10 Things I Learned In Asia That Drastically Changed How I Work Towards (and Maintain) My Health, Fitness & Personal Goals…
- Take Your Time
I was walking in Kyoto a few weeks ago, when I caught a glimpse of a small window in which sat an old man carving chop sticks. It was watching him continue to create slow and meticulous strokes that I realized how crucial it is to take your time. In fitness it is only when we slow things down that we make real strides towards our goals.
Rushing things or wanting an almost immediate outcome can come at a great cost. I remember when at 20 I wanted fast results from my body and continued to change diets and workout plans, wasting several years of my life and energy and not getting anywhere. If I had just invested time into one solid plan and stayed patient I would have gotten what I wanted a lot sooner. Taking your time might mean that things won’t happen in an instance, but trust me, if a diet pill promises a two week reward, there’s a consequence somewhere in the process (messing with your metabolism, lymphatic system or even worse). Even my 7 Day lean program is a 7 day reset program, but it still has a full 20, 30 and 60 day program built in as well.
In the end, sure things might take more time, but those are the things that come with far greater and more lasting rewards.
2. Invest In Yourself And Learn To FOCUS By Saying NO
When I got back to Japan I noticed something about the general attitude of the society, and it stayed with me, making a significant influence on my own attitude towards my personal success.
In Japan it is okay to focus strictly on one thing. There is no guilt over not knowing something because you have invested time in something else, something that matters to you. Because of that fact there is great detail and pride and a very high standard for everything – from health and fitness, to arts, to cooking. In my life in New York I find that everyone wants to be a master at everything; people somehow want to do circus tricks on Tuesday and be martial art masters on Thursday and on Saturday they want to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The truth is that success and mastery comes from deep mental and physical focus, which often comes at the cost of having to pick one or two things. Basically, stop trying to conquer the world and instead work to enhance it with one or two great things. Pick something that matters to you and invest in it. Saying no to other peoples hobbies and likes and focusing on your own is actually okay – and will lead to far greater rewards and accomplishments.
3. Eat Fruit
Everyone knows to eat vegetables, you basically cannot argue with that fact. But often, and especially amongst people that are trying to lose weight fruit gets a bad — ‘don’t eat that, its too much sugar’ wrap.
I’ve traveled to over thirty different countries, some I revisit often, and the one main trend I see in cultures and areas where the population is over all healthy with little to no obesity issues, as well as a population of people that grow well into old age — They all eat fruit!
No joke, fruit is a part of a very healthy and natural diet in most parts of the world. In Japan, China, South East Asia and through Europe fruits are the breakfast, the dessert and often the snack. And the people eating them are never obese or unhealthy.
Cutting out so called ‘bad’ or ‘sugary’ foods like apples, oranges, berries and mango’s just to name a few literally means that you are cutting out whole food groups and much needed nutrients out of your diet. Now, while refined, unnatural foods and white bread is not a good way to nourish your body, neither is cutting out berries. Quality food over quantity and fake foods is the real key to weight-loss, weight-maintenance and over all health — so GO ON! I discuss a lot of this in my simple 7 Day Lean Book.
So, go on, enjoyed the taste and health benefits of raspberries, blueberries, citrus fruits and anything else you can pick off a vine and put into your mouth.
And guys “No One Ever Got Fat From A Piece Of Fruit.”
4. Get Off The Spin Bike and Lift Some Weights Cardio Queen
In most parts of the world people are highly active. In Japan I watched elderly men and women lift up huge bags and boxes of food. I watched them walk and climb and use their bodies. Actually people just don’t seem to want or need to retire there. Eighty year old women are still active, walking, working and lifting things. Why? because they aren’t scared to lift things up and put them down…
I spent the better half of my twenties trying to maintain the weight I lost from my over weight teen years. But, I was always struggling and sacrificing because I was missing one key component of training – weight training. I had spent the age of 20 through about 25 starving myself, spending two hours in spin classes or on elliptical machines. I clearly remember feeling exhausted and deprived, as well as overwhelmed by the amount of time I had to spend in the gym. However during that entire time I did not have the ‘ideal body’ that I was ‘working so hard for’. After I finished my Masters Degree in Exercise Science I began to understand the body from a different perspercitive – science doesn’t lie, and when I applied physiology and kinesiology to my training I understood that the ONLY way to get far greater results, eat (and enjoy) actual food and spend far less time (like half of the time) in the gym is to add correct (weight appropriate) strength training to my routine. Within 6 months I was leaner, tighter and stronger. I stopped getting tired and I ate what I wanted and had far more time for my life. Muscle is more metabolically active then fat – and for that reason amongst many others adding a regimented strength training routine 3x a week changed my body- and my life.
5. Know Your Self Worth – Know What You Are Capable Of!
In Japan the term master is not simply given out. However, and much to a Westerners surprise they have maters of everything; from knife making, to chefs to florists and gardeners. It’s not cocky to know what you are worth, and to repeat it to yourself before a business meeting, job interview, project or even a workout. Understanding my personal your self worth in my training helped me find my true potential, getting stronger, healthier and far more resilient.
In fitness to get the very best results you have to understand what they are capable of. If I did this in my early twenties I would have undoubtably avoided a lot of wasted time lifting two pound weights and hoping to see results. It’s time to identify what your strengths are and what your time is worth in and outside the gym. Apply this to challenging yourself in your fitness routine as well as everything else, from personal relationships to business.
6. Stop Sitting!
Sitting is killing us! Literally and physically. What I noticed especially in Asia is that people don’t spend nearly as much time in chairs, and because of that they move better, live longer and are far stronger and active in older age.
Think about it, in America we eat, drink, socialize, work and do many of our recreational activities sitting.
Don’t agree? Not you? Lets see; you work at a computer, you watch TV or surf the net sitting down, you often commute sitting in a car or on the train, you eat sitting and you go out to dinner and sit.
Through out Asia, from Thailand to Cambodia, Japan and China the population sits squatting, and believe me – it makes a HUGE difference.
During lunch breaks in Japan and China many people eat standing at lunch bars and counters. They play chess squatting and they watch TV sitting on their knees. This makes a significant different on how they look, live and move when they are older. So – find a way around sitting as much as you can. Even time how many hours a day you sit and aim to stand, move and be active an equal number of hours a day or a week. Take action and limit sitting!
7. Passion and Persistence
In Asia I noticed that every single person puts a great deal of pride, passion and persistence behind everything they do (no matter how small or insignificant the detail is). Don’t be afraid to be passionate and proud. Being passive about the things you want or need is a one way ticket to failure. You get what you what, and where you want by constantly staying ‘on it’, feeling proud of your accomplishments and making your presence and your goals known.
Be so passionate about your workout routine that you list out your training dates on a calendar and post them up on your desktop. Be so proud of your strides that you want to shout them to the world. Make things happen by being persistent, even if that means persistent with yourself – making one small goal a day or a week work for you, until that goal turns into a mountain of real accomplishment.
8. Don’t Weigh Yourself (Ever)
So, in my three weeks of traveling through Asia this summer and in my 3 months total of being in Japan and China over the past years I never saw a single scale, and I didn’t miss it. I asked then women if they ever really weigh themselves – one looked at me and said – Why? Another said, ‘Sure, at the doctors office.’
It was ten years ago, when I finally stopped weighing myself and began to weigh my bodies progress by its physical ability that everything changed. In my early twenties a simple 2 pound fluctuation on the scale would lead to mood swings, sadness and an utter lack of self belief. Today I learned that my body and my life are worth much more then that. I love and appreciate the way I look, and more so the way I feel. I measure my body by my ability to walk, run, jump, hike, swim, do a pull up or a push up. If I need a physical marker I use my clothing as a reference point to where I am. More so since I started doing that I haven’t had to buy a new pair of jeans, my 5 year old skinny J brands fit incredibly.
9. Quality Over Quantity; That Goes For Friends, Men, Clothing, Working Out and Going Out
In Japan quantity is completely irrelevant. Society does not place success on the number or size of your belongings. Instead the quality of your things and your work matters most.
I once added up all of the shoes I bought between age 20 and 24, only to realize it would have cost the same amount to buy two or three great pairs of designer shoes (like Chanel riding boots, and amazing pair of Loubutin heels and an awesome of flat.) Shoes I would have treasured and worn for years.
The same goes for most other things, I had dozens of friendships in my early twenties, but today, I devote my time to just a handful of incredible people.
In fitness that means that MORE IS NOT BETTER – Refinement and Quality is BETTER.
If you can hold a plank for three minutes maybe its time for a new variable. If you workout to 30-50% of your maximum capability and potential every single day, why not 100% three to four times a week instead.
Refine the things you do and find QUALITY.
10. Have Faith In The Universe and Yourself
So, yes, I got (and continue to get) far more ZEN after my many trips to Asia…
I get frustrated, as I am sure I will for the rest of my life. But the difference is that my frustration today comes with a healthy dose of perspective. I know that whatever is happening will pass and no matter what I will get through it and wind up on the other side of things. I often use looking back at how far I’ve comes as a marker for where I am today, and where I’ll be in the future.
No matter how crazy it seems the universe has a plan, all you have to do is work hard and have undoubtable faith in yourself and your journey – the rest will come – it just might take time.