Last week (‘Marginal Gains‘) I suggested that the best place to start your fitness mission was, in a word, everywhere. Everywhere all at once! “Well!” I hear you ask. “How precisely do I do that?”

Everywhere, All At Once!

Overwhelmed much? You should be. I’m only talking about the possible reorganisation, redirection and repurposing of your entire life! And any mission with a mandate like this will require the creation of new habits and the breaking of old ones; something that is notoriously difficult to achieve and sustain. 

I’m convinced that there is a strong philosophical and scientific basis for the ‘everything-all-at-once’ approach. But don’t accept my word for it, here’s  Dr Ratey’s opinion:

One of the realizations we hope to deliver is how everything—how you eat, move, sleep, think, and live—is connected. All of it is relevant to your well-being. This seems a simple enough idea, but it flies straight in the face of the fundamentals of Western thought, of science, and especially of modern Western medicine. The tame idea is to break down a problem into components, find out which component is malfunctioning, and fix that problem—an idea that works well enough with machines, but we are not machines. We are wild animals. The wild idea is to embrace complexity.

[READ, ‘Go Wild’ HEREIt’s a wonderful read and I recommend it highly.]

Embrace Complexity: everything is connected.

Complexity and connectivity is the new paradigm that best reflects how science currently understands life, it’s modalities and all of it’s interactions and it’s there that we must start. 

But complexity and connection is not our natural home for thinking about ourselves. We are so use to thinking of ourselves as individuals that we easily forget that there is no such thing as an individual without the many MANY relationships that exist to sustain that idea.

Even a hermit who retreats into a cave to find peace in solitude takes the world of ideas with him.

If you need a tangible reminder of the fact that your existence is prefaced on and tied to the existence of everything else around you, just start with thinking about your skin.

Yep, skin!

Your skin is a semipermeable membrane. ‘Semi’. Meaning that the wonderful solitary individual YOU has leaky edges!

You breath in air. You sweat to regulate your internal temperature in response to the atmosphere around you. You consume and re-purpose the nutrients of the world to sustain your life. Your brain is hardwired for empathy. Your very language requires the participation of others.

You, in short, are only a ‘you’ because of the network relationships that you are deeply connected to, embraced by and nestled within. Without a vast network of relationships you would not exist and could not persist.

So we must embrace complexity. That is the task of any good thinking in the 21st century.

Helpfully the idea that everything is connected helps us to make sense of the power of Marginal Gains and it can help us achieve our fitness goals.

And here’s some more good news:

If you combine the S.A.I.D Principle and the practice of Marginal Gains in your quest for fitness then here is a recipe for success:

  • Small, simple, regular and consistent effort
  • In any one or more areas of focus
  • Leads to improvements
  • In ALL areas of focus

Here’s an example. Take these four areas of life worth improving:

  • Nutrition (including hydration)
  • Activity
  • Sleep
  • Mindfulness (or what I all Presencing)

 Work on one and you work on them ALL! Here’s an example:

During the day you eat well and hydrate your body with up to 2 liters of water. Your body feels ready for exercise and effort. After you have extended yourself physically you feel ready for bed and will enjoy a good night’s rest. When you wake, rested, you’ll feel more alert, present and aware of your surroundings. Repeat to become superhuman!

Four Areas Of Focus

Here’s an overview of my current roadmap to MovNat Cert III success. If you’re interested I’ll go ‘deeper into the weeds’ over the weeks and months ahead. And if you have a burning desire for me to tackle a particular topic sooner than later, let me know in the comments.

Nutrition:

In this area I’m going to focus on consuming mindfully, which in my case means eating for a purpose and monitoring my water intake to make sure I drink 2 litres (min) per day.

Also, because running is my biggest challenge I’ll be eating in a way that will help turn my current ‘no-running’ carbohydrate burning body into a fat burning ultra runner! In other words, I’ll follow the Maffetone Method over a series of 2-3 weeks.

Activity:

I already have an extensive whole body movement program set and I’ll just try and stay focused and consistent. In summary my movement program looks like this:

A little bit of something everyday and a lot of something else on every other day.

More on that later.

Sleep:

Sleep is so critical that every person needs to know what their optimal sleep regime is. There is no magical number but Dr Ratey does throw out 8hrs as optimal. More importantly, the time you go to bed and the amount of sleep you get is not nearly as important as the consistency of the time you get up.

Setting a regular daily starting time is a foundation; a consistent starting point for beginning every day that can have really positive impacts on your health and well-being.

For me: 9AM to bed 5AM rise! Yeah? We’ll see how that goes.

Presence & Presencing:

I prefer the words ‘presence’ and ‘presencing’ than terms like ‘mindfulness‘ or ‘meditation’ to describe the activity of locating or finding yourself in the world.

For example, I can say that I’m being mindful of the food I eat, which might simply be another way of saying, “I’m going to watch my choices”. And I can say that I’m ‘meditating’, which can have the connotation of ‘retreating’ into the mind to achieve a certain state of being.

Both of these terms don’t capture what I’m trying to achieve by using the term presencing.

For me, being present (and presencing) is about becoming aware of and feeling as much of the present moment as possible. Everything! The temperature, the sounds and noises around me and locating their direction and meaning. The movement of people. Their countenance and expression. My balance. Hunger levels. And more.

Feel all of it and as much as possible. Maybe the act of presencing is best described as trying to become hyper-aware. Interestingly, being hyper aware is the permanent state your entire physical apparatus. You’re body is already noticing everything while you’re busy doing whatever it is you are doing.

And this is a good thing. If you were aware of everything all the time you’d be overwhelmed. But for the task of presencing, every now and then it is important to sharpen your attention and try to bring a little of the ‘everything’ into focus.

For me, it’s as important to flex your senses as well as your muscles.

Everything All The Time

Go try it. Start anywhere.

Pick one thing and run with it. Start by hydrating well on a daily basis and you’ll feel like moving more. Chose a physical activity and give it some time and the chemicals that will be released during exercise will make your insides feel like they’re having a party. Stop and listen to your body and the world. Get a good nights rest. And do it all again.

Start anywhere, because staring anywhere leads to improvements everywhere.

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris