Ever since my senior year in high school, I’ve been pretty into health and fitness but especially so in the esoteric realm. Whenevr I tell people what new fitness piece I’m experimenting or give advice to someone, they always give me the same response. “Mmm I don’t know about that. Sounds suspect.” But most people don’t know about the uncommon “hacks” that have extremely sound and proven research behind it. I read a ton of books and articles and listen to dozens of podcasts interviewing health professionals with incredible backgrounds. Over that course, I’ve experimented and adopted a lot of weird, but effective bits of life improvement tips. I’m really bad at remembering the data or explaining the science behind it, but it’s in my brain somewhere and I know this stuff works. Here are my some effective princicples I’ve adopted and my thoughts on them:
Cold exposure (cold showers and ice baths)
I wrote about this in my Morning Routine post, but I’ve adopted a habit of taking ice cold showers in the past couple of years and I can’t tell you how much this has improved both my mood and muscle aches. It’s brutal when you first try it but like anything, it gets easier. And if you want something that will show a incremental increase in your mood, adding a cold shower to your mix will absolutely boost your daily mood by 20%. I actually have a few friends who started this and we love talking about how amazing it is. I’ve only done an ice bath once on my legs, but I would do it more if it wasn’t such a pain in the ass to buy ten bags of ice and load up a tub. The science is there. You wonder why football players and marathon runners do ice baths? Not only does it help expedite the recovery process, it sends endorphins rushing through you and puts you in a better mood instantly. Know that “WOOOO! scream when you jump into the cold ocean at the beach and you get all jacked up when you run out. It’s like that feeling but for all day.
Sauna 4x per week post workout
I love the sauna. It creeps some people out but personally I think it’s one of my favorite things to do. I usually go in after my workout for about 10 minutes. Or if I’m coming off a bad hangover I’ll just go to the gym to sit in the sauna and sweat it out. Sometimes a little light stretching. I try to do 15 or 20 minutes but I usually tap out from overheating or just boredom. Most saunas sit at around 170 degrees.
One thing that I always recommend to people when they say they’re feeling sick is to go into the sauna, sweat it out for 10-15 minutes, and then immediately jump in to a cold shower. Repeat the process 1-2 times and you feel like you’ve never been sick in your entire life. I’m telling you, I don’t know the science behind it, but this shit works.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This is one I always get asked about. I did it for a few months from the urging of a coworker and I kind of liked it. I felt like it helped my digestion and I didn’t get as many stomach aches from eating like shit. I always down a glass of water right when I wake up, so I just added a cap-full of Apple Cider Vinegar into my glass and it tasted alright once it was diluted.
The science behind the health benefits is skeptical and almost an Old Wive’s Tale at this point, but I always tell people the story of Fred. I worked at a summer camp with this dude Fred when I was 18. This guy was an 80 year old wrestling coach and I honestly have never met anyone in better shape. He would run 5 miles and lift weights EVERY morning. Guy was ripped, wirey, and full of energy. When I asked him his secret? Apple Cider.
I do have pretty bad acid reflux, so pouring vinegar down my throat every morning wasn’t the smartest move for my esophagus, but I may give it ago again sometime soon.
Fasting 1 day once a week, 3 days once a quarter
This one has been tough. I do try to do a full 24 hour fast once per week. Tuesday night I’ll have dinner and then I won’t eat until Wednesday night, for example. I allow myself only water, black coffee, and green tea. It’s actually not as hard as you’d think and it’s kind of therapeutic. It makes you realize how often you crave food and you can just tell your body “no.” And then it listens. Building up your mental willpower to just say no and not eat is really cool to experience. I can imagine it certainly helps you become more disciplined in other areas of life.
The longest I ever fasted was two and a half days. It honestly is not as hard and/or ridiculous as it sounds. The human body can survive something like 30 days without food. It’s fine, you’re not going to die. I don’t do to try and starve myself and lose weight. The first day is usually relatively easy. You’re going to have pangs, but they’ll only last an hour or two. Drink a ton of water and you won’t be hungry. But it has amazing health benefits and studies are showing it does some amazing things like killing pre-cancerous cells, eliminating diabetes, and healing all types of diseases such as Lyme’s Disease. There’s a YouTube video that shows fasting for just two days may aid chemo therapy in cancer patients.
The only thing I would recommend if you do try fasting is to walk A LOT. I will usually wake up in the morning and walk the 3 miles from my apartment to my office. Since I try not to work out or do anything strenuous, I make sure to walk at least 15,000 steps on each day of a fast. I haven’t tried lifting weights or going for a run during a fast, but I wouldn’t endorse it.
When I break my fast, I’ll usually have a typcial meal. I may eat a little more than I normally would, but I’m not ravished and raiding the kitchen cabinets.
Cossack squats (stretch your ankles and calves!)
This is something I do all the time. Right when I wake up in the morning, when I’m warming up at the gym, when I’m standing around waiting for my dinner to cook. It’s a great stretch and helps loosen up your hips, ankles, and calves. I once asked my brother if he had one wish what would it be. He said “loose hips”. He was joking obviously, but join the line. Everyone who sits 8 hours a day has tight hips and pelvic misalignment most likely. That’s why I spend so much time stretching, foam rolling, and doing yoga. The more mobile and flexible you are, the less suceptable to injury you are and the more you can do. I heard that your feet/ankles account for 25% of the muscle in your body (no idea if that’s true) but any tightness you have in your ankles or calves will eventually float up to your hamstrings, back, and neck. So best to keep those babies loose.
Squat to ground with ankles and knees together
I’ve been trying this for a while and have only gotten a wee bit better. The goal is to squat with your feet and knees together and try to touch your butt to the ground. Farthest I can go is about parallel until I fall backward. But you can clearly tell this guy is super flexible. To do that without lifting your heels of the ground is freaking tough.
This move makes me feel like a gymnast. Or it reminds me of that meme of jesus having really tight abs in the manger. You sit down on the ground with your legs straight together in front of you and your hands on the ground next to your hips. Slowly try to lift you legs up in the air. It sounds really easy but is incredibly hard. It makes you realize how freaking weak your core is. Gymnasts to this in their sleep.
And finally some random tips I have written down in my notes that are also helpful:
- Walk/sprint uphill as much as possible
- Walk downhill
- Differentiate your terrain
- Wear flat shoes (Vans)
- Stand more
- Walk more
- Sit on the floor instead of the couch
- Look away from your computer monitor and out the window every 20 minutes
- Try brushing your teeth lefty
- Take Vitamin D, Fish Oil, and Magnesium supplements
- Take Zinc supplements when sick
- When feeling sick, chug Kombucha and eat raw garlic cloves (really weird tip from Joe Rogan, haven’t tried this one)
- Ginger for digestion
- “You need to deserve your carbs. ” Charles Poliquin
If you’ve ever tried any of these and have positive or negative feedback, send a note in the comments.