Whilst walking back from a coaching appointment earlier today I reflected on how small changes really can make a big difference in the long term. Can something as simple as my walk to work make a real difference? I think it can. And, in this article, I'd like to talk about two of my favourite things - exercise and investing. And how, given enough time, one small change can quite literally change your life.
Firstly, let me just say that I don't typically agree with calorie counting but I'll be using some conventional wisdom examples here to illustrate some points. I'll also be making some assumptions about the stock market, but again, please don't be put off!
I find myself walking most places - to visit clients, to do my shopping and to head to meetings. This is a personal choice and I love walking so it isn't a huge hardship for me. I got to thinking, however, that there would be (and there are) plenty of people who would drive or take the bus or train for these same journeys. On average, I walk around 6 miles per day but what would happen if I didn't do this and I took the car or bus?
Health, Wealth and Happiness
There would of course be a decrease in my health - most notably through a decrease in aerobic activity and calorific expenditure. There would also be a number of other factors, including a reduction in exposure to sunlight (resulting in a reduction in Vitamin D production) and a reduction in general mobility. Let's just take calorific expenditure as an example. Using some (albeit "guess-timate") software I've calculated the likely calorie expenditure of my daily 6 mile walk.
The following figures have been calculated for a 85kg/187lb male walking at around 4mph over the course of an average working week (5 days):
Calorie expenditure per day through walking: 630 kcal
Calorie expenditure per week (5 days) through walking: 3150 kcal
Calorie expenditure per year (52x5) through walking: 163,800 kcal
That's a staggering amount of calories burned over the course of a year.
Furthermore, we could break these calories down into potential fat utilisation. If we assume that each gram of fat provides 9 kcal then we get the following results:
Potential fat burned per day through walking: 70g
Potential fat burned per week (5 days) through walking: 350g
Potential fat burned per year (52x5) through walking: 18,200g
While this is simple, and admittedly slightly skewed science, we do see that my simple walk has the potential to burn 18.2 kg/40lbs of fat per year. There are of course a number of important dietary factors to consider here - but as a means to increase calorie expenditure this cannot be ignored.
This is just one measure but we can begin to see the impact of small changes - removing my daily walk would obviously have a huge impact on my current level of health.
What about my wealth? If I switched to driving or taking the bus my daily expenditure would come to approximately £5/$7.50. Or a loss of £1300/$1950 per year. Doesn't seem like a huge expense for the convenience does it? If I had taken that expense and invested it instead then the results would shock you.
Travel expenses per day: £5/$7.50
Travel expenses per week (5 days): £25/$37.50
Travel expenses per year (52x5): £1300/$1950
Let's say I'd invested that money (as an automatic deduction from my account) into a managed fund or other investment vehicle. I've used a potential return of 10% p.a. (which is fairly conservative if you know where to invest). The results are as follows:
After 1 year: £1366/$2049
After 5 years: £8341/$12,511
After 10 years: £21,774/$32,661
After 20 years: £78,249/$117,373
After 30 years: £224,732/$337,098
This is the power of compound interest - investing money and not touching it allows the interest to compound (or grow) on itself.
I certainly appreciate that the examples I've given here are not appropriate for everyone. Some of us will be able to apply this to our own lives to a lesser or greater degree but hopefully we can all appreciate the message.
I wish you all the very best for health, wealth and happiness.
If you have any questions about anything covered in this article please do get in touch:
Heavy Sandbag Push Jerks, Knees-to-Elbows, Heavy Sandbag Back Squats. Max repetitions on each exercise, no rest between exercises, rest 3-5 minutes between each set of three exercises. Repeat for a total of 5 rounds.
Back when I was originally studying for my Physical Education qualifications we were always told about the principle of specificity - essentially meaning that you get good at whatever you do. It's strange, but in todays fitness industry I'm often surprised how rare it is for people to consider this when they are choosing exercise options.
If you thought about the things that you do for fitness, could you really say that you wanted to become better at doing them? Would an increased skill level in using the elliptical, the chest press or performing a crunch really help in daily life? In fact, I would imagine that most people never perform these types of things outside of the gym environment.
We typically see people choosing programmes, systems or exercises based on a variety of factors but rarely does specificity come into the equation. I regularly speak to clients or friends who want to lose weight, tone certain muscles or build strength but it is a rare occasion when someone tells me that they want to get better at a certain movement. Many times, it seems as though people don't make the connection between exercise and daily life. Exercise, for many, has become a series of arbitrary goals:
"I want to build muscle so that I can burn more calories at rest"
"I want to burn X number of calories per session"
I prefer to take a different approach to goal setting - how can we improve a persons ability to move well and enable them to accomplish everything they want to in daily life. I like to consider what they currently do, what they can't do and what they've always wanted to be able to do. I find this gives a certain clarity to the programming process and can achieve a much greater level of "real world success". I try to encourage others not to follow programmes simply because everyone else is - make your own choices based on what you want to be able to achieve.
Start to take a look at your daily schedule and compare this to your current gym routine - are there any parallels? If not, start to add in some exercises that will work towards improving some basic skills e.g.
Deadlifts (and especially suitcase variations) will assist in picking things up from the floor such as shopping bags or children
Lunges and their variations will improve Gait (walking)
Cleans and Presses will improve your ability to lift things above your head such as putting objects onto a high shelf
Step Ups will improve your ability to walk up stairs
Squats will improve your ability to stand up and sit down
These are some very basic examples but hopefully you can see how you might start to analyse your programme in a slightly different way.
Sandbag Training also fits well into this concept and one of the major reasons that I train with them is that they respond more like a "real world" weight. The sand shifts and it is difficult to stabilise - you don't get this challenge from a pair of dumbbells. And, while I may not be able to lift the same amount of weight in a sandbag as on a bar, I feel as though it is a truer representation of my actual strength.
Heavy Sandbag Power Clean, Push Jerk and Back Squat. Perform with the heaviest bag you can manage and perform back squats to failure for each set. Rest for 3-5 minutes between sets and repeat for 5 sets in total.
Record your total number of back squat repetitions.
Heavy Sandbag Back Squat, Sandbag Overhead Press, Chin Ups. Max repetitions on each exercise, no rest between exercises. Rest 3-5 minutes between each set of three exercises and repeat for a total of 5 rounds.
Record the number of repetitions for each exercise.