The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, December 02, 2005

Four Steps To Tripling Your Energy

     Tired?  Tired of being tired? You aren’t alone.  There are few human qualities more highly sought than energy.  It determines our ability to enjoy life, to attract mates, to finish projects, to protect our families, to shape our bodies effectively, and so much more.
     While there are endless specific suggestions about herbs, exercises, meditations, supplements, rest patterns and so forth that I could mention, the most important and over-arching components are relatively simple, and available to anyone with the willingness to begin.
     Basically, your energy level will be controlled by three physical and one psychological factor.

Fitness.  There are a variety of different things that contribute to the quality called “fitness,” but a few of them are specific to energy level.

Cardio-vascular fitness.  A dead minimum of twenty minutes three times a week, just to stay in the game.  If you want to create a swift, powerful change, try forty minutes four times a week.  Walking is sufficiently intense, if you stay in the “aerobic zone” which can be described as a level of exertion where you can’t sing, but you can still talk!
Body-mass index.  Unneeded weight is like a sack of wet cement strapped to your back. It eats up energy like crazy.  Regardless of what anyone says or implies, there is only one basic way to lose fat: to change the ratio of calories consumed to calories burned.  In general, this requires discipline on BOTH ends.  Fat loss is a two-headed snake. If you diet but don’t exercise, your metabolism can slow down to a crawl, denying you success.  And if you exercise but don’t eat sensibly, well, a pound of fat has about 3500 calories.  An hour of running only burns about 350 calories.  Do the math.
Flexibility.  Often overlooked in the search for energy, flexibility is a measurement of tension in the body.  A stiff body is like a car with its brakes on. Think how much gas your car would waste!! That gas is your energy, when you carry unnecessary tension. Most stretching activities are less a matter of “lengthening” muscles, tendons, or ligaments than learning how to communicate with your body, to learn how to breathe into tension. 
Strength.  Contrary to popular belief, strength is more in the mind than the body.  It is a matter of leverage, concentration, and controlled excitation even more than it is the “size” of the muscles involved.  On a physiological level, it is a matter of the percentage of your muscle fibers you can recruit at a given moment.   Weight training, or body-weight exercises like Hindu Pushups and Hindu Squats, are great ways to increase strength, which makes physical tasks much easier and less fatiguing.

     B)  Controlling food intake.  A critical factor.  Note that I didn’t say “diet.”  At this point, we all pretty much understand that diets don’t work—that any eating plan intended to have long term benefits must represent a change in lifestyle.  A few pointers:

3:2:1 ratio of fresh fruits and vegetables to complex carbohydrates to lean proteins.  Note that this ratio works for people who are ACTIVE—they need the carbs.  If you are trying to lose fat, or are relatively inactive, try reversing the ratio of protein and carbs.

Drink more water.  The classic recommendation of eight glasses a day is debated, but the truth is that a lot of hunger and fatigue is actually dehydration in disguise. Note: this means water, not beer, soda, or even milk, all of which contain various nutrients or chemicals which actually require water to process through the body.  In other words, they can use up as much water as they give you. 

Eat six small meals a day.  This helps keep your bloodsugar levels even, which will keep your energy from crashing in the afternoon.

Eat today for how you want to FEEL tomorrow.  Not for emotional reasons, or just for taste. 

     C) Rest.  As a culture, we aren’t getting enough sleep.  The human body seems to need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and if you’re getting less or more than this, you may be having stress reactions, and compromising your health as a result.

1)Find out what your ideal sleep pattern is, and stick to it.
2)Try to get to sleep before midnight.  Folk wisdom says that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after.
3)Take naps during the day.  A quick power nap for 10-20 minutes can renew your energy like magic.
4)Make your bedroom a place of rest, healing and recreation.  Keep your stress in another room of the house.  Your sleeping place should be a womb of comfort and pleasure, specifically designed to lull you into the depths of dreamland.
D) Focus.  In some ways, the most important tool for increasing energy.  You need to know EXACTLY what you will do with the energy when you have it.  This means written goals, clearly delineated.  It means being task-oriented, believing that if you can do A,B, and C, there will be pleasure and satisfaction on the other end.  I know people who are AFRAID to have more energy, because they think their kids, mates, or boss will just exploit them further. You have to have PERMISSION to be energetic, alive, and sensually involved with life.

But if you will give yourself this permission, if on a daily basis you will move your body, eat responsibly, rest intelligently and write out your goals and steps to achieving them, you will begin to take control of your body/mind’s energy-generation apparatus, and you’ll be shocked at the energy that will flood your life.  It is your birthright.  Own it!

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