The "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation” was a list penned by George Washington that guided his life and the choices he made. Many of my favourite online writers have similar lists, which has inspired me to start creating my own “Righteous Rules” list. The start of January dawns a new year and brings with it much inspiration and motivation to people looking to turn over a new leaf, start fresh, or embark upon new journeys. This is inevitable and should not be shunned by the ultra-successful people who get after it year-round. I believe even those people use this time of year to reflect and look forward to setting and achieving new goals.
Strength training is an important aspect of my life, but it is just one piece of the pie that is life. What follows is a selection of some of the most important “Righteous Rules” on my ever-expanding lists that I believe can help anyone who is looking to make improvements in any area of their life this new year. Including a basic set of rules like the ones listed into your daily practice will greatly improve your quality of life and invigorate you to help you strive towards any other goals you may have. Taking these small steps will snowball into much larger goals and greater success.
1. Lift Heavy Things Regularly
Let’s just get this one out of the way first as my blog is primarily a source for strength training and strongman information. I’m not trying to downplay the fact that I believe this to be an extremely important rule to follow, but it’s also predictable that I would include it. Heavy is a relative term. I don’t mean you have to go out and break your back trying to set a world record in the deadlift, unless that is your goal, in which case who am I to hold you back?. Create realistic goals and lift the way you like to lift. Just make progress; work towards something tangible and achievable for you. Pick up a barbell, swing your kettlebell, do pushups and pullups, or get under the bar for you daily WOD. It doesn’t matter what type of of lifting you prescribe to, but the benefits of anaerobic activity are undeniable. Most of you probably already do very heavy strength training and have your sights set on big goals. I don't need to expand on this point anymore for you.
If you are just starting out with any kind of physical activity and exercise goals or resolutions, the most important point that I can emphasize is that consistency is key. You have to dedicate yourself to a physical goal that you want to achieve and then work towards it multiple times per week. Don’t expect overnight success. It takes a long, long time to make remarkable progress. You will see benefits almost immediately, especially with mood improvements, stress reduction, and an up-regulation in your normal energy state. Over several weeks you will start to really feel different and may notice some physical changes and long-term over months and years is where your body starts to make dramatic changes towards looking more vital and improving health. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t see astounding results right away. Learn to enjoy the process and journey towards your goal. You can’t quit once you reach your goal and you shouldn’t want to quit either; this is important for your health until the day you die.
2. Develop a Daily Health Routine
While most of the other rules I’ve listed today could fall under this category, I think that it is important to consider this as a separate point, because I believe that it will mean different things to different people. Develop a daily health routine and practice it every single day. Add a small goal, one at a time, until you have a full routine implemented that will help to enrich your life and reduce stress. Depending on your schedule and how you function, you might want to place the majority of your routine at a certain time of day, like first thing in the morning or right before bed. Add alarms, reminders or calendar events to your phone to keep you on track with your daily routine. I also like to use apps like Coach.Me to track daily goals, because they do a better job of allowing you to look back and see how consistent you have been with implementing your goals every day.
I find that the morning and night are the most important times to set some routine in place for health benefits. They also seem to be the best times to get reminders that you will actually be able to stick to without interruption. Getting primed for the day will help you to remain calm and limit stress from all the hustle and bustle you encounter on a daily basis and night time will allow you to decompress and effectively turn your brain off to improve sleep quality. The things that many highly successful people include in these time frames include completing a graditude journal like the 5-minute journal, which includes morning and night gratitude reflections as well as daily goal setting and affirmations; meditation for reducing stress and calming your mind; limiting screen time and avoiding stress-inducing work like checking emails.
Other daily health routine practices that can be implemented based on your goals can include spending time on any hobbies that help you to reduce stress, taking any vitamins or supplements that help to improve your health, or going for a walk after meals.
An example of what I’m currently implementing is consuming a mixture of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice diluted in water each day, as well as getting several servings of probiotic foods.
You should already know what you need to do more of, or abstain from regularly; write down a daily health routine you want to follow now and set whatever reminders you need to stick to it. It’s very easy to delete reminders later once you’ve got the routine to stick, but when just getting started it is important not to neglect this point.
3. Read. Lots. Varied.
Reading is a much better way to unwind at the end of the day than watching overly stimulating tv or staying up past bed-time to play just one more round of your favourite video game. For people who are already avid readers, this point doesn’t need to be explained any more, but I would challenge you to venture out of your comfort zone and explore different topics than what you normally read. You can ease into this or find new topics that interest you through the next rule.
If you aren’t overly-enthused with reading or don’t know where to start, you can also test out audiobooks or podcasts on your commute to work or while cooking to figure out a good starting place on what you might like to read. Grab any book that remotely interests you and start reading it. You can also check out goodreads.com and check out the reviews on books or to connect to Facebook friends with similar interests to yours and see what they recommend.
4. Listen to Podcasts/Audiobooks
Podcasts are a great way to tune out the world around you and expand your mind when you don’t have the freedom to sit down with a book and read. They make your commutes to work much more enjoyable and a better use of time than listening to the same playlist again and again.
If you’re looking for great book recommendations, as well as getting a chance to learn the wisdom of world-class performers from all walks of life, check out the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. His book Tools of Titans summarizes all the knowledge from the first 200 podcast guests and will quickly expand your list of to-read books broadly.
Another great podcast for learning fascinating things, as well as laughing out loud like a lunatic in public is the Joe Rogan Experience. For great talks on health check out any episodes with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and listen to the Wim Hof episodes.
5. Practice Mindfulness
While I think that everyone should practice meditation daily, I realize that not everyone is ready or willing to sit still and be present for the minimal effective dose of 10-20 minute meditation sessions 1-2 times daily. However, everybody can practice some form of mindfulness, which basically means getting into a flow state at some point in the day. I’ve written about flow and athletics before, but almost anything can get you into a flow state if you truly enjoy being immersed in the activity. Work, cooking, weight training, sports, running and just about any hobby can get you into a flow state. Spend some time daily doing whatever you love to reduce stress and benefit your mind.
6. Eat More Vegetables, Less Processed Carbohydrates
Most people don’t need a lot of carbohydrates to function and nobody needs carbs that are processed. Replace more of the starchy and processed carbs on your plate with vegetables and you will be well on your way to becoming healthier in all aspects of your life. If you’re a strength athlete you probably already know roughly the amount of carbs you need to perform at your best and gain strength and you probably also know that you could benefit from eating less crap and eating more nutrient dense foods. If you’re dedicated to your sport, you’ll do what’s best for your performance. If you aren't heavily invested in a sport, you should be limiting your carb intake.
Time to Get After It
Consider making your own list of rules to live by or take what you may find useful listed here. The purpose is not to restrict your life through creating structure, but to grant you freedom by reducing stress and improving health. The daily routines need not consume your whole day to grant you immense improvements in your quality of life.