A Recipe for Optimal Health

I’m tired of clicking intriguing article links, only to give you; obvious information, pages riddled with advertisements, pushing a particular product-supplement-etc, or having to click “next” to find the next thing on their list.  Occasionally I’ll come across some valuable information, however, I’m often hating on myself for clicking on such time-wasters.

Now, even though I’m not a doctor, dietician, or certified physical trainer… my life and profession has been centered around teaching and perfecting certain elements of human performance.  And, as we know, human performance has a lot to do with how we take care of it.  Many of you have asked me the rather “loaded” question of, “What do you do to stay healthy?”  Now… I’m going to list most of my “SECRETS”  in one clean, straight-forward, AD-free, COST-free post.

Disclaimer: This is my recipe for health, and therefore, may not be the best for your personal.  Most of what I do has been scientifically proven to be beneficial for all humans.  However, since everyone is different, and comes to this with different experiences/injuries/limitations, make sure you ask a professional if any of this is right for you.  A “professional” being – a doctor, nutritionist, physical therapist, etc.  Avoid seeking the second opinion of your favorite YouTube star, Kardashian or even well-informed gardener.  Ultimately we are in charge of our own personal health and wellbeing, so…I leave the rest with you.  As for the information below.  Take it or leave it, but in the meantime; ENJOY!

Change is never a matter of ability, it’s a matter of motivation or drive.

-Tony Robbins

SLEEP

The most under-rated element of our health is our quality and quantity of sleep.  I am personally able to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. That is the amount that I feel and know I can function best on.  If you toss and turn or wake up with a sore neck, back or other… you need to investigate the cause, and ways to improve it.  Sleep is FREE, and most of us CAN get the right amount of restful sleep as long as we make it a PRIORITY.

 

COLD SHOWERS

I know. I KNOW! Everyone loves a hot shower.  But in a world where not only is everything temperature regulated, and people’s bodies are overly inflamed…why on Earth would you add heat?  If you jump into a cold shower, or at least, bring a shower from lukewarm to cold, it will help condition your autonomic nervous system, stimulate your immune system, jump start your metabolism, aide your body in regulating temperature, and (besides a monthly water bill) this too is roughly FREE.  Not only is it good for the skin, muscles and organs, but it’s better for the environment.  You’ll be less likely to taking Earth-cryingly-long-showers, am I right?

If it’s hard to do at first… imagine you’ve stepped back in time (no electricity, no precious heat pump) and you are bathing viking-style in a cold lake or under a waterfall.  Using this imagery has helped me in the past, and still does.

 

STRETCHING

Over the years, I’ve come to view stretching as “A waste of time.”  HOWEVER, please understand what I mean by “stretching.”  Most everyone has a view of stretching that looks like this – a person getting ready for a race in a runner’s stretch, a martial artist trying to straddle himself into doing the splits, or a yoga practitioner trying to sink deeper into a particular asana/posture.

In regard to healthy muscles, they don’t necessarily “need” to be stretched like many assume.  They need to be warmed or “activated.”  Although light movement might have a “stretch-like” component, it’s not intent on stretching for stretching’s sake.  Move the body – slowly, gradually, with purpose.  Move the joints.  Focus on your body’s ability to move functionally and with ease (painlessly) through standard ranges of motions.  Five-to-10 minutes of this is likely all you’ll need to get your body in prime condition for more demanding movements.

 

MOVEMENT

For a while now, I’ve chosen to say “Movements” over the dreaded “E-word.”  That word, dare-I-say, “Exercise” is only something that we have to employ into our lives, because we are no longer are doing the things and producing the actions that the body was meant to do.  Walking isn’t exercise, it’s something we should be doing a lot of naturally.  In addition, we need to get to a level of fitness where we are highly-functional, or at least, maintaining a decent level of function.  For some, this is going to take effort, practice and patience.  The movements I’m talking about are hanging, jumping, crawling, squatting, kneeling, lifting, pulling,….that sorta thing.  If we are having a hard time getting up from a seated posture, that is a problem.  If we’ve minimized our movements so much that we are either walking, standing or sitting, that too can be a problem.  Like it or not, the body needs a variety of movements.

The late Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), founder of the Feldenkrais Method, when ask about the source of physical pain/discomfort simply stated, ” Pain is the lack of variety (in the body’s ability to create) movement.”  He also believed that thought, feeling, perception and movement were closely interrelated and influenced each other.  I subscribe to this notion as well.

 

DIET

When you really want to steal someone’s life-force, take away something pleasurable to taste.  I mean really!  Diet is as dear to some people as religion and there isn’t anything anyone can say to make them change their mind; including an early death.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Well, at least I’ll die happy.”

There are a lot of fads – Paleo, Low-Carb Diet, Atkin’s, etc.  There are diets that get quick results and some that simply aren’t realistic or sustainable.  Whether someone wants to subscribe to a particular diet is one thing,… but there ARE things that we know to be TRUE, regardless of all the hoopla.

Kale, Carrots, Avocados, Apples, Peaches… things that grow from the Earth are healthy for you.  Some are delicious and some, to be honest, are an acquired taste.  If grown correctly (organic, no-GMO), and eaten without eating “in excess”, you’re doing very well for yourself.  But I don’t have to tell you what’s healthy, because we already know.  Good, healthy food, however, is not very convenient (most of the time) and people “behind the curtain” (in the food industry) know how to market it and make foods more addictive.

Two things that we know:

  1. The body thrives in an alkaline state (slightly higher pH range)
  2. Certain foods (predominantly red meats, processed foods, wheat/gluten, sugars) carry with them an inflammatory response.

When we eat right, our begins to cleanse itself and not only do we begin to feel more focused and energetic, but (in many circumstances) certain aches and pains disappear.

Remember: It’s up to US to understand ourselves, our particular food allergies, what our body reacts well and poorly to, and to eat responsibly.

One thing worth mentioning as well is “It’s not just what you choose to eat, it’s also what you choose NOT to eat that makes a difference.”

 

HYDRATION

Forget the fact that we are basically 80% water.  The body needs to be adequately hydrated!  To be honest, I have never had the recommended “8 glasses of water a day.”  I do, however, start my mornings off with a glass of water, and try to have several throughout the day.  Hydration should never be neglected just because it is plain or boring tasting.  If you have a hard time drinking water, because of your modern, lavish tendencies, then you can always infuse a glass with fruit, a squeeze of lemon or lime, or try the sparkling or mineral variety for a bit of a kick.

 

INTERMITTENT FASTING

This is something that I’m only recently coming to realize.  Interviews with people like Wim Hoff, Steve Maxwell, former athlete/actor Terry Crews and others have educated me on elements for creating optimum health that I have, for whatever reason, over-looked.  Now, I don’t like the word diet… but I dislike fasting even more.  I’ve grown up eating just about anything I could get my hands on.  Later in life, I am being told “You shouldn’t eat that” and “eating that will kill you”, etc.  Nowadays I hear that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is completely wrong.  What is this world coming to?

Well… here’s some of the rationale (in layman’s terms).  The body, despite many people’s disbelief, doesn’t always have to eat to gain carbohydrates, proteins and fats – needed calories for energy.  Sometimes, the body needs more time to rest, recover, and spend its energy on something other than digestion.  Digestion takes a lot of energy and by choosing to “fast”, the body’s can spend this precious resource on other things.  For example, actor Terry Crews (famous for his muscular physique, aside from his great acting chops) doesn’t eat anything until 2pm.  He gives his body approximately 16 hours of recovery time.  Keep in mind, he might have a glass of water, tea, coffee at some point in between for some added energy and to satiate his hunger but is done so, as needed.  Wim Hoff is a vegetarian and doesn’t eat anything until 6pm.

Now I’m not saying we all should be this… but certainly give it a thought the next time you get a cold or feel like you’re coming down with something.  Sometimes all you need is rest.  Sometimes you need to be patient and give time for your body to strengthen and rebuild.

 

BREATHING

Believe it or not, breathing is one of the most important, AND (most likely) least practiced element of anyone’s fitness regime.  As a student and teacher of qigong and taijiquan, I was able to learn early-on the incredible power of the breath.  The magician David Blaine was able to use his understanding of breath and mediation to lower his heart rate and blood pressure at will, and this control has aided him on many of his great feats.  If know of the Dutchman Wim Hof or listened to him on the Rich Roll Podcast (which is how I found out about him), you’ll learn that he is such a believer of cold and of the power of the breath that he used this power to become the holder of more than 20 world records.  Some of these accomplishments are:

  • shirtless adorned in nothing but shorts, Wim scaled above death zone altitude (22,000 ft) on Mount Everest;
  • barefoot, shirtless and again in nothing but shorts, Wim completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland;
  • he summited Kilimanjaro in less than 2 days, again in nothing but shorts;
  • above the polar circle, he swam a world record 66 meters under a meter of ice;
  • he can sit in an ice bath for almost 2 hours; and
  • in 2011, he ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water

But there’s more.

Under doctor supervision, In 2011 Wim voluntarily allowed himself to be injected with a poisonous E. coli endotoxin certain to make any human being very ill. The idea was to demonstrate that by using his meditation and breathing techniques he could effectively control his autonomic immune system response and nullify any deleterious health implications.

Wim did not get sick.

(from bulleted-points to this point, taken from Rich Roll’s RRP231)

Though most of my specialized breath-work comes through my taijiquan or “Tai Chi” classes that I teach, I DO spend several times a day whereby I calm myself, and focus on my breath.  I concentrate on the qualities of slow, soft and deep as I want to breathe to be slow and unforced, soft and without urgency, and as deeply as possibly to avoid the shallow, chestful breathing that we experience most.  You can do (and should) try this yourself, daily, in either a lying, seated or standing fashion.

If you want to learn more about Wim Hof and his incredible methods, I recommend that you check out his page, The Iceman.  Or watch this short documentary by Vice,

 

 

TIME

Surprisingly, when I ask my clients (many of whom are in some kind of pain), are they doing this or that (i.e. icing, sleeping well, eating right, moving/exercise)…I get the answer that you’re expecting to hear, “If I have time” (inconsistency), or “No, I just don’t have time.”  You absolutely should not lie to yourself.  It’s not a time deal, it’s a priorities deal.  Obviously your body is going to get worse and worse until it demands you do something.  Perhaps you’ll have to sacrifice a certain amount of sleep to wake up early and start your hydration/meditation/activation cycle, but once you do it, you’ll be glad you did.

And the more you do this, the more it creates a habit.  The creation of a sustained and habitual routine is what is most likely to get you to your destination.  Of course, your case might be different, and you’ll require some specialized treatment…but we all have to do our part in the healing process.

And keep in mind, if you’re wanting to improve on any area of your health and wellbeing, you can’t (or shouldn’t) focus on only one or two categories – it takes a holistic approach.

The first step is to create the habit.

Your body will take it from there.

STAY HEALTHY AND HAPPY

Michael Joyce, LMT#6096

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