The bigger, global muscles are what make your body look toned, the bigger muscles are the ones that get you out of pain. These are not the muscles you work in Pilates.
Hey guys, Sal here and welcome to our podcast. It’s a little bit late this week because today I want to talk about back pain, and last week I hurt my back. So I was interested to see when I wrote the plan for this podcast, whether or not I would change my views or what I said to you based on the fact that I’m actually going through some mild discomfort as it is.
So I think if you’re going to get one thing from this podcast, the important thing to note is that everybody listening to this podcast at some point is going to have some form of back pain. Because we are bipeds and we are subject to what’s called axial loading, which is where the weight of gravity travels from the top of our head through our spine down to the base of our feet, so we continually have downward compression on our spine. And obviously over time that structure, our spine, will deteriorate. And when we hurt our back, how quickly we recover and the severity of the injury all comes down to how strong your back is before you hurt yourself.
Now, one of the biggest fears that people have is about slipped discs or prolapsed discs. Now, if you’re a guy over 40, more likely than not, you are going to have some form of disc degeneration or arthritis in your spine. If you MRI it, it is not going to look perfect. Now if you see the scan and you’re feeling pain, most likely you’re going to freak out and you’re going to go to a surgeon and you’re going to say, “Okay, what do I need to do about my back?”
They are going to want to do two things. One is to inject, and two have an operation because that’s what surgeons get paid for. But the reality is a prolapsed disc is a red herring. There are people that have back pain because of a prolapsed disc, as in a slipped disc as you may call it, where that spongy tissue touched the nerve and gives you sciatica, and there are people who have prolapsed discs and have no symptoms. It is a bit of a red herring. In my time as a coach, I’ve had many people who have had back pain surgery, so quite serious invasive surgery and all of them still have back problems. They did not resolve what the root cause is. Ultimately all they did was they bought their surgeon’s wife a new pair of diamond earrings.
Back pain is normally a symptom something else is going wrong structurally. And once you have an operation, there’s no turning back. You may have the best surgeon in the world, but he may slip with his scalpel and you’re fucked. There’s no going back. You need to rehab the shit out of your back, especially if you’re a young man before you decide to have injections before you decide to have surgery.
Now, in my experience, there are two types of people. The first type has already turned off this podcast. They’re the sort of people who just give up. They have a back episode, it’s traumatic for them, and they just say, “Okay, this is how my life is.” They stopped playing sports. They stopped interacting with their kids in a certain way. They just accept it. Generally, these people are generally older and they say, “Okay, that’s just part of life.” But they downgrade their life because of this episode. They’re those really annoying people in a movie when the shit goes down and the machines are going off and there are explosions, they are that dweeb that’s hiding under the table, crying, waiting for it all to be over rather than taking control of their lives, grabbing that gun or just making a bolt for the door.
The second type of person is someone who is a fighter, someone who does not accept that their life is now going to be shitty because they suffered some form of freak accident. Those are the type of people you see on the news who are told by the surgeon or the doctor they’ll never be able to walk again, and not only do they prove them wrong, they do something wild like successfully complete the London Marathon. If you experience trauma like back pain and it pushes against you, you need to push back harder. Because I assure you, if you put the work in, you will get your life back to where it was before, if not better.
Now, the way that you recover from back pain and be stronger and more resilient than you were before is taking advantage of the stress, recovery, adaptation process. And what that means is first off you’re going to have to stress the injury, and this is where people get really afraid. They avoid bending, twisting, moving, lifting anything heavy or even anything off the floor. Those are the sorts of things that you need to do to get blood to the area, stress it and get a reaction. And that reaction is going to be painful, and this is where people just freak out because that injury may feel worse for a couple of days. It might feel tender or it’s going to feel sore. And when people feel that, they think, “Okay, well what I did was obviously wrong,” or “I don’t want to go through that episode again.” And they stop at that point. That stress will lead to recovery. Rest is not a recovery strategy. It’s ultimately a way that you can feel sorry for yourself and be lazy.
So I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What do I suggest.” The thing is the more you move, the better you’re going to feel. Just putting your feet up on the sofa and being in the fetal for a few hours or even a few days is not going to help you. The body does not understand what you’re trying to do. The inflammation, the spasm is just not going to go away. But when you have a back problem and you don’t move, those muscles start to cramp and they start to tighten and you get tighter and tighter because you just move less and less. You make the problem even worse because your muscles then become like a wound tight coil and when you do move, that coil can go spring and then you’re in a horrendous amount of pain.
When your back has a spasm, it creates knotting and scar tissue. And you can think of this knot as if you had a shoelace and you put an actual physical knot in it, that shoelace is a muscle and now that muscle is shorter because you put the knot in it. If you just decide to stretch that shoelace, that knot just gets tighter and tighter and you may cause the body to react with greater severity.
What you need to happen is someone to release that through manual therapy, get rid of that knot and then stretch, and that’s really only if it’s muscular. If it’s like a nerve, so if you’ve trapped the nerve somewhere and you start just stretching your hamstrings or back randomly, then you’re in for some shit. Muscles can stretch, but nerves do not stretch. And if you pull a nerve, it’ll yank itself back to where it was before, and that will be increasingly painful for you. Stretching is the equivalent of if your computer crashes, just hitting random keys on the keyboard, hoping that it’s somehow going to fix itself. No, what you need is a technician to open it up, have a look, fix it and give you a plan so that doesn’t happen again.
The second thing you need to do is train around the injury. If you can’t directly train your back, you need to train the rest of your body. And that might just be something as simple as upper body, your arms, your chest. Because whenever you do some form of strength training, you are creating an environment of growth, and the chemicals that get released by the body not only will cause growth and repair, let’s say in your chest if you’re doing bench press, but also some of those chemicals will go to the injured area. And some of the stress hormones like cortisol that has been released by the body will also get utilized and taken out of the bloodstream. So it’s a win-win for you. You may not feel like it, but get off your ass and get lifting some weights.
Now, once you’re past the acute phase, you’re going to have to start to lift some relatively heavyweights. I’m not saying you’re going to jump from never having lifted a weight in your life to 100 kilos, but you’re going to have to add progressive overload where each time you go to the gym you are loading your back a little bit more, a little bit more with an exercise like a deadlift. Now if you do something with a barbell, you can micro load, so you can go from, let’s say if you’re doing 20 kilos, you can load the bar to 22 kilos or even less. You can go from 20 kilos to 20.5, you can get a special plate to do that. So you’re not in any danger of actually overshooting and hurting yourself.
Now, so many people are afraid of doing lifting to help their back. They want to do something like a bodyweight exercise. Yes, okay, possibly right at the beginning of bodyweight exercise may help. But if you think about what I said before, the stress, recovery, adaptation, there’s not enough stress from lifting your legs off the floor doing pilates to give you substantial stress and then recovery. And as I said, each time you train, you need to increase the stress. Your legs don’t suddenly get heavier every single week. Reaction and then recovery. You need to be, as I said, pushing the envelope day after day, week after week, and it’s up to you how much you increase it by each time you attend.
Now, there is a thought that if you lift at all, really you’re going to hurt your back. But if you think about it, most of the people that you know that have hurt their backs, they have not hurt their backs by doing something like a squat or a deadlift. Nine times out of 10, they have done something like put on a coat, tie their shoe, fall over, be in an accident. Because if you don’t train your back, it is weak. You don’t have some sort of magical man or magical woman’s strength that you have a strong back. If you don’t do anything with it, it’s shitty. It’s weak and weak things break.
Just the same way that you might have learned French when you’re at school to GCSE, you are not good at French. Everyone might say, “Oh yeah, I learned French.” You aren’t good at French, you know no French. If I put you in France, you cannot have a conversation with anybody. You might be able to ask for some bread maybe. And the same with your back. If you haven’t been training your back consistently to get stronger, it is paper week. And this is going to cause you an issue because as we get older, things get weaker and weaker. Your back is your foundation and if you think about the foundation of a building, what you’re doing by lifting weight is putting more concrete into that foundation. And what you’re saying to me if you don’t want to lift is, “Oh, I don’t want to put any more concrete in the foundation of my building because something might go wrong.”
Well, I’m telling you this, if you don’t have a stronger back, something will go wrong. If you hurt your back doing something like a deadlift, and I’ve worked with many people who have come to me and said, “Oh, I don’t want to do deadlift because it’s going to hurt my back.” It’s because you did something stupid. The deadlift didn’t do anything. The deadlift is simply lifting a bar off the floor. If you lift the bar off like a moron because you haven’t taken the time to learn the technique or employed a coach, that’s your fault. That’s not the fault of the lift. The same way if you drive a car and you crash that car, you can’t just say, “Oh well the car made me crash.” No, you don’t know how to drive the car. You were speeding or you were texting.
Back exercises that you do at the gym with a barbell are safe. It’s the human element that makes a problem. A weight just sits there on the floor. It does nothing until we come along and move it, and if we move it with a poor movement pattern, we will hurt ourselves, fact. It doesn’t matter how heavy that bar is. There are people that can squat, let’s say 250 kilos because that weight is relatively heavy for them. They have done the work to get to that weight and they have a straight back and they have optimal mobility to do that. However, there are people that squat 40 kilos and fuck their back because they have a weak back and they just jumped in at that weight. They thought about, “When I was at school, I did X weight, I should be able to do that.”
To summarize, when it comes to rehab, the treatment and the stretching is to soothe the discomfort and the pain, but the strength training, the building of your back is there to stop you from hurting yourself again. If you only have the therapy, you may not have any symptoms but you still have that weakness. And I’m telling you now this, if you have had a back episode in the past and you haven’t done anything to resolve this, you might have seen a bit of the physio, you might have had some painkillers and now be asymptomatic. You are in for a rude awakening because you are going to have another back episode, and it may well be even worse than the first one you had, and if you’re over 50 you may never recover from that back injury. You may have a stick. You may, for the rest of your days, be on painkillers.
“Core Training” is one of those buzz phrases that gets thrown around all over the place these days, so I thought it was important to explain exactly what that mysterious core is. Here are a few things you might have been told about core training before, why they may not be entirely accurate and how you might approach your core training differently! Just click the video to watch.
The trouble with core training is it’s very easy to get wrong and so many of the movements that get banded around as great core exercises can actually hurt your back… especially if you’ve had back trouble in the past! So tune in for less than 2 minutes to discover what core training to avoid and why :)
So when it comes to dieting, they’re all pretty much all the same. They all work on what’s called a calorie deficit, where you consume fewer calories than you burn. Now, probably the number one reason why diets don’t work, even though they’re all based on a calorie deficit, is they’re too extreme. Either the diet itself is too extreme because it makes you restrict the calories too much or we make it too extreme. So for example, let’s say you’re going to cut out carbs, then you’re going to cut out alcohol, then you’re going to start doing exercise, and that’s a huge change to your body. Our bodies like homeostasis, which is where everything is in balance. If we do something that’s very extreme, our body thinks something is wrong, and you’ve got to remember that there are primitive parts of our brains that haven’t evolved for hundreds of thousands of years. And for hundreds of thousands of years, what we would die from would be famine, starvation.
So if we ever cut our calories too much, and that’s going to be more than 10%, our brain starts to think, “Okay, shit, what is going on here? Maybe there’s a drought, maybe there’s no food around,” and it starts to work against your fat loss efforts. Because you need to remember, the guy who is the fattest when the famine happens is going to stay alive longest. Well, I guess as long as the more muscly guys don’t eat them. So when you lose weight, and everyone does lose weight, pretty much, when they’re on a diet, especially at the beginning, you lose a lot of weight, you need to be thinking that that’s going to be muscle and fat, and depending on how severe the weight loss is, or the weight cut is, you’re going to be burning through more muscle than you are fat. In fact, there are studies that say that 75% of the weight that you can lose can be lean body mass over fat.
The reason for this is that muscle is highly metabolically active. A kilo of muscle burns a hundred calories from doing absolutely nothing. If you’re a muscly guy and there’s a famine, you are going to die way quicker than the other fat guy who hasn’t got that much muscle. So obviously the body starts to jettison muscle far, far quicker than it does the fat. Now, what does this mean for you? This means that your metabolism starts to tank, and so it becomes increasingly difficult for you to lose weight on the diet that you’re on unless you cut calories even further. But then as I said, it’s going to be even more muscle you’re losing than fat. On top of this, as I said, because our brain has a primitive side to us thinking we’re in starvation or in a famine, it releases or it starts playing with ghrelin and leptin, which are two hormones which make things like food seem more appealing to you, especially fatty, high-calorie food because in a famine that’s the sort of food you want.
In fact, what you’ll find is when you’re walking around, you’ll be able to see food, billboards and stuff, and people eating food, it’ll be far more keen. You’ll almost zoom into that, and also the smell of food, the smell of food will feel far more appealing to you because this is basically a survival mechanism because if you are in a field and you were the guy that could spot the rabbit, you might be able to live through that dark period. So the body starts to work against you, and ultimately after some time, you’re going to crack, you’re going to give up. And at this time it’s called the feast period, or you binge, where you eat like a whole pack of biscuits or you say, “Oh fuck it. I’m going to have a Domino’s pizza, Ben and Jerry’s and the chicken wings.”
And what we found is that when people binge after a diet they put all their weight back on plus 10%, so they’re heavier than when they started in the first place because the body has created that buffer and we’re not used to eating that food with such a low metabolism. So we’re in a worse position than when we first started. Now obviously we don’t like being way heavier than we were before, but this creates what’s called a yo-yo. You become a yo-yo dieter. You lose that weight, you put it back on, you lose that weight, you put it back on. But unfortunately, when you put it back on, you’re always a tiny bit heavier than you were before. And that’s the vicious cycle of diets.
Here is a picture of one of our clients, Suzanne, who lost six stone four times, I think it was in her life. She went on something called Aliva, which is sort of like a shake diet where I think it’s about 600 calories a day, which is way too little, but it is effective. If you have a calorie deficit, you do lose weight. But the real important thing to note is that if you’re looking for life long results if you’re looking to be at a good healthy weight, not have excess fat, not have all the problems coming with being overweight, it’s about losing the weight and keeping it off. With our Stronger By Design system, the reason it’s so powerful is that we don’t try and hack away at you. I always use the analogy, if you think about a Spanish leg of ham, you don’t hack away at it, you cut thin slices off it, and that’s the way you need to be thinking about losing weight.
It’s a gradual process that isn’t as much a shock to the body. It takes longer, but it stays off. If you think about all the money you invested losing that weight, it went back on, then you invest money, losing it again all the time, whatever. It’s just such a waste. In a time when we’re all so busy, we need to make sure we do it once and we do it well. When it comes to our Stronger By Design system, we are looking at protein, fats, carbs, and mindset. The protein, basically you’re thinking about increasing the protein. Especially with women, you don’t eat enough protein. When I go to the supermarket and there’s a lady in front of me with food, most of the protein that you actually see is in the cat food that they’re buying. For them themselves, it’s broccoli or even corn or… I’m not even going to go into vegan protein substitutes. But ultimately, eat more.
Men, generally you eat enough protein. Not only do we need the protein to keep muscle as we start to lose weight, but you will also always lose some muscle as you lose weight. But you want to try and keep as much as you can so your metabolism is high when you get to your ideal weight. But also it’s very filling, so increase protein. Then we look at carbohydrates, this is something that shouldn’t be removed totally from your diet. Yes, you need to reduce your refined carbohydrates, but if you’re on an intelligent program or you’re following a good system, then you can have some refined carbs. If you have a Cadbury’s Creme Egg at Easter, you better make sure that you get a PB at the gym.
Now when it comes to other carbs, you need them for fueling the workout. That’s one of the key components to see how well you’re doing in terms of your health journey is how you’re performing at the gym. And we’ll go into that at a later time, but you are fueling your body to perform in the gym and the weight loss will just come off, so you can have pasta, you just need to manage the amount that you have. Carbs don’t turn into fat for people who are active. If you’re inactive and you’re sitting on the sofa and stuff, yes, carbs are a problem, but if you’re on a good training program, it’s not going to be a problem for you.
Then when it comes to fat, okay, you all eat too much fat. If you are eating out, you are eating too much fat. So many people that I work with eat lunch out, but you don’t know what’s in the food that you’re eating. Even the stuff on the back of the package is an estimate and that estimate can be 20, 25% out, which can be disastrous for your weight loss goals. Think about it … I used to work with a chef and he’d make a roast chicken where he put like butter under the skin. Most people don’t do that at home. But when you eat out, just to make things taste nicer, you’re going to find far more fat, far more sugar, so that it’s a calorie bomb. You aren’t in control of the food if you’re eating out. And especially if you are training on a good training program and you’re overweight, fat is the one thing you need to manage.
And finally, the most important aspect and what we do differently at SALECCA, we look at the mindset. You have to understand why you are overeating. If you’re a couple of pounds overweight, it’s more likely that you’re not pushing yourself hard enough in the gym rather than overeating. But if you’re heavily overweight, you can’t skip the mental component. Why are you drinking so much? Is it that you feel that you’re boring when you’re not drunk? Why are you eating so much? Maybe it’s because you’re lonely and you’re at home and you’re stuffing your face and there’s nothing else to do. All of those things need to be tackled. The boredom, the loneliness, the anxiety. Once those things are tackled, then you’ll have longterm weight loss. Because otherwise, if those things stay in the background, even your self talk, “I’m a fat guy, I don’t deserve this,” then all that weight comes crashing back on.
When it comes to weight loss or results in the gym, the most important thing you need to understand is progressive overload. And progressive overload is doing more every time you go into the gym. So here’s an example that was taught to me a while back to help you understand progressive overload. So we’re in the winter at the moment, and let’s say you decide that you want to have a tan. So you go down to the solarium and you decide to pay for 10 minutes, front and back. Now that night, let’s say it’s Monday night, you’re a little bit of a pinkish, browny colour. However, that’s not the colour that you want. So you decide for the rest of the week, all the way till Sunday, you’re going to do the same 10 minutes on the sunbed. So come Sunday, you’ve gone from that reddish, browny colour to a nice golden brown.
Now geed up by your results, you’ve decided, “Okay, well for the rest of the month I’m going to go and do that same 10 minutes every single day.” Now my question to you is, what colour would you be at the end of the month? Would you be the same, darker or lighter than you were at the end of the first week? Well, the answer is you would be the same colour. Most people think, okay, you’d be darker. But if you think about people who live, let’s say in Africa, they’re not like pitch-black colour. The skin only adapts to the stress that you put it under. So once the skin is used to dealing with that 10 minutes, it gets to a colour and it stays at the colour. The results are not cumulative. People don’t seem to understand this.
Now when it comes to exercise, you need to be thinking that if you’re doing the same thing, week in, week out, so the same 5k, the same class, the same weights in the gym, your results are going to get to a point and not progress any further. One of the reasons or one of the ways at Salecca we prove that our Stronger By Design system works really well is that all our clients are strong. So the only way you can prove that you’re doing well in the gym when you’re doing weights especially, is that the weight is getting heavier and heavier.
And if you’ve been going to the gym for a couple of years and you can’t lift, let’s say, a hundred kilos off the floor, or your trainer isn’t pushing you, or you’re not pushing yourself to lift heavier and heavier, you’re not getting anything out of the gym. Nothing at all. And by the way, I’m talking men and women should be able to lift a hundred kilos off the floor. And you’ve got to think that because your results aren’t cumulative, you’re staying the same way you are, as soon as you stop or you have a break, you go back to zero.
Being strong is proof that you’re putting the hard work in. And it’s also proof that the program that you’re on is effective. If you’re still piddling around with the little weights, the colourful weights or the one-kilo weights, or you’re in some Bodypump class and you haven’t got past 30 kilos, you’re wasting your time. You need to stop being lazy and start putting some weight on the bar. So you might come back to me and say, “Okay, Sal, that’s a little bit harsh. I’m now in the advanced class from the intermediate, or I can work at a higher heart rate, or I can go into a higher gear when I’m in my spin class.”
The reality is, one if you don’t measure it, it doesn’t mean shit. Getting fit, getting strong, getting healthy is a science. It’s not how you feel. If you work in, let’s say, the accounts department of a business and you tell your boss, “I think we saved more money this year,” rather than showing the data, he’s going to laugh or probably even fire you. You have to have the data. Progressive overload is about showing where you were at the beginning of the month, at the end of the month, or even the end of the year and end of a decade.
How you feel has nothing to do with it. And I would even argue that being fitter or having better cardio is useless to you. There is no benefit to being able to run 10k, half a marathon, a marathon. There’s no time in your life when you’re going to need to be able to do that. The guy that can run a five-minute mile is not 26 times less fit than the guy that can run a marathon. People seem to think that more is better when it comes to cardio. If you’re afraid of having a heart attack, just lose some weight and eat better. The weight on the bar is the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to going to the gym, seeing your results, and ultimately that’s leading to losing fat.
A few more things if you’re serious about losing weight and seeing results in the gym you need to be doing the same thing for a continual amount of time. So you need to not change what you’re doing every time you go into the gym. Classes are notorious for this. You go into a spin class, you do a different thing, different tracks each week, maybe even each session. Same thing for boot camps. They just sort of make it up and you just run around and you get sweaty.
In fact, my number one pet peeve, or the way that you can tell if you have a really shitty personal trainer who doesn’t know crap is that he is changing the program every time you come in, or he’s making it up as you go along. I go to a gym a couple of times a week and I like to watch the personal trainers because sometimes I like to do some recruiting, and I just want to know who else is in the business. And when I see someone just going from here to there, not writing down what the client is doing, it’s lazy, it’s unprofessional and potentially it could be dangerous for the client because you might overegg the weight that you’re doing that week.
Because when you are weight training or you’re doing something in the gym, you’re looking to make structural changes to your body. You are creating an artificial growth spurt. So there’s the obvious. You’re going to increase your muscle mass, decrease fat, you’ve got better brain function, denser bones, more testosterone secretion, and you haven’t had a growth spurt probably since your teens. That’s a major structural change to your body. Nothing else comes even close when you’re doing some quality strength. The same way if you’re making structural changes to your house, like an extension. You couldn’t just pick up bricks and just put them anywhere or just decide today you’re going to do a new door. There has to be a structured plan which you follow to get a healthy result. Otherwise, your house is all wonky and crooked and a bag of shit.
Okay, so the last few points, if you want a successful training program, is you don’t want to change everything around. Nobody got good at anything through variety. If you want to get good at the piano, you do the same scales again, again and again. If you want to get good at tennis, you practice the same backhand again and again until you become an expert at it. And that’s the same with the gym. If you want to get healthy knees, back, hips, you’re going to squat again and again and again. Maybe even three times a week you’re going to squat. And then you’re going to get good and then the results happen. There is a lie out there where people say you need to change things. You need to confuse the muscle. It’s right. If you confuse the muscle, the muscle doesn’t know what you’re asking it to do. The same way if I’m studying for an exam and I read one paragraph from one book, another paragraph from another book, a page from another book. You have to be consistent with what you’re doing.
Now, that might sound boring to some people, but the gym isn’t there, or training isn’t there to entertain you. If I’m Usain Bolt and I’m trying to win the Olympics, I’m not going every session to try and be entertained. The entertainment comes when you win, when you win at life. Having better sex, more energy, more sleep, better status. And that all happens outside of the gym. If you want to do something different and you want to see a change, you have to become an expert at what you do. You can’t just clock in and clock out when you go to the gym. “Ah, at least I did something today.” You have to take ownership of what you’re doing. You have to know why you’re doing it.
And the final thing you need to understand when it comes to training is to stop trying to get sore or stop holding up how sore you are as a mark of honour. If anything, it’s a sign that you’re a moron. Soreness simply means you’ve done too much volume. You’ve done too many reps. You’ve pushed yourself too hard. There are diminishing returns. The harder you push yourself, the closer you are to injury, the closer you are to not recovering for your next workout. It’s also a sign that you’re really deconditioned. If somebody has not done anything for a while goes to do something in the gym, they’re going to get sore. You are deconditioned. It’s not a cool thing. It’s a little bit like if you play football and you grade how your performance was not on how many goals you scored, but on how sore your knees were at the end of the game. All your mates or your teammates that heard that story would just think you’re a bit of a twat. And that’s exactly the same when you talk about how sore you got from your barres or your Pilates.
This is the story of Norm and Harry, two highly successful professionals in their 50s.
Both work for top firms in the City.
Both are at the top of their careers.
Both have raised great families, have money in the bank, and are financially set for their retirement a few years off.
From the outside, their lives look equally well set.
But while Harry sees his 50s and beyond as one of the best times of his life, and is looking forward to retirement with optimism and enthusiasm for his kids’ weddings, his grandchildren’s’ rugby matches, the travel and adventures he and his wife have been planning for years….
Norm feels bombarded with reminders that he’s getting older and slowing down. His brother recently had a heart attack, he sees his colleagues and peers getting greyer, people offer up their seat on the train. He secretly fears he won’t be there to see his daughter’s wedding.
Or his grandkids’ graduations.
Harry and Norm are leading two very similar and successful lives, with one main difference:
Harry has been investing in his health along the way. He knows age is really about how old you feel…. And he feels great.
Meanwhile, Norm has been working himself to the bone, putting his own health last – from what he eats to how little he moves throughout the day. And while it hasn’t yet slowed him down in this career that he can tell… it’s taking its toll on his personal life in a big way.
Harry and Norm are based on real people I meet as Director of one of the top fitness studios in Moorgate.
As you hear their stories – who do you relate to more?
If you’re being honest with yourself, how do you feel?
Not “How are you” (all right)… but how do you feel?
But what do any of these things have to do with your investments?
As a former City professional myself, I know many of those feelings all too well. Especially the “who is that out of shape man looking back at me in the mirror?!”
I was becoming a “Norm,” and it was hard to imagine I’d ever been fit enough to be a paratrooper in the IV Battalion Parachute Regiment. That life seemed very far behind me.
Most nights after a gruelling day in the office, I’d decide “it’s too late to cook dinner” and order a takeaway after work. Combined with 10-12 hours a day at my desk, the combination was wreaking havoc on my waistline, my self-esteem, and my overall health.
At our studio, the clientele is essentially made up of two groups of people:
• The Harrys, who are determined to excel at both their careers AND their health. So they found a studio that made it possible to fit their fitness goals into their real lives (instead of “living in the gym”)
• And those whose health has taken a dive, leaving them no choice but to address it. This group believed they didn’t have time to prioritize their health… Until they had to.
Unlike the Norms from my story earlier, this second group of clients at our studio have decided to take action.
They may be playing catchup on their health investments…. But much like our finances – late is always better than never.
The amazing thing is, most of us know that our retirement funds and our investments are our insurance towards our futures.
Yet few people view their health the same way.
To that, I can’t help but wonder will you be able to enjoy that retirement, if you haven’t been investing in your body as well?
Many of our clients come to us with serious physical and/or health concerns:
• Heart conditions and high blood pressure…
• Joint problems…
• Back pain and injuries …
• Or old, chronic injuries that have slowed them down for years…
All things that could have been resolved years before, if they had known they didn’t have to choose between their physical health and their career goals.
“When You’re Young, Fitness is Sport. As You Age, It’s Necessity.”
The World’s Leaders And Top CEOs Put Their Health On The Top Of Their To-Do List
Choosing work or health isn’t about picking one over the other. The world’s top CEOs and leaders, from Barack Obama to T. Boone Pickens use their physical health to drive their successes and support their demanding schedules.
They know their physical health is one of their best investments, even in the short term, so they can keep up and perform their best through gruelling meeting schedules, constant travel, cooking up new innovations, making key decisions on national security, or leading some of the most innovative brands in the world.
In The 4-Hour Body, author Tim Ferriss shared a story about travelling to Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson. Someone in the group asked the Virgin Group founder how they could be more productive.
He answered with two words: “Work out,” reporting that exercise gave him an extra four hours of productivity a day.
Branson, who is nearing 70 years old, competes in triathlons, rock climbs, and puts movement into his mornings every day.
And he’s just one of many leaders who count prioritizing fitness among their top productivity hacks:
• Best-selling author & marketing mogul, Gary Vaynerchuk, famously hired a personal trainer after the realization hit him: “If I don’t fix this, I’m going to die. I’m going to lose.” His routine? Short daily workouts focused on building strength.
• Former US President Barack Obama woke up early 6 days a week and trained 45 minutes at a time. He mixed cardio with strength training and credited his morning workouts as the spark that set his day on the right path.
• Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously begins each day with a gym session that he credits, not only with his physical health, but with minimizing his stress, so he feels at ease most of the day, even with his demanding schedule.
• 90-year-old American business magnate and financier, T. Boone Pickens, starts each day with a workout that focuses on strength training.
Pickens even authored a LinkedIn post titled, “When You’re Young, Fitness is Sport. As You Age, It’s Necessity.”
And that’s ultimately the point of this post.
Your Strength is the Best Investment You Haven’t Made (Yet)
What all of those leaders have in common is a heavy focus on their strength.
Strength is your hedge for the future – it’s the bullion bar of fitness, because it’s your muscles, ligaments, and tendons that hold your body together, protect your joints, and maintain your body’s structural integrity. (That’s why one of the early recommendations for back pain is typically to strengthen your back and core muscles).
Because of the role they play in your body’s structural health, if your muscles have enough strength in their reserves, you can just about guarantee yourself a certain baseline of physical health until you pop your clogs. If you don’t, your body is likely to be struggling long before that.
Most people focus on cardio as the key to losing weight and getting fit, but in doing that, they neglect muscle tone and strength. Whilst focusing on cardiovascular fitness as the holy grail of fitness, you are missing how to actually improve your life on a practical level.
• Lugging shopping bags
• Working in the garden
• Hefting up grandkids (or simply keeping up with them)
These things all require strength.
The thing with strength is that similar to your financial investments, the longer you wait, the harder it is to catch up.
That’s why we say when speaking to fitness trends like Bootcamps and Crossfit, it’s not how hard you pushed in that one workout…. It’s what you can sustainably do, month in and month out, that ultimately makes the greatest impact as a long term investment in your health.
That goes for how much your body can withstand and how much time you can sustainably dedicate within an already demanding schedule.
You Don’t Need 4 Hours A Day To Be Healthy
Speaking of timing – while most of the moguls I mentioned earlier find time to workout 5 – 6 days per week, the truth is that with a strength-based fitness program, that’s optional.
You only need a couple of 50-minute sessions per week to get (and maintain) results – no matter how many milestones you surpass.
Contrast that to cardio-based fitness, where the only way to continue progressing is to keep extending the length or distance of the workout. It becomes a time-suck very quickly, without delivering the structural strength benefits of proper weight training.
A great example: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg works out just three times a week (what most of our clients do, even at 50+), to start his day on the right foot.
It’s enough to keep his mind and body performing their best, so they can carry him through the week.
At 34 years old, Zuckerberg is “keeping his tub full” now, as an investment in his future, and no matter your age – just like your investments – it’s never too late to start.
If the busiest men in the world can find the time… Most of us can find 45 minutes a couple of days a week.
Sal Kassam is the co-founder and Managing Director at Salecca, a Moorgate fitness studio that helps the City’s busiest professionals restore their bodies, regain their fitness and manage the stress levels of a demanding career – even if they’re working through injuries, limitations, or other health issues – in just a couple of sessions a week.
For many of Salecca’s clients, this results in the ability to eliminate medications linked to stress and the physical effects of sedentary work life, as well as reducing back pain, fatigue, and other common complaints.
Salecca is known for taking a holistic perspective that focuses on building strength and utilising personalised physio plans alongside a deep understanding of the human body and the psychology necessary for success.
Wondering if one of their programs might be right for you?
Ashamed by how far you’ve let your body deteriorate? Has a simple task like moving from A-B become uncomfortable and painful? Are you dreading a lifetime of being stuck in the medical system?
Watch this video and I’ll give you three methods I use with my clients to lose stones of fat!
Click here to book a call with me.
And How To Achieve Great Results Regardless
Training in your 50’s is hard – most of the articles are written for the 20 year old whippersnappers who only have to look at a dumbbell or a bit of kale and they lean out in a matter of days. Couple that with the fact that most PT’s in the gym don’t know any better than pushing you towards the closest treadmill, making you run for your life…
At best you can wind up with no results, at worst – you get injured.
0203 489 2840
Templeton House, 33-34 Chiswell Street, Moorgate, London, EC1Y 4SF
Nearest Tubes: Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Old Street & Barbican
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