Joe Holder is GQ’s fitness and wellness columnist. This is the first installation of “Eating, Reading, Doing,” a diary of everything happening health-wise in Joe’s life, broken down by—you guessed it—what he’s eating, reading, and doing. Good news for you: it comes with practical tips and advice that’ll help you level up your own everyday routines.
As I mentioned in my first piece, I’m a big believer in running. And despite being 6’3” and 200 pounds—not exactly standard size for a runner—I’ve opted to run my third marathon in Chicago in a couple of weeks. (I did L.A. and N.Y. last year.) I like the challenge of having to get in shape, and enjoy finding creative ways to make sure it gets done by the set deadline. But one important and probably counterintuitive thing I’ve learned: running is not the only way to get better at running. Weird, I know. But when you’re beginning any new training regimen—it could be running a race or getting prepared for the upcoming basketball season—it’s important to get a base level of fitness that may not actually involve doing the activity you’re preparing for, in order to prevent injury. This is known as the “general preparation phase.”
This is why for the marathon I’m mixing in “prehab” components that will get my fitness and conditioning level up without me actually having to do too much running. For other runners out there that find themselves getting injured often, or for beginners who want to get into running but don’t feel like they have the “lungs” just yet, here’s a workout to try:
30 seconds of battle rope
60 seconds of jump rope or Prowler pushing
90 seconds of treadmill running
The intensity for this should be about a 6 or 7, on a scale of 10. Do this three times through and take a 2-minute break. Repeat that for 3-5 rounds, and then progressively increase the number of rounds over the course of a few weeks, aiming to do it two times a week. The general prep phrase usually takes 3-4 weeks.
The thinking here is: can I improve my resting heart rate by doing work that is difficult but not super intense for a 30- to 60-minute period? This allows you to build a quality aerobic foundation, lowering your resting heart rate so that your ticker can pump blood without working too hard. This sets the stage for the body to recover more efficiently down the line when you do start doing longer, more intense runs. (Keep in mind: You can also run during this time, but this allows you to work on your heart while doing less running, if you’re still building up your base.)
First things first: I eat a plant-based diet. (If you follow me, you’re probably familiar with the "Plant Based Gang.”) And though this is a no-judgment zone, plant-based diets have been shown to boost life spans and reduce carbon emissions. If you’re interested in going plant-based, but cutting out meat altogether seems too daunting, maybe you try just one day of meat-free eating per week, or per month. People are often too black-and-white: “I eat meat” or “I don’t eat meat.” Find the happiest medium for you. And all that being said, even if you’re committed to a meat-heavy diet, it’s still useful to understand the benefits that unprocessed (or minimally processed) foods like plants can have for your health.
Here’s something I’ve been using on my plant-based diet that may also help you: prebiotics. Prebiotics are plant fibers that can “feed” the healthy bacteria lining your gut. (Probiotics, on the other hand, are live healthy bacteria that you can find in things like yogurt or miso.) Taking prebiotics may allow you to more efficiently absorb the nutrients of the food you consume. Think: fertilizer for your intestines. An easy way to start incorporating prebiotics into your diet? Dandelion greens. (Yes, believe it or not, dandelions are more than just magical wish-granting plants whose seeds are fun to blow off.) A good source of prebiotic fiber, I generally add them to smoothies and salads.
I’m a big reader, reading everything from short stories to nutrition textbooks. I try to read at least a chapter a day. Sure, reading is just plain fun, but I also think of it as problem-solving. Many—maybe even all—of the issues we deal with, other people have faced before us. And, in some cases, those people even went on to write very long books about how best to deal with those problems. So if you can use a book, or an article, to learn and avoid making future mistakes, that’s a value add. (Sort of like a prebiotic for life.)
What I’m reading now:
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
As a runner (see above), I haven’t found another book that so accurately encapsulates the random streams of consciousness that creep up during a run. Drawing on years and years of running for six days a week, Murakami is able to use running as a way to weave together his disparate thoughts on everything from why he decided to be an author to meditations on leaves during season-changing jogs at Harvard. Even if you’re not a runner, it’s a great read—and even made me laugh out loud, which is not easy to do.
Virgil Abloh and the New Wave of Men’s Wellness (GQ)
Virgil is a friend and mentor of mine, and I admire that he’s taking three months off to focus on getting his health right after a period of being overworked. He’s just another example that it’s time to reevaluate the proliferation of the “always on the grind” mentality. As this piece points out, men have largely been left behind by the self-care movement, and Virgil’s commitment to taking some time off may signal to other men (after all, he is, literally, a trendsetter) that it’s okay to take a break.
The Power of Negative Thinking via 99u
The title is a bit of a misnomer: it’s not so much about the power of negative thinking as it is about the pitfalls of positive thinking. Instead of “you can do it!”ing yourself to a stated goal, this article lays out one of my favorite techniques, called mental contrasting: instead of always picturing your goals as realized (which, research shows, can lead to a lack of motivation when we run into unforeseen challenges), what if we pictured the obstacles we might encounter on the way to success? It can leave you more prepared and confident.
Dynamic Duos: How To Get More Nutrition By Pairing Food via NPR
We already talked about prebiotics helping you maximize the nutritional benefit you get from your food—but you can also maximize it by pairing certain foods whose chemicals react in a way that increases your nutrient absorption. Things like: black beans and red bell peppers; hummus and whole wheat bread; a cooked egg and salad; and yogurt and sunshine (seriously: Vitamin D from the sun helps with calcium absorption). If you’re going to eat well, then make sure you’re doing everything to get the most out of your meals!
One album and two podcasts that’ll get you through any commute or workout.
“So Much Fun” by Young Thug
This album definitely has more than a few tracks on my current workout playlist.
The Tartare Project, Episode 12
Shameless plug alert: I was interviewed on this podcast—but it is worth a listen, especially since we’re still getting to know each other. I explain in more depth why health is important to me, how I’ve come to study it, and how my time at the University of Pennsylvania was pivotal in my maturation.
The surprisingly charming science of your gut
“The intestines are totally charming.” I love this simple quote from Giulia Enders, whose cheery TED Health Talk takes a closer look at the stomach, which has become known as the “second brain” for the role it plays in everything from bodily health to mood. Enders lays it all out in a way that is both funny and easy to understand. This is a valuable launchpad if you’ve been looking for a way into the wide world of gut health.
That’s all for this week. Reading any interesting articles? Got any questions about diet? Want me to touch on certain workouts or exercises? Shoot Joe an email at Joe@ochosystem.com and let him know.
Originally Appeared on GQ