Being Harder to Kill – What it means and why you should care

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One of our much mentioned aims is to produce ‘happier, healthier, harder to kill humans’. Up until recently I assumed everyone would want a piece of this action. Happier. Healthier. Harder to kill. What’s not to like?

Well, like many things that we as individuals take for granted; the things that we assume everyone thinks about and knows, not everyone is on the same page. What you think of as obvious can be like a lightening bolt of enlightenment to others, and what you think of as uplifting and empowering can actually come across as a turn off and repellent.

Over the duration of our recent 14 Day Wild Life Health Reboot course I experienced both ends of this spectrum.

For some people the information we gave, that we assumed was a given, actually sparked some real ‘eureka’ moments. Which just reinforced the need for covering the basics and not assuming that the basics are even the basics but actually fairly radical for many people.

The other end of the spectrum came with our mention of being harder to kill. One bit of feedback came from a participant that the harder to kill aspect didn’t resonate with them and that they were not in that place yet to be hard charging into things in that way.

This made me realise that labels like ‘harder to kill’ can be interpreted in a whole host of different ways, and as I’ve always considered this to being vital for optimal human health I had assumed my stance on this was clear. It clearly was not.

So what does it mean to be Harder to Kill? Well, first up I want to discuss what it doesn’t mean to us.

Despite a gnarly, old bastard’s face, a crew cut, the misshapen palms of a troll and the love of extreme activities, I’m not very macho. Those that know me well would even argue that I’m not even very manly.

Whilst being harder to kill sounds like the ultimate level of hard bastard machoism, this isn’t want we mean. The David Gogginses and the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnsons of the world may well be harder to kill, but so was my Nan, Nanna Florrie.

Nana Florrie – Don’t be fooled by the walking stick. That’s a lethal weapon.

Indian Clubs are all the rage in the training world these days, but Nanna Florrie was using them since the war. Armed with a set of oversized wooden clubs, a blue leotard, and thick tights the colour of builders’ tea, she’d pop on down to the local community centre and bust out some moves with the rest of her posse of blue-rinsed warriors.

Wim |Hof. stuff.co.nz

Wim ‘The Iceman’ Hoff sitting up to his neck in a barrel of ice. Ha! Nanna Florrie was doing this before he was even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. Okay, not the barrel of ice, but she was a constant feature, side-stroking her way up and down The Solent in every weather, all year round. Just a swimsuit, one of those swim caps with the rubber flowers on, and a 2 fingered salute to the rest of the world. And I swear that woman invented the very first dryrobe.

She died at age 100 surrounded by those that loved her, outliving many who came after her, and still inspires me to this day.

She was harder to kill.

Being harder to kill does not mean ‘no pain, no gain’. It doesn’t mean ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’. It’s not ‘go hard or go home’. It’s none of that macho bollocks. Sure there is a place for all of that, sometimes. Occasionally we need to unleash the beast; to go balls to the wall. But only very occasionally. If this is our only methodology then we can become anything but harder to kill.

You see to be truly harder to kill involves working that muscle in between your ears; your brain. Yes, I know the brain isn’t actually a muscle, you pedant, it’s a colourful metaphor.

When we approach our health with intelligent, well thought out strategies, we can leverage everything in our favour to literally help us live longer, fuller lives.

Let’s take a look at the 5 Circles of Health; sleep, community, food, movement, stress management.

Sleep

Studies have shown that a person who has been awake for 19 hours (such as someone who is only getting 5 hours sleep) has the same cognitive impairment as someone who is legally drunk. Who would you prefer a lift to the shops with, the drunk bloke or the sober one? You’d obviously be at a statistically higher risk of dying getting into the drunk fella’s car.

So prioritising our sleep quality and aiming to get more if needed is a clear bonus of those that would like to be harder to kill.

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Every year on the Monday after the clocks go back in the autumn for daylight-saving time, hospitals in the US see a 24% spike in heart attack visits. From just losing an hour! They also see a 21% drop when we regain that hour in the spring.

And then there is the obvious need for recovery in order to promote health, muscle growth and cognitive function

See here for my top tools for enhancing sleep.

Getting adequate sleep makes you harder to kill.

Community

Strong social connectedness is linked to:

  • Increased motor skills retention – hugely important as we age; risk of falling increases with age and deaths from falling in the over 75s increased by 70% from 2010-2017.
  • Greater cancer survival
  • Better general immune function
  • Increased memory function preservation
  • Improved overall longevity

These are just some of the physical benefits of a strong, healthy social connectivity. Add to this the huge benefits for our mental health as opposed to social isolation and perceived sense of loneliness, and the negative effects it brings, and we can clearly see the need for community.

When we have close relationships we are more likely to receive encouragement to take better care of ourselves and to seek out medical care when necessary.

Stress is likely a key role in the detrimental effects of social isolation – friendship reduces stress and its impact, provides key outlets for emotions, gives us a support network and accountability, and acts as a unique mirror, allowing us to see ourselves as others might.

Community is often the missing link in people’s health practice.

In short, community makes you harder to kill.

Food

Food has long been a determining factor as to whether we live or die. For the vast majority of human existence this has been based on food availability and in particular lack of food and nutrients. Famine and nutrient deficiency were key players in population size for much of history and in many parts of the world still are.

In the west, access to food, for most, is not an issue. Many people, however, find themselves in a nutrient desert. Plenty of food, plenty of calories, but very little in the way of decent nutrient density.

Diet related disease and metabolic syndrome conditions such as hypertension, type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and dental disease are becoming increasingly rife in this day and age.

The food we eat is vital to aid our gut health, and gut health is linked to a massive amount of health expression and disease response.

The vitamins and minerals we ingest are imperative for optimal bodily and mental function, too little or too much and we are knocked out of kilter.

The macro nutrients we eat are vital for energy, muscle growth, hormone production etc, and again when the balance for what we need is skewed, the wheels can start to fall off.

By finding our optimal way of eating for the life we are trying to live, we increase our chances of succeeding at what is important, reduce the likelihood of disease and injury, and have the energy needed to keep at it ’til the end.

The food we eat, when approached intelligently, can make us harder to kill.

Movement

It was Nanna Florrie’s seeming inability to not move that made her stand out from the rest of the crowd. Other than the click-click of knitting needles long into the evening it was rare to see the woman sit still. Walking, dancing, keep-fit, swimming, the famed Indian Clubs, and a Tuesday night MMA class, she was always active. Okay the MMA was an exaggeration, it was more classic boxing.

We’ve discussed previously what we consider a good movement practice to be and Nanna Florrie pretty much ticked all the boxes. The benefits of moving your body in a variety of ways is manifold.

By focusing on our aerobic systems we are able to:

  • improve our cardiovascular system
  • decrease risk of heart disease
  • improve lung function
  • help regulate blood sugar
  • increase HDL ‘good’ cholesterol
  • aid sleep
  • lower blood pressure
  • strengthen immune

Focusing on strength training helps:

  • Increase or maintain muscle mass
  • strengthen bones
  • maintaining or improving joint stability and range of movement
  • achieving desired body mass
  • boost energy levels and mood
  • increase balance
  • develop better body mechanics
  • improve cardiovascular fitness
  • makes you stronger, duh.

Nobody reaches the elder years wishing they weren’t quite so strong, mobile or fit. And there have been many studies to support the fact that having greater heart health and good muscle mass have a very positive effect on survivability of both chronic illness and injury.

What does this all mean? A good movement practice makes you harder to kill.

Stress Management

stress handwritten text on white printer paper

Stress is vital for us as humans. We need it. It helps us grow and develop. It’s our ability to adapt to stressors that has allowed us to expand across the entire planet. The stress that has made us phenomenal adapters, is hormetic stress. Hormesis is the positive adaptation to mild environmental stressors, whether that be toxins, load, temperature, calorie deficit etc. It’s the case of ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’. To a point.

Chronic stress on the other hand will inevitably lead to negative results and has been connected to a whole host of health issues, both physical and mental:

  • Increased risk of modern degenerative condition – heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism and autoimmunity
  • Increased risk of mental health issues
  • Blood sugar disruption
  • Immune system decreases
  • Increased risk of leaky gut
  • Increased hunger and sugar cravings
  • Decreased inability to burn fat
  • Hormone disruption
  • Increased belly fat and visceral fat
  • Depression, anxiety, mood imbalances
  • Contributes to cv disease

By balancing out our stressors and favouring positive adaptation inducing hormetic stress over chronic stress, we leverage a greater net win in our mindset and body.

With techniques to down regulate our stress response like breathwork and meditation (to name but two) and exposure to voluntary hardship we create robust, antifragile selves that are increasingly able to handle the unexpected shit storms that life throws at us.

Click here my mental health toolkit

By managing our stress we become truly harder to kill.

Humans are a fascinating creature, especially when compared to other animals. We are slow. Soft bodies. Weak. We lack fangs, claws, horns or venom. We need to be nursed for years after our birth. Yet here we are, not just surviving but thriving on every continent of the planet, in every environment.

Our ability to adapt is our superpower. It was a case of adapt or die. That ability to adapt is the very essence of what it means to be harder to kill.

It’s not about being tough in the way social media and movies depict it. It’s not about pitting yourself against all odds of survival everyday. It’s about making tiny marginal gains every day; little 1% improvements that slowly move the needle towards being harder to kill.

It doesn’t mean you’ll win every fight, but when you can’t escape it, it’ll mean you have more chance to fight another day.

Being harder to kill is a philosophy not a practice. It’s a never ending journey not a destination. It’s your very birth-right as a human being.

So watch your motivational videos by The Rock. Get pumped up by the Rocky IIII training montage. They all have their place.

But if that doesn’t float your boat then remember the greatest ambassador of being harder to kill that no-one has ever heard of. When I lie in bed, not wanting to get up and move my body, it’s the click-click of knitting needles echoing through my mind that finally propels my legs out from under the duvet. It’s not Goggins, The Rock, nor Chuck Norris that I think of when the term ‘Harder to Kill’ is mentioned.

It’s Nanna Florrie.

If you’d like to hear more about the concepts of the 5 Circles of Health why not join our mailing list and we let you know when our new 5 Circles of Health: Revolution course is starting.

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