MY JOURNEY TO FITNESS AND LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY
Let me share to you how my journey to a healthy and fit lifestyle started. Like most people, what drove me to seek this out was primarily vanity. While that may sound like it’s a bad thing, it’s not. As humans, we’ve always had that desire to push ourselves to our limits. It’s our purpose. It’s the reason why we seek a better life. We gauge how far we’ve come by the things we’ve accomplished and by the wealth we’ve acquired. These things reflect on our self image. When we have a good self image, we feel content, proud and happy. And so, it’s that desire to look good that’s motivated me to try exercising at a local gym. When you go this path, it’s when you’re introduced to a whirlwind of information about health and fitness.
I’ve had several hiccups along the way. At first, I took all my knowledge from the media, which I later found out to be laden with misinformation. From “health” magazines to advertisements, I consumed it all. Low-fat diets, eating whole grains and running long distances became my idea of a fit and healthy lifestyle. Needless to say, it didn’t work out so well for me. After 5 years, what I’ve got to show in terms of work capacity and body composition did not merit the time and effort I’ve put into it.
All that’s changed when I discovered Crossfit and along with it, the Paleolithic diet. It introduced me to things which are a complete opposite of what I believed then. Like most people, I was skeptical of it. Despite my misgivings, I gave it a try. My attitude to things that are new but interests me is always “give it try for a few months and see if it works”. If it doesn’t, I can always go back to what I’ve been doing.
The progress that I had in a few months was remarkable. I was able to double the weights on my lifts while improving my 5k run from 27 min to 21 min. I never thought that was possible. My abs started showing too which was what I was aiming for 8 years ago but seems so insignificant now. All I want to do now is to see how far I can push myself. Now, a lot of people come up to me to ask me how I did it.
Here are a few lifestyle changes that I’ve learned and adopted since I discovered Crossfit that’s helped me be fit and healthy.
1) Change your diet.
This is probably the most important change that you need to do. If you’re like me who use to think that low fat diet is the way to go, think again. Ever since nutritionists have advised us to lower our fat consumption and we followed suit, the incidence of obesity and diabetes rose. Why is that? It’s because fat has nothing to do with it.
The Paleo diet set my perspective straight on proper nutrition. This is based on the diet during the Paleolithic era when people were primarily hunter gatherers. It was then that after millions of years of evolution, our ancestors reached their peak in health and fitness. Most of their diet would come from animal food and a few plant sources. It was only when agriculture 10,000 years ago was invented that we moved away from the hunter gatherer lifestyle and our health started deteriorating. It’s because we haven’t evolved yet to adapt to our current food sources that are mostly coming from agriculture. In short, the Paleo diet gets you eating to the way you evolved to eat making you healthier and fitter like people used to be in the Paleolithic era.
So what is Paleo? A quick summary of it is – meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. It’s as simple as that.
Following the Paleo diet increases your protein and fat consumption making you energy-stable throughout the day as both don’t stimulate insulin production avoiding spikes in your blood sugar. This is important in restoring a healthy metabolic condition. It also sources most of your carbohydrate intake from vegetables and fruit which contains far more fiber and nutrients than grains.
2) Increase the intensity of your workouts.
Want to make your body continue to burn fat long after you’ve worked out? Increasing the intensity in your workout increases the incidence of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), commonly called “afterburn”. This is a measurable increased rate of oxygen intake after a strenuous activity to eliminate the body’s oxygen deficit. When you do a 50m sprint instead of a run, your body switches to a different metabolic pathway from aerobic to anaerobic whereby you don’t utilize oxygen to burn fuel. This creates an oxygen-deficit. In response, we increase our oxygen intake to restore our body to a resting state. This is accompanied by increased fuel consumption whereby our body breaks down our fat stores to be released to the blood stream. EPOC is shown to occur up to 38 hours after a workout depending on intensity and duration.
How do you increase intensity? One example is sprinting rather than running. Lifting heavier weights and going through a workout as fast as you can are other ways as well. Crossfit workouts are performed at high intensity. Not only that but exercises performed are functional which has a better carry over to daily activities such as sports
To be continued...
By Shaun Ochia