I’m writing this to give you the 3 most important pieces of advice I tend to give to people starting Man Flow Yoga. You might even be surprised by what they are! The biggest issue isn’t exercise-related – it’s that people do not understand how important certain aspects of their life have on their overall health and wellness.
How I decided on these 3 tips
A couple of months ago, I started a program called “Start Smart” to allow Members to receive advice specific to their fitness challenges. The program starts with the Member answering a questionnaire with 20 questions, covering topics like exercise, diet, sleep habits, daily schedules, and stress management. Based on these responses, I then create a response for people with my recommendations on how they can most effectively address their challenges.
I know what you might be thinking. “Dean (that’s me) – you’re a yoga guy. Just give people the yoga workouts they need. Why would they need anything else?” You might wonder why I included so many questions in the questionnaire. For instance, why would I need to know about your stress management? And we all know that we should be getting more sleep, but it’s not that important, right?
It comes down to this – all aspects of your fitness are interrelated. Just like your body being interrelated – with seemingly unrelated body parts having huge effects on the performance of another body part – your mental approach to fitness is just as important as the workouts you do. Want some more examples?
- You can’t out-train a bad diet or poor sleep.
- You can’t sleep well if you’re not winding down in the evening and managing your stress.
- You won’t have the motivation to work out if you don’t get clear on your reasons for exercising.
- You can’t reach your stated goals if you’re only doing these types of exercises.
- And so on…
The easiest thing a trainer can do is to give somebody a workout program to follow. But if this was all it took to be successful with fitness, then why are so many people unhappy with their current fitness levels? To be effective with your comes down to so much more than just following a program.
Personally, I believe that there are 4 keys to living a healthy lifestyle and being successful with your fitness:
- Stress Management
The more you pay attention to each of these, the more successful you are with your fitness goals. Ignore one or more, and the other will suffer.
Considering this, and going through the responses of those individuals who chose to do my Start Smart Program, these are the 3 most important pieces of advice I have for you:
1. Set aside at least 8 hours for sleep every night.
I spoke with so many people who are getting just 6 hours (or even fewer) of sleep every night. This just isn’t enough! The difference between 6 and 7.5 hours is incredible. That extra sleep cycle (one sleep cycle = 90 minutes) is when your brain synthesizes the physical and mental work you put yourself through the day before. Without it, you don’t learn new things nearly as well – this goes for both physical and mental processes, like your body adapting to a new exercise, or your brain coming up with a solution to a problem.
Not only that, but sleep is also important for weight management. If you aren’t sleeping, then you’re body will want you to make up for that deficit by eating more carbs and sugars. That basically means that if you’re not sleeping, you are harming all of the efforts you are making through exercise and diet, negating the work you’ve done!
A short list of other things that don’t function well with minimal sleep: testosterone (and other hormone) levels, irritability, stress levels, muscle growth, creativity, and much more.
Your body and your brain need at least 7.5 hours of sleep to recover. You need the extra 30 minutes to actually fall asleep. So give yourself 8 hours – otherwise, everything else is going to suffer.
2. Work out at the same time everyday.
Pick a time, and stick with it. The key to working out regularly is making it a habit, and the easiest way to do that is to do it at the same time, in the same setting, every day.
Set up a space inside your home (or at the gym, or wherever it may be) where you will exercise, and then commit to working out everyday (you can have one day off) a a specific time. If you don’t have the motivation yet, put it on the calendar and force yourself to do it. Starting is the hardest part, but once you’re doing it, it’s just a matter of following along (whether it’s a video or a list of exercises) until you’re finished.
The cool thing about sticking to a daily routine is that it eventually becomes a habit; and a habit is automatic process you don’t think about – you just do it! It might be tough at first, but just put it on the calendar and stick with. Eventually you’ll just do it automatically. 🙂
3. Get to the real reason you are working out.
Get to the real reason you are working out. Find your why for wanting to be healthy, and get extremely clear on it. I call this process “developing your why”. It involves you being completely honest along with a willingness to be vulnerable, so that you can peel back the layers and get to the powerful, emotional motivating factor that makes you want to be healthier. I’ve created a blog on this subject as part of my Be The Better You Program from early 2018. Check it out here on my blog: manflowyoga.com/week-1-find-your-why
These, I think, are the 3 biggest, most important pieces of advice I can offer you in order for you to be successful with a Man Flow Yoga program – or any fitness program, for that matter. I’m only giving you 3 because I want to keep things simple. It’s important that you don’t try to do everything at once. A healthy lifestyle is the aggregation of individual healthy habits, practiced regularly over a long period of time.
But since you’re here… here are 3 more bonus tips, almost as important (and maybe even more important, depending on what you’re currently doing or not doing) as the first 3:
1. Establish an evening routine conducive to excellent sleep.
Almost everyone I’ve spoken with engages in activities that I would put on my “worst things to do before sleep” list. These include watching TV, spending time on social media, working, or reading the news. NONE of these things help you sleep. In fact, most of them make you more stressed. Activities you should instead focus on include the following:
- gratitude practice
- talking with your spouse/friends/loved ones
- recovery work – stretching, restorative yoga, foam rolling, or self-myofascial release
2. Practice positive expression in the absence of external stimuli.
I noticed that plenty of people were exercising, but there’s another aspect of stress management, one that’s more mental, that I think a lot of people are missing. This one requires a bit of a lesson. I hope you’re ready to learn. 🙂
Psychic entropy refers to chaos of the mind. It’s what your mind does when you let it do whatever i wants to. In this state, our mind defaults to (1) thinking about past failures, (2) worrying about the future, (3) comparing yourself to other people, and so on. Basically, you end up thinking about those things that are most destructive.
Only by bringing order to the psychic entropy of your mind by activities that create positive emotions can you effectively gain control over your consciousness. These activities can include things like meditation, gratitude practice, journaling, thinking about things that inspire you, etc. The important thing is to put yourself in a situation where you have nothing to distract you, no external stimuli, and to practice having positive thoughts.
Without developing this strength, your mind will constantly turn to negativity, which puts a damper on every aspect of your life. That is why I believe this practice is so important – and one that is often overlooked.
3. Try to move at least once every hour.
Nearly all of the people I spoke with who were office workers had issues with back, neck, or their posture. They may or may not be doing the right workouts, but when you’re sitting for all day, the 30-60 minutes (or even 90 minutes) you spend exercising isn’t going to undo 8 hours worth of poor posture – unless, you’re addressing your posture more frequently, throughout the day. You don’t have to do a 10-minute mobility routine every hour – the idea is simply to move a little bit. Do a stretch or an exercise that is COUNTER to what you do while you are at your desk. These types of counter movements primarily involve (1) backbends, (2) twists, and (3) hip openers. You can also go for a quick walk. Take your phone calls in an empty conference room, walking in mindful circles. Be like Steve Jobs and conduct walking meetings, instead of sitting at a desk. Your body isn’t meant to be still for that long – and your mental activity improves when you move, too!
Those are my best tips to help you get on your way to establishing a successful experience with Man Flow Yoga – and your fitness in general.
Remember that you won’t be able to implement all of this at once, so plan on doing it over time. A new habit once every month (or even every other month) is fine. Keep in mind that this is something you’ll be doing for the rest of your life, so you’ve got time to put it all together!
See you on the videos,
PS – Want to do a “Start Smart” for yourself? This is reserved for Members of the MFY Community, but once you become a Member you can click here to sign up and get started!