The Happy Body (Book Review)

This is a book about designing a happy body. And by happy body, I mean a body that is flexible, active, strong, and lean. Here are some of my notes on The Happy Body by Aniela and Jerzy Gregorek.

“If you keep your body happy, you wake up in the morning and you look forward to the day, eager to do everything. If you don’t keep your body happy, you gradually start to fear the day. Then you wake up tired and overwhelmed. Some of the things you want to do seem too much, so you start making excuses not to do them. That’s the first way to tell whether you’re keeping your body happy or not.”

On the other side is that you can also push yourself too hard. You want to be between doing too little and too much.

The goal of the happy body (program) is to achieve/keep youthfulness. I (of course) like this because it’s in line with my thoughts about longevity. They define the following qualities of youthfulness:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Strength
  3. Speed
  4. Leanness
  5. Ideal Body Weight
  6. Good Posture

I think there are also mental processes involved with being/feeling youthful, but of course that is not what this book focusses on.

 

Measurements

“You can’t improve what you can’t measure.”

For flexibility, they recognise three phases (which mirror the first three of the last list).

  1. Develop range of motion (flexible)
  2. Develop strength in the movement (strong)
  3. Develop speed in the movement (fast)

One of the places where these factors combine really well is in Olympic weightlifting. And again they state that speed is the most important and will help enable the other two.

I measured my flexibility in June 2018 on the following exercises:

  • The Table (fair)
  • The Jackknife (poor)
  • The Bow (very good)
  • The Corkscrew (good)
  • The Jerzy Squat (poor)

Strength is the ability of muscles to generate force. An experienced lifter has more fast-twitch muscles and a brain that communicates with them faster and with more intensity.

Men need to be able to press from behind the neck a weight equal to 58% of their body weight. And ideally Clean & Jerk 100% of their body weight.

For me (at 90kg) that would come down to:

  • 52kg Overhead Squat Press
  • 90kg Clean & Jerk

From Sugar Wod I see that my Shoulder Press is estimated at max of 56kg. But for Clean & Jerk I don’t have a score yet (it’s definitely not my body weight).

Speed is a very short chapter and comes down to that the quicker the Overhead Squat Press, the better.

For leanness, they state that men should aspire to 10% body fat, and 13% for women.

The ideal body weight is based on both the leanness and muscle you carry around (and bones, brains, etc of course). For me the ideals would be the following:

  • 194 cm (6’4″)
  • 90,7 kg (200 pounds)

My main goal at the moment is to shed a little bit of fat (lose weight in total) and then slowly also work to convert some of the rest to muscle (lose fat, gain muscle, same weight).

As the last point, posture should also be good. One way to measure that is to stand tall against a wall and raise your hands. If you can touch it with your fingers, elbow/arms, shoulders, butt, and heels then it’s excellent.

 

The Wisdom of Losing Weight

One must learn to limit, not stop, one’s consumption. Many people have trigger foods which they gravitate towards not only for the taste but also emotional and cultural conditioning. You must avoid your trigger foods totally. To lose weight, you have to change your lifestyle.

You don’t lose weight by dieting (you will lose muscle), working out too much (you’ll become sore and stop), dieting and endurance training (again reduces muscles), being anxious (you will use the wrong energy-system), chemical means (won’t work in the long-term), dehydrating (uhh duh), surgical means.

This is their recommendations:

  1. Time your meals so that you eat every 3 hours (with energy for 2 hours)
  2. Control the volume you eat (if you eat small portions each time, your stomach will adjust)
  3. Eat nutritionally complete foods (but what would they think about Queal…)
  4. Eat high-quality food (less processing is better)

I agree with the advice given. What I think I would like to do differently is think about a shorter time to eat it. But that might be difficult to do in combination with sports. So what I think will be a good schema is the following (the foods I still have to think about more):

  • 6 am: small snack/meal before sports
  • 10 am: meal 1
  • 1 pm: meal 2
  • 4 pm: meal 3
  • 7 pm: meal 4

 

Recovery

Just as important as training is the recovery. The better the athlete, the more intense the training, and therefore the shorter the training. But he will need more time to recover. So use proper exercise, nutrition, and relaxation.

To find the right balance between your performance and your recovery.

For me that means that I should do better in the sleep and food department, to eat better and take more rest.

They recommend meditation, which I’m also a fan of.

One place you wouldn’t expect rest is in the exercises themselves. That is what they also recommend/recognize and in each exercise, there is rest in the activity. That is in step 3, 1) inhaling, 2) moving while holding the breath, 3) exhaling.

 

Designing the Happy Body

Now it’s the challenge to go from the current to the ideal body composition. With their clients they found the following to be possible:

  • Losing fat: 1% of ideal body weight per week
  • Gaining fat: 1% of ideal body weight per week
  • Losing muscle: 2% of ideal body weight per week
  • Gaining muscle: 0,2% of ideal body weight per week

For me, currently (26 July 2018) that would mean it would take:

  • Losing fat: 7 weeks (from 15,5kg to 9,07kg, at 0,907kg per week)
  • Gaining muscle: 24 weeks (based on total weight with the ideal fat amount, from 86,3 back to 90,7 with 0,181kg per week)

 

 

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