I could party with the best of them, but at some point in my late thirties I realized I had advanced along the timeline far enough for hangovers to have taken on the characteristics of recuperation from major surgery. I didn’t like feeling that bad for days on end. Common sense finally got through. It came in the form of an inner voice yelling, "Hey, asshole, stop what you’re doing to yourself.”
- A Pirate Looks at Fifty, Jimmy Buffett
A lot of us learn this lesson around the same time that Jimmy did. Then we downshift into moderation, which might be even more insidious. Alcohol is a toxin. From the minute it goes down the hatch, all your body wants to do is get rid of it. The problem is it can't do it fast enough. Alcohol is a small molecule so it permeates just about every cell in your body. It negatively affects your heart, brain, skin, liver, and sex hormones. Over time it leads to weight gain and an increased risk of cancer.
You hear the often repeated phrase, "A glass of wine a day is healthy". Don't be fooled. All those studies are commissioned and promoted by the liquor industry. Alcohol consumption is heavily ingrained in our culture, so what to do? Start with this. When you drink be conscious of both the pleasure (relaxation) and the pain (health effects) that alcohol contributes to your life. The more mindful you are about this cost/benefit ratio, the more empowered you will be to make the choice that best serves you.
One of the central ideas of ancestral health is that if it's a behavior we engaged in back when the primordial soup was still bubbling... it likely stimulates an adaptation in us that is beneficial. So kick off those Nike, Adidas, or... Louis Vuitton, and let's get down to business.
Your feet are a marvel of muscles and sensors (proprioceptors) that not only keep you upright, but provide feedback on the terrain you're moving across. Imagine how it would feel to wear a pair of rubber gloves all day... and not surgical gloves. I'm talking those clunky, yellow dishwashing gloves your grandmother used. You could still function, but it would greatly diminish your dexterity and the quality of your sensual experience. The information from the sensors in your feet trains your gait and foot strike which impacts the ankles, knees, hips, and back. The more that data path is open, the better integrated your movement patterns will be. That translates into less aches and pains.
There's also a more subtle benefit to walking barefoot (earthing). The earth is a ground - a source of negative ions. Being in contact with the earth allows your body to exchange positive ions for negative ones which provides an antioxidant effect. That's right - not all antioxidants come from food. This likely explains why studies have shown earthing to have a positive impact on sleep and lowering stress levels.
I was never sure what to think about chiropractors. Some people swear by them while others have, um... less than kind words. But as the saying goes, "There are no atheists in foxholes". So, when I started experiencing lower back pain... I was open to suggestions. Fortunately, I didn't have to look any further than my own gym where Dr. Bob Ruano trains. Bob actually competed at the Crossfit Games. His athletic background gave me confidence that his approach would be very functional and aimed at getting me back on my feet. Fellow gym rats understand the anxiety associated with being sidelined by an injury.
I went to Innovative Back Solutions where Bob diagnosed it as an issue with my sacroiliac joint. That's where the tail bone connects to the hip bone. He gave me some adjustments with accompanying electro-stimulation therapy over a couple of sessions, and I was a new man... with no recurring pain. Now THAT'S what I'm looking for in a doc!
One of the cool things about seeing Bob was that he was able to show me through a diagnostic tool that I don't have any skeletal mobility issues with my back. This gave me renewed confidence in performing some of the olympic lifts we do in Crossfit. Thanks, Bob.
My dad used to say, "You can go without food for weeks, but without water... you'll only last a few days". Our body uses water as a coolant, an electrical conductor, a food solvent, a lubricant, and a transporter. It's no wonder we are 70% water. And as the old adage goes, "Quality in... quality out". So let's take a look at the quality of that water coming in.
This is not to beat up on our water treatment facilities. When I see what goes down my toilet, I'm amazed and grateful for what those guys are able to do. However, what comes back out to us is loaded with chlorine, fertilizer, pesticide runoff, heavy metals, and... (my favorite) prescription drugs. Yummy! To that cocktail they add fluoride - for our teeth. That's nice, but it's also a neurotoxin.
Once I realized what was coming out of my tap, I started looking around for a filter that was low-cost, easy to install, and easy to use (no refilling pitchers 3 times a day). I also wanted it to remove fluoride (most filters don't). This is what I found.
It's got a 5-stage filter that removes all of the undesirables I listed above. It's inexpensive ($100). Installation was easy. The filters last for 6 months, and they're very affordable ($25). It's called the Home Master TMJRF2E Jr F2. I've had mine for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it for upgrading your water quality. Quality in... quality out.
On lazy afternoons back when I was a kid, my dad would announce, "Let's go for a walk"... and my sister and I would run and hide. Anything was better than going on a boring walk! Now, much as I notice that I grip the steering wheel the same way my dad used to, I've also developed his appreciation for walks.
Walking is gentle exercise. You're operating below the aerobic threshold, which the mitochondria in your muscle cells love. You're neither sitting nor standing still, which your back loves. You're getting sunlight, which your skin loves. You're setting your circadian clock, which makes falling asleep at night easier. You're out in nature reflecting on your thoughts, which your meditative mind loves.
I started taking walks at lunchtime because I had a desk job that made me crazy. If you have a similar situation take advantage of it, and head out for a walk. The office will still be there when you get back, but you'll be a little different... for the better.
I used to partake in one of those flavored intra-workout drinks (Xtend), but when I gave artificial sweeteners the boot it had to go. I started getting my BCAA's by capsule and just drinking water during workouts. That worked. A little while later I was experimenting with the ketogenic diet. That diet requires a higher salt intake, so I started adding a couple twists of Trader Joe's Himalayan Pink Salt Crystals to my water bottle.
I'm not on the keto diet anymore, but I kept the Himalayan pink salt practice. It softens the water slightly, and the electrolytes help keep the engine running smoothly during tough workouts. Purportedly there are 84 trace minerals in Himalayan pink salt including sulphate, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Give it a shot, and add it to your arsenal.
Ozzy may not be a shining example of health, but he did get me into fitness. I can explain. Life isn't linear, which is why I am such a fan of trying new things. You have to throw a lot of shit at the wall before you'll find out what sticks.
I was living in NYC at the time and feeling kind of rudderless. I had this thing that not too many people had called an iPhone, and I would listen to this amateur self-help podcast. One day the guy says, "You must have a purpose, and if you don't know your purpose... then your purpose is to figure out what your purpose is". I thought, Ahhh... my purpose is to figure out what my purpose is.
I decided that I would try something new EVERY day... literally. I made a rule for myself that I couldn't go home from work each day until trying something new. This is NYC, so it wasn't hard to find new things. I went to art gallery openings, book readings, nude drawing workshops, group meditations, bicycle meet-ups, punk rock concerts. I was up for anything.
I hadn't figured out my purpose yet, but I had learned a valuable lesson. Trying new things got easier the more I did it. Courage is a muscle. It gets stronger the more you use it. So, where does Ozzy come in? Well, one evening I went to Barnes & Noble in Columbus Circle where the Prince of Darkness was doing a book signing for his new autobiography. But when I got there I found out that you couldn't even get into the room where he was signing autographs unless you purchased a copy of his book. Being a cheap bastard, I resigned myself to browsing the book shelves. I came across a book on exercise and nutrition. I couldn't put it down... and I couldn't leave the store without it. That book changed the trajectory of my life.
Years later, being a fan of autobiographies, I checked out a copy of Ozzy's book from the library (I'm still a cheap bastard). It was actually a great read. His life was a long and winding road... and reading it closed a mini-loop in mine. Thank you, Ozzy.
When I first got into fitness I wanted to try every nutrition bar out there. I think a lot of us go through that phase. I remember visiting my sister once, and she had all these different bars sitting in her kitchen cabinet. She goes, "Yeah, I'm sick of them. They all taste the same to me". Very true. Plus, most of them are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners along with a chemical shitstorm of ingredients. Nowadays I'm strictly a whole food guy. If I need something portable I'll grab some nuts and an apple. But if I was someone with an uber-busy schedule that needed to chug down a meal on the go...
I'd be pretty excited about this stuff. It's called AMPLE. It comes in a bottle to which you add water when you're ready to consume it. What initially caught my eye is that they use grass-fed whey. When I looked closer I saw that these guys are using primo cutting-edge ingredients across the board - healthy fats from coconut oil and macadamias, probiotics, fiber, collagen, Himalayan salt. It's low in sugar. A bottle is 600 calories with a good ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. That's a solid meal replacement. It's not cheap - a bottle runs about $8 - but that's a bargain for being able to suck down that list of quality ingredients on the go. Color me impressed!
Meet Wim Hoff. He set the world record for longest ice bath and climbed Mt Everest in his skivvies. He's not just a daredevil, though. He's out to prove that cold therapy has real health benefits... and it looks like the science is starting to back him up.
You don't have to sit in ice water for an hour like Wim to get the benefits. Regular cold plunges of 30 seconds or more will improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. There also appears to be an endorphin response which works as a natural anti-depressant. In the past, humans had to endure periods of extreme cold, so it makes sense that our bodies would have developed positive adaptations to it.
If you don't happen to live near an Icelandic stream, you can do what I do. Take cold showers. Yes, the first time will put an OMG expression on your face, but after a few moments your blood vessels will relax, and you'll start to feel invigorated. As Wim says (in his Dutch accent), "The cold will become as comforting as a pair of flannel pajamas". I repeat these words (with the Dutch accent) every morning before stepping into the shower. Hey, you gotta psyche yourself up!
"All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving - it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive."
- Life of Pi, Yann Martel
I love this passage. It fills me with wonder and appreciation for how nature rewards those who take chances... who put themselves out there into the unknown. My guiding principle in life is this...
Always be trying new things.
When I follow this rule, good things happen. When I don't... nothing good happens. It's that simple. Trying new things is how we grow. Growth does two things. It gives us confidence, and it gives us something to share with others.
The key is to lean out of your comfort zone - don't jump completely outside of it. Baby steps... and occasionally a tiger move. Try new foods. Take a different way home from work. Strike up a conversation with someone you don't normally talk to. You'll learn things you could never have anticipated. Little things... but they add up. Before you know it you'll be making tiger moves like signing up for a salsa class or taking a surfing lesson. The world will open up more to you with every step you take.