I’m sitting down with a cup of tea, purposefully to write something that may change your pace, or potentially you direction, even for a moment. In a world flooded with statements, viral videos and the like, how do I grab your attention for 5-7minutes, to read something that I feel may improve your life, because it certainly improved mine.
You see, in 2008, I had an epiphany. I realized that there are a few very important things to get right, in order to get the most out of my body.
Yes, there were great results in the 5 years that followed, but more importantly, I also learned that moderation is the key to longevity. Moderation is a variable thing, that changes per person, sure, but I am talking about getting the mix right.
It’s worth noting that in this period I also pushed myself so far that I close on fell apart, and that these key principles were the things I lost in that period, which led to that downfall.
So here, in no particular order, are my 4 pillars for longevity.
I talk about nutrition here a lot, and that is because the world is obsessed with food. It’s also because, barring one spell where I got too skinny, I have been consistent within 2kg of weight, for the last 8 years. I am talking about periods of high training (up to 30 hours a week for big camp weeks) and periods of zero training, where I have had to take a month off.
Here are my secrets.
1. I don’t beat myself up for eating ‘bad’ stuff. I am not allergic to anything, and in moderation, I consume whatever with no consequence. I went from don’t care to caring about everything, to the point of exhausting friends talking about it. Then somewhere in the middle I found the zone that keeps me healthy (I don’t have a GP, because I haven’t needed one in 8 years) and keeps my mind at rest.
2. Eat with a conscience. I like to know that my meat was able to run outside, eat naturally and not be force-fed antibiotics while it lay around in its own shit for months. I like to know my chicken had a beak. And feet. It tastes better. I feel better. I try and eat as much in-season fruit and veg as possible, so that my fridge doesn’t contain the carbon footprint of a travel blogger.
3. I fuel for performance. On easy rides and runs, I take water, if anything at all. For my high-intensity workouts, I fuel with properly. I recover on real food, not vitamin lists and chemical concoctions. Why? Because I don’t think we know the long-term effects of those things. Anything that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat and get the shakes to lose weight cannot be good for you long term. So I take a simple solution that makes me happy and gives me a reliable boost. In the end, your mind is still the best high performance tool you have.
4. Become friends with your appetite. I am very aware of my appetite and how its ebbs and flows when I am training or not training. I eat till I am full and I become aware that I will be full before I am actually full. I don’t eat till I’m nauseous. I used to, but then again, I used to consume shots till I couldn’t contain them, rid them, and then keep going. So let’s say that in general, I am more aware of what’s good for me.
What I’ve learned about rest is huge, and it’s a curve that is still upwardly trending. Rest is everything.
How much rest is ideal to gain form, not lose it?
How much sleep do I need to be productive, during the daytime?
How easy is easy?
My goal is a minimum 8 hours solid sleep per night. That means at least 8h30 including restless sleep. I prioritise my life around bedtime because people who don’t sleep enough are cranky, make bad decisions and look old before their time.
My easy rides are so easy I can’t find people to ride with because it’s too slow for them.
Rest is a cornerstone. Why are you compromising?
I work for myself, in the first year of a new business.
I am an overachiever, and a defensive one at that. So stress comes naturally to me. I have to watch myself to make sure I don’t add stress because that sh*t’s addictive and we all like to pile in a little more stress so that we are ‘busy’.
I try and not be too hard on myself when I take the odd morning off to go ride bikes with mates, because I spend just about 24/7 thinking about my business and how to make is sustainable for my life going forwards.
Making time to relax is important for me because my corporate world clients are obsessed with business and stress, and it takes focus and determination not to get sucked into that. Meetings about meetings and the senseless drive to being busy is my number one dislike.
South Africans in general are supremely stressed out people. We have safety stress, Eskom stress, job stress, sport stress, and family stress. We are obsessed with this word and we bring it into our lives on a daily basis. On top of that throw in our need to be perfect and its a recipe for disaster, honestly.
It makes us old, tired and shortens our lives. It’s super important to watch this pillar holding up your life.
While it sounds clichéd, I really want to get you to realize how important it is to do things with love in this life. I see athletes on a daily basis who are going about their sport in an unsustainable way, because they don’t actually love riding their bikes, or running their sessions.
I see people in jobs that hate what they do, where they do it and for the money they do it and sooner than later, they all crack.
There are couples around me who are together for the sake of not being alone, who don’t actually love each other enough to be apart, so instead their own pity keeps them together.
I wake up in the morning and make a cup of coffee I love (I have nurtured my love for coffee by learning about it, how to make it, etc.) for the human I love the most; in a bed we love sleeping in. I love my work; my exercise routines and adventures, the food I eat and I love going to sleep because I love sleeping.
I love my friends, my family and yes, my bicycles.
Those are my four. When I monitor them and they are in the green/happy zone, I am happy.
In an open letter to myself, I would literally list them as:
Thank you for listening.