Several people recently asked me about my well-being and fitness routine, so I decided to post it here for you all as well. Perhaps it can inspire you to add some new things to your routine and experiment. As with anything in life, the below should not be a dogma but rather a flexible framework. I follow this 80-95% of the time. I make changes based on my work priorities, how my body feels, and what it allows or doesn't allow me to do. I find that asking for 100% compliance to this can become stressful and unproductive, as life has other variables and priorities that need to be considered. Feel free to try any of the below tips and adapt them to your life and routine. Note, if you don't do much of the below now and for whatever reason you feel inspired to do it all - it can be a bit too much to do at once. I suggest a gradual approach. Otherwise, you will likely fail in a few weeks trying to implement everything at once if your lifestyle looks very different.
1. Sleep: Consistency and routine are essential for the quality of sleep, especially as we age. You have probably heard about circadian rhythm. If you haven't, there are many studies and podcasts on this topic. I used to stress about the quality of sleep, but then I figured there were things I could and could not control, and stressing over not having a perfect night of sleep never helped anyone! I found that with sleep - same as with anything else - if I focus on the basics - the rest will come. I keep things simple:
I use Sleep Schedule on my iPhone to remind me when to start prepping for bed, and I keep my sleep schedule the same during weekdays and weekends.
I love using 8 Eight Sleep for the perfect sleeping temperature. This is one of the things I would have never thought I needed, and it makes all the difference. It also means I don't need to wear any wearables during sleep since it does all the sleep tracking for me. I especially enjoy it during hot nights, where it cools your body temperature down to help you fall asleep faster, and cold nights, where you come to a cozy, warm bed.
Of course, this also means avoiding things like eating and exercising too late and alcohol. I drink very rarely. When I decide to have a beer or a glass of wine, I try to do so earlier in the day (not in the evening) so the alcohol has enough time to get out of my system by the time I go to bed.
2. Exercise: I keep my routine simple for efficiency reasons: 1-day strength and 1-day cardio. For strength, I have been doing 5x5 StrongLifts workouts. It is an effective and simple program, and I enjoy the iOS and watchOS apps. For cardio, I program my own workout based on how my body feels and what it needs, mostly HIIT, cross-training workouts with some kettlebell training, and tennis once a week. Regarding tennis, that's all my body can handle, and even that can be too much often. Due to past tennis injuries, my body can handle tennis only in a small dose. To continue to stay active, I had to put tennis in the very last place and prioritize all other physical activities.
3. Recovery - I continue to recognize the importance of recovery more and more as I grow older. Our regeneration slows as we age, and having a full-time job, which is my priority, I don't have enough hours in the day for a lot of extra recovery. I also realized that I cannot continue to do zone 4 and 5 workouts daily and expect to feel great the next day. If I try to push my body the way I used to, I create more injuries that take much longer to heal than they used to and consistency declines. As someone who is used to pushing through pain, I am learning more about how to listen to my body and honor what it is telling me. Simply put - pushing through pain doesn't work well.
Zone 2 cardio, yoga with Apple Fitness+, and long walks work great for my recovery.
I cold plunge at 40 degrees Fahrenheit every morning for 4 minutes. I also cold plunge after each tennis session.
Acupuncture, Chiropractic care, Cupping, and Gua sha - are amazing, but I only have time for them once a month or every few weeks when I run into bigger issues.
I also add specific exercises to my workouts to focus on my problem areas.
If you are someone who is used to driving yourself hard, I understand how difficult it might be to re-wire your brain and create a workout that would typically be your recovery session. I still struggle with this, but it gets a bit easier as you continue doing it. Here is a good read with Mark's Body Maintenance Manual and a podcast episode on this topic. Learning how to rest well is a skill, and it is important to success.
4. Nutrition - I automated my nutrition, so I don't have to think about food too much. It frees up my brain's capacity for more important things and simplifies grocery shopping. On most days, I eat a keto/ carnivore diet with 14-16 hours of intermittent fasting. We order grass-fed regenerative meat. The ingredients that are typically always in our fridge/ freezer are: half and half for my morning coffee, eggs (brunch/ breakfast at ~11 am), for snacks: good quality cottage cheese, salami, cheese, nuts (if you can hold yourself back from going overboard), meat - mostly beef & pork, love pickles or other pickled veggies as a side with meat for dinner. Especially when it comes to food, quality makes a big difference in terms of the nutrients you are getting and flavor. For example, there are big differences between low-quality and high-quality eggs.
One additional benefit to keto is that the food is so filling, so I don't have to eat too many meals per day. My typical day contains breakfast at ~11 am, dinner at ~7 pm, and a small snack between when I feel hungry. I hate being dependent on food and planning my day around eating, so keto works great for that reason. Additional benefits are that I limit my diet only to the ingredients that don't trigger more cravings. Simple rule - don't buy food you cannot hold yourself back from and control your cravings. The way to think about food is that the purpose of food is nutrition. It is not supposed to be fancy. The point is to eat enough, so you have enough nutrients to do the job that your physical body needs to get done. Now, this may depend on your physical job - but for most of us who are not doing manual labor - I hate to break that to you, but it is not a lot! The reality is that most of us, myself included, don't push our bodies to our physical limits every day, so keeping food simple/ not fancy - is the best way to go (at least for me).
On days when my Move/Active Calories are ~1,500 and above, my body craves carbs more, and I allow myself to eat more carbs on those days to recover. One of my best treats after a tennis game is almond flour ravioli. The 1,500 calories is not a hard-coded number. I try to listen to my body and what it is telling me. At times, the line for carb craving comes at 1000, and some other days, it is at 1800. The point is that during high-intensity days when your body has put a lot of effort into exercising, it feels worn out, and I provide it with more carbs to let it recover.
This doesn't mean I don't treat myself to something special. I do, but again - think about the 80-20 rule mentioned at the beginning. This is rather an exception than a rule. I also add longer fasts every few months, where I go 2-4 days without eating. If there was no other health benefit (there are some great health benefits related to fasting), it is a great way to practice mental control and perseverance. It also gives me confidence knowing that if no good food options are around, I can go without eating for 2-3 days, and I won't die. 😂🤣 That's right - if you don't eat even for several days - you won't die!
5. Mindset - If we cannot control our mind, then we cannot control anything. I have had a sports psychologist from 15 to 20 years old, and I have used various meditation apps and tools for the past 6 years, such as Calm, Headspace, Waking Up, 10% Happier, meditations on Apple Fitness+, 8 Eight Sleep, etc. Now, I follow what I need that day and continue to test and experiment with different things. I find getting centered can be found through different things - not just sitting in silence on your meditation pillow, reflecting, and journaling. It can be by listening to your favorite song or a podcast, reading a book, driving a car, taking a shower, going for a walk, washing dishes, cleaning, gardening, doing yoga, playing tennis, or even in a grueling 4-minute tabata session on an assault bike. Once you get to know your mind, you will realize that everything depends on the perspective you choose to have at that moment, and you can change your perspective by doing anything at any time.
Viktor E. Frankl said it best: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
Me on a tennis court preparing to hit a backhand