Another Friday is upon us! It’s been a long time since I’ve
spent my weeks lusting for Friday and the weekend that follows it quite like
this. That probably means something…
I don’t always just write about finance. I’m also big on
self improvement. It seems like most of the world has already discovered this
app but for anyone who hasn’t, I highly recommend that you check it out. Learning
a language is a very rewarding way to spend a little time. In addition to the
positive feelings that result from building a new skill or improving an
existing one, language learning forces your brain to exert itself in ways that
everyday life often doesn’t. Brain science is still so young but we already
know that doing things just a little differently makes lasting changes that
will benefit just about anyone in any stage of life.
Plus, Duolingo isn’t anything like your high school or
college foreign language classes. Believe me, I despised those! I’m decidedly
ungifted in this particular area for some reason. But this app actually makes
it a reasonably enjoyable process and it teaches pretty effectively as well. I’ve
been rapidly improving in both German and Spanish and it just doesn’t suck as
much as I would have expected, for lack of a better way to describe it. I’ve
only used the cell phone app version but I’m told it has a great web based one
as well. I will also note that recently, a new feature appeared – the leaderboard.
It has added a fun element by getting my competitive juices flowing. And
judging by watching other people on the app, I’m not the only one who feels
As always, I’m not getting anything from this. I haven’t
even added a link. I just think this is an awesome app that can really enrich
one’s life and I wanted to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already given it a
I’ve been reading a book about sleep lately (review coming
soon) and mostly it has solidified what I already knew; sleeping affects damn
near everything about your body, mind, and life. It’s a little mind blowing how
many of the issues I’ve struggled with could potentially be affected, if not
completely caused, by this one problem. As a lifelong insomnia sufferer, this
is both good news and bad news. The bad news, of course, is that I’ve probably
done an incalculable amount of damage to myself by not getting this taken care
of much sooner. But the good news is that everything I’ve accomplished in my
life has been accomplished in a severely handicapped state; and now that I know
this, I can remove the handicap and see what happens!
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been very focused on
getting more sleep in general and I have definitely accomplished that. I’ve
been averaging well over seven hours per night, as measured by a Fitbit, for
most of that time. That’s around an hour more than I’ve ever averaged with the
same Fitbit previously and probably even more of an increase over what I’ve
done over most of my life. So that’s good and it has definitely been reflected
in how I feel. But I’ve noticed that even post improvement, my deep sleep is
consistently near the bottom of the range and my REM sleep never even touches
the bottom of the range at all. So there is still something left to fix.
Based on my research, I’ve purchased a mouth guard on
Amazon. Yes, one of the $30 ones the dentist I only went to one time assured me
wouldn’t help me one bit as she attempted to sell me a $600 version of the same
thing. But there were several reasons I didn’t go back to that dentist for a
second appointment, the reviews on this mouth guard are excellent, and I have an
easy way to measure my results against plenty of my past data. Worst case
scenario, I’ve wasted $30. Best case scenario, I’ve moved closer to fixing a
lifelong problem that has been much more serious than I wanted to believe all
along. I’m always willing to try an experiment with that kind of risk/reward proposition.
I’ll give ya’ll an update on how it works out in a couple of weeks or so.
It’s not enough to be good at something today. You have to keep evolving over time. Imagine if you were the best reader in your fifth grade class in school but never got any better from that point on. Or more relevant to today’s post, imagine how far behind you’d be if you were still operating according to the best available health knowledge from twenty years ago – or even five years ago for that matter. I’m always reevaluating what I’m doing and trying new ways to make improve myself. I’m no science expert, but I read what I can and rely on very intelligent people in that area whose opinions I respect to help point me in the right direction. That’s why I recently started my ultimately very successful experiment with time restricted eating. And that’s why I am trying two more new things now.
First, I’ve been working on growing some organic broccoli sprouts. I’ve become convinced that sulphoraphane is a substance I very much want in my body and broccoli sprouts have it in almost incomparably high levels. I understand they don’t taste great but I’m going to toss them in the Vitamix along with everything else I put in my twice daily smoothies and hope the fruit will mask the taste, just as it does with all the other green crap I want to consume but not experience in too much detail as it goes down. I’m growing my own because it is much cheaper than buying the sprouts at a grocery store, because it is supposedly an easy process (and so far I can concur on that point), and because I thought I would enjoy the novelty of a new project. I’m loosely following these instructions, which seem to be producing good results thus far.
The sprouts in the picture are roughly three and a half days old and according to my research, they will be ready to eat in one to three more days. It has been very easy to get them to this point. I bought some organic broccoli seeds, soaked some of them in filtered water overnight, spread them in the device you see in the picture, and have rinsed them (again with the filtered water) twice a day. The seeds cost me about $50 for 2.5 pounds (I’m pretty convinced this is something I’m going to adopt long term) and the sprouting device was less than $20 (actually it was just about free because of this little trick). I believe I should be good to go for well over a year with those items purchased. I’ve invested no more than a half hour total in the project so far, not counting my initial research. Once these sprouts are ready, I’ll put them in a container in the refrigerator and start adding them to my smoothies. Then I’ll wash the sprouting device, start another batch, and keep the process going indefinitely. I’m very excited to see if I notice any results – whether in the way I feel day to day or in medical assessments/testing down the line.
My second new thing is regular sauna use. I recently read
about a study that showed measurably better long term health outcomes for
people who use saunas. And the more they did it, the better their results were.
So that was already in the back of my mind. And I decided to give it a try when
I moved to a new area and discovered that the gym here has a sauna. So far, I
must say, it feels wonderful. Since I’m at the gym four or five mornings per
week, I simply go sit in the sauna for about fifteen minutes after my workout.
Aside from feeling refreshed and more energetic afterwards, I’ve been
pleasantly surprised at just how relaxing it is. When no one else is in the
sauna with me, I’ve noticed my mind clears almost automatically and it easily
becomes a meditative experience – something that is very difficult for me to
achieve under normal circumstances. I don’t know exactly what is going on there
or why it feels that way, but I like it. And as long as the research is showing
that I’m doing a great thing for my health in the process, I’m going to keep it
Not only is it fun (ok, so maybe I’m a little unusual) and
mentally stimulating to stay on top of new research and use it to improve your
life, it is also crucial. Far too many people spend the last several years of
their lives suffering and reliant on others and not keeping themselves up to
date is a huge part of the reason. For example, middle aged people grew up in
an era where resistance training (weightlifting) wasn’t something normal people
did. If they haven’t since picked it up, they are virtually guaranteed an awful
aging process including rapidly atrophying muscular capabilities and very
strong odds of developing numerous age related diseases like Alzheimer’s. One
of my favorite goals in life is to have a workout I’m proud of on the morning
of my last day on this earth; in other words, I want to function at a high
level until the very end. Through experiments like these, combined with a
strong emphasis on physical and mental health in almost every element of my
daily routine, I hope to feel great both now and in the long term, thus
accomplishing my goal. I highly recommend that everyone do the same.
Investing is one of my favorite activities and I look forward to writing plenty about it on this blog. But I’d be doing you a terrible disservice if I didn’t start with the most important investment: your health. The quote “health is wealth” and permutations of it are so common that there is no single known source and many of the quotes date back well over a thousand years. And it is universally true in every way possible.
There is certainly an economic argument. Health care is
expensive. I don’t need to tell you it’s already expensive today at whatever
age you are and the cost is only going to go up. The current estimate is that
the average person will spend roughly $250k from traditional retirement age to
death on health care and of course inflation will increase that number if you
aren’t there yet. But in this case, the best defense is a good offense. If you
are in good health, you can reduce your exposure to the health care system or
even eliminate it for anything beyond your annual preventative care visits and
the occasional issue that pops up. $250k is a huge figure to chip away at and
you can start saving money in this area every year before you get to retirement
age as well.
But this is even bigger than economics. After all, even a
billionaire can’t buy back his good health once it’s gone. His vast fortune
will get him the best care available and make him as comfortable as possible
while he dies but it can’t get back what has been lost. Most of us will never
be billionaires but this is one rare example of something we can have that some
of them can’t.
And this is so much more than simply putting off death. By
investing in your health, you will improve the quality of your life every
single day. See those people all over the place who are so fat they can barely
move much less live the kind of active lifestyle a fit person does? Now take a
look at the attractive people the obese masses try so hard to convince you
represent an unrealistic standard. Which group do you want to be a part of? How
much money do you think the people in the first group would pay to be part of
the second instead? That’s right; this investment yields a return you can’t
even quantify. And it is much easier to stay part of the second group from day
one on than it is to renounce your membership in group one and join group two.
As in most areas of life, preventative maintenance is much, much easier and
cheaper than repairing damage.
And please, ignore the naysayers. You do not want the
bitter, resentful life they are living. You can’t change your genetics but you
can certainly change lifestyle factors. Anyone could potentially get lung
cancer but it is far less likely to happen to someone who doesn’t smoke.
Everyone has heard of the occasional fitness fanatic who had a heart attack and
died at fifty. But the only reason those stories are even noteworthy enough to
get your attention is that the scenario is extremely unlikely and therefore
shocking. Lifetime smokers, obese people, etc, die young every day so no one is
even going to bat an eyelash when they do. You can’t outwork the possibility of
all negative outcomes but you can most definitely put the odds in your favor
and win most of the time.
So how do you start investing? You don’t need a dollar to do
it although gym memberships are very cheap these days (I’ve seen as low as $10
a month) and that’s the most effective route for most people. Your main
investments are time and effort but you also need knowledge and discipline –
both of which can be acquired and increased with time and effort.
How much time? Your government overlords tell you 150
minutes per week is the minimum. I don’t like mediocrity so my minimum is 300
minutes. That’s 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio every day with 30
minutes of serious resistance training three days a week. And again, that’s a
minimum. That’s what you do if you’re sick or maybe rehabbing an injury. That
also doesn’t include walking. It is very important to walk around at regular
intervals throughout the day. You should avoid sitting for more than a half
hour of uninterrupted time at all costs. Get a Fitbit or another fitness watch
that incorporates a pedometer if it helps you. The science is very clear on the
devastating impact of long periods of sitting – even if you get enough exercise
Again, that’s the minimum. What do I do under normal
circumstances? 570-750 minutes per week is a rough estimate. That is comprised
of: 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio every day, 60 minutes of serious
resistance training 4-5 days a week, and 2-4 hours of participating in sports
in a typical week (in my case, lately that has been mostly tennis, basketball,
or hitting a heavy bag – no, I don’t count golf as a sport although I enjoy
that too). Some weeks I’m a little below that and many weeks I’m above. The
latest and greatest studies show there really is no reasonable upper limit to
the amount of exercise people can benefit from. I actually consciously moderate
mine as my body is very prone to overtraining and injuries in general so your
numbers could go higher if you are more genetically blessed in that area.
Another facet is exercise intensity level. As a general
rule, start slow/light and gradually work your way up. Don’t try to go from
zero to hero overnight. The lost time spent dealing with injuries will easily
destroy any additional benefits whereas the long term progress of ramping up
gradually, but consistently, will be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Another huge aspect is diet/nutrition. This is easily an
entire series of posts all by itself but here are some of the basics. In
general, American portion sizes are much too big. You need a lot less food than
you think. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re eating at a restaurant, you
should be taking home at least half of what is served in a to-go box; this is a
financially friendly practice as well. Eat lots of vegetables – at least five
servings a day. You almost can’t overdo this. And no, potatoes and corn don’t
count. Eat some fruit but in moderation as there can be a lot of sugar in it.
Go high protein; .5-1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day is a good range for
most people. Eat a moderate amount of high quality carbohydrates. So whole
grain bread instead of white, brown rice instead of white, complex versus
simple. These are items you should eat.
But you also need to minimize eating garbage or eliminate it
altogether if you struggle with the minimal concept like I do. And yes, soda
falls into the garbage category along with anything else that is highly
processed or made of primarily sugar, fat (chips, fries, etc), or both (ice
cream). And no, diet soda isn’t better. Soda in all of its forms is pretty
close to cigarette status as far as your health is concerned; you simply
shouldn’t ever consume it unless you really hate being alive and want to get it
over with ASAP. Avoid soy as much as possible, especially if you’re a man. It’s
horrifying how much of this poison has worked its way into our food supply. It
requires tons of processing just to make it consumable by humans but even
worse, it messes with your hormones. Anything in that category should be
setting off a bright, flashing, go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not
collect $200 alarm in your head. While we’re on the subject of avoidance,
minimize dairy consumption. Studies are still somewhat conflicting but are
starting to trend towards anti-dairy conclusions, particularly when you factor
in how many of them are funded by the powerful dairy industry. I treat dairy as
a garnish item and an occasional treat and even that policy is probably pushing
The most important thing with investing in your health is to
get started. If you’re currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, I have good
news for you. Just by getting started, you are likely to see benefits much more
rapidly than the average person. That’s not to say that it isn’t worthwhile to
work on improvements if you’re in that average camp or even if you are a
fitness veteran. The further up the fitness ladder you can get without it
becoming psychologically unhealthy, the better. Too much of anything can be
problematic – even something good. But in modern society, we have precious few
people who are in any danger of reaching that level in the area of fitness and
nearly all of us could benefit from some ramping up. You will notice the
differences all over your life – feeling better both physically and
psychologically, people responding more positively to you, clothes fitting
better, sleeping better, looking better, and on and on. Simply put, I can’t
overstate the value of investing in your health and if you start doing it more,
I almost guarantee you will agree.