Finding time to be healthy can often be a major stumbling block. Today's world is frantic. We always seem to be super busy, flying from one task to another.
You know the score; you have 2.3 children, you / your partner works, you commute, you have fun with your kids, you go on day trips and playdates, you visit family members, you meet friends, you do the shopping, you go to football training, you clean the house, you (need/try to) chill out after a hard week.
All this and there are only 24 hours in a day - where the hell do you find the time to be healthy!
Any of the above sound familiar?
Well after been diagnosed with 'multiple signs of heart disease' and needing four stents inserted into my heart in 2016, I've gone through a fairly seismic change in attitude regarding my health.
Now while I'm no doctor and what I'm talking about here stems from my personal views, I have completed a Phase III Cardiac Rehabilitation Programme so some of my views come from my involvement in that programme.
It also comes from a common sense approach too so I hope some of what I have to offer can help you to be healthier and live a somewhat better life.
BTW... This is probably going to make me look like I'm a serious health freak - believe me, I'm not!
Having lost a fair bit of weight after getting the stents in 2016, over time I’ve put it all back on and then some. Currently, I’m exactly 2 stone overweight and today I did my ‘first’ Lean in 15 HIIT workout for the uptet time. I also want to get back running and I’m hoping this attempt will stick and I’ll shed that 2 stone in time for summer!
So it’s fair to say I am trying my best and that this post will keep me honest and focused. But the fact is, I love my takeaways, pizzas, wine, beer and chocolate. Luckily enough I also love healthy food but as a default, my preference is the bad stuff first.
Recently I’ve moved largely to a plant-based diet but I wouldn’t call myself vegan - at least not yet anyway. More vegan-ish if there’s such a thing. It is a great way to get more vegetables, pulses, grains and other healthier food into my body, and one that I’m embracing.
For me to be healthy, there are three key areas to focus on:
- The Mind (i.e. mental attitude)
Irrespective of your starting point - e.g overweight and unfit, half fit but want more or whatever the case may be - the fact is these tasks time to accept, change and get right and you bet your ass they will bring many challenges along the way. Get it wrong and it can all go tits up fairly fast.
An important point to think about is being healthy isn't just about you. Fair enough, it has a fair amount to do with you but it's also about your family and even your friends. How you are and how you behave - whether you are happy or sad, fit or overweight - is not lost on those closest and nearest to you.
(If you are not happy with yourself, chances are you won't be as happy in their company as you could be - and they are the best barometer of you when something is wrong).
So the first part of being healthy starts with the mind.
1 - The Mind:
10 mins of mindfulness meditation each day, ideally first thing in the morning helps big time. For those of you who are aware of it, you won't need me to tell you about the benefits of it. For those of you new to it, please check it out. I bet you it's not what you think and no, you don't have to have your knees crossed with incense burning while you listen to some goone chanting music in the background!
Mark Williams and Jon Kabat Zinn have excellent material on this. Personally, I use an app called 'Headspace' which for me, works really well. I've subscribed to the annual upgraded version but there is a free version to try before you buy.
2 - Diet:
As mentioned above I did Veganuary and, contrary to my initial beliefs, it was absolutely no big deal at all. I’ve made some amazing dishes all from scratch and they surprised the hell out of me so much so I decided to continue. In fact, I’m eating a vegan soup I made as I type and edit this post.
To help me control my cholesterol levels following my stents in 2016, I went on a low cholesterol diet. And it worked a treat. Not only did I lose weight but I succeeded in getting my cholesterol right down to very healthy levels. But it did mean a big change for me as I said above, I loved my takeaways, meat, chocolate, cheese and wine!
Time can alter your mindset though. I get my cholesterol checked every six months these days and I’m delighted to say I’m on target as per my cardiologist’s instructions.
As a result of this continued goal hitting cholesterol wise, I’ve allowed myself a takeaway, wine at the weekends and a treat at a coffee shop every now and again. Let’s be straight here, you still gotta live a little right?!
Unfortunately, old habits have a ‘habit’ of creeping up on us all and I’m no different. Hence the extra weight I’m carrying!
Turning 40 last year also has a part to play here but, for me, lack of regular exercise is the biggest culprit. I’m hoping that changes for me from today.
As a rough rule of thumb - I’m aiming to keep my diet based around these food types:
- Foods low in saturated fat
- Foods low in salt
- Foods high in protein
- Foods high in fibre
- Switch to whole grain (everything)
- More fruit
- More vegetables
- More lentils / seeds / unsalted nuts
- More plant based foods in general
I’m far from a living saint so I’m still going to allow myself the odd takeaway (etc) but it’ll defo be from the healthy selection from now on. You can check out some of my recipes which revolve around the above here on my blog
under ‘Healthy Eating’.
3 - Exercise:
So here's the scary bit... Ideally, we should all be exercising a minimum of 3-5 days per week, with a session lasting 45 mins to 60 mins which includes a 5-10 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down. And this is not just for those of us with cardiac history - this is for everyone.
(i) Warming Up and Cooling Down
Both are really important to do and something I never really did correctly until the rehab programme. You need to warm up to allow your heart to increase its bpm gradually. It also lets you gently stretch your muscles which can help avoid injuries. Likewise, cooling down gets everything back to normal and helps to avoid ‘DOMS’ (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
(ii) Aerobic Vs Anaerobic Exercise
What's the difference? Basically, oxygen.
Muscles need energy during exercise (to sustain the effort) so with Aerobic exercise - when you breathe, oxygen is present and gets transferred to your muscles whereas, with anaerobic exercise, oxygen is not present. With anaerobic exercise, the body fuels itself from glycogen
Again I’m no expert so I’m happy to take advice on the above but it’s my understanding of it.
(iii) Running / Walking / Swimming / Cycling
These are the four types of exercise the rehab programme said where the best forms of exercise to get your heart pumping aerobically. These are the ones that will strengthen your heart.
Keeping your heart rate within a particular zone is key to exercising aerobically. For me, my zone is 124-150 bpm (as given to me in the rehab programme). I track my heart rate via my Fitbit but you can also do it via the 'Borg Scale'.
I like to run. But I haven’t been running over the last year really - the very odd one here & there. However a few months after getting my stents in, I was flying. I'd gotten myself up to running 10km which I was absolutely delighted with. Distant memory atm so that’s my aim now - to get back to that distance. Anyone fancy joining me on my quest? If so, see below.
Anaerobic examples will include weight training, sprinting or interval training for example. This helps you increase your lean muscle mass. Lean in 15 is an example of interval training or HIIT as it's known (High Intensity Interval Training). This is exactly the type of workout I did earlier today and trust me, it fairly gets your heart rate pumping. The great news is it doesn’t take up loads of time.
(iv) Yoga / Pilates
I've done yoga like six times in my life and I really enjoyed each one. I've just been bad at fitting it in. Same for pilates. But it is my aim to start as the benefits are amazing for both your body, mind & soul. Ryan Giggs confirmed it a few years back.
Get those three factors right and you, my friend, will be one healthy and happy individual.
So this is what I've done in the past and what I intend on restarting again from today. My aim is to be not just happy, but healthy too.
BTW - I track my exercise on RunKeeper & Fitbit so if anyone wants to buddy up, just send me a friend request and let’s get moving!
I hope you get some benefit and value from this. If so, let me know. Now, let’s go and crush it.
Catch you next month!
Written by Ross Good, SAHD of two girls and founder of The Stented Papaand Booky Wooky.