Every day I read an article that tells me I am eating the wrong things, and how often I should be exercising to maintain the ‘ultimate’ healthy lifestyle. I am not the only person looking at these new fad diets and worrying that in fact there is too much ‘bad stuff’ in mine, and the exercise I do will eventually lead me to my inevitable death. But, I think these articles have valuable points to make. Some of the foods I eat definitely aren’t steering me towards a chiselled torso or the internal cleanliness of a tree frog. Also, I’m convinced some of the exercise I do could kill me. But I don’t need to radically alter my lifestyle just because I have a challenge ahead of me.
Firstly, let go.
The diet - When we say this we really don’t mean ‘let’s go on a lentils and air’ kind of diet. It’s not like that. It’s certainly not like that when you could find yourself in remote locations running low on energy – the last thing you want is lentils. From someone who regularly works in the mountains and undertakes challenge events I can tell you that when I’m paddling across lakes and scaling fells I eat what I want, when I want. However, whilst preparing for your challenge event we encourage you to eat a balanced diet where you are consuming the right amount of food to fuel your body for the things you do during the day.
Listen to your body - I find that bread and pasta make me feel bloated, which isn’t a natural or pleasant experience for me, so I cut it out. I’ve found that eating lean meat and lots of veg fills me, but I can still be active afterwards, so I ate more of that. I found that too much beer made everything blurry, so now I don’t do that… as often. We have all been given an amazing body that can do lots of things, but we need to treat it properly and it will let us know about it if we don’t. Keeping a food diary is a really good way to find out what works for you, but otherwise if it makes you feel rubbish then don’t eat as much of it.
Plan ahead - Admittedly healthy fast food is becoming increasingly available, so maybe you don’t have to plan as much, but whenever you are able to plan for the next 24 hours it can really help you when trying to eat the right stuff. Cooking extra the night before so it can be used throughout the next day can be a useful way of avoiding that quick bag of crisps, or cheeky chocolate bar. Planning ahead really helps keep the cost down too. Eating healthily on the go can cost up to 3 times as much as eating junk, so having a little box of chicken and veg that you can pick at throughout the day saves the pennies.
Binging is bad, Grazing is good - One of my golden rules is NEVER go hungry. Eating smaller portions regularly throughout the day seems to work much better for me. It keeps my blood sugar levels constant and doesn’t shock my body with any major spikes, nor does it drop so low that I start being moody (yes it used to be a regular problem). Eating this way also allows your metabolism to keep running – instead of starting up and shutting down all the time.
Overall - I’m sure I could come up with 100 golden rules of living a balanced lifestyle, but just remember, it’s not about being a super lean athlete; it’s about having the strength and long lasting energy that will keep you going through the day. Also, try and make it fit in with your lifestyle. If you go out with friends and have a few drinks regularly then keep doing that, but balance the rest of your diet to make up for it. No one has the perfect solution.
When - There is no excuse here. When talking about exercising I don’t take prisoners, everyone has the time to exercise. There are 168 hours in a week - you should spend 56 hours sleeping, let’s say you work 60 hour weeks, spend Sundays with the family, this still gives you over 40 hours during a week in which you could be doing exercise. For an actual intensive workout I spend an hour a day doing equipment free, house based, body weight exercises - leaving me with 33 hours extra usable time. When you work it out like this you can easily figure out ‘where the time goes’, so plan it into your day that you are going to spend an hour doing some form of exercise.
What - As part of our challenge event packages we will send you a set of simple exercises that will help to improve your overall fitness and prepare you for the event. These exercises can be performed in front of the television or whilst watching the kids, in fact kids love joining in with this kind of stuff. To start with it will be difficult and you will feel like it isn’t making much difference, but stick at it. Make the effort to do the exercises and eventually you could find yourself looking forward to your exercise time, because as well as all the physical benefits you will find it can relax you and take your mind off other things.
Of course all this is gauged toward doing one of our challenge events, many of which can be multi-disciplined, so overall general fitness is more important than a just having super strong shoulders or freakishly defined calf muscles. Core stability is a fantastic inner body strength that you need for everything, from getting out of bed to running marathons. Try training this core strength and it will really help with everyday day tasks, and of course, that all important event day. Yoga and Pilates classes are highly recommended for improving core stability and strength.
I imagine that at some point in life most of us have tried at least one diet or exercise routine that was supposed to help us reach a certain goal – even if it was just to improve confidence. I have a friend who started an intensive circuit training class and his main aim was ‘to look good naked’. In the end he got there… or so I hear. He had to stick at it and make it fit in with his daily lifestyle, but he didn’t have to turn his whole life upside down just to get to the gym once a day. You can do that too.
However much exercise and dieting you decide to do, just remember that every little does help.
Danny Armstrong, Outdoor InstructorTweet