Fasting is a high-level sport

Have you ever pursued a sport to a high level? I have. I was a long-distance runner for a while in my youth, then a competitive rower, and far more recently I did bodybuilding and weightlifting.

Sportspeople suffer all the time. It’s part of the deal. Any weightlifter or bodybuilder can tell you how much it hurts to get up a set of stairs after a good, hard leg day! It can be agony (ever wondered why weightlifters don’t like houses with stairs?) Yet in some weird way, you look forward to the pain, and even enjoy it, because you know that it is a part of achieving your goal.

Likewise, runners and rowers and all kinds of competitive sportspeople go through pain too in pursuit of their goals. Even a good long walk can leave you aching the next day. We know this is good for us, we enjoy it, it’s part of the whole package, we accept that, and we feel great as a result. Discomfort is part of the deal, but the rewards are overwhelming.

Fasting is similar. It can be a challenge and at times it can be uncomfortable. The most difficult part is the work that goes on between your ears – getting your brain on right, planning how you’ll deal with challenges, seeing the road ahead of you and knowing you have the resolve to get the job done.

START SMALL

Just like a long race, or a heavy set of squats, I believe fasting is easier when you work up to it. I started with part-day fasts – skipping breakfast, then delaying lunch more and more until I could skip it altogether. Then I missed one day of food, then two, and so on. If we started our new running hobby by attempting a marathon, we’d probably fail. By starting with smaller goals, we achieve success and that encourages us to strive for more and achieve larger goals if we choose to.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

Yet, just like a marathon or lifting weights, this is not a competition against anyone else except yourself. Fasting is about self-mastery, not competition against someone else’s body or weight or age or ability. Your goal should always be to find your own personal best, not to topple or discredit someone else’s achievement.

So think of yourself as an athlete, in the fast lane. Fasting is a powerful tool – perhaps the most powerful health tool we have available. It would be a shame to refuse it, simply because we’re afraid to try.

FIT: What exercise makes sense?

The takeaway: Do what makes you happy.

The first marathon runner, according to legend, was a soldier named Pheidippides. He ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to report the victory, a distance of 26 miles and 385 yards, then promptly dropped dead after giving his message.

That might be inspiring to some people, and it sure is a great story, but it doesn’t make me want to go out and do a marathon!

Humans are built to sprint, run, jump, walk, and carry significant amounts of weight. Like all animals, we’re built for movement.

Even very elderly people in good shape are able to do all of these activities. Fauja Singh is a centenarian (currently 109) who has competed in numerous marathons, as well as shorter distance events. And, as any parent will know, from the moment a baby first starts to crawl, there’s no stopping them!

WHAT EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOU?

Medical evidence is clear: exercise is healthy for us. The evidence also seems to suggest that pretty much all exercise is good for us, as long as we don’t overdo it.

If it hurts, stop. If you feel pain of any sort, stop. If you have an injury, stop. If you get hit by someone or something, stop. And, of course, get advice from your doctor before starting any exercise routine, especially if you are older or have any health complaints.

DAILY EXERCISE

Walking is a great exercise. If your workplace is close enough, try walking to and from each day, or get out at lunchtime and walk during the break.

Lifting weights is also terrific. It doesn’t cost much to buy a set of weights for home use. I have various sets of weights that I use five times a week, and I’ll run through my daily routine in another, upcoming post.

Buying a set of weights is a lot cheaper than a gym membership. You can start with just one set, and build up from there as you develop strength and a range of weightlifting activities you enjoy and are comfortable with.

My “starter” set is 7 kgs (15 pounds) dumbbells. I use them for everything from overhead presses and biceps curls through to weighted lunges and weighted squats.

As you become stronger, you can buy heavier sets of weights one set at a time, while keeping your first set for exercises that are more challenging or require greater numbers of repetitions – I still use my original 2 kgs (4.5 pound) dumbbells for side raises and front raises.

The main thing with any exercise plan is to develop a routine, so you know what you are doing and when. It will soon become a habit that you will enjoy and gain a lot of reward from.