men, let’s start putting ourselves first
How can we expect to be of service to those we care about if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first? Here’s how to have a bigger impact this year.
There’s something to be said for grit. We celebrate it as men. If we’re tired, we keep grinding. If we get knocked down, we get back up and go again. And for a lot of us, it’s a big part of why we’ve succeeded.
But, grit has a cost. We’ve subscribed to a distorted hierarchy that puts our work, workouts, and family first. While these things are very important, imagine the impact you could have this year on your relationships, health, and profession if you took better care of yourself first.
Wait, isn’t working out a good thing?
Of course, it is. However, we’re going to take a look at how to leverage your time every day to make sure you’re focusing on the type of self-care that is most pressing for you. Some days, that’s not going to be a workout.
In fact, let’s separate working out from overall health because it’s just one of many boxes you’ll need to check to be your best.
There are 3 categories of self-care I’d like you to consider:
These are listed in order of importance. Most of us would list picking up heavy things first, but you’re probably not going to crush your workout on four hours of sleep. And, if you’re trying to lose fat and not putting nutrition before training, then you’re going to fail.
Using these three categories, I want to show you a decision-making framework based on a question I learned from writer Nate Green:
"If I only have an hour for myself today, how can I best use that time?"
The power in this question is that we’re creating the time for you to put yourself first. We’re all busy but most of us can find an hour each day, right? If not, you might need to examine your personal hierarchy even more.
Think of this hour as an investment. Instead of using that hour each day to just say, sleep in, we want to use it to build systems that promote our three areas of self-care. This might look like prepping your meals, building a sleep routine, or knocking out a mobility workout.
Where you place this hour each day isn’t important. Some of the busiest and most successful guys I know create this time by getting up earlier, but you’ll know what time will work consistently best for you.
Each day, you’ll take a look at that hour block on your calendar and work down the categories to determine what feels best for you that day.
Note: These aren’t hard and fast rules, just suggestions. There will be days you need to grind through a workout while you’re tired. But if you’re standing in a hole, sometimes the best strategy is to stop digging.
There are large variations in ideal sleep time for each person. However, for most adults consistently getting less than seven hours can lead to a host of health issues and decreased performance.
Did you get seven to eight hours of sleep last night? If not, consider taking a nap today instead of hitting the gym. Or, if you’d still like to hit the gym, opt out of trying to set any PR’s that day and do what strength coach Dan John calls a “Punch The Clock Workout”. Get in. Do your work. Get out.
If you suffer from a chronic lack of sleep, use your hour each day to develop a nighttime ritual. Here are three ways you can help signal your body that it’s time to sleep:
Turn off all electronics 30-60 min before bed.
Drink some reishi tea to help reduce evening stress levels and support the body’s sleep cycles.
Grab a journal and do a brain dump to turn off the monkey mind and make it easier to relax.
Speaking of rituals, for around 50% of people, the recommended 10:00pm-6:00am sleep schedule will work best. But there’s no rule that says you have to sleep between those hours. To learn more about different sleep chronotypes, check out this article from Business Insider.
And If you’re curious to learn more about your individual sleep patterns, or chronotype, take this quiz from Dr. Michael Breus.
After sleep, nothing will have a bigger impact on your quality of life (and physique) than nutrition.
Do you want to finally drop those extra 15 pounds? What about experience greater energy throughout the day? If so, ask yourself if the food you’ve been eating is supporting that goal.
If not, you might use today’s hour to plan your meals, create a grocery list, and go shopping. In fact, I recommend building this into your calendar twice a week.
Are you confused about which diet you should be following? Here’s the good news: ALL diets work by finding a way to reduce the number of calories you’re eating.
But there is no perfect diet, so the pressure is off. You’re free to experiment and find the right fit for YOU. To help guide that process, I want to teach you two filters I use to narrow it down.
Subjective energy levels
The macronutrient (fats and carbs) profile of your diet doesn’t matter that much for fat loss but it does affect how you feel. Some people have better energy and clarity on a higher carb intake while others feel and operate best on higher fat intake. If you’re dragging all day I’ll guarantee you’re not going to stick with your diet.
There will always be a sacrifice when you are dieting. There’s no way around this. However, a diet should restrain not restrict your lifestyle. If you love a slow-burn morning making breakfast with the kids, a diet that requires you to skip breakfast, like intermittent fasting, may not be the right setup.
If sleep and nutrition are taken care of (and we’re not looking for perfection here, just consistent effort) then it’s time to train.
Your readiness to workout each day (and the resulting performance) is affected by many factors that you might not have full control over: last’s night sleep quality, emotional stress, nutrition, and even your mood that day.
You should stick to your program most of the time but gauge how you feel that day. Ready to run through a wall? Load the weight up. Newborn up every two hours last night? It might be time to hit a mobility circuit like the one below and take a quick walk with your hour.
This is called auto-regulation. Using this strategy you’ll make decisions about your training before, or even during, your workout. It’s listening to your body and the key to staying healthy while you train hard.
Here’s a sample mobility workout you can plug in on the days you’re feeling rundown but want to get some movement in.
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and repeat this circuit:
90-90 Hip Rock 10ea way
Glute Bridge 10
Push-Up Position Rocking Ankle Mobilization 1 set x 10ea
Spinal Wave to Bear Squat 5 cycles
Kneeling Arm Thread to Sky Reach Bow Draw 8ea side, nice and easy
Deadstop Push-up to Down Dog 8
Fwd/Back Beast Crawl + Kick-Through
Hollow Body Hang 80% effort
Here’s to your best year yet.
BJ Ward is Head Coach at Born Fitness and current strength coach of Rhone CEO and co-founder Nate Checketts. A former US Army soldier and athlete, his passion is helping men become the strongest versions of themselves, in and out of the gym. Connect with BJ on Instagram @_bjward.