The Power of Mushrooms: It's Not What You Think

Mushrooms really are magic! While some just see them as a fungus, they're actually a versatile vegetable packed with nutrients. Throw them into a pasta dish, enjoy them in your morning omelette, roast them for an earthy, flavoursome side dish, the opportunities are endless. But did you know a number of mushrooms also have medicinal properties? We are getting more and more evidence that some sorts of mushrooms could be bonafide superfoods. Read on to learn more!

 

Vitamin D Deficiency: The Silent Killer

 

In the UK, the risk of vitamin D deficiency is very high. We obviously don't get that much sunlight, especially during the autumn and winter period and health chiefs are now advising to take a vitamin D supplement.

Sadly, the problem with synthetic vitamins is that we can't know if they are identical to the biological molecule. That being said, vitamin D deficiency is still a real issue and the benefits of supplementing could outweigh the risks. If you don't get enough vitamin D you risk poor bone health, low immunity, cardiovascular issues, even cancer.

But food can be medicine. Try including more vitamin D rich foods in your diet, especially during the colder, gloomier months. Mushrooms are a great place to start!

Magic mushrooms, and why the title of this article sounded bad in my head

When I first came up with the idea for this article, I struggled a lot with the title. No matter how you look at it, "the power of mushrooms" definitely  sounds like I'm referring to psychedelic mushrooms.

There are over 200 mushroom species that contain psychoactive compounds like psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. Their mind-altering properties have been known for a long time. Many cultures around the globe used them in religious ceremonies and other spiritual practices.

Other than hallucinations (which can be auditory, visual, and even tactile), "shrooms" also give a feeling of euphoria and well-being.

In most countries psychedelic mushrooms are considered drugs with high abuse potential. As such, they are illegal to grow, sell and consume. That being said, there is an increasing number of people who claim the ban is unnecessary. There is no evidence that people become dependent on magic mushrooms and some say the psychedelic properties can help with kicking addiction and even some mental issues.

As of right now, though, you'd do best to stay away from shrooms if you enjoy the benefits of being a law-abiding citizen! ;-)

The Healing Power of Mushrooms

On the other hand, medicinal mushrooms are fantastic for you, they can improve your immunity, make your heart and blood vessels stronger, reduce inflammation, and even prevent certain types of cancer. There are over 38,000 species with medicinal properties. To experience the health benefits, though, you'd have to take them for at least a month. Alternatively, you could look into powders, capsules, and tinctures, which contain more bio-available molecules.

Immunity Boosting Mushrooms

We can all benefit from improved immunity. Even outside of flu season, there are hundreds, if not thousands of threats that your body fights every day. Did you know that you get mutagenic cells (potential tumours) every day and your immune system is constantly fighting them?

Better immunity = better health

Most of the popular medicinal mushrooms have immune system enhancing effects. Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms, two of the most well-known mushrooms in the west, are both potent immunomodulators. Research on their benefit to overall immune health has been piling up in recent years. We now have every reason to believe that their longevity-enhancing properties are due to the boost of immunity they provide.

Reishi Mushrooms for Your Morning

The reason for this article is because I have recently incorporated reishi mushrooms in my day-to-day. A friend of mine told me about this a while ago and so I did a bit of my own research. Their healing power have been documented over and over again. They have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. In China, Reishi mushrooms are known as "the great protector" for their:

  • Anti-inflammatory,
  • immune boosting,
  • cancer-preventing,
  • helps you sleep
  • improves gut health

Reishi mushrooms can balance out hormones, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function, even fight autoimmune issues like allergies and asthma. Like anything, Reishi mushrooms are not a magic wand. As a superfood, they are a wonderful addition to an already healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition, sleep, hydration, and an appropriate exercise regimen are the simple pillars of health. If you're interested in reading more about that, check out my recent article on the hierarchy of fitness.

My typical morning juice

Reishi mushrooms are easy to add to your routine. I, personally, am a fan of this reishi mushroom powder. Its' subtle, slightly bitter taste was a struggle at first but now, if anything, it's a bit of a kick to wake up in the morning.

I haven't braved it on it's own, love to add reishi mushroom powder to my morning smoothie. For an anti-oxidant boost, I focus on including lots of green vegetables, as well as berries, either fresh or frozen. As for the liquid, I use almond milk or coconut water with a bit of ice.

The Power of Mushrooms: What Is Your Take?

Mushrooms are tasty, nutrient-dense, and they can heal, too. What surprised you the most about the power of mushrooms? Have you tried Reishi mushroom powder?

I'm exploring all sorts of weird and wonderful supplements and training hacks at the moment while I continue my theme of all things performance enhancing. I hope you're enjoying the content, I'd love to hear from you...

Thanks,

David Osgathorp


What is Heart Rate Variability and how can you benefit from it?

Heart Rate Variability has quickly been reaching buzzword status. It's been a standard measurement amongst athletes in high performance facilities for years but not something that has been particularly easy to monitor for the average exercise enthusiast - until now.

So what is heart rate variability (HRV)? Why should you be aware of it? How can you to measure and track it? And why can measuring it completely change your approach to training and recovery?

What Exactly Is Heart Rate Variability

I'm sure you've measured your own HEART RATE at some point, whether that's by placing three fingers on a superficial artery and counting the beats or by strapping on a heart rate monitor, you'll get a figure measured in beats per minute. However, this number doesn't tell you everything...

A resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute doesn’t mean that your heart beats exactly every second, it will vary from beat to beat - hence the term Heart Rate Variability.

So what does this mean?

As a (very vague) rule of thumb, the higher the HRV the better, the lower your HRV, the worse your current wellbeing. Human physiology is such a fascinating and complicated topic and there are a number of other factors to consider but let's keep it simple to start.

Your heart works automatically. There are bundles of cells that get excited and send the electric impulse through the heart via the electrical conduction system and this causes the heart muscle to contract.

These pacemaker cells generate impulses at a higher rate than is actually required of a normal heartbeat and it's the role of your autonomic nervous system to slow them down.

Your autonomic nervous system has two divisions. The sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. Stick with me here!...

The parasympathetic system is responsible for slowing things down and promoting "rest and digest" mechanisms, while the sympathetic nervous system fires you up and is your "fight or flight division". In a normal healthy individual you want the parasympathetic influences over the pacemaker to be stronger, meaning that your heart rate is slower than it would be if the heart only functioned automatically, unfortunately stress, poor sleep and even being over-stimulated from your mobile phone can stop this from happening and keep us in a constant switched on fight or flight mode.

Why Change Is Good

Your body is constantly under changing conditions. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and their opposing actions, are there to ensure that your internal organs respond to these changes. That's why if your heart rate variability is higher, it's a sign that you're more adaptable.

On the other hand, if your HRV drops, there's a good chance that you're undergoing a lot of stress. Low HRV is a good indicator of low resilience and adaptability. It can also signal mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, or chronic illness, From my perspective as a human performance coach, I use it as a marker for athletes under stress, still recovering from training sessions, poor sleep or even a bad diet.

How Do You Measure Heart Rate Variability

HRV was first noticed on ECG strips. ECG is reliable, and widely used in clinical practice. However, outside of hospital settings, the machine is simply not practical. Not only is it time-consuming to hook up the electrodes by yourself every morning, the device takes up space, and it's very pricey if you're not on a private hospital budget!

Thankfully, new ways of measuring HRV are emerging and wearable technology and mobile apps are leading the way in providing cheap, simple and incredibly easy and effective ways to monitor yourself.

Tracking HRV on your mobile phone

For the last few weeks my morning routine has consisted of strapping on my bluetooth heart rate monitor and opening the Elite HRV app on my phone. Yes, I know there's an app for everything! But this one has been really useful for me and simple to use. I sit perfectly still and relaxed and allow the app to measure my resting heart rate and HRV and after just two minutes it gives me a score and tells me if I'm all set to push hard with my training or need to look after myself a bit more in the day ahead.

It may not be a perfect measurement but it gives me a good idea of where I’m at. You need to control the conditions as much as possible, for example taking it at the same time of day and in the same position. Even small changes in your routine can affect your score. There will undoubtedly be mornings where you have slept less, where you had to get up to go to the bathroom, or when you had a big meal late the night before that you still haven't quite digested. All of these will change HRV and ultimately make the measurement unreliable, BUT I still believe it's well worth tracking.

From my own perspective it has been really beneficial for me to start the day in a very calm manner. I get up very early each morning and I'm on the go straight away either into my studios in London, off to Red Bull Racing or out for an early morning training session. The process of stopping before I've even started has been incredibly beneficial from a psychological perspective as well as seeing the physiological benefits. I've also enjoyed the process of listening to my own body. I recognise if I haven't slept well, if I'm feeling a bit under the weather or I'm stressed in any way about the day ahead or just sore and stiff from a tough training session earlier that week. After measuring myself for the past few weeks I'm getting pretty good at predicting what my score will be and most importantly adapting my day to reflect this.

I must stress that this is only a rough guide and in no way

How To Use HRV Information

While heart rate variability is a novel and highly effective way of tracking health, I have to stress that it will not be 100% accurate.

However, I enjoy using it myself and I recommend it to a number of clients that I work with. From a performance perspective I think it's incredibly useful in determining how I pitch the training sessions for myself and my clients. I find that most people get very lazy with their approach to training. Yes you may be training several times per week but what are you actually doing during those sessions? Are you pushing beyond your previous capabilities? Are you following a proper training programme? and are you factoring in enough time for sufficient rest, recovery and proper nutrition?

My experience tells me that most people probably aren't. Instead they do the same old workouts day after day that may actually be doing more harm than good. I'll explain more about this in a later article...

My advice? Check your HRV, enjoy the process of slowing things down and listening to your body, push hard on the good days and learn to ease off on the low score days. I guarantee your results will improve - and that's what it's ultimately all about isn't it?

Cheers,

David Osgathorp


The Hierarchy of Fitness: Performance is more than just exercise!

I get asked a lot about the best exercises for fat loss or how often someone should train each week...

In my role as a Human Performance Coach I believe that performance is more than just exercise. There is never a one size fits all programme for each client to follow and I often find that the exercise programme I create is usually the last thing that is going to have an impact on the performance of an individual, let me explain...

I believe it is my job as a coach to enhance high performance by obtaining a clear picture of each clients overall health and well being. (I will go into details of how I achieve this in later posts)

Each programme I create is founded on the premise that energy is the currency of high performance and I aim to focus on strategies to increase energy and manage it more effectively.

So how do you create more energy?

The Holistic Approach To Training

I have found that unless you treat the body as a whole, you won't experience any real/ lasting change. One thing always affects another. We are often told that exhaustion from too much training has a negative effect on your energy and progress in the gym, but I don't believe in the concept of "over-training", the whole purpose of a training session is to push beyond your previous capabilities and overload the body. Where I find problems with energy levels is when clients under recover.

I’m very aware that putting a client through a tough session when they aren’t eating properly, sleeping properly or are under excessive pressure at work, will do a lot more harm than good.

The stress hormones will reek havoc with their body. High stress hormones equals low energy, less progress, and ultimately - less health.

If this is getting you thinking then take a look at my hierarchy of fitness below. Understand that human performance is much more than just exercise and remember that you can't move up unless you improve the basics.

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Yes, my first and most important item is the foundation for your hierarchy of fitness is rest. Even if you got every single other thing right, if your sleep schedule is off, it wrecks havoc in your entire system.

Within just four days of poor sleep, your body can no longer use and regulate insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone that tells your cells to use the glucose in your blood. When you are short on sleep, insulin sensitivity drops. This means that you need more insulin to properly use up the glucose and so your system starts producing more.

The catch?

You can't burn fat when insulin is high. It's biochemically impossible.

But the trouble doesn't stop here. Research has consistently shown that sleep deprivation can also:

  • Mess with leptin, the satiety hormone, this will therefore make you hungrier.
  • Significantly decrease cognitive function, including memory and decision making.
  • A risk factor for deadly chronic disease, including cancer.

Bottom line? Strive to get at least 6- 8 hours every night. If this isn't achievable can you incorporate an afternoon nap? Or catch up at the weekends? Research has shown that keeping a weekly sleep target can still be effective and not cause you to stress too much about the odd late night. Understand that sleep is vital, but you don't have to miss out on life by going to bed at 9pm each night in order to hit your target!

Hydration

Water is literally the essence of life, staying hydrated will protect your joints, help your body rid itself of toxins and it is also key for maintaining optimal health.

Every cell in you needs water to function properly. And yet studies show that most of us live in a state of constant dehydration. One common reason for that is we confuse hunger and thirst. Try this: next time you crave a snack, drink a glass of water first. Your body will thank you.

But how much water do you really need in a day? 8 glasses? A gallon? However much you want?

In theory, your thirst should be enough to guide you. When you are dehydrated, though, you tend to lose sensitivity for thirst. Thankfully, there are tools that could help you figure it out. I personally love this calculator but there are lots of others you can find online.

Food As Fuel

The importance of good nutrition can not be overstated. You are, quite literally, what you eat. It's not just abs that are made in the kitchen, it's the entire state of your body. Without the proper nutrients, your system can't function right. Normal biochemical processes are altered and in the long run, you risk serious damage to your health, not just your figure.

You don't need complicated diets and eating schemes. Focus on eating plenty of vegetables and lean protein at every meal. Limit the processed food you consume. Consider cutting out added sugar and reduce the amount of wheat and dairy you consume.

I know, I know, my advice is hardly revolutionary. The diet and nutrition industry is an industry for a reason. But no matter how hard they try to sell you the next fad diet, the simple tips will never go out of style. Food is fuel for your body and improving your diet will immediately enhance your wellness.

Stress Control

Yes, controlling the levels of stress you experience can be tough. You can't control external factors and learning to manage your responses isn't always easy.

But consider this:

Stressors have real, measurable physiological responses on your system. What begins purely in your consciousness affects everything from hormones to your brain and internal organs.

The over-secretion of stress hormones like cortisol makes you more likely to gain weight while burning fat becomes harder. Even your brain is affected, especially the areas associated with long-term memory.

Since chronic stress can have such a detrimental effect on your performance, implementing stress management techniques will dramatically improve your well-being. My personal de-stressor of choice? Meditation.

We are learning more and more about the benefits of meditation every day. Neuroscientists are only just beginning to discover the power of such a simple exercise.  I love the Master Your Mind Course by Live and Dare and also the Headspace app.

Finally, Exercise

Yes, exercise is the last item on this list. Is it really the least important on this list? In my opinion, YES.

You see a great training programme won't get you great results if your body is completely run down, stressed out, dehydrated and malnourished! Build the strong foundations of sleep, nutrition, hydration and stress management and I guarantee you will turbo-charge your results in the gym.

On the flip side, good habits tend to follow one another, working out will often improve your sleep quality, reduce stress and perhaps even encourage you to eat a little better.

However, it can't and should not be an end in itself. Wondering where to start with fitness? Check out my five favourite exercises to get some ideas!

Change your focus from just simply trying to improve your fitness and aim for ways to increase your energy  and your overall performance.

This is the opening article in a new series in which I will detail numerous techniques, hacks and lifestyle adjustments you can make in order to see huge improvements in your mental and physical performance.

Stay tuned!

David Osgathorp


Workout partners

It Takes Teamwork To Make The Dream Work

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In my opinion, Nobody is truly independent. 

Think of your biggest accomplishments. I am sure you worked incredibly hard to achieve them, but if you take a moment to reflect, I can guarantee you wouldn't have achieved these things without the help of someone else. Even the most egotistical actor doesn’t goes up on stage at the Oscars to say "Yes, thank you, I’m amazing!". Winners know that without their team, they wouldn’t be up on the stage.

Embrace Dependence

There is no denying that we are more disconnected than ever. We’re constantly engaged in social media but we’re lacking the skills to actually socialise. We pursue likes on our posts but shy away from actual heart-to-heart conversations, we have the ability to reach out to millions of people on the Internet and yet some people feel more alone than ever!

Humans are still social animals, it’s through teamwork, not through a single man's struggle that most great achievements came about. Whether your goal is curing cancer or building a leaner, healthier body, nothing can beat having a great team behind you to allow you to achieve it.

Why We All Need Leaders

To put it in the words of John C Maxwell (the author of one of my favourite books on leadership:)

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

Whatever your goal may be, we all benefit from having someone show you . In your career, that would be a mentor. At home, it's your wiser parents or grandparents who give the best relationship/marriage advice and in fitness, it's a coach.

Without over-glorifying the role of a personal trainer, having a friendly and knowledgeable person to show you the way is a definite advantage. The whole point of choosing a great coach to be on your team is to save you time and effort to help achieve the best results in the most painless way possible.

You Are Who You're With

But hey, who says choosing a leader needs to imply hiring someone?

I am a big believer in small-scale leadership and learning from your friends and loved ones. Look around your friends and colleagues right now. Every single person around you can teach you something. If you are alone, are there books? Books are  a great way to improve yourself through another human's knowledge and experience. No books? Well, there's always the Internet. There are thousands of amazing, inspiring people online that you can choose to spend time with.

One thing we all realise a little too late is that you are your tribe. You become the people that you invest time and energy in. It's a scary thought if you're not surrounded by happy and successful people. But here is the deal:

You have the choice. 

Seriously, you do. I know it's scary to have to eat alone at work. It's uncomfortable to fall apart with friends. It is downright heartbreaking to end things with a partner. The truth of the matter is, though, that sometimes pain and discomfort are necessary. Much like ripping a Band-Aid, removing negative people from your life is unpleasant but awfully necessary. I have gone through this process a number of times. Removing people from my business that were too negative, breaking away from friendship groups that were draining the life out of me and walking away from relationships that were taking so much more than they were giving.

How I Surround Myself With More Positive Humans

It's the same approach I recommend with junk food. Rather than removing things, start by adding healthy nutrients. Once you're filling up on nutritious food, the unhealthy things naturally just fall away.

Whenever I notice that I have been spending too much time with negative people, I take time in my day to invest in the fun, exciting, inspiring ones. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Read a book by an author you admire.
  • Text an old friend to check up on them.
  • Go to a lecture or a workshop-style event on a topic you're interested in (the people who speak at these are incredible 10 out of 10 times)
  • Take your lunch break with your most smiley, enthusiastic colleague.

Keep doing that and as you spend more time with amazing people, you will notice how you get more inspired and productive yourself.

Your Gym Buddy Matters

Workout partners

I did a full article on workout partners because they can truly make or break your fitness journey. The most shocking thing there?

Obesity is contagious. 

That's what Harvard scientists discovered when researching health patterns among adults. Thankfully, the reverse is just as true. Spend time with people who treat their bodies right and you will likely get healthy without even realising.

It isn't always easy to find people like that. If you're a Londoner, you know how busy people get around here. Fitness and nutrition are an after-thought for most. It doesn't mean they are not exciting and positive people that will not contribute to your personal growth. It only means that in terms of health habits, you will not always find positive peer pressure in the people around you.

So what can you do?

Find The Diamond

While most people aren't bothered about their physical health, there is the occasional happy-go-lucky diamond that will encourage you to care. These people are rare but if you find one, hold on to them for dear life. You might think you want friends who can say Screw it, let's get doughnuts, yet it doesn't hurt to also have someone who says I've signed us up to a Tough Mudder event next weekend. You can decide if that's a good friend or not!

And if you are struggling to find the diamond among your friends, why not consider coaching. Along with motivation and positive reinforcement, a personal trainer has plenty of knowledge and experience to share.

Psst! If you want me, I'm not available!

It's the beginning of the year and I'm booked up with my London projects and work at Red Bull Racing, BUT, I would like to invite you to check out the new online coaching programme I have created. Spoiler alert: it is the same value and effort on my part but you can access it from wherever you are in the world!

You'll get my expert fitness and nutrition knowledge - and more importantly a positive and friendly influence to ensure that you achieve your goals and leave a positive mark on those around you!

If you're interested then you can find me in the comments below!

Cheers,

David

 

 


Nothing Beats A Londoner - But London Might Beat You!

Have you seen the new Nike advert?

It's called Nothing Beats A Londoner and it's a great story about young sports stars following their dreams and not letting the Big Bad City get in the way of their dreams.

Nike says nothing beats a Londoner, but I say it can be pretty tough to beat London!

As a proud survivor (and thriver) in one of the busiest, craziest, most fascinating cities in the world, here are some tips on making it here.

Beat Pollution

The World Health Organisation has named air pollution as the world’s largest environmental health risk. In a city nicknamed The Big Smoke, soaring pollution levels are the silent killer nobody is talking about.

Since 2004, the legal limit on harmful emission concentration has ALWAYS been breached within the first week of the year! Londoners are exposed to toxic air on a daily basis which puts you at risk of most major killer diseases.

Pollution is inevitable in large cities like London. Luckily, you can take steps to control the damage. Here are a few easy ways to keep your lungs happy:

  • Get some air-purifying house plants. Boston Ferns remove more indoor air toxins than any other plant. They can be hard to take care of, though, so try palms or rubber plants for a harder to kill option.
  • Drink green tea. Pollution means free radicals. A cup of antioxidant-rich tea helps your body protect itself naturally.
  • Opt for walking. Air pollution is four to five times worse in your car and by driving too much you are contributing to the problem. Switch to walking or public transport.
  • Avoid high pollution routes by using an app. Some of my favourites are CityAir and Plume Air Report. Both are free and user-friendly.

Beat Stress

Normal stress management recommendations aren't really an option in London. Walks in nature, getting a pet, or taking up a new hobby are all awesome stress reducers. But, suggest these things to a Londoner and I guarantee you'll get the same response - Sounds great, but where do I find the TIME for all of that?!

Time is the biggest thing that no one in London ever seems to have enough of, this is why everyone is always in a rush, doesn't have time for a proper conversation and always look pretty stressed!

To reduce stress, a Londoner needs to become a master of the one-minute fix!

Five Strategies To Banish Stress (In Less Than A Minute)

  • Houseplants are a really easy win here. Being surrounded by nature, no matter how tiny, is enormously beneficial and that's backed by science.
  • Eating to make your gut happy will calm down your brain too. Often when we're stressed we eat the wrong foods and end up feeling even worse! There is a gut-brain axis that connects the largest organ of the immune system to the largest one of the nervous system. A healthy snack, eaten slowly, will help both. I recommend bananas because they are nutritious, help good bacteria, and they are very convenient, too. My good friend Hannah Richards at The Gut Clinic can give you a lot more advice on this subject.
  • A quick stress release technique that you can do anywhere is pressing between your second and third knuckle. This activates a nerve that loosens the area around the heart to create an instant sense of relaxation. Honestly! Try it.
  • Another one of my favourites is the "tense up-loosen up trick". Start by slowly tensing up your muscles as much as you can. I like to do it with my whole body but just the arms works, too. Then, as you exhale, allow the tension to flow out of your system.
  • Finally, add some dancing into your morning routine. I'm serious. Music boosts endorphins and jumping around the kitchen can burn just as many calories as the treadmill. Even if it's just a couple of minutes, you will notice the effects right away.

Beat Keeping up with the Jones's

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Seriously.

London is a huge city full of successful, talented people. Some will be richer than you. Some will have better careers than you. Some will be better looking than you, deal with it!

It's easy to get caught up in the comparison game but you can never win at this. You may be prepared to sacrifice more and more to hit your next goal, but trying to succeed here could make you feel worse than a failure if you're constantly looking at what you don't have. For me this is one of the biggest reasons why London can beat you. There is so much opportunity, always the next step, the next promotion, the next ten grand to chase, the friend doing a little bit better than you.

Ambition is a great thing and you definitely need it to succeed anywhere, not just London.

But you need to celebrate the small wins along the way as well. Don't start your day looking at what others are doing on Instagram, I guarantee that will bring you down. You need to set yourself up to succeed and you can do this by asking yourself these three simple questions:

  • What did I last eat?
  • When did I last laugh?
  • What's the last conversation I had?

Great nutrition, a positive outlook, and surrounding yourself with amazing people are the three key ingredients to thriving in London. When you stop comparing yourself to others and choose to compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, you get happier. The first step is simply acknowledging and improving your choices.

Beat Overwhelm

When accident and emergency doctors are on call, they may have to rush off at any moment to deal with a life or death situation. A lot of Londoners also tend to live like this! It is so common to see people in a constant reactive state, never able to switch off and stressing over pretty insignificant things. If this is you then you might not even know you're living in this reactive state. Sadly for most of you, the reality is despite what you may think you really aren't that important!

Just ask yourself do you really need to send that email at 11pm? Are people really that impressed that you're in the office at 6am? Is it really essential that you work every weekend? Being "on it" all of the time doesn't lead to success, it leads to burnout, misery and stress.

Give yourself a day off, no one will die - unless you actually are a doctor on call!

Picking The Right Team

This is such an important topic that I will cover this in a separate article, but, in short, nobody succeeds alone. In London, workplace competition can be so fierce that it drives people apart. The caffeine and sugar-fuelled days, the nights where you can't sleep because of the anxiety, the heavy drinking that just gets you through it all, eventually makes you miserable. Having a good support network in place is essential if you are going to beat London.

That's why I have started talking about surviving London with some of my favourite online content creators. We are taking this to a team level. Together, we can finally get people to talk about the elephant in the city. And it all starts with the community.

As a challenge, I dare you to text just one of your colleagues and sincerely compliment them. Surrounding yourself with a team of positive people is the only way of surviving London fully. Start by making yourself one of these amazing people.

Cheers,

David


Raise Your Standards To Transform Your Life

This is the time of year that I particularly enjoy, when things really start to get going for those that are committed -or end for those that are not...

People fall off the wagon in a big way as Dry January ends and they give themselves permission to make up for a number of missed nights out! The fad diet books go back on the shelves to collect dust and the gym floor starts to get a bit quieter.

For those of you that really did have good intentions at the start of this year, take the time to read through this article and I hope it will help you to decide that you're not going to give up on your health and fitness goals just because January is over. Committing to change comes down to one simple rule:

If You Want To Succeed, You Have To Raise Your Standards

We all know that deep down things can be a better for us.

No matter how great you are doing now, you can always do better. Just take a minute to visualise your dream life.  Maybe you want to travel the world. Finally write that book. Get that six-pack. Start a family or improve your relationship with your children.

Now imagine what would happen if that dream turned into your standard.

No more 'I want to feel more energetic.' or 'If only I could work on my music career full-time.' Flip those dreams, those aspirations (that you've probably never really believed could come true) and make them the bare minimum.

Standards Are What Gave You A Roof Over Your Head

When we are young, we learn certain standards about how we should live. They are not always comfortable standards. Show me a single kid that enjoys eating their broccoli or brushing their teeth twice a day, or even doing their homework. But there is a certain standard - you need your veggies, healthy teeth and a decent education to get anywhere in life.

Now, look at your adult life. There are certain standards you never break because you don't allow yourself. No matter how tired you are, you finish the project before the deadline. You stay at your job even when you hate it - it is what pays the rent. And being homeless is below the standards you set for yourself.

When we believe we absolutely must achieve a certain goal, we always do. 

The thing about being an adult is you have to parent yourself. And too often we live according to standards we set decades ago. Yes, not being homeless is good, but living in a penthouse apartment is better. Not letting yourself become morbidly obese is fine, but how about getting stronger each day?

Why You Set The Bar So Low

It wouldn't be realistic to make Buy a penthouse apartment. your basic standard if your previous goal was just having a place to yourself. The margin of difference is too great and you would never accept the former as a true standard. Instead, it would end up in the same place failed New Year's resolutions do.

But it makes you wonder, why don't we choose to live better and strive for more?

One word. Fear.

You are so afraid of failing that you prefer not to try at all. And if you do try, you end up self-sabotaging without even realising it. And yes, we all self-sabotage. Here are a few forms of it that are silently ruining your dreams:

  • Procrastination
  • Busying yourself with minor tasks (I don't have the time is such an easy excuse not to go to the gym.)
  • Binge eating and binge drinking
  • Letting others run your life
  • Becoming invested in causes without taking action (the beloved Facebook activism)

At our core, we don't want to make failure an option and so we push it as far deep into our unconscious as possible. When those unfulfilled hopes come back to haunt us, we say 'Well, at least I have it better than X.'

The Simple Solution For Raising Your Standards

You are not going to like it but it will work.

Simply imagine the worst case scenario. Visualise it, feel it, make yourself believe it already happened. Make failure so well-known that you no longer fear it. Because truth be told, the worst case scenario of failing your fitness goals is not all that dramatic. Yes, you might not change one bit. You might give up because it's too hard. But, to be completely honest with yourself:

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. 

Now do the opposite. Imagine victory. Taste it, live it, take ownership of it. Make it your absolutely unbreakable standard and remind yourself of it every day. Whether you do it through a vision board, a new phone background, or by surrounding yourself with people who already made it (my personal favourite), the point is to make victory inevitable.

Now that you have overcome your fear of failing, there is really nothing holding you back.

Raising Your Standards In Health And Fitness

Can you define health? Are you healthy? Most people think they are, as long as nothing brings them to their doctor's office.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. (World Health Organisation)

The conventional attitude toward health is a perfect example of low standards at play. If 'not being ill' is your only standard for health, you are missing out on the complete physical, mental and social well-being that you can achieve. Because (once again in the words of the World Health Organisation):

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and think about what this all means to you. What standards are you setting for yourself and what small actions can you take to raise those standards. I guarantee it will make a huge difference to your success this year!

Cheers,

David

 


Comfort zone challenge woman reflecting

Comfort Zone Challenge: New Year's Resolutions Reimagined

I've deliberately kept quiet over the past few weeks, although New Year is the busiest time of the year for the health and fitness industry and most people in my industry are jumping on the band wagon, I try to avoid all of the New year, New You noise!

The reality is that around 80% of people will give up on their New Year's resolutions at some point this year, and sadly, the majority of those have already made that call by now!

Why does this happen? What changes in a few short weeks that means your big health and fitness goals for the year ahead are so easily swept aside?

Often it comes down to the goals either being too big, not specific enough or simply too difficult. We often set goals to achieve things that we've never done. The reality of running a marathon when you haven't jogged more than five kilometres will hit you hard. Completely giving up alcohol when social drinking is a huge part of your life will become incredibly challenging and getting back to the ideal weight that you last hit over ten years ago is going to be a huge challenge.

I see it so often and I never want to be the guy that says I knew you could never do that. My job as a coach is to ensure that you WIN! So first step - don't set yourself up to fail!

It is my belief to succeed in anything you need two things:

A clear and achievable plan

And the willingness to try something new.

That's why I don't want you to set any New Year resolutions, I just want you to be willing to step out of your comfort zone to help you achieve health, wealth, and happiness in 2018!

 

What Is The Comfort Zone Challenge?

I'm sure you've been there in the past when you had great intentions of making big changes to some area of you life?... I'm fortunate enough to work with some very successful and inspiring people and guess what? They break their resolutions too! It doesn't mean you lack willpower, it's just that most New Year's Resolutions are simply way too overwhelming.

Instead, I encourage my clients to take the comfort zone challenge. Look at one or two aspects of your life and aim to step just slightly out of your comfort zone. As the saying goes, The sooner you step out of your comfort zone, the sooner you realise it wasn't all that comfortable!

With small changes that challenge you out of your old habits, I guarantee you'll find success in your long-term goals, too.

Fitness Habits That Actually Stick

As a coach, most of my job is motivation. You would think a great workout programme matters more. The truth is, even an average quality programme will get results if you are working with a highly motivated client, but it doesn't work the other way round.

So here is what I have learned from over a decade of working with busy, not overly athletic (but still awesomely motivated) people:

You have to make the comfort zone challenge stick. 

Stop pushing your body, and you will stop seeing results. A fitness journey is never really over, you have to constantly strive for more. Sounds daunting? It doesn't have to be.

No matter where you are right now, here are five simple, actionable challenges to push you out of the comfort zone:

  • Don't stop when it gets hard! As Mohammed Ali famously said "I only start counting reps when it starts hurting because they're the only ones that count."
  • Sign up for a fitness event. A hiking holiday. Yoga in the park. It doesn't matter. Just try something new.
  • Create a kickass fitness playlist. Music that gets you excited to get moving.
  • Do 5 minutes of exercise and drink a pint of water as soon as you rise. It's hard to have a bad morning when you start it so well!
  • Get a workout partner. It doesn't matter if it's a friend, your partner, or even a pet (a puppy will do an amazing job of getting you up and running around the park every morning), just encourage each other to keep going.

Nutrition: Because Abs Are Made In The Kitchen

Healthy comfort zone challenge food

I've said it many times before but you simply can't out-train a bad diet.

You don't have to go from burger and fries every night to raw vegan or paleo because I guarantee you will fail  but how about  adding 'stop doing fad diets' to your comfort zone challenge?

Aim for moderation, instead of extremes. Commit to making at least two or three nutritious homemade meals every week. Or (I might be biased here), try my one-month healthy meal plan. It is straightforward, easy to follow, and it will give you a kick in the right direction (we all need that in the beginning of the new year, right?).

If you are just too busy for both, and need someone to take care of this all for you then why not start training your taste buds to love healthy food through a meal delivery service. I have been trying out the Mindful Chef meals recently and I recommend them to clients all the time. They bring you delicious, restaurant-quality meals and they have options for all dietary restrictions you might have.

Recovery: That Is When Change Happens

Fit woman sitting

Muscles don't grow at the gym, this happens while you sleep! If you ignore recovery time altogether then you stress out your system and end up feeling and looking worse than before. Most people don't even think about recovery when setting their health goals. More is better right? WRONG!

Your first comfort zone challenge in this aspect is to actively think about recovery.

I won't be the first to tell you this but meditation will help a lot in this. And I am not asking you to spend an hour in complete silence every day. You can start by a couple of minutes every night. Meditation silences your busy mind and it helps immensely with focus.

For beginners, I definitely recommend you take a meditation course to build a strong and consistent practice. My personal favourite is the Live and Dare Meditation course. It is perfect for complete beginners, as well as those who have tried meditation before but it never really stuck. In five weeks, you will develop the right technique and build the habit to make meditation work for you.

The Comfort Zone Challenge: Beyond Health

Celebrate ditching your New Years resolutions! You didn't REALLY want to pursue them anyway!

Just get comfortable with being uncomfortable as much as you can and see what exciting improvements come your way in 2018.

Let me know how you get on...

 

David


The Cheat Day: How To Do It Right?

The fitness and diet world is torn on the subject of cheat days. Some believe that 'You need them to stay sane.' While others claim 'Why would you reward a good habit with a bad one?'

To be fair, both have strong arguments, but as the holiday season approaches, the issue has been coming up more than ever. Here is everything you need to know about cheat days.

What A Cheat Day Does To Your Body?

On cheat days you can have your cake and eat it, too!

A cheat day in its' most basic form is you giving yourself permission to indulge. Since indulging typically involves fast food, sweets, and alcohol a lot more often than it does celery, its pretty much certain that you will consume more calories than you need.

Just for reference, your typical visit to a fast food restaurant (burger, fries, and a drink)  will pile on around 1000 calories. Hearty home-cooked dishes although better in nutrients, aren't much better in terms of calorie intake.

Let's face it, even with the best intentions the next few weeks are going to see you consume significantly more calories than you use and this extra energy will be stored in the form of fat.

So what do you do? Do you just decide to get fat in December before you get fit in January?!

I actually believe that a cheat day is a good thing for a number of reasons, but let me first of all explain the science behind it all...

First off, you need to be following a strict eating plan to something to cheat on!

I believe the key to any success with your fitness or diet goals is to know your body. The process of following my 30 day elimination programme is to find out how your body reacts to certain foods more so than just to drop a few pounds.

When most people try to lose weight they follow a calorie restrictive diet.

It's simple right? Less calories in = weight loss!

Well on paper yes, but we need to be aware of hormone levels and in particular a hormone called leptin which is found in the fat cells and is responsible for telling your brain when you are full.

When we follow a calorie restrictive diet leptin levels drop, your brain then senses starvation and the cravings kick in! This is why most people give up on a diet after just a few days. Their body is simply doing everything it can to restore balance. Therefore harnessing the best way to manipulate this process could be the key to success with your fat loss goals.

Your First Month Of Healthy Eating

Those of you that have seen my diet plan know that it is quite a strict process. You will by no means be starving but a lot of your favourite junk food won't be an option. The point is to reset your body to enjoy healthy food once again. But cravings are still a very real problem. Here is how I recommend you deal with them:

  • Experiment with food. Prepare tasty and nutritious meals for your family. Check out that new healthy restaurant. Restricting junk does not mean restricting flavour.
  • When a craving inevitably comes up, just acknowledge it. Understand that it's there because you are burning fat and tell yourself you are just delaying gratification.
  • Finally, at the end of the process, enjoy a cheat day. You will get a massive energy boost and your body will actually appreciate the shock. After that I recommend that you book in your cheat days once per week.

The Perfect Cheat Day

First off, you need to have a good healthy breakfast. I highly eggs and they have been proven to lower your appetite throughout the day. However, anything rich in protein and low in fat and fast carbs will do. You're going to cheat but the you don't need to go completely mad!

Next, whip out that cravings list. Which ones do you really want right now? Circle them and head over to the supermarket. Bear in mind, that whatever you buy you need to eat on the day. That holds true for parties, too, and we both know you will be going to quite a few over the next few weeks! No matter how much your host insists, you are not taking that doggy bag back home with you! You don't want anything tempting you during the week.

Eat freely, whatever your body has craved over the last few weeks - indulge!

If you love your junk food then removing it permanently is just going to make you miserable. It is my belief that all elements of health and fitness should be an enjoyable process and as you see the results of following my nutritional principles I guarantee that the cravings will become less and less.

Cheat Day Psychological Benefits

Internal organs align

The reality is most people will only really stick to a diet about 80% of the time. Over my many years of working in the fitness industry I recognise that instead of forcing my ideas onto clients I need to meet them where they are at. I want commitment but I understand that sometimes life can just get in the way and it is pointless trying to change others if I cannot be adaptable myself.  The cheat day offers a great solution for most people to achieve great results without feeling as though they are depriving themselves.

Instead of failing with a diet plan and turning a minor slip-up into a major set back you can simply accept that you will fall off the wagon manage it appropriately and continue with the diet as planned. A short break from your restricted diet can also really boost your mood and enhance your long-term motivation.

How To Be a Great Cheater!

I believe that a cheat day is a really positive move - as long as you've earned it!

The key to a lean and toned physique is in being strict with your diet - There's no getting around that. You get fit in the gym but you lose weight in the kitchen. Get into great habits, learn how your body reacts to the fuel that you feed it see the results and then be strategic with how you maintain them.

If you eat a clean healthy diet 80-90% of the time then you can get away with eating pretty much anything the rest of the time!

With that in mind... Let the Christmas Party season begin!

So those are my guidelines for a successful (or at least not as damaging) cheat day. If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please don't hesitate to share them in the comments below!

Cheers,

David


Your Ultimate End Of Season Review: Achieving Balance And Happiness The Easy Way

As some of you may know, I also work as the Human Performance Coach at Red Bull Racing Formula One Team.

It's an incredibly and highly rewarding experience but now that the season is over, I use this time to step back and evaluate how everything has gone for me in 2017...

Even if you are not involved in Formula One, the end of the year is fast approaching and maybe it's time to look at how it's gone for you?...

We all have New Year's Resolutions, but very few of us have end of year assessments which is a shame - as most people stick to their resolutions for an average of two weeks!

While this might be good news for the fitness industry that makes huge profits from the thousands of unused gym memberships, for the majority of people, New Year's resolutions end up being pretty much useless!

So, instead of starting that list of New Year's Resolutions for 2018, I invite you to join my end of season reflection.

How was 2017 for you?

What are you most proud of?

What was your biggest achievement?

What did your achievements cost you?

Where did most of your energy go?

This isn't just about patting yourself on the back! It gives you an understanding of what went well and what areas you need to improve upon in order to create a strategy of dynamic goals and resolutions so that 2018 can be even better!

Why Balance Is More Important Than Hard Work

Here is a piece of wisdom I learnt the hard way. You can't shut down the stress and anxiety by doing more work. Success at the cost of happiness is no success at all.

Over the years, I have heard all sorts of answers to 'What did your achievements cost you? ' Some of them are actually pretty shocking. Spending an outrageous amount of time at the office. Hardly seeing your family for months at a time. Sacrificing relationships. Sacrificing health. Sacrificing sanity!

I've been there before and seen it far too many times with clients that I've worked with and in order to change things for them and myself you need to first of all recognise where things are out of balance.

This is always the most difficult part, but I've found a little tool I refer to as my Wheel Of Life is a great starting point.

A Practical Way To Assess Balance

Most people are visual creatures. The wheel is a way for me to show my clients what their life balance looks like and it requires that you rate the quality of various aspects of your life. I have divided them as follows:

1. Career & Business
2. Finance
3. Personal Growth
4. Health
5. Family
6. Relationships
7. Social Life
8. Attitude

I find this covers most areas for most people, but you may want to personalise it more to your own life!

Fill Out The Wheel

I encourage clients to start with a little bit of reflection. What would my life look like if I had this aspect perfectly under control? For diet, that might look like home cooking most of your meals, making healthy choices when eating out, feeling energised, physically healthy and well-nourished.
Then, on a scale from 1 to 10, decide if you are pretty close to that or a long way from that perfect state!

Another way to complete the wheel is to think about your average day. How much of your time and energy goes into each aspect? Yes, worrying about it counts, too. Turn that into points on the 1 to 10 scale.

The idea is that you go through each aspect of your life and rate where you currently are in each area against where you would like to be. Some areas may be great for you while others may be causing you a number of problems. Most likely, each area will need a little bit of work.

Will The Wheel Roll?

Once you've completed the exercise, take a look at your wheel. Is it balanced? Is there any aspect that has significantly higher or fewer points than the others? In other words, if it were a real wheel, will it roll or will the weight of that one or more aspects stop the movement?

Now you know what to work on!

Turning The Wheel Into Actual Happiness

One of my favourite quotes goes:

"My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada."

It's by Ellen DeGeneres and it perfectly sums up my thoughts on contentment. Life will not always be perfect. You will have times where work overwhelms you. Where you neglect your health. Where your family consumes most of your time and where things just don't quite go to plan.

The point is there will always be tough times in life you can't avoid this, but you can get yourself in the best place to enjoy the highs and roll with the lows.

Do this exercise and then take the time to review it.

The next bit is to decide what you can do about it...

Note the areas that are lacking and commit to dedicating more time and effort to them. I personally like to list 3 practical things that would improve that aspect of my life. I know there might be days where I don't find the time or energy to do them but each week I try to revisit my wheel and and just check in on how I am balancing things out.

Your Thoughts

The reality is, time passes whether you decide to do anything about it or not!
If you're reading this blog then it's my guess that you'd like to do something to improve the health and fitness aspects of your life and maybe a few others.

I hope this post has at least made you think about assessing things and stepping into next year with a plan that will actually work for you.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,

David


3 Amazing Cryotherapy Benefits: How It Can Improve Your Physical And Mental Health

After reading a lot about the benefits of Cryotherapy, I decided that the best way to see what all the fuss was about would be to experience it for myself...

As the wellness trend of choice, it is no wonder a lot more people are getting into it. But is it really that great for your health, or is the hype a little over the top? I thought I would share my thoughts on Cryotherapy benefits with all of you here on the blog. Read on to find how Cryotherapy could improve your health and well-being!

Getting Cryotherapy Straight

It may just make you think about the opening scenes of an Austin Powers movie! But please bear with me as I think there could be some really good benefits for you here...

Cryotherapy comes from the Greek cryo (κρύο) that means cold, and therapy (θεραπεία) meaning cure,  Basically, any use of low temperatures in treating an ailment is considered cryotherapy and this can refer to the simple ice pack on your swollen ankle, up to the high-tech cryosurgery procedures where tumours and other diseased tissue are removed by applying extreme cold temperatures.

So what sort of cryotherapy do the wellness gurus promote? Usually, whole-body cryotherapy or WBC for short. This is when you are exposed to the cold dry air for two to four minutes inside a cryotherapy chamber. As daunting as this may sound, it's actually quite a pleasant experience!

The process involves you stripping down to just your underwear and some lovely thermal gloves and slippers and stepping into the chamber that is adjusted to your height so that only your head isn't exposed to temperatures of around minus 120c!

I visited Cryogenix in East London where their marketing literature explains that "Extreme cold sends the body’s metabolic rate sky-high in order to produce heat. This effect will last 5 to 8 hours after the procedure, causing your body to burn around 300-600 calories. The results of whole body cryotherapy differs from person to person, but overall, the benefits and results can include the following":

  • Less painful joints
  • Quicker injury recovery
  • Jumpstarting the immune, nervous, vascular, and lymphatic system
  • Anti-aging

Cryotherapy Benefits For Fitness And Exercise

As a human performance coach, I take a decent amount of interest in anything that might replace me! Recent findings have shown that whole-body cryotherapy can actually mimic exercise. Apparently after a cryotherapy session, your muscles release the same compounds that they would after working out. This is fairly new research, but it could potentially mean that people struggling with obesity can benefit from cryotherapy.

The more traditional use of cold treatments is, of course, injury recovery. Ice baths have become par for the course for most elite athletes and cryotherapy chambers are becoming very popular as well. Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt and Conor McGregor all reported use cryotherapy on a daily basis!

The Mental Cryotherapy Benefits

There is more to this treatment than your physiological response. Cryotherapy benefits your overall feeling of well-being as well.

Taking a cold shower has long been considered a "character building" act. Nobody actually enjoys the freezing cold water but it is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. In fact, ice cold showers are the first thing I suggest when clients ask me about cryotherapy. Granted, 30 second blast in a cold shower is much less glamorous or hyped but it can have most of the health benefits. I have personally seen the 'cryotherapy benefits' of a simple morning cold shower:

  • It shortens your morning routine,
  • sets you up for the day,
  • shoves you out of your comfort zone, first thing in the morning.

If you have been having problems with productivity recently, a cold shower habit can help you kick that. In fact, I challenge you to try it with me for the next 14 days. Two weeks are enough to feel the benefits but it's  also short enough so that you don't give up. Get your freeze on!

How To Choose Your Cryotherapy Treatment Provider

If your local health club has a cryosauna, it can be tempting to ditch the whole cold shower experiment and run there instead. Or maybe you saw a really good Groupon for a cryotherapy session. Bear in mind, that not all places are as professional and safe as you might expect.

The first thing to guide you would be the experience they have. You will not reap all the cryotherapy benefits if it is not administered correctly. Gyms, spa centres, and beauty salons that have only recently bought a cryosauna are usually more attentive but they are also definitely inexperienced. Choose them at your own risk - I would personally only go if I had received some sort of word of mouth recommendation.

Ask them all the details about the procedure beforehand. The employees should be able to answer your questions. If they are not, once again I would question their experience.

Check the website as well. Does the information on there seem realistic? Have they linked sources or did they choose to hype the treatment mindlessly? When a treatment provider is overstating the possible cryotherapy benefits, you know for sure that their integrity is questionable. Can you really trust them with your health then?

Final Thoughts On Cryotherapy Benefits

So what's my verdict? Well, although cold treatments can be amazing in so many ways, don't expect them to 'fix you'. Much like massages, cryotherapy benefits are only an addition to an already healthy lifestyle. Remember that diet and exercise should always come first! Having said that, I found it an incredibly invigorating experience, as someone that has suffered numerous injuries over the years I am always looking for ways to manage my pain and improve my health and wellbeing and I am keen to explore this avenue further...

It is an expensive habit to keep up though, at £60-£100 per treatment, you will need to invest a tidy sum but if it does what it says on the tin then it could well be worth the investment... I will keep you updated!

Do you have any cryotherapy benefits questions or thoughts that you would like to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments bellow!

Cheers,

David