Focusing too much on data can mean missing the big picture - these three key health markers for performance will quickly give you that big picture view at a glance
The 'quantified self' sounds fancy but just means using tech to measure everything from sleep and blood pressure to key hormone levels and more. It can be a great way to identify strengths as well as weaknesses and to maintain a constant path to ongoing improvement.
The issue with so much readily-available data though is it can become either all-consuming, or simply so overwhelming it can feel easier to do nothing at all.
Neither approach is beneficial, so for an easy gauge on where you're at check these three simple markers. No tech or spreadsheets required.
Three biggest health markers: #1: sleep quality
Only two things matter with sleep:
- Do you fall asleep easily and quickly?
- Do you generally wake up feeling refreshed?
If you answered 'yes' to both, your sleep rocks. Continue to #2.
If you answered 'no' to either, it's time to address sleep hygene, timing, caffeine levels and/or meal times (a late meal means your body's digesting all night which reduces sleep quality and increases tiredness on waking). For more on all of these subjects our post on better sleep for athletes has all you need to know.
If stress and an internal monologue that won't shut up is what keeps you awake, meditation is the answer. It's not just for tie-dyed beardie weirdies you know. This post covers meditation basics to get you started.
Three biggest health markers #2: it's all in the eyes
The whites of your eyes should be white. Simple as that. If yours are, skip to #3.
If they're yellow though this can indicate too much acidity in the body which increases disease risk and slows you down in training and racing. The simple solution? More fruit and veg, and less processed foods and additives.
Puffy eyes can be caused by simple tiredness and too long at the laptop screen, but they can also be caused by simple dehydration. Solution: reduce coffee and booze, bin the soft drinks, drink water.
Yellow whites to your eyes = too much acidity in your body. Unless you're a tiger. Grrr...
Three biggest health markers #3: waistline
A straight no-brainer this. If your waistline's inching upwards, your risk of just about every lifestyle disease is rising too.
While a few extra pounds is no biggie, flogging yourself to wafer-thin cover model/supermodel standards is neither healthy nor wise either.
If your weight's creeping on despite good sleep, diet and exercise, this post on weight loss for athletes has some great tools to rein it in without affecting performance or sanity.
Meanwhile, the biggest causes for active folks who can't shift stubborn weight are:
- The post training binge: beers, pizza and cake after a big session have their place, but when they're coming after every walk around the block you're in calorie overload. Make sure calories out beats treats in every time
- Processed foods: gluten-free, fat-free, low-sugar and more, whatever the label says, if the ingredient list is long and/or filled with emulsifiers, sweeteners, flavourings and preservatives, it's highly processed food. And if it is, no amount of healthy-looking claims are going to help in your weight loss quest. Reduce or eliminate, swap for whole fruit, veg, nuts and beans
- •Liquid calories: sauces, soft drinks, fruit juice booze and the alcohol-free stuff, they're all a concentrated calorie hit and rarely contain anything good for you. Swap where possible for water, herbal tea and black coffee
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