I guess I owe everybody a belated merry Christmas and a happy new year. As you may have been able to tell, I took a well deserved two week break over the holidays. I put a couple of posts on auto-post, but otherwise I’ve been blog free for a while and never got the chance to write a ‘what to do over the holidays’ type article. In truth, I didn’t really want to write a ‘how to survive the holidays article’. Firstly, because everybody else was doing it and secondly, because the holidays are a time to relax and let your hair down and any good exercise or dietary intentions, in my experience, soon go out of the window.
Living in the southern hemisphere, Christmas time over here falls over our hottest months and so for my holiday I headed into the Cederberg mountains for some sunshine, swimming and general outdoor activity.
The Cederberg Mountains. Photo credit: © Richard Commin 2008
To keep my fitness levels and general conditioning up, I’d planned some good outdoor workouts and had a pretty decent nutritional strategy to combat the Christmas junk food glut.
Here are some of the things I had planned to do, bearing in mind I had no gym:
- Olympic style vertical rock throws (Basically, just throw a large rock overhead from the ground, without I landing on your head!)
- Pushing my car on a dirt road (Great for overall conditioning)
- Pilates (I even took a mat with me!)
- Pull-ups on tree branches
- Boxing, using my focus mitts
- Flexibility training
- Shoulder presses with a heavy tree branch
- Mountain biking
- Grip work, with my Captain of Crush gripper.
- Single leg squats
I also planned to make 3 healthy vegetable/fruit/nut/cottage cheese/yoghurt shakes per day to counterbalance the junk food.
So how much of this did I actually do? Zero, Zilch, Zip, not a thing! I could come up with numerous excuses - the excessive heat, the altitude making me feel tired, the booze, the diet. What it ultimately boils down to though, is the fact that I was on holiday and just wanted to relax and enjoy myself.
A good way to relax
Strangely enough though, if I look back on my holiday, I was probably more active than I have been all year round. How could that be though? Well, it’s time to introduce you to something called NEPA. NEPA stands for Non-Exercise Physical Activity and is basically the physical activity you get throughout the day that you don’t consider to be planned exercise. So things like walking up a flight of stairs, doing your grocery shopping, getting up off the couch to fetch another beer from the fridge. You get the idea.
Here are some of the activities that I did on holiday that resulted in me having more exercise than the rest of the year, without even trying.
- Playing bat and ball
- Kicking a football
- Throwing a rugby ball
- Finding and shooting targets with a pellet gun
- Lots of swimming in mountain rock pools
- Short hikes
- Lots of walking. Walking to the nearest fridge, bathroom, swimming hole etc.
- Pitching tents and carrying heavy camping gear. (read: carrying large amounts of beer)
- Jumping off cliffs into the water and then climbing back up only to do it all again
Me jumping into Malgat swimming pool
I even got some total body strength work done by helping my cousin and brother-in-law push a half ton rock of a cliff. It took us half an hour to manage it, but was well worth the effort. Yes, I know, I’m a child at heart!
This type of exercise is mostly low-intensity cardiovascular work and is the antithesis of what I recommended in Extreme Fat Loss: The Secret To Burning Fat Fast. I’ve mentioned before that I really hate the boredom of doing my low intensity cardio in the gym. My solution to this problem is the increase my NEPA and whilst I discovered that this is really easy to do on a camping trip, the challenge is to increase it for the average city-dwelling, desk-bound person.
Here are some ways in which you can increase your NEPA. Let me start by telling you a short story. If I go to my local gym in peak hours (which I rarely do) the one-way road leading to the gym is backed up for about 200 meters with gym-goers patiently waiting for a parking space in the gym’s car park to free up. I mistakenly got myself stuck in this jam once and easily spent 20 minutes sitting in the car with the engine idling. Now I know better. I park a mere 400 meters away from the gym, and, horror of all horrors, walk the rest of the way! The funny thing is that the people who insist on parking right outside the entrance to the gym are the same ones who, 20 minutes later, will get into their training gear and walk on a treadmill for half an hour. Talk about counter-productive.
The same applies to the shopping centres. Don’t be that person who drives around in circles hoping to nab a spot right near the entrance. Park in the first spot you see and walk across the car park. On average, you’ll get there faster, save money on petrol and increase your NEPA too. I often do a bit of grocery shopping before my workout. The shops are a 3-4 minute walk from my gym each way and I spend about 5 minutes dashing up and down the aisles. That’s a 10-15 minute cardio warm-up so no need for me to do it when I get to the gym and I killed two birds with one stone.
Here are some other NEPA strategies:
- Always take the stairs.
- Use hand baskets instead of trolleys in the supermarket
- Walk more quickly
- Do your own dirty work. Clean your own car, do your own laundry, cook you own meals, maintain your own pool. You’d be surprised at how much physical activity these tasks require.
- Take a break from your desk every so often a walk around the office. This will do wonders for that sore lower back too.
- Do some gardening
- Find a hobby that requires you to more around a little instead of watching TV
I’m sure you can look at your daily activities and spot a lot more areas where you can increase your NEPA. Whilst low intensity cardio in not the best way to burn body fat, it can still help and each little bit of NEPA adds up. Besides, our bodies are designed to move and be active. Your posture will improve and your joints might ease up just by moving more. Everything in our modern society is designed to make life easier and less active with less NEPA. Just look at a drive-through, how lazy is that? The challenge to us all is to reverse this trend and become more active. Your body will thank you.
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