I care quite a bit about self-optimization and longevity and this enthusiasm has developed more and more over the years (although I’m very much an interested amateur here, not an expert by any definition of the word). Over the years I’ve picked up some new habits, supplements, practices, ideas, etc related to this and now I sit here and realize that it’s quite a lot of stuff. I think I might try to capture the ‘state’ of what I’m doing in this area maybe once a year and post it here, and then be able to go back and compare how my habits and things I’m trying are changing over the years.
Obvious disclaimer: this is in no way meant as a post of recommendations. This is purely a list of stuff I’m personally experimenting on myself with. Some of these things are useless, some are just bad ideas, some make zero sense - seriously, do not take this list as me suggesting that the below collection of things is something other people should be doing.
I’m going to break everything down into three main pillars…and then add a ‘misc’ section for things like skincare.
Interest Start Date: ~2009?
I started out with running and did that for a few years. On Dec 11, 2014 I had my first trip to a real gym. I’m so glad I started taking progress photos (and continued for a while), because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t remember that when I started I looked like this:
And now I’m closer to this (although this pic is from 2016, I haven’t bulked up much from here):
I have not been working out 3-4 days a week consistently this entire time. I’ve had periods of long breaks from the gym, including almost a year off from regular working out last year. One thing that kind of motivated after that year off is seeing how much muscle I retained even when I stopped gymming as regularly. I could really tell that the years of previous lifting paid off! And then when I started up again the muscle I lost came back so fast that it really showed me that the work I put in now is a legitimately long term investment.
This publication in Science Daily sort of reinforced this idea of permanence in my gains: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190125084106.htm
I would think that knowing that my gains are “preserved” in some form would actually make one more lazy since I’m less afraid of completely reverting all progress, but in reality on an emotional level the sense of slightly higher permanence just drives me to keep building a nice bank for the future.
Currently I go to the gym 3-4 days a week and mostly focus on powerlifting compound movements, but also will usually do pullups, pushups, and dragon flags as warm up and cooldown. After a few years of self-taught technique I recently decided to see a powerlifting PT, and am now tentatively considering doing some competing for fun (maybe entering some mock meets, nothing serious).
Interest Start Date: ~2013
Mostly focus on low-ish carb; did keto for a while but when I went full vegetarian I fell off that wagon, so now I just keep carbs and sugar to a minimum but will eat a burger once in a while…
I’ve also been doing some reading on our gut microbiome and now want to consume food that will help my little ‘bacteria friends’ as well, so I’m looking into consuming more root vegetables and other sources of fiber as well as fermented foods.
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Protein (just started a couple of weeks ago…took me way too long…)
Interest Start Date: July 2018
I’ve been chronically sleep deprived for years, running on 3-5 hours per night and feeling “fine”. Toward the first part of 2018 I noticed myself getting exhausted and sleeping through entire weekends. I felt fine in time for work again and powered through the week only to crash again the following weekend.
In July I decided to take a five-week vacation for the first time since high school. During this vacation I read the book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, and that is what finally made me internalize the importance of sleep. Of course I’d always heard sleep was important, but this book was the real kick in the ass I needed to actually change my habits. I now give myself at least an eight-hour sleep “opportunity” per night. Suddenly no crashing on weekends - now I naturally wake up at 7-8 am no matter the day. I also bought a Philips Wake-Up light and tracked my sleep with an app for a while (but don’t bother with the app anymore).
I tend to go for ingredients rather than products; if you know what ingredients you’re looking for it’s easy to find excellent products containing them at the pharmacy instead of going for expensive brands. Tretinoin is the only prescription thing here. In order of importance for me personally:
- Sunscreen (Tinosorb S/M, Uvinul A Plus, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide based suncreens - no Octocrylene/Avobenzone/Octinoxate for me)
- Tretinoin (0.05% cream)
- Hyaluronic Acid
- L-Ascorbic Acid
- Lactic Acid
I do not use all of these on the same day - my skincare regimen involves seeing how my skin is feeling each day and using whatever I feel is relevant (except Sunscreen - sunscreen is used daily).
I recently started trying to practice mindfulness meditation with Headspace. The fact that work subsidises the app (as well as a bunch of other health and fitness expenses each year) helped. I have not been as consistent as I’d like with it, but believe the data we have showing objectively positive effects of this kind of meditation on our mind and body and plan to continue.
Heart rate and HRV tracking
This one is very recent - I was diagnosed with tachycardia when I was very young in Ukraine, but it was never really followed up on. My heart rate has been very fast for as long as I can remember - in the 90s-100s when walking or otherwise going about my daily life, mid-100s when exercising, and sometimes a little over 200 when running. I never felt hindered by this, but recently got some tests run just to make sure there wasn’t something obviously wrong with my heart. A two-day EKG and thyroid blood test showed nothing so I’m pretty sure I’m fine, but the experience did make me more curious about measuring my heart rate more regularly in general. I got a Polar H10 heart rate monitor and am now taking daily HRV readings as well as measuring heart rate during some activities (in fact right now I’m trying out a full-day measurement, will see how it goes!)
I am not sure if I will get anything actionable from this, but I’m still interested in collecting this data over time and keeping an eye on any sudden changes or spikes. I would especially like to believe that as I get fitter my resting heart rate will go down.