, each step seeming to get me nowhere fast and each turn revealing more of exactly the same, no matter how beautiful the scenery.
At each aid station, of which there were plenty, I glugged down a cup of electrolyte drink. Sometimes I took in a water, too. I was also depleting my stock of GUU gel blocks. If there were any crumbs of comfort to be taken from this God-awful experience, then at least I wasn’t going to hit the ‘wall’.
I also hit up the medical table at three aid stations and asked them if they had anything for an inflamed ITB. They gave me 2 Tylenol which, I’m fairly sure, is useless for inflammation in medical terms but the placebo effects were miraculous, if only for fifteen minute bursts.
Miles 19 – 23
Exiting the Park after 6 miles, the relief at seeing something metropolitan is palpable and not even the two, 1-mile straightlines through Haight-Ashbury (centre of the hippie and counter-culture movement in the 1960’s) and the Mission district can deflect the fact that you just have 10km to go.
One measly 10km run and we’re home.
What could be simpler?
Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. However, the painful steps are now attritional. You’re fighting back. This isn’t fun and it sure as hell isn’t pretty, but you’re fighting back. Embracing ‘the suck’, as those with a penchant for hyperbole (and, probably, an American passport) are apt to say.
Make no mistake, the miles are dragging and each (even) slight downhill is greeted by a cacophany of displeasure by your quads. The uphills are perfectly fine (it’s all relative, after all) – simply shorten your stride and shuffle away. But now, at least, the end is in sight and there will be a finish. We’re actually going to finish this thing. And we’ll be running as we do it. Wow.
Miles 23 – 26
It’s a case of so-near-yet-so-far as miles 23-25 are a dog’s breakfast of construction sites and hastily constructed apartment buildings. Nobody really wants to be here, as evidenced by the DJ set up to provide some noise on the eerily empty streets.
Things change as you head towards the baseball stadium, the scene of one of the greatest and yet most tainted achievements in sporting history. Barry Bonds and his’ roid-assisted (allegedly) home-run record must be eternally grateful that Lance Armstrong is head and shoulders ahead of the pack when it comes to drug-fuelled sporting villains.
Anyhow, if ever someone could use a little performance enhancer, it was me, right now. I even started scanning the boardwalk skirting the stadium for any of Barry’s dregs.
And yet you know at this point you’re on the home stretch and the end of your suffering is nigh. And, somehow, bizarrely, from nowhere, you perversely want the pain to continue. It could be the crowds, who, by now, are thickening out, ringing their cowbells and calling out the name on your race bib.
Jeez, this is fun. And excruciating at the same time. Everything a marathon is supposed to be.
The finish is a mercifully manageable trip back up to the Ferry Terminal. The celebration is muted, the feeling is one almost of disbelief. And a sense of pride that you kept going, one foot in front of the other.
I grab whatever food I can – a fruit cup, 2 protein shakes, 2 bananas, a nut bar – and sit down against some barriers, wrapped in my foil blanket. Then it’s back to the hotel and into the gym to get my legs moving to minimise the inevitable pain and stiffness to follow. I’ve still got two days to explore SF and I’m not keen to be bed-bound.
This hurt. A lot.
More than any race I’ve done. Yes, I was cruising. Yes, it was an hour slower than my fastest marathon. And if I was trained that should’ve made it fairly comfortable.
But I wasn’t. So it wasn’t.
Yet, if you’re of the mindset that growth comes from challenging yourself to be uncomfortable, and then seeking to be comfortable being uncomfortable, then this kind of thing might be your jam.
I lean towards this viewpoint and so punishing myself mentally and physically for 4 hours, and overcoming something that I was very sure had overcome me, well, that’s half the fun, right?
If you’re anything like me – and I’m guessing that we have, at least, a couple of things in common – you lose control of your day pretty much the moment you wake up.
When I get home from coaching a couple of morning classes, I step into a maelstrom of Paw Patrol-inspired chaos featuring breakfast cooking, tea making, dog walking & feeding, child dressing, teeth cleaning, dishwasher stacking, all with the ultimate aim of getting the young ‘un out of the house and up to school.
It looks a little bit like this:
Michael McIntyre Trying to leave the house when you have kids - YouTube
And that’s with just one kid. Although the dog almost counts as another.
It’s a white-knuckle ride that doesn’t let up as you ride the bus to work or, worse still (possibly), ride the traffic into the city.
Things might fare a little better at work as you get to roll your sleeves up and solve important problems with like-minded people who are fun to be around.
Alternatively, you could find yourself surrounded by corporate drones whose sole purpose seems to be to thoughtlessly follow the same inane and archaic processes that they’ve done for the past 30 years.
Even harder to comprehend is the people who don’t yet have thirty years on work on the clock, but (you know) will do in another 25 years, during which they’ve not challenged themselves to conjure up a single creative idea, no matter how outlandish and stupid it might seem.
But, heck, they’re going to keep punching that ticket in and out. Day in, day out. Bless ‘em.
But I digress. Sort of.
Because this week I’ve been checking out a meditation centre in the heart of Sydney CBD. It’s called Centred Meditation and they offer an unlimited 2 week trial for $29 which is basically giving it away for free. It’s run by a couple called Nikki and Kevin who seem, during a fleeting introduction, perfectly suited to the task.
Meditation is bang on-trend right now. In fact, it’s been pretty cool for a while as people desperately seek to disconnect (if only for brief spells) in an increasingly connected world.
Part of this is due to its growing accessibility. Apps like Headspace & Calm provide 10 minute bursts of tranquility on your smartphone, which somewhat mitigate all of the damage that the devil’s devices do.
Meditation classes at yoga studios are packed to capacity with yoga offering the perfect gateway drug into something that was previously considered a little woo-woo and to be solely deployed by ethereal chicks called India who are cute but just a little too kooky.
Nah. Meditation has gone mainstream. Tim Ferriss, whose podcast on tech, business, sport & lifestyle design garners 1m downloads per episode, reckons 80% of his guests have some form of spiritual practice.
Lewis Howes, another inspirational totem for entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs, again with a huge podcast following, is a fully qualified meditation teacher.
So, what actually happens during a lunchtime meditation class?
Well, you navigate your way to the office suite on level ten. But don’t be alarmed, that’s where the stultifying office-environment comparisons come to an end.
Because, this is a little haven of calm and tranquility.
Inside there’s a little reception (with an i-pad for check-in, naturally) before the room opens up to fit twenty-five slightly reclining armchairs, neatly arranged in rows. The obligatory soft, soothing music plays in the background. Less standard and a very nice touch is the little drinks shelf where you can help yourself to a glass of cinnamon tea or coconut water or regular water. Blankets are also available.
It’s fairly dark and tip-toe quiet. Phones are switched off, upon pain of death and the piecing death-stares of fellow meditators.
I settled into my chair and promptly started to drift into something between sleep and deep relaxation.
Once the session actually started, we were guided through a sequence that covered a check-in and some gratitude and…I’m guessing some other stuff, but I was so zoned out that it barely registered.
At one point, I jolted myself awake and spent a panicked couple of minutes wondering if I’d let out a cry or, worse, still a snore that had disturbed the class. Once my breathing had regulated I slipped back into a zen-like state for the rest of the session.
As the class finished I saw that all but a couple of the 25 chairs had been filled, hammering home the fact that this is a ridiculously useful service and one that is very much needed by stressed-out city folks.
I should confess that this wasn’t my first rodeo when it comes to lunchtime meditation. Spending time away from #superfitkid last year for work was tough and I turned to some lunchtime classes as a way of coping with the stresses that came with it.
As I did then, I came away feeling refreshed mentally, lighter, and calmer & more serene.
In the same way that I’ve never come away from a gym or fitness workout feeling worse for it, I’ve yet to leave a meditation session not feeling better able to cope with what life throws at me.
If you’ve wanted to give meditation a go but aren’t sure how, this is the perfect gateway drug.
If you’re feeling stressed and not quite in control of your life, this is the perfect antidote.
And to borrow a much-toted phrase, if you don’t have time to meditate for 30 minutes, you probably need to come here every day for a week and see how much better you feel.
I never used to quite believe it but I’m now convinced that your diet is the single most important contributor to your body composition, musculature, body fat and overall health.
Throwing caution to the notion that “you can’t out-train a bad diet,” I gave it a good nudge and found that actually you can – but you’ll need to be training 7-9 times per week. Not many people have time for that, sadly.
Adopting a scientific and disciplined approach to your diet, you can pretty much achieve what you want: gain weight, lose weight, build muscle, strip fat, build strength…whatever…
The key is finding a plan you can stick to and something that facilitates this above all others is not having to deviate too much from what you’re already doing.
And that’s the genesis of many of the strategies outlined below; simple tweaks aimed at maintaining what you’ve been doing but in a healthier way.
1. Ditch bread at breakfast
Toast, pastries, muffins, croissants – all delicious. All nutritionally moribund energy spiking, dadbod boosters. They are the major culprits when we find ourselves having a “fat day.”
Go cold turkey and give them up during the week for 1 week.
2. Consume protein straight after waking up
If you’re looking to build some muscle or recover after exercise, then you need more protein (circa 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day). Starting the day with 30g gets you off to a running start.
I have a plant-based protein with full-fat milk on the way out of the house at 5.30am.
3. Green smoothie breakfast
If it has to be a liquid breakfast, then stack it full of green vegetables and fruit, reducing acidity in your body and fuelling yourself with minerals and ‘good’ carbs.
Toss a banana, spinach, apple, milk and some almond milk into a blender and hit the road.
4. Eggs in the morning
Eggs have the most complete protein profile of all foods. I’m paraphrasing from Arnold Schwarzenegger here. They are also incredibly satiating which means they’ll satisfy your cravings for bread.
Three or four eggs in an omelette with cheese and some diced onion and / or red pepper takes less than 5 mins to prepare.
5. Intermittent fasting
If weight loss is the goal, I’ve seen IF work extremely well (we’re talking 12kgs of weight loss from a 95kg starting point). This can be via the 5:2 Diet – where you eat normally for 5 days and then restrict calories for 2 days – or by fasting for 16 hours a day and eating all of your daily food in an 8 hour window (not as difficult or weird as it might seem).
Porridge is an absolute winner because a) it only needs 3 ingredients, b) it feeds the entire family, and c) it’s cheap.
You could microwave it but we just go 1 cup each of oats, water, milk (full cream) in a pan with a pinch of salt and cook until it’s a porridge-y consistency. Bingo!
7. Steak & veggies
Not for the faint-hearted, at least, initially, consuming last night’s leftovers (provided they’re healthy) is a great way of setting your body up for a win. Protein, (good) carbs, some fat…it’s all here.
The idea of (non-processed) meat in the morning is only odd because we’ve been hoodwinked into thinking cardboard-tasting baked goods and cereals are actually nice.
8. Cook it the night before
If time is at such premium in the morning that even a green smoothie takes too long, then prep it the night before.
Boil three or four eggs in their shells for around 12 minutes, dry with kitchen towel and then put in the fridge overnight. Grab them on your way out of the door and you’ve got a quick breakfast to have at work (with a little salt and pepper).
Also made the night before, bircher takes a little prep but is super-healthy, transportable and a batch lasts a few days.
Oats, freshly squeezed orange & lemon juice, grated green apple, honey, slivvered almonds, plain yogurt and milk (buttermilk) are mixed together and refridgerated overnight.
Test the consistency in the morning, adding more liquid as needed and then add fresh berries.
10. No breakfast at all
Not dissimilar to intermittent fasting (but, heck, I’m running out of breakfast suggestions), skipping breakfast might not be the cardinal sin your Mummy told you it was back in the day.
On the contrary, pushing on to lunchtime powered only by coffee, especially as guys get older, bizarrely, seems to keep them lean and taut as all the fasting benefits start to kick in and you use stored fat for energy instead of easy carbs.
1 can Sirena tuna, 1 can Edgells Four Bean Mix, 1 tub of microwave rice, handful of pre-grated cheese = macros hit, fibre hit, slow release energy hit.
12. The ‘big ole salad’
If you can train yourself to order a salad every time you find yourself in the foodcourt or somewhere similar at lunchtime, I don’t think you’ll go far wrong.
This is easier said than done, of course.
13. No fries with that
Similar to #12, every time you are offered a choice of sides with a meal, make sure you gravitate towards the healthy option.
For example, you order the daily roast special and they give you the options of fries or roasted vegetables. It’s simple: STAY. AWAY. FROM. THE FRIES.
Just because it’s simple, doesn’t make it easy. But you’ve got to try it once. and then repeat. Then you’ve got yourself the onset of a habit.
14. Avoid the foodcourt
If willpower ain’t your bag (and, I’ll freely admit, it’s not my strong suit), then keep yourself out of temptation’s grabby claws by avoiding places where you can make nutritional mistakes during the lunch hour.
15. Carb up
If weight-loss is our goal, we need to be mindful about consuming too many carbs late at night. This applies predominantly to ‘stealth’ carbs like beer or chocolate, but also includes things like pasta and white potatoes.
So I’d consider making lunch your most carb-laden meal of the day. Just to be on the safe side.
[Note: just to be clear, ‘carbs’ covers a wide gamut – if your evening carbs are from vegetables and brown rice, then you probably don’t have too much to worry about].
16. The One Tray Dinner
Prepping a meal can be the last thing you fancy after a rough day at work or if you’ve got kids causing havoc around you.
Enter the ‘one pan wonder’ a full meal cooked entirely in a single roasting tray or pan. Simply chop three or four types of vegetable and put in one half of the pan and then season chicken breasts (for example) in the other half of the pan, and bake the lot for 30-35 minutes.
This is cooking-for-dumbies at it’s finest, yet it tastes delicious.
A couple of vaguely cheffy flourishes like covering the chicken with a foil tent for the first 20 mins of baking and then using the same foil to cover the chicken on a plate as it rests for 5 minutes should ensure you don’t dry the old bird out.
17. Microwave Frozen Veggie Bags
A one-person serving of carrots, broccoli and green beans, snap-frozen at picking, that takes 2 minutes to microwave?
You couldn’t make it up? Perfect for last minute saves when you haven’t made it to the supermarket.
18. The Plastic Vegetable Steamer
Taking marginally longer than the pre-made bags of veggies, but offering the soothing comfort of slicing them yourself, the plastic steamer is perfect for filling with zuccini, broccoli & beans, and tossing in the microwave for three and a half minutes.
19. Twice-cooked vegetables
If you find steamed vegetables a touch bland, you can always throw them into the pan you used to cook your meat with some butter and plenty of seasoning. They’ll come up a treat.
20. Rest the meat
To tease out maximum flavour from your meat-based meals, a golden ‘every-time rule’ to follow is to rest whatever meat you’re cooking for 5 minutes. Never fails.
It’s important to transfer the meat from the pan / roasting tray to a plate or chopping board to stop it cooking. Then, simply cover it tightly in foil and deal with the rest of your meal before slicing the meat or serving it whole.
I do this with every piece of meat I cook, not just the red meats that you’d normally associate with resting, and, believe me, it can be the difference between an average chicken dinner and something very palatable.
21. Turkey & cheese mid-afternoon
Turkey is beloved of bodybuilders with good reason. High protein and low fat. Can be a little dry. Stick 100g with the same amount of sliced Jarlsberg cheese from the deli counter and you’ve got yourself a snack that will build & repair muscle and also give you a bunch of energy. Plus, it tastes delicious.
22. Yogurt pouches for protein
You buy tonnes of these for the nippers, right? Well, on the same shelf (or just below) are the grown-ups version. 12g protein, 20g carbs and (sadly) not much fat. But don’t let that get you down because we should be getting plenty of fat elsewhere.
These pouches are filling and make a great distraction if you’ve craving sugary sweets. When they’re are half-price, I buy up big.
23. Banana & peanut butter
I picked this up from Cory Gregory who definitely doesn’t have a DadBod.
24. Tinned mackerel
A really good source of 20g of protein that taste better than sardines (which are raved about by Tim Ferriss and other keto diet proponents), mackerel are the under-the-radar king of the sea. And cheap as chips.
If the au natrel taste is too strong, get the ones covered in tomato source.
25. No baked goods
All of the above are designed to fill you up and satisfy any mid-arvo cravings before you can gravitate towards the brownie (my own particular bette noir for many years).
26. Cut back booze by one third
If you drink six nights per week, drop it back to four. If you drink three times per week, dial it back to two. This method is manageable yet still significant.
Unless you really do stick to one small glass of wine per night, alcohol is gonna pile on the pounds.
27. Late night exercise
Another sound way to cut back on your drinking it to fill your time with other activities.
Getting to the gym in the hour before it closes not only gives you the run of the place, but also means your far less likely to hit a glass of wine or grab a beer from the fridge.
Hitting the 7pm Crossfit class four nights a week a year or so back had me eating a quick dinner and then hitting the hay by 9pm, without a thought for any grog.
28. Tumeric tea
Tumeric is like that annnoyingly popular kid you went to school with, about whom nobody has a bad word to say. (Yes, that’s you Davey Truman.)
All manner of healing properties abound: reduced inflamation, wound healing, regulating blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, improves digestion…
I first stumbled across it reading Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. I make it with milk, tumeric and a dash of cinnamon.
29. What supp’
Make sure you have a solid supplement game to cover your back when you’re not able to get enough of what you need from your real food diet.
For bulking up this might include protein, creatine, some BCAAs (although all of these are handy tools for maintenance).
For general health you might go for a greens powder and some fish oil.
Saturated fat is no longer the pariah it once was, held up as being responsible for clogging arteries and causing heart disease.
Instead, it is the turn of processed carbs, nutritionally redundant as they are, to be harried out of existence. The only problem is the food industry won’t let that happen any time soon and neither will the obese general public who have been turned into sweet starch addicts.
My experiments with a high fat, low carb diet resulted in increased brain acuity and focus and the need to only eat two meals a day which saved time and made me more productive.
However, if anyone tries to sell you an exogenous ketone supplement (Keto OS), I’d probably give it a swerve.
And that’s a wrap.
Don’t attempt to bring these in all at once. Start with just one or a couple, focusing on the area of your diet you find most troublesome. Experiment and mix things up. If something isn’t working, chuck it out and start with something else.
That said, a lot of these can work super-effectively together. I’ve tried all of these at various times and would say that at any time I’m running with up to 15 of them.