Everything Counts (In Large Amounts)

Almost everybody is familiar with the story of the sinking of The Titanic. While it’s obvious that the collision with the iceberg was the main factor in the tragedy, something that is often overlooked is that there were a number of other significant factors which contributed to the huge death toll.

A recent tv documentary highlighted some of these issues. Among them were the fact that there were not enough lifeboats, and many of the lifeboats that were available were not filled to capacity due to inadequate crew training, and poor management of evacuation procedure.

There were a series of poor decisions made prior to the collision including the one to maintain full speed going through an ice field, and the one that led to radio contact being lost with the closest available rescue ship. It’s also speculated that the decision to steer away from the iceberg caused far more damage than if the ship had struck the ice head-on.

Question marks were also raised over the quality of steel and rivets used in the construction of the hull, while the lack of binoculars being issued to the look-outs was also a major issue.

So what has all that got to do with you and the current state of your health and fitness? Well, in much the same way that many of us are looking for the Magic Bullet that will solve all our problems, we often think that there is just one cause of all those same problems.

And while it’s true that there is usually a major limiting factor or Red Flag, the reality is more often that we have a series of smaller events that contribute to the overall result. In the case of ill health or excess body fat, it’s not just 1 unhealthy meal or 1 “Duvet Day” that causes the problem. It’s a combination of regular poor quality food, lack of exercise, excess stress levels and inadequate sleep and recovery.

However the good news is that the situation can be reversed relatively simply. Sir Dave Brailsford, the General Manager of cycling’s Team Sky and former Performance Director of British Cycling, is credited with popularising the concept of “Marginal Gains”.

Brailsford was determined to create a cycling team that could compete- and win – without the use of performance-enhancing drugs. He reckoned that by analysing every aspect that went into riding a bike, and then improving each of these by only 1%, his cyclists could wipe out the advantage of their chemically-enhanced rivals.

Brailsford made sure that Team Sky had the best bikes, equipment, support staff, training, nutrition and recovery strategies available. This dedication to making continuous improvements in all areas, led to Britain’s cyclists becoming the most successful British team in any sport at a world and Olympic level and also allowed Team Sky to win the Tour de France 2 years in a row.

So let’s look at how you can make small, seemingly insignificant changes that can lead to better health and body composition.

1. Use the Power of N.E.A.T. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is the fancy term for burning calories doing everyday activity. Simple things like using stairs instead of lifts and escalators, cycling or walking for short journeys instead of using the car, and parking your car a little further away from your destination will all add a little more physical movement to your day. Doing this on a consistent basis can potentially burn a lot of excess fat while improving your overall health.

2. Replace fruit juices and soft drinks with flavoured water. There’s a big difference in the amount of calories between an average glass of fruit juice and a glass of filtered water with some lemon or lime juice squeezed into it. As well as having fewer calories, the lemon/lime-flavoured water can also help alkalize your body and this alkalinity is associated with improved health, energy and reduced body fat.

3. Get to sleep earlier. I keep including this on “to-do” lists because I sincerely believe that it is so important. As a society, we are not getting enough sleep. Low morning energy levels are very rarely a symptom of caffeine-deficiency. If you’re exhausted in the morning, it’s simply a sign that you didn’t get enough sleep, and taking all the coffee or “energy-boosting” supplements in the world is not going to fix it. Getting to bed earlier, and getting the appropriate amount of sleep will have a huge beneficial effect.

Today’s tips seem too small and unimportant to make a difference, but when it comes to health and fitness, every small improvement counts!

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