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


Four Unexpected Back Pain Causes (And What To Do About Them)

If you read my previous article on back pain then you'll know that this is one of the most common health issues that a huge percentage of the population struggle with. It is also one of the toughest to tackle. Back pain causes can range from a muscle strain to degenerative disease. In this article, we are looking at the common and not so common ones and what you can do right now to relieve your pain.

Types Of Back Pain

Let's first talk about the types of back pain which can be split up into acute and chronic.

Acute back pain comes suddenly and lasts a limited amount of time. Usually, doctors say that back pain lasting less than six weeks is acute. Notice that these terms have nothing to do with how strong your pain is. Acute pain could be dull and relatively weak much like chronic pain could be unbearably strong.

If your back pain lasts for more than six weeks (some may argue three months), then it's termed chronic and is usually associated with a long-term disease. With chronic pain, you don't always have as many back pain relief options as the cause can't always be treated. For instance, osteoporosis can cause back pain and unfortunately is not a treatable disease. Meaning that you can manage the chronic pain but you can't always remove the source.

Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure

As I discussed in the previous article, the best way that I know to banish back pain is not getting it in the first place! But statistics show that around 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives.

A small percentage of these cases will be chronic and you'll need proper medical advice to resolve it, but most cases are acute back pain and simply changing up a few of your habits is usually enough to eliminate it.

Heavy Lifting And Back Pain

One of the most common culprits is lifting heavy objects  - hardly a surprising back pain cause.

A lot of people feel that weight training is purely for vanity. Yes your body will look better but more importantly it will function better. Weight training is about training to be better at life! Just don't get too carried away and try to lift too much too soon, it kind of defeats the object here!

Always warm up before a strength workout. At least 5-10 minutes of active stretching and mobility exercises before every session are a must.

Learn to lift properly, whether that's a box of old things you want to move to the spare room or a deadlift you are performing in the gym, do it with good form and you will strengthen your back and not harm it.

Sitting Down

Let's face it modern lifestyle doesn't set us up for great posture. We sit in a car or on public transport for up to an hour to get to work when most of us then spend 8 hours (or more) sat down hunched over a desk, we then travel home in the same manner and spend the evening slouched on the sofa. Our bodies are more designed to sit rather than stand these days and that's why when we ask it to perform simple tasks it's just not up to the job!

Start tweaking your habits little by little... Can you move a bit more each day? Can you get a stand up desk? Can you try being mindful of the way you stand? Have a look at your posture, remember your mum telling you to stand up straight when you were younger? Well, you need to follow her advice more than ever now! Lift your chest, roll your shoulders back and tighten your core and over time you really see a difference.

Medication

This is the obvious answer to relieving pain isn’t it?

Reach for the pills potions gel sprays and anti-inflammatory creams... Ok I have to admit I have used some of the gels and sprays over the years to relieve my post exercise aches and pains but have you ever read the side effects of pain killing and anti-inflammatory medication?

Be very careful with medication. Although commonly used for a quick fix pain relief, the long term effects of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Nurofen or Voltarol can be extremely damaging. They have been seen to cause stomach ulcers and will only ever mask the underlying problem.

By masking the pain we place further stress upon the weakened areas and are unaware of the damage we are causing. As the pain increases so does the level of drugs to relieve the pain! This is madness!

Smoking

Did you know that smokers are three times more likely to experience back pain compared to non-smokers?

We all know the risks of cancer and heart disease but did you realise that your dirty little habit may also be the cause of your back pain as well?

Smoking causes decreased nutrition to the tissues of the back largely because of the carbon monoxide that cigarette smoke contains. Carbon monoxide sticks to the haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of the blood), this decreases the amount of oxygen to the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons of the back. Oxygen is an essential nutrient in the healing process of the tissues of the back and must be present in order to achieve a full recovery.

Not only that but, nicotine is known to cause thickening of the walls of the blood vessels. This thickening contributes to restricted blood flow through the large and small blood vessels of the lower back and increases the amount of time for healing and recovery if you have a back injury.

So what should be done about it? Well, in short, GIVE UP SMOKING! Even veteran smokers have shown a marked decrease in back pain and further disc damage after quitting. Cutting down on smoking can also decrease the chance of developing back problems and can restore good blow flow.

These are just a few of the possible causes of back pain. Look out for my new ebook - Banish Your Back Pain out later this year for numerous  ways to prevent and manage back pain

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers,

David


How To Cure Your Back Pain

Back pain is an incredibly common occurrence, approximately 80% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives and so its high time we talked about it here. Stick to the end of the article for an exciting new project I have planned that will help you banish your back pain. Other than that, let's jump straight in!

Where Does Your Back Pain Come From?

Back pain is very general. There are so many structures in and around your back and the pain could even come from your internal organs. Your pain could be caused by issues with your:

  • Spinal cord
  • Vertebral column
  • The ligaments that connect the vertebrae
  • The muscles of your back and their tendons
  • Nerves
  • Kidneys
  • Immune system (some autoimmune diseases)

For any pain that lasts longer than a few weeks and especially if you have other symptoms, please call your doctor. Some of the tell-tale signs of a more serious issue would be fever, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, pain urinating. Get it checked - Better safe than sorry!

If It Was A Muscle Strain (Or A Ligament Strain)

This is the easiest and most common back pain to recognise and treat. Even as a professional coach, I've had a few occasions where I have overworked my back. If you have also caused an injury whilst training, Some tips to prevent it are to make sure you always warm up, taking time to stretch after your workout, and leave your ego at the door and sure you take your time to progress in the gym (as opposed to jumping straight to heavy weights).

If you strained a muscle or a ligament, your first and most important step is rest. As soon as you feel the pain stop. Lie down on the floor or another flat surface. Breathe deeply and allow the muscle spasm to calm. It often eases away in a couple of minutes but give yourself some rest over the next couple of days.

Apply ice to the area for 20 minutes every day. Not only will it reduce the pain, but it also prevents swelling and bruising. Heat, on the other hand, is not a great idea for the first few days. However as you recover, a heat pad is often a great pain reliever as it very effectively relaxes your muscles. As always seek advice from a medical professional if the pain persists.

Posture And Back Pain

Confident woman walking
Great body posture prevents back pain!

I am a broken record on this one. Poor posture will always lead to back pain (plus a bunch of other problems). I get it, we are all busy and there isn't always time to think about proper posture but spending your day behind the desk and your night on the couch is a recipe for screwing up your back!

Fixing your posture starts with deciding to do so. Remind yourself throughout the day to roll your shoulders back and straighten your spine. A neat little trick I like is to set a 'trigger'. For instance, every time you check the time also check your posture. Being mindful of the way you stand will make the world of a difference for your back pain. And it will also prevent further damage.

Hydration Is Key

You know you have to drink water. You know that dehydration stresses out every single cell in your body. But what does it have to do with back pain? A lot, actually.

First, you have your kidneys. They filter out waste products and throw them out diluted in water. If you don't hydrate, your kidneys can't work properly. This can lead to inflammation, kidney stones, or even more serious issues. Since kidney inflammation is one of the possible causes of back pain, by drinking more water you can prevent that.

The other reason are your spinal disks. They connect the vertebrae in the spine. On the inside of a spine disk is a gel-like substance. When you are dehydrated, the disk loses some water and it's no longer holding the vertebrae properly. Drink enough water and you prevent that. The great part is that you can also help back pain by simply rehydrating. Of course, just in the first stages, not after years of dehydration, so drink up as soon as you feel it.

A line that I use constantly in my role at Red Bull Racing is to remind people that water is like their engine oil, without it things just seize up!

Eat To Help Your Back

Great nutrition will improve numerous things like your digestion, your mood, your immune system and it could also cure the back pain.

When it comes to bone health, focus on getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Calcium, contrary to popular belief, is not just found in milk. Leafy greens, broccoli, butternut squash, nuts, all of these are great plant sources of the mineral. So there are no excuses, even if you are lactose intolerant or vegan.

For your cartilage (a.k.a. what makes up the spinal disks), pomegranates, tomatoes, and red bell peppers are great sources of antioxidants. They limit inflammation, which can harm your tissue. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids. They are also anti-inflammatory, not to mention how beneficial good fats are to vitamin absorption and your overall health.

Finally, for healthy muscles, focus on the protein. Lean meats, eggs, fish, protein powder even (but only if it's hemp, check out the article to see why). Getting enough protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle.

Diet changes alone can cure back pain but it will take a while. They are a long-term strategy for both prevention and treatment.

The Cause And The Cure!

If there is no underlying medical issue and no huge trauma to explain your pain the the truth of the matter is the cause is probably down to you. The way that you sit, the way that you move (or don't), the food and fluids that you consume, the stress that you place upon your body and the way that you choose to look after it, it's all your fault! But you probably don't want to hear that!

Your body is an incredibly resilient machine, it can take most things you throw at it - but not everything. Pain is a reminder than something is wrong and maybe you need that reminder...

Here's the good news. If you've caused your back pain then you also have the power to cure it. Move more, spend less time on your backside, eat better, cut out the smoking and drinking, sleep more and learn how to de-stress and I GUARANTEE your back will thank you for it.

Banish Your Back Pain

Finally, I am excited to announce my new project - 'Banish Your Back Pain', a comprehensive guide to curing back pain once and for all. It is about to launch in December so keep an eye on the website and my social media!

Cheers,

David

 


The Untold Truth of The Ketogenic Diet

In the last few weeks, a lot of people have asked me about the ketogenic diet. I mentioned it briefly in a previous article and I thought I would go into more detail here.

The ketogenic diet has been getting increasingly popular over the last few years. It's not a new concept per se but to the general public, keto seems novel. So much so, in fact, that it's quickly turning into a fad diet. And there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it so let's try to clear a few up!

What Does A Ketogenic Diet Look Like?

Diet usually implies cutting out some foods and/or swapping them with others. With the keto diet, however, it is just about the macronutrients.

These can be broken down into:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins

Usually, dieticians and nutritionists will have you eat 40-50% carbs, 30-40% protein, and 20% fat. Your calorie needs are something very individual but the carb: protein: fat ratio for these calories remains the same. If your calorie budget is 2000, you would get 800 - 1000 of them from carbs.

On the ketogenic diet, the amount of fats you consume goes up to 60 or even 70%. This is to the expense of the calories in carbs. So in practice, the ketogenic diet would have you cut out foods like pasta and bread and eat more nuts, avocados, and fatty fish. It is definitely not just about eating more fat.

How Does It Help You Lose Weight?

There is a quick science lesson before you can understand it.

The reason why such a large portion of your daily calories should normally come from carbs is because your body just loves glucose. Carbohydrates contain glucose in different forms. Some are easier to digest and the glucose is more readily available, others not so much. This is where we distinguish simple (e.g. Fruit juice) from complex carbs (e.g. Vegetables).

Glucose gives your cells energy. They could also use fats to produce energy but the process takes a lot longer and is more complicated. Hence why your body prefers glucose.

When you consume less carbs, your body has to search for them, first off it uses up the glucose in your bloodstream. Then you move on to the glycogen (which is just glucose stored in our muscle tissue). These are quickly depleted, though, typically in the first 20 minutes of exercise or after just a couple of hours without carbs.

Then your body moves on to a substance called oxaloacetate.

The State Of Ketosis (And Why It's Good For Slimming Down)

Oxaloacetate is found in your liver. When your glucose and glycogen stores get depleted, your body's plan A is to produce more glucose. Oxaloacetate can be turned into glucose and that is exactly what your liver cells begin to do.

At the same time, your adipose cells start sending over fats and the oxaloacetate turns the fats into ketone bodies. The ketone bodies move with your blood and carry energy just like glucose does.

Once this happens you're in the state of ketosis which basically encourages your body to use up fat stores instead of craving the carbs it is not getting. Therefore your body will burn more fat than you would on the same calories but with a different macronutrient ratio.

The Fine Print On Ketosis

Here is a little something people don't tell you about the ketogenic diet. Ketone bodies are not your primary energy source for a reason. They are acidic, meaning that they also turn your blood acidic. Changes to the pH inside your body can be detrimental to a lot of the processes that are essential to survival. On a biochemical level, that might mean blocking enzymes or getting unwanted side products from reactions.

Overall, the state of your body being more acid than normal is known as (surprise-surprise) acidosis. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing (your lungs trying to normalise the pH)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Strong headache

In diabetics, acidosis can be life-threatening. It happens to them because they can't use the glucose and their bodies produce ketones instead. When you are on the ketogenic diet, you are essentially forcing your system into the same state.

That is not to say that you would suffer all of these negative consequences. It is just a warning that the ketogenic diet can't be used on the long term, as beneficial as it may be for short term fat shredding. As I say with all of my articles, I'm just here to inform and not prescribe. Nothing is ever one size fits all, the Keto diet may work amazingly well for one reader and have negative effects for another. Just be aware of the potential dangers before you jump on the Keto bandwaggon.

More Safety Issues With The Ketogenic Diet

The acidosis is not the only possible negative effect of eating keto.

Glucose is essential to building new protein. When you are trying to gain muscle mass, building new protein is the name of the game. With less glucose in your system, though, there will be very little gains. That is why this isn't a long-term diet plan and you should switch between keto and a higher carb diet if you want to get slimmer AND stronger at the same time.

The kind of fats you choose also matters. In my experience, when clients first start the ketogenic diet, their performance drops. That is the acidosis plus the drop in glucose but it's also the fats they consume. Often it is saturated fat, which is unhealthy both in the short and long run. You should be careful to choose the right fats. Focus on high-quality, polyunsaturated, non-processed fats for best results. Try to get this from nuts, avocados and oily fish.

Practical Tips (And My Favourite Ketogenic Diet Recipe)

In practice, the ketogenic diet is best applied for a couple of weeks at a time. Plan ahead and use a calorie/nutrient tracking application to make sure you are lowering the carbs along with the increased fats. Meal prepping is a tedious but probably essential, especially for beginners. That way, you don't fall into the trap of consuming unhealthy fats.

An easy, keto-friendly recipe I swear by is my keto green smoothie. It is packed full of healthy fats and the greens add some extra antioxidant goodness. The basic ingredient list is:

  • A cup of baby spinach (organic)
  • Half a cup of full-fat coconut milk
  • 5-6 almonds
  • A couple of brazil nuts
  • One tablespoon chia seeds
  • Half a cup of water (or kombucha for some probiotics)

I like to add protein powder, too, especially in the morning. My favourite is hemp protein powder and I even did an article about it if you want to learn more. You could also throw on some berries for extra antioxidants.

As a bottom line, the ketogenic diet could be a great way for you to lose some weight. It is much more than a fad diet and, if done correctly, is safe and healthy. Be smart and maintain some common sense and you should be fine!

If you have any questions you would like me to answer, or any article ideas, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Cheers,

David