In the Becoming Warren Buffett documentary, Buffett shares an analogy with a group of high school students:
Imagine you’re going to be given a new car. Any car that you want is yours. It will be at the front of your house with a bow on it when you get home. There’s one catch. That’s the only car you’re ever going to have in your life. So you better take care of it.
You’re only going to get one body and one mind in your life, so you better take care of it.
Only when we take care of our bodies every day will they take care of us in the long run. This is not something you can delegate to others. You have to be the one doing it.
I covered in my draft on Eat, Move, Sleep, how eating right and getting ample rest for our bodies is paramount. In this draft, we’ll delve into the benefits of regular exercise and how making it a part of our lives can help us tremendously in the long run. Doing regular exercise doesn’t have to be complicated (as most people make it out to be), but it does need to be consistent. All you need is a weekly exercise (and meal) plan that works for you based on your goals, but more on that later.
The goal isn’t to be fit and miserable, but to be fit and happy. What matters is what we do between our workout sessions. The hard part of eating well is about doing it a few times per day, while doing exercise a few times a week. The challenge is to make them both sustainable.
Health experts estimate that actual fitness results comes from 70-80% diet and 20-30% exercise. Exercise alone is not enough. No amount of exercise can compensate for a poor diet. Just because you’re doing regular exercise doesn’t give you the right to eat however you like/want. You have to eat right to get the results you want. Similarly, you could have the best diet in the world, but you won’t get the same results unless you exercise. Eating right always comes first and is more important than doing exercise, but you need both.
I talked about how we should make time for exercise as one of the first things to do when planning your week. We might think (or say) we don’t have enough time for exercise in our “busy” lives, but the thing is we don’t have time not to. We can all make daily time for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5-6 days a week. That time duration is hardly significant. If we don’t have 30 minutes for our bodies every day, then we really ought to rethink our “true priorities” in life.
The funny thing is you don’t need any special equipment to exercise consistently. I’ll talk about how I do my weekly workout for almost free. You also don’t need to go to the gym to get the full benefits of exercise. Doing it at home can save you time and can be more relaxing (if you know what you’re doing).
One more thing — it’s easy to overdo exercise when starting out. Don’t! When you’re starting out or haven’t exercised in a while, focus on showing up to exercise for x minutes. Keep the number low. Start with 10-15 minutes. It doesn’t matter. As long as you can do that much, it’s a success, and you should celebrate it. What is more important at the start is to establish the habit of exercising. You can always increase the intensity later. For now, just focus on showing up. You want to build consistency with your exercise before you can increase intensity. Doing both at the same time simply won’t work.
By the way, exercising for 30 minutes today is better than skipping today and exercising for an hour tomorrow. Focus on showing up and doing the work.
Covey suggests in his book that we need strength training for building muscle, we need cardio workouts to build our endurance, and we need Yoga/stretching to make our bodies more flexible.
Strength Training involves doing basic exercises like pushups, pullups, situps, and working with weights. Cardio workouts include running, rapid walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc.
The common advice from health experts is that your heart rate during your workout should be at least 60% of your maximum pulse rate. Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. If your max heart rate is 180 beats per minute (bpm) (with age 40), the optimum heart rate for most of your workout duration should be 220 – 40 = 180 x 60% = 108 bpm. To make this easier, you could use a fitness tracker to track your heart rate while exercising.
You have to start by creating a weekly exercise plan of some kind. I do strength training, cardio, and Yoga the first three days of the week (Mon-Wed), and I repeat this pattern the next three days (Thur-Sat). Sundays are rest days. I’ve only followed this weekly exercise plan for a couple of months, but I am happy with the results so far.
More importantly, having an exercise plan of some kind is important as it helps you reach your goals faster. While the weekly plan more or less remains the same in terms of the workout type, what should increase over time is the intensity in each exercise type. So, the sky is the limit with physical growth. There is no need to rush into increasing the intensity. What should happen instead is you increase it slowly over time. That’s the only way it’ll be sustainable for the long haul. Having a weekly plan for exercise is a good example of using constraints.
There are things you can do beyond exercise that contribute to your goals and, more importantly, facilitate the overall movement of your body. One of the things you can do to facilitate that movement is to sit less and move more throughout the day (and week), as you can have health problems such as increased weight gain and decreased focus from not moving around (even if you’re exercising consistently and eating right most of the time).
You can also work in 25-minute intervals followed by 5-minute breaks. This way you can work your way up to 90 minutes. Another idea is to have walking/standing meetings at home/work, or you could take phone calls while walking around at home/work (using wireless/wired headphones).
As humans, we were designed to move. It affects everything else we do in our lives. How we move has a dramatic impact on our ability to be creative. Ever notice after you’ve come from a walk/run, you feel so good and refreshed? That’s because during and post workout, the physiology of the brain changes noticeably, and the dominance shifts from left to right brain. Because of this state, we are better able to think divergently or generatively. How much we move also influences our overall health, energy, mood, happiness levels, focus, and performance.
Even if you exercise consistently and eat right most of the time, you still have to move throughout the day (and the week). The idea is to make moving a part of your life without thinking about it. Sitting less and working in short intervals can help facilitate that process.
Ultimately, (physical) movement should become a part of your life where you’re no longer thinking from the runway of doing exercise and eating right, but you’re simply doing things as part of your overall being from an elevated perspective of moving. This reminds me of the Japanese centenarians I wrote about in my draft on finding your Ikigai. To them, exercise was not another thing that they did. On the contrary, (physical) movement was a part of their life in a way that they integrated everything else that mattered to them.