There are three things that are more important than your workouts or your nutrition.
Most people ignore them because they sound painfully obvious, but it's often the obvious stuff that you miss.
You probably don't give much thought to how you breathe.
Why should you? Breathing is automatic, the whole point is that it happens without you thinking about it.
But that doesn't mean you're breathing properly.
Dysfunctional breathing is surprisingly common. When you're stuck in an office chair all day, weakened by lack of movement and physical challenge, and constantly carrying all your stress in your face, neck, and chest, it's difficult to breathe the way you're supposed to, using your diaphragm.
One of the less obvious benefits of working out is that it can teach you how to engage and strengthen your diaphragm, especially when you do big compound movements like squats and deadlifts.
Bioenergetic breathing is useful technique you can practise too, with surprising side-effects like emotional release. That may not sound desirable right now, but you'll be surprised at what you're suppressing and carrying around inside all the time.
Beyond how you breathe, the quality of the air you breathe is important. Dirty filters in your AC unit, mold growing in your house, and dust mites can all contribute to poor air quality, not just pollution from outside.
You can do an audit of your home using an air quality monitor and take a few basic steps like washing your bedding at a higher temperature, cleaning your AC filters regularly, and testing for mold in damp, humid areas.
You may have read that you should be taking 10000 steps a day.
I think this is neurotic nonsense, even if it's well intentioned nonsense.
The point of walking is that it gets you moving in a fundamental way, it helps you think, and it gets you outside (or at least it should).
I can't think of anything worse than being stuck on a treadmill in a gym when you could be walking in a park - although it may be a good way to squeeze in more Netflix.
Your brain works differently when you're walking through a forest or along a beach than when you're pacing on the spot inside a dingy warehouse.
Unfortunately it's not always possible to walk in a natural setting, but at least that should be the aim if you want to get the full benefit.
If you're stuck indoors because of work or bad weather, do the best you can in the available circumstances.
Whatever you do, try to build more walking into your life.
Like breathing, we all need to sleep, unless you're an obnoxious internet entrepreneur spending your entire life telling people how to be successful on Instagram, LinkedIn, and probably TikTok too. In that case sleep is a waste of valuable time where you could be posting content.
For people who aren't dysfunctional, getting good sleep is important.
Your thinking, your emotional state, and even the results from your nutrition and workouts improve when you get good sleep.
Here are my best tips for improving your sleep:
- Enforce stronger boundaries between your professional and personal life.
- Create a restful space for sleep in your bedroom, don't use it as an extension of your office.
- Follow a bedtime ritual that gets you prepared for sleep. Whatever works for you, it doesn't have to be deep breathing and meditation, but they're useful.
- Use blue blocking lenses (or night mode on your devices) and taper off electronic device use at night.
- Increase friction on the actions that keep you awake, like disabling autoplay on Netflix.
- Buy a simple alarm clock and turn your phone off at night or leave it in a different room on silent.