Build Energy through Exercise – Part 1 of 3

Trevor and I got together to record some energy building exercises. These are really simple movements that you can do at any time to boost your energy and feel great. If you work behind a desk or don’t get to move around much during work, take a 5 minute break and cycle through these movements. Let me know what you think!

Disconnect to reconnect

brokeniphoneA few months ago I was flying from Hawaii to Germany. Total transit time was almost 24 hours and for most of that time I didn’t have any cell phone or internet reception. At the time I was dreading it. How could I get by with none of my electronic gadgetry to keep me on top of everything going on. As I was flying across the Atlantic though I experienced something profound – uninterrupted thought and productivity. Wow.

It can be hard to get stuff done with constant emails, phone calls, and text messages coming at you every minute. You spend all your time reacting to stuff instead of doing things on your own schedule. Although you’re still making progress – communication can be a big part of work – you’re still operating on someone else’s schedule, not yours. This, in turn, limits your productivity and drains your energy.

It’s the difference between running on a treadmill or running on land. When you’re running on a treadmill, you’re reacting. If you don’t, you’ll fall off the treadmill. Either way, you’re not going to get very far. Alternatively, you can go outside and run on land. Same action, different method. You’re no longer reacting, but rather setting and following your own path on your own terms. And you’re actually getting somewhere.

In the past I’ve talked about eliminating energy drain as a great way to maximize energy. Constantly reacting to stuff is draining. It keeps you from being productive, from contributing to your friends and relationships, and from really thinking through things. I’ve met lots of really hard working people who are unsuccessful. Some of the most successful people I know take days to respond to email and they take their time with everything they do. They work smart. They’re thoughtful and careful with their time. Most things aren’t as important as they seem.

The good news is, there’s an easy two step process to command and conquer your life. First schedule specific times in your day when you disconnect from everything. Schedule you time and stick to the schedule. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Don’t pick up your phone calls if you’re in the middle of something.

Second, when you’re working on something, disconnect. Turn off your phone, close your door, shut down email, disconnect your computer from the internet if you’re not using the web.

Disconnecting allows you to really reconnect. Not just with work, but with real people. It allows you to reconnect with yourself and what’s really important. So go ahead, turn off that phone. Or better yet, blend it.

[ photo: flickr / TheTechBuzz ]

Simple Clarity – Schedule your day to maximize your energy

The simplest and most effective way to regain control of your life and maximize your daily energy is to spend 15 minutes each evening or morning scheduling the upcoming day. Not just a to do list. But actually setting aside time blocks for specific things on your to do list. It’s important to include everything from eating, to personal time, to reading time, to email / communication time.

This puts your life on your schedule and allows you to thoughtfully work through things instead of just reacting to things all day. It also gives you scheduled time to rest and recharge your brain between periods of focused work. This alone will dramatically increase the amount of energy you have to actually engage in everything you do.  Here’s an example of the schedule I put together last night for today:

Yes, I eat a lot 🙂

[ photo: flickr / TheAlieness GiselaGiardino ]

The Math of Weight Loss

Losing weight is really simple math. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. Cut 500 calories a day out of your diet and you’ll lose a pound a week. Easy right? Well, yes and no. The fact is, it’s really easy to lose weight. But it’s also really easy to sabotage yourself.

I lost 25 pounds in 2 months. I didn’t change my exercise routine. I didn’t start doing more or less cardio. I just changed my diet. In fact, all I did was count my calories. I got myself a Bodybugg and figured out exactly how many calories my body burns every day. Most days I burn between 3200 and 3800 calories. I figured I burn an average of 3500 calories a day.  You don’t need a Bodybugg to do this.  Just figure out what your Base Metablic Rate is using any one of the many online calculators.

I set up my diet so that I would consume 2000 – 2500 calories a day across 6 meals. That’s about 300 – 500 calories per meal. I gave myself a range of flexibility so that I could maintain my sanity.

The results I got were exactly what the math suggested they would be:

Daily caloric deficit = 3,500 – 2,000 = 1,500 calories
Time on diet = 60 days
Total calories burned = 60 days x 1,500 = 90,000 calories
Total pounds of fat burned = 90,000 / 3500 = 25.7

Of course it’s not quite that simple if you start factoring in body fat percentage and actual fat loss. If you’re just trying to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, this is the most effective diet there is – it’s called common sense. Eat healthy, count your calories. I cannot stress how important counting your calories is. I had a rule: if I couldn’t figure out how many calories were in something, I couldn’t eat it. If you’re in a restaurant or preparing something that is so complicated you can’t figure out what its nutritional value is, it’s probably not going to help your diet. Nothing will make you lose weight faster than being aware of every single thing you’re putting in your body. That awareness is what prevents diet sabotage, specifically, eating snacks on the side that completely negate your diet.

Eating healthy is actually pretty simple. Drink at least a gallon of water a day and try to eat six times a day. My diet consisted of foods low in sugar and low in fat, with an emphasis on complex carbs and protein. Avoid fried foods and sugary sodas. When you eat, try to pick food from the following groups, always making sure to include at least one item from protein and one from starchy carbs or vegetables.

lean pork
lean cuts of beef
cottage cheese

Starchy carbs:
brown rice
whole wheat pasta
whole wheat bread

any sort of green leafy stuff

Good snacks:
grilled chicken breast
lean cold cuts

Add for flavor and texture:
light soymilk
plain yogurt

Before (4/4/2009)
Before (4/4/2009)
After (5/27/2009)
After (5/27/2009)

Energy is Clarity

One of the fastest ways to get more energy in your life is with clarity. There are lots of philosophies around the best way to manage your to do list. One of the best that I use is a variation of something called Getting Things Done (GTD). Knowing exactly what you should be doing next is certainly a key step, however, knowing WHY you are doing what you are doing is just as important.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of everyday life. The most successful people I know are ruthless about cutting out the clutter from their lives. It’s called the Pareto or 80/20 Principle – 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. The question is, which 20%? Every week I spend time thinking about what I want to get accomplished by the end of the week. I also reflect on what I accomplished over the last week and whether or not I accomplished what I had set out to do. I do the same thing every month. Doing this allows me to be really clear on my priorities. On any given day when I find myself being pulled in all sorts of directions by email, bills, phone calls, and random errands, I can stop and ask myself if what I’m doing is getting me any closer to what I want to accomplish that week.

When you start weighing what you are currently doing against what you want to accomplish you quickly realize whether or not you’re being energy efficient. To do this requires clarity on what you’re trying to accomplish. Not only will such clarity enable you save energy, you’ll get energized just by knowing that you’re being productive and meeting your goals. Sometimes getting that clarity is a challenge unto itself. How do you get it? I’ll save that for my next post…